Cable Newbie questions

I'm about to drop my DSL service and go cable. I can either rent the modem ($5/mo) from the provider or buy one. If I buy one, by what criteria should I be judging the various modems?

Right now, I have our home network hardwired (1 desktop, 2 laptops). My desktop has the DSL modem (internal), running the laptops off/thru a Linksys 5 port "workgroup switch". The networked printer is hooked up to my desktop via LPT1. We are all running the same version of XP.

We are considering going wireless. Would I be better off to go with a wireless modem or wireless router and adapters? I'm asking from both financial and performance/reliability standpoints. From a cursory online search of Bad Buy/Jerkuit City, it looks like conventional modem= $60-80, wireless = $130. I haven't begun to look at adapters for the laptops. Any advice there?

Possibly stupid question: There is no need to have a wireless connection on my desktop, can I hardwire the desktop off a regular cable modem then the laptops off a wireless router and still keep the printer networked via my desktop?

BTW, what are the technical differences between a router, a hub and a switch?


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The "cable modem" is nothing more than a somewhat intelligent bridge. It bridges between the coax cable and Ethernet, and does so according to instructions given it by the cable company head end.

It does nothing more.

All you need to worry about is what specifications your cable company require--that is, what level of DOCSIS your equipment needs to support.

Simply call your cable company and ask.

Any other criteria would simply have to do with how well the thing is put together to do the single, simple job it has to do.

I bought a refurb, old stock 3com unit a couple of years ago; it does DOCSIS 1.0, which is all my cable company requires. I paid $13 for it. It's still working just fine. No, it doesn't have a web browser built in; I don't need a web browser to look inside my cable modem. I know if it's working or not without anything like that.

Don't spend a bunch of money on a cable modem.

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Elmo P. Shagnasty

First you need to see what modems are supported by your ISP. If they support the Motorola SB5100 get one of those.

I would stick to either Netgear or Linksys for all your gear. You can get a wirelss router with 4-port switch which gives you the best of both worlds for like $30 on sale with rebates. Similar deals are available for adapters if you need one. Stick to one brand for everything if at all possible. CompUSA, Circuit City and BestBuy along with Office Depot, Officemax and Staples all have regular sales on networking gear from Netgear and Linksys.

You can hardwire the desktop off your wireless router - they come with a 4-port switch.

Google it - you don't need a separate hub or switch if you have a router with built in switch (unless you need more than 4 devices connected). Hubs are pretty much passe these days with switches being so cheap.

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Also don't think you can just plug a modem in and it will work. The kable kompany needs to know the mac address.

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I'd keep modem and router functions separate. If you want, get a router with WiFi support. A router forwards IP traffic off the local network to a remote network, often via the internet. It works at level 3 in the protocol stack. Hubs and switches perform much the same funtion. They both work at level 2, and connect the various devices of a local network. They'll handle other protocols, in addition to IP. The big difference, is that a hub is essentially a party line, where all computers can see all traffic. This also means that packet collisions are an issue. A switch receives a packet, looks at the MAC address and forwards it via the appropriate port, to the destination computer. Incidentally, what's commonly sold as a "router", for consumer use, includes a router, switch, firewall, dhcp server etc.

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