TechTalk: Wireless Everything

The whole wireless thing has really been blowing up lately and more and more products are coming to the market.  Prices are dropping and options are growing.  There's wireless internet, wireless printers, wireless speakers, and even cell phones which backup to computers wirelessly.  If you don't quite understand it all, hopefully you'll have a better idea of everything in just a few minutes. 

MODEM:  This brings the internet into the home.  It enables a computer to transmit and receive data over a cable or telephone line and is most often provided by your internet provider.  With just a modem, you can connect one computer to the network.  You must use a cable, called an ETHERNET CABLE, to connect the computer to the network. 

ROUTER:  If you have multiple computers in the home as a lot of us do, you will also need a ROUTER.  This will allow you to split the internet off for multiple computers to use.

WIRELESS ROUTER:  This not only splits the internet off for multiple computers, it creates a wireless access point to which any computer with a wireless card can connect.  Most computers these days have wireless cards in them, but if you have an older desktop computer, you can still connect to the wireless router with an Ethernet cable.  You can, however, purchase a wireless card for it.  Pick it up while you're out purchasing your wireless router, as you may not get one from your internet provider.  Some internet providers have an all-in-one unit (modem + wireless router) which is super easy to set up, and some will provide you with the modem.

IP ADDRESS:  Just like each of us has a home address, each computer in your home will have an internet address (called an IP address) at which they access the internet.  A typical address would look something like

WIRELESS NAME AND PASSWORD:  You can give your network a name.  It will default to whatever the router calls it, like "2Wire225", but it is best (and more secure) to name it.  You should also set up a password for your home wireless network, so the neighbor (or anyone else for that matter) cannot access your home network (and also your computers).  Your computers will remember this automatically, and if you have a friend who brings their laptop over and wants to connect to the internet, all you need to do is give them your network name and the password.

WIRELESS PRINTERS:  A lot, if not all, of the printers sold today come with wireless networking capabilities.  They aren't any more expensive than their wired counterparts of a few years back.  They enable you to print from any room in the house, from laptops without having to use a cable, and even from a smartphone.  Setup is simpler than ever:  through the on-screen display on the printer, you choose your home network and enter your network password.  Done.  Simple as that.  The printer will remember your network and password every time you turn it on.  A number of printer manufacturers have applications (apps) for smartphones allowing them to print directly from the phone.

WIRELESS SPEAKERS:  One of the coolest wireless products is the wireless speaker.  Usually an all-in-one speaker (stereo - tweeters & woofers in one speaker), they connect to the home network just like a wireless printer does, and allows you to stream music from your smartphone or computer directly to the speaker with no cables.  Some of those speakers are even wireless themselves, sitting on a charger when not in use, and able to be carried all over the house when listening to music.  More on this later. 

Hopefully things make a little more sense now.