24 Dec 05
What you will need
A wireless network starts with a wireless router. There are several companies that make wireless routers. People who work with routers day in and day out like Linksys. They tend to have the best hardware in their routers, and their firmware (the program that runs the router) has become nearly the best since Cisco bought them. The only company that is still considered to have better firmware is Netgear, so they are my second choice.
If you are looking for a deal, try AirLink. They can often be found on sale for under $20! One brand I would personally avoid buying is DLink. Sure, they are cheap, but you get what you pay for. It has been my experience that DLink products are cheaply made and their technical support is far less than stellar.
There are currently three popular wireless networking standards, 802.11b, 802.11g, and Draft 802.11n. 802.11b is the older standard. It is rated at 11Mb/s (Mega bits per second) and is in widespread use.
802.11g is a newer standard. It is faster, rated at 54Mb/s, and has a longer range. It is backwards compatible with 802.11b. Devices made with the 802.11b standard can connect to 802.11g networks with no problems, but they will operate at the slower speed of 11Mb/s.
Some manufacturers have started making equipment based on the draft of the 802.11n specifications. 802.11n is the next step in wireless networking. The standard is due to officially release in March 2009, but you can already get some of the equipment. It supports speeds up to 540Mb/s and distances of up to 50 meters indoors.
Which is right for you?
Because 802.11b is older, it is getting difficult to find. 802.11g equipment is easy to find and provides better speed and range than the older 802.11b, so 802.11g is the right choice for most users. Draft 802.11n is based on the draft of the 802.11n specification. It provides about twice the range and twice the speed of 802.11g.
If you need the extra speed or range, I would say to go for 802.11n. Be sure to get equipment that is certified as compliant with the draft specification so that it will work well with equipment from other manufacturers. If you don't need the extra speed or range, you might want to stick with 802.11g until the official 802.11n specifications are released.
Once you have a router, you will need a wireless adapter for each of the devices that will connect to the network wirelessly. Usually, PCI cards are the best way to add wireless capability to a desktop computer, but they do have to be installed inside the computer. USB adapters will work in both laptops and desktops, don't have to be installed in the case, and are usually slightly cheaper. The catch is that their reception and connection quality are not always as reliable. A PCMCIA card is the best way to get a laptop onto a wireless network.
There are special adapters available to get game consoles (like an XBox), printers, and a wide range of other devices onto your wireless network. Any local electronics store should have what you need, or try newegg.com.
Broadband Internet connection
To take full advantage of a wireless network, you will need a broadband internet connection. For broadband, you will need a cable or DSL modem hooked to a carrier that supports it. Check with your telephone and cable companies to see what services are available and how to get online.
24 Sept 07