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How-To: Setting Up Wireless Presentation Systems

If your offices are full of projectors and wires, it may be time for a clean-up job. We give you the lowdown on how to build a wireless presentation system and a rundown on the tools you'll need.

First, Add a Card

Step-By-Step Screencasts
Click on the images below to launch video screencast presentations of wireless presentation tools.

Linksys Demonstration

Elluminate Demonstration

So how do you cut the wires in your presentation system? One of the easiest methods is to buy a compatible, add-on wireless card ($150 to $300) from your projector vendor. Although wireless projectors are relatively new to the market, many nonwireless projectors are now coming standard with PCMCIA slots designed to accept a compatible wireless network card. We tested the NEC LT265 series nonwireless projector with the NWL-100A wireless add-on ($159). The projector plus add-on comes to $3,154.

The steps to set up the NEC system range from basic to complex, depending on whether the system is being integrated into an existing wireless infrastructure or used on its own. The quickest way to get the projector up and running is to use the Easy Connect mode, which actually creates an 802.11b ad hoc wireless network. Users must install the NEC Image Express Utility (available for Windows and Mac OSs) included with the add-on card. The utility automatically configures your laptop's wireless connection and looks for compatible projectors in range. The main trade-off with this method is that users don't have access to the Internet or their corporate network because their wireless card is connected solely to the projector.

Alternatively, you can connect your projector to your organization's existing wired or wireless infrastructure. If you choose to connect to your wired infrastructure, the projector has a 10/100 Ethernet port with more bandwidth than any wireless connection could provide. If an Ethernet cable run is not feasible for your organization, place the projector in Infrastructure mode, where it acts as a wireless client and connects to the wireless network you specify. With either approach, the goal is to connect the projector to your existing network, which serves as the path over which the projector sends the screen images.

The presenter connects (either wired or wirelessly) to the network on which the NEC projector is installed. He or she installs the NEC Image Express Utility, selects the projector, and the presenter's screen is mirrored automatically. This more complex deployment lets clients simultaneously access other resources--the Internet and your corporate network, for instance--in conjunction with the projector, and also make presentations on the projector from anywhere on your network.

System performance depends on the connection method you choose as well as your presentation content. Easy Connect's speed is limited to 11 Mbps, whereas Infrastructure mode tops out at 54 Mbps. The best performance is obviously with a 100-Mbps Ethernet network. At any speed, the NEC system excels at PowerPoint presentations, image slide shows and other situations in which the screen contents are relatively inanimate.

But for full-screen videos and complex animations, slower connections can introduce unwanted latency and reduce the overall frame rate, rendering them unwatchable, so it's best to use Ethernet when possible. If you want full-screen, DVD-quality real-time video, connect to the projector using a conventional VGA cable.

Once you deploy the projector and install the software, using the wireless presentation system is intuitive. It's worth the trouble to install the required software on every participant's laptop, because it includes features that make your presentations interactive, such as chat, file sharing and image capture.

Security for the NEC wireless presentation system depends on the connection method you've selected for the projector. WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is the highest level of wireless encryption the NEC device supports while operating in Infrastructure mode, which is insufficient for enterprise environments. For a more secure method, connect the projector through the wired interface to your network, thereby using stronger encryption standards such as WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access).

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