LAN 102: Network Hardware And Assembly

Wireless Ethernet Hardware

All types of 802.11 wireless networks have two basic components:

  • Wireless access point (usually built-in to a router)
  • Wireless network cards


An access point is a bookend-size device that uses one or more 8P8C (RJ45) ports to attach to a 10BASE-T or 10/100/1000 Ethernet network (if desired) and contains a radio transceiver, encryption, and communications software. It translates conventional Ethernet signals into wireless Ethernet signals that it broadcasts to wireless NICs on the network and then performs the same role in reverse to transfer signals from wireless NICs to the conventional Ethernet network.

Most people don’t buy an access point as a separate stand-alone item, instead they would purchase a router that has an access point built-in. Wireless routers normally include a router, switch, and a wireless access point, but may also include a cable/DSL modem, file/print server, and other features.

Note: In SOHO networks that provide Internet access, the access point is usually incorporated into a wireless router that also includes an Ethernet switch.

For coverage of a large area, you can use two or more access points and connect them to an Ethernet switch. This enables users to roam inside a building without losing contact with the network. Some access points can communicate directly with each other via radio waves, enabling you to create a wireless backbone that can cover a wide area (such as a warehouse) without the need to run network cabling. You can also purchase a wireless Ethernet range extender that can receive and boost weak Wi-Fi signals. Some access points are designed to be used as either access points or range extenders. Some range extenders are designed only to work with the same brand of access point or router.

Access points are not necessary for direct peer-to-peer networking (also called ad hoc mode), but they are required for a shared Internet connection or a connection with another network. When access points are used, the network is operating in infrastructure mode.

Note: Wireless clients running in ad hoc mode cannot connect to the Internet unless one of the stations on the network is connected to a bridge or uses another network adapter as a bridge.

NICs equipped for wireless Ethernet communications have a fixed or detachable radio antenna. Wireless NICs come in four forms:

  • CardBus (32-bit PC Card) or ExpressCard (PCIe) cards for use in laptop computers that do not include “integrated” wireless support
  • Mini PCI or PCIe Mini cards that provide wireless and wired Ethernet and dial-up modem support for laptop computers
  • PCI cards for use in desktop computers with PCI slots
  • USB adapters for use in both desktop and laptop computers


Most laptop computers with Wi-Fi hardware onboard use the Mini PCI or PCIe Mini interface for the wireless adapter and place the antenna inside the display housing.

Note: Mini PCI or PCIe Mini cards are installed inside laptop computers. (They can be removed or replaced by opening the system.) Because Mini PCI and PCIe Mini cards are installed inside laptops, they are not usually sold as retail components. However, some vendors sell them as OEM components, or you can buy them from the laptop vendor’s parts department.

Because you can mix and match Wi-Fi-certified products that use the same frequency band, you can incorporate any mix of desktop and laptop computers into your wireless network. The following image illustrates typical wireless network hardware.

Although most recent laptop computers include 802.11b/g/n wireless Ethernet or dual-mode 802.11a/b/g/n support through an integrated Mini PCI or PCIe Mini card, you can add support for other 802.11 wireless networks by either upgrading the internal card or by attaching an additional card via a CardBus slot, ExpressCard slot, or USB port.

When a Wi-Fi-enabled system receives multiple Wi-Fi signals, client systems lock onto the strongest signal from access points and automatically roam (switch) to another access point when the signal strength is stronger and the error level is lower than the current connection. Of course, if you want the system to lock onto a specific signal, that can be done via the OS or manufacturer-provided software.

A typical family of Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz band (802.11g) wireless products, including a wireless router, USB, CardBus, and PCI wireless network adapters. (Photos courtesy of Cisco.)A typical family of Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz band (802.11g) wireless products, including a wireless router, USB, CardBus, and PCI wireless network adapters. (Photos courtesy of Cisco.)

Most people use a wireless router as the basis of a wireless network. A wireless router normally contains a router (which is connected to a cable/DSL modem), switch, and access point. When looking for a wireless router, I recommend only those that include gigabit Ethernet switches as well as a gigabit Ethernet WAN port for connecting the router to a cable/DSL modem.

