Home Networking Survival Guide

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Overview

Get clear,easy-to-follow advice for setting up your own home network using this step-by-step guide. Learn to network your computer to your printer,connect your PC to your stereo,share Internet access,and much more with this jargon-free manual. Filled with fun,survival-themed icons,you'll easily navigate through each chapter and find helpful information on basic concepts,potential problems,troubleshooting,and future developments,for a variety of home networking topics.

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Overview

Get clear,easy-to-follow advice for setting up your own home network using this step-by-step guide. Learn to network your computer to your printer,connect your PC to your stereo,share Internet access,and much more with this jargon-free manual. Filled with fun,survival-themed icons,you'll easily navigate through each chapter and find helpful information on basic concepts,potential problems,troubleshooting,and future developments,for a variety of home networking topics.

Clear,precise advice for setting up your first home network Want to set up a home network,but not sure where to begin? Look no further because help has arrived! Now you can set up and install your very first home network using this easy-to-follow and jargon-free guide. Filled with step-by-step instructions,this straightforward resource will show you how to network with both Windows and Macintosh systems — with minimum fuss and with just a few inexpensive products. From choosing the right cables to file sharing and connecting to the Internet,this book contains all you need to get a home network up and running quickly and easily.

The Home Networking Survival Guide features:

  • An introduction to basic concepts in clear,non-technical language
  • Logically-organized chapters divided into sections for ease of use
  • Easy-to-spot icons to help navigate through the book's content
  • Step-by-step instructions for setup and troubleshooting
  • Straightforward,practical advice to specific problems
  • Solutions accompanied with helpful illustrations and screen shots
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780072193114
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill/OsborneMedia
  • Publication date: 9/7/2001
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 0.66 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 9.25 (d)

Meet the Author

David Strom is a leading expert on network and Internet technologies and has written extensively on the topic for more than 13 years for a wide variety of publications, including PC Week, InfoWorld, Network World, ComputerWorld, CNET.com and Techtarget.com. He also runs his own consulting practice in Port Washington, NY
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from: Chapter 1

Home Wiring Choices

You are about to embark on a journey whose destination is the connection of two or more of your computers together to share information, printers, Internet access, and more. It is a worthwhile journey and a necessary one (especially if you want to share a high-speed Internet connection), but it can follow a bumpy road. I hope to make it a pleasant journey for you, or at least be your guide and prop you up when you hit the inevitable potholes.

Enough of that metaphor.

If you haven't read the Preface, let me explain my approach in this book. Each of these chapters will first review some of the major issues and obstacles that you will face in assembling various parts of your network. Then I'll tackle what you need to do in terms of picking the right products and setting them up properly. If something isn't working right, I'll give you tips on how to troubleshoot your network. Finally, I'll end on what you can expect to see coming down the pike in the near future.

This chapter covers how you are going to wire your home for a network. Start thinking about this, because your choice of wiring will affect what kind of gear you'll buy and what you'll need to add to your existing PCs to network them properly.

Every network makes use of some kind of connection, and the good news about home networking is that there are some solid products that you can buy to meet your particular needs. The bad news has been that no one really walks you through the decision process so you can carefully match the products and your needs. I will. That is why you are reading this book.

Networking Vocabulary

I hated those college textbooks that spent the first chapter defining terms. To be effective, however, I need to define a few terms that make up our networking vocabulary, so that when I refer to them later, you'll know what I'm talking about. Knowing these terms will help you interpret what the computer is telling you when you install your network. Since this book can be used by both Windows and Mac people, and since Windows and Macs use slightly different words for the same things, I'll indicate their differences.
Client The client is the piece of software that is used to communicate over your network. It can also be a piece of software that communicates with another program, either on the same computer, or on another computer on your network. Typically, clients connect to servers, which do the heavy lifting and keep track of whatever shared resources (like files and printers) you have. Windows has several client pieces, including the Client for Microsoft Networks. Macs have an AppleShare client. Clients and servers also refer to the specific computer that is doing the work. The client PC s usually the one on your immediate desktop, connecting to the shared resources on the server. However, these days the notion of client and server is something of a misnomer. They are usually one and the same machine, doing two different tasks: any Windows and Mac PC can easily become both. I can share the files on my desktop with you, and you can share the files on your desktop with me.

