Local Area Networks (LAN)
and the Wireless Revolution

By: Richard Steele
Oahu Island News

Don’t be surprised the next time you walk into your favorite café and notice patrons with notebook computers browsing the web, downloading email or chatting online – all without any cables attached! Just another internet café? No, it’s a wireless community utilizing a wireless local area network (LAN).

The wireless LAN is a relatively new and evolving technology that is destined to replace some of the cables currently attached to your computer, and make it possible to access the internet wherever you go.

In thousands of small business offices and homes throughout the world computers are being fitted with wireless network adapters while conventional “wired” hubs and switches are being replaced with wireless routers capable of connecting hundreds of computers in a local area network (LAN).

The trend is also moving toward wireless connections in the home. When an old computer in the home is replaced with a new one, the old system is often kept to create a LAN. This home LAN allows sharing of the internet connection, makes backups to the other computer a breeze, enables sharing of printers and (last but not least) network gaming.

The technology is not restricted to just the café, office or home. Wireless towns and communities are springing up all over the world.

The two components that make it happen are a wireless router and a wireless adapter. The routers commonly cost less than $100 now and allow up to 256 computers to link to each other. The adapter which connects the computer to the wireless LAN comes in a variety of configurations. For notebooks, PCMCIA cards are commonly used, although USB adapters are common also. The industry refers to the technology as 802.11, with a letter appended. For example, 802.11b is the most common standard, but there’s also 802.11a and (most recently) 802.11g. Make sure the equipment you purchase is compatible with the standard of each component.

One very important thing to consider: Security. A LAN, by its nature, allows easy sharing of files over the network, and for this reason, steps should be taken to make sure your confidential files are not shared with strangers.

And just think: It wasn’t all that long ago that we were connecting to the Internet with a slow and simple telephone line. Now we’re wirelessly surfing the high speed Internet while we sip our latte at Starbucks!

Richard Steele is owner of Easy Computer, a training, repair, upgrade, and new computer store located at 1649 Kalakaua Avenue, 942-3999.