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Tag Archives: Networks

Upgrade Your Router To 802.11n Painlessly For $25

By Evan Ackerman

No matter how easy wireless network setup promises to be, it’s almost always a minor headache, and occasionally a major headache. Once I get all of my computers talking to each other and to the router and to the internet, I live in fear of a power outage or that one of the cats will mess with the surge protector and electrocute itself and blow a fuse and force me to set everything up again.

This is why I’m still using a 802.11g router, instead of the newer, faster, more powerful, and just generally sexier 802.11n. Oh, and the fact that a new router costs a bunch of money. The TRENDNet TEW-637AP 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader purports to make all of these things entirely painless. All you have to do is plug the TEW-637AP into the back of your existing 802.11b/g wireless router and it magically converts your wireless network to 802.11n while preserving all of your existing network configuration settings. In a test by Laptop Magazine, setup took “2 minutes” and and they noticed an immediate increase in speed by 4-5x and boost in range by a couple hundred feet.

Right now, the TRENDNet TEW-637AP 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader is $24.99 with free shipping from NewEgg.

VIA [ CNET News ]

[CES 2009] Data Over Power Lines Makes Networking Painless


By Evan Ackerman

Most people don’t have homes that are wired with ethernet and A/V cables. This sucks if you need to move lots of data (say, streaming high def video) around your house. Yes, all kinds of wireless solutions exist, but they tend to be relatively complicated and slow compared to a physical cable. Luckily, you’ve already got perfectly serviceable wires connecting every room in your house, with electricity running through ‘em. HD-PLC (High Definition Power Line Communication) uses these existing wires and piggybacks high bandwidth data along them, turning every outlet in your home into an ethernet port. Just stick a transmitter into an outlet and plug your router into it, and then plug a receiver into any other outlet in your house and out pops the internet.

HD-PLC is an alliance of a bunch of companies, including Buffalo and Philips, who are working on improving this technology. They have a variety of products either coming to market or on the market, including surge protector routers, wireless network extenders, and even TVs with integrated power line HDMI receivers, which lets the TV access HDMI streams simply by plugging it into a wall socket (which you have to do anyway to turn it on):


Power line data transmission has a bandwidth of up to 100 megabits, which is easily enough to carry three concurrent 1080p video streams plus internet, all of it encrypted. You can use surge protectors and stuff with this technology, although you have to be careful not to use surge protectors that are too good, or else they’ll cut the power line data bandwidth. As far as prices go, you can find some of this stuff in stores (and on Amazon) now, starting at under $100.

[ HD-PLC ]

[CES 2009] Pogoplug Networks Your USB Hard Drive With The Internet In Zero Easy Steps


By Evan Ackerman

Well, okay, maybe it’s not literally zero steps. You do have to plug something in and go to a website. But in practically zero steps, you can turn any USB hard drive into a networked hard drive that’s accessible from absolutely anywhere, without going through all of the complicated and nausea inducing networking drama that’s usually required to do something like that.

Pogoplug is a piece of hardware that looks like one of those A/C adapters we all hate because they’re huge and they take up a bunch of outlets. On the bottom, it’s got a USB port, and an ethernet port. You attach your USB HD to the Pogoplug, and the Pogoplug to your router. Then you go to the Pogoplug website, set up an account, and you’re done. You now have access to your drive just like it was physically plugged into your computer, except it works like that from anywhere you have internet (it just might be a little slower). You can even get at your files via an iPhone app.

I got a demo of the Pogoplug at CES yesterday, and it seems to work exactly as advertised. There was a drive showing up on the demo computer as local network storage, except that the physical location of the drive was in Arkansas or something. It’s completely, impressively transparent. The file browsers online and on the iPhone are simple to use, and I’m told the security is excellent. Oh, and you can even hook up multiple USB drives to one Pogoplug using a USB hub.

Pogoplug is on pre-order at the moment for $79, and even though Pogoplug is also a service, there’s no subscription fee. Look for it in March of this year.

[ Pogoplug ]

LaCie Internet Space HD

By Evan Ackerman

A disadvantage of having a whole herd of computers (is it “herd” or would they have to have legs for that?) is that it’s hard to keep them all synchronized. Inevitably, I’ll be a thousand miles away and desperately need something that can only be had on one of my other computers back in my underground lair… It keeps thwarting my schemes to take over the world. If I could just solve this one thing, you’d all be my servants. This is why I’m optimistic (and you should be terrified) about the LaCie Internet Space network hard drive. It will automatically sync its 500 gigs with as many folders on as many computers as you like, and stream media files to your PS3 or Xbox 360. Also, you can access the files on it over the internet through LaCie’s website, which is a pretty nice feature.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is totally something you can set up on your own with just a little bit of computer know-how, and at $210 for a 500 gig drive, you’re paying maybe twice as much as you would be for an equivalent network attached storage system without the fancy software. But there is something to be said for plugging it in and having it ready to go in five minutes, and this drive (according to reports) really can do just that. And, you know, it’s got that featureless white slab look going for it, so you know it must be good.