Note If you are planning on making every machine a file server' in this fashion, realize that a file server is only such when it is powered-on. It doesn't do your home network much good if you turn off your file server PC and then try to grab files from it. Consider this in your design and in how you intend to distribute files around your network.

Adapter The adapter is the physical connection between your computer and the network and is typically an internal Ethernet card that plugs into one of the spare slots inside your PC. (We'll get into other external adapters in this chapter, too.) Windows also refers to modem connections to the Internet as "dial-up adapters," just to confuse things. Most Macs sold today come with built-in Ethernet adapters, and some more enlightened Windows vendors are also including them with their Intel-based PCs.

Protocol A protocol is a communications language that connects two or more programs together. For computers to talk to each other, they must use the same protocol. Most languages use sound, but that doesn't mean that someone who only speaks Japanese can talk with someone who only speaks English just because English and Japanese both use sounds. The same is tr a for network protocols. Two computers could be hooked to the same network, buff f they don't have matching protocols, they can't talk to each other. For networking purposes, we make use of at least one protocol, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). Actually, it is two protocols that are combined for the price of one and are usually considered together. TCP/IP is the language of the Internet, and most modern networking systems use it in some fashion. If you follow my instructions, you will install TCP/IP on every computer in your home network. Windows computers use an additional protocol, called NetBEUI. Macs use their own additional protocol called AppleTalk. Some network-based games use another protocol called IPX. There are plenty of other protocols, but these are the main ones to be concerned about.

Service These are the pieces of software that actually do stuff, such as file and printer sharing. Windows uses "service" in several important ways that we'll get to in Chapter 2, but you can also find Mac-oriented references as well.

User/Owner Name This is the identity of the person who is using the computer. Each PC requires you to register who you are when you begin using it on a network. You can have separate and unique user names (and their associated passwords) for every family member, but a better idea is to just use the same user name/password combination on all of your computers. The Mac world calls this the owner name; Windows calls this the user name.

Workgroup and Computer Names Microsoft Windows requires each of its computers to be members of a workgroup. The Mac doesn't, but both require you to name each of your computers so you can keep track of them when it comes time to connect to their shared resources....

Each home network comes with three major components, more or less. The adapter card is inside or outside each PC, depending on the type of adapter. This provides the actual data to the network and handles all of the physical and logic connections of your computer to the network. The network cabling itself is the next component. If you use a wireless network, obviously you don't have to worry about this. (You do, however, have to worry about other things that we'll get to in a moment.) Finally, all of the wires attach to the hub or connector, and that is used as a central connecting point for your network. Again, not all networks need hubs, and I'll tell you why shortly.

The network adapter cards' can take one of four possible shapes. First are two kinds that fit inside your computer, in one of the spare slots. Depending on the kind of slots you have, you'll either want an ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) or a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) adapter. The other two can be fitted into your computer without having to open up the case.

One is a PC Card (also called a PCMCIA card) adapter that fits into a laptop PC Card socket and is about the size of a small deck of playing cards. The other is a USB (Universal Serial Bus) adapter that attaches to the outside of your computer via a USB port. I'll explain reasons for buying one or the other of these adapters when we come to each situation. Don't worry too much about these three-letter acronyms for now. What is important is understanding why you would need one or the other for your particular situation.

For your network to operate properly, each of these items needs to be correctly configured and must match on all of your computers. A small mistake in a workgroup name or specifying the wrong adapter card will prevent one of your PCs from working on your home network.

Problems

You would think that getting your home networked should be easy. You can quickly decide on the right products to buy, and you can install them without any troubles and have everything up and running within a few hours. Yeah, right. For most of us, this isn't going to happen. It is because of mistakes we make, or configurations on our computers, or how our homes are constructed. You will come across numerous problems in your journey to get your home connected.

