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Wired+Wireless home network purchasing recommendations...

Last response: in Wireless Networking
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September 2, 2003 12:42:59 PM

[Note: this is a modified version of my original post -- some details have been changed to reflect current goals/knowledge...]

Hello all. :) 

I am wondering if anyone can contribute any advice on my current wired+wireless networking activities...

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*Current* set-up:

One cable broadband connection into upstairs room.
Connection goes straight into a broadband modem and then into an ethernet connection for a desktop PC.
Provider is ntl (UK).

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*Planned* home network development:

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Fundamentals:

-- Set up home network to serve both the desktop and new laptop via a fast/secure wireless router (G/multi-standard).

Possible Solution 1:
-- Internet connection will be ported into the wireless router, and the connection shared with the desktop PC (via wired connection) and laptop (via wireless connection) respectively.
-- Possibility of adding Wireless Access Points around house at later date for better/more reliable signal.

Possible Solution 2:
-- Internet connection will be ported into traditional (wired) router. This router will feed both desktop PC and Wireless Access Point(s).
-- Possibility of adding (more) Wireless Access Points around house at later date for better/more reliable signal.
(Enables manual shut-down of wireless network, while wired network remains operational)

Possible Solution 3:
-- Internet connection will be ported into traditional (wired) router. This router will feed both desktop PC and Wireless Router. Wireless router will then feed either laptop directly or various Wireless Access Points.
-- Possibility of adding (more) Wireless Access Points around house at later date for better/more reliable signal.
(Enables manual shut-down of wireless network, while wired network remains operational)

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Considerations:

-- Wish to keep broadband connection point in the same place, meaning that the wireless router will be incorporated at the desktop location on the upstairs floor.

-- Wish to use the wireless laptop around the house/garden. Biggest distance likely to arise between the wireless router and wireless laptop is around 20m. Average distance will only be around 5-10m. (Both distances are estimated in diagonal straight lines from the upper floor wireless router position to possible seating spots down in the garden) Distances will be a lot less, when, say, laptop is directly under the router, for example, in sitting room.

-- Property is around 100 years old, with reasonably sized walls (nothing *too* thick, but old and sturdy all the same -- thicker than most 'new builds' but not excessive) It could have been built anywhere in between 1900 to 1925, so I hope you get the kind of building I'm talking about... I am told that this may require the addition of Wireless Access Points.

-- May add another desktop to network. Means that the equipment must support expansion beyond current remits (but I will leave this out of the discussion for now)...

-- Wish to opt for wireless router + laptop card of same brand. I hear such set-ups work better together with fewer problems...

-- Laptop PCMCIA wireless card has to work with a wireless network that my employer runs in/around their workplace location. The signal is available for a substantial range around this working area (covering many blocks by means of powerful antennae). I have seen several of my associates use a particular kind of PCMCIA card in their laptops to receive this signal -- but I assumed this was a coincidence? Surely, the type of card one uses should not affect the operationability/performance in this area too much? Is this an important issue?

-- Although it is unlikely that both the desktop and laptop will be used at the same time, it could in fact happen occasionally. In addition, as well as accessing the files on my desktop when it is on, I also hope to be able to use the laptop to access the broadband connection even if the desktop is off -- I assume that under the system(s) I outlined above that this is possible?

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Usage requirements:

*Network* usage requirements / capabilities:

Must be secure/reliable/fast in each case.

-- Internet use.
-- Streaming of *multimedia content* throughout the house/garden.
-- Support of tasks such as *quickly* transferring/copying large files.
-- Other exemplary requirements include installation of progs/apps from desktop to laptop with little slow-up...

A poster from the practicallynetworked.com board provided me with a useful BB link on some of the considerations involved here. It is available from:
http://forums.practicallynetworked.com/showthread.php?s....

*Laptop* usage requirements / capabilities:

-- Pursuing a powerful model. However, do not intend to play games. Something that combines power, screen size and battery life is desired. According to the equipment available at this time, I will buy a powerful laptop unit then add a G/multi-standard compatible PCMCIA card...

-- I am told that the current Centrino laptop models restrict users to the B-standard. Speed is important, and therefore, I wish to pursue a G/multi-standard PCMCIA card.

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Concluding Summary of current hardware investigations/solutions:

Towards finding some solutions, here's what I’m currently considering / looking for recommendations on purchasing:

-- Wireless Router: *fast + secure* wireless router desired... Have opted for G/multi-standard equipment (802.11G is the latest version at the time of writing; known to handle a 'claimed/apparent' 54mbps -- I understand that in reality speeds are commonly much lower). Notable/desirable brands include the usual suspects, such as SMC, Buffalo, Linksys, D-Link, and Netgear... BUDGET: ~£UK 70-150 desired; will stretch to ~£UK 175-200 max.

-- PCMCIA wireless card for laptop: G/multi-standard compatible card desired... Wish to avoid USB-based products. (Have been told there are less problems with PCMCIA products, plus they're apparently easier to carry around). This card has to work at home and in the city wireless area... I also understand that some laptops come with wireless cards already, but in my experience, superior equipment is gained from separate purchases... Notable/desirable brands again include SMC, Buffalo, Linksys, D-Link, and Netgear... BUDGET: ~£UK 20-30 desired; will stretch to ~£UK 100 max.