[ LaCie ] VIA [ Electric Pig ]

Panasonic BL-PA100KTA Adaptor Turns Electrical Wiring Into Ethernet Cable

Panasonic BL-PA100KTA (Images courtesy Panasonic)
By Andrew Liszewski

The oh-so descriptively named BL-PA100KTA from Panasonic is another device that allows your home’s electrical wiring to serve double duty as network cable. It’s perfect for the homeowner who’s too lazy (or lacking the skills) to run ethernet cable and who doesn’t want to be bothered with remembering simple wifi codes.

The device uses Panasonic’s HD-PLC (High Definition Power Line Communication) technology to make setting up a network as easy as plugging this device and your PC into the wall. (Plus whatever setup is required by your modem and operating system.) You can use a maximum of 16 adaptors (recommended limit) on a single network and they have a communication distance of about 500 feet. The only downside I can see is that each HD-PLC adaptor takes up a power outlet, which is a precious commodity in most homes these days.

A starter kit that includes 2 of the BL-PA100KTA adaptors is available on the Panasonic website for $149.95. However Amazon is currently selling them for just $44.95.

[ Panasonic BL-PA100KTA ] VIA [ GadgetGrid ]

Simple Pen Locates Wireless Access Points Up To 30 Meters Away

WiFi Pen

By Luke Anderson

After the movie Goldeneye (and the game of course) came out, James Bond was my hero. I always wanted to have some cool spy gadget that looked like something rather ordinary. I thought it was so cool when I finally got a pen that was also a laser pointer, even if it was quite obvious to the casual observer. Since then I’ve seen a whole slew of pens with more functions than you can shake a silenced PP7 at. Here’s one that you’ll like if you’re even trying to track down an open wireless signal.

The pen features 4 LEDs that will show you the strength of a wireless signal that is up to 30 meters away. It is powered by two button cell batteries and activated b a small button positioned just below the LEDs. It might not be the coolest spy gadget for your arsenal, but at $8, you can’t really go wrong.

[ ChinaVasion ] VIA [ Crave ]

LANdroid Wireless Battle Net

By Evan Ackerman


Ever wish that your wireless network could follow you wherever you went? Yeah, so does the US Army. DARPA‘s LANdroid is a palm-sized, totally autonomous network router on cute little tank treads. It’s designed to be used in urban environments which have all sorts of inconveniently placed buildings that block more conventional wireless access points. These little guys are actually designed to be disposable; the idea is that they get dropped by advancing troops, whereupon they wander around at about half a meter per second until they find the most effective place to act as a network node. The bots work together to cover “shadowed” and indoor areas, and if one of them gets blown up, the rest will move themselves to keep the network operational.


The details are trickier than it might seem… For example, the bots will be powered by disposable batteries, so power management will definitely be an issue, especially in a package that can’t be heavier than 1 kilo or larger in volume than 1 liter. The final product should only cost $100 per bot at small production volumes (i.e. 1000 units). This concept is a public solicitation by DARPA, which means that they don’t have one of these yet, but they really want one (and so do I). If you think you can put one together, proposals are due to DARPA by August 16.

[ DARPA LANdroid Proposal (*.pdf) ] VIA [ The Register ]

Meraki Mini – Cheap WiFi Repeater

Meraki Mini & Dashboard (Images courtesy Meraki)
By Andrew Liszewski

I guess ‘cheap’ is a relative term but at $49 each these mini WiFi repeaters from Meraki are an extremely cost-effective way to expand the size of your wireless network. Each repeater is only about 4.5 by 2.5 inches in size and includes suction cups and adhesive pads for mounting (or hiding) anywhere in your home or office. But they do need a power adapter which probably limits where they can be placed.

The Mini currently supports 802.11 B & G wireless protocols and each one also includes a 10/100 auto-crossover ethernet port for connecting non-WiFi compatible hardware. (Like a network printer for example.) Another feature I particularly like is the included Dashboard online software. Not only does it allow you to manage your mesh network but you can also setup billing for other users and even plot out the location of your repeaters on Google Maps.

The Mini’s are currently available on the Meraki website for $49 each. They’re also available in sets of 3, 20 or 100 but it doesn’t look like there’s a discount for buying in bulk.

[ Meraki Mini ] VIA [ Popular Science ]