January 23, 2006

Geek Help: Wireless Networks

Have some questions about setting up a wireless network. I was talking about it with someone over the weekend and they nearly had a heart attack and talked about the evils of wireless networks, so I would like to get the straight poop on it.

1 - If you have wireless - as in you have an internet provider like comcast but buy wireless stuff so you don't have to hook your computer to the wall, your neighbor can steal your wireless connection.

Is this true? I didn't think they have ranges like that.

Can I also take my computer with my wireless set up to any starbucks and use their wireless?

I was told that all wireless systems are on the same frequency.

I thought the house wireless were like cordless phones, all have different frequencies?

Is wireless less safe (ie hackers) than plugging into a wall? Even if you have a firewall?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Thanks in advance for any help with these questions.

Posted by Quality Weenie at January 23, 2006 08:46 AM | TrackBack

Yes, your neighbors can get on the bandwidth if you don't set up your wireless correctly. You have many options to keep others from 'borrowing' your wireless connection. It also depends on how close your neighbors live to you.

I'll see if I can find the website I used to verify my security on my wireless. It was fairly straight forward. I'll email it when I can find it.

Posted by: vw bug at January 23, 2006 01:16 PM

Most home wireless routers have a very short range -- around 1-200 feet without walls, 50 feet or so through walls. So if you're in a house and the neighbor is 10 feet on the other side of the wall, they might get it. If you're in an apartment, it's pretty likely that someone can get it.

It's VERY easy to stop this -- you just enter a password in the configuration setup (rather simple), and only those with a password can get access.

Yes, if you have a wireless antenna in your laptop, you can go to any WAP (like Starbucks) and get a connection.

Most wireless is on the same frequency. There are exceptions.

Wireless is generally not less safe than a wall jack. If anything, it's safer, because you can (and will) often turn your computer off, and no one can hack your machine while it's off.

Posted by: Ogre at January 23, 2006 03:27 PM

Wow, Ogre beat me to it. Didn't know he was so knowlegeable about wireless... I'm impressed.

Anyway there's also lots of info on the web. Yahoo has a site where you can access a list (based on your zip code) of your nearest wireless hotspots.

However, Like Ogre said, if you don't have a password and a firewall set up (believe me there's people out there that don't) then the person at the next table or even the manager in the Starbucks office can get access to everything on your pc.

I was preparing a post for Tuesday on Wireless resources and info including the Hotspot locator. I'll try to get the links for you over the weekend.

Posted by: Michele at January 27, 2006 12:10 PM

Here's the wifi locator link:

More to come.

Posted by: Michele at January 27, 2006 12:14 PM