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Home Networking for newbies

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Home Networking for newbies

Postby anandasim » Sun Mar 26, 2006 12:17 pm

Preamble

Soooo... in 2006, many homes now have a Windows XP PC, an Internet connection (more and more are broadband) and the time is overdue for people to hang several PCs over the same Internet connection, all this at home. PCs at the office have been networked for yonks, but at home, sneaker net has been doing quite well for file and print sharing. However, sneaker net won't work to share an Internet connection.

You can share a single dial-up connection between multiple PCs. It's not often interesting to do that though. The speed bottleneck through a dialup really hampers the joy of Internet activities for one PC, much less multiple PCs.

Since dial-up Internet is a low cost solution, people seldom look for, and vendors seldom offer a dial-up router. The most common way that dial-up Internet is shared is via Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). There is geek information on making an old PC boot a Linux based firewall, router. Many newbies aren't resourced enough to go down that direction.

With broadband Internet, you have the option of using:
a. a broadband modem appliance and a NAT router appliance
b. a combination broadband modem + router appliance
c. a broadband modem + the first outward facing PC running ICS
d. a broadband modem appliance and an old PC running NAT router software (often Linux based).

If you use a router of any sort, the advantage over ICS is that you don't need the first PC to be "always on" for other PCs to connect because the router is "always on", as is the broad band modem. Over time, that is the main convenience that newbies want. Many serious PC users however, point to the second advantage of a router - it is a separate firewall, it separates the "outside" Internet from the "inside" your own network of one or more PCs. A third advantage is the separation of functions - the router stores you ISP account details and firewall settings separate from your PCs. Routers are now way below AUD 100.

A few words about protecting your PCs from the Internet

This perimeter defence allows you to do things like switch off your software firewalls (Windows firewall, Zone Alarm, Sygate, Norton, McAffee) on your PCs (or not run any software firewalls at all) with fair levels of safety from incursions by hack attacks, worms from the "outside". You can run unpatched Windows XP machines in safety for a while until you get around to applying Windows Updates security patches. This perimeter defence does not however, protect you when you invite virii, malware, spyware, adware "inside" your private network by explicitly going to websites or opening email that delivers that cargo. Additionally, you can infect your machines on your private network by using CDs, floppies, USB storage which contain such malware - "the enemy within".

Many people who use Macs or Linux believe that their platforms are more secure and provide a smaller target to malware. That's another discussion.

Back to Networking

Whether you use ICS or a router, the transmission protocol used by the Internet is TCP/IP. TCP/IP needs each device to have an IP address. The IP address can be given up arbitrarily by a DHCP server (which your NAT router and ICS act as) or statically (you type an address in yourself).

If you are connecting two client PCs in together in isolation from anything else, you have to use static PC. If you are connecting two PCs together in isolation away from the Internet, you can use:
a. crossover network cable (each PC must have a built-in or add-on network card)
b. a straight through network cable with an Ethernet switch
c. a special USB bridge cable (you can't/shouldn't use normal cable)
d. wireless LAN (each PC must have a wireless card)
e. older, non TCP/IP technology (Laplink cables and software etc...)

Wired or Wireless
Some routers are wired only, some are wireless and some are combination units. Typically wired routers have 4 inward ports - they support up to 4 PCs. If you don't want to lay LAN wire through your house, then wireless would be your approach. Wireless connections have the following:

a. No need to lay LAN cable and mobility around the house and garden for the notebook (advantage)

b. Requires a wireless network card in each PC (disadvantage - most desktops don't have such a card built-in)

c. Wireless has a slower network speed and throughput - steady connection may be an issue depending on radio/microwave interference, distance and obstructions, heavy load. (disadvantage)

d. Security concerns - Wireless neighbours may hitch a ride or look at your files - you must implement at least WEP if not WPA-SK. Wired connections only require physical security.

Windows File and Print Sharing
WFPS works like this. Each PC can offer to one or more folders to share to the rest of the PCs on the network. You don't want WFPS to be enabled to the "public" Internet, only to your "private" network. Before a PC can expose a folder as a Windows File Share, two services need to be active - Microsoft Client and File and Printer Sharing.

