The lowdown on Wi-Fi

What are they? Wi-Fi network interface cards are a major component of wireless LANs. Those listed in the chart are PC Cards that reside in notebook and desktop PCs, and are equipped with tiny built-in antennae for sending and receiving radio signals.

How do they work? They operate on the 2.4-GHz frequency at a theoretical throughput rate of 11 Mbps. In what's called the infrastructure mode configuration, they work with an access point that establishes the link between a wired LAN and the remote computers. If they are used in an ad hoc configuration, they establish peer-to-peer connections between computers without being hooked up to wired LANs.

When do I need one? If you have a wireless LAN built on the Wi-Fi standard, you need a Wi-Fi NIC in every remote computer to establish wireless connectivity.

Must know info? Competing 802.11a and 802.11g wireless technologies could eventually edge Wi-Fi off the top of the pile, but the stability and maturity of Wi-Fi equipment make it worth investigating now if you are interested in a wireless network.

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