A my house, we have a bunch of devices connected to the network: three laptops, the kids’ computer, two desktops, a Blu-ray player, an Xbox 360, and a Nintendo Wii. Some of these devices, like the gaming consoles and laptops, have built-in Wi-Fi. The desktops, however, do not. The only device wired to the network is the Blu-ray player because it is right next to the router and cable modem. Everything else is in a different part of the house.
When you have a situation like this, there are a few options:
- Install a wireless PCI card in your desktop computer
- Use a wireless USB dongle
- Use a wireless network bridge
The PCI card is the most permanent option, but as many Linux users know, it can be a hassle finding one that works well. The same is true of the USB dongle, and it will permanently occupy one of your precious USB ports. Therefore, for me, the wireless bridge option made the most sense.
Buying a wireless bridge by itself is not the cheapest option. For one of my desktops, I use a Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL, the famed Linux-based router that was a hacking favorite back in the day. It has a wireless bridge option so that computers connected to it can connect to another router wirelessly. That means you could conceivably connect an entire second network over a wireless connection.
For my second wireless bridge, I chose the Cisco-Linksys WET610N Dual-Band Wireless-N Gaming and Video Adapter. When they say “gaming and video adapter”, they mean to say that it is optimized for high-speed gaming and video streaming. I originally bought it to work with the Blu-ray player, which can stream Netflix and Hulu, but it is now hooked to a desktop. Unlike the WRT54GL router, this bridge can only connect one device at a time.
One of the huge benefits of a wireless bridge over other options is that you can easily move it from one device to another without the need for reconfiguration. Once the bridge is setup to connect to your wireless network, it will automatically do so as soon as you turn it on, and forever thereafter. The computers that use it will consider themselves connected to a wired network and automatically assigned an IP address via DHCP. This eliminates the need for any network configuration on the computer itself.