Consumer networking over the past couple of years has evolved into something more than just the Internet and Ethernet. When computer prices started to drop heavily through competition in the past 2 years, there has been an amazing surge of networking demands for the home as more families could afford to have more than one computer. With more computers comes more demand for the Internet and file sharing and access to printers. Networking allows for all that and when combined with broadband Ethernet connections, it is something every family should experience. Lets take a look at all of the different popular (and unpopular) methods of home networking brought to you by popular (and unpopular) companies. There were always traditional methods of networking such as Cat5 cabling through Ethernet cards and the strange serial to serial port connections. These led to innovations such as phoneline networking (we have quite a few reviews on these units) and the questionable power outlet networking. Although good for the home, the 2 latter methods could not even be considered for business uses because of their many flaws. The phoneline kits were very good but very, very slow… much slower than their rated speeds and if you have a DSL connection in the same phone line, you might run into problems down the line with speed and connectivity. Also, arranging your computer in places with a phone outlet is a hassle, especially with older homes with only one or two outlets. Power is another story: fluctuation in the power grid in your home can lead to fluctuations in reliability, speed, and network integrity. For these reasons, those two solutions never really boomed in the home networking or commercial markets. This brings us to the third "major" breakthrough over the past years in home networking. The 802.11 networking standard was established. Let me get something off my chest for a minute or two. Wireless is the future. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. The potential convenience and capabilities of wireless nets of the future are incomprehensible and just mind-boggling. Like I said in one of my previous reviews, there are no wires in Star Trek. It is only a matter of time before wired Ethernet becomes second to wireless networks. At the current rate of innovation and adoption, it is inevitable that wireless will dominate. Well, I think I went off on a little rant there so onto the review again. Today, we have the Sohoware Netblaster II wireless networking kit on our chopping board.
IEEE 802.11b Networking In A Nutshell
A Wireless LAN (WLAN) is basically a Local Area Network, which uses radio signals rather than the conventional wiring of Ethernet and Fiber Optics. The origins of 802.11 were in the corporate world in which companies needed a way to connect their massive base networks to a smaller group of client computers. This allowed the client computers to use the full resources and data of the base network and vice versa. When the wireless standard was first introduced as 802.11 4 years ago, many companies embraced it and made products that were not proprietary but shared the standard so you could interchange units from various companies. Have a D-Link access point and a Linksys adapter and they will work together thanks to the standard. Why hasn't it become popular so far? The 802.11 only had a maximum speed of 1-2 Mbps, making it too slow to support activity other than browsing the Internet on. It cannot perform tasks that a LAN network should be capable of. 1Mbps translates to roughly 120kbps, moving large files would take ages and multiplayer gaming will be lagged. While adoption of the 802.11 was slow in the corporate world, it caught some fans in the home networking world who just wanted to share Internet access and printers. Last year, the IEEE introduced the 802.11b standard, upping the transmission frequency to 2.4GHz and also the speed to a hearty 11Mbps at peak throughput. This makes it more feasible for companies to deploy in their networks as it reaches and sometimes surpasses the speeds of a 10Base-T network. The 802.11b standard also makes wireless a great choice in the home as multiplayer gaming and file transfer speeds will also be greatly enhanced. The 802.11b standard is backwards compatible with earlier 802.11 standards. To get a better understanding of how the network standard works, please visit this site.