These days, every second phone, laptop and radio seems to have a wireless connection - we can barely move for the bristling of the airwaves. Even 3G wireless has finally taken off, some five years since mobile-phone operators paid a king's ransom for the privilege of acquiring a piece of the cellular action.
Our recent broadband survey found a small but significant number of consumers are now using 3G Wi-Fi on their laptops in favour of an ADSL broadband connection, while Wi-Fi itself has finally come of age and can cope with streaming TV and video around the home.
Business phones such as the BlackBerry Bold, the Palm Treo Pro and almost every Windows Mobile 6.1-based handset all have Wi-Fi. Even Tesco has got in on the act with its Talk Wi-Fi handset (tinyurl.com/TescoWiFi). And, of course, 3G is a key part of the Apple iPhone and Google Android platforms.
In the following workshop, we'll show you how to share devices wirelessly with Vista.
1. Found under Start, Network, Vista's Network and Sharing Center is where you first set up your home network and adjust settings to make wireless-enabled peripherals visible. It's also where you check the network's status and alter settings to optimise its performance.
2. From the Tasks list at the left of the Network and Sharing Center, choose ‘Connect to a network' and let Vista browse for available connections and wireless-enabled devices. You may need to enter your password in order to use your Wi-Fi connection. However, you should be able to ‘find' other Wi-Fi hardware within range.
3. You can see the strength of the available wireless network on the right of the ‘Connect to a network' results pane. This pane will also tell you whether or not the wireless network in question is security-enabled. (It certainly should be.) Click your chosen network to join it.
4. You can connect to a wireless printer, scanner or a shared media drive by finding them on the network. Although it's possible to do this by making your PC ‘discoverable', Vista doesn't have this active by default. A virtual private network (VPN) is a safer option.
5. To create a VPN, choose ‘Dial-up and VPN' under the network connection options that appear and specify Home, Work or Public Place. This will affect how Vista configures your firewall settings, with strengthened ones if you tell it you're in a public hotspot. We're creating a Home VPN.
6. Click any items that appear in the network discovery list that you want to be able to use. If you want to be able to access content from any PC, or to be able to log on to a media server, you should enable folder sharing in the Network and Sharing Center. You'll need the relevant access privileges for the other device.
7. Sharing files with other people or computers that are connected to yours can be a risky business. However, Windows Vista offers a number of options to help you do so more safely. A wizard takes you through the setup procedure and lets you specify the network's editing and reading permissions.
8. If it's media you want to share, you can use Windows Media Player 11.0. Click the Library tab and choose Media Sharing. Acknowledge the warning about making your network public and click through to the pane asking whether you want to ‘Share my media'. Click ok. You can now stream music from other PCs.