Wireless Internet and wireless network
Wireless Internet and wireless network

Wireless Internet and wireless network

According to International Data Corp. (IDC), about half of all U.S. households have a computer, and more than 20 million of those have more than one computer. In fact, market research shows that current PC owners are buying most of the new computers. This means that multi-computer households are becoming pretty common. If you are one these multiple-PC owners, you have probably thought about how great it would be if your computers could talk to each other. With your computers connected, you could:
  • Share a single printer between computers
  • Share a single Internet connection
  • Share files such as images, spreadsheets and documents
  • Play games that allow multiple users at different computers
Most people think that networking your home or small office can be painful–lots of wires, connections and the like. Plus, you have to make everything talk to one another. It's not as much of a challenge as you might think. With most people using Microsoft Windows operating systems, networking has been built in since Windows 3.11. Introduced in Windows 98, "Internet Connection Sharing" is a standard part of the operating system, allowing one computer to share an Internet connection with all computers on the home network. So, if you are running Windows, you can share files, printers and resources across your network without too much of a hassle. Companies can use Networks to check usage of programs, application data, and stay in compliance by keeping track of their Network Inventory with various other software that works along with their networking. As you can see, there's a lot that can be done.

How WLANs Work

A wireless LAN (WLAN) is a flexible data communication system implemented as an extension to, or as an alternative for, a wired LAN within a building or campus. Using electromagnetic waves, WLANs transmit and receive data over the air, minimizing the need for wired connections. Thus, WLANs combine data connectivity with user mobility, and, through simplified configuration, enable movable LANs. Over the last seven years, WLANs have gained strong popularity in a number of vertical markets, including the health-care, retail, manufacturing, warehousing, and academic arenas. These industries have profited from the productivity gains of using hand-held terminals and notebook computers to transmit real-time information to centralized hosts for processing. Today WLANs are becoming more widely recognized as a general-purpose connectivity alternative for a broad range of business customers.

Applications for Wireless LANs

Wireless LANs frequently augment rather than replace wired LAN networks-often providing the final few meters of connectivity between a backbone network and the mobile user. The following list describes some of the many applications made possible through the power and flexibility of wireless LANs:
  • Doctors and nurses in hospitals are more productive because hand-held or notebook computers with wireless LAN capability deliver patient information instantly.
  • Consulting or accounting audit engagement teams or small workgroups increase productivity with quick network setup.
  • Network managers in dynamic environments minimize the overhead of moves, adds, and changes with wireless LANs, thereby reducing the cost of LAN ownership.
  • Training sites at corporations and students at universities use wireless connectivity to facilitate access to information, information exchanges, and learning.
  • Network managers installing networked computers in older buildings find that wireless LANs are a cost-effective network infrastructure solution.
  • Retail store owners use wireless networks to simply frequent network reconfiguration.
  • Trade show and branch office workers minimize setup requirements by installing preconfigured wireless LANs needing no local MIS support.
  • Warehouse workers use wireless LANs to exchange information with central databases and increase their productivity.
  • Network managers implement wireless LANs to provide backup for mission-critical applications running on wired networks.
  • Senior executives in conference rooms make quicker decisions because they have real-time information at their fingertips.

Recommended Reading

Essential Guide to Home Networking... by Gerald O'Driscoll. Topics include home networking benefits: convenience, times savings, entertainment, and security, how home networks work, the competition, phoneline networks, wireless networks, home control and automation systems, connecting to the Internet, home networking middleware and APIs, and much more.
Wireless Data Networking... by Nathan J Muller. Unifies a broad range of topics comprising the emerging field of wireless data networking and messaging. Discusses standards and practical implementation issues, and describes specific vendors and carriers and their services. Covers wireless data applications, inventory control, wireless LAN technologies, equipment configurations, CDPD modems, interexchange carrier services, regional cellular services, and considerations for planning and implementation. Appendices includes a list of FCC frequency band assignments, and a directory of organizations mentioned in the book. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.
Wireless Local Area Networks :... by Peter Davis and Craig McGuffin. Focusing on the practical business concerns of wireless technology, this book guides consumers and managers through wireless local area networking concepts, including applications, security, and environmental issues. Thorough coverage includes a complete introduction to the technology, details on the products available, case studies detailing how companies have used wireless communications, and more.
Wireless Networking Handbook by James Geier and Jim Geier. Wireless Networking Handbook provides the reader with information he can get nowhere else. Learning the fundamentals of wireless networking is now essential for system administrators to gain and maintain employment. This guide addresses this market by providing the reader with an overview of wireless fundamentals and walking them through the installation and management of a standard network.

