Cut that Cord! Go Wireless!

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Work Anywhere in Your House with a Wireless Connection


You've been working at the desk in your home office for four straight hours and your back, legs and neck are starting to ache. You know the couch in the living room would be a welcome relief, but because you don't have a wireless system in your home, you're tethered to that internet connection--and your desk--until you finish your work. Sound familiar?

Home based wireless systems have never been easier to install or more affordable. For as little $100 you can get a system that will do just about anything you need and run at a speed as fast as if you were plugged into the wall. Imagine the possibilities of being able to surf the web, use your printer, or transfer files from one computer to another. It could change your whole attitude.

What you need

  • Wireless systems are usually made up of two parts. There's the router, which is the unit that "routes" the signal, and the wireless adaptor, which receives the signal for your computer. Some companies sell these components separately, but you can save a little money by buying them together. If your laptop is a recent model (less than two years old), you probably already have a wireless card inside the unit, thus negating the need to buy a separate external adaptor. Bring your laptop with you when you shop if you're not sure. You can also buy a wireless adaptor that plugs into your desktop model computer, through an open USB port. If you've got broadband in the house but want to work out in an office in your garage without stringing a bunch of wire, you can do it.
  • Wireless systems do not work well with dial up systems. You'll want to upgrade your connection to a cable modem to get the best results.
  • Be sure to purchase a router rated as Wireless-G ( sometimes called 802.11g). This refers to the speed at which it transfers data between itself and your computer. The more data it can handle, the faster it will be.

Which Brand?

The major manufacturers we recommend are the two largest, D-Link and Linksys. Based on our own experience, routers from these companies are easiest to install--and have good technical support if you run into a hitch while setting them up. On newer computers, setup is usually a breeze—just use the built-in wizard. But on older machines, expect a few hiccups along the way; that's when solid phone support is extremely valuable.

Staying Safe

Many people put off getting a wireless system because they believe that it makes them susceptible to someone gaining access to their personal information. Believe it or not, most "hacking" nowadays is purely accidental. It's simply someone stumbling across your system and seeing that it's accessible and their motivation us nothing more than free access to your internet connection. Still, if an outsider can easily access your network connection, they can probably access your data.

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Obviously, security is an important feature when it comes to your wireless network. Most wireless systems have excellent security features that require a password but you need to actually turn these features on. So, after you've unpacked and installed your wireless system, be sure to do the following:

  • Make sure you change the default user name and password to something you choose. Many people never do this, so anyone from the outside can access their network simply by knowing the brand name of their router.
  • Rename your network (SSID refers to the "name of your network"). Choose a name that personalizes the network to help you distinguish it easily. If you live in an apartment building or in an area that has a lot of technical savvy, you might see potentially dozens of possible networks when you go to log on. You'll want to be able to find yours as easily as possible.
  • Make sure your router has support for WEP(TM), WPA(TM), and WPA2(TM) standards to ensure that you will be able to use the best possible encryption. Encryption helps protect your data as it travels between your laptop and your router. These safeguards will require that users enter a password in order to connect.
  • You also want to turn on your system's built in protection from intrusion known as a firewall (on PCs, it's called Windows Firewall).

If you follow the steps outlined above, there is little if any chance that an outsider will be able to access your internet connection or your information.

By setting up a wireless system in your home office, you'll immediately start to see the benefits. You'll no longer be chained to your desk and you'll be able to surf the net from any room in your house. So, cut the cord and get ON the couch!

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