Note that Windows Shares have permissions related to your Windows accounts.

Once one PC exposes a Windows File Share (and you put some files in the folder), the other PC(s) need to attach to that Share. From the other PC - you use Network Places and browse to the PC offering the Share. Windows XP and modern programs can directly open a file using UNC syntax. Older programs may require you to map a drive to the Windows File Share first.

Hyperlinks to follow....
Last edited by anandasim on Fri May 16, 2008 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Paul » Sun Mar 26, 2006 2:29 pm

Nice work anandasim, you might also like to check out my paltry effort.

cheers, Paul
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Postby anandasim » Sun Mar 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Thanks for the encouragement Paul. Not like you to be self deprecating :wink: , your contribution is very worthy. There is a fair bit of information about this on the web but time has passed by - some info is dated (which happens quickly in IT), some is geeky, some is oververbose in non primary areas, some stop halfway with cliffhangers.

:idea: Whether in this thread or in our respective wikis, in our own way, we can hopefully address a newbie audience. Keep the wisdom coming....
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Postby Jayant » Sun Mar 26, 2006 6:37 pm

The newbie audience is attentive.
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Postby anandasim » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:28 am

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Postby Jayant » Mon Mar 27, 2006 2:41 pm

Thanks very much for those articles. A couple of them were tremendously helpful, especially regarding firewall configuration. Everything is working now for me. A month ago I didn't know what a router was, and now I have a wireless network.

I hope this stuff is of as much use to other novices as it was to me.
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Postby anandasim » Mon Apr 17, 2006 3:35 pm

Courtesy of gto from another thread:

Beginners Guides: Printer Sharing on a Home Network
http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=1596
Beginners Guides: Wireless home networking
http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=1428
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Postby anandasim » Wed May 03, 2006 7:25 pm

A bit technical - nearly readable:

Configuring Windows XP Wireless Networks for Home and Small Business
- link no longer works -

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks

The Illustrated Network
http://theillustratednetwork.mvps.org/L ... twork.html

Generating a WPA-SK
http://www.kurtm.net/wpa-pskgen/

Generating a WEP key
http://www.warewolflabs.com/portfolio/p ... anskg.html

The Gibson way:
https://www.grc.com/passwords

Geeky explanations:

Microsoft - Wireless LAN Support in Windows FAQ
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolu ... fifaq.mspx

Microsoft Windows Wireless Networking Portal
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolu ... fault.mspx[/url]
Last edited by anandasim on Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Update link references
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Postby Paul » Sat May 06, 2006 8:30 pm

Very techie, but if you can't use WPA because you have an old network card, this may be the answer.
WPA Supplicant

cheers, Paul
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Postby anandasim » Mon May 05, 2008 7:48 pm

Ars Technica on wireless networking:

http://arstechnica.com/guides/tweaks/wi ... rity.ars/1
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Postby anandasim » Fri May 16, 2008 9:19 pm

Tom's Hardware article on using Vista as a VPN server for home use.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sec ... 803-6.html
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Simplified table of Wireless Standards

Postby anandasim » Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:30 pm

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Re: Home Networking for newbies

Postby RDee » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:24 pm

Iomaca
Just a couple of thoughts.
Perhaps the Ethernet Crossover cable is not wired corectly or is faulty.
There is a picture here to the check connections if the wire colours are visible. Unfortunately not all crossover cables are identical.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethernet_crossover_cable
Also is the pre-used Realtec Family Fast NIC card healthy. Worth a check with Device Manager if you haven't done so.

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Re: Home Networking for newbies

Postby lomaca » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:54 pm

RDee wrote:Iomaca
Perhaps the Ethernet Crossover cable is not wired corectly or is faulty.


Checked both, the card works OK, and the cable is wired properly.
Thanks
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Two sites to measure internet performance

Postby anandasim » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:31 pm

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Windows 7 Networking

Postby anandasim » Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:29 pm

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