In my opinion, wireless data networking is the only way to go for home applications so I am keen to try different systems and configurations. The Proxim configuration that I discuss here consists of their Gateway, USB adapter (installed on a desktop PC) and PC Card (installed on a laptop). Symphony is a HomeRF product that adheres to that standard and operates in the 2.4
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Step 1 in the process is to install the Gateway. This is a very simple operation … plug gateway ethernet cable into the cable modem … plug gateway power into the wall … watch a few lights flash … that’s it.
Step 2 is to install an adapter (USB or PC Card) and the software to configure the network. Again … this is pretty simple and a setup wizard helps to configure the drivers and software. Restart the computer and low and behold … the network is set up for you.
Following the wizards is quite simple and there are some well written manuals to go along with them in case you run into trouble or just like to read manuals 🙂
The system allows you to share the internet as well as files and peripheral devices with other pc’s. Top speed for this network is 1.6 Mbps which is fine for internet surfing but I found it to be a bit slow for file sharing … mind you our application is a bit intensive as we need to share databases etc. dynamically. Simply copying files etc. from one machine to another is OK … but again doing a backup (i.e. copying several files) might be a bit slow as well. Playing an MP3 over the network worked just fine.
One of the handiest features of Symphony is the “Location Switcher”. It saves your configurations so that on startup you can select which one to use. This allows you to switch between the wireless network at the office or the home network etc. This is an invaluable tool that will become essential to anyone (and in the future probably everyone) with access to 2 or more different networks.
“Maestro” is the application that lets you test and configure the network.
With Maestro you can view the status of the network, configure the various PC’s attached to it, test the signal strength and set up file and device sharing etc. It resides in the System Tray on your desktop and is very simple to understand and use.
Symphony can be set to one of 3 network modes:
In short, the top selection is NAT (network address translation) mode, the middle selection is bridge mode, and the bottom is a combination for both (designed for a wireless/wired hybrid network)
Choosing the middle topology selection (bridge mode) will essentially treat your Cordless Gateway like a “wire” making it look like your computer is connected directly to the cable modem (like a wired network card connected directly to the cable modem), and you would configure your Symphony card’s TCP/IP settings exactly like if it was a wired connection.
Another option is the top selection (NAT) of the the topology tab. This allows you to access the ISP TCP/IP tab with two key options: (1) Static IP (where you would put your static IP information if given that way by your cable modem provider) or (2) DHCP (where the cordless gateway will to obtain an IP address dynamically assigned by your service.).
The default is the third selection … both of the options above.
The range of the system is listed at 150 ft. and I think that is probably close with ideal conditions. I wandered off 100 ft. or so and it started to lose signal. This is probably adequate for most applications.
For a simple home network focusing on internet sharing and a bit of device and file sharing this is a great solution. Installation was simple and the engineers made sure most things are intuitive … not too much network jargon. Support is only a phone call away and I had a pleasant experience with them too. The only negative is the speed factor because we need to share files in our home office environment. The price tag of $400 or so is less than some of the competition although still a bit steep for the average consumer I think. I can hardly wait for the next generation due out in a month or so. I’m told that the new HomeRF 2.0 Symphony products will operate at 10 Mbps for data, as well as provide prioritization for streaming media (like audio and video clips) and supports voice transmissions — allowing current broadband services like cable modems or DSL modems to distribute toll-quality voice services throughout the home.
Symphony-HRF products are HomeRF compliant, so they’ll work with HomeRF devices from a number of networking manufacturers. A full list of HomeRF compliant equipment is available at www.HomeRF.org/