|Recent studies suggest that the number of
households with multiple PC's is upwards of fifteen million in the U.S. alone and growing
every day. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were somehow possible to link all of the PCs in
your home so that you could share files and peripherals or even play games with each other
without all of the hassle of all of the wiring up to a network hub cluttering up the
THE SIMPLICITY OF
The HomeFree Wireless Desktop Pack from Diamond Multimedia allows you to easily network PCs that are located anywhere in your home. There's no need to set up your computer by an extra phone jack or hook up to a hub. HomeFree's powerful wireless signal can link up to 16 PCs, up to 150' apart. Setting up a two-PC HomeFree network requires a little effort, but Diamond's included documentation covers the process very well. The Desktop Pack consists of one PCI card, one ISA card, an excellent "Getting Started Guide", a "Start Here" poster and HomeFree's software CD. To simply share files between systems, you first need to install the software and one card in each system. The attached antennae on these cards extend a few inches out the back of your systems, acting as transmitters and receivers for the wireless data sent between them. If you plan on using shared Internet access, the process is a bit more complicated. After installing the cards, you'll need to identify one system as the Internet gateway on which you'll also install a software router by using the included WinNAT software. If you encounter any difficulties, the "Start Here" poster and the Getting Started Guide are extremely helpful.
A major benefit of home networking is the ability to share peripherals that are attached to another PC in your home. HomeFree lets you use any installed printer, even if it's hooked up to the PC in another room. Plus, Both the HomeFree Desktop Pac and the Combo Pac include Internet-sharing software at no additional cost. This powerful software, valued at $49.95, allows multiple users to simultaneously share a single high-speed Internet connection. This software includes Firewall support for an extra layer of protection. If you currently require multiple internet accounts HomeFree "pays for itself" by enabling Internet access from a single computer, using only one modem, one phone line and one Internet account.
Rather than copying files to and running disks to and from each of your PCs, HomeFree will conveniently transfer your files over the wireless network connection. HomeFree makes it easy to share files of any size among all of the PCs in your home. You can also install software using the CD-ROM drive of one PC to a PC without a CD-ROM drive.
HomeFree adds a new dimension to home PC gaming. With HomeFree, you can home and Internet multi-player gaming for the maximum number of players each game allows. Plus, HomeFree's high-speed transfer rate delivers the performance that today's games require. This makes PC games far more interactive and enjoyable.
HomeFree's sophisticated wireless technology ensures a high level of reliability. Its intelligent design blocks out interference from cordless phones, microwaves and other transmitting devices. While other wireless networks operate at a frequency similar to many transmitting devices (900Mhz), HomeFree uses a unique frequency (2.4GHz) to avoid any potential interference.
HomeFree randomly switches frequencies (over 80 channels at up to 1 million switches per second) to secure your network, making it nearly impossible to intercept and decode the transmission. Plus, another HomeFree household cannot read your files. Your network is customized upon installation and at each time you add another PC to your network.
HomeFree Desktop Pack
Wireless Transceiver Specifications:
Media Access Protocol:
Maximum Data Rate:
We tested the HomeFree Networking System on a pair of PCs each equipped with AMD's K6-2 350MHz CPU, 64MB of System RAM, 6.4G Hard Drives and Diamond Viper 330 graphics cards. Since my home is quite small, I could only place the PCs approx. 21' apart with 2 walls dividing them. We then tested the transfer rate by transferring various types of files of sizes ranging from 42KB to 11.5MB, measuring the time in seconds over 3 transfers, averaging, and then dividing to get a transfer rate in Kbps, with the following results...
As you can see, transfer rates were a far cry from the maximum 1Mbps data rate transfer that the the specification calls for. As to peripheral sharing, printing through the network was smooth and efficient, but, modem and CD-ROM drive sharing seemed rather slow. Accessing the internet through the satellite PC went smoothly enough but it seemed to take awhile to download pages, and trying to play multimedia games which require access to a CD-ROM drive from the satellite was painfully slow and jerky. But playing Quake II against one another was excellent.
The technology that powers the Diamond's HomeFree Wireless Network is still rather new and I fully expect that in its newer releases, the transfer rates will aggressively increase. For now, HomeFree seems a good choice as a new technology toy rather than a powerful networking solution. Great for multiplayer games doesn't make for great business productivity however it is more than adequate for the average home networking neophyte. As with most all PC technology look for prices to come down somewhat over the next few months and when you're ready to get your feet wet with wireless jump on in...