Wireless Networking, Part 1: Capabilities and Hardware

Wireless Networking, Part 1: Capabilities and Hardware

These days it isn’t uncommon for a home to have multiple personal computers, and as such, it just makes sense for them to be able to share files, as well as to share one Internet connection. Wired networking is an option, but it is one that may require the installation and management of a great deal of wiring in order to get even a modestly sized home set up. With wireless networking equipment becoming extremely affordable and easy to install, it may be worth considering by those looking to build a home network, as well as by those looking to expand on an existing wired network.

The first installment in this two-part series of Tech Tips will provide an introduction to the basic capabilities and hardware involved in wireless networking. Once that foundation has been established, we’ll take a look at a few setup and security related considerations that should be addressed once the physical installation is complete.

Capabilities

The basic standard that covers wireless networking is the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11, which is close kin to the wired Ethernet standard, 802.3. Many people will recognize 802.11 more readily when accompanied by one of three suffixes (a, b, or g), used to specify the exact protocol of wireless networking.

The 802.11a protocol first hit the scene in 2001, and despite a small surge in recent popularity, it is definitely the least common of the three at this time. The signals are transmitted on a 5 GHz radio frequency, while “b” and “g” travel on 2.4 GHz. The higher frequency means that the signal can travel less distance in free space and has a harder time penetrating walls, thus making the practical application of an 802.11a network a bit limited. The maximum transfer rate, however, is roughly 54 Mbps, so it makes up for its limited range with respectable speed.

As mentioned, 802.11b and 802.11g networks operate on a 2.4 GHz radio band, which gives a much greater range as compared to 802.11a. One downside to being on the 2.4 GHz band is that many devices share it, and interference is bound to be an issue. Cordless phones and Bluetooth devices are two of many items that operate at this frequency. The range of these two protocols is about 300 feet in free air, and the difference between the two comes down to speed. 802.11b came first, released back in 1999, and offers speeds up to 11 Mbps. 802.11g first appeared in 2002 and it is a backwards compatible improvement over 802.11b and offers speeds up to 54 Mbps.

On top of these protocols, some manufacturers have improved upon the 802.11g standard and can provide speeds of up to 108 Mbps. This doesn’t involve a separate protocol, but just a bit of tweaking in areas like better data compression, more efficient data packet bursting, and by using two radio channels simultaneously. Typically, stock 802.11g equipment is not capable of these speeds, and those interested need to shop for matched components that specify 108 Mbps support. I say “matched components” as this is not a standard protocol and the various manufacturers may take different approaches to achieving these speeds. In order to ensure the best results when trying to achieve these elevated speeds, components from the same manufacturer should be used together. For instance, only Netgear brand network adaptors rated for 108 Mbps data transfer should be used with something like the Netgear WG624 wireless router (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=WGT624NAR).

Considering your typical broadband Internet connection is going to offer data transfer rates of 10 Mbps or less, it can be seen that even 802.11b would be more than adequate if you just want to surf the web. Sharing files on your LAN (Local Area Network) is where the faster protocols will really make a difference, and comparing the prices of 802.11b and 802.11g components may show that there is little to no difference in selecting a “g” capable device over a comparable “b” capable device.

Hardware

Access Point – Wireless Access Point (WAP) is the central device that manages the transmission of wireless signals on a network. A base access point may be capable of handling up to 10 connections, and more robust APs may be able to manage up to 255 connections simultaneously. The D-Link DWL-1000AP+ (http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=37) is an example of a wireless access point capable of 802.11b transmissions.

Router – In somewhat technical terms, a router is a network device that forwards data packets. It is generally the connection between at least two networks, such as two LANs, or a LAN and ISP’s (Internet Service Provider’s) network. For our purposes, and for the sake of simplicity, a wireless router is basically an access point with the added feature of having a port for sharing a broadband Internet connection. The D-Link AirPlus G (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=DI524-R&cat=NET) is an 802.11g capable router that provides access for numerous wireless connections and four hard-wired connections to one WAN (Wide Area Network Internet) connection. A typical router for home use will generally cost less than an access point, and via settings within the firmware, can be used as just an access point anyway. Wired or wireless, all the computers using the router can share files over the network, as well as sharing a broadband internet connection. Communication between wireless computers (or a wireless computer and a wired computer) will max out at 54 Mbps, while communication between wired computers will take full advantage of the 100 Mbps provided via the 802.3 protocol.

