manufactures a number of products for the home computer. Many of these
products are familiar to me and may be familiar to you as well. They have
made innovative products for computer peripherals, such as Input/output
devices (keyboards, mice, etc.) for many years and they enjoy a positive
reputation for quality products and for good customer support. The products
being reviewed are the IOGEAR HomePlug Ethernet Bridge Model GHPB01 and
the IOGEAR HomePlug to USB Network Adapter Model GHPU01. This review looks
at a combination of these two products can be used to establish a home
network. One simple advantage to these home or SOHO devices is the
fact that you have built-in wired home network if you use the HomePlug
system. Both are certified HomePlug Powerline 1.0 compliant. For those
of you who are uninitiated or even novice “home network builders” like
me, HomePlug is a fairly common home network industry name and simply means
that you are sending your information through the electrical outlets via
the electrical wiring in your house.
The connection distance between points is up to 990 feet, with the Ethernet
Bridge at up to 14 MBps speed, according to the documentation. The USB
Network Adapter reports a maximum of 12 MBps bandwidth at up to 990 feet.
I can’t vouch for the speed or distance claims, as my computers are only
100 feet or thereabouts apart. The speeds mentioned are much faster than
dialup modems 56Kbps, and they even surpass wireless WiFi speed and DSL
speed as well.
As far as compatibility with your computer system, here is what you
need to setup a HomePlug networking connection. You will need two HomePlug
device units (to connect the 2 computers), a CD-ROM drive and access to
an electrical wall outlet with standard home power line wiring. Microsoft
Windows 98SE, ME, 2000 or XP as the operating system and an available 10/100
Base T network adapter connection (for the Ethernet Bridge) or a USB port
(for the USB Network Adapter) are the only requirements for the respective
computer systems. Both the Ethernet Bridge device and the USB Network Adapter
unit can be used to ready one computer as a network computer. The Ethernet
Bridge, when used with a switch, has the flexibility of being able to connect
networks of computers together. This is true so long as each of the computers
is connected to an IOGEAR Ethernet Bridge or to an IOGEAR USB Network Adapter.
|A word of caution
||if you do set up a network in this manner, you
can have no more than two Ethernet Bridges connected on the same network.
On to my story . . . hey, I’ll bet you didn’t know that you were
getting a bonus story with this review, now did you? What happened was
the HomePlug devices arrived from IOGEAR with little more than a week left
before the reviews were due for the magazine. This meant the products had
to be installed, setup, utilized, evaluated and a review written before
the deadline! That is a tall order, but one that I accepted when Vade Forrester,
who did an excellent job of coordinating this SOHO/home networking theme
issue, informed me that he didn’t have anyone willing to take on this task
on such short notice. The fact that you are reading this means that I completed
the assignment. Understand this; I have never networked anything, much
less my home computer environment. I am a total novice, this I admit freely.
I have thought about it, because the idea of sharing files on multiple
computers and sharing Internet connections is appealing. In the past, I
have been swayed not to try this by my confusion at the (for me) complexity
of putting together a network. For me, the variety of terms used in networks
is a major concern, routers, hubs, switches, gateways, servers, residential
gateways, wireless or WiFi, Ethernet, PhoneLine, HomePlug TCP/IP, DHCP,
IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, NetBIOS, IP Addresses and so on. What are they and how
do they work, and what’s more, what do I need in order to set a network
up and finally, if I do set one up, how should I use it?
Such were my fears. They have been allayed, at least somewhat. The Ethernet
Bridge and the USB Network Adapter both were fairly easy to install on
the respective computers. The software arrives on a CD in the Ethernet
Bridge box and worked smoothly on my Windows XP Professional machine. The
USB Adapter had a similar CD and installed easily on my computer that is
running Windows 2000 Professional. All was going well, or so I thought.
However, challenges remained and this is the point where things came to
a screeching halt and flustered me for several days. I used the small manual
that came in the box and looked for information on the CD. Using the CD
and the manual, adequately covered the hardware aspect of setup. Despite
the fact that the computers both seemed to have the network installed,
neither machine could recognize the other machine. The bottom line to wrap
up my little story is that there are a few things you need to do in Windows
to let these computers recognize each other and network together to share
data, files, printers and other peripherals. I will mention a couple of
things that I did wrong as a warning if you try to set up your own network.
One is that both computers have to be in the same “Workgroup” (according
to how they are named) and secondly, you need to designate what and how
you are “sharing” resources from each computer on the network. Suffice
it to say that after consulting with Kelli Arvin and David Steward at the
January monthly Alamo PC Meeting, their advice pushed me in the right direction
and I was soon happily networking with these two computers.
Now practically, what difference does it make if you already have the
two computers? You still have the same resources do you not? Yes, Mr. Skeptic,
you do, however, let me tell you what I have done with my network. Mind
you, I am still a novice who loves to learn, but I can already share MP3
files from my first computer to my second and vice versa, I can share data
files, printers, digital cameras, digital video and even an Internet connection
if I choose. Is networking safe for your data and the shared resources?
Yes, because these HomePlug devices have a 56-bit DES encryption which
is done by the hardware and does not detract from your network connection
speed. However, you have to make sure that encryption is enabled on your
network, and this is done by way of the accompanying network software.
Another plus, the HomePlug network infrastructure is compatible worldwide.
Setting up a network connection using these devices requires no running
of separate or additional wires in around or through your house. Finally,
in comparison to phone line networking, there are about 5 phone jacks in
a typical house, while there are routinely 45 electrical outlets in a house.
The data is delivered regardless of the age of the wiring, its size or
power line voltage level and it does not interfere with the normal line
current. It is a reliable network and is unlikely to suffer interference
from other RF devices.
You can find the IOGEAR HomePlug Ethernet Bridge and USB Network Adapter
online direct from the IOGEAR
site, and the price is $99.95 after a $20.00 rebate. The rebate offer
is good through the end of March, 2003. I also found them both on the CompUSA
Business Website for $67.09, after the aforementioned rebate was applied.
With my minimal exposure to these devices, I would recommend deploying
your network this way. One thing is sure, if you are like I am, you will
learn a lot doing a networking project.