- Internet & the Web
How to Get More Value From Your Broadband with WiFi Gadgets
If you have a broadband connection to your home and wireless networking (commonly known as WiFi) then have you considered that much of your available bandwidth or capacity is unused most of the time? So lets find out how to exploit your broadband!
This article reviews some of the many Wi Fi devices and gadgets available on the market that can help harness the spare bandwidth of your broadband connection and the local WiFi network, and, in some cases, save you money.
Typically broadband is delivered either via the same wires as the telephone connection (DSL) or via the fibre optic cable which delivers other services like cable TV. The broadband router has a different interface for each type of broadband.
The broadband router itself also typically includes a number of physical ports which you can connect directly to computers or games consoles using a Local Area Network (LAN) cable. It also transmits a WiFi signal which enables these devices to connect wirelessly to the router.
This provides two things:
- Internet connection for all devices connected to the router
- Interconnection between all the items connected to the router for file sharing, printer sharing etc.
But it is the use of WiFi which really makes the difference. With wireless internet access and wireless networking the user is free to surf the net, print documents or social network in the garden or anywhere else within range of WiFi access.
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Wi Fi Telephony
How do you use Broadband? Typically we surf the internet from one or more computers or connect games consoles to our wireless internet connection. But we don't exploit the full potential of the network which is available 24/7.
So what about using Broadband for Telephony? I have a small box from Linksys, the PAP2, that plugs into my broadband router and provides 2 Voice over IP (VoIP) ports. You can buy these devices ready set up for a particular network but I prefer to buy unlocked so you can switch networks when you like. This means I have the potential for two completely separate telephone connections via two separate suppliers.
I can then either plug in normal handsets to the box or connect wireless phones to it. My Signup, unique phone number and installation cost me nothing. I use a German company called Sipgate to provide my phone service. They charge me 1p (worth about 1 US cent) per minute for a landline call and 10p per minute to a mobile (there is no connection charge). Much cheaper than my regular UK phone line service.
Wi Fi Phone
If you want to make internet telephony really simple then you can just buy a WiFi phone ready set up for a network such as Skype.
The Edge Core WM4201 Skype Wi-Fi phone has a good range of facilities. This will then connect wirelessly to your wireless router and you can use it whilst within range of your router.
Better still you can use it at almost no cost within any wireless hotspot worldwide. It therefore functions rather like a cheap mobile phone when you are inside a WiFi hotspot.
Generally internet to internet calls are free; particularly to the same supplier (for example, Skype to Skype). It is only calls to landlines or mobiles which are charged.
WiFI Wireless Phone
Internet Radio has a number of advantages over a conventional radio that picks up signals direct from the station via an antenna. For a start you can listen to local radio throughout the world and without any interference.
While it is OK listening to Internet Radio via a PC you can also buy a standalone Internet Radio set that uses Wi Fi and connects to the internet via your broadband connection. The advantages of listening to an Internet Radio Set rather that listening to Internet Radio via a computer include:
- Ease of use
- Takes up less space.
- More portable
The Grace Internet Radio has received good reviews and offers value for money. It also enables you to stream music from your computer to the Radio so it also functions rather like an mp3 player.
Grace Internet Radio
There are some WiFi devices that don't easily fit into a product category. One example is the Chumby. It looks and in some ways behaves like a cross between a cut down media player and a bedside alarm clock. features include:
- Personalized alarm clock - wake up to music, news podcasts, weather, sports, stock updates.
- Music/podcast player - Listen to SHOUTcast, Mediafly, NY Times, CBS & more
- Check out the weather forecast as soon as you wake up with 15 weather widgets
- Use the chumby to view photos from Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, Facebook, or MySpace
- Stay connected - view activity on your social network accounts like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter
Also in the gadget category is the Nabaztag, a strange WiFi rabbit which moves its ears and signals by flashing lights. features include:
- Like a modern cuckoo clock, Nabaztag will speak out the time every hour
- Select your favorite MP3 and your Nabaztag will sing it for you when you wake up, or when you go to bed
- Get regular traffic and weather reports for anywhere in the world -- plus you can get headlines read to you in a voice you choose
- Receive financial information as your Nabaztag keeps an eye on the stock market - Get stock quotes and information through voice updates or light signals
WiFi Media Players
These devices are a bit like a WiFi Ipod. They play both music and video but the data can be streamed via the WiFi network rather than having to be stored in the device.
Some of them are capable of web browsing so they can replace a computer. A typical example is the Archos 705 Portable Wifi Media Player that has the following features:
- Robust and portable 160 GB multimedia device with Wi-Fi
- Download movies, TV shows, and songs via the integrated Archos content portal
- Surf the Web; share content; and view and post videos to Web video sites, such as YouTube
- Stream and watch videos from your PC
- Record your favorite TV shows
So far we've looked at a range of WiFi products including telephony, media players, internet radios and gadgets.
In addition, there are WiFi printers which enable you to print without a wired connection.
Then there are WiFi web cameras useful for applications such as keeping an eye on a sleeping baby, tracking wild life in the garden or for security applications.
So keep your eyes open for fresh ways of exploiting your WiFi network. New products are appearing every day! Make sure you are getting maximum benefit from your broadband connection and WiFi!