If you are new to networking, you probably haven't even thought about some of these issues, and reading this next section might be depressing. As Jessica Rabbit said, "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way." The same can be said about your networking experience. The more you know going in, the better your chances are of surviving and overcoming these challenges. Let's take a look at some of the typical problems.

Location Problem

The first issue is where your current computers are or should l e located around your house. Depending on a wide variety of circumstances, you will have an easy time to a hard time.

Let's look at the easy situations first and then tackle the problems. If all of your computers are in the same room, or in adjoining rooms, you are in great shape. If all of your computers are near existing telephone jacks, and these jacks are working, and the phone wiring in your home is in good shape, then so are you. If you have access to your attic or basement or crawl space or inside the walls of your home (during a remodeling, for example), then you are going to get through this networking thing reasonably pain-free.

The rest of you are going to have some problems dealing with your computers. If you have or want to have a computer in a room without any phone jacks, or on the opposite side of the room from your jacks, then you will have to figure out how to get wires to that location. You might have to go through the floors, one of the walls, or the ceiling. You might have to drill a few holes and poke some wires around.

Drilling Problem

What if you don't feel comfortable (or don't have spousal design approval for) drilling holes and running wires hither and yon around your house? Even if you did, that still might present more of a challenge for you than you are ready to take on. It isn't just drilling the holes, but understanding how much cabling you'll need, and what kind, and how to attach the right kinds of connectors on either end once you get finished poking it through your walls and floors. Another way is called wireless networking. But that isn't a piece of cake, either.

Wireless Problems

If you can't or don't want to wire your home, and you don't have many telephone jacks located in the places where you'd like your computers, choose wireless network products for your home network. They offer the same convenience for hooking up computers that cordless phones offer when you need to reach out and touch someone. The wireless networks make use of radio waves to transmit data to and receive data from one computer and another. Various issues surround the use of wireless networks. Wireless networks may work just fine in your home. They may be impossible to get working. You don't know until you get the products home and start fooling around with them.

Depending on the type of home construction you have and where you locate your computers, you may be in for more trouble than you expected. The radio transmitters and receivers that are part of wireless networking products work relatively well on most homes. You won't be sorry that you suffered through some of their peculiar problems when you take your laptop out by the deck or pool or down the street to surf the Internet and read your e-mails. But when they don't work, they can consume endless hours of fiddling around.

The "S" family residence is a good case in point about wireless hell. Their house is an old stone mansion that has walls several feet thick. They had computers in their basement, which is the hardest place in such a home for radio signals to reach. They weren't able to penetrate their thick walls and establish a connection, even though the overall distance that the signals had to travel was about 25 feet. It didn't help that the basement computer was smack against a wall and under a huge desk. The more mass in between your radios, the less signal will get through.

