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Wireless networking can be a tricky business, especially at home. Browse these sites, and you’ll save yourself more than a little frustration, not to mention time.

I spent my Christmas vacation trying to get my new wireless camera connected to my wireless gateway/router. I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t exactly my idea of how to spend a holiday. It wasn’t fun, but in the end, thanks to help from a few key Web sites, I was able to get everything up and running.

When something goes awry with your network, your first bet is always to contact the manufacturer. But if, say, Belkin made your router, and D-Link your camera, you may run into a case of it’s-the-other-guy’s-fault, and in that case you might need to turn to a third party for advice. In this column, we’ll explore a few Web sites dedicated to just that, and take a look at what each of them has to offer.

Practically Networked is one of the most useful wireless sites on the Web by far. The Web site offers a plethora of wireless-product reviews, a message board, troubleshooting guides, user opinions, and more.

The troubleshooting section is second to none when it comes to breadth of topics covered. Themes include gaming, routers, software problems, FTP issues, firewall snafus, and much more. Moreover, each article is presented in an easy-to-understand format and includes in-depth help and advice for solving any particular problem. And if your problem isn’t included, you can easily post your dilemma to the message board.

From product reviews to solving problems, Practically Networked should be your first stop on the Web for all things wireless. There are a lot of sites out there that charge for this information, so take advantage of the owner’s generosity before he changes his mind.

And speaking of sites that charge…Dr. Tech covers all sorts of topics (not just wireless) and charges anywhere from $89-$299 a year, depending on the level of help you need, to access their services. Pricey? You bet. But where else are you going to get 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week help online or via a toll-free telephone line on just about any problem your Windows PC might develop?

Along with the support line, the site offers online virus scanning, an online repair service, online data backup, handheld PDA support, and several other bonuses, all of which come with the package you select or are available through separate purchase. If you do a lot of work installing hardware and software, there are much worse ways to spend your money.

Microsoft’s support Web site was surprisingly helpful, though it was of course geared toward Microsoft products. Still, the site links to various different articles, a message board, and chat rooms, all focusing on wireless technology for Windows, and the info is free for the taking.

The site includes a huge section on broadband home networking, which contains several different articles on, for example, how to use parental controls, the benefits of printer sharing, and how to view and configure Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) addresses. If you’ve spent much time working with DHCP, you know it can be tricky, but Microsoft explains the subject in such a way as to make it all seem almost simple.

Home Net Help is a home away from home for folks who enjoy tinkering with their wireless networks. The site boasts an incredible amount of free information on such diverse topics as reconfiguring your firewall, VPNs (virtual private networks) for the home user, bridging networks in Windows XP, and which sharing software would work best for your particular setup.

A lot of the offered information is in the form of tutorials, which not only teaches you what to do but explains each step along the way. An example is the tutorial on TCP/IP networking and file sharing, which consists of six screens worth of information. User comments on the various tutorials are also available, so you can see what other wireless users thought of the information and how it benefited them.

Wireless networking can be a tricky business, especially if you’re not experienced with the intricacies of setting up your own home network. Browse these sites, then, before tackling a new network or camera, and you’ll save yourself more than a little frustration, not to mention time. Christmas holidays don’t last forever, you know.

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