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A little business, a little fun: New Jersey family experiences a wireless tech boom.

Derris Boomer says his family lives by their home network. And they certainly get a lot from their modest investment of time and money to hitch their computers to the hub. Derris, 34, is a senior applications analyst at a high-end retail jeweler, and Kym, 35, worked as fashion merchandiser at Eileen Fisher for six years before resigning to take care of the couple's 10-month-and old son, August, and 5-year-old daughter, Skye. "Now I'm always on the Net posting resumes and [searching] for ideas on how to look for a job," says Kym, And with a wireless split-level house and yard, she can do it from anywhere. "I'm always on the go; I can't just sit in front of the computer for hours," she says.

Kym might start working on her Apple iBook in the bedroom, then take it downstairs and finish while sitting on the floor with the kids. "I did all my Christmas shopping between cooking and washing clothes," she says. Of course, Derris can also surf the Web or connect to the office at the same time, thanks to the home network.

Derris is the self-proclaimed geek in the family, but he says Kym or anyone could easily set up the Linksys 4-port BEFW11S4 Wireless B Broadband Router ($49;, which connects both wired and wireless computers--and accepts both PCs and Macs. The Boomers connect Derris' two Windows desktop PCs and Kim's Apple iBook to each other and to the Internet through their cable modem connection. Configuration happens over a browser interface.

Derris also connects his company laptop, which has a built-in virtual private network (VPN) for corporate-level security to reach his office, but not the rest of the computers in his house, The family's home PCs are secured with the hardware firewall built into the Linksys router and software firewalls. Derris further secured the wireless network by not letting the router broadcast an SSID (service set ID), limiting the number of IP addresses it can give out to the number of laptops the Boomers have available (two), and setting encryption to 128-bit instead of 64-bit.

Now the Boomers share documents, photos, and music over their network. And Derris uses the network as a safeguard, "I will copy the My Documents folder to each PC in the house," he says. "I can go to it for a backup." Using his wireless laptop from downstairs, Derris can check things remotely on his desktop PCs upstairs, such as whether a download is complete. Sharing the cable modem over the network means someone can be doing online banking while someone else visits Nickelodeon's Website. And with wireless, "The range is all over the house and yard," says Derris. "We can listen to Internet radio as clear as day."

The Boomers have two printers: one for regular documents connected to one of Derris' PCs and a printer/fax that also accepts a memory card from a digital camera. Currently, Kym has to carry her notebook to a printer and plug it in. They're considering purchasing a network printer card so all the computers can share the printers.

Kim says having a computer at home has really helped Skye. She started pre-kindergarten six months earlier than scheduled. "I just hope the kids stay up to par with the competition as far as computer literacy is concerned," says Derris.

What's next for the Boomers? Derris is turning an eye toward home automation.
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Title Annotation:Networked Living
Author:Rohan, Rebecca
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1U2NJ
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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