Network Adaptor – A network adaptor is required for every computer that you would like to be connected to the wireless network. Many laptops, such as this Sony Centrino 1.5 GHz (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=PCGZ1RA-R&cat=NBB) now include a wireless adaptor built in, so no extra hardware is needed. For those with systems that don’t have wireless capabilities built in, adding them is fairly simple, and can be done using a variety of connections. Desktop computers can go wireless by adding a PCI slot network adaptor such as the 802.11g capable D-Link DWL-G510 (http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=308). Notebook users can easily add wireless connectivity by using a PCMCIA adaptor, such as this 802.11g capable device (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=PBW006-N&cat=NET). And for truly convenient plug-n-play connectivity to wireless networks, USB adaptors such as this 802.11g capable dongle (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=80211GWUD&cat=NET) are available.

Antenna/Extender – These items are not essential, but given the specifics of a wireless environment, they may be helpful. Devices such as the Hawking Hi-Gain Antenna (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=HAI6SIP-N&cat=NET) or the Super Cantenna (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=SCB10&cat=NET) serve the purpose of increasing the wireless signal strength, and therefore extend the range of a given wireless network. Not only can a large area of open space be covered, but the signal quality may be improved in structures with walls and floors that obstruct the signal transmission.

Final Words

In this Tech Tip, we took a look at the basics of wireless networking as it relates to capabilities and hardware. In the second part of this two-part series, we will look at some of the basic setup and security considerations that should be addressed. The physical installation of a wireless network may be exponentially easier than a wired network, but the more difficult part is setting up the software and security to make sure everything stays up and running without incident.

Pros and Cons of a Smart Car

When people are thinking about making an expensive buying decision, especially with something as new and unusual as the smart car, they often want to know the pros and cons of the various options they are considering. This article will examine the pros and cons of a smart car.

There is no doubt that the smart fortwo car has its passionate supporters. Before it arrived in the United States in 2007, it had already enjoyed wild success in Europe over several years. But with its small size, there are also a number of concerns.

Pros of a Smart Car

There are many benefits to be considered; don’t let its small size fool you!

  • Environmentally-friendly. Not only is this small car fuel-efficient, averaging around 40 mpg, but it has several other environmentally-friendly features as well. The smart fortwo car uses innovative energy-efficient and recyclable materials in its construction. In fact, 95% of the vehicle is recyclable and the dash material is made from recycled synthetics.
  • Easy to park and drive. The smart car has a very small footprint. At less than 9 feet long, it’s nearly 3 feet shorter than the already diminutive Mini Cooper. Of course, a big reason for that is that it’s only a 2-seater. But the short size means this car is super easy to park, especially in tight spots or short spots where other cars wouldn’t fit. It’s also got a great turning radius that makes it very maneuverable.
  • Appearance. No one can argue that the smart fortwo car is not unique in its design and appearance. See one, and you will never forget it, whether you like it or not! Many people’s first impression is that it is just so darn cute. When Mercedes Benz brought the smart fortwo car to the United States, they updated its image to be more cutting edge, with more chrome, a bit longer hood section and updated headlights and dashboard area. You can also change out the plastic body panels to give it a whole new color, or purchase a car wrap with some kind of unique print or design on it.
  • Safety design. Most people’s first reaction when they see this tiny car is something along the lines of, “How could such a small car be safe on the road” However, what make the smart car so unique is Mercedes Benz attention to safety. From the innovative tridion safety cell, a sort of safety cage, to its 4 airbags and advanced braking system, the smart car is built for safety. Crash tests have consistently proved Mercedes’ safety claims. Anecdotal evidence, as published on the safeandsmart.com website, also supports those claims.
  • Surprisingly roomy inside. Another surprising benefit of the smart car is its interior roominess. There is plenty of leg room for both driver and passenger. Head room is great too, with men as tall as 6’6″ fitting in the driver’s seat comfortably. The cargo area is also quite roomy for a small car. We fit a 50-pound black lab and 2 other dogs in our hatch when we go hiking. And we’ve toted home as many as 8 grocery bags and a case of soda when we go food shopping.
  • Perfect commuter car. The smart fortwo car was originally designed as a “city car” for crowded European city-dwellers, and that is its greatest value in the United States, as well. It makes a great commuter car, with its roominess, solid gas mileage and zippy performance on the roads, not to mention ease of parking.

