Consider This . . . Let's Go Wireless

It was an ugly, technical period in my computer life---that old 9.6-56k modem could barely squeak out 20k+ on a good day. The sad part was that I actually knew people who could almost reach 50k, and they weren't happy either. Then along came cable and DSL Internet connections and much faster computers. Life would never be the same again---that's a good thing.

There is enough for an entire article about the difference between these two data transmission competitors, but cable, in my opinion, beats DSL hands down. With the addition of a $49 computer TV tuner card in my PC, I can listen to or watch TV on my computer while I'm working. Regardless, take whatever data service is available to you in your area---it will enhance your Internet functionality, lower your frustrations, and it will absolutely enhance your wireless experience. This might be data nirvana!

When I decided to write about wireless networking, I trotted off to my local Barnes & Noble store where I found several publications, including PC Magazine, April 8, 2003, edition and Computer Shopper, April 2003, edition---both had articles about wireless networking. If you really want the down and dirty technical stuff, check out "Wireless LANs" by Jim Geier, also available through Barnes & Noble. I further supplemented my research with a great article written by Dan Bricklin at Jim's article gives you equipment names, model numbers, technical measurements and pictures that walk you through the entire process of mating his MAC to the web. I highly recommend that you check out Jim's article and an article entitled "Warning: wanna wireless home network? Read this first!" by David Coursey, executive editor, AnchorDesk at, if you intend to pursue this upgrade on your own. My not-so-technical drawing should be an adequate guide to aid you during the process of upgrading and understanding a wireless network. Distances represented by lines or arrows, while not mentioned, should be irrelevant in most residential environments.

While I have focused on the conventional pieces in the network, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that another wireless unit might be your PDA (personal data assistant). Just imagine sitting by the pool this summer with drink in hand while surfing the Internet or receiving mail. I'll let your imagination take over at this point, but the possibilities are endless.

The list of materials is short, reasonably inexpensive and on the shelf. You'll need a router (1@$125 est.), which you might already have; a wireless access point (1@$125 est.); wireless bridges (1-3@$125 est.); and an optional print server (parallel port) (1@$140). This may not be the least expensive upgrade you make, but I promise that it will be the most useful and important. While I would not discourage anyone from trying this project on their own, what would you expect from the guy who built an airplane in his backyard? I would suggest that there is good reason to talk to a professional before you spend any money on this project.

According to David Heller (, owner of WebTide Technologies, an Annapolis-area firm that specializes in wireless technology, many of his customers purchased all the equipment necessary but, in the end, called a professional to actually do the work. David's no-cost estimate is a great way to evaluate the possibilities, and his process always includes a survey of the work/home space to insure there is nothing that will prevent the signals from getting through---like water, brick and steel (signal killers), as well as other remote devices, like telephones that may infringe on the RF (radio frequency) used by these new wireless devices. David indicates that most installations take about four hours at $65 per hour. At that price, it's worth being a bystander and check-writer.

There are two additional wireless items worth mentioning. First is the new Intel Centrino enabled laptop machines that have the 802.11b IEEE wireless technologies built in. These machines are compatible with all the features discussed in this article. The second item is the introduction of the new 802.11g IEEE unit that will presumably replace the 802.11b as the industry standard. According to published information, the 802.11g will transfer data at 54Mbps---about five times faster than the device it replaces.

This is definitely a summer project worth tackling. Let me know how you make out.

If you have comments or suggestions, or have an idea for a future computer or business topic, e-mail me at or

Jimmy R. Hammand, CPA, is a resident of Annapolis and a consultant to businesses in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.


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