Sharing was once something you did with
everything, just like Mom told you to. Even if you hated
your little brother, she still made you share your toys
with him. Later you learned there were some things
that are never appropriate to share: disease, debt,
and some opinions. Those rules are still true, but to
the greater extent, sharing computer resources is a
good thing. And what better way to share than
This four-part series of articles gives you the
basic information (and sometimes a little more) you
need to get started with networking at home. While
you may spend a little money getting the network going
at the beginning, you'll realize a savings in time
and money in no time at all. With a network, you
no longer need to worry about how you'll move a
file from one to machine to another. You don't have
to worry about whether it fits on a floppy (this kind
of file sharing is often referred to as `sneakernet').
And you won't even have to have a printer hooked to
each computer anymore.
To get started, think about what you need to
build a simple network between two computers. The
parts required are:
- Network hub;
- Category 5 network cables (you need one
for each computer);
- Network adapters (commonly called NICs,
and again, one for each computer).
Now, if you have done any studying about home networking at all, you're probably wondering why
I haven't prescribed parts for a wireless LAN, `phonenet' or an AC (uses existing house wiring)
network. The answer is simple; these technologies
are still fairly new, not too reliable, slow and
definitely not for the beginner when there are problems.
Added to the fact that the standard physical network
architecture is currently based on the parts list above
and is still pretty affordable, it just makes more sense
to proceed with the same ideas and techniques that most of the world's networks rely on.
Most how to articles for home networking leave
the network hub out of the picture as it's not
necessary for a network that has only two computers using
a crossover cable. But sometime next year, you
might have yet another computer at home. Rather than
retire your old computer, you'll give it to the kids,
and they'll want to have a printer or to be able to play
network games. A network without a hub means that you'll be buying them their own printer, and the
network games will be out of the question. Get the
hub now and use it. Your life will be much easier, and
the kids will be much quieter.
I won't specify a particular brand for your
network hardware, as there are many different opinions
on what brand to buy. Me? I'm cheap so I look for
price tags first. It's not like we're building the network
nor can we afford to. Instead of
looking for brand, I recommend looking for kits from
which you can build your network.
When looking at home networking kits, I like to live simply so PCI devices are `Da Bomb!'
That means you'll be looking for a kit containing
10/100 NICs (network adapters), a 10/100 hub and
Category 5, 10/100 ethernet cables. Not only will you
be getting the fastest standard networking features
available but you'll also be getting the ease of Plug
`n' Play that comes with PCI devices.
For example, Linksys (www.linksys.com) offers this kit:
Model No.: FENSK05 Package Contents:
- 2 EtherFast 10/100 LAN Cards with
- 2 Wake-On-LAN Wires
- EtherFast 10BaseT/100BaseTX Dual-Speed 5-Port Hub
- Hub AC Power Adapter
- 2 Category 5 Network Cables (15' each)
- Internet LanBridge software package from
- Program Disks
- User Guide and Registration Card
Hey!! That's a nice kit. What's it cost? A
quick search at several online computer stores shows
this kit is available for about $100.00. This is paying
off already because even the cheapest printers cost
about the same amount of money. We'll fix those
pesky kids and stop using the `sneakernet' at the same time!
Once you have the kit in your hot little hands, you're going to be itching to install the pieces
and make all the connections. That's a good plan
with only one tiny exception. After you open the box,
put down that screwdriver and read the
documentation! I can't stress this point strongly enough. Networks
can be simple, but if you fail to read the
documentation, you'll probably miss one vital piece of information
or another early on. This does not lead to an
enjoyable networking experience. Hours of network game
playing can be lost to not reading the installation
documentation. Hair falls in clumps from your
head, ulcers form, your pants get too small, and you
become frustrated. As Ms. Stewart might say,
"That's not a good thing!"
Follow the instructions for installing your new NICs carefully. Once you've completed the
installation process and have the cards working using
the manufacturer's setup and diagnostic program,
come back to this series of articles. In fact, print them
out ahead of time. You're going to want them when
it's time to install network protocols, clients, and
Okay, go install your NICs, connect the cables
to the hub, and come back!
Got Those Cards Installed?
Good! When you restarted your computer, Windows probably went nuts upon discovering the new
hardware (your NICs), asked for the driver disk,
and loaded a bunch of things from the Windows
installation disks. That's okay, but you may need to do
a little cleaning up at this point.
First you have to make sure you're ready to
build this network correctly. First, right-click My
Computer and choose Properties from the menu.
Click the Device Manager tab and see if you've got an
entry for Network Adapters. Make sure the listed
network adapter doesn't have a red X or an
exclamation point next to it. If it does, refer back to your
network kit documentation to see how to resolve any
conflicts. Otherwise, click Cancel and we'll move on.
Okay, that was a little fun with hardware. Next time, I'll tell you how to set up the software so
your network works the way you want (not the way
Windows thinks you want).