Additional hardware you might need to add to your network includes the following:

  • Wireless bridges—These devices enable you to connect a wired Ethernet device, including noncomputer items such as video games or set-top boxes, to a wireless network. These are sometimes called wireless gaming adapters.
  • Wireless repeaters/range extenders—A repeater can stretch the range of an existing wireless network. Some can also serve as access points or wireless bridges.
  • Specialized antennas—The “rabbit ears” antennas used by most access points and routers are adequate for short distances, but longer distances or problems with line-of-sight reception can be solved by attaching high-gain replacements for the originals, or by attaching more specialized directional antennas, possibly on extension cables to mount them higher for greater range.
  • Signal boosters—In addition to or as an alternative to replacement antennas, some vendors also sell signal boosters that piggyback onto an existing access point or router. Note that, in most cases, these signal boosters are vendor specific.
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  • Lots of good information there. Lots of history too.
    5
  • O... I thought all CAT5 are able to transmit 1000Mbps signals BEFORE reading this article... It's kind of weird ~_~" that I can get 5.X MB/s download speed = ="
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  • Don could you talk to Chris A and Joe and see if we could give a few hard copies of this book away as prizes for some of our users here in the forums who work hard to help others?

    How about a copy for each of the users who make the top ranks for the month of November ... under the Hardware sections of the forums?


    :)
    4
  • mixer device
    0
  • They make it look like making a cable it so easy, and it is, after the first few tries. Also, making one or two cables isn't too bad, but don't let yourself get talked into making 50 two foot patch cables. Your finger tips will never forgive you.
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  • Great information.
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  • JasonAkkermanThey make it look like making a cable it so easy, and it is, after the first few tries. Also, making one or two cables isn't too bad, but don't let yourself get talked into making 50 two foot patch cables. Your finger tips will never forgive you.

    I got talked into making 10...
    0
  • JasonAkkermanThey make it look like making a cable it so easy, and it is, after the first few tries. Also, making one or two cables isn't too bad, but don't let yourself get talked into making 50 two foot patch cables. Your finger tips will never forgive you.


    Oh I don't know. I have made several thousand patch cord over the past 18 years.

    All you need is a high quality crimper, good cutters and small screw driver. You are set.
    1
  • This was a great article. In fact it inspired me to buy the book. I'm happy to report that the rest of the book is just as well written. Very educational. A top notch reference.
    2
  • Read the first page. Seems like well written stuff, but not exactly written for my type of user. Also it seems to be igoring a lot of stuff. For instance it sais the network runs at the speed of the slowest component and will figure it out on its own. This isn't true. If you run a pair of 1000TX capable nics on old cat 5 cable (without the e), it'll still attempt to run at that speed, despite the massive crc errors it might generate. Also, if you're running on 'old gigabit hardware' it won't nessecarily have support for 10Base-T speeds. Also, not all firmware has autonegotiate or automdix support, thus you sometimes have to specificly set the speed between links. This is mainly for fiber links though, which seem to have been ignored entirely.

    Anyway. As I said, I think it's well written and probably quite suitable for people who don't know anything about networks (except it seems to assume people know the osi model). I'll go see if the other chapters are equaly basic.
    2
  • kelvintyO... I thought all CAT5 are able to transmit 1000Mbps signals BEFORE reading this article... It's kind of weird ~_~" that I can get 5.X MB/s download speed = ="


    5 MBps = 40 Mbps... so it's not that weird. xD
    0
  • Great article with lots of information. The crossover cable mentioned would work for 10/100, but for gigabit ethernet you must also crossover the blue and brown pairs. Unlike 10/100 ethernet, gigabit ethernet uses all eight conductors.
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  • reynodDon could you talk to Chris A and Joe and see if we could give a few hard copies of this book away as prizes for some of our users here in the forums who work hard to help others?How about a copy for each of the users who make the top ranks for the month of November ... under the Hardware sections of the forums?


    Heya Reynod,

    We had access to 10 copies of it for a contest that ran with the first few pieces of the book, but those were given away already.

    I agree that it's a great idea to reward the most active forum users, though. I'll get together with Joe and see if there's anything we can do there!

    Have a great weekend,
    Chris
    1
  • Thanks Chris.

    I feel a bit stupid now I missed it.

    It would be great if you could do something again though.

    I did PM Don Saturday to ask him.