Wiring Type Problem

If you wart to wire your home for networking, you can choose among several major types of cabling that can handle the Ethernet network protocols and products. If you were lucky...
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xv
Introduction xvii
1 Home Wiring Choices 1
Networking Vocabulary 2
Problems 5
Location Problem 5
Drilling Problem 6
Wireless Problems 6
Wiring Type Problem 6
Windows 95 Problem 8
Old Mac Problem 9
Under-the-Hood Problem 9
Solutions 10
Situation #1 PhoneLine Networking 14
Situation #2 Wireless Networking 16
Situation #3 Buying a New PC with a Network Adapter Preinstalled 21
Situation #4 Mac Networks 22
Situation #5 Standard Ethernet Adapters 24
Situation #6 Wired USB Adapters 27
Wiring Your Home 28
Recap: Buying the Right Hub 29
Troubleshooting 31
When Do I Troubleshoot My Network? 31
I Can't Get My Cables Fabricated 32
Futures 32
2 Sharing Files 33
Problems 34
What Do I Have to Install? 34
Applications Aren't for Sharing 35
Other Things You Don't Want to Share on Your Network 35
Solutions 36
Install the Appropriate Network Adapter and Operating System Drivers 37
Install the Networking Components You Need 38
IP Network Setup 39
Enable File Sharing on Each of Your Computers 46
Adjusting Your Applications 52
Mixed Mac and Windows Networks 52
Troubleshooting 55
Your Windows PC Won't Recognize Your Network Adapter 55
The Lights on Your Hub Aren't Lit 56
Something Is Wrong with Your IP Network 56
You Have Too Many Networking Components 59
Disappearing Networked Drive 60
Your Login and Workgroup Names Aren't the Same on All Computers 60
Locking Down Your Network for Specific Family Members 61
The Servers Don't Appear in the Mac Chooser 61
Troubles with Wireless Networks 61
Futures 64
3 Sharing Printers 67
Problems 68
Solutions 71
Situation 1 Only Windows PCs, Keeping Printers in Present Locations 72
Situation 2 You Have a Network of Just Macintoshes 76
Situation 3 Moving a Printer to a New Location, Windows PCs Only 77
Situation 4 Sharing a Printer on a Mixed Windows/Mac Network 85
Troubleshooting 87
Can't Find a Printer 87
Understanding Networked Printer Names 87
Macintosh Printing Problems 87
Trouble Getting Your HP Print Server's IP Address Configured 87
Faking Out Print Server Installations 88
Power Cycling Everything As a Last Resort 89
Futures 89
4 Sharing Your Internet Connection 91
Problems 93
Problem 1 Picking the Right Connection Technology 93
Problem 2 (More) Home Wiring Issues 99
Problem 3 Picking the Right Access Device 100
Problem 4 Setting Up Your IP Network 101
Problem 5 Buying a Router and Configuring All Your PCs 101
Solutions 104
Netgear Product Line Description 114
Keeping Track of Netopia and Farallon Products 116
Setting Up Your Frhub 116
Setting Up Frhubs on Cable Systems 117
Finishing Up the Job 118
Troubleshooting 120
Suddenly, the Internet Seems Slow 120
Everything Seems To Be Working, but You Can't Access the Internet 121
You Get the Message "Server Not Found" 123
Interpreting the Lights on the Frhub 123
How to Set Up a MAC Spoofing Address 124
Using an Internal ISDN or DSL Modem 126
You Can't Access the Internet After Resetting or Powering Off/On Your Cable Modem 126
You Have Trouble Connecting Your Router to Your Cable Modem 127
You Can't Update Your Router's Firmware 127
Don't Update Your DSL or Cable Modem's Firmware 127
Futures 128
5 Using E-Mail on Your Home Network 129
Problems 131
Solutions 134
Selecting the Right E-Mail Product 135
Running Multiple Accounts on a Single PC 138
AOL Issues 142
Managing Mailing-List Subscriptions 144
Publishing Your Own Mailing Lists 145
Dealing with Spam 147
Encrypting and Protecting Your Conversations 149
Troubleshooting 151
Can't Connect to Your Mail Server 151
Can Receive but Can't Send Messages 152
Coping with Error Messages 152
Blocking AOL IM Access from Your Network 155
Futures 157
6 Securing Your Network 159
Problems 160
Threats from E-Mail Attachments 161
Threats from Microsoft Office Users 163
Threats from Visiting Web Sites 164
Understanding IP Network Traces 165
Scan Your Ports 167
Solutions 169
Antivirus Software 169
Windows Changes 174
Firewall Issues 175
Ongoing Maintenance 178
Changes to Windows XP 182
Troubleshooting 184
Is It Really a Virus? 185
When Not to Give Someone Your Credit Card Number 185
Removing a Virus from Your PC 187
Tracking Virus Origins 187
Using Alternative Antivirus Programs 189
Setting Up Antivirus on the SonicWALL 189
Setting Up a VPN on the SonicWALL 190
Recommended Reading 191
Futures 192
7 Keeping Track of Your Family 193
Problems 194
Solutions 195
Computer Locations 198
House Rules 199
Monitoring 200
Blocking 202
Troubleshooting 206
Futures 206
8 Fun and Games 207
Games 208
Keeping Track of the Time 210
Making Movies 211
Getting E-Mail when Away from Home 214
Hooking Up Your PC to Your Home Stereo Equipment 217
Internet Appliances 223
Web-Based Calendaring and Contacts Services 227
Internet-Based Fax Services 228
Home Control 230
The Internet Telephone 233
The Future of Home Networking 234
A Tips for Fixing Windows Network Problems 237
Problems 238
B Securing Your Desktop from Automatic File Associations 251
C A Case Study in New Home Wiring for Data, Voice, and Cable 255
Index 261
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Introduction

