Magazine article Newsweek

Technology: Networking Made Easy: A Smattering of Geeky Parents Have Brought Networking Home-Now It's Easier and Cheaper to Set Up

Magazine article Newsweek

Technology: Networking Made Easy: A Smattering of Geeky Parents Have Brought Networking Home-Now It's Easier and Cheaper to Set Up

Article excerpt

Byline: N'Gai Croal and Bruce R. Jaffe

Computer networks used to be a strictly office thing, characterized by tangles of wires behind your desk, weird words like Ethernet and whole teams of specialists whose job was just to keep the thing working. Then families started owning not just one PC but several, and a smattering of geeky parents brought networking home. Now that broadband Internet access is becoming more common, lots of people are realizing that it makes sense to hook up Dad's laptop, Mom's desktop and Junior's iMac to the same high-speed connection. Fortunately, home networking has come a long way in the last couple of years, making it easier--and cheaper--to set up.

There are other reasons to consider a network. Each of the three major consoles--PlayStation 2, Gamecube and Xbox--will have online games available by the year-end, and the experience is much better using high-speed Internet connections. And by 2003, companies like Pioneer and SonicBlue will be shipping home-entertainment devices that can distribute recorded TV shows, digital music and streaming video to network-connected television sets throughout your home.

If you decide to take the plunge, there are a few things you should know. Unless you want to leave your main PC turned on 24 hours a day, your best bet is to get a router, a small box that connects to your cable or DSL modem. The cheapest way to wire your house for broadband is with those familiar Ethernet cables, but even New Yorkers in closet-size apartments would get tired of tripping over the cords. Two other methods, known as HomePlug and HomePNA, use your 120-volt AC power wiring and phone-line outlets, respectively, to carry home networks. Both these methods worked well in our tests, and were easy to set up.

But the best--and the coolest--way is to go wireless, via the fairly new 802. …

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