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Tuesday, August 09, 2005
  try ar- Setting up Wi-Fi network

This installment of the column is about getting a Wi-Fi network, or wireless local area network (WLAN), up and running.
The components required for setting up a WLAN are an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) – broadband connection, wireless router and wireless network adapters.

Note that each wireless router supports one WLAN. And the way the WLAN behaves is such that computers closer to the router realize better network speed than computers further away. So try installing your wireless router in a central location within the home or office premise.

When installing an 802.11b or 802.11g access point or router, you should be cautious of signal interference from other appliances. In particular, do not install the unit within one to three meters from a microwave oven.

Other common sources of wireless interference are 2.4-gigahertz cordless phones, air-condition units, baby monitors and most home automation devices.

Remember that Wi-Fi is designed to support a signal range up to 100 meters. However, obstructions such as brick walls act like barriers which can reduce this range substantially.
Next, having chosen a good location, connect the wireless router to a power outlet, and, if necessary, to your existing ADSL modem. If you have purchased the combo ADSL modem/router, just plug in the phone line connection into the WAN or link port on the router and you are ready to configure it.

Most routers are shipped with a Web-based configuration screen. Typically, you will need to be on the same LAN as the router to connect to it for the first-time configuration. Refer to your documentation that comes with the router on methods of connecting to the Web-based graphical user interface (GUI).
After connecting to the Web-based administration GUI, the parameters that you will have to configure, among others include your ADSL username and password (this is assigned by your internet service provider), you network name and security features. In Wi-Fi networking, the network name is often called the service set identifier (SSID).

You router and all computers on the WLAN must share the same SSID for them to communicate. Although your router is shipped with a default name set by the manufacturer, it is best to change it for security reasons.

Now to configure the wireless adapters, insert the adapters into your computers as instructed in your product documentation. Wi-Fi adapters require transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) to be installed on the host computer.

TCP/IP is the communications protocol computers use on the internet and LANs to talk to each other. Most computers running Windows XP have TCP/IP pre-installed.

Each manufacturer provides its configuration utility for its adapter. On the Windows operating system, for example, adapters generally have their GUI accessible from the Start menu or taskbar after the hardware is installed. Here’s where you set the network name (the SSID) and turn on WEP.
Note that all of your wireless adapters must use the same parameter settings for your WLAN to function properly.

Every Wi-Fi adapter requires you to choose between infrastructure mode (called “access point” mode in some configuration tools) and ad hoc mode (“peer to peer” mode). When using a wireless router, set every wireless adapter to infrastructure mode.

In this mode, wireless adapters automatically detect and set their WLAN channel number to match the access point (router). However, you need to ensure that all network adapters on your ad hoc WLAN use the same channel number.

Alternatively, you can set all wireless adapters to use ad hoc mode. But for simplicity, it is advisable to go for infrastructure mode.

Finally, you need to set up the logical connectivity of your Wi-Fi network. As stated earlier, computers or devices can communicate with each other if they are on the same LAN and speak the same communication protocol. In this instance, it is the TCP/IP used to communicate over the Internet.

Part of the TCP/IP is the address. To set up the IP address, go to Start > My Network Places > View Network Connections, and under LAN or High-Speed Internet, right click on the mouse button to select the Properties tab. Under the General tab, highlight the TCP/IP and click on the Properties tab. Check the “Obtain an IP address automatically” box and select OK.

Do the same for all the other devices on your network and you are now set to use your WLAN.

-DIY, Wi-Fi playground-

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