Introduction

Most of us have a hard enough time dealing with a single, unconnected personal computer (PC) in our homes. We have trouble staying ahead of our kids' knowledge and making unapproved or inappropriate changes to the PC. We are frustrated when we have an important report to finish one evening for a work-related deadline and the computer isn't working because of some game or gremlin or downloaded file that was installed by a family member earlier in the day. We have difficulty keeping the printer stocked with supplies and managing e-mail accounts for everyone in the house.

These challenges pale in comparison to putting together a home network, even a small one involving just two or three PCs. Until recently, you couldn't buy everything that you needed in one box, even if you knew what you needed or could trust the people in your average retail computer store to tell you honestly what to buy. And the "network in a box" doesn't help you if one or more of your computers is running an older version of Windows or Macintosh operating systems (OS), which are notorious for their obscure networking support.

Actually, figuring out what to buy is just the beginning. You have to set up a bunch of different components, and make sure they are wired together. Hooking up a network can be as hard as trying to connect your TV, DVD player and stereo together. It's probably harder, because there are no standard cables and because the software takes more to configure than simple on-screen menus. You might have to drill a few holes in your walls. And you have computers with different equipment configurations and different vintages and versions of operating systems. It is definitely a lot harder!

For those of you new to networking, it can seem overwhelming. You have so many things to consider that you can't distinguish between the PC, the operating system, the network adapter, the adapter's drivers, the cabling, and the protocols connecting everything. One of my neighbors spent the better part of eight hours on the phone with Intel's tech support when he started setting up his network, and others have similar stories to tell. If you are running Windows 95, you almost certainly will run into problems. If you have an older PC that doesn't support PCI or USB adapters, ditto. (If you don't know what these are, we'll explain them later.) If you have a mixture of Macs and PCs, or PCs running various versions of Windows operating systems, you are in for some extended counseling sessions.

After all this is said, don't let the enormous challenge of doing it stop you from considering a home network. The benefits are huge, and worth whatever hassles you go through. Probably the best reason for a home network is to share a high-speed Internet connection among your entire family, so that everyone can benefit from this "fat pipe" and nearly instantaneous downloads. The good news is that surviving your first home network doesn't require a great deal of skill, other than patience and perseverance. That is where this book will prove to be an invaluable guide.

My home network started when I got a cable modem for my home computer. Up until that time, my family shared a single computer; most of the time I was the only one who used the Internet. That changed radically the moment my wife and daughter found out that they could surf the Internet and get e-mail delivered continuously without having to fumble through dial-up commands and wait while the modem did its noisy dance.

All of a sudden, a single shared computer wasn't enough for the family. Once my wife started her own business, and my daughter's homework assignments got more complex, it was clear that two computers weren't going to work, either. Now we needed a network that would enable us to share the high-speed Internet connection as well as the laser and ink-jet printers we had at home. Suddenly, I was doing end-user computing support for my family, and bringing home more and more gear to hook up and to maintain. I had all sorts of choices to consider. I had to decide how to share files and set up the printers among the computers. I had to choose how to cable everything together, knowing that my wife had ultimate domestic design approval when it came time to run things through the walls and around the rooms. Then there was my cable Internet connection: Sharing that wasn't simple.

Luckily, this is something that I know something about. My background is in corporate end-user support, from those dark ages when networks were coming of age and PCs still had 640 kilobytes of memory. (Yes, that is kilobytes-today you can't even buy memory chips in kilobytes!) I began my professional career in computers just as Apple and IBM were getting into the game, and had set up networks, big and small, for the government and a private insurance company.

