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24 Days of Gadgets - Day 9

December 9, 2009 - Dave Hecei
Wireless networking is great. With it, you can wander from room to room or connect a device where you cannot run a cable. If you are just using your network for surfing the Internet or sharing printers, then WiFi – especially the g or n variety – is plenty fast enough. If you want to use your network to share files or stream video to the home theatre in the living room, then a wired network is a must.

Ethernet has been built into Mac for many years now. The very first Mac had AppleTalk, but then Ethernet became an industry standard and Apple quickly adopted it. Just like WiFi, Ethernet does have different speeds. It has gone from 10 megabits per second (Mbps), to 100Mbps. Today, all Macs have 1000Mbps networking built-in, or what is often referred to as gigabit Ethernet.

To interconnect Macs, and PCs, together and maintain the gigabit performance, you need a gigabit switch. This is just a box with several Ethernet ports, sort of like a USB hub but for networking. These can come with just a few ports or you can get them with 48-ports.

For most home networks a gigabit switch with 5 ports should work just fine. Netgear makes great networking products that are easy to use and priced right. The GS605 is a 5-port gigabit switch that is compact and can sit upright or flat on a desk. All the ports on the GS605 can automatically sense the proper speed (10, 100, 1000Mbps) so you can mix and match computers, printers, and other network peripherals.

There is no setup required on this type of network switch. Just plug it in and connect your devices. With a gigabit network you can now keep all your multimedia files in one locations, either a computer or a NAS (network attached storage) device. Any computer on the gigabit network can now copy or play that file without big delays or stuttering playback.

So if you have an AppleTV, Mac mini, or other media player hooked to your home theatre, gigabit will allow you to smoothly playback even HD content.


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