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Computer Accessories

Real Life: The BT Home Hub baby monitor

BT promises easy setup, fast connections and an unobtrusive, Apple-y piece of kit with its Home Hub. Well, two out of three ain't bad. Crave's Nick Hide just got one...

BT's politically correct TV ads (boyfriend circumvents step-family pitfalls with the help of communications technology) make its Home Hub wireless router look incredibly desirable. After all, it's not every free router that persuades a 20-something to buy a four-bedroom house. But when the pimply estate agent suggests the fourth bedroom would make a lovely nursery, he doesn't point out that the Home Hub, with its curvy Mothercare face and perky grey aerial, looks like a giant baby intercom.

I recently signed up to BT Broadband. When my girlfriend saw the Home Hub, she wondered whether I planned to use the spare room to hatch a baby dinosaur. So it now resides behind the television. Although BT has utterly failed to make it look like something from Apple, the Home Hub is a quality piece of kit. Broadband modem and wireless router in one, it was quick and easy to set up, which had been a concern -- wireless isn't usually the easiest thing to get going.

To set up the service, I used BT's Web site, entered my details and gave them a suitable delivery date for the package, which was only a couple of weeks away (I didn't already have a broadband ISP). The white box duly arrived this weekend, full of easy-to-follow documentation and plenty of cables and switcher boxes. I picked the £15-a-month scheme (rising to £23 after three months), which includes the Home Hub for free, but not the Hub Phone. For this I get 'up to 8Mb' broadband, with a 6GB cap and a Norton security package.

The Home Hub itself was easy to set up -- you simply plug it in to the phone line, wait an hour while it sorts out your optimum settings and install the accompanying software on your PC or Mac. Things only became complicated when I downloaded the free antivirus software from the BT site. It clashed horribly with the pre-installed security software on my PC, which ground to a halt while the two programs played tug of war with the CPU. After several extremely slow restarts I managed to disable the preinstalled software, at which point everything speeded up again, like a rollercoaster cresting a particularly big hill.

So far, so good. The wireless network is secure (unlike those of my neighbours, according to my wireless connection finder), and achieves 54Mbps -- far more than the broadband can use. And now I have the Internet, I can look for a dinosaur egg and some used incubation equipment on eBay. -Nick Hide