Make the most of wireless networks
By Kim Komando
By Kim Komando
A wireless network in your home is a great way to share an Internet connection, but it's got many more uses. You can turn your house into a multimedia wonderland.
People choose wireless networking because it's inexpensive and convenient. Theoretically, wireless products work wherever you set them. So you can take your laptop to the kitchen or bedroom and still connect to the Internet.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are three products that really let you get the most out of your network.
1. Printers: Just because you have three computers doesn't mean you need three printers. You can tie a printer into your network — one way is through a wireless print server. These devices connect to your printer through a USB or parallel cable. The computers speak with the printer through the server.
Wireless servers can be found through D-Link (www.dlink.com), Hawking Technology (www.hawkingtech.com) and Netgear (www.netgear.com). Prices start at $50. Before buying one, be sure it's compatible with your printer.
You can skip all this if you buy a new printer. Models from Brother (www.brother-usa.com) and Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com) offer built-in wireless capability and are priced comparably with nonwireless printers.
2. Digital media: You probably have thousands of songs on your desktop. But who wants to sit in the computer room and listen to music? Digital media receivers can stream the files to your television or stereo system.
If you use Apple's iTunes, the AirPort Express Base Station with AirTunes (www.apple.com; $130) might be your best bet. As iTunes runs, the sound plays to the connected stereo or speakers.
The SoundBridge M500 from Roku Labs (www.rokulabs.com; $150) and Linksys Wireless-G Music Bridge (www.linksys.com; $100) play a variety of audio formats. They use iTunes or Windows Media Player. However, the SoundBridge will not play iTunes' songs.
The D-Link DSM 320 Wireless Media Player (www.dlink.com; $190) and Linksys Dual-Band Wireless A/G Media Center Extender (www.linksys.com; $240) connect to your TV and display digital media from your PC. D-Link is compatible with Windows 98 and later, but Linksys is compatible only with Windows Media Center PCs.
3. Cameras: You can monitor rooms with wireless cameras. D-Link, Hawking Technology and Linksys offer wireless cameras that can be placed anywhere in reach of your network. They start at $100 and beam video and audio to your PC.
They can also be used as security devices. Many have motion-detection sensors and can be set up to record the video they capture.
All of these gadgets are fun and convenient, but there are caveats. Walls, floors and ceilings can hamper your signal. You may have to buy equipment to extend your network's range.
Also, there are different wireless standards. Not all are compatible. Be sure the product you want will work with your setup.
Contact Kim Komando at firstname.lastname@example.org.