Microsoft Drops the Ball on High-Speed Wireless

Microsoft admitted this week that it would not be backing the new 802.11a high-speed wireless networking standard, at least for the short term, because it's not compatible with the popular, but much slower 802.11b. Makes sense, right? Actually, no, it doesn't. 802.11b's 11 Mb of shared speed isn't bad for browsing the Web and sending email, but it blows up with big file transfers and heavy multimedia use, not to mention more than a few users. But 802.11a, which can operate at speeds up to 5 times that speed, and with less interference, opens up a new world of possibilities. Microsoft's argument is somewhat typical, since the company owes much of its success to backwards compatibility. Break the chains, Microsoft, and go for speed.
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802.11's in the Army Now

How secure does your enterprise wireless LAN have to be? We're guessing that if it was as secure a U.S. Army battlefield network, you'd be satisfied. Are we right?
The Army has decided that 802.11b networks are secure enough to carry Sensitive But Unclassified (SUB) data - if they're protected by add-on security technology that passes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) FIPS 140-1 crytography certification process.
The Army's Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) is in fact currently implementing FIPS 140-1-compliant technology from Oldsmar FL-based Fortress Technologies Inc. (www.fortresstech.com) to beef up security on new 802.11b-based portable field network systems which it will deploy worldwide.
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Bluetooth-802.11 "Battle" Bogus: Report

The so-called battle between short-range Bluetooth and wider-area 802.11 wireless local area networks (WLANs) is bogus and both will succeed, according to a white paper released Tuesday by TDK Systems.
The vendor has a vested interest in the outcome of this "battle" because it creates products for both technologies. The white paper points out many observers believe that one or the other technologies will win out and that Bluetooth seems to be behind at this point but that the technologies are complementary, not competitive.
The white paper notes that Bluetooth technology is rapidly being built into mobile phones. It says that there will be 24 million Bluetooth-enabled phones in use by the end of 2002, an increase of about 1780 percent compared to 2001.
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Securing Your Wireless Networks

During the Windows XP beta phase, Microsoft Senior Vice President Brian Valentine told a humorous story about visiting various high-tech companies worldwide and hacking into their wireless networks by using XP-enabled laptops from his rental cars in the companies' parking lots. In one humorous instance, something in this technology actually set off a car alarm in the Oracle parking lot, which Valentine found somewhat appropriate given the competition between the two companies. "I guess it was incompatible with XP," Valentine joked.
Although Valentine warned those companies that had left their wireless networks open to attack, since that time, many more companies have implemented wireless networks and haven't taken the time to properly protect their assets from wireless-based attacks.
The problems are twofold. First, protecting a wireless network requires a different set of configurations than does security for standard wired networks. Second, despite the fact that most IT departments are up-to-date on security concerns and can properly configure Windows-based networks, an alarming number of these companies are simply plugging in wireless Access Points (APs) and setting a few security options.
Click here for the incident notes.

Hacking with a Pringles tube

Empty cans of Pringles crisps could be helping malicious hackers spot wireless networks that are open to attack.
Security company i-sec has demonstrated that a directional antenna made with a Pringles can significantly improves the chances of finding the wireless computer networks being used in London's financial district.
An informal survey carried out by i-sec using the homemade antenna has found that over two-thirds of networks were doing nothing to protect themselves.
The security firm said all the companies at risk could easily thwart anyone that wanted to find and penetrate their network by making a few simple changes to the hardware used to build the wireless networks.
Click here for the incident notes.
The good thing about this is you can test signal leakage on yours and other wireless networks with these antenna, CHEAP. Check out this website to construct your own and test your networks before someone else does.

Sputnik aims for free wireless Net access

The co-founders of Linuxcare have started a new company that's trying to weave a national high-speed wireless network out of little more than free software downloads.
The new company, called Sputnik, so far has about 200 working "hot spots," the name for the 300-foot high-speed wireless zones created by using networking equipment based on the 802.11b standard, said Sputnik Chief Technology Officer David L. Sifry.
The leading makers of 802.11b kits include Cisco System, 3Com, Proxim, Intel and Agere Systems. The leading makers of the silicon chips powering the equipment are Intersil and Atheros.
Sputnik is now the third company created in the last few months trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of Wi-Fi, a relatively inexpensive wireless network equipment standard that has found its way into homes and offices throughout the country. But unlike the other two companies, Sputnik offers its service for free. It earns money by selling high-end Wi-Fi equipment to businesses.
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HOW TO: Use IrComm Mobile Devices and Windows XP to Access the Internet (Q313422)

This article describes how to access the Internet by connecting your laptop computer to your mobile device. When you use Windows XP, which has built-in Infrared Data Association (IrDA) support, you can use a mobile device that is enabled for infrared networking (IrComm) to establish an infrared connection and to connect to and browse the Internet.
Click here for the article.

