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Wireless Way will explain the strides being made in the industry to improve your communications. Over the past year or so, big advances have made it possible to connect to anything - anywhere in the world. You are no longer limited to what can be done with that pesky cord.


Today's technology is changing at lightning speed. And with these changes, you have the ability to communicate with the world at lightning speeds, too. No longer do you have to be connected by cords to be "connected." Wireless is here to stay and one day soon it will be the preferred way to access the web.

Just as phones made the transition, your internet connection will soon have it's cords cut. You may be thinking that the change will 'set you back' in terms of speed, security and price. I can tell you that this is not the case.

Already today, complete cities are switching to wireless and they are able to offer the service free of charge to all users. Cities can do this because it is cheaper to blanket the city with wireless access points than to hardwire every city office within. This is just one example of how cost-effective wireless has become.

Let's talk about computer security. Do you not have security measures in place right now? I hope you do. If not, you are in big trouble! No matter how you connect to the web, security has to be your first concern. There are few differences in security software for wired versus wireless connection. You still need a strong firewall, thorough virus scanner and multiple malware tools. Oh, and let's not forget about UPDATES. Then, all that is left is to configure the software properly and you have taken the steps needed to secure your connection regardless of the type.

Plus, with a network, you have an extra level of protection because of the router. It performs as a firewall, much like your software firewall - only stronger. Hardware firewalls are superior to software firewalls. In the past most users could not afford to purchase one, so software was written to mimic the hardware appliances. 

Ok, let me guess, you are thinking that the last one, speed, can't be improved upon by cutting the cords. Well, it can't be improved - but it can be matched. It is not uncommon to reach the speed of 54 mbps on a basic home network and 500 mbps on a more costly business network, with speed increasing everyday! This is as fast as any wired connection. And soon we will be seeing this jump up to 100 gbps and beyond.

A lot of surfers can only connect through a dial-up service provider. The speeds offered are usually no more than 56 kbps. While this is the highest posted speed available, most can only reach speeds around 36 kpbs. When you compare the differences in speeds, one can clearly see the advantages of today's high speed wireless networks.

Wired still has a lot of advantages over wireless, but the gap between them is closing. When we talk about speed, wired Ethernet networks are far ahead. Just so we are on the same page, K=thousands, M=millions and G=billions. The standard wired speeds range from between 100 mbps through 10 gpbs! Now that is fast. One problem to consider with any network connection is the fact that bandwidth can be used up. While this is not a problem for the home or small business, it is a big problem for the big networks. This is being addressed as we speak with advances coming soon in range, speed and capacity.

And just as speeds continue to increase for wired, so it does for wireless.      

We will research the progress being made in wireless technology and provide insight here at "Wireless Way," so you can look forward to a wide range of articles on this expanding technology.


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Network Technology

A wired network is the oldest, most common and the fastest. It transfers data through Ethernet cables known as CAT5e cables. You will need an Ethernet Card installed in your machine to use this type of network. The overall cost to install a wired network is cheaper than a wireless, unless running cables are too destructive.

If running cables are out of the question, you will have to go with a wireless network. Wireless technology uses radio waves to transfer data. The biggest benefit of going wireless is not having to run cables to every device.

If you are deciding which is best solution for you, I would recommend a router that has wired and wireless capabilities, so you can have true flexibility with your network. This way your laptop can connect out by the pool and your wife can be in the home office on the desktop machine - all at the same time. Networks can be a wonderful thing if you have several people needing to surf the web at once. And once you have a working network, all of the devices will be connected for file & print sharing.

For all of this to be possible, you will need a few things - which we have provided below!


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Network Set-up Checklist

If you are ready to set up your own network, this is the place the start. We will list the basic components involved with any network - either wired or wireless.

High Speed Internet Connection ~ A network will use up bandwidth faster and in larger quantities and therefore must use a high speed connection for best results. High Speed Internet Connections are offered in two formats. A broadband connection is provided through your cable TV provider and a DSL (Digital Shared Line) connection is provided through your phone company. The faster of the two would be the broadband connection so I would choose it, although in some areas of the United States the DSL connection will be faster due to a number of different technical factors that we will not bore you with. You should check out your area for the fastest and most reliable provider.