Since putting together my own home network I have gone on to set up dozens at friends' and neighbors' homes around Long Island, New York, and have helped numerous others through various articles published in technical trade magazines such as Byte. com, Network World, and Computerworld. (You can read copies of many of my published articles on my Web site, www.strom.com.) I've gained lots of experience setting up a wide variety of products in a wide variety of homes. And I've learned that not everything works as intended.

There are many people I know who, after getting their broadband line for one computer, continue to use dial-up for their remaining computers because they can't deal with the issues surrounding a home network. Teat is a real shame. In an industry that offers gigabit and terabit speeds for the office, we are still stuck in the slow lane on the home front. This is the real digital divide, and will remain so until the home networking products get better-or if you know a friendly networking expert who is willing to make house calls.

That's where this book comes in. Even if you can't distinguish opening Windows 2000 applications from opening your living room windows, you'll find in here almost everything you'll need to get started with your first home network, and how to survive its quirks and problems. Yes, you are going to have problems along the way, I can promise you that. Networks are full of gremlins, and sometimes figuring out what causes their peculiarities isn't easy. But given that more and more families have multiple PCs in their homes, many of you are going to want to network them and do so successfully. As the number of Internet-connected households continues to increase, there is a compelling reason to get started.

Who this book is for

Writing any book assumes a certain audience and skill level. The goal of this book is to get you running a network with a minimum of fuss and bother, and with just a few inexpensive products. You will have to spend some money to get a network going-how much will depend on how many computers you are connecting together and how difficult it will be to make those connections. My aim is to give you simple advice and, above all, to be practical, with enough detail to guide but not overwhelm you.

If you are an ordinary consumer, with little to no PC or professional information Technology/computing expertise, then this is the right book for you. I don't assume that you can take apart your PC and put it back together in working order, although I will discuss ways you can add various bits and pieces to your existing computer to make it work over a network. If you have never used a network before, or if you use a network at work but don't really know much about how it works, then you have come to the right place. Even if you have some knowledge, you will still get something out of this book, as you can benefit from my testing and using the various products that I talk about in these pages.

If you have already purchased some networking equipment, but can't seem to make it work, then perhaps this book can help you do some rudimentary troubleshooting, or at least steer you in the right direction to where you can determine that you have bought the right item or need to get something else. There is nothing more frustrating than bringing home a new piece of gear, only to spend hours fooling around with it, while your family stands around, watching you become irate. (Well, you could watch me fooling around with some new network gear, and getting aggravated.) That is one of the reasons why I wrote this book: to get even with all the vendors of products that almost, but not quite, work.

This book will also help if you are contemplating doing major renovations on your house and adding a network in the process. After all, the ideal time to add wiring to your walls is when you don't have any walls to deal with, or if you are going to be ripping bigger holes into them than drilling places to run wiring through them. I'll help you figure out where you should locate your PCs, printers, and other devices around your house.

If you already have a bunch of computers, I'll help you figure out which are worth networking, and which aren't. Many books assume that you will rush out and buy the latest PC, fully loaded and running the fastest processor. I don't. I designed this book to cover a mixture of old and new equipment, which is a challenge because every version of Windows (and, to some extent, Macintoshes) has a slightly different way of setting up its networking components.

If you presently own a single PC and are trying to decide whether it is worth it to add a second system to your home, then this book will prepare you for what lies ahead. I will also provide tips on how to incorporate these older computers into your home network.

Rest assured that anything I recommend in these pages is something that I, personally, have tried out in an actual home. Often I have found that something that works in my office, where I have an existing network, won't work quite the same way when I bring it over to a friend's house, where there isn't any network. It isn't that the vendors don't tell you the truth or don't deliver a working product; it's just that every home is different, and these conditions can make it easy or hard to install your network and keep it running.

