Wandering Around the AirPort with your iBook

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By Katy Bear

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Connect magazine (PDF here). In an effort to provide an accurate archive, names, URLs, and contact information have been retained; however, because of the age of the article, some of this referential information may no longer be accurate.

For some time, wireless networking has been used in a variety of devices such as pagers, cellular phones and satellite-based TV services. Wireless technology has also been available in computing devices through the infrared port on many computers and printers. This is how Palm Pilots connect to each other and how you can print your document to a printer with an infrared port. However, infrared networking requires that the devices have an unobstructed line of Sight to communicate ¬– that is, the devices must be within a certain distance and be within Sight of each other. If you move out of this line of sight, you lose connection between devices.

Emerging versions of wireless computing devices use radio waves instead of infrared to transmit information. With radio waves, there is no need for the devices to be within sight of each other. You can roam within the range of your signal, enjoying connectivity and freedom of movement. Imagine being able to take your laptop out in the backyard to enjoy a beautiful spring day while working on a project and connecting to the Internet.

Until recently, wireless devices have always been relatively expensive. In general, large corporations deployed them to enable their employees to move about freely while remaining connected to a network. With the iBook, Apple has brought this technology to the consumer market in an inexpensive, easy-to-use design accessible to home users.

The iBook comes with a built-in antenna. With an AirPort Base Stations connected to your network, you can take your AirPort Card-equipped iBook and roam up to 150 feet from your base station while still enjoying connectivity to the network or other computers. The AirPort Base Station supports up to 10 devices, so you can easily share files between computers or connect numerous iBooks to the network through one base station. You can also connect two computers with AirPort cards without the use of a base station. By simply setting up the software that comes with the AirPort card to enable computer-to-computer communications, you can transfer files or play games with two computers without needing any other device.

Since the technology uses radio waves, the communicating devices are not limited by line of sight. Communication is possible through physical obstructions, through physical obstructions, but at degraded signal strength. This can, however, result in slower data transmissions or even loss of the wireless connection between devices.

There are several emerging standards in the wireless communications area; 802.11 and BlueTooth seem to be the most predominant in mobile computing. As the technology will become more prevalent. Currently, several manufacturers are offering wireless PC cards for both PowerBooks and PC laptops.

Based on the IEEE (Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineering) 802.11 standard, the AirPort Base Station can communicate at speeds up to 11 Megabits per second, which are comparable to those possible when connected to an Ethernet network. The base station can be connected to the Internet via your telephone jack, cable modem, DSL modem or Ethernet jack, so you could easily set up a small network in your home.

Please consult with the NYU Computer Store staff on any question you may have on this important and emerging technology and consult with ITS Network Services about its future deployment at NYU.

Can the AirPort be used on NYU-NET?

Information Technology Services’ staff at NYU is excited at the prospect that wireless networking offers. However, there are currently security, interoperability and scalability concerns. Implementing the technology before these issues are resolved could jeopardize the security of NYU-NET. Therefore, wireless devices currently cannot be attached to NYU-NET without the permission of ITS Network Services. This includes ResNet users and home computer users who connect to NYU-NET with a DIAL connection.

About the author

NYU Computer Store Manager Kathy Bear is a regular contributor to Connect.