* Prices may differ from that shown
If you have decided that wireless networking is for you, then it stands to reason that at some point you are going to have to invest in a wireless networking card to connect to a wireless base unit. When it comes to ordinary network cards, you can pick them up for around a tenner now and the brand isn't really that much of an issue seeing as the technology is quite old and established. Wireless networking, as a newer technology, is going to be different. I prefer to stick with established, well known brands when buying newer technology as they usually know their stuff better, and in some cases (especially in the I.T. industry) have had direct input into the industry-wide standards for that technology. When choosing a wireless networking card for my own network, my choice was made for me as I had already decided on a Netgear DG834G 54 Mbps Wireless ADSL Firewall Router and some people had advised that it would be better to buy a wireless networking card of the same brand as this could cut out some incompatibility problems. I chose the WG311 as it was compatible with the network protocol (802.11) and speed of the router although it is possible to use cards which are "slower" (i.e. transfer data slower). In this case, the WG311 is a 802.11g card where 802.11 is the protocol (i.e. all your wireless devices must be 802.11 to be able to communicate with each other) and 'g' is an indicator of the speed (in this case 'g' means the card can transfer data at 54Mbps and at a frequency of 2.4 which the network "traffic" is broadcast. This speed is approximately 100 times faster than a 512Kbps broadband internet connection, so if you do have a broadband internet connection, there are not worries about accessing the internet over the network at full speed using one of these cards. Network equipment using 802.11g is compatible with equipment using 802.11b as they both use the same protocol (802.11) at the same tra
nsmission frequency, although 802.11b is approximately a fifth of the speed of 802.11g. At just over £50, I have to say that it's not cheap, and is priced at the expensive end of the spectrum (I had seen other cards priced from £30 upwards), but at least postage was free from Amazon. Installation was a breeze, thanks to the clear instructions. For once, I decided to read them through before installation, and this proved to be lucky as Netgear instruct you to install the software first before physically inserting the card into an available PCI slot in your PC. If you've done this before, then this will be no different than usual. If you haven't done it and you are unsure, it might be best to ask a PC friendly chum to do it for you (although it is not a difficult task at all!). Once the card is in place, you screw on the antenna and turn on your PC to finish the installation. Once this is complete, you are invited to find and connect to your wireless network (which it is assumed has already been set up!), and from here on in you are ready to use your new network! The WG311 utility scans for all wireless signals in the area, so if you "find" more than one network, make sure you connect to the correct one! If you are having problems at any point, you can refer to the full reference manual which comes on the driver CD although installation is easy enough provided your network is set up correctly. The associated WG311 utility sits in your inbox and gives you information on the quality of the signal between your wireless devices. It's important at this point to secure your connection, and details of how to do this will usually come with whatever wireless base unit you are using. Since I've installed this, it has worked perfectly. I have sent and received files across the network, and my other wireless device is a broadband modem, so I'm also using my card each time I log onto the inter
net. Signal strength has always been very good (using the WG311 utility, the signal has never been worse than 6 dots out of 8) and this is despite my PC being a floor above the network router with a number of walls and floors inbetween. Overall, while I think this is a bit expensive, it has worked solidly since installation when my PC has hardly been turned off. I am accessing broadband internet as if I was connected via the normal wired connection, and the bonus is that I'm not tripping over a phone extension lead every time I go down the stairs.