Wireless Network "Best Options"

  jimmyflood 13:05 17 May 2007

I would like to set up a Wireless network in my home.I have my Desktop PC and a Laptop, at present. I am trying to convince my other half to buy a media centre pc for the lounge along with an HD TV. I am very much into my music collection, which is all on my Desktop PC. My aim would be to transmit my music around the house, use broadband in the lounge etc.etc..
What are the best options available on the market for this?
I use Talk Talk Broadband (Receive at best 2.3 mb Speed)
Also are there any security problems I should be aware of with Wireless?

  Danoh 14:11 17 May 2007

There are loads of options but first some fundamentals ought to be covered;

a) As you are transmitting data _Locally_ within your home network, the speed to the internet provided by your ISP (TalkTalk) is not relevant.
Its the speed which your computers (Desktop, laptop & hopefully a media centre PC) can transmit data between each other on your _Local_ Area Network (LAN) that counts.

b) HD Video needs significantly more bandwidth then Audio streaming.
2 of my 3 desktops have "108" Mbps max (c 40 Mbps real) wireless capability using MIMO & pre-N protocols which provides more then the standard "54" Mbps. They can stream Standard Definition (SD) video, just about smoothly.
But my laptop with standard built in "54" Mbps suffers from occasional drop out and "stuttering" with SD video.
I only mention this due to your HD TV objective.
For HD, realistically, you will need cabled connections and ideally at 1Gbps rather then the current 100 Mbps capability most commonly available via routers, Ethernet ports, etc.

c) Audio streaming has proved to be fine, even with my laptop's standard "54" Mbps wireless, but that is helped by the capability of my MIMO wireless router.

I have an HD TV and am also aiming to get a media centre PC for it. At the moment, I make do by connecting my laptop to it.
It feels really unreal doing emails on a 40" screen! Seriously though, photos and videos comes out a real threat at 40".

d) Wireless security is essential in my view. But that is another topic in its own right. Do a search of threads in this forum and there will be loads of very useful information you can read.

In summary, yes, wireless audio streaming is easily achievable. Even setting up wireless security should not throttle your wireless LAN bandwidth enough to matter.
Kit is fairly standard and reasonably priced; wireless ADSL router c£80, <£10 for a Ethernet PCI card for your Desktop (if it needs one) to connect to the router, your laptop presumably already has WiFi, as would your new media centre pc.

Video streaming requires cabled or wired networking, realistically. Especially as you ought to look to the future. However, newer wireless technology might make it to the consumer mass market as soon as 2 yrs from now.
But Ethernet cable (cat6 or cat5e) for a whole network in a normal UK sized house would struggle to cost more then £25 via web vendors.
Going cabled means you don't have to pay at least twice as much for a "turbo-ed" wireless router and £60-70 for EACH "turbo-ed" wireless adapter for your laptop and media centre pc.

Hope that helps and is a good start to your quest.

  jimmyflood 22:12 17 May 2007

Thanks for the info, very informative.Feel more confident now to go and tackle the likes of PC World for hardware. Have you ever noticed that usually you know far more about the product you are enquiring about than the sales person?

  Strawballs 22:24 17 May 2007

Yes because half way though they have to go and get the nappy changed.

  Danoh 10:49 18 May 2007

jimmyflood, pleased to have been of some help.
I mentioned my posting to my two sons (who are the ones who do all the video streaming, BTW). They dispute my views; they've had zero problems with SD video streaming internally within the LAN or externally via our "4 Mbps" cable broadband. "Must be the rubbish you watch" was their retort re: my laptop's stuttering < sigh >.
Nothing to do with their fancier MIMO setup, which I'd paid for as well, of course!!

Be ware that if I wanted to go with any new wireless technology, such as when they finally sort out 802.11n, I will have to ditch my existing router and 2 desktop MIMO adapters (c £ 240!). So cable is a lot cheaper but less domestically (wife) friendly :-)

  mitsme 15:25 18 May 2007



Could you please provide a link or two regarding Wireless Secuity. I'd very much appreciate it if you could provide some that are simple, direct and clear in their approach, I'm bit of a novice. I am up & connected. I just wish to be sure that its settings are secure.

All info greatlty recieved,
Many thanks,

  setecio 15:44 18 May 2007

If you want to be extremely secure then all you have to do is have WPA or WPA2 wireless security on with a 20+ string of random letters and numbers for the passphrase eg

Everything else like MAC filtering or SSID not broadcasting is a waste of time, as it is all easily hacked/cracked. Just concentrate on WPA or WPA2.

