Wireless Networking, Part 1: Capabilities and Hardware

Wireless Networking, Part 1: Capabilities and Hardware

These days it isn’t uncommon for a home to have multiple personal computers, and as such, it just makes sense for them to be able to share files, as well as to share one Internet connection. Wired networking is an option, but it is one that may require the installation and management of a great deal of wiring in order to get even a modestly sized home set up. With wireless networking equipment becoming extremely affordable and easy to install, it may be worth considering by those looking to build a home network, as well as by those looking to expand on an existing wired network.

The first installment in this two-part series of Tech Tips will provide an introduction to the basic capabilities and hardware involved in wireless networking. Once that foundation has been established, we’ll take a look at a few setup and security related considerations that should be addressed once the physical installation is complete.

Capabilities

The basic standard that covers wireless networking is the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11, which is close kin to the wired Ethernet standard, 802.3. Many people will recognize 802.11 more readily when accompanied by one of three suffixes (a, b, or g), used to specify the exact protocol of wireless networking.

The 802.11a protocol first hit the scene in 2001, and despite a small surge in recent popularity, it is definitely the least common of the three at this time. The signals are transmitted on a 5 GHz radio frequency, while “b” and “g” travel on 2.4 GHz. The higher frequency means that the signal can travel less distance in free space and has a harder time penetrating walls, thus making the practical application of an 802.11a network a bit limited. The maximum transfer rate, however, is roughly 54 Mbps, so it makes up for its limited range with respectable speed.

As mentioned, 802.11b and 802.11g networks operate on a 2.4 GHz radio band, which gives a much greater range as compared to 802.11a. One downside to being on the 2.4 GHz band is that many devices share it, and interference is bound to be an issue. Cordless phones and Bluetooth devices are two of many items that operate at this frequency. The range of these two protocols is about 300 feet in free air, and the difference between the two comes down to speed. 802.11b came first, released back in 1999, and offers speeds up to 11 Mbps. 802.11g first appeared in 2002 and it is a backwards compatible improvement over 802.11b and offers speeds up to 54 Mbps.

On top of these protocols, some manufacturers have improved upon the 802.11g standard and can provide speeds of up to 108 Mbps. This doesn’t involve a separate protocol, but just a bit of tweaking in areas like better data compression, more efficient data packet bursting, and by using two radio channels simultaneously. Typically, stock 802.11g equipment is not capable of these speeds, and those interested need to shop for matched components that specify 108 Mbps support. I say “matched components” as this is not a standard protocol and the various manufacturers may take different approaches to achieving these speeds. In order to ensure the best results when trying to achieve these elevated speeds, components from the same manufacturer should be used together. For instance, only Netgear brand network adaptors rated for 108 Mbps data transfer should be used with something like the Netgear WG624 wireless router (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=WGT624NAR).

Considering your typical broadband Internet connection is going to offer data transfer rates of 10 Mbps or less, it can be seen that even 802.11b would be more than adequate if you just want to surf the web. Sharing files on your LAN (Local Area Network) is where the faster protocols will really make a difference, and comparing the prices of 802.11b and 802.11g components may show that there is little to no difference in selecting a “g” capable device over a comparable “b” capable device.

Hardware

Access Point – Wireless Access Point (WAP) is the central device that manages the transmission of wireless signals on a network. A base access point may be capable of handling up to 10 connections, and more robust APs may be able to manage up to 255 connections simultaneously. The D-Link DWL-1000AP+ (http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=37) is an example of a wireless access point capable of 802.11b transmissions.

Router – In somewhat technical terms, a router is a network device that forwards data packets. It is generally the connection between at least two networks, such as two LANs, or a LAN and ISP’s (Internet Service Provider’s) network. For our purposes, and for the sake of simplicity, a wireless router is basically an access point with the added feature of having a port for sharing a broadband Internet connection. The D-Link AirPlus G (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=DI524-R&cat=NET) is an 802.11g capable router that provides access for numerous wireless connections and four hard-wired connections to one WAN (Wide Area Network Internet) connection. A typical router for home use will generally cost less than an access point, and via settings within the firmware, can be used as just an access point anyway. Wired or wireless, all the computers using the router can share files over the network, as well as sharing a broadband internet connection. Communication between wireless computers (or a wireless computer and a wired computer) will max out at 54 Mbps, while communication between wired computers will take full advantage of the 100 Mbps provided via the 802.3 protocol.

