The TCP/IP protocol is used by computers to communicate over the Internet. Any device using the Internet – even your intelligent lightbulb – utilizes this protocol. And as you probably know, it’s an acronym for Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) / Internet Protocol (IP).
In fact, TCP/IP is much more than a protocol. It’s a full set of communication protocols that use different layers to specify how the data is broken down into packets, how it is assigned an address, how it travels through the lightning fast Internet lanes, and how it is received. Technical standards are defined and maintained by the Internet Engineering Task Force.
TCP/IP was built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) back in the 70s. The first version of the TCP protocol was published in 1974. Later on, when new versions emerged, TCP was split in two sections: Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol.
To set up a TCP/IP based network you need computers, which serve as interfaces to each network, forwarding data packets back and forth. In addition to this, firewalls, content caching systems and network address translators are also needed.
The Internet Protocol (now at IPv6) section plays two key roles:
– It takes care of all the identification and host addressing needs, by making use of an advanced IP addressing system;
– It routes data packets from the source computer to the destination computer, by making use of all the computers that serve as routers and can be found on the way from source to destination.
As time has passed by, the TCP protocol has evolved. Today, it is able to correct error data, when the errors are minimal. If the errors are numerous, it can automatically ask the router to resend the data packages that can’t be corrected. Additional capabilities include layers that can deal with data congestion, duplicate data packets, and more.
The IP protocol doesn’t rely on a specific piece of hardware or software. All you need to make it work is the proper hardware equipment and a software layer that is able to send and receive data packets over a computer network.
The initial DARPA implementation was requiring two ports for a half duplex-transmission. Later on, the protocol has evolved, being able to use fewer ports, while sending more data. Today, you will only need a port to achieve full-duplex, bidirectional data transportation.
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority maintains the official port numbers that can be used for specific TCP/IP operations. Despite that, some implementations make use of unofficial, and yet well known port numbers.
System ports have numbers that range from 0 to 1023 and are officially known and approved. Ports ranging from 49,152 to 65,535 are private and cannot be used for standard applications. Nevertheless, they can be used for private purposes, be them temporary or permanent.
All of us have routers in our homes. And why wouldn’t we? They are essential when it comes to accessing the wealth of information that the Internet has to offer.
There is the problem with these routers, though. Just like any other hardware component, they tend to get old. And – truth be told – some of them are very well built. I had my share of routers who barely made it alive until their warranty expired, but now I’ve got a router that’s been working fine for more than five years.
Hold on, don’t congratulate me yet. I like a solid router just like the next guy, but when a piece of hardware – and particularly the router – works so well, you tend to keep it forever. You don’t want to replace it. And why would you ever want to do that?
First of all, new technologies emerge each year. And the Wi-Fi industry is moving quite fast. Much faster than your old router, anyway.
Then, new security breaches are discovered every few months. And if your router was manufactured five years ago, chances are its manufacturer stopped updating and patching its firmware. This is, in fact, one of the main reasons why you should replace your router every few years or so.
So what are the best options for the budget conscious person who still wants to have access to the latest Internet technologies? Here are my best picks.
1. TP-Link AC1200
The TP-Link AC1200 Wireless Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (yes, it’s a very long name indeed) makes use of the latest and greatest Wi-Fi technologies, helping you build a Wi-Fi network that can reach speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
The router supports the 802.11ac protocol and works on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, at speeds that can reach 300 Mbps and 877 Mbps, respectively.
It has two dual band antennas and two USB ports that will help you share data and/or printers across your network. The antennas have a standard gain factor, but fortunately they are detachable, so you can install a pair of RP SMA cables and then use whatever high gain antennas you may have – or even build a pair of high gain antennas.
Just like any modern router, TP-Link AC1200 features QoS, which allows you to specify what devices should get access to a higher Internet bandwidth.
You can also build a guest network, allowing your visitors to access the Internet without having to give away your Wi-Fi password.
2. Portal Router
The Portal router is a brand new invention. And it’s one that will probably make lots of people happy. It’s a gigabit Wi-Fi router that claims to provide speed increases of up to 500% in comparison with a standard router.
So what’s so unique about Portal? While most routers only work on a single channel in the 5 GHz spectrum, and the best ones make use of two channels, Portal utilizes six channels and knows when to dump a crowded channel and start using a new one that’s less crowded.
This should work wonders in theory, and it looks like practice hasn’t disappointed either. It’s not a surprise, considering the fact that the team behind it consists of former Qualcomm engineers, who have managed to raise about $800,000 for this project via Kickstarter.