Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Wireless standards and you–buying a new WAP

I have been keeping my eye (albeit vicariously) on the new products being premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show and watching for new trends and directions of product development. One trend that I think I should warn you about is happening in the area of wireless networking (aka “Wi-Fi”) for the home– and that is the push to Wireless-N. [note: There is going to be some jargon in this article.. but I promise to try to keep it to a minimum.]

Wireless networking is one of the “coolest” innovations in personal computing. For $50, or so, we can buy a little box (wireless router [technically speaking, a “WAP“]) to stick next to our modems, and then we can surf the Internet and check our e-mail from our laptops and PDAs from anywhere in the house. No longer are we pinned to one spot, or tripping over a tangled mess of Ethernet cables.
In its simplest terms, wireless networking is a type of radio.

To make sure that there was interoperability between WAPs, and computers and WAPs, the IEEE defined standards and assigned frequencies so that all the design engineers would be “on the same page”– and it called those specifications “802.11” (bear with me folks). The most common of these, today, is 802.11g.. and if you go and take a look at your router it will (most likely) have a label that says “Wireless-G”.
(Or, if you paid a little more, it might say, “Super-G”.)

Wireless technology is like any other technology in that the race is always on to make it faster and more capable. The “next generation” in wireless is going to be “Wireless-N” (Don’t ask me what happened to Wireless-H, I, or J…) and, in fact, several companies displayed Wireless-N routers at CES. (See how I tied that together?)
The trouble is, 802.11n is not even a ratified Standard yet. There is no “blueprint” for the engineers to work from. The people who want to sell routers haven’t let that stop them though, and if you go to your local electronics store you will see routers for sale labelled (politely) “pre-N”, or “draft-N”. The indications from CES show that soon they won’t be so polite and will market their newest models as “Wireless-N”.

Tip of the day: If the lure of faster wireless is simply too great for you to resist, and you really don’t care what they call something there are a couple of things you still need to be aware of, and take into consideration when making your purchase.
1) Your purchase will be a temporary one. Things will change when IEEE ratifies and releases the 802.11n Standard, and the router you buy today will probably not be compatible with routers of tomorrow. But that’s not as important as..

*2) If you combine the pre-N/N gear with your existing Wireless-G gear, both will take a serious performance hit, and the G will slow to crawl.

3) You will pay a premium for pre-N/N equipment over G. Prices for the newer routers are in the $100-$150 range (or more).

The solution: The trick here is to be watchful and selective of which model you buy, and look for one that is “dual-band”. That is, it ‘broadcasts’ in both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz range at the same time. That way, you can assign your ‘Wireless-N’ high-speed devices to 5GHz and let your older Wireless-G devices continue to run in the 2.4 GHz range. This will eliminate the incompatibility and interference and allow you to retain the speeds you paid for.
There are several models offered by all the home networking manufacturers (Linksys, Netgear, D-Link) that do this, so the right wireless router will not be hard to find.

If you have purchased a new router, but not secured it yet, I invite you to read

Today’s free link: C/Net has put together a “Security Starter kit” for those of you who have just acquired a new PC, or are somewhat new to the idea of protecting your computer from the bad guys. This collection of downloads have been featured, individually, here before and this is a sort of ‘one-stop’ collection of highly-rated free security products.

Copyright 2007-8 © by Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 10, 2008 - Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, routers and WAPs, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , ,

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