Connecting Clients to a Wireless Network

In the second part of this series, you'll learn how to connect wireless clients and how to ensure wireless security.

 By Brien M. Posey
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In Part 1 of this series ( Wireless Networking Benefits and Hardware Requirements ), I discussed the basic operations of a 3Com Air Connect hub. However, you're probably wondering how the clients connect to this hub. In this article, I'll explain the process of connecting clients to a wireless network. I'll then go on to address the issue of wireless security.

Wireless Client Hardware

As you might have guessed, wireless clients must have a wireless network card. At the time I created my wireless LAN, I paid about $2,000 for a wireless network starter kit. This kit included a wireless hub and three PCMCIA network cards. You can see one such card in Figure 1. As you can see, it looks exactly like any other PCMCIA network card except for the black antenna attached to the end of the card. 3Com also sells wireless PCI network cards, so you can attach standard PCs to a wireless network.

Figure 1
Figure 1: A wireless network card is necessary for attaching clients to a wireless network.

Installing a wireless network card is similar to installing any other type of network card. Before you set up your first client, though, you must configure the hub. You do so by attaching the hub to a serial port and using any terminal program (such as Hyper Terminal) to attach to it. Once you've initiated communications with the hub, you'll see a configuration summary screen similar to the one shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: You must configure the hub before its first use.

As you can see in the figure, you can set a wide variety of options. However, some of these options are more important than others. For example, I highly recommend assigning a password to the hub. Doing so prevents people from making configuration changes. (You'll see why this is so important later on.)

While you're in the configuration mode, you must also assign the hub a static IP address. Although the hub requires a static address, you don't necessarily have to use an address that's registered through a DNS server.

Finally, you must set a WLAN service area. The WLAN service area is simply a number that identifies hubs and wireless PCs as belonging to the same wireless network. That way, if your next-door neighbor installs a wireless LAN, your clients won't try to connect to that network unless both networks have the same WLAN service area number.

The configuration process varies between different brands of wireless hubs. However, on 3Com hubs, the process is very simple: Simply press Esc, and the terminal session will switch from a summary screen to a menu screen similar to the one shown in Figure 3. You can use this menu to configure any of the hub's options.

Figure 3: The wireless hub is menu-configurable.

Once the hub has been configured, mount it in its permanent location. If appropriate, attach a patch cable to bridge the wireless LAN to your Ethernet LAN. You're now ready to attach clients. The process of installing a wireless network card is identical to that of installing any other network card, with one exception. During the configuration process, the network card's driver will ask you for a WLAN service area number. Simply supply the number that you used on the hub, and you're in business.

This article was originally published on Nov 28, 2000
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