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WiFi on a netBook - Part 2 - Configuring your equipment


(Originally written for publication on FoxPop in November 2003)

This is basically a case of: 1) Configuring your netBook, and 2) Configuring your PC:-

Configuring your netBook:

There’s no rocket science here in terms of the hardware - just plug your PCMCIA WiFi card into your netBook’s PCMCIA socket! Configuring the system/software is fairly straightforward as well. However, as with the previous entry in this series of articles, I’d strongly recommend looking at a few websites that go into a lot more detail than I do here. For example, please do take a look at Ian Silvester’s ‘EPOC FAQish’ website and specifically the section on Ethernet/WiFi networks: - it’s got to be the definitive online guide on the subject. Right, let’s get started:-

Control Panel

First, select the Ethernet icon on your control panel and then in the Ethernet setting dialog box select ‘New’ (Ctrl+N). Now select ‘Standard settings’ and this’ll bring you up a ‘New Ethernet interface settings’ box. Select ‘Existing Ethernet settings’ and ‘802_11-Lucent:’ – if you’ve taken my advice previously and got one of those type of cards! :¬) – and you’ll get the ‘Edit Ethernet settings’ dialog shown below:

Edit Ethernet settings

The ‘Name’ you give the setup can be whatever you want. Keep the configuration method as DHCP (unless you want to get IP-specific and start filling in DNS addresses, etc.). The Hostname can be left blank – although you might want to call it ‘netBook’ or something else so as to identify it at the PC side of things. The ‘Device’ is ‘Lucent WaveLAN / Orinoco Card’.

Now select the ‘Options’ button (Ctrl+O):

Lucent 802.11 settings

The WaveLAN network name is basically just the SSID – basically the name of your home network. It’s not really compulsory though as the netBook will normally connect to whatever network it finds if it can. Peer to peer mode however is important as it’s what tells the netBook that it’s looking for another PC client connection (as opposed to a proper access point).

The ‘Advanced’ and ‘Power management’ settings probably don’t need to be touched at this stage. Ultimately you might want to use the ‘Encryption’ settings if you want to make your wireless network at least moderately secure. There’s been a lot of debate recently about whether WEP (the standard currently used for WiFi encryption) is worth using or not (since it’s been shown to be relatively easily crackable). My view is that it always is worth using. Without it, any passer by can “listen in” to what you’re transmitting if they have a WiFi capability. Using it will probably put off all but the most determined. I think of it as the equivalent of choosing to lock your car doors. That won’t stop a determined person who wants to break in – but it’ll probably deter them quite a bit unless they’re a pro’. When you’re initially setting things up however, it’s probably best to leave this switched off until you get everything up and working – quite simply, it’s one less variable to worry about.

Lucent 802.11 settings

Configuring your PC (or laptop):

My home PC runs Windows XP and so that’s all I’m reporting on here. It’s quite possible that Windows 2000 (and maybe even earlier versions of Windows) can be persuaded to wirelessly connect – but that’s not something I’ve explored…

On plugging-in your WiFi card/unit to your PC, it should automagically have realised that it’s for a Wireless Network connection. Go to your Control Panel in Windows and double click on ‘Network Connections’. This should bring up a display showing all the possible connectivity options you have on your machine – including the one for your WiFi card/unit.

Network Connections

You need to configure your connection so that it’ll work with your netBook. Double click on the Wireless Network Connection icon:-

Wireless Network Connection Status

This is what it shows when it’s actually connected to your netBook – obviously you don’t see exactly this when you’re setting it up initially. Now click on the ‘Properities’ button:-

Wireless Connection Network Properties

It’s reasonably self-explanatory. Obviously you need to select the WiFi adaptor you’re using if it’s not already selected. If you’re not planning on using any other Windows machines on your WiFi ‘network’ (apart from the host PC obviously) – and possibly even if you are – I’d strongly recommend un-ticking the ‘Client for Microsoft Networks’ and ‘File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks’ boxes. These are designed to sharing files and resources between two or more Windows PC’s and are a possible security issue if someone does wander past your ‘chez moi’ abode determined to see what he/she can scavenge from any wirelessly receptive PC’s not practicing safe comms… ;¬) (I’ll explain how you can share files between your netBook/PC in the next article). You do need the TCP/IP box ticked as this is what will allow your netBook to access the internet.

Next, click on the Wireless Networks tab:-

Wireless Network Connection Properties

Here you need to add your netBook’s details - use the ‘Add’/’Properties’ buttons:-

Wireless Network Properties

This is where you enter the various WEP encryption passwords – if you’re opting to use them initially (see my earlier comments). Click ‘OK’ and then click on the ‘Advanced’ button in the Wireless Network Connection Properties / Wireless Networks box…


…which lets you specify (in this case) that it’s a computer-to-computer (aka. ad hoc, aka. peer to peer…!) network.

Finally click on the ‘Advanced’ tab in the ‘Wireless Network Connection Properties’ box again. (You almost certainly don't need to do anything with the ‘Authentication’ tab) :-

Wireless Connection Network Properties

Initially, I’d suggest having both these tick-boxes un-ticked. Once you’ve got things up and running however – and if you’ve not already got your own firewall program running on your PC – it’s probably a good idea to experiment with using Windows XP’s own firewall to help block general access to your PC from the WiFi connection. However, a word of advice if you are using your own firewall program – make sure that it’s turned off while you’re setting up your WiFi link initially. This single thing kept me from getting the link running initially on my setup for almost a week until it finally dawned on me that the firewall blocked every unspecified connection attempt…

And finally…

You will also want to let your netBook share your PC’s standard internet connection (otherwise this is probably all a little pointless) so go back to your ‘Network Connections’ icon in the Control Panel. Now select the properties of whichever connection it is that you use as your internet connection. In my case, that a Freeserve Anytime dial-up connection. Click on the ‘Advanced’ tab:-

Anytime Properties

Make sure that the ‘Internet Connection Sharing’ boxes are ticked. Windows XP has a nice feature (not sure if it exists in previous versions) that instigates an automatic dial-up connection when you request an internet connection from another machine. Effectively this means that all you have to do to use your PC in peer to peer connection mode and still connect to the internet via your netBook is switch it on – neat! Again, I don’t have the firewall activated above since I use a 3rd party firewall – but as general rule of thumb it’s recommended (except perhaps when you’re setting up your WiFi stuff to begin with as I mentioned).

And there you have it. You can now use your home PC or laptop to run a (very cheap) WiFi connection to your netBook – even over a dial-up internet connection! In the next article I’ll explore some of the other things you can do over WiFi on your netBook and some of the useful software for doing it with…

Part 3 - Using WiFi on the netBook

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Saturday, 1 April 2006