Set up home network with Diamond's radio spectrum...

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January 11, 1999|By Gareth Branwyn

Set up home network with Diamond's radio spectrum hardware

With the rapidly dropping prices of PCs, many households find themselves with more than one computer. But what about all of those peripherals? Do you get a scanner for each machine? Printer? Modem? Do you shuttle disks around the house to move data from one PC to the next? You could hook up your own Ethernet, but that's just too ``deep geek'' for most people.

Diamond Multimedia offers a solution that just about anyone can afford and set up. Their HomeFree Wireless Network comes in several different flavors to handle a variety of network situations. The Desktop Pac comes with one ISA and one PCI card ($199.95), while the Combo Pac has one ISA and one PC Card ($229.95) for networking a desktop and a laptop machine. Additional cards can be purchased ($99.95 to $129.95) to expand your network up to 16 computers.

Unlike other home networking schemes that use your house's wiring, phone system, or require running cables, HomeFree uses the 2.4GHz radio spectrum to transfer data (at up to 1Mbps over a range of up to 150 feet). Spread-spectrum technology is used to ``frequency-hop'' the data transfers, so you don't have to worry about the security of this ``over-the-airwaves'' system.

One amazing thing about HomeFree is that, like all local area networks, it allows anyone on the network to access printers, scanners, modems and other peripherals. The whole house can use the same Internet account (at the same time!), you can play multi-player games, or type sweet little nothings to your spouse downstairs.

Home networking will become commonplace over the next few years. You can get a jump on things and save a bundle on duplicate peripherals with this easy networking solution.

Information: 408-325-7000 or www.diamondmm.com

WebRacer offers device that eases surfing on Internet

I was skeptical of WebRacer ($59.99), Kensington's new Internet-friendly input device, when I first heard about it. Did we really need another weird-looking mutation of the mouse/touchpad?

Basically, WebRacer is a touchpad with programmable buttons that can be tailored to access favorite Web sites, your bookmarks file, the software buttons on your browser, and to execute macro commands. It can work with an existing input device (if you have a spare serial port) or be used alone. The device comes with Kensington's excellent MouseWorks software, which offers an incredible number of customizable features.

I tried using WebRacer as both my sole pointing device and as a Web-only tool. I found myself quickly getting comfortable with it by itself and would easily adopt it, but it didn't work seamlessly with all my programs (I can't change the channels on my TV card software). As a Web-only navigator, it might seem unnecessary and unwieldy to all but true-blue power users, but after I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it. The 18-foot cord and ``soft'' keyboard let you sit back and navigate from a distance (if you can make out the tiny on-screen key caps).

The WebRacer is definitely not for everyone, but if you spend a lot of time online and want an input device that puts Net navigation first, it might be worth a shot on your desktop.

Information: 800-280-8318 or www.kensington.com

You can find full reviews of these and other neat gadgets at www.streettech.com.

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