So I walk into the CompUSA last night, which is quite an accomplishment all by itself. I can get a bit overwhelmed in there, what with all the wires and the little rebate cards and the extremely bright lights. But the deal is, I need to set up some kind of wireless situation in the house, and in spite of all the reading I do about this online, when it comes down to it, I need to check this kind of stuff out in person. So, I rambled on in.
The router concept has confounded me for a while now. I think I've gotten that by plugging a router into the existing broadband modem that is currently plugged into the desktop cpu, I can set up my big old desktop (aka: the center of my universe as I have known it for the last three years...I'm coping SO well after a week without it, truly...), have access to the Net on it, and the signal will also magically travel right up to the second floor, to the laptop that just may be sitting on my big, fluffy, mounded-with-pillows bed. This is key, of course.
The router aisle was disconcerting. The endcap was all one particular brand, and they were all 120 bucks. I didn't think they'd be that much. I mean, I'm not trying to connect to Brazil. I'm not one of those competitive techies who's all "Well, I have 8 million GAGAHERTZ on my (insert pretentious, outdated-in-six-months device here) and I find that's JUST about enough, but I'm really thinking about jacking it up to 10 for the next go-round." Nope. Just give me a signal strong enough to connect to my crack candy websites and my e-mail accounts with the pretty fonts and allow me to do all of this LYING DOWN in my lovely bed with no trouble whatsoever, and I will be very happy.
Of course, once past the endcap, the routers ate my brain. There were like fifty different ones. And there is apparently a conspiracy in the router-selling community, that each brand makes ALL of its boxes look exactly the same! I mean, Grandpa Router, (I'm not even going to pretend to remember the numbers of the frequencies, here) that sort of meanders your connection along, maybe hooking you up the next room over if you talk nice to it, looks EXACTLY the same as the super-powered Wunderkind Router, that can power the laptops and riding lawn mowers of an entire ZIP CODE. The frequency numbers on each box contain decimal points, without indicating their significance. One of the boxes said "SPEEDBOOST!" and then told me jack NOTHING about how my speed would be boosted and what kind of boost it needed, anyway.
And of course, as the price for each identically-packaged router goes up, it only does so in increments of ten bucks. This is only enough to be annoying, and not to indicate a clear difference between them. So I'm thinking, hmmm....49.99 after the (insidious, pain in the ass, unnecessary...) 17 rebate cards I'll never fill out...how is that different from 69.99? And is it better to just bet the farm on the 89.99 one, which I may or may not need in our relatively small house? I mean, why not? WHY NOT? THIS ONE ONLY HAS 12 REBATE CARDS! "But is it 'speedboosted'?" the devil on my shoulder says. And why should I care?
This is normally when I run screaming from a store. Last night, I stopped a clerk instead. See, I really want this thing. "Hey," I said, "I'm going to spit this out even though I really have no idea what I'm talking about." And I explained how I thought I understood the whole router concept, but could he just listen and tell me what to do. And I told him about the laptop, and the broadband, and I think I even mentioned wanting to lay down and type if I wanted to. And he said yes I was mostly right and that yes, all I needed was the router to make it work. But then he said something about houses built out of brick versus drywall, and how probably the 49.99 one would be okay, in fact he was pretty sure of it, and how big was the house anyway? So I thanked him and I left, and decided to look into this just a little bit more. But at least I know I'm on the right track.