Want to network your home office or business? Wireless is definitely an option; and if you have the courage, you can crawl under the floor and drag wires from room to room, or pull a cable through the ceiling.
There's a third alternative: Use your electrical wiring. With HomePlug AV, you use power lines to move anything you'd transfer through a regular network — data, movies, TV signals, and so on. Learn more about it at the HomePlug Powerline Alliance site.
The advantage over Ethernet cabling is, of course, that HomePlug AV is easier to install, and at 200 megabits per second is faster than Ethernet's 100 mbps. And with HomePlug AV you avoid Wi-Fi dead zones and range issues.
I recently tried HomePlug AV hardware from Actiontec, and I'll tell you about it.
What's Cool About HomePlug AV
I tried Actiontec's MegaPlug AV 200 Mbps Ethernet Adapter Kit (about US $130). Each device you're planning to network needs an adapter, and you can add up to 16 devices. The kit comes with two MegaPlug Ethernet adapters, two Ethernet cables, and CDs with drivers.
You can add an adapter to any wired or wireless broadband router on a system using Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, or Vista. (By the way, the HomePlug AV standard has a 128-bit AES security to prevent neighbors from plugging into your bandwidth.)
I wondered if the MegaPlug gear would work in my office, loaded with uninterruptible power supplies and filtered power strips. Maybe these devices--or any device emitting an RF signal--would affect the MegaPlug units. No need to worry; nothing bothered the MegaPlug device.
According to Actiontec engineers, it's best if the MegaPlug devices are connected to wall outlets. Nonetheless, they can be plugged into a heavy-duty extension cord that's connected to the wall outlet; they'll work everywhere except in isolated, filtered, or suppressed outlets.
Overall, I was able to add two MegaPlug adapters to my existing wired network in about 20 minutes and it worked as expected.
If you're not sure about the technology, I have two articles that'll bring you up to speed First, try "Powerline Adapters: Home Networking Without Rewiring" and then follow up with "Home Networking Technologies Vie for Position."
Need a wireless router? Be sure to read our reviews. One product that disappointed our networking expert was Belkin's N1 Vision Wireless Router. At the same time, she was dazzled by Ruckus's ZoneFlex, a high-end Wi-Fi rig designed for small businesses.
Gadgets--cameras, cell phones, Web radios--can be difficult to connect to a wireless network. Read "Wi-Fi Extends to Gadgets" for some helpful ideas. If you want to print wirelessly, scroll to "Liberate Your Printer." And if you're curious about what's coming in Wi-Fi in 2008, read "The Technology Coming to a Gadget Near You."
You might already have a network and need utilities for your tool kit. Read "Techie Tools for the Internet and for Home Networks" for ideas.
Trouble with your network? Your first stop's got to be "Never Call Tech Support Again!" It's a thorough article that tackles some of the common networking hassles.
I have another gem: Carey Holzman, a crackerjack network consultant and co-host of the Computer America radio show, pieced together a guide that'll help you fix a troubled network.
In fact, Carey's working on a new networking book and is looking for networking annoyances. For the cost of an e-mail, Carey will work with you on any networking program you're struggling with. Go to his Web site for details.
Dig This: The Jetsons have nothing on Jet-Man. No, really--he straps on a jet, jumps out of a plane, and flies.