Netgear Wireless Network 8/10
Netgear Wireless kit consists of a Netgear ME102 AP access point, which
can plug into your wired network hub and a Netgear MA401 PC Card, which
plugs into your laptop. They use the 802.11b wireless interface, better
known as Wi-Fi. Consequently you can use other Wi-Fi compatable network
gear with them, such as those popping up as standard on most notebooks.
up both devices takes about thirty minutes. You need to connect the access
point to your server (or any other one in fact) via a USB cable, to configure
it. You then configure the encryption key and other features. There are
two types of encryption key. 64 bit encryption requires four 2 digit numbers
and 128 bit encryption requires sixteen 2 digit numbers. You have to write
down these numbers and keep it secret. You then need to enter them into
the configuration of any wireless network devices you wish to connect
to your network (like the PC Card). If you don't care about people snooping
on your network, you can turn off encryption! Once it is configured you
can unplug the USB cable and put the transmitter where you want. The access
point is a lot cheaper than most other Wi-Fi access points, since it does
not have as many management and roaming features. For a small wireless
network, however, such missing features won't be a problem at all. However,
people wishing to set up large wireless networking may need to purchase
a more expensive access point.
up the PCMICA card is just as easy. Just plug it into your laptop and
Windows recognises it. Then configure the network settings and the encryption
settings and you are ready to go. A small icon appears in your laptop's
taskbar. When it light up green, the connection is very good, when it
is red the signal is not as good. There is also a green light on the card
itself to indicate a link.
on the icon opens up a utility which gives more accurate details of the
links. There are two bars which indicate link quality (in %) and signal
strength (in %). There is also a label which indicates the speed of the
link. Even when the link quality is quite weak maybe a few per cent you
regularly get an 11 Mbps link. If the connection is very weak, however,
this will be reduced to 5.5 Mbps or even 1 Mbps. When setting up the wireless
network, you have to find the best position for the access point and the
PC Card. By moving a combination of moving about the access point and
the PC Card (whilst checking the transmission meter), you can get 11 Mbps
signal going through a concrete wall and then a further ten metres (the
signal did get reduced to 10% but I still managed to get an 11 Mbps connection)!
In some cases simply changing the direction of your PC Card may result
in a connection. Strangely I found placing the access point near the ceiling
seemed to yield the best results, possibly because near the ceiling there
are not many barriers to block the signal. The best way to set it the
network is to have one person moving a the access point and another at
the PC, communicating by walkie-talkie.
I used this kit I was sceptical that it would work through walls, or anywhere
very far away. The Wi-Fi protocol uses electromagnetic radio waves to
send and receive signals, and a small safety note comes with this kit
to point this out. However, it also says that the signals are far weaker
than those generated by mobile phones. Also the safety note recommends
that you keep your body at least 20 cm away from the antenna on either
the PC Card or access point. A PCI wireless card is also available from
Netgear, if you want to connect your desktop to a wireless network.
short this kit makes a good introduction to the world of wireless networking.
At 11 Mbps it is quick enough to transfer large files and surf the net.
At around £300 it is not as cheap as a faster wired network offering
10/100 or 1000 Mbps, but it does offer you the freedom to roam about your
house or office without tripping over wires. It makes a good addition
to a wired network.