Cons of a Smart Car

Of course, no car is perfect for everyone, and this one is no exception. It does have a few features that could be improved, as well as some aspects that just make it the wrong choice for certain people.

  • Size vs. other cars on the highway. Despite its considerable safety features, there is no question that the smart car is much smaller than just about every other vehicle on the highway. So, there is a good chance that if you are involved in an accident with a big SUV or truck, you might come out the loser. However, there are accounts of smart cars faring better than other larger vehicles in an accident. One advantage of its small footprint is that it might be able to avoid collisions that a larger vehicle could not.
  • No cruise control. As mentioned above, the smart car was designed as a commuter, in-town type of car. Perhaps that’s why, despite a number of other high-end features, it lacks a cruise control option. If you do plan to travel in it or your commute involves highway driving, chances are you are going to miss having cruise control.
  • Unusual transmission. Smart cars have what is termed an “automated manual transmission.” What that means is that you have an option between going completely automatic or using a modified manual transmission. Most people find that keeping it in automatic means slightly sluggish gear shifting. That is easily remedied, however, by switching to the automated manual mode. This is a clutch-less manual transmission, meaning you are in charge of using the stick shift or paddle shifters on the steering wheel to switch gears, but you don’t have to coordinate with a clutch. The manual mode is super easy to use, even if you’ve never driven a stick shift before, and provides for a much zippier gear-shifting experience.
  • Limited passenger seating and cargo space. Smart cars only have 2 seats – the driver’s seat and one passenger seat. So they’re not meant to be family cars. And while the cargo hatch area is surprisingly roomy, it is still less than 8 cubic feet. So you won’t be hauling any lumber or large pieces of furniture in it.
  • Gas mileage could be higher. For such a small car, you might expect the gas mileage to be much higher. However, the smart car was rated the most fuel-efficient gas-powered car in the United States by the EPA in 2010. And even at 40 MPG, it is considerably more fuel-efficient than most light trucks and SUVs on the road today.
  • Requires premium fuel. The smart car requires premium fuel, which can be pricey, because of its small engine size. Smaller engines tend to perform better with a higher grade of fuel. You might consider its gas mileage to be the trade-off for the pricier gas.

In weighing the pros of a smart car against the cons, I find the pros win. For what it’s designed to be — a commuter vehicle for 1 or 2 people — the smart car is a great value with many added benefits. Could it be better? Sure, as with most products, there is definitely room for improvement. But, if you want a forward-thinking, unique and fuel-efficient small car, then I would definitely encourage you to consider the smart fortwo car.

Evaluating Credit Card Offers: Essential Terms You Must Understand

Credit card offers, they're everywhere! They appear in your mailbox. They pop up while you're surfing the Internet. They're in slick brochures next to the cash register or gas pump. They're in full-page ads in the Sunday papers.

If you need a new credit card, how do you choose? You should evaluate each offer carefully, and to do that you must understand these essential terms.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) :

The interest rate charged on your account balance. (But see "Balance Calculation Methods," because the rules for computing interest from your balance and your APR can vary.) Your statement will typically show the APR and a monthly and / or daily rate based on the APR that's actually used to calculate your Monthly interest. There may be several APRs applicable to different portions of your balance, for example an introductory rate, a regular purchase rate, and a regular cash advance rate.

