Ways To Create Home Networks

It’s time to think about losing that rat’s nest of cables and let your wired, or better yet some think, wireless network grow with your home electronics.

With the proliferation of new home gadgets and home entertainment options, connecting all your systems has become more important that ever. Not to mention more confusing. Networking companies are offering new technologies, both wired and wireless, to help address the issue.

We’ve gone from having a simple think like two personal computers and a printer connected together to adding videogame consoles, a TV set-top box for dowloading and storing movies from the Web and even perhaps another set-top box that sends TV shows over the Internet for viewing on remote computers or cellphones.

One solution I’ve heard of is a wireless kit from Ruckus Wireless Inc. for about $260. This equipment works to send data files faster than a typical wireless network and is supposed to be easier to use with multiple devices.

Many people now have high-definition TV sets that play conten originating from cable or satellite networks or even new generations of disc players. This was a hot topic at the recent Consumer Electronics show earlier in January in Las Vegas. Where once home networking use to be a geek oriented task, it’s now becoming vital for a lot of people.

With new demands such as watching YouTube videos on our TV’s in the living room rather than on our PC, hardware makers are unveiling new networking technologies and improving some existing ones.

Of course, Wi-Fi is commonly known and a solution for some already and is certainly comm for most laptop users. While setting up a Cisco or Netgear access point plugged into the DSL or cable-modem hardware gets you an internet connection it typically has a max speed of 54 megabits per second. This isn’t fast enough for high-def video and microwaves, cordless phones and other devices that generate their own radio signals can intermittently block the signals.

Some people are trying Powerline networking; 802.11n/270 megabits per second Wi-Fi; and even using newer devices that supprot a technology call HDMI (High Def Multimedia Interface) which uses a single cable and plug costing less than $50.

Then of course there’s still USB and FireWire which is kicking up to a max speed of 3.2 gigabits per second (from 400 megabits per sec). But heck, one wire is too many when you see it hanging down from that $2000+ plasma on the wall. Some say Ultrawideband (UWB) wireless short-range may be the new answer which can transmit as much as 500 megabits of data / second.

Here’s a non-comprehensive rundown on some different ways to get connected at home:

Wi-Fi / 802.11n

Wireless connection for computing and entertainment devices in separate rooms; 300 megabits / sec. (good for many apps, though wired technologies may be better for high-def video)

High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)

Wired technology for connecting devices in a room, such as a DVD player to a high-def TV.; 10.2 gitgabits / sec. (Fast enough to send video signals without compression, improves image quality and replaces three plugs with one.)

FireWire 400

A wired link between PC components, such as hard drives and camcorders, in the same room.; 400 megabits / second. (First mde popular by Apple; competes with such technologies as USB.)

Powerline Networking

Connects devices in different rooms using electrical wiring.; 200 megabits / sec. (Surge protectores and other such devices can cause interference problems.)

Ultra-wideband (UWB)

A future option for connecting electronic devices and computers in the same room./ 500 megabits / sec. (pretty good at liimmiting interference. Also comes in two variances: Wireless USB and CableFree USB).

A future option for connecting devices in a single room, including TVs and high-def DVD players.; 4 gigabits / sec. (Due to high speed, videos don’t have to be compressd; this improves their image quality and avoids chunked up playback/display)

It could be years before all this is sorted out and some of these newer technologies catch on and become widely used. It’ll be interesting to see how it fleshes out.

I’m looking forward to getting in my car, having my hand-held device automatically engage the screen on my navigation system in my car to include all features including web, MP3 files and email with voice control and then… having the same interface in my house a la Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future (#2 I think) where he talks to the wall and it becomes an audio controlled A/V device…

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