-- Laptop: Blend of *battery life + performance* is desired... Have seen notable/desirable units from Dell, Toshiba, IBM, Sony and HP (previously Compaq)... BUDGET: ~£UK 700 desired; willing to stretch a little further for quality equipment.

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Conclusion and Ending Requests/Questions:

If anyone has any *specific* hardware recommendations/exemplary set-ups, these would be very much appreciated! :)  Input from those who already running such a set-up would be especially useful. Any other advice that I haven't considered is also highly valued!

Thanks in advance.


David.

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PS: Here are some useful links, very kindly provided by others during this investigation... (please don't get too distracted by these -- remember to post hardware recommendations! :)  )

-- http://www.vicomsoft.com/knowledge/reference/wireless1.....
Introduction to the subject of wireless networking.

-- http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/reviews/CD/article.php/15851....
Article on performance differences between 802.11b to 802.11g standards. Compares 802.11a/b/g SOHO Routers & Access Points.

-- http://www.anandtech.com/guides/viewfaq.html?i=122.
Simple introduction to the equipment needed for home LAN with added wireless networking. It is a little out-of-date (only refers to A and B standards), but the fundamentals still largely apply.

-- http://www.ezlan.net/APvsRoute.html.
Article on debate between depending largely on a Wireless Cable/DSL Router versus a set-up using Wireless Access Point(s)...

-- http://www.ezlan.net/router_AP.html.
Article on using Wireless Cable/DSL Router as a Switch with an Access Point...

-- http://forums.practicallynetworked.com/showthread.php?s....
Discussion on considerations involved in setting up powerful home/garden wireless network. The originator of the thread went with SMC equipment. (This thread is also presented above)

-- http://www.ezlan.net/Wireless_Security.html.
Insights into wireless security.

-- http://www.practicallynetworked.com/support/troubleshoo....
Wireless networking troubleshooting.

-- http://www6.tomshardware.com/network/20030502/index.htm....
Wireless networking performance improvement.
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by David001 on 09/05/03 09:49 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
September 3, 2003 2:46:25 AM

I use a desktop machine and a (Dell) laptop. The desktop connects into an SMC (wired) router, and when I need wireless on the laptop to move around the living/working space, I connect with a Belkin WAP. Have been using 802.11b for a couple of years. I have an Orinoco Gold and an extra SMC pc card for the laptop.

Just upgraded to 54g Belkin WAP (see recent review on this site) and the new Proxim/Orinoco Combocard a/b/g.

Suggestion: Run encryption between wireless components, and turn off SSID broadcast on WAP just for extra cloaking of the system. Although now, more wireless routers seem to come with this feature available. When I started looking around for wireless systems, only some wireless routers came with the option to turn of SSID broadcast. It's not foolproof in hiding a WLAN, but it doesn't seem to hurt in home/soho setups.

Hope this helps.

Cheers!

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Let's be good stewards of our freedom.
Get a life, not a lifestyle.
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Designer_Bill on 09/03/03 05:30 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
September 3, 2003 2:05:13 PM

I think any recent router will allow you to turn off SSID. I think you would be happy with any of the "big name" manufacturers. Just look for a good package deal. I got a Belkin 802.11g router and PCMCIA card for $100US not too long ago.
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September 3, 2003 9:42:34 PM

JP5 is correct. In my original post, I meant to say that not many wireless routers came with the ability to turn off SSID. I've corrected that earlier post.

We can now find more wireless routers with this feature. So one does not really need to get a separate WAP. Unless you wish to keep the component functions separate. And/or unless the wireless router being considered doesn't offer MAC filtering of the wireless clients that are allowed to connect to it. Just another little extra security consideration.


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Let's be good stewards of our freedom.
Get a life, not a lifestyle.
September 5, 2003 1:53:22 PM

Hello again and thank you for your quick replies. :) 

Thanks for your feedback -- your advice/info is duly noted!

Still looking around/getting feedback from others on the hardware pursued (wireless router / PCMCIA card / laptop)... Here's where I'm at, based on the feedback I've received...

-- Wireless router + laptop PCMCIA card: Going from user opinions I've gauged so far, most seem to recommend wireless equipment from SMC, Buffalo, Linksys, D-Link, and Netgear. Feedback on Orinioco PCMCIA cards has also been very positive, and has been backed by multiple sources... Personally, I'm becoming more interested in the SMC and Linksys equipment due to the amount of 'highly' positive feedback I have heard regarding their units (bar a few exceptions of course).

-- Laptop: Still looking into desirable laptops @ circa £700 range -- will post update soon! Dell units seem to come highly recommended at this time, again, from a range of sources...

If anyone has any hardware recommendations to add, feel free to do so! :) 

thanks again!
September 5, 2003 2:40:51 PM

Orinioco cards with antenna jacks can be good for mooching off others WLAN when you are out and about (I don't think it's wardriving unless you are doing something malicious) if you have any interest.

The X-Wing is also pretty good. THG may have had a write up on that card too. Some folks don't seem to like the Linksys cards. I've had good luck with Belkin.
!