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ISSUE 568: The high-tech office- Sept 12 2000

ALAN ZISMAN

Anypoint network adapters simple way to home network

Increasing numbers of homes and home offices have more than one computer. Some surveys suggest
that there are more than 30-million multicomputered North American homes. Add in the large number of small businesses with more than one PC and there's a growing market for products that make it easy to share files, printers and, increasingly, Internet connections between computers.

Now, a number of technologies offer the benefits of networking without most of the costs. Ideally, such a technology could be used without having to open the computer cases, without needing to install new wiring, without needing a dedicated server and with software setup that mere mortals can run. Intel's AnyPoint series of network adapters almost does it.

The company is using that brand name for two different types of technology. The original products used are so-called Home PNA (phoneline network adap-
ters). In other words, they plug into existing phone lines. While PCI models require cracking open the case, Universal Serial Bus (USB) models, parallel (printer) port models, and notebook PC-card models simply plug in without much fuss. Intel's original models ran at a somewhat pokey 1 Mbps, but a later revision runs at standard Ethernet's 10 Mbps. The 10 Mbps models cost about $100, while the slower models are still available at around $70.

Recently, the company added a pair of wireless AnyPoint products. The (approximately $160) USB and PC Card models offer 1.6 Mbps networking within more or less 50 metres without any cabling at all. This is especially attractive to connect a notebook, which may be used in a variety of locations, while still allowing it to share files, printers, or an Internet connection with a desktop computer.

Both the Home PNA and wireless models offer exceptionally easy installation software. This software greatly simplifies the somewhat cumbersome task of setting up a Windows-based network and sharing drives and printers. Optionally, another equally straightforward step permits sharing an existing Internet connection, either a standard modem or a higher-speed cable or ADSL account.

A newer version of the software, downloadable from www.intel.com/
anypoint
, adds a firewall for in-
creased protection from hackers. (This version is also required by anyone using Microsoft's new Windows ME.) There are a few shortcomings, though, keeping the AnyPoint models from offering small network
nirvana:

n Currently, there is no Windows 2000 support. Intel documents cumbersome manual installation that will allow Win 2000 users to make use of the Home PNA models, but nothing for wireless models. It's Windows 95/98 only.

n Some users already have an existing network, but may want to add wireless or phone line support for additional computers. AnyPoint won't do this. You can add one of these adapters to a computer that's currently networked, but you can only use one network at a time. Netware Switching software makes it easier for notebook users to pick a network. That's important, for example, for users using the notebook with a corporate network at work and an AnyPoint network at home. Intel has promised Windows 2000 support and the ability to "bridge" between AnyPoint networks and standard Ethernet networks as software updates, sometime in the future.

n The 1.6 Mbps speed of the wireless products is slow. (By comparison, Apple's Airport wireless networking runs at 11 Mbps.) Intel suggests that the speed is adequate for everyday file sharing and printing, and for basic Internet sharing, but admits that it's simply not fast enough for working on large files across the network or for online multimedia.

For many home offices and small businesses, Intel's AnyPoint series is currently the simplest way to hook up a network.

 

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan