BOOT CAMP 229 (11/06/02)
LIVING WITH BROADBAND, part 2
SHARING YOUR CONNECTION
If you’ve got broadband connection and you fancy a challenge
then with a little effort, and a relatively modest outlay you can share that
connection with several other PCs in your home or office. Unfortunately, and
despite what the ads may say, there is no such thing as a simple, pre-packed,
one-box solution to broadband sharing. Connecting or networking PCs together is
a black art that requires a stout heart and a great deal of patience to master –
and sort out the inevitable problems – you also need to understand a few simple
concepts, and learn a lot of new acronyms…
It looks easy enough on paper; your Windows PC is connected
to the Internet so a simple local area network or LAN that allows PCs to share
files and a printer should by rights also be able to share an Internet
connection? Wrong! The Internet, like most computer networks, relies on the fact
that each PC connected to it is assigned a unique identity number – a bit like a
phone number -- known as an Internet Protocol (IP) Address. If a PC with an
unassigned IP address – i.e. a PC on a network – tries to connect to the
Internet it will not be recognised and the connection is refused. The solution
is to create a ‘gateway’ onto the Internet that other PCs in the LAN can access
via the one with the assigned IP address, either using an extra hardware device,
or a software program.
However, before you even start to think about Internet
sharing you must get your LAN up and running, and before we start I have to say
that what follows only applies to Windows 98 onwards, if you’re using an earlier
version upgrade! Step one is to decide upon is the hierarchy of the PCs, and how
they are going to be connected together. The computer that has the broadband
Internet connection will normally be the ‘Server’ and the ones that connect to
it and share the Internet feed are be the ‘Clients’. There are several
connection methods but in the home or a small office environment the usual
choice is 10/100 Ethernet, which can use cabled connections, or ‘wireless’
links, or a mixture of both, between the server and clients.
The basics are the same for both wired and wireless systems;
the only practical difference is that installing a wired system usually involves
drilling lots of holes and ripping up floorboards. On the plus side the
components are relatively inexpensive, reckon on spending around £50 on Server
components and £10 to £20 for each client PC, plus the cost of the cables, which
depends on how many clients there are, and how far away they are.
Wireless LANs are usually easier to install and as an added
bonus you can take your laptop into the garden. The range can be up to 500
metres in the open, though 50 to 100 metres is nearer the mark inside a
building. The downside to wireless networking is cost. You should expect to
spend upwards of £150 on the Server and between £70 and £100 per client.
Be careful when shopping for wireless equipment, in fact
don’t buy anything until you’ve read next week’s instalment. There are several
different systems, the hardware often looks similar but the different types are
all incompatible. The closest thing to an international standard is generically
known as ‘WiFi’ or IEEE 802.11b, which operates over a frequency range of 2.4 to
2.5GHz with a data rate of up to 11Mbps; remember those numbers and stick with a
single make or brand you won’t go far wrong.
Whichever connection method you decide upon you will need to
install or enable an Ethernet port on the server PC; we’ll look at the client
PCs in a minute and the other bits you’ll need in more detail next week.
Nowadays a lot of PCs and laptops have built-in Ethernet ports, they’re easy to
spot the socket looks like large version of the US-style phone socket. If you
have one check that it’s properly configured and working by going to Device
Manager (right-click My Computer and select Properties), it should be listed as
working (i.e. no yellow exclamation marks) under Network Adaptors. (You may find
that once the adaptor is enabled you will be asked for a password every time you
boot up, just accept the default entry and hit the return key).
If your PC doesn’t have an Ethernet port then you need to fit
an adaptor card in a vacant PCI socket on the motherboard. They’re quite cheap
(£15 or so) and simple to install but if you’ve never worked on your PC at this
level before get an expert or engineer to do it for you.
If you are using a wired system you must install Ethernet
ports on all of your client PCs. In a wireless system you can use adaptors that
plug into the PC’s USB socket, or wireless ‘cards’ that fit into a PCMCIA slot.
These are mostly found on laptops but you can get PCMCIA adaptors for desktop
PCs, which fit into a spare PCI socket. A wireless card and PCMCIA adaptor
together costs only slightly more than a USB wireless adaptor, but it means that
you can move the wireless card between a desktop PC and a laptop to get the
maximum amount of use out of it.
Next week – Configuring your network
Industry standard networking system. The standard operating
speed is 10 megabits per second (Mbps), however the faster 100Mbs format is
increasingly used and costs only slightly more
Computer Memory Card International Association; standard for PC card modules
used in laptops for modems, memory card readers and other
Component Interconnect - high-speed connector and control system, used on most
recent PCs, also used for sound, video, adaptor cards
Here are a couple of quick tips for Google fans. You can
speed up your web searches by installing the Google Toolbar (click link on www.google.com); this puts a toolbar with a
search entry field and button into your browser window so there’s no need to go
to the Google home page every time you want to look for something. Tip 2, Google
automatically provides a dictionary definition for any word entered in the
search window, simply click on the word’s underlined link after ‘Searched the
web for’, just below the Google logo.