I'm a wireless access newbe

I’m thinking about going wireless but I’m rather unsure where to start and google isn’t exactly helpful. Here is what I want to do:

A: share comcast (and the 1 pittiful ip adress)
B: link 5 desktop computers, a laptop, 2 tivos, Xbox, and a psp. (yes, my family really uses all this stuff)
C: Make it secure and get it up and running as cheap as possible.

So, what do I need to get and learn?

There was a networking thread previously, it has most of the info. Short answer: Get a Linksys wireless router from Best Buy, plug it into the line, and start from there. Those devices that can take wireless cards, buy them, install them, and away you go. (also Linksys, for ease.) Other devices might require some wire-running under the floor, just buy the appropriate length of Cat5 and go. One router should handle everything. Use WEP encryption at some level, and firewall software on the PCs, and you’re good to go.


edit: sorry I used the word “go” so much.

Consider getting the D-Link DGL-4300 gaming router, which you should be able to find for ~$100 now. A bit pricey compared to the low-end wireless routers, but it comes with gigabit Ethernet, D-Link’s proprietary 108Mbps wireless as well as as standard 802.11b/g, and “GameFuel,” their built-in network-routing prioritization software, which gives top priority to gaming traffic. Really handy if you want to game and surf / download at the same time. Review here.

I’ve had one for a couple of months: I haven’t really stress-tested the wireless yet, but GameFuel works quite well in my experience. At last! Never have to choose between gaming or downloading pr0n again! 8)

Regarding security, start with the easy stuff that most people fail to do:

  • change the default password
  • change the default name
  • turn on MAC address access control

As for other weird stuff, you might have to configure the port forwarding for some games. Firewalls are never a bad idea, although the router will provide some protection. Also, watch out for cordless phones that operate on the same bandwidth; they can drown out your wireless signal when in operation.

  • Alan

A brief summary:

  1. Get a wireless router, like the one mentioned above or the WRT54G. This will connect to your incoming Internet and act as the central access point for the rest of the wireless devices. Make sure you enable the wireless interface and set the SSID and security options.

  2. Divide your existing network into portions that can remain wired in small groups, eliminating only the really annoying wires. For example, if your TiVos and XBox are all in the same spot, there’s no point in making each one wireless separately. If the PCs are close together, it’s probably cheaper to wire them to a single bridge than give each one their own card.

  3. Once you’ve divided your house into separate wired ‘segments’, you now need a wireless bridge for each segment. This one is an example that was previously mentioned here, for multiple devices in a segment, or a cheaper one for single devices. Or cards for isolated PCs and an adapter for the laptop if it doesn’t have wireless built-in. You’ll also have to temporarily connect a system to the bridges and configure them to match the same wireless settings you entered into the main router.

Tada, you should now be running wirelessly.

(Edit: After checking some of the prices, you could probably get away with using a single-port bridge if you’ve already got some hubs or switches to connect the wired systems together; the difference in cost could be significant.)

The linksys has five ethernet ports, and no discernable limit on wireless devices, so I think you might be overkilling here. He should be able to get by straight-wiring those things that can’t handle wireless, and everything else across the air. Segmenting with bridges/hubs/switches adds complexity at the cost of a few extra wires; I believe it would be easier and cheaper just to run three or four wires for the stuff that can’t go wireless, and run everything from the router.

Re: firewalls, the big thing is that they allow everything out, but filter the incoming. Default settings should work fine, as far as the Linksys device and XP firewall. They should be smart enough to catch the incoming headers and allow through any local-initiated traffic.


edit to add: Professionally, in my experience a major target can get by with minor attention to the common security details, i.e. not running some anonymous FTP server, use strong passwords, don’t turn on ridiculous things. For a random home destination that attracts no attention, just make sure you have good passwords on everything, and let the defaults take care of the rest. It’s the old saw of “if it’s somebody good enough to care, you won’t be able to keep them out anyway.” The bots and crap running on the internet can’t beat basic security, and that’s what you’re looking for.

Whoops, yeah, I was pretty much assuming that he was trying to get rid of the longer-distance wires; if he just wants to get the laptop and a couple of the PCs on wireless, that’s a lot simpler.

The only time Firewalls are a bad idea is if you have too many enabled. Most routers serve as a hardware firewall, which is great for keeping out the Vampires (i.e., the uninvited). That and Windows Firewall is really all you need. If you have a non-Windows software firewall, like with Norton or McAfee or PC-Cillin, you’d be well-served at disabling WF and going with one fo those guys (which typically work better and are easier to work with).

Fuck that. IMHO. Use the hardware firewall in the router.

Agreed. If you’ve got a router, you don’t need firewall software on the PC unless you really like being anal about every single possible packet going to the internet from your PC and like answering “Yes” to popup dialogs every few minutes.