How to Troubleshoot Wireless Network Connections in Windows XP (Q313242)

Windows XP supports 802.11b wireless networking with the Wireless Zero Configuration service. With 802.11b wireless networking, you can enable easy configuration and switching between wireless networks. To use this support, you need a wireless network adapter that is compatible with Windows XP.
For information about which wireless local area network (LAN) adapters are compatible with Windows XP, refer to the Windows Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) that is located in the following Microsoft Web site, http://www.microsoft.com/hcl.
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Wireless Networking May Not Function When You Use the "Safe Mode with Networking" Option (Q305616)

When you start your Windows XP-based computer by using the Safe Mode with Networking option, the wireless network adapters may not function.
This behavior can occur because the Safe Mode with Networking option does not start the services for the Zero Configuration utility (a built-in utility) that is used by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) 802.11 wireless local area network (LAN) standard network adapters nor does it start the service for IEEE 802.1x wireless LAN standard authentication.
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HOW TO: Enable Windows XP Automatic Wireless Network Configuration (Q314897)

This step-by-step article describes how to enable Windows XP automatic wireless network configuration. Windows XP makes it easy to set up your computer for wireless networking on any 802.11b standard wireless network.
Wireless networking is integrated into Windows XP and can be set up quickly with the Windows XP automatic networking Setup. All you need is a 802.11b wireless adapter installed on the mobile device, and an operating 802.11b standard wireless network.
Click here for the article.

Windows XP Networking: Wireless and Home Networking

Updated for the RTM release of Windows XP- Since the release of Windows 95 in August 1995, each desktop version of Windows has evolved to include ever more powerful, yet easy-to-use, networking capabilities. This tradition continues in Windows XP, which will make wireless networking easier than ever, and home networking safer than ever. In this showcase, I'll be taking a look at the networking advances in Windows XP.
Simplified Wireless Networking- For wireless technologies, Microsoft is primarily focusing on the 802.11 standard, which the company sees as the high grow technology in this market. But 802.11 under previous versions of Windows is a nightmare, with poor user interfaces, security issues, and high failure rates. "We tried to solve these problems in Windows XP," says Tim Moore, the Group Product Manager for Networking at Microsoft. "Enterprises are deploying 802.11 or planning on it, and of course you see it in airports and other public spaces, as seen by the recent Starbucks deal." (Microsoft recently signed a deal with the popular coffee chain to supply wireless Internet access to its retail stores). "Prices have gone down for the home as well, but for this release, the focus was business users, not home users," Moore added.
Windows XP simplifies wireless networking by providing "zero configuration" for 802.11 devices. You plug in the card and Windows XP automatically scans for an available network. If you switch networks, say by walking from one coverage area to another, the device will be reconfigured on the fly, automatically. "There's no rebooting, even when switching networks," Moore told me. "The user doesn't have to do anything." This feature will not be enabled in the Beta 2 release of Windows XP, but Moore says it will be fully functional soon thereafter.
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MS to intro Windows-only 'Soft Wi-Fi' 802.11x system

At this week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle Microsoft will take the wraps off its big push into home wireless networking and open up on the Microsoft Connected Home Architecture. As a part of this, Microsoft will be introducing what is essentially a proprietary, Windows-only version of 802.11, "Soft Wi-Fi," which looks pretty much like a re-run of the Winmodem scenario.
Microsoft is currently kicking off a beta test of home wireless networking, and it seems probable that this will actually be of Soft Wi-Fi. As with Winmodems, the "soft" part comes from offloading processing from the wireless adapter to the PC itself, thus allowing manufacturers to make cheaper adapters. The happy - from Microsoft's point of view - side-effect of this is that it transforms a standard technology into a semi-proprietary Microsoft-only one, making it difficult for people using non-Microsoft operating systems to use the hardware, whereas with Windows it'll work out of the box.
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IEEE 802.1X Authentication for Wireless Connections

The IEEE 802.1X standard defines port-based, network access control that is used to provide authenticated network access for Ethernet networks. Port-based network access control uses the physical characteristics of a switched LAN infrastructure to authenticate devices that are attached to a switch port. The ability to send and receive frames using an Ethernet switch port is denied if the authentication process fails. While this standard is designed for wired Ethernet networks, it has been adapted for use on IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs. Windows XP supports IEEE 802.1X authentication for all LAN-based network adapters, including Ethernet and wireless.
IEEE 802.1X defines the following terms:
A port access entity (PAE), also known as a LAN port, is a logical entity that supports the IEEE 802.1X protocol that is associated with a port. A LAN port can adopt the role of authenticator, supplicant, or both.
An authenticator is a LAN port that enforces authentication before allowing access to services that are accessed through the port. For wireless connections, the authenticator is the logical LAN port on a wireless access point (AP) through which wireless clients, operating in infrastructure mode, gain access to the wired network.
The supplicant is a LAN port that requests access to services that are accessed through the authenticator. For wireless connections, the supplicant is the logical LAN port on a wireless LAN network adapter that requests access to the wired network. It does this by associating with, and then authenticating itself to, an authenticator.
Whether they are used for wireless connections or wired Ethernet connections, the supplicant and authenticator are connected by a logical or physical point-to-point LAN segment.
To verify the credentials of the supplicant, the authenticator uses an authentication server. The authentication server checks the credentials of the supplicant on behalf of the authenticator, and then responds to the authenticator, indicating whether or not the supplicant is authorized to access the authenticator's services.
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