How this book is organized

Each chapter of this book will focus on a particular task, such as sharing files and printers, and setting up your Internet connection. I assume you are a running a mixture of different computers and operating systems, so I will demonstrate the differences among the versions, including both Windows and Macintoshes, when these differences are important. Given the number of choices involved, I will lay out the advantages and disadvantages of each one and list simple steps you can take to make the appropriate decision.

Each chapter of this book is divided into five sections, so you can read particular ones of interest and follow the discussion when you need it most. Don't feel obligated to read through the entire book if all you are trying to do is get a quick answer to a specific question or solve one problem. The five chapter sections are:

  • An introduction to basic concepts
  • Problems and issues relevant to that particular topic
  • Solutions to these problems along with recommended products and how to set them up
  • Troubleshooting tips and other suggestions for when things will go wrong or aren't working the way they are supposed to
  • Future developments and directions so this book will still be relevant after it is published

    Chapter 1 looks at home wiring choices. Any network requires some kind of connection, and there are many types to choose from, including a new series of wireless products that can avoid drilling holes through your walls and running cables around your floors. I'll discuss where you should locate your computers and printers and how to make sure you pick the right kind of cables.
    Chapter 2 examines sharing files and introduces the basic networking concepts that are part of your computer's operating system. I'll also discuss which devices you don't want to share on your home network.
    Chapter 3 looks at sharing printers, probably the most obvious device that any home networking user will want to connect to a network. Sharing printers seems obvious, but getting it to work involves choosing the right product and setting it up correctly. By the end of this chapter, you should have a working basic home network set up.
    Chapter 4 goes into detail about the single biggest motivation for having a home network: sharing an Internet connection. T ere are numerous technologies to choose from, and I'll help you decide which one will work best for you and how to make sure you buy the right gear.
    Chapter 5 covers e-mail and messaging issues. E-mail, and its close cousin Instant Messaging (IM), are perhaps two universal Internet applications, and probably the most used service by anyone with a computer these days. I'll review how you can set up multiple e-mail accounts on a single computer, make use of AOL IM from your new network, and how to migrate from your existing AOL dial-up accounts.
    Chapter 6 looks at how you need to protect your network from intruders and others who want to do damage to your computers. I'll cover setting up your first firewall and installing virus protection on all of your computers, and what to do when someone is trying to break in.
    Chapter 7 covers keeping track of your family's surfing habits, and reviews ways that parents can be smart and stay informed about the Web sites, news groups, chat rooms, and other places around the Internet that their children visit. While this is not exclusive to surviving your home network, it is a natural consequence of putting together all this gear and something that every well-intentioned parent should know.
    Finally, Chapter 8 looks at some of the more advanced applications that you might want to run over your new home network, including connecting your computer to your music and stereo components, using digital video cameras, and controlling your home lighting and appliances.
    In addition to this structure, this book uses a series of icons to indicate various special situations throughout the text. The icons are:...

What this book isn't about

This book isn't going to give you lots of details on how to run large-scale networks; there are plenty of other books that delve into those areas. And this isn't a book that is designed so that someone can get into the guts of their network operating system. Nor is it a way to learn how to set up business-critical functions like backing up files and e-mail list servers. Nor is this book going to go into depth for someone who wants to run a Web server from a home network.

This isn't a book on how to pick the best sites to surf the Internet, or how to run various Internet applications such as newsreaders and chat programs, or where to download the best shareware programs that do the same. You won't find any tips here on how to use search portals or to track down information over the Web (unless of course it is networking information). I don't have many tips on how to select an Internet Service Provider, other than choosing the particular high-speed technology offered by that provider.

I also didn't set out to replace the instruction manuals that came with your computer, or any of the products that I recommend here. (Granted, many of these manuals have gotten skimpier over the years.) My goal is to give you just the right level of detail. If you want something meatier, you can probably find it on the shelf near where you bought this book.

What is on various Web sites

Given that this book covers technologies that are subject to frequent change, the information contained within is probably going to 49 somewhat out of date. Some of the outdated information isn't that important: Products come and go, and you shouldn't be upset if you try to find something that I recommend but is no longer being made. The important thing is to be able to judge for yourself which products will work for your particular situation, based on the criteria and decisions that I will describe in each chapter.

