So this is what all the hooplah is about. Wireless networking … including the internet … at speeds that to me seem just as fast and reliable as my old ethernet network. Freedom … convenience … freedom … productivity … freedom … wow!!!

Our setup only involves 2 laptops at this point but for our semi-mobile office the RG-1000 has been a lifesaver. Our old network (which we need to share files and access the internet … even on the road) included a network card to connect to the cable modem … 2 network cards for the ethernet network (connected by a 50 ft. cable). Internet sharing (via Win98) took care of internet sharing. The master laptop always had to be on for internet access and we were continuously having network problems (every morning seemed to be an adventure).

Enter the Orinoco RG-1000 consisting of the gateway device (pictured above) and 2 PCMCIA cards (one for each laptop). No wires at the laptop at all. The gateway plugs into the wall for AC and into the cable modem (or telephone line). This connection was my first fearful moment as I had just undone and deleted all the network hardware and software from the laptops. Will this RG talk to the cable modem and be recognized or will I be calling the cable company to send out a technician to reconfigure my setup (which of course they won’t know anything about either so will claim that the strange device is at fault and send me a huge bill for the service call). As you can tell … I’m a little paranoid about this stuff.

OK … here we go …plug it all in and watch the lights flash for a while (while my heart pounds and I break into a cold sweat). Seems OK so far as the unit behaved just like the little tiny instruction book said it would. Now we need to install the PCMCIA card, install software and run the setup program. As with any network install you need to be a little careful to read the instructions and key in the exact network names, addresses etc. The RG and card setup wizards are pretty straight forward (again follow the instructions to the letter). It’s really only a few minutes to go through the steps and it’s pretty cool to watch the lights flash back and forth between laptop and RG as they communicate and, I suppose, tell each other stories about the fool who is sweating all over the keyboard.

Done … and so far nobody injured. Open the browser … and pray … click on a link … watch the hourglass … pray some more … ahhhh … there’s the HomeToys Home Page … live and in living color. Walk into the kitchen … click another link … yahoooooo … how about in the bathroom … fabulous reception (now that conjures up a whole new set of rules about reading the news in the morning).

Setting up the other laptop required more work … not because of Orinoco … because of old PCMCIA drivers. Just couldn’t get the thing to work at all. Finally I got in touch with IBM customer service (after the Orinoco rep suggested that I give that a try) and found that I needed the new drivers. Fortunately the other laptop had access to the net so I downloaded what I needed … tried the install again and voila … not only internet access but our laptops can share files and peripherals etc. at approx. 11 Mbps (to the naked eye this is just as fast as my old ethernet network). We’re back in business with only a few scary moments. Was it worth it … you had better believe it. The system has been up and running for over a month now without a hiccup. No more wondering whether or not the network will work … no worry about tripping over cables or breaking dongles etc. Freeeeeeeedommmmm!!!

So … here’s a few facts and specs:

* Operating in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz (802.11b standard) band, the system gives you the freedom to roam up to 150 meters at 11 Mbit/s, indoors or outdoors. Of course the distance quoted is under ideal conditions but I’ve been able to wander around the house / office without problems. OK wait here a minute and I’ll take this laptop outside and see how far I can go. Front patio … no sweat. Across the street … still accessing the net. Down the block … OK I lost the signal … looks to be about 100+ meters away … good enough for my application that’s for sure.
* Provides Internet Sharing using Network Address Translation (NAT).
* Includes a built-in 56K modem that provides Internet access through a regular phone line
* Supports an Ethernet port that allows you to connect to a broadband cable, xDSL, or ISDN modem
* Supports Wi-Fi compliant pc cards.
* NAT router with DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) functionality.

Price for startup kit runs around $420 (Includes RG1000 and one Silver PC Card). Extra cards are about $130 – $150 each.

I must admit this is my first good experience with wireless networking so I’m pretty hyped about the convenience. There may be better or cheaper systems out there that I haven’t tried yet but as far as I’m concerned the RG 1000 does the job that I need to get my work done every day … and that’s what is most important to me at this point. It’s definitely a keeper.