All the Graphics
By Thiravudh Khoman
The past decade has witnessed a substantial growth in the area of home computing. Several reasons account for this:
With computers penetrating a significant proportion of households, it wasn't long before multi-computer households began to appear. Computers, though, are different from other household equipment. While two cars (or two TV's for that matter) are best used as separate entities, such is not the case with computers. Computers rely on add-on peripherals (such as printers) or services (such as Internet connectivity) that are most cost-effectively used when shared or networked.
Operating System Support
The wisdom of networking has already been proven in business environments. Except for the very smallest companies, most businesses now rely on computer networks to share printers, files or applications. While there is probably less need for file sharing in home environments, the need for sharing printers and Internet connections is no less important than it is in companies; perhaps more so given that high computing expenses are more difficult to justify for the average home user.
Most PC operating systems these days have networking capabilities built-in. Microsoft's Windows has supported networking ever since Windows for Workgroups v3.11 (granted, not a consumer operating system). Apple's Macintosh was networkable since day one, given the need to share its expensive LaserWriter printer. Linux, given its Unix roots, is in fact a full-blown networking operating system, and not only supports networking, but supports it from both a client and a server perspective. (To narrow things down, this paper will henceforth focus only on Windows networking.)
Networking, however, is different from Internet sharing (although the latter does require the former as a prerequisite). Internet sharing didn't come to Windows until Windows 98 began to bundle its Internet Connection Sharing. Despite this, numerous third-party Internet sharing solutions exist for the Windows platform, from the simple and free AnalogX Proxy (https://www.analogx.com/contents/download/network/proxy.htm) to Kerio Technologies' NAT-based WinRoute Pro (https://www.winroute.com).
Home versus Office
Home networking is generally considered to be different from office networking. Theoretically, though, it doesn't need to be so. If one had the freedom to wire a house or apartment with LAN cable the same way one could in an office, the differences would be minimal. Unfortunately, there are differences in the physical structures of homes versus offices that make it difficult to do so. First of all, most offices have ”false” ceilings and some even have “raised” floors, that can be used to hide cable runs. Homes do not. Running cables between rooms in a house invariably requires drilling holes through walls. For rented homes or apartments, this is a definite no-no.
In fact, the only time when networking in a home can be accomplished as easily as in an office using standard LAN cable is when all of the computers are located in a single room. In this case, LAN cable can simply be placed on the floor, flush against the wall between computers.
A few other differences should also be noted:
A Simple Home Setup
So, how do you network two computers in a home? Let's assume for the moment that both computers are in the same room. First, you need to install a networking interface card (NIC) inside both computers (some USB-based NIC's are also available now). Second, you connect the two computers with LAN cable. Third, you set up the operating system on both computers to recognize the NIC's and to use the needed protocols. Fourth, you set up file, printer and/or Internet sharing.
Here's an example of a simple setup (figure 1).
Actually, there are a few more considerations. If both computers have 10Base-T NIC's, one could either use a twisted pair “crossover cable” to connect the two computers without the need for a hub. Or, one could install a hub and run twisted pair cable between each computer's NIC to the hub. Or, if one chose to use Thin Ethernet NIC's, one could also connect the two computers using terminated RG-58 cable without the need for a hub – although this is a somewhat dated solution.
A More Complex Home Setup
More often than not though, the two (or more) computers will be located in different rooms. Assuming that one is unable to drill holes between rooms (and floors!) to connect the different rooms, there are two prevailing home networking technologies that can overcome this:
Cabling issues aside, one may also find other devices in high-end home networks, such as:
Here's an example of a sophisticated home network: (figure 2).