Having said that, I recommend two Web sites that you can go to for updated information. I have had nothing to do with the content on either Web site, so do take what you find there with several grains of salt.

The first site is called DSLreports.com. It contains lots of information to help you decide on the best provider of Digital Subscriber Line service, one of the major ways that you can obtain a high-speed Internet connection. There are also pointers and links to various home networking technologies on this site.

The second Web site is called PracticallyNetworked.com, which contains copious information about specific networking technologies, reviews of numerous products, and strategies to get your home wired.

From time to time, I'll post updates and suggestions on my own Web site, (http://strom.com/homenet), and provide links to other places around the Web that contain useful information for first-time networkers.

Who I am

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know something about my background and experience. I have always been interested in networking and computer communications, and enjoyed hooking things together to see if they could communicate with each other. I have had my own business since 1992, working for a wide variety of computer hardware and software vendors. My job is to research, test, and write about their products, and explain how to make them work better to the vendors so that you will have an easier time using them, assuming that the vendors take my advice and fix the things that I find wrong.

Product testing comes naturally to me, though I can't tell you why. I certainly don't have any "Mr. Fix It" skills when it comes to getting anything repaired around the house (as my family can attest). I couldn't fix a leaky faucet or change the oil in my car if my life depended on it. But I can fix almost all common PC problems.

Over the years, I have tested hundreds of different products, including Internet software, network operating systems, desktop and network applications, and various networking devices and communications products. In the past decade, I have written over 1000 articles for various computer trade magazines. Before starting my own consulting business, I was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine for CMP Media, and hired its first staff of editors and production people. I also ran a new product reviews department for Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Company, where we put in our first Novell network back in the 1980s. Before that, I was an in-house consultant in Information Technology departments for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, back when PCs were being created. This is my second book. My first, written and published in 1998, was called Internet Messaging (Prentice Hall, 1998) and written with Marshall T. Rose, one of the inventors of the Internet e-mail protocols. My thanks to Marshall for giving me the courage and teaching me the skills to write a book on my own.

This book grew out of a series of almost weekly essays about Web and Internet technologies, called "Web informant," that I began writing in the fall of 1995. Some of these essays described my early attempts to set up home networks and document some of the experiences, helping friends and neighbors along the way. Other essays have nothing to do with home networking, and cover issues such as Internet privacy, e-mail security, and more technical topics. If you like what you read here and want a regular dose, you can subscribe to these essays, which are delivered via e-mail, by going to my Web site (http://strom.com/awards).

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2002

    End Your Network Nighmares

    This book forced me to go through setting up my network step by step so that I would get it right. I struggled for days before getting the book, often asking for advice that would give me only part of the picture. Amongst other things, I was overlooking something as simple as not configuring my firewall software. This book forced me to go through step by step and fix all my mistakes one by one. Definitely not a book for the network guru, but a great book for a home networker like me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2002

    Buy this book if you're serious about networking at home

    While I have some experience using software and networks, actually setting up a system seemed daunting. Using the book while going through the steps made it seem almost too easy. I didn't even have to get into the troubleshooting sections.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    Absolutely fantastic!

    I purchased this book along with two or three of the 'For Dummies' books. I will make this as short and sweet as possible. This is the book you'll want to purchase. DO NOT waste money on the others. This book is full of great, pertinent and current information. It has been invaluable to me as I become 'wired at home!' It is a great book. Purchase it, you'll be glad you did!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2001

    I should-a would-a- could-a...

    I 'should-a' bought this book before I started my most recent home networking attempt... Then, I 'would-a' known what the heck I was doing and avoided the common pitfalls... and I 'could-a' saved about $200 in wasted money and about 10 hours of wasted effort. Strom's writing style is easy to follow and direct, probably because of his years as a magazine editor and columnist. It's also obvious that his wisdom is based on hands-on experience, not hopeful theory, baseless technology or empty promises from hardware manufacturers. Definitely worth the time to buy and read.

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