Wireless Networking Cards A Closer Look

Wireless Networking Cards - a​ Closer Look
Ok, so you've read all the​ cool stuff and​ heard all the​ great things about going wireless and​ then it​ just hit you .​
However, that works you don't know or​ care but it​ hit you .​
That was it, the​ little voice in​ your head said, do it​ and​ that was that .​
Unfortunately, that was awhile ago and​ since that moment you've done your part .​
You did some research into what was needed to​ upgrade your computer but it's all just so darn confusing .​
You keep thinking, why can't someone just give me a​ few basics so I​ feel more comfortable about this whole upgrading process.
If the​ above paragraph describes you and​ if​ you're the​ typical computer user it​ probably does, then it's time to​ exhale, calm your nerves, grab a​ latte and​ settle in​ because hopefully this article can shed a​ little understanding on at​ least one aspect of​ going wireless - the​ network card.
Like most typical computers users, you love your computer and​ you've pretty good at​ surfing the​ net, using email and​ you've probably even gotten fairly proficient at​ using your favorite word processing program but when it​ comes to​ some of​ the​ more technical aspects of​ your computer or​ computing in​ general, you are probably about as​ close to​ a​ deer in​ the​ headlights as​ you can get.
Hey, no problem because you've stumbled across a​ source that hopefully can shed a​ little light into that wireless networking card abyss .​
See, those searching skills do come in​ handy.
Let me start out by saying that when it​ comes to​ selecting a​ wireless networking card you can pretty much ignore all the​ hoopla except for​ the​ following three key factors: range, speed, and​ standards .​
Ok, let's do it​ and​ take a​ look at​ a​ few specifics.
Below is​ a​ typical specification for​ wireless networking card .​
This one just happens to​ be for​ a​ Linksys wireless PCMCIA laptop card .​
Frankly, I​ can't tell you if​ this card rocks or​ it​ stinks, I'm simply using it​ as​ an​ example .​
And with that, let's take a​ closer look.
Here's the​ description from Amazon: 11 Mbps high-speed transfer rate; interoperable with IEEE 802.11b (DSSS) 2.4Ghz-compliant equipment; plug-and-play operation provides easy set up; long operating range (up to​ 120m indoor); advanced power management features conserve valuable notebook PC battery life; rugged metal design with integrated antenna; compatible with virtually all major operating systems; works with all standard Internet applications; automatic load balancing and​ scale back; model no .​
Like I​ mentioned above, most of​ the​ specs can be ignored .​
To start with, compatible with virtually all major operating systems .​
That means nothing .​
It's simply fluff to​ expand the​ description to​ make the​ card appear better.
Take a​ look at​ where it​ says up to​ 120m indoor .​
This means that the​ maximum range of​ the​ wireless card is​ 120 meters -- sure if​ everything was perfect .​
And by the​ way, one meter is​ equal to​ about 39 inches or​ 3 feet .​
However, in​ the​ real world where nothing is​ ever perfect interference caused by thick walls, other power sources and​ the​ list goes on could reduce this number by as​ much as​ 90% - so just be aware of​ this.
And without enough range, your wireless network is​ no longer wireless and​ therefore - worthless .​
It serves no purpose to​ go wireless if​ you have to​ keep your computer next to​ the​ wireless port in​ order for​ it​ to​ work or​ if​ you have multiple computers to​ keep them all in​ the​ same room to​ get them to​ connect to​ each other.
As a​ rule of​ thumb, unless your walls are made of​ drywall or​ wood, it's best to​ buy about four times the​ strength you think you'll need .​
Even in​ perfect conditions, get twice what you think you'll need - just to​ be safe.
Take another look at​ the​ description and​ find where it​ says Mbps .​
Mbps is​ the​ speed of​ the​ wireless connection - 11 Mbps is​ about one and​ a​ half megabytes per second .​
All 802.11b wireless cards have a​ speed of​ 11Mbps, while 802.11g cards run at​ 54Mbps or​ nearly 5 times faster .​
And of​ course, the​ next generation will be even faster.
Clearly, speed is​ important to​ your wireless network because it's going to​ directly influence how long you have to​ wait to​ connect, how fast pages upload, file transfer rates, and​ your overall computer experience is​ always better when things download faster .​
I​ don't know about you but if​ something takes more than a​ few seconds to​ download, I​ start to​ get impatient.
However, because there are currently very few Internet connections running at​ speeds over 11Mbps - it's really as​ much as​ you need, at​ least for​ now.
You've probably noticed in​ the​ above specs the​ number 802.11 followed by a​ letter b .​
The b is​ the​ standard that the​ wireless device conforms too .​
Currently, there are 3 standards - a, b and​ g.
In a​ nutshell, 802.11b and​ 802.11g are compatible with each other while 802.11a isn't compatible with either .​
Due to​ the​ incompatibility issues with the​ other two standards and​ because it's an​ older less robust standard I​ would stay away from cards using it.
Between b and​ g, b is​ cheaper but slower, while g is​ more expensive but faster .​
It's also worth considering that adding a​ b-speed device to​ a​ network that has g-speed devices will often slow the​ whole network down to​ b-speed, making the​ g-devices pointless .​
Basically, the​ network will operate at​ the​ speed of​ its weakest link.
If your wireless device doesn't conform to​ the​ right standards, it's not going to​ be much good to​ you .​
I​ often see uninformed people bidding for​ used wireless equipment on eBay, not realizing that it's going to​ be terribly slow and​ may not work with other equipment they might have .​
Always check what standard the​ wireless equipment is​ using and​ if​ you don't know the​ 802.11 letter, don't buy it!
A great place to​ research and​ find answers to​ everything wireless is​ Zephyr Net .​
Simply click the​ Wifi Hotspot link in​ the​ resource box below.
This article may be reproduced only in​ its entirety.

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