    Cheers
    0
  • patch cables of those small lengths you just buy readymade - they're more sturdy anyway, and you can get them as any cable type (cat5e, 6a etc) .. and long's you don't add old cat5 or mix shielded with unshielded, cables really are the least difficult part of network building - although cisco want you to believe otherwise.
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  • completely amazed at how many errors are in page 2
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  • Either I'm missing to read something or the article on page 3 does not note, that to make Patch Cables you must use a different type, multi-filament copper cable instead of the standard in-wall one-wire solid copper conductors that get cut when you crimp. Huge mistake
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  • Shielded twisted pair (STP) refers to the amount of insulation around the cluster of wires

    There is no "amount" it does have a shield.

    it was first thought that shielding the cable from external interference was the best way to reduce interference and provide for greater transmission speeds. However, it was discovered that twisting the pairs of wires is a more effective way to prevent interference

    No. Shielding is better. But the trick on twisting is that we are talking about "differential" signals. If not, twisting would be useless. Twisting to cables cancel each others emissions and emissions from other places to the cable are canceled too.

    10GBE pros say you should not wire UTP but only STP.

    Need cable lengths longer than the lengths you can buy preassembled

    Never buy preassembled cables. Can't assemble cable as I said before on mono-filament cable.
    One filament wires can't be twisted or take turns or >90 degrees. There's a big chance they can break. Can't wire thru a pipes with the RJ45 plug on it.

    Use Jacks. Buy machine assembled/tested multi-filament patch cords from the jack to the computer/router/printer/switch, whatever.
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  • I read this article as it was linked in the power supply guide posting, which I thought (on perusing it quickly) seemed rather well done. However, this article is so attrocious (both in inaccuracies and it's horribly outdated information) that it draws into doubt the quality of the original article that brought me here. I'm not just some Joe going off on a rant without knowing a thing, and my apologies as I am sure that this was likely intended for average Joe who doesn't have a strong base in networking, but even for that, it could have been written immensely better. I don't know if the author is to blame or the technical editor.

    First off, as a disclaimer, I didn't bother reading the wireless section. Stuff has been changing too rapidly the past few years to even bother, and it is ultimately so simple nowadays that you shouldn't even have to bother with the wireles options. What I did see of wireless information (such as range) was horribly inaccurate. In my experience with most indoor environments, you'll be lucky if you get a *reliable* signal at a fraction of the 150 feet he mentions.

    Simple advice for wireless: Buy a dual-radio N-capable wireless router and then decide if you're going to use N-capable internal wireless cards or USB dongles for any devices you have that do not include integrated wireless. Be warned that in my experience, many wireless routers designed for home use work fine for wireless devices accessing the internet, but when attempting to transfer data between a wired and wireless device, the router will act as a bottleneck, often running at speeds lower than what standard (10 Mbps) ethernet will provide. If you plan on hooking up a device such as a home server or NAS device to your home wireless router, be careful what you pick and either fork out the money for a higher-end SOHO/SMB device or read your reviews thoroughly and ensure that you're getting exactly that device (down to the revision number even, sometimes).

    This article clutters the users mind with unnecessary information and technical details which to knowledgeable persons will already be apparent, and recognized as often incorrect; and for the unknowegeable reader - incorrect and irrelevant but taken as true. To rattle off a few
    -switches and hubs, while sharing some features (they're small, blockish and have multiple ports) are also different at an operational level - switches are OSI layer 2 devices, while hubs are electrical devices operating at OSI layer 1.
    -Packets do not get where they need to go because of MAC addresses; frames get where they need to go thanks to MAC addresses while packets are at OSI layer 3 and utilize IP addresses for routing.
    -If you want to see your MAC address via ipconfig, use ipconfig/all. ipconfig on its own will not provide you with this information.

    If I wanted to take a closer read or go through it again, I'm sure I could pull out atleast as many errors as I listed above, but I've gotten enough of my steam out about someone publishing yet more outdated and erroneous technical info or advice in the realm of networking and IT. Please, if you're going to write a tech article, do it with a purpose, stay true to it, make sure you have your stuff down pat, and damn well update it if you're going to re-publish it.

    No one cares about coaxial ethernet anymore, unless you're over the hill or working in some industrial environment with networked machinery, in which case I hope you're not getting your expertise from this article.

    PS. I'd still like to say thanks to Tom's Hardware and that they're an invaluable resource - not just for their reviews and articles, but for the user community they have generated as well. But with that said - is it just me, or is Tom's IT site just one big stream of advertisements in the guise of articles, news stories, and white papers?
    0
  • why are you using blue and brown wires even though they are of no use?
    0