A fixed APR is set by the credit card company, which can generally change it with as little as 15 days advance notice, especially if you run afoul of any of the "gotchas" in the terms. These "gotchas" are often very consumer-unfriendly. For example, many companies these days reserve the right to raise your rate if you've been late on a payment to another, unrelated company.

A variable APR is tied to some widely used economic index, such as the Prime Rate. It may be stated as "prime + x%, currently y%," for example "prime + 7%, currently 13.5%." This means that when the Prime Rate is 6.5%, your APR is 13.5%. When the Prime Rate goes up or down, so does your APR. But beware, because some of the same "gotchas" apply to variable APRs as to fixed APRs. Read the fine print. It may state that if you're late with one payment, your APR will no longer be variable but will rise to an exorbitant fixed rate, usually over 20%.

The penalty APR is the rate to which your APR will immediately be raised when you violate any of the "gotchas" in the terms. This rate is usually at least 50% higher than the regular APR. Again, be sure to read the fine print to see what situations will trigger the penalty APR. You'll often see these: failure to pay this or any other account on time, exceeding your credit limit on this or any other account, excessive credit balances on your accounts in aggregate.

Balance Calculation Methods:

These are important to understand, because your APR is only part of the story when it comes to calculating the interest you'll be charged each month. The other part is how the balance is calculated to which the APR is applied. In any case the balance is multiplied by the daily or monthly interest rate. But the balance calculation is not as straightforward as you might think.

1. Two-Cycle Balance. This is the worst method from a consumer's point of view because it can lead to the highest interest calculations. Unfortunately, it's also becoming the most widely used method. To calculate the balance, add together the average daily balances for the current billing period (sometimes even including new charges) and the previous period. Here's why this is so unfriendly to you. Say you have run a balance for a few months and finally pay it from $ 200 down to zero at the end of May. You think it's safe to use the card in June for a new $ 100 purchase, and if you pay the $ 100 by the end of the June grace period, you will not owe any interest on it. But you're wrong. Since your average daily balance in May was not zero (say it was $ 120), and since you used the card in June, your interest will be calculated on May's average balance again, so even if you pay the whole June purchase in June, you Will still owe additional interest. In other words, you must wait two months, allow the account to cycle once with a zero balance, before it's safe to use it again – "safe" in the sense that you will not incur extra interest if you pay the balance in full By the end of the grace period.

2. Average Daily Balance. This was once the most common calculation method and is still popular. Add the daily balance for each day in the billing cycle, then divide by the number of days in the cycle. Depending on the terms, this may or may not include new charges.

3. Adjusted Balance. This is the best method from a consumer's point of view, but it's rapidly going the way of the dodo. Take the balance at the beginning of the billing cycle, then subtract any payments or other credits recorded during the cycle. Do not include new charges during the cycle. For example, if your beginning balance was $ 1200, and you paid $ 400 during the cycle, the balance to which your monthly rate will be applied is $ 800, regardless of any new charges.

Balance Transfer:

This means that you're charging card X to pay off (all or part of) the balance on card Y. So the balance is, in effect, transferred from card Y to card X. Why would you want to do this? Usually to take advantage of an introductory low interest rate when applying for a new card. Look closely at the terms. Sometimes these introductory rates last only a few months. The best ones are for the life of the balance. You will often have to pay a transaction fee equal to 3% of the balance transferred. Sometimes these fees are capped at $ 75 or so. Be sure to see whether or not the transaction fee excepts what you'll save in interest. If so, do not do it. Sometimes the credit card company will agree to waive the fee, especially on a new account. Do not be afraid to ask.

Cash Advance:

A cash loan charged immediately to your credit card account. Usually there is no grace period for paying off a cash advance, which means you'll be charged interest starting from the day of the loan, even if you pay it in full by the end of the billing cycle. Also this type of charge may have a higher APR than purchases or balance transfers. Check your terms. Note that some kinds of transactions, like buying casino chips or lottery tickets, may be valued as cash advances. This can also apply to writing a purchase check to your own bank account. Be sure to read the fine print.