Network Adaptor – A network adaptor is required for every computer that you would like to be connected to the wireless network. Many laptops, such as this Sony Centrino 1.5 GHz (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=PCGZ1RA-R&cat=NBB) now include a wireless adaptor built in, so no extra hardware is needed. For those with systems that don’t have wireless capabilities built in, adding them is fairly simple, and can be done using a variety of connections. Desktop computers can go wireless by adding a PCI slot network adaptor such as the 802.11g capable D-Link DWL-G510 (http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=308). Notebook users can easily add wireless connectivity by using a PCMCIA adaptor, such as this 802.11g capable device (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=PBW006-N&cat=NET). And for truly convenient plug-n-play connectivity to wireless networks, USB adaptors such as this 802.11g capable dongle (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=80211GWUD&cat=NET) are available.

Antenna/Extender – These items are not essential, but given the specifics of a wireless environment, they may be helpful. Devices such as the Hawking Hi-Gain Antenna (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=HAI6SIP-N&cat=NET) or the Super Cantenna (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=SCB10&cat=NET) serve the purpose of increasing the wireless signal strength, and therefore extend the range of a given wireless network. Not only can a large area of open space be covered, but the signal quality may be improved in structures with walls and floors that obstruct the signal transmission.

Final Words

In this Tech Tip, we took a look at the basics of wireless networking as it relates to capabilities and hardware. In the second part of this two-part series, we will look at some of the basic setup and security considerations that should be addressed. The physical installation of a wireless network may be exponentially easier than a wired network, but the more difficult part is setting up the software and security to make sure everything stays up and running without incident.

Real Estate Deposit vs Down Payment

When you’re selling your home, you have to be familiar with related real-estate lingo. You have to know the difference between a canopy and an awning; a mortgage and a loan; and most importantly, the difference between a deposit and a down payment.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of home sellers who think that deposits and down payments are one and the same, when in reality they are not.

A deposit is the money given or handed over to the owner when a buyer indicates a sincere desire to purchase the property being sold. It is a token amount that could be as small as a few hundred dollars, or as big as 5% of the total purchase price. The deposit can be returned when the transaction does not fall through for reasons beyond the control of the buyer, and can also be forfeited in favour of the seller. When the purchase pushes through, the deposit is credited to the buyer and forms part of his down payment.

A down payment or equity, on the other hand, can be considered as an initial payment on the property itself. It is given when the buyer has decided to actually purchase the house (unlike in deposit, where it is given when the buyer indicates a desire to buy the unit). The down payment is the total amount of money a buyer can give as a partial payment and is generally of a bigger value (10% of the total property cost, or more) than regular deposits.

It’s fairly easy to differentiate. Just remember that a deposit is smaller and, once the transaction pushes through, becomes part of the down payment. The total of these two, plus any outstanding balance, should be the agreed upon purchase price of the property.

Five Multi-Channel Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Mistake # 1: Nothing is Connected

Rather than setting up individual channels as lonely little islands on the internet, you can integrate them so they work together seamlessly and can be managed from a single, centralized tool. Hootsuite, for instance, gives you the ability to post content in the Hootsuite dashboard and automatically post it to any (or all) other channels through one easy-to-use interface. But if you do not have an integrated system, you risk spending too much time posting to individual channels or worse, not posting anything because the task looks too big and time consuming.

The Fix:

Integrate your marketing channels. By integrating marketing channels, you can work with a "write once, publish to many" model that saves time and ensures consistency across all your marketing. You may need some outside professional help with the integration work itself, but it is well worth it in the time and effort you'll save when making posts or running marketing campaigns in a multi-channel system.

Mistake # 2: New Information is Infrequent or Sporadic

Marketing is an ongoing activity – you can not just set up a website and a social profile or two and think that you're done. It is critical that you add new information, articles, posts, and comments on a regular basis. Without consistent activity, your marketing efforts will do little to promote your business, bring in new leads, or help build customer loyalty and engagement.

With sporadic or infrequent updates, you also open the door for your competitors to gain momentum, visibility, and new customers if your social profiles just sit there with little activity. It's important that you commit to a sustained, ongoing effort to "feed and care" for your multi-channel strategy in order for it to get results for your business.

The Fix:

Create a Content Pipeline. A Content Pipeline can be as simple as printing out a monthly calendar, then selecting the days you want to post or add new content to your website, social profiles, and / or other marketing channels. For example, if your business newsletter has three articles, you can use one article each week as a new social post, then share a link to an interesting blog post (on your website or elsewhere) as the post for the fourth week. Having everything planned out ahead of time makes it easy to keep information flowing smoothly in a multi-channel system.

