We Know: How Wireless Networking and Internet Access Work
How does wireless internet work?
Through a variety of radio technologies, wireless networks and wireless internet broadcast signals from modem to computer, much the same way your television remote works. For home wireless networking, it only works across a short range, usually no more than 100 feet. It's a great and convenient technology, but it does have hazards.
Types of Wireless Networking Technologies
Wireless technology is fairly new, but there are already several types. Bluetooth and the 802.11 (or wifi) protocols are most common today. You should be very careful when purchasing wireless technology to ensure that you get exactly the right protocol for your home network. Not all wireless devices are compatible.
Setting Up Your Home Wireless Network
When you set up your wireless network, try to ensure that your server and primary internet access are in a place clear of heavy electrical current and plumbing, and that there are no thick walls or metal supports between it and the computers that will require access. If you can't do this, you may want to use antennas or wireless repeaters to extend the range of your server. Schedule plenty of time to set up the wireless network. Set up and test your desktop computers first, then your laptop computers everywhere you use them frequently, then your PDAs and other peripheral devices. The process of setting up a fairly large home network may take days, so be patient.
Troubleshooting Home Wireless Networks
It's not uncommon to have problems with your home wireless network when you start setting it up; this is why most people use professionals. But there are a few things you can try to fix yourself, if you know a little about computers.
Hazards of Home Wireless Networking
Home wireless networks have a pretty good range when nothing blocks them. If you live in an apartment or a neighborhood with houses close together, your neighbor can take advantage of your wireless network if you don't have it set up properly. This may be a good thing; if you get along with your neighbor, you may want to share the network and split bills. But you may also be putting yourself at risk of having data intercepted and stolen if your neighbor is not so trustworthy.
To avoid this hazard, set up your wireless network using a secure server as the hub, and ensure that everyone in your household uses a separate password to access the system. You should also look up "APIPA" in MS Help in your server. This lets you assign an IP address to each computer that is allowed access to the server, and not let anyone else in. And it works with 802.11 protocol networks as well as Bluetooth technology. Just ensure that all your wireless devices are listed, or the server will not recognize them. If you use a router, however, this feature may get in your way.
Hazards of Public Wireless Networking
If you're fortunate enough to live in a city where you can access a public wireless networking system, that's great. But you should be aware that criminals always find a way to take advantage of technologies. If you're using a public wireless network, never send your personal data -- passwords, bank account numbers, etc. -- out, and this is including passwords your computer is set to automatically send. Malicious users nearby can hack into the network and intercept your data as it's going to the wireless server, or they may even be able to hijack the network with their own computer, acting as the server and keeping track of information as it flows through the network.
To protect yourself, always be alert when sending information out in public, and avoid doing any sensitive personal business using public networks.