Networking with wires has always been something of a hassle, because the first thing to check whenever there are problems is whether or not someone has kicked out a connector. A couple of introductions recently might cut back on the troubles network managers have with their wiring. Most recently, NCR introduced WaveLAN, which is can transmit data at up to 2 megabits/second over a specific radio frequency set aside by the FCC. Its range is 250 to 1000 feet and works best in open environments as the radio waves can be stopped by thick walls of concrete or metal. Other companies market wireless networks which either use radio waves or the electrical wiring of a building, but so far all of them have been relatively slow, much slower than the relatively poky AppleTalk (230 kilobits/second). Even the 2 megabits/second WaveLAN isn't capable of running at EtherNet's 10 megabits/second over twisted pair cabling. Unfortunately none of these companies seem to have expressed any interest in making the changes to their products to allow them to be used with Macs, which is odd in the sense that Macs are so easy to network that many more people would set up small networks if there was no need to install and maintain wires. Like us, once we get a second Mac. Humph.
The best thing we've seen in the Mac world is Photolink from Photonics Corp. Basically, Photolink uses infrared light to transfer data at full AppleTalk speeds. All you have to do is aim the devices at a common point on the ceiling and plug them into the appropriate ports. The only real problem with them seems to be that they can easily be stolen since they aren't locked down. The Photolinks are also cost effective, because they run about $150 per unit, which isn't all that much more than installing new twisted pair wiring.
Recently, Photonics addressed another problem by introducing a version of Photolink that works between buildings - just aim the two units at each other through a window. Building-to-Building Photolink has a range of 600 feet and lists for $3990 per pair. Now if only Photonics would come out with some sort of wide-area wireless networking device. The theory is easy; the problem is that you need an FCC license to run a transmitter at the power required if you use radio waves or microwaves.
NCR -- 513/445-5000
Carrier Current Technologies -- 800/222-0377
OCI -- 800/OCI-LAWN
Photonics -- 408/370-3033
News Notebook 1.10
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
InfoWorld -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36, pg. 25
PC WEEK -- 03-Sep-90, Vol. 7, #35 , pg. 53