Build Your Own Wi-Fi Network by Shelley Brisbin
Book Review

Build Your Own Wi-Fi Network
Shelley Brisbin

Osborne / McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-222624-2
US$ 24.95 CA$ 37.95

The popularity of the wireless networking of personal computers is rapidly growing, especially for laptop users. Wireless networking goes by several monikers; Apple calls it AirPort, many PC manufacturers call it Wi-Fi, and techies refer to its official name of 802.11b. Most business oriented hotels, and airport frequent-flyer lounges now provide Wi-Fi access, and boutique coffee shops are adding wireless networking to attract and keep customers.

If you want to share your Internet access at home between several computers, be they Macs or Windows machines, wireless networking is becoming more and more affordable. But there is often more to this technology than meets the eye. I have a Mac; do I have to buy Apple-branded equipment? What access point (the Base Station, in Apple-speak) do you buy? What wireless card do you buy? What about security?

Shelley Brisbin’s Build Your Own Wi-Fi Network is aimed at end users wanting to learn more than just the basics of how to get your Wi-Fi up and running. Brisbin’s extensive experience authoring computer books and articles (nine books and many articles) helps her to thoroughly cover the subject.

Will this book be useful to the average Macintosh owner who wants to go wireless, be it with Apple’s AirPort equipment, or third-party hardware? At first glance, the distinctly Windows orientation of the book appeared to make it less-than-useful to Mac users. But Brisbin is careful to be fairly platform agnostic; each section includes Mac information. Since many wireless routers are configured via a web browser, the screen shots are perfectly useful to Mac users. Ironically, Apple’s own AirPort Base Station is one of the few wireless access points not configured via a web browser!

If all you want is a quick and dirty overview of wireless networking, Build Your Own Wi-Fi Network may be a bit much. But if you want a basic grasp of the fundamentals of how 802.11b works, without being overwhelmed with too much information, Brisbin provides it. She is able to walk that fine line between too much and not enough detail. All aspects of wireless are covered, including sections on antennas, multiple access points, wireless-to-wired networking issues, and many more.

Build Your Own Wi-Fi Network covers what to look for in both access points, and wireless cards. Several brands are discussed. This kind of information is platform agnostic, so don’t let the Windows screenshots and references dissuade you.

Brisbin devotes plenty of time to discuss wireless networking security in detail. Many wireless users are not aware of how exposed their networks can be. Even if they do, they don’t know how to decide how much security to implement. The chapters on security are very valuable, and every purchaser of this book should read this section carefully. You may be more exposed than you think! Again, the information Brisbin provides is fully applicable to Macintosh users.

If you want a thorough grounding in wireless networking fundamentals, this book should be high on your list.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

David Weeks

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