The Importance Of Having A Wireless Network

Having a wireless network opens up many possibilities.

Wireless networks provide an inexpensive and easy way to share a single Internet connection among several computers. This means you only need one modem, and you can add additional computers to the network just by plugging in a wireless card and turning them on. The new machines are connected to the Internet immediately.

A wireless network also lets you access files and printers from anywhere in your home. It allows you to synchronize files you have on your laptop with your home computer, and you can easily send files between computers as well. Using a wireless network to transfer files is faster than sending them via e-mail or burning them to a CD! Because printers connected to one of the computers on a network are shared by all the computers on that network, you can write documents anywhere in your home, press the 'print' button, and collect the printed files from a printer that is connected to another computer.

If you are a game player, you've probably noticed that your games often have an option to play over a local area network or LAN. Wireless networks are LANs! This means you and your family can play these games together and don't have to be on computers that are next to each other to do so. Let's face it - it's more fun to play against real people, and it's even more fun to play against people you know instead of strangers on the Internet. Your games will also play much faster over your LAN. Additionally, you can connect game consoles to the Internet and begin playing these games online. It is much easier to experience online play through an Xbox or PlayStation 2 that is connected to a wireless network than have to use a modem!

Wireless network connections are always on. This means you can connect to the Internet whenever you want without waiting for your modem to dial in. Laptops can be carried from room to room, and they will always have access to the Internet. Since wireless networks operate without the need to log in, you don't need to set up usernames or passwords.

The single greatest thing about a wireless network is that it is, well, wireless! The biggest reason to have a wireless network is because it eliminates the need for costly, ugly, and dangerous wires trailing all over your house. You can use your computer in any room you want - no more being trapped near a phone outlet or walking over that tangle of wires in your home. The cost of getting enough Ethernet cables can add up, and sometimes, you may even have to make holes in your walls to set up a wired network. If you're renting, of course, this is impossible. With a wireless network, you don't have these problems - you can even use your computer outside if you want! And if you move, there is no need to disconnect and pack up all those wires, and you no longer have to examine all the wires for damage whenever your Internet connection goes down.

You can see how having a wireless network can simplify your life.

Educators Guide to Planning a Wireless Network - Part 1



There are many things to think about when planning a wireless network for a school environment. Your wireless network must be secure, must be able to handle teachers and staff work loads, and finally provide wireless access for mobile laptop labs for students. Combining all the above could be seem very difficult considering most schools will have about 100 staff members and over 500 students.

The first stage of planning your network is to discuss with staff what a wireless network will and won't do. Find out exactly the areas where the staff will and won't need wireless access. Will the staff or students need access in the gym area? Will the students need wireless access outdoors? How many wireless laptops will be accessing the network? What applications do the staff intend to use while using the wireless network? What applications will the students be using on the wireless network? Keep asking questions until you feel everyone understands the capabilities of a wireless network. If you fail to ask many questions it could cost your district a lot of time and money on something that doesn't fill the schools needs.

Wireless networks in schools will usually have to support the following missions. A common need is to provide access for mobile laptops labs for students. Students use the labs to surf the internet, access network servers and perform research. Your network will need to support over twenty students accessing your wireless network in one area at the same time.

Mission two,, outdoor wireless access. This can provide a great learning opportunity for students to take technology out of the class room and perform science experiments via wireless computers. Great for students, but a large potential headache to secure an outdoors wireless network.

Mission three, provide teachers and staff members wireless network access to move through out the schools with out having to reconfigure their laptop every time they switch rooms. Seamless wireless access is a must for educators who are usually strapped for time and have little technology training. Your network needs to flexible enough to handle staff training sessions and conference rooms.

Mission four, Security. Providing wireless access for schools is one thing, providing secure wireless access in a school environment can be very difficult. Security in schools is often the last concern so when planning for your network explain all the wireless security threats to your planning committee so they know you just can't throw wireless access points around the network and expect things to go well. Students are very smart and often more computer savvy then teachers so if you have an open wireless network it will be exploited with in the first day.

