Home, Sweet (Networked) Home

Whether you're a tech pro or just a beginner, connecting your home pcs is an easy way to achieve domestic tranquility

needed access to a particular resource, I’d have to wait until the next day so that I could get the information from the company server. Also, if it was an emergency, I was able to dial into the company server, but it was extremely slow,” he says.

The Home Network
800MHz Pentium III PC (built) with 256MB RAM, 20GB hard disk, DVD-ROM
650MHz Pentium III with 256MB of RAM, 20GB hard disk
500MHz Pentium III PC/server (built) with 128MB of RAM, 10GB hard disk, 8GB tape backup
500MHz Pentium III PC (built) with 128MB of RAM, 10GB hard disk, CD-RW drive, and scanner
Dell PowerEdge Server with 128MB of RAM, 30GB hard disk
An eight-port 10/100baseT Ethernet hub
A four-port KVM switch (used to connect multiple computers to one monitor, keyboard, and mouse)
HP deskjet printer networked through the server

About $600
less than three hours

The Home Network
Two Dell desktop computers, one with a DVD-RW, CD-ROM drive, and Zip Drive
IBM laptop computer
Intel video camera
Canon Powershot digital camera
Hewlett-Packard 970cse printer
Hewlett-Packard 1215 Photosmart printer
Hewlett-Packard 710 Officejet printer
Hewlett-Packard 6200C scanner

30 minutes

The Home Network
Dell Dimension XPSB1000
Sony Vaio PCG-F190
Sony Vaio PCG-Z505
Compaq iPAQ PocketPC 3650 with PC jacket and Cisco-Aironet 340 PC Card
Alcatel/Efficient 4060 USB/DSL modem
3Com 3C905C 10/100BT PCI NIC (network interface card)
Netgear WE102 wireless access point/bridge
Two Netgear MA401 wireless PC cards
Netgear FS108 eight-port switch

About $600
Two weekends

Getting Started
Besides the options mentioned, there are several home networking packages on the market. Be sure to consider your choices carefully. Take a trip to the bookstore or log on to get more information. A few good sites that provide valuable tips and product information are Cnet.com (www.cnet.com), HomePNA (www.homepna.org), and ZDNet (www.zdnet.com). Some of the top-selling home networking products on the market are the following:

  • 3Com HomeConnect Home Network Phoneline USB Kit ($179; www.3com.com)
  • Intel AnyPoint Wireless Home Network 10Mbps USB ($79; www.intel.com)
  • Orinoco Wireless Networking Kits for Small Businesses and Home Offices ($349 and up; www.orinocowire less.com)
  • US Robotics Wireless Access Network Combination Set ($289.95; www.usr.com)

We Tried It
In an effort to bring even more real-world experience to this story, BLACK ENTERPRISE set up its own wireless solution, the same Netgear system Dr. Jones and his family used. (It’s one of the top-selling wireless packages on the market.) While setup was relatively smooth, we did have a conflict with the ISP, Mindspring. Our DSL settings had to be reassigned because we could not get Internet access without having these changes reset. And because the BE test home was built in the early 1920s, we did blow the circuits a couple of times. It’s a good idea to keep surge protectors on hand; this will help alleviate the problem.

Alonzo Ellis advises: “If the home is older than five or 10 years, you may want to look at going with a cable modem or DSL, whichever is available; but certainly you’ll want to consider wireless [rather than] phone-line networking. The lines in older homes were never meant to carry high-speed data traffic.”

Our advice: If you decide that the wireless solution is appropriate, proceed slowly and read

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