How do I share a high-speed Internet connection in my home?

Question

I have a high-speed Internet connection that I want to share with both of the computers in my house. I have heard about wireless and phone-line based networking systems, but don’t know if they are as advertised. Can you shed some light on them for me?

-David

Answer

This question was answered on January 5, 2001. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The home networking market is one of the fastest growing segments of the computer industry According to a study by the Yankee group, over 12 million homes are interested in implementing some sort of home networking in the next year

In addition to sharing a high-speed connection, users can share printers, hard drives, zip drives, tape drives or virtually any peripheral that is network compatible.

The two main methods that are cost effective for home networking are phone-line based (HomePNA 2.0) and wireless (Wi-Fi) networks

The phone-line based systems use your homes existing phone line wires to connect your computers and is the preferred method because it is faster (up to 10Mbps) and more reliable than the wireless (up to1.6 Mbps) based systems Be sure that you are purchasing one of the newer kits based on the 2.0 standard because the previous standard for phone-line based networking (HomePNA 1.0) is much slower

In order to use the phone line based systems you must have Windows 98 or ME based systems and a phone line at each of the locations If you have a phone line in each of the rooms but they are using separate numbers, this method will not work The phone lines must be using the same number The kits come in PCI (requires you to open your machine and install a card) or USB interfaces I would recommend sticking to the USB version for ease of installation

In my tests of the Intel Any Point Phone Line 10Mbps USB kit (@$100 per machine), I found it to be fairly easy to install and packed with features that will help administrate the network It comes with an “easy start” users guide that walks you through the installation process and virtually everything went as stated I shared a cable modem connection through it and was getting consistent download speeds in excess of 1Mbps.

A consideration when using the USB interface is whether you have enough ports On my test machines, the existing USB ports were already occupied by a printer and a game stick, so I had to add a 4-port USB hub in order to add the networking interface (Always buy a powered USB hub that requires its own A/C power adapter, as they are more reliable.)

If you are currently experiencing any kind of problem with your computer or if your current USB devices are not always recognized, I would recommend getting those issues addressed prior to installing any kind of networking kit Not only is it likely that your networking connection may not work, but you may make the existing problems even worse.

If you do not have a shared phone line where you plan to have the computers or if you have a laptop and want to be able to surf the net from the backyard, you may want to consider the wireless method Although it is slower and prone to interference from microwave ovens and other various household devices that transmit radio waves, it does work It uses the 2.4Ghz frequency and has a reach of roughly 150 feet In reality, it will give you actual throughput speeds of 500Kbps, which is certainly adequate for sharing printers or an Internet connection It comes in either USB or PC card interfaces and costs around $120 per machine.

Both of Intel’s kits include a built-in software firewall for protection on the Internet and a basic filtering system for parental control of websites The phone-line based system can support up to 15 computers, while the wireless system can support up to 10 You can get all of the info on Intel’s kits at <a href="http://www.intel.com/anypoint" target="_blank"><font color="#003399">>http://www.intel.com/anypoint</b></font></a>.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on January 5, 2001