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The computer I would mostly be using it with is a laptop running linux too, if that is an issue. I don't currently have any sort of wireless thing set up, but may in the future (if I could ever figure out how to set it up and take care of any security issues).
The cheapest one looks like the MR814 called a 'Cable/DSL wireless router'. Its description mentions an 'install tutorial'. Is there really that much to install? I was under the impression it was just a matter of plugging in and connecting the cable modem to the router and then to the computer?
Other ones come bundled with a 'PC Card' - just what is a PC card anyway? And do I need one?
They also sell switches in the same section - someone mentioned those in a recent thread here - what do they do and is it something I need?
Anyway - I don't have any idea of what to buy, and any advice would be appreciated.
The only problem I've had was interference from my 2.4mhz cordless phone. It caused the connection to drop whenever the phone rang. I took the simple solution and replaced the phone with 5ghz model. Problem solved.
Even if you have just one machine, a router can still be useful as a firewall. There are numerous methods of configuration that can make your computer more secire from internet attack.
Installation can be pretty easy. Even so, you won't want to just accept the default settings on the router as they tend to err on the side of openess instead of security.
A PC card is what was formerly known as a (I hope I get this right) PCMCIA card. It's roughly the size of a thick credit card and slides into a slot on your laptop. If your laptop doesn't have wireless built in, you'll want to get a wireless PC Card. They can also be modems, ethernet cards, GPS devices, etc.
A switch is a simpler version of a router (which is a very simple explanation).
I don't have any experience with Linux, so I don't know what kind of issues that may involve.
I actually can't remember if I have a wireless card installed already or not. Maybe I shouldn't get one of the wireless ones. There's another Netgear one called RP614 4-port WebSafe Cable/DSL Router, it doesn't mention anything about wireless, maybe it would be easier to set up.
Let me ask this though: how risky is it to have a cable connection without a router? I ask in part because I was delaying getting the cable connection until I got this sorted out, but I'm in kind of a hurry to get that cable connection.
You can get by without a router as long as you have set up a firewall on your computer. I went without a router for years with ZoneAlarm installed on my PC desktop. The main advantage to a router is being able to share your internet connection with more than one computer.
If you want to test your internet security, a good tool is the free Shields UP! at Gibson Research [grc.com]. It will let you know where you might be vunerable to attack.
-- added: I'm checking at Shields Up to see what happens (with a dial up acccount):
It seems I'm passing most things but failed at the ones below. But it looks like that site is mostly looking for windows type things.
Solicited TCP Packets: RECEIVED (FAILED)
Ping Reply: RECEIVED (FAILED)
I'n not familiar with linux, but a quick Google search of "linux firewall software" will give you several options, many of them free.
And FWIW, even though I've got a router, I still have a software firewall running on my desktop PC. So I'd recommend the software firewall regardless if you get a router or not. But again, I don't know how vunerable linux is as a desktop system. I've got my PC protected with a firewall, virus protection, spyware checker, etc. I have nothing of the sort on my Mac (other than it going through the router).