Modem ~ Once you have your service provider picked out, you will need a modem (usually furnished with your service) to connect the high speed service to. This device will then be connected to your Router.

Router ~ A Router is the hardest working, most important item in your network set up. Not only will it allow multiple computers to connect to the internet, it will connect all of your computers together to form your own LAN (local area network). With a LAN, you can share folders and files between all of your machines. And the Router will provide a high level of security with the firewall that is built into the router. A Router will be very busy from the moment you plug it in. It will need to be kept in a cool, safe place with power surge protector, or ideally, a battery back-up & protector. I prefer a Router with both wired and wireless ability. Everything on your network will connect to the router.

Devices & Adapters ~ All of your devices (computers, printers, and other equipment) will need to connect to the router so you should take inventory of all of the items you want to be part of your network, along with the type of connection (wired or wireless) they will have to the Router. All of your devices will need a adapter. Depending on your devices, you will need either:

For a desktop computer:

1. A PCI Wireless Adapter – This will require you to unplug all cords for your computer and open the case so, this may not be the best choice for you.


2. A USB Wireless Adapter - Does not require you to do step 1 above. You can simply plug it into a USB port on the outside of your computer.


3. An Ethernet Card/Port for a wired connection with a Cat5e cable that will connect into one of the ports provided on the back of the router. The plug will be for a R45 plug that looks like a phone jack – just a little larger. Most computers have one of these installed on the back of the unit.

For a laptop computer:

1. Internal Adapter ~ Once you have your router working properly, your laptop will alert you to the presence of a new network and you will then be able to connect to your network. If your Internal Adapter will not work you will need to use one of the options below.


2. A PC (PCMCIA) Card ~ about the size of a credit card and simply slides into a slot on your laptop computer. This type of card is recommended when using a wireless network setup since you can walk around without having to juggle an external adapter.


3. A USB Adapter ~ simply plugs into a USB port on the outside of your laptop computer.


4. Ethernet port ~ The same as the Ethernet port on a desktop computer. Just run an extra Cat5e cable from the router to the area you want to use the laptop and plug it in.

For Printers, Faxes and Multi-Purpose Machines

1. You can plug them directly into the closest computer and share it with everything connected to your router. This is the most common type of small network set up.


2. Pick a Print Server device that will allow you to use a USB cable connection to plug the printer or fax into the Print Server, which in turn, will connect to the router.

And that is pretty much all there is know about a basic network. Once you have this understood, you can make sense of the most complex network systems around.

Below, we will continue explaining wireless network technology.


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Networks are described by different acronyms, according to size & type. 

WAN = wide area network

LAN = local area network

WLAN = wireless local area network

WPAN = wireless personal area network (usually referred to as a LAN)

WMAN = wireless metropolitan area network


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Different type of wireless standards networks use  

Radio = 9.6, 19.2 and 115 kbps speed, up to 30 km in distance

802.15.4 & ZigBee = 20, 40 and 250 kbps speed, up to 50 meters in distance

Wireless USB = 480 mbps speed, 10 meters in distance

802.1a Bluetooth = 1 mbps speed, up to 100 meters in distance

802.11a = 54 mbps speed, 50 meters in distance

802.11b =  11 mbps speed, 100 meters in distance

802.11g = 54 mbps speed, 100 meters in distance

802.11n = 540 Mbps, 50 meters in distance

802.16 WiMax = up to 500 mbps speed, 50 km in distance


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After looking over the data, you are probably wondering what you should be using. Most all of the equipment offered at your computer and office supply stores are configured in the 802.11b or g technology, with a small amount of the very latest goods offered in the 802.11n or 802.16 WiMax wireless networking technology. If you are using computers that are more than six months old, you will most likely want to use 802.11g with Speed Booster technology. This is what will work the best on most everything sold today.

However, if you have much older computers/laptops, you will have to the 802.11b or install a PCMCIA or network card for 802.11g. This would be the best choice, as any newer devices you purchase will likely be in the 802.11g technology. 

And of course, if you are starting fresh with everything, go ahead and check out the WiMax or 802.11n wireless technology. You will have a little more work involved and you will need to verify that all of the components will be connecting are compatible.

