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How can I use my wireless card at home?
by Hanz Makmur - LCSR Computing Facility - modified: Aug 3, 2001


In order to use your wireless card at home, you need a base station, access point, or residential gateway. These all perform the same basic function with varying additional capabilities. The basic service that each of them provides is a path of communication between wireless devices and a physically wired network connection. These network connections can be a modem connection, a 10Base-T ethernet connection, a DSL connection, a CableModem connection, or other types of connections depending on the device purchased.

There are many base stations available to buy and the prices are going down as wireless networks becomes popular for home use. If you need info on available wireless products, see Wireless Networking Guide. If you are new to wireless networking, see Wireless Networking Background for more details. Wireless networking does not require you to run network cables in order to share an Internet connection across multiple computers. Sharing connections across multiple computers could save money for CableModem or DSL users.

There are a few things that you should consider before going wireless at home. One of the most important questions is "Are you planning to get a broadband connection like DSL or a CableModem?" This is important because you have to choose the right equipment in order to save money.

Wireless Networking at Home

Via Dialup

Via DSL/CableModem

Need base station with built in modem or an external modem port

YES

NO

Need firewall

recommended

YES

Need a modem

YES, analog modem

Yes, DSL or CableModem

If you are planning to get a broadband connection, you must consider the security of your data and the number of wired and wireless computers/printers/etc that will access the network. The following will help detail what you need to consider when setting up a wired or wireless network at home. For more uptodate version of the hardware listed below, see: Practically Network - Wireless Gateway

Base station Hardware Comparison

Descriptions

Apple Airport Base Station

RG-1000 Residential Gateway

SMC7004WBR Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless

BEFW11S4 - EtherFast Wireless AP + Cable/DSL Router w/ 4-Port Switch

price

$299

$230

$199

$255

#ports

1

1

3 (100Mb/s switched ports)

4

built in modem?

yes

yes

no**

no

can connect to DSL/Cable modem ?

yes

yes

yes

yes

print server ?

no

no

yes

no

can connect wired pc without additional hardware?

no*

no*

yes

yes

configuration software runs on:

mac, windows

windows

windows

windows

provide firewall service

yes

yes

yes

yes

* if outside connection is via DSL/Cable modem. Additional HUB is needed to connect more than 1 computer.
** modem port is available. External modem required.

Depending on what you plan to do with your internet access, the number of computers and printers that will access the network, and the security of your data, you need to think about the right base station. All the base stations above will work with any of the 802.11b cards above and are not dependent on what operating systems you plan to use. The wireless cards however need to be purchased based on your operating systems or hardware.
 

Which Base Station to Choose?


The Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless has the best value and is packed with the most features. However, it has a small flaw. The wireless aspect of the software is NOT as secure as Apple Airport Base Station. With SMC wireless access point and Lucent Residential Gateway, you must turn on encryption in order to prevent others from accessing your wireless network. With the Airport however, access restriction can be done in 3 ways - Closed Network, MAC address restriction and Encryption. Turning on encryption gretaly improves security, but it may reduce your network throughput because the hardware has to encrypt/decrypt your data during transmissions.

July 2001-Update: SMC has finally added MAC address restriction into Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless router on its latest Firmware upgrade.

Unlike the rest of the base stations, the EtherFast Wireless and Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless are also a DSL/CableModem router which means you can share your Internet connections with multiple computers at the same time. Also, you are not required to install any software on your PC for the DSL connection. Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless box also has an LPR based print server, which means that, if you plug a printer to its parallel port, you can print to this printer from any Mac or PC you have on your home network.

At LCSR Computing, we have tested both the Airport and the Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless base station. They both worked as expected on full duplex cable modem and DSL. The EtherFast Wireless routers was reported to also work with half duplex cable modem. All are priced about the same and each has advantages over the other. In the department, we use the Airport. At home, we use the Barricade Cable/DSL Wireless and EtherFast Wireless