If you're considering setting up a home or small-business wireless network using the popular 802.11b standard (also known as Wi-Fi), your task has just become easier. The use of this standard means that wireless networks can include products from different vendors, just like the familiar Ethernet cable-based ones. Thus, newer products with simpler setup routines can be introduced into your network without compatibility worries.
The introduction of 802.11b USB adapters, such as D-Link's DWL-120, make adding desktop PCs to your network as simple as adding a notebook. Notebooks, which take PC Card adapters, have usually been a snap to configure: install a driver, slide in the card, and you're ready. Desktop PCs are trickier. Until now, users generally have had to open the PC and install a PCI or ISA add-in card - a hassle most people would just as soon avoid. The new USB adapters make the drill simple again: install the drivers, connect the cable, and you're in business.
In most of my tests with a production version of the utilitarian-looking D-Link DWL-120, setup was just that easy. USB's 12Mbps maximum bandwidth proved a good match for 802.11b's 11Mbps maximum. I did run into problems when I tried to install the adapter on a Windows Millennium Edition desktop on which I'd previously used an adapter of a different brand. D-Link technicians said such USB installations on a PC with a previously installed 802.11b adapter are prone to Registry issues under Windows Me - even if you uninstall the old adapter and its drivers.
The DWL-120 can be used for point-to-point networking, or communication through a base station for increased range. It supports 40-bit encryption for privacy, and although this is not bulletproof, if properly set up it should defeat all but the best hackers. Other features include the ability to roam seamlessly between different access point base stations, and a specified range of up to 100m indoors. Overall, the D-Link DWL-120 worked well, and is easy to install and use.
Price: $502; Distributor: Tech Pacific; Phone: (02) 9381 6000; http:\\www.dlink.com