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Updated 3/2/2006

Our Broadband Condo: PC and Internet: The Starting Point

We decided to make our new condo a "broadband condo" for our guests and for us. We first considered the user needs and the current environment at the Pointe Santo condo complex.

User Needs

There are two broad sets of user needs: what we want to provide for guests staying in our condo, and what in addition we want for ourselves.

For our guests

We'll have guests renting our condo, and family and friends who are visiting. We'd like them to have the same computer and broadband resources they've become used to at home. This includes support for:

  • Guests who use broadband for fun--entertainment, personal information and communications--and those who need to work part-time while visiting.
  • Guests who bring their own PCs and those who don't.
  • Guests who bring their own wireless cards and those who don't.
  • Guests who want to print documents and photos, whether from their own PC or ours.
  • Guests who want to connect to their company networks.
  • Guests concerned about their children's use of the Internet while using a PC we provide.
  • Guests concerned about connecting their PCs to our network for fear they might get infected with a virus.

For us

We have the same needs as our guests, and more. Our home network is set up as a Windows NT domain--more like a small business than a normal home. We travel with two notebook PCs equipped with Windows XP Professional. Our personal guests often bring their own PCs when they visit us.

When we're staying at the condo, we'd like:

  • to have a comfortable and hassle-free environment for work and fun;
  • to be able to access our home network to retrieve and store files;
  • to be able to log securely onto our ISP's server;
  • to use multiple PCs simultaneously in the condo with a reliable broadband connection;
  • to network between Sandy's and Dave's PCs--we currently can't do this away from home because XP Pro requires a domain connection for networking;
  • to protect ourselves and our guests and us from viruses and hackers.

When we're back home, we'd like

  • to remotely diagnose and fix problems with the equipment at the condo;
  • to have what we install in the condo be relatively unbreakable by our guests and their children.

When we're neither at home nor at the condo, we'd also like to be able to access our home network and our ISP's server, and to network between our PCs.

Nice to Haves

Several needs are not on our first priority list but we may want to add later

  • a webcam so that people looking to vacation at the site can get a first-hand look at the location;
  • VoIP telephony based on SIP so we and guests can make outgoing phone calls without long distance charges.

The Current Environment

The clubhouse is visible through the railing to the right of the pictureThe Pointe Santo complex is well-equipped with Wi-Fi for broadband access. There's an 802.11g access point with an antenna on the roof of the clubhouse in the center of the complex, and several repeaters outside other buildings. It works great outside the buildings and on the screened porches with direct line of sight to the clubhouse (visible through the railing to the right of the picture).

From our previous stays at several different condos in the complex, we have found the wireless signal is not strong enough to penetrate far into the condos. We'd get a strong signal outdoors, but a weak to non-existant one inside. [It worked much better when we used a new wireless card based on MIMO technology--see Wi-Fi at Sanibel for more on our recent experience using MIMO to get a strong signal inside a condo.]

Our condo has an alcove off the dining room, an ideal location for a PC and a printer. The alcove is fairly far inside the unit, and we suspect that the wireless link will not work well there with most PCs.

Next: Key Technologies We'll Need