Credit Limit:

The upper limit on your account balance. Exceeding it may result in penalties. Be very careful if your balance is close to the limit ("maxed out"), because you can exceed it without charging anything new if you fail to pay enough. Remember that just because the company has approved you for a certain limit does not mean you can afford to take on that much debt.

Disclosure Chart:

An important portion of the Terms and Conditions statement. It's a little bit like the Nutrition Statement on a food package because the law dictates what has to be listed here. If you can not stand to read all the fine print, be sure that you read this part.

  1. Fixed APR or APRs after any introductory rate (s) have expired
  2. Rule (s) for calculating variable APR (s) if applicable
  3. Grace period
  4. Annual fee if applicable
  5. Minimum per-cycle finance charge
  6. Additional fees if applicable, such as cash advance fees
  7. Balance calculation method
  8. Late payment and delinquency fees
  9. Over limit fees

Grace Period:

The time, calculated from the account cycle date, during which you can pay the balance in full without having any interest charged. This usually applies only to purchases, and only if you've paid the previous month's balance in full and on time. (Sometimes even that's not enough. See "Two-Cycle Balance" calculation method for an additional "gotcha.")

Pre-Approved:

This can be very misleading. It does not mean the company is guaranteeing to issue you the card in the offer. It just means that they chose you to receive this offer based on some general screening of your credit report. They always reserve the right to deny or alter the offer based on a more detailed examination of your records.

The Hotwife Lifestyle – 3 Secrets to Make It Work!

For many couples the Hotwife lifestyle is a marriage saver – something you might find counterintuitive considering the pain, anguish and trouble infidelity typically causes in a marriage. But the …

Hotwife Lifestyle

Is NOT the same as ordinary infidelity.

Let me explain – when someone has an 'affair', it usually means they're doing it behind the other's back. And that means there's something very wrong between them for that to happen.

But a woman being a hotwife is different – because it's done not only with her husband's consent and full knowledge … but usually she's doing it with his approval and urgent!

Now, to many men and women, that's going to make them throw their arms up in horror. And that's OK – because no one is suggesting anyone does anything they do not want to do.

But the fact is, having a hotwife is many a man's hottest fantasy – and his real problem is often stated that: " how can I get my wife to sleep with other men without her thinking I'm strange, kinky, or plain not In love with her any more? ".

And it's a good question because the kneejerk reaction from many women is a feeling of loss and almost abandonment; Indeed, many of them think the man is asking her to do it so he can then take another partner – but the truth is most men do not want this at all. What they want is their wives to include them in the hotwiving, to the extent they might want to watch, listen, hear all about it or even join in.

Yet, it's still not without its potential problems, especially in the early days. So, with that in mind, drawing on my own experience as a husband to my own hotwife these past 7 years, here are three tips to help make things go more smoothly:

  1. Always put your partner at the # 1 position . By this I mean it's vital you see a clear distinction between a sexual partner and a relationship . If there is ever any pressure from her lover to exclude the man in any way, then the ground-rules must clearly and unambiguously see the marriage as the most important thing. In other words, the lover has to go!
  2. Do not expect the "same stuff" . As a man, there's no mileage in worrying about what she might be doing for or with him that she does not do for or with you. It's not a competition and everyone's got different likes and dislikes, and every couple's sexual dynamic is also different. The thing to focus on is are you getting what you need, and forget what the other guy is getting.
  3. Either of you must be able to say 'stop' . Things change, and so do people. So it's important that either one of you has the power of veto, both over an individual man as a potential lover, a situation or event, or even the whole hotwife lifestyle. It's a recipe for disaster to have a situation when the man feels uncomfortable about the guy she's taken as a lover, and she, in effect, tells him that's "hard luck".

If you can follow these three simple guidelines, then the hotwife lifestyle might be right for you. But, be careful about your sources of information. It IS a potential minefield, and it pays to tread carefully. My wife, Josselyn, and I have been in the lifestyle for the past 7 years and apart from a few hiccoughs it's been a lot of fun.