If you think you might ever want your new desktop computer to have wireless capabilities, you should buy it with Wi-Fi already built in. This won't add much to the cost and could save you a fair amount of trouble down the road. Almost every major brand has Wi-Fi available as a low-cost option when you buy a new computer.
Because you are reading this book, you probably have some interest in wireless technologies and Wi-Fi networking. But even supposing you are only planning to operate one computer, it's worth getting Wi-Fi installed when you buy it in case you add another mobile (or desktop) computer. That way you can network your computers (and share an Internet connection) without the hassle of wires. (See Chapter 15, "Configuring Your Wi-Fi Network," for a more detailed comparison of the pluses and minuses of wired and wireless networking.)
"AirPort" is the Apple term for the 802.11b flavor of Wi-Fi. "AirPort Extreme" is Apple-speak for the 802.11g flavor of Wi-Fi.
If you are buying an Apple desktop, you need to check that the machine is "AirPort ready."
For example, you might be using the Apple online store to purchase an Apple Power Mac G5 as shown in Figure 9.1.
Figure 9.1. Specifying an Apple desktop computer online at the Apple store.
If you scroll down the list of available computer options shown in Figure 9.1, you'll come to the AirPort Extreme Card option shown in Figure 9.2.
Figure 9.2. If you add an AirPort Extreme card to your Power Mac, it will come Wi-Fi enabled.
If you don't select the AirPort Extreme Card option, your new Power Mac will not be enabled for Wi-Fi, although it will be "AirPort ready." (I'll show you how to add an AirPort Extreme card to a Power Mac that is AirPort ready but does not have the card factory-installed later in this chapter.) If you choose the AirPort Extreme Card option, the 802.11g flavor Wi-Fi card will be factory-installed in your new computer, and your wireless troubles will be over, at least in relationship to your new desktop.
At the present point in time, things aren't so easy in the Windows world. Dell, HP, and IBM do not offer a Wi-Fi option in their online stores for their desktop models. (Desktop models from all these companies do come equipped with Ethernet-wired network connectors.)
So you'll probably have to make special arrangements with a sales rep to get your desktop Windows PC equipped for Wi-Fi "out of the box." But bear in mind that this could change quickly, as things do in technology. Wi-Fi is up and coming and everyone wants it. So by the time you read this book you may be able to specify Wi-Fi in your desktop as part of the standard online ordering process.
As I explained earlier, "AirPort" is the Apple term for the 802.11b flavor of Wi-Fi. "AirPort Extreme" is Apple-speak for the 802.11g flavor of Wi-Fi. Despite Apple's use of proprietary terminology (for example, AirPort), there is nothing special about the Wi-Fi used in AirPort access points and cards.