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Wireless & Networking - Wireless standards, specifications and more

For the home user there are four standards to consider 802.11a, b, g and the new n. By far the most common in Europe is 802.11b. This was the first main Wifi standard, mostly because it was cheap to integrate into computers, but this standard can suffer from interference problems as it uses the same frequency as some cordless phones, microwave ovens and Bluetooth. SO a new better standard was introduced 802.11a - which is also more expensive.

The next gen Wifi (802.11g) has been built into most hardware for the past four years, it suffers the same problem as the b standard but is much faster and will work with b hardware. It is an improvement over the standard, though conflict issues still exist.

The newest of all standards is still in draft version - 802.11n and this will work with all existing Wifi standards. When a network finds a slow device all speeds are reduced to the slowest device's speed to not cause overloads, this is the reason why you should buy all hardware from the same supplier and of the same standard.

Importantly, some manufacturers claim double speed but the condition is that all devices must be of that manufacturer brand, including all wireless cards.

When a network is installed, security needs to be immediately addressed as most setup routines do not configure this automatically. By password protecting your network, all information is encrypted. A few steps are needed to secure your network, you can either visit The Wifi Alliance at http://www.wifialliance.com or by following our simple, concise clear advice which will come in future columns.

Any wireless equipment which claims to be 802.11n compatible isn't; it is based on the draft version of the standard, though this is unlikely to change - it may do. Also there is no need to move to the new standard, so pick one of the old ones, more advice on this later on too. The fastest connected are around 24Mb/s and buying a new wireless a standard will not speed you connection for viewing web pages up, the 54Mbps or 108Mbps claimed are for file transfer and are the theoretical maximum speed.

Next week: Our first workshop on setting up a wirelss netowrk in Windows XP.

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