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January 8, 2001
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Article Index

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Introduction

The Internet Is a Network

Why Network?

  • Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)
  • Printer Sharing
  • File Sharing
  • Collaboration
  • Game Play

Get Connected

  • Internet Connection Sharing

Setting Up an Ethernet LAN

  • Getting Started
  • Add a Laptop
  • USB Network Connection

Conclusion

Resources & Links

Getting Connected

Getting your computers and peripherals connected over a network requires both networking hardware and software. Not too long ago, setting up and maintaining a network was a real zoo. It took a very knowledgeable amateur or talented professional to do networking. However, the latest networking software and hardware is easy to set up and to use. So even computer novices now can network their computers.

Software-wise, for home and small office use either Windows 98 Second Edition (Win SE) or Windows Millennium Edition (Win ME). They have all the networking software you need built in to them. Windows ME is the best and easiest for home and small office networking. Of course Windows 2000 (Windows NT in an earlier life) is an inherently networking OS.

Linux is inherently a multi-user, multi-computer platform (platform is another name for operating system). So you have everything you need for networking built into your Linux-based computer. Some Linux distributions such as Caldera's Open Linux 2.4 make networking very easy to administer.

Internet Connection Sharing on a LAN

Both Windows SE and Windows ME have built in Internet connection sharing (ICS) software. ICS let's you use just one phone-line dial-up modem, DSL modem, or cable modem to connect all your networked computers to the Internet. The savings and convenience there is well worth the cost of upgrading to Windows SE or Windows ME if you already do not have them, or something better.

We set up a small LAN (local area network) with Windows 98 SE boxes on the LAN. Then we plugged a 56K modem into one of the boxes and set up Windows ICS on the LAN. Worked great! All the computers on the LAN are able to access the Internet through the box with the modem -- the LAN's Internet gateway box.

Next we set up several of the boxes on this small LAN with dual, Linux-Windows boots. Caldera OpenLinux 2.4 is the Linux operating system that was installed for the Linux boot. For more information about dual-booting Linux and Windows, please see Dual Boot Linux and Windows to Get the Best of Both Operating System Worlds. (Please see the Resources section at the end of this article for a link to it.)

OpenLinux, on its own, easily found the Internet gateway provided by the Windows box connected to the modem. The OpenLinux boxes on the small LAN, also on their own, are able to access the Internet through the Internet gateway box -- even though that Internet gateway box runs Windows.

Setting Up an Ethernet LAN

Hardware-wise, you have several choices as to type of network. Likely the best and most popular type is the Ethernet. Ethernet uses special, Ethernet, cables to connect the computers to the network. Ethernet has the best performance but you have to install the Ethernet cables. If you want the Ethernet cables hidden from view, that could mean hiding them under carpets, shoving them through floors, and fishing them through walls

Because Ethernet generally is the best choice, we will discuss installing an Ethernet network today. We will take a closer look at other types of networks such as home phone-line and wireless networking at another time.

Getting Started

The easiest way to start your home or small office network is to purchase a network starter kit. Two excellent starter kits are the D-Link DFE-910 10/100

D-Link DFE-910 10/100 Network in a Box
Network in a Box ($119 discount) and the Netgear 10/100 Network Starter Kit ($88 discount). Both kits include everything you need to connect two desktop computers with free PCI adapter slots to a two-computer network. And both kits will support 100-Mbps (megabits per second) data speeds.

Hubs and switches are special central electronic junction boxes where you plug the cables from the computers into the network. Switches are better than hubs.

The Netgear kit includes a 4-port hub that allows you to add two more computers to your network if you later purchase additional network interface cards (NICs) and Ethernet cables. The D-Link kit includes a 5-port switch that allows you to add up to three more computers to your network if you later purchase additional NICs and cables.

Adding a Laptop to Your Ethernet LAN

D-Link DMF-560TXD PCMCIA LAN & Modem Card
If you want to connect your laptop to your network, use a PCMCIA NIC card. Netgear has a nice laptop NIC, the Netgear FA 410 Network Card for Notebook PCs that slips right into the PCMCIA slot on your laptop computer. D-Link has a combination laptop 56K modem and NIC, the D-Link DMF-560TXD PCMCIA LAN & Modem Card that you can slip into your laptop's PCMCIA slot.

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