  Danoh 21:03 18 May 2007

Hi mitsme; not exactly off thread as jimmyflood had asked "are there any security problems I should be aware of with Wireless?", so you're not hi-jacking his thread completely :-)
I was just dodging his question, which can be a matter of some debate (as you would have read from the various related threads in this forum.

Sorry but I don't have any web links to hand which relate to Wireless Security - my views are simply a composite of various web articles which I've made my own value judgements on and applied.

Somewhat similar to setecio's comment, except that I think that the greatest risk is not from suitably knowledgeable hackers but from opportunists, simply as the later are much greater in number (sort of like burglaries... )

I utilise WPA TKIP & WPA2 with AES with a password/passphrase of the max 63 characters, using non-dictionary words (unusual upper & lower case mix) plus numbers and special characters (space, - / * etc). As mentioned, this is for the hardened hacker.

Yes, non-broadcast SSID is still transmitted unencrypted and can be "sniffed out" but it stops being a BEACON to everyone within WiFi range, most of whom would not know how to do any "sniffing".

True, MAC address spoofing can be done, but requires 1) your wireless client PCs MACs to be sniffed out when they are switched on and operational 2) the extra ability to Spoof the MAC address via standard functionality in certain wireless adapters soft/firmware.
So even if the less casual hacker knows how to "sniff out" my SSID, it knocks out those who can't spoof MAC addresses.

I've got 2 rather sensitive MIMO wireless adapters with external decent aerials (Linksys) and have logged around 15 SSID broadcasts (not all of which are left switched on most of the time). There are probably another 5 who do not broadcast their SSIDs including myself.

Of the 15 who do broadcast their SSIDs, 4 have no security at all. Of these, 3 have the default manufacturers' SSID so I know the exact address of their router's configuration and as they have probably left the password for the router as default as well, I can get in and set myself up with permissions for whatever.

Now, if you were a so called "war driver" in my locality, all kitted out and knowledgeable, in what order would you work through the 15-20 WiFi networks?

If your wireless transmissions and kit suffers from problems/reliability which can only be fixed by broadcasting your SSID, then you really ought to;
a) Change the SSID from its default so at least its not obvious what make your router is.
b) Change the router's configuration access password from the default (max 30 characters usually, so you can really come up with a difficult to crack version of your own)
c) MAC address filtering (which can be bypassed obviously if your router's configuration is open or easily hack-able)
keeps out those who can't spoof a physical device's unique MAC address.
d) Ultimately, encrypt your wirelessly transmitted data with WPA-max63 char passphrase,
so even if someone can be bothered to be able to "tune in and stayed tuned in" to your specific signal amongst 19 other WiFi networks and record it,
It would literally take them a month of Sundays to crack the 99.9% worthless data traffic...

Sorry for no links, but that's my perspective which I reflect in practice.
Grief!! I think I’ve got carried away – kept on typing – bit of a brain dump, sorry!
Hope my 2nd novelette is also of some use and worth your time reading it!

  Danoh 21:31 18 May 2007

Sorry, you were after straight forward steps to check if your existing wifi setup is secure.

"that are simple, direct and clear in their approach, ... < for > a novice, < already > connected. I just wish to be sure that its settings are secure.

If my mental wanderings above have not helped, start a new thread naming
your specific Router's make and model,
plus specifying what clients (PCs/Laptops) you have connected wirelessly, and how (standard Windows XP's wireless functionality or installed OEM specific software),
ideally spelling out what type of wireless security measures you have already got (as per above).

If its been done for you, look up the Router manufacturers web site for a manual, or look for one in the router's installation CD. That will tell you exactly how to access your specific router's configuration and where the above security aspects are set up.
Each manufacturer has slightly different terminology for the same thing, and settings are organised differently.

~ time to hit that whisky ~

  setecio 09:29 19 May 2007

But if you use a good WPA passphrase, ie 20 or more random characters/numbers, then it doesn't eally matter if people an see your SSID or aren't block by MAC address, as they won't be able to do anything.

As you wanted simple info - just get a good WPA or WPA2 passprase,and there should be a section on this in your manual

Oh, yes, another important and recent requirement is to change your router's login password since malware is about which changes knows the defaults.

  angus.mac 12:04 08 Mar 2008

Jimmyflood, Danoh. I'm setting up a similar system to Jimmyflood but have cat5 wired throughout... What hard/ software do I need to get a tv signal from my ariel, via coax to a pc(presumably a media center?) to join my photos, music library and emails etc before being ditributed via my intranet to my lounge / bedroom etc ?

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