Keeping It Together

Maryland family's home is a hub of tech activity

Hollins and Diana Riley and their three children may not stand on the steps of a spaceship wearing silver suits and sipping Tang, but their wireless home network in Annapolis, Maryland, has taken them quite far over the past three years. The local area network has proven to be a valuable tool in helping them keep in touch.

Hollins owns a managed care consulting firm where Diana worked and shared files with him before starting her own business, Capital Travel Center. Sharing files with yourself can be a convenience, too. “There are times when the laptop has files on it and I use the wireless network to transfer them when I come back, as opposed to burning a CD,” says Hollins.

Sharing a broadband connection is one of the biggest draws to home networking for families. Daughter Ashley, 17, is an honor student and Parvis Scholar in her senior year at St. Mary’s in Annapolis, a school that encourages intensive use of the Internet for homework and communication with teachers. Instant messaging is one of Ashley’s communication mainstays, along with e-mail and her cell phone. She has already finished a program at U.C. Berkeley, where she was exploring her options in a pre-med program.

Last year, son Daniel, 22, studied in London and often e-mailed pictures home. In June, he graduated magna cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, and in July, he landed a job in New York as a product development analyst at an investment banking firm. “Daniel’s use [of the Internet] will probably be more to keep in touch because he’s [in] New York,” says Diana. “Last night he used it to interact with his landlord. He signed on and looked at his apartment and had a friend take digital pictures of his room.”

The Rileys also use their Verizon DSL connection to keep in touch with their daughter Jasmine, 26, a chemist for a biotech company. Jasmine is also working on a double master’s (an M.B.A. and a master’s in engineering) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. As for the parents’ Internet time, “We’re both avid golfers and our handicaps get sent right back to our home course by e-mail,” says Hollins. “Everyone in the family uses it to comparison shop. We’ve learned to be savvy Web surfers. [The Internet] is in every facet of our lives now.” Diana also uses the Internet to sync up with her company’s reservation system and e-mail on her office computer. “It’s sad … that people don’t know how much this technology can impact their lives,” says Diana, who likes the way the LAN blends solutions for both personal and business needs.

The center of the Riley’s LAN is a $49 D-Link DI-514 Wireless Router (www.dlink.com/products/?pid=226). Although the 2GHz hub includes four Ethernet ports on the back, the family uses only the wireless side, which can accommodate up to five PCs. Their router is connected to one computer in the basement for Hollins, one on the second level for Ashley, one on the top

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