WLAN Accessories

Given the growing popularity of wireless networks, you’re unlikely to run out of products to buy to extend your network as far as you want. Many of these products are covered during the course, each in its appropriate context, but this article outlines some of the range of products available today.

  • Wireless Media Players: A number of these products have begun to appear, including the D-Link MediaLounge Wireless Media Player, the PRISMIQ MediaPlayer, and the LinkSys Wireless-B Media Adapter.

These products let you stream video and audio to your TV or stereo system from your PC, by way of your wireless network. Companies hope that this product category will result in shared media resources throughout the house.

You place a media player near your entertainment center, using its remote control and its on-screen interface to download and play video and audio files stored on your PC.

As Figure 1 shows, the PRISMIQ enables you to connect to your network via Ethernet cable or wireless adapter, and offers standard RCA-style audio and video outputs as well as the higher-quality S-Video and Digital outputs. It’s ready to hook directly to your TV and stereo system.

The back panel of the PRISMIQ MediaPlayer.

  • Wireless Cameras: Wired video cameras are a dime a dozen, particularly the small USB webcams now tossed in to many PC bundles.

Wireless cameras perform the same function, but they don’t need to be plugged into a PC; you just beam the video signal over the wireless LAN.

The Linksys Wireless-B Internet Video Camera even includes its own small Web server to provide effortless video display over the Internet. D-Link offers several wireless video solutions, including a wireless videophone for those who actually want to see the person they’re talking to.

D-Link targets its other wireless cameras for home security use.

  • Wireless Game Adapters: If you want to play your PlayStation 2, Xbox, or GameCube online, you need a network connection.

But nobody wants to run a big blue Ethernet cable into the family room, so D-Link and Linksys offer adapters that provide an Ethernet port for wired connection to the console and wireless technology for connection to the access point.

Put the game adapter near the game, plug it in, and you’re up and running with no unsightly crossfloor wires.

  • Wireless Presentation Players: Linksys offers the Wireless-G Presentation Player for the purpose of using the wireless network for business presentations. You can plug a projector or monitor into the built-in VGA port and show the presentation directly from the device, using the wireless remote and the built-in laser pointer.
  • Wireless Antennae and Range Expanders: If you want a wireless network with good connectivity over wide ranges, you need range extenders. Several options are available, including homemade antennae.

If you want commercial products, however, they’re available. D-Link offers an extensive range, including the Antennas Indoor 6dBi Microstrip Antenna (see Figure 2), the Antennas External Antenna Connector for its DWL-660 PC card, the Antennas Outdoor Omni-Directional Antenna, and more.

D-Link’s DWL-R60AT wireless antenna.

Each of these antennae plugs into a connector on an access point. You can also buy simpler range extenders, which act as access points or wireless repeaters in order to increase the area of coverage for the WLAN.

  • Wireless Print Servers: Print servers enable you to set up your printer to work directly over the network, instead of through a PC on the network.

You don’t need to leave a PC powered on; you simply plug the printer into a print server, connect the print server into the network, and print from the client. Wireless print servers use 802.11 technology to communicate with the network, and provide USB or parallel ports for connection to the printer.

D-Link offers the Air Wireless 2.4 GHz 3-Port Print Server, which features three parallel printer ports, as well as the Air Wireless 2.4 GHz Print Server with a single parallel port and a companion model with a USB port, for those with USB printers.

The company also has a USB 2.0 model in their AirPlus G line, which compares with Linksys’s Wireless-G PrintServer for USB 2.0. Linksys offers a comparable USB 1.1 print server as well, along with a small, efficient single-parallel port server model.

  • Ethernet-Wireless Bridges: The typical direction of a network’s construction is to move from wired to wireless. But sometimes you need to go the other way, connecting a wired network, or an item designed for a wired network, to an existing wireless network.

Wireless game adapters do this, but so do standalone Ethernet to Wireless adapters. If you have a PC with a wired Ethernet card, for instance, you can run a cable from the PC to the adapter, and the adapter will connect it to the wireless network via the network’s access point.

  • Wireless Power over Ethernet Adapters: These adapters let you provide power to access points or extenders through an Ethernet cable, without the requirement of a power receptacle at that device’s location.

D-Link provides the Express EtherNetwork Power Over Ethernet Adapter, while Linksys offers its Power Over Ethernet Adapter Kit. They work similarly.

  • Wireless Bluetooth Products: As Bluetooth becomes a more frequently used network standard, you can expect to see more products designed for this much-touted but as yet largely unfulfilled protocol.

D-Link offers a range of products in its PersonalAir line at this stage, including the Wireless USB Bluetooth Adapter, the Bluetooth USB Printer Adapter, the Stereo Adapter Kit, and the USB Stereo Adapter Kit. You need Bluetooth-enabled products in order to use them, but these, too, are becoming increasingly available.