Editor's Blog: My home wi-fi network - in search of fun



When it comes to IT at home, it's nearly all about work for me. My wife is self-employed, so I'm sort of her IT guy. (And yes, she's still in business.)

When I use tech at home, it's normally a case of logging on to our corporate systems over broadband and a VPN. I need to access all the obvious productivity apps plus the content management systems and analytics packages that are core to publishing these days.

It's only been recently (in the past year) that I've set up wi-fi at home, using a Linksys wireless router plugged in to our cable broadband. I wasn't a laggard before - I tended to have 3G cards knocking about, either from my employer or 'loaner' kit. I was, after all, in some ways still a mobile and wireless writer.

Now that I have wireless at home, my work laptop is the most common client for me when it comes to getting online and it all works together seamlessly.

I also use a PDA that has wi-fi and occasionally friends will want to get online. (I divulge the network password through gritted teeth.)

But I don't use any other devices. I don't have a games console, so there's no online gaming with teenagers around the world courtesy of the folks at a Microsoft or a Sony. But just recently I have started to use a Nintendo DS.

Why that device? I have to be honest and say that it isn't mine. I bought it for my father, for Christmas, on the premise that he'd be happy with Dr Kawashima's brain training regime. (He was and he wasn't - a long story, not for here.)

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Seeing it gathering dust, come February, I borrowed it, mainly to play retro Mario Kart games. One thing I'd looked forward to was connecting it to my home network and entering a networked gaming nirvana.

Could I show off my skills, honed more than 10 years ago when I actually had free time, to countless cocky teenagers around the world? Could I hell.

When I set up my home wireless network I used WPA for encryption. I knew, from a number of years back, that it is safer than the more widely used and known WEP. A press release earlier this month from security testing outfit NTA Monitor told me something I didn't know - not only is WEP not secure enough, it is "able to be cracked in just three seconds".

But what I found was that my - sorry, my dad's - DS only supports WEP. As far as I know, I can't run both encryption types at the same time.

I asked Nintendo whether they are happy with WEP, whether they have plans to allow WPA for networked wireless game playing. That was nearly two weeks ago. Haven't heard back.

It's disappointing. Surely wi-fi isn't all about work, work, work.

On a related note. I've noticed the number of wi-fi networks in my neighbourhood increasing significantly over the past year. Most appear to be secure. (I know WEP isn't 100 per cent secure but it's better than nothing.)

One network that isn't has an unusual name (BTW I advise a gobbledegook of jumbled letters and numbers, nothing that can link it to your address or name). It's simply called 'Private KEEP OUT'. That should do it!

It makes me think of dropping the encryption altogether. I might just change our SSID to 'BEWARE THE VIRTUAL DOG'.