Abstract This essay is an evaluation of the technical communication that comes with a wireless network router. A network router is a device that serves as a gateway between the internet and a home’s internal network (intranet). A wireless router is an addition to a regular router, this kind of router allows for the intranet to be wireless as well.
Introduction Wireless routers are used to manage and handle network traffic traveling from one point to another. Their main job is to route traffic to its desired destination. The kind of router that is being evaluated has the added component of allowing for wireless signals to be transmitted from the router to a client; this eliminates the need for wires to be run all over a house. Being a highly technical device, there is a great need for clear and concise technical communication to help manage and operate a wireless router.
Principle and Operation A basic router is designed to mange any all traffic from the internet, and to distribute this traffic across the intranet to the desired client. The router does this using an embedded microprocessor and operating system that is designed to manage network traffic. In a typical router setup, the router is connected to the user’s cable or DSL modem by an Ethernet cable. Data from the internet connection flows into the router, and there, based on the destination and any factory or user created rules setup in the router, the data is the pushed out to the appropriate clients.
CONT.. For a wireless router, the situation is the similar. However, when the data is pushed out it may be destined for a wireless client, so an embedded wireless transmitter sends the data out to any client that is connected. The wireless transmitter uses the IEEE 802.11g standard for data transmission. The 802.11g standard defines the transmission frequency at 2.3 GHz, and the maximum data transmission rate at 54mbps. The 54mbps is almost half as fast as a wired Ethernet connection, but what you lose in throughput; you gain in the convenience of having a connection that requires no wires.
Cont… The main difference between a wired and wireless router is that when using the wireless, the client must first be able to find the wireless signal transmitted by the router. Once it is able to find the signal, the client initiates communication with the router, and depending on the way the router is setup, the client may be prompted to enter a password. This password is used to prevent unauthorized access to the wireless connection, because the wireless is constantly transmitting a signal so that clients can connect.
Evaluation of TechnicalCommunication Now that the basic operation of a wireless router has been established, the documentation for operating and managing the router can be evaluated. The model router is a Linksys WRTG54L, a standard 802.11g wireless router. This router was chosen because of its unique method of technical communication. The first instance of technical communication that the user interacts with is a big red sticker on the outside box that states RUN CD FIRST (figure 1).
The router’s manufacturer wanted to empathize that before you hookup the router, you run the included CD that will help with the setup. Inside the box was a tri-fold paper booklet, containing the aforementioned CD, an advertisement pamphlet showing the company’s other products, and a registration card. The tri-fold booklet can be considered the first piece of technical communication, as it re-emphasizes to run the CD first, as well as providing some images of the software on the CD. On the right flap there was information listed on how to get help, either through the software, by telephone or by going to a web site (figure 2).
The CD consists of a simple wizard interface that guides you through a very basic setup and simple configuration of the router. The CD wizard makes sure your computer can connect to the router, and that the router can connect to the internet. The CD wizard will walk you through the setup of the wireless network, letting you pick a password to protect it. The wizard serves as an interactive piece of technical communication and will be all most people will need to configure the router.
The real configuration takes place within the routers software, which you can only reach by typing the IP address of the router, then entering in the default user name and password, both of which are provided on the CD.
Once you have logged in to the router, you are presented a webpage that serves as the primary interface for modifying and configuring the routers settings. This web-based interface can be considered the primary technical communication for the device, because it is the only piece of technical communication that describes the functions of the device and how you should use it.
The web page provides information about each and every setting that the device has. The web page is divided into four sections, a header bar on the top, a left side bar with top level descriptions of the content in the center section, and a right hand side bar that is used to explain the features in the center section (figure 3).
These configuration pages provide a detailed look at every feature and setting that the router has. These pages are where more experienced users can configure the firewall, modify access rights, and enable or disable the wireless transmitter. Most users will never see these pages, once they have followed the CD wizard; the router is usually configured properly for their uses. Only when something needs to be changed, such as a port opened so a program can communicate with the internet, would an average user have to view these pages.
To help the average user along, the right hand side of every page provides a quick reference for each setting and also a link that opens another web page that provides a detailed view of the settings on that page (figure 4). This can be very useful for those who are wary ofchanging the settings in the router.
Conclusion The technical communication that was provided by the manufacturer for this router did not take the form of a paper manual, but instead was an interactive CD and a web-based configuration. These are both a different way of providing the user with information about the product as well as how to use it. The CD is used for general setup, most of the time it will be all a user needs. The real technical communication comes from the web-based configuration: there is where all the settings are explained.