Linksys RouterYou ever work on something for so long that you start to think someone must be playing a joke on you, or at least laughing at you? This is the exact feeling I have when dealing with wireless networking. On the one hand, not having to run wires through your house and worrying about your dog or children tripping over them is nice, I am not sure the trade off is worth it. Let us begin with a simple home wireless network router and how the labyrinth gets complicated so easily can sometimes amaze you. Immediately you are encountered with a list of concerns that you never had with wired Ethernet, such as to secure the router or not? Any technical person would tell you that you need to secure it to prevent your neighbor’s kid from downloading all sorts of naughty things, because if you do not do this, ultimately you are legally responsible for anything that gets downloaded through your $50 router! Next you have to worry about signal interference, cause you do not want your wireless router to interfere with any cordless phone or other wireless router that your neighbor may have. Did I mention your microwave hates your router too?

Say you figured out all of that stuff and you are happy with your router security and your router’s placement. Now comes the fun part, which is having to one by one connect all your devices to your router and make them all play nice with each other. First come the desktop machines, then the laptops, and if you have mixed Windows and Macs it makes it more challenging. On older Windows XP machines, you end up cursing Microsoft for making this harder than running a marathon, and on the Apple side, you wonder if Apple documents anything at all with industry terms, it is as if Apple has to rename everything to an Apple friendly name just for the sake of being different!

If you survive all of this configuration and troubleshooting, you then are confronted with your son or daughter asking you if you can fix it so their Nintendo DS and Sony PSP can access the Internet. Oh, you probably need to fix it too so that the Playstation 3 can connect too. Overall, by this time you figured out that the easiest of all was the network printer, but for whatever reason the PS3 still can’t see your printer.

Lessons Learned

I am sure the Steve Jobs digital lifestyle works, if all you have are Apple products, but in reality wireless networking is a test of patience. What you suddenly discover is that networking is too complicated for normal people to do. With every device you add to the network, the security model tends to suffer and you see that inexpensive products like the Nintendo DS just do not support the latest security methods such as WPA2 and AES. You almost need two wireless networks, a highly secure one and a very open one that has limited functionality for all those devices that cannot connect to anything secure.