But I also had some work to do... You will recall that my attempts to install a Linksys WAG54G had been unsuccesfull because of the horrible quality of the wireless link. I requested an RMA from the store where I had bought it, and I got a WAG54G version 2 in return -- according to various reports, the V2 is a much better machine with upgraded hardware.
A few weeks earlier, my dad had brought the package to our house, so that I could test it. I had my machine whip up a torrent of bits via the wireless link for a full 24 hours, and the link didn't drop even once. That's much better performance than we got from the previous model, so I was confident that this would solve all of our wireless woes. So when I went to Son a week later, I installed the router and the cards in my dad's laptop and my mom's desktop -- and all was well. But a few days later, my dad called me again to report it all had gone to hell in a handbasket.
So friday evening I lugged mom's desktop downstairs and started working on it again. It was as my dad had reported: I couldn't get a connection with the router, but when I disabled WPA on the router, it all worked flawlessly. I googled around for a bit, and discovered that WPA sometimes gave problems under WinXPSP2 -- even though it is supported by the OS. After fiddling some more, I decided that good was good enough, so I downgraded the security to WEP. With a pre-shared WEP-key, no broadcasts of the ssid and access restrictions based on MAC-address, there is no chance of a neighbour accidentally using my parents' router. A dedicated hacker can still gain access, but it's not like my parents will be transmitting state secrets over their network.
I also tried to get Windows file sharing to work between the laptop and the desktop, but I couldn't get that to work -- probably has something to do with the ownership of the directories or something. I did install my dad's Bluetooth dongle (amusingly enough, the BT chip is called 'Blutonium'), so the most pressing business has been taken care of.
This morning, my dad called me again to tell me that things were broken again, but when we walked through the correct configuration setting together, he was able to fix it all by himself. Good stuff so far.