Saturday, December 1, 2001

Another look at Xircom’s 802.11b Wireless LAN Module


By David Gewirtz

Since this issue of PalmPower's Enterprise Edition is devoted to wireless networking, we figured it'd be valuable to take another look at one of the newer and more interesting products to reach the market: the Xircom 802.11b Wireless LAN Module. Ray Rischpater provided an excellent review of the device in the September issue of PalmPower's Enterprise Edition at, but I wanted to share my own experiences using this wireless solution and provide new insights.

Now, we've already talked at some length about which wireless is which in other articles in this issue, so I won't belabor the point. But, just in case you're still unclear, 802.11b is the wireless standard that works within a relatively small area, say inside your building.

Examples of 802.11b

A good way to illustrate this is with an example. At ZATZ, we've implemented 8021.11b in the office, and I've hooked it up at home as well. Since the simplest example is how I've wired it at home, I'll talk about that first. Take a look at Figure A.


Here's my 802.11b setup. (click for larger image)

At home, I get my broadband Internet feed via a cable modem, so the cable from the cable company plugs into the back of the cable modem. The cable modem also has an Ethernet port, and I've run a cable from the Ethernet port of the cable modem into what's called a Wireless Access Point, which is really my 802.11b hub.

My Wireless Access Point is from Linksys (at, and it does double-duty as a 4-port hub. As a result, the Ethernet connection from the cable modem goes into the Wireless Access Point, and I can also wire in four other additional computers. At home, all I've got going into this device is my desktop PC.

It's the wireless part of the Wireless Access Point that makes things interesting. As you can see, I can talk to my laptop, my Palm m505, and a server box, all wirelessly. I implemented the wireless network because I wanted to stick the server box in another room, and I didn't want to run Ethernet cables through my living room.

Our implementation at the office is similar, although the whole network is far more complex. Our T-1 feed goes into a main 16-port hub, which then feeds a series of 8-port hubs throughout the office. One of those hubs connects into the Wireless Access Point, providing a solid Ethernet feed into the Wireless Access Point. We use this Wireless Access Point to connect computers that would otherwise be a pain to link by physical cable. It's a slower connection that our 100BaseT connection, but it's easier to set up.