While many people turn to pros like Gallant to install the network's wiring, others do the job themselves. Mark Cerasuolo, a director at Leviton Integrated Networks, braved the cobwebs in the crawl space beneath his home in Redmond, Washington, to lay the wiring for his own Cat 5 network. As insurance for the future, he doubled each run of Cat 5 cable and put in parallel runs of coaxial cable (for TV and satellite reception) and fiber-optic cable. Fiber-optic lines, which carry light-based data through strands of ultrapure glass no thicker than a human hair, are the fastest — and at 30 cents a foot, the most expensive'transmission media yet devised; one strand alone could handle all the phone calls in the United States at any given time.

Cerasuolo's fiber-optic lines sit unused, however; he hasn't purchased the media-conversion equipment (at $300 to $1,000 per connected device) needed to change electrical impulses into photons, or hired a $100-per-hour fiber-optic specialist to spend an hour or two making the connections at each jack. Still, because it's the labor, not the cost of cable, that is the main expense in any wiring job, Cerasuolo says it makes sense to buy the ultimate in cable technology to insure against future obsolescence. "I don't want to have to go back again and do battle in the kingdom of the spiders," he says. Herbst avoided any spidery realms altogether by choosing a wireless gateway device for his home network. By plugging a wireless network card into his laptop, he can surf the Web while roaming the house or yard. The total cost: about $500. Herbst has found that the appliances in his kitchen turn that room into a dead zone for the new system, but even with the interference problem, Herbst's network has begun, as he predicted, to change the way he lives. After breakfast, for instance, he takes care of business sitting cross-legged on his couch, free from the distractions of the office. "Since I've hooked up, my colleagues at the office haven't seen me as much in the morning," he says."I like the freedom of being connected virtually anywhere in the house, or just outside of it." Not to mention the peace that networking has brought to his domestic life.

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