Mistake # 3: No Mobile Site

  • There are more than one billion people using mobile devices today.
  • More than 61% of mobile users say that if they do not find a mobile site , they will immediately leave to keep searching for one.
  • 50% of users said that even if they liked a business, they would use it less often if the website does not work on a mobile device.

Still think you do not need a mobile site for your business?

A mobile site is not the same as a desktop site displayed on a smaller screen. Mobile sites have less content but are typically more focused and to the point. They also include unique features like click-to-call buttons, larger text, "thumb-friendly" navigation and links, etc. A regular desktop site when viewed on a mobile device is often very difficult to use, as the links and buttons are too tiny to use on a small touch screen, and the content is all but unreadable due to size.

The Fix:

If you do not have a mobile site, or if your regular desktop website is less-than-wonderful when viewed on a mobile device, consider adding a mobile website for your business.

Mobile devices are now the first screen of choice for users, meaning that more people could be accessing your website from a mobile phone or tablet than their PC or laptop. What type of mobile experience is waiting for your visitors?

About 93% of small businesses do NOT yet have a mobile website, so if you're one of them, this is a great opportunity to reach more customers right away, plus get a jump on your competitors!

Mistake # 4: Missing or Incorrect SEO

Ever since Google's Penguin and Panda updates in 2012, SEO techniques and ranking signals have changed – a lot. If you had SEO work done during or prior to 2012, chances are that the techniques used are not only outdated and non-standard today, but they could even work against you in the search engines (like sites with technical errors, old SEO tactics, Deprecated HTML, etc.).

Today, search engines have little regard for websites that are built with outdated, non-standard code, or that contain technical errors or outdated SEO tricks. If your site was optimized more than two years ago, it is probably time to re-evaluate the techniques used on your site and repair or correct as necessary.

If your site is not properly coded and optimized, it will eventually hurt your search engine positions.

The Fix:

Optimize your website, social profiles, email campaigns, and mobile campaigns so that everything meets with today's standards and gives the search engine spiders exactly the information they need to accurately read and index your online assets. Do not forget that content freshness, originality, and share-ability are now important ranking signals to Google, so make sure your multi-channel strategy is addressing these criteria as well.

Mistake # 5: Not Enough Quality Website Content

Google now counts quality content as one of its major ranking factors, so if your website has old content, has not been updated in a while, or has very little index-able content on the pages, it's time to fix it. Pages with only a couple of paragraphs of text, or pages with stale content, are going to be dropped in favor of pages that have fresh content and top-quality information, articles, and other original material.

The Fix:

Make sure your website has plenty of interesting, high-quality information that users will find compelling. Also make a plan for adding new content to your website at least monthly, and make sure that your content is fresher and of better quality than what your top competitors provide. Websites that do not have fresh, useful content are going to be dropped from the search results – do not let your site be one of them.

The Multi-Channel Advantage

By avoiding these five common mistakes in your multi-channel strategy you can more easily manage your online marketing efforts while gaining the benefits of increased customer engagement, a more visible online presence for your business, and improved search engine rankings – all at the same time .

Characteristics of Leisure

In "Motivational Foundations of Leisure" by Seppo E. Iso-Ahola and "Pathways to Meaning-Making Through Leisure-Like Pursuits in Global Contexts" by Yoshitaka Iwasaki, both authors are grappling with distinguishing leisure from other aspects of human life. To this end, they are trying to describe the basic characteristics that identify something as leisure as opposed to something not being leisure. However, the big problem for both of them is the elusive definition of "what is leisure," since it is difficult to describe its characteristics if it hard to distinguish leisure from what is not leisure. This problem is made even more difficult in modern society, in that there is something of a continuum between leisure and non-leisure, with many activities seeming like a mix of the two.

For example, a part-time entrepreneur who sets up a party-plan business is engaging in an economic activity, but it is also fun for her (usually the entrepreneur is a woman), and she might see organizing sales parties as a side venture To something she considers work. So maybe this business starts out as a leisure activity, but as she makes more and more money, she may spend more and more time putting on parties to build a serious business. Thus, at some point, holding these fun parties may cease to be a leisure activity – but exactly when this occurs can be hard to tell.

This same problem of distinguishing leisure and not-leisure confronts both Iso-Ahola and Iwasaki in trying to discuss the characteristics of leisure, in that many of these characteristics are use to describe leisure can be true of non-leisure activities, commonly considered work. Iwasaki tries to get around this problem by calling things that he characterizes as aspects of leisure as "leisure-like" activities, and by the same token, one might character what people normally call work as "work-like" activities, but this is Really more of a semantic sleight of hand. Calling something "leisure-like" – or "work-like" for that matter – purely provides a nomenclature that is fuzzier to identify a part of human life that is hard to define. In other words, using a fuzzy term to define what is considered an elusive hard-to-define quality simply points up the fuzziness, but it does not help to clarify the basic characteristics of what is leisure as compared to other aspects of human life.

