23 September, 2005

Calling all Computer Geeks...

Ahh, don't take offense, guys. One of my best friends in college was a Computer Science Ph.D. ;) I need your help...

I consider myself moderately computer savvy. Maybe another way to say it is that I know just enough to be dangerous!

I know my way around the basic insides and outsides of a desktop computer, and can install and unistall hardware and software in just about any configuration. I can (with occassional major brain cramps), make everything from BIOS and Windows to music notation software sit up and do what I want it to. In the past I've shorted a brand new motherboard, stuck my fingers in a CPU fan, and rewired a power switch. My first modem was a 9600 (in 2000!). My last desktop was self-constructed (with a little help from my computer science friend).

But I have a confession... I'm a complete Luddite when it comes to Internet access. I'm still on dialup [*hides face in utter shame*]. But I recently discovered that with the limited number of ISPs available in my new hometown, an additional phone line plus ISP comes out to the same price as DSL or cable Internet.

However, what I like about dialup right now is that I've got a 35-foot phone cord. I can move my laptop all over, even out to the patio. This is important, as I get very poor radio reception, so most of my listening is via computer. And I'm expecting a small windfall soon, so maybe wireless would be nice...

So, the tech-savvy me goes searching for information on home wireless (and cable/DSL) and soon is lost in discussions of routers and multiple access points, security, and even cordless phones! Argghhh!! Every article I read seems to be either written for computer geeks, or leaves out ALL technical discussions because it's written for someone who thinks windows are what you look through. Not helpful to marginally-educated me.

So, to make a very long and tedious story short(er):

What kind of Internet should I get (DSL or cable)? Why? (btw, I don't have cable TV--or any TV, for that matter)

Do I need to purchase extra security software?

What hardware do I need in order to set up wireless access for a single-computer home? (new laptop is WiFi-ready, but no local access)

Since I don't want to set up an entire home network, do I still need a router if I go wireless?

How much can I expect to spend on equipment/software, either way?

Thanks in advance to any wonderful, awesome, sexy computer geeks who can help me. ;)