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If you’re still reading after that title, thanks already.

Here’s the deal: For the last two and a half years, I’ve been living in campus housing, in which pretty much every room was hardwired onto the campus network. There was thus no reason for me to think at all seriously about networking technologies, because, plug this cable into that outlet, and lo but there was the broadband. And in the places I lived prior to that, the proximity of desk and phone jack and the simplicity of networking needs — am I connected to the Internet? Then I’m done — made a wired network the obvious choice.

Things are not so simple now. I’ve gotten my equipment from Verizon, and as of February 17, my DSL should be fully activated. But of course the spot where I want to put my desk is nowhere near a phone jack. And, once R. is here, he’s going to want to use the broadband, too, and not from the very same spot where I’ll be working. So it’s now necessary for me to go wireless. Which, great.

But I could use some advice on what hardware to get to build this wifi network. That first-gen flat-panel iMac is now about three years old, but still runs like a champ, and I really don’t want to replace it until absolutely necessary — which means I need to buy an Airport card for it. And I need a wireless router of some variety. Here are the choices, as I currently understand them:

— an Airport Extreme base station

— an Airport Express

— a non-Apple wireless router, such as the Linksys WRT54G

I’ve been trying to track down some comparison data among these options, and am coming up only with the obvious stuff. I’ve got a good sense of the spec differences among these three, but not of how they actually operate in the real world. We’re an all-Mac household, so that needs to be taken into consideration, as well as the 2.4 GHz wireless phones we’re using all over the house, which I understand can interfere with a wifi signal.

So what do you use? And how does it work for you?

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