For example, in the "Motivational Foundations of Leisure", Iso-Ahola seeks to find an explanation for what is leisure in the "basic innate (psychological) needs that are the main energizers of human growth and potential." From his perspective, this need which everyone is born with both defines what people consider leisure and direct them to be involved under various conditions to satisfy those needs. Given this driving need for leisure, then, Iso-Ahola suggests that having a sense of freedom or autonomy is "the central defining characteristic of leisure". However, he distinguishes this feeling of freedom from the everyday characterization of leisure as "free time", which people use for describing the time when they are not working, since only some of this time time may truly be free from any obligations so someone can Do exactly what they want to do.

For instance, if someone performs chores during this time period, this time would not be really free, although Iso-Ahola suggests that the more a person thinks of his work as an obligation, the more free that person would feel when he is engaged In nonwork activities, and there before that activity might really be considered leisure.

From this perspective, then, if a person truly enjoys their work and participates in a variety of activities that contribute to success at work, though these activities might otherwise be considered leisure for someone who engages in these activities for reasons that have nothing to do with Their job, these activities may no longer be considered leisure. An example of this is the salesman or CEO for a company that plays golf with other potential customers. On the one hand, golf is normally regarded as a leisure-time recreational activity. But it has become part of the salesman's or CEO's work, even though the salesman or CEO may freely choose to play golf or not, or engage in an alternate form of entertainment with prospective clients, such as taking them to a show or ballgame. If that person plays golf, goes to a show, or is a spectator at a ball game with members of his family and no work buddies are present, that might be more properly characterized as leisure. But in many cases, the salesman / CEO may take the family along on a golfing, show, or ballgame excursion with his work buddies, thenby muddying the conception of leisure. Under the circumstances, using a continuum from non-leisure to leisure activities may be a good way to characterize different types of leisure, rather than trying to make a distinction between what is leisure and what is not-leisure.

In any event, building on this notice that freedom is a basic characteristic of leisure, Iso-Ahola suggests that leisure activity is characterized by behavior that is self-determined, or which may start off as determined, but can become self-determined by the Process of "internalization" Therefore, to the extent that people perform everyday activities because they want to do so, they make them leisure-like. An example might be if I hate gardening (which I really do), but I start doing it because I can not afford to hire a gardener, and ever I start to feel joy in it, which would turn it into a leisure activity. (But since I can hire a gardener, I have no compelling reason to do this, so for now this is definitely not a leisure-time activity for me).

Then, too, according to Iso-Ahola, leisure might be characterized by escaping, which can contribute to internalizing an activity, which makes it even more a form of leisure.

Iso-Ahola brings together all of these ideas into a pyramid in which the greater one's intrinsic motivation and sense of self-determination, the more one is engaging in true leisure outside of the work context. On the bottom is obligatory nonwork activity participation, such as chores one has to perform in the house. On the next level above this, he diagnoses free-time activity participation in TV and exercise, which he feels are usually not true leisure, since people are not really autonomous in participating in either activity. He claims people lack autonomy in watching TV, because they do not really want to do this and it does not make them feel good about themselves (though this opinion of TV is questionable), and in the case of exercise, he claims that They feel they should do this because it's good for them, rather than because they want to. Finally, at the top of the pyramid is full leisure participation, where one feet complete autonomy and freedom, so one gains intrinsic rewards, a feeling of flow, and social interaction with others.

Finally, to briefly cite Iwasaki's approach to characterizing leisure, he seeks to describe leisure as a way of generating certain types of meanings, although the particular meanings may differ for people experiencing different life experiences or coming from different cultures. In Iwasaki's view, citing the World Leisure Association's description of leisure, meaningful leisure provides "opportunities for self-actualization and further contribution to the quality of community life." As such, leisure includes self-determined behavior, showing competence, engaging in social relationships, having an opportunity for self-reflection and self-affirmation, developing one's identity, and overcoming negative experiences in one's life. Iwasaki also goes on to describe the five key factors which are aspects of leisure (which he prefers to call "leisure-like" pursuits: 1) positive emotions and well-being, 2) positive identities, self-esteem, and spirituality; 3) social and cultural connections and harmony, 4) human strengths and resilience, and 5) learning and human development across the lifespan.