You can mix technologies in most cases, but you will gain better performance by sticking to one technology and the same brand name of products.

For example, it will be easier to set-up and maintain a network using only Linksys 802.11g routers, access points and adaptors.   


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Wireless Security—Wi-Fi Protected Access™ (WPA) Security

by www.wi-fi.org

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the latest high-security standard for wireless networking, increases the level of data protection and access control for wireless networks. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Wi-Fi Alliance have collaborated to develop the WPA standard, which is forward compatible with the upcoming IEEE 802.11i standard.

WPA provides several benefits to enhance security. It keeps out unwanted users by checking for the proper permission and password before allowing network access. It is also more robust than the security standard it is replacing, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which provides basic protection for home networks and limited protection on public networks. WPA improves data encryption so attackers will not be able to view or alter any data traveling to or from your wireless network.

How WPA Uses Encryption Keys

WEP uses 64- or 128-bit encryption keys, but WPA offers up to 256-bit encryption keys, which are exponentially harder to decode. Also, while the WEP key is static, the WPA key is dynamic—it automatically changes as often as you want it to (the Linksys default interval is 50 minutes). This foils would-be hackers' attempts to figure out the WPA key by eavesdropping on your network traffic. By the time they can decode your old WPA key, your network has already switched to a new WPA key, so WPA is significantly better than WEP, which uses the same WEP key repeatedly.

How WPA is Used at Home and in the Office

There are two different modes of WPA, one for home use and one for corporate use. The mode most suitable for home use is called the WPA-Personal mode, also known as Pre-Shared Key mode (WPA-PSK). It's easy to use—just select this mode and enter the same password on every network device to activate WPA security.

The mode most suitable for office use is called the WPA-Enterprise mode, also known as WPA-RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) mode. To secure a corporate wireless network, this mode requires each device to be authorized according to a master list held in a special authentication server (usually a RADIUS server).

Where to Find WPA

If you're shopping for wireless products, look for the WPA logo. The privacy and security of your home or small office wireless network is worth it.

Linksys has several products that offer the WPA feature. For connection to 802.11b or 802.11g networks, choices include the Wireless-G Broadband Router (WRT54G), Wireless-G Access Point (WAP54G), Wireless-G Notebook Adapter (WPC54G), Wireless-G USB Adapter (WUSB54G), and Wireless-G PCI Adapter (WMP54G). If you want an adapter that can connect to 802.11a or 802.11g networks, Linksys offers the Wireless A+G Notebook Adapter (WPC55AG) and Wireless A+G PCI Adapter (WMP55AG). The Wireless-B Notebook Adapter (WPC11) and Wireless-B PCI Adapter (WMP11) are options if you will connect only to 802.11b networks.

If you already have Wi-Fi certified wireless products, but they don't offer the WPA feature, check the product support website for your wireless devices to find out if there are firmware or software upgrades available.

How to Find More Information about WPA

For details on how to implement the WPA feature, refer to the User Guides of your wireless products for configuration instructions, or visit the product support websites for your wireless devices.

For more information about WPA, visit the website of the Wi-Fi Alliance, www.wi-fi.org.


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Websites that provide credible sources on this subject

Microsoft has included wireless ability with your Windows machine. For more information from them please visit: How to Secure Your Wireless Home Network with Windows XP.

You will find a complete library on Wireless Networking at the Microsoft TechNet - Wireless Technology website.

Another place you should stop at to understand everything about setting up your wireless network, please visit the Wi-Fi Alliance. A global, non-profit industry trade association with more than 200 member companies devoted to promoting the growth of wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN). Our certification programs ensure the interoperability of WLAN products from different manufacturers, with the objective of enhancing the wireless user experience. Since March 2000, more than 2,000 products have become Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™, encouraging the use of Wi-Fi across the consumer and enterprise markets.

Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the global leader in Wireless and Ethernet networking for consumer and SOHO users. Linksys is dedicated to making networking easy and affordable for its customers, offering innovative, award-winning products with free best-in-class technical support. We support the use of Linksys products, as we use them on our network and trust the security they have incorporated into their products.



When it comes to your new wireless network you need to know three names, Microsoft®, McAfee® and Linksys®! And of course, Machine Information Consulting Alliance's Wireless Way!



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