|Four Reasons Why You Need a Home Network|
|Home Theater Feature Articles Other|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Thursday, 01 April 2004|
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4. Online Gaming
Video games are fun to play with your friends when they come over, but what if your favorite gaming buddy lives halfway across the country? Playing games online is not a new concept, but only recently has the technology advanced far enough that is actually makes sense to invest in a PlayStation 2, XBox or GameCube in order to play games online. The game systems have always been great, but now with more and more people having high-speed Internet in their homes, the amount of people gaming online has increased dramatically.
Each of the gaming consoles has its own hardware that is required, and sometimes a subscription fee is likewise required to access online gaming networks, so you’ll want to do some in-depth research to find out what system is best for your needs if you want to get into the world of online gaming. I have played countless hours of EA Sports’ NBA Live 2003 against friends of mine online with our Sony PlayStations and have played many a game of Microsoft’s NFL Fever 2004 against total strangers using my XBox. I have hardwired my game systems, but wireless solutions for most of the game systems are available.
Wired or Wireless & 802.11b or 802.11g?
Many people are already convinced that they need to have their high-speed Internet connection networked throughout their homes, but don’t know how to go about doing it. AudioRevolution.com publisher Jerry Del Colliano recently rewired the speaker wires in his home and while the walls were torn open, he ran enough Cat 5 Ethernet wire throughout his walls to hog-tie a small army. He now has his high-speed cable modem connections available at several outlets in the house and, with a short Cat 5 extension cord, he can take a laptop into the bedroom, office or kitchen and hook up to any of the Internet connection points in the house. This is the best way to go if you want to have an ultra-fast connection that is free of the security risks that wireless networks face, but there are a few downsides to the hardwired in-wall installation. With a hardwired connection in the wall, branching out from a router, you don’t need to worry about running encryption that prevents your neighbors from stealing your signal, but if a cord goes bad or a mouse gets into the wall and chews on a cord, you are going to lose that connection until you get inside the walls and replace it.
I had installed a small network in my last apartment and since I was just renting the place, I ran wires from the main router in the master bedroom to the living room and the second bedroom under the carpet. This was not as slick as running the wires in the walls and terminating them at outlets at the wall, but back in 1998, the fact that I even had a home network put me way ahead of the curve technologically. When I moved into a townhouse that I recently purchased, I decided that computer networking had advanced enough and the prices had become so reasonable that I wanted to explore the option of installing an 802.11a or 802.11b wireless network. When I installed my wireless network a year and a half ago, the dilemma of whether or not to get 802.11a or b had just about faded. The differences between the two are significant, but rather than get mired down in the details of the two, I’ll just tell you that by the time I installed my network, 802.11b had pretty much emerged as the standard. The original Macintosh AirPort card was an 802.11b unit, so it was a no-brainer that I’d use this format for my wireless network.
As nice and convenient as the 802.11b wireless network is to have, anyone who has surfed the web on a hardwired network longs for the blazing speed that 802.11b just cannot offer, especially when being run encrypted to prevent hackers from getting into the network and monkeying with your files. The answer to this problem is called 802.11g. If your brain is now spinning from all this “A”, “B” and “G” talk, here is the simple breakdown. 802.11g is about five times faster than 802.11b (approximately 11mbps vs. 54mbps, respectively), but is more expensive. Modern computers are starting to support the 802.11g standard (i.e., Apple’s Airport Extreme is a fancy way of saying 802.11g-compatible) and the prices of the routers, cards and hubs you will need are already falling, so I highly recommend going with 802.11g. If you already have an 802.11b wireless router and network cards for your computer, you can be assured that 802.11g is backwards-compatible to 802.11b.
There is a huge selection of hardwired and wireless routers on the market today. Flip through the ads in the Sunday paper for companies like Best Buy, CompUSA or Circuit City, and you’ll see great prices on the equipment that you’ll need to network your computer. For $200 or less, you can network several computers. If you are not computer savvy, it may be a bit of a struggle to get your network set up, but manufacturers such as D-Link, Linksys and NETGEAR all offer phone support for a period of time after purchasing your equipment and this will usually help you solve 95 percent of the problems that you may have when setting up a network. Enlisting the help of a technically-minded friend is another way to go, but the best way is to jump in feet first and try to learn how to do it yourself. Remember to read the instructions. This isn't rocket science, but if you've never done it before, you likely won’t be able to wing it. Before you know it, you’ll learn how to set up your router, block unwanted users and absorb many other tricks that will allow you to enjoy your Internet connection throughout your home in ways that you may never before have imagined possible.