Monday, January 08, 2007

Extending a small network

In an earlier blog (16 October 2006) I looked at Netgear’s wall-plugged wireless range extender kit and mentioned that there were other similar products available. One of those “others” is the Solwise HomePlug, which I’ve recently had a look at.

The problem that both these products try to overcome is the one where a wireless network doesn’t reach as far as a computer that wants to use it. It can also be used where a LAN doesn’t stretch to reach a remote user, but the mains power supply does. And that’s really the trick with these kinds of device. They make use of the network that most buildings already have installed – the electrical circuits.

The Solwise HomePlug plugs into a router and also into an electrical socket. A second HomePlug connects to a socket near where you are working. Here’s the big difference between the Netgear device and the Solwise HomePlug – the Netgear plug now acts as a wireless device and a number of laptops can share it; the Solwise HomePlug connects by wire to a single computer. But this is not a bad thing because, usually, you have only the one computer that needs connecting in this way. Of course, if you have more computers to connect, then you can purchase more HomePlugs.

The HomePlug provides 200Mbps connectivity. It is also very easy to set up. It comes with a CD containing the HomePlug AV Utility, which is installed first, and then you must install .NET Framework 1.1. The main use of the utility is to change the Private Network Name, and you can use it to detect any other HomePlugs. Changing the Network Name allows a password to be added. It’s also possible to upgrade the firmware of the HomePlugs from the Utility.

Those of you who work from home or a small office will find devices like the Solwise HomePlug very easy to use and an easy way to extend your existing network.

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