Networking is scary. it involves running cables along inconvenient routes and configuring arcane settings. It's time-consuming, frustrating, and annoying. It's also vital to a business' operations. That's why wireless networking has such great appeal; it connects together computers and laptops, even in different offices, allowing them to surf the Internet and share files and printers. Now, wireless networking is an affordable reality, sort of.
With its AnyPoint wireless components, Intel has gone a long way toward simplifying the morass that Microsoft created with its unnecessarily complex networking design. Just plug the 4.5-inch-high wireless network adapter into a USB port for a desktop PC, or insert the PC card adapter into your laptop. Then run the CD-ROM on each machine you're going to network, designate one as the server that will connect to the Internet, and you're off and running.
As long as your antennas are within about 150 feet of each other, you'll be able to access files on any of the computers or print from one to a printer connected to another. Intel's Internet Sharing Software is particularly neat, allowing remote connections and sharing of a dial-up or high-speed connection.
The LAN connectivity is slow in network terms with a throughput of about 1.6Mbps, which is faster than a 56k modem, but far slower than wired 10 or 100 Base-T networks. It's also limited in that you can't mix this network with a wired one.
Price is also an issue. A 10Mbps Ethernet network interface card, the key device needed to tie a computer into a network, will cost you about $20, plus another $15 for a 10-to-15-foot-long 10 Base-T network cable. By comparison, the AnyPoint PC wireless adapter lists at $119 and the laptop version is $129.
The AnyPoint Wireless networking products run only on Windows 95 or 98, but think twice, perhaps even three times, before trying to install them on a computer that has previously been connected to a network. Intel has provided switching software to allow you to shift between a wired network and AnyPoint, but the problems of making the AnyPoint software fit comfortably into a Windows PC that has already been set up for networking can be daunting. It took us two days of trying and more than two hours on the phone with Intel technical support to make it work.