Once you have performed your recon and asked every question you can think of, it's now time to think about what hardware for your wireless network. In the next installment of this series we will talk about wireless adapters, wireless access points, different vendors and how to start your purchasing.

Personal Wireless Networking

If you've got a wireless network for your computers already, well, you might get a bit excited about what I'm going to say next. How would you feel if your PDA, your mobile phone, your mp3 player and almost everything else you connect to your computer could be wireless too? You'd like that? Well, it's already a reality and has been for some time now.

Bluetooth is wireless and automatic, and has a number of interesting features that can simplify our daily lives. Bluetooth is a standard developed by a group of electronics manufacturers that allows any sort of electronic equipment -- from computers and cell phones to keyboards and headphones -- to make its own connections, without wires, cables or any direct action from a user. Read on...

Personal Area Network.

Using wireless networking with your personal gadgets is often called PAN, which stands for Personal Area Network. The idea is that, in the future, we'll all have laptop computers with their batteries charged and no more need to connect any wires to them at all -- you just place your Bluetooth device near the computer, and the computer sees it and can use it straightaway.

Bluetooth has been around and in-use since 1999, and it's only getting more popular. It was designed to be secure, low cost, and easy to use from day one.

There are two classes of Bluetooth that are in popular use: class 1 and class 2. Class 2 is the most common and cheaper standard, allowing you to use a device that is up to 10 metres (32 feet) away. Class 1 is rarer, but you can still find devices that use it easily enough, and it has ten times the range: 100 metres or 320 feet.

How Does It Work?

Bluetooth is more flexible than 802.11 wireless networking, in exchange for the shorter range. Essentially, a Bluetooth-enabled computer has one Bluetooth receiver installed in it, and this receiver can then be used with up to 7 nearby Bluetooth devices. On the other end, wireless devices do not need to have Bluetooth installed if they support it -- it is already integrated.

Like 802.11, Bluetooth works by using radio signals to create bandwidth. It is not, though, the same thing as an old-style wireless mouse or keyboard, which required a receiver to be plugged into one of your computers' ports, and didn't have range or stability anywhere near that of Bluetooth.

Many computers now come with built in Bluetooth, especially Apple Macs. If you want to add Bluetooth to a computer that doesn't come with it pre-installed, you should probably use a USB to Bluetooth adapter, although internal Bluetooth devices to install in your computer are available. If you have a laptop and a spare PCMCIA slot, you can get Bluetooth cards for that too.

What Can You Do With Bluetooth?

Mobile phones with Bluetooth are very popular, and so are PDAs -- the instant synchronisation of addresses and calendars to a computer is a useful feature. Other than that, almost anything that would usually use USB can be done using Bluetooth, including digital cameras, mp3 players, printers, and even mice and keyboards. If you take a look through the comprehensive list of Bluetooth 'profiles' (kinds of devices that could, in theory, be Bluetooth enabled), it includes cordless phones, faxes, headsets, and even video.

Basically, more than anything, Bluetooth is a replacement for USB: some say that while 802.11 wireless networking is wireless Ethernet, Bluetooth is wireless USB.

Not Just for Computers.

Part of the power of Bluetooth is that it isn't just used to connect things to computers -- it can be used to connect almost anything to anything else, if both things are Bluetooth-enabled and recognise each other.

Mobile phones, in particular, take advantage of this. Hands-free headsets often use Bluetooth to communicate with the phone. Some cars, for example, now have on-board computers that will connect with a Bluetooth phone and allow you to make hands-free calls, regardless of where the phone is in the car (even if you've left it in your bag in the trunk!)

On top of that, of course, Bluetooth devices can communicate with each other. This has led to some people sending messages from their Bluetooth PDAs to others in close range -- not an especially useful feature, but quite fun. This is called 'bluejacking', and the first recorded instance of it was a man who sent a Bluetooth message to another man's Nokia phone while they were in a bank together. What did the message say? 'Buy Ericsson'.

Since then, it has become possible to send images by bluejacking, and it is widely believed to be the newest advertising medium -- yes, it lets billboards send messages to your phone, a practice known as 'bluecasting'. Whether you think that's cool or annoying, of course, is your choice.