By Richard Heller
You see the products in all the office supply and computer ads. You know the ones that I mean, the ones for the network products for your computer. The prices on network cards and accessories have dropped over the past couple of years, and many people have more than one computer in their house so that networking is a good idea.
By adding a network card to each computer and connecting them together, you can share files, printers, scanners, and even your Internet connection. The cards themselves sell for less than $25 per desktop computer, while a card for the notebook computer will cost about $50. You will also need cables costing about $15 per computer and a device called a hub or switch, which sells for $50 and will allow you to connect up to four computers. This last item serves as a junction box where you plug in all the cables. The cable uses a plug and jack that looks just like your telephone connectors.
About two years ago, companies introduced a new method of networking that eliminated the need to run cables between the computers. The method was called the Phone Network Adapter or PNA. The network card connected to the telephone wiring in your house and sent the signal over the telephone wires. You could be talking on the phone or be using your modem at the same time as transferring a file between the computers.
Recently, the latest in networking is the wireless network. By placing a $150 (or higher) network card in each computer, it is no longer necessary to run any wires between any of the computers. The cards have a range of up to 800 feet. In addition to the cards, you can also get wireless routers that allow you to connect your high-speed Internet connection to all your computers.
This newest method sounds like the ideal network, doesnt it? There are a couple of problems with this method, though. The first is the high cost; just to connect two computers will cost at least $300. The second has to do with the feature that makes it so attractive. Being wireless, the signal is broadcast through the air. This means that it is possible for your neighbors to pick up your signal, which, at the very least, may cause interference with their network. This also means that it would be possible for them to access your network or see your data.
There have been occurrences of people using laptop computers with wireless network cards installed sitting in cars outside of businesses picking up the data traffic from inside the building. They are able to gather passwords and other sensitive data. The term that the hackers use for this is called war driving, referring to the war dialing method used in the movie War Games where the computer dialed phone numbers until it was connected to another computer.
If you go the wireless route, it is important to set up a firewall and passwords to protect yourself from having your network compromised.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.