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In pursuit of a home network


Terry Masinter works for The Great Exchange, a local independent used bookstore chain. She enjoys Science Fiction and has a life long love for Children's Literature. A mostly self-taught computer geek since the days of DOS, Terry joined the Alamo PC Organization in Oct. 2000.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

Setting up a home network has always sounded like a good idea to me. But until recently I have never had two computers to rub together at the same time. This is largely because anytime I would see fit to purchase a new computer; one of my kids would immediately cart off the old one to a college dorm or some such place. It has not been an altogether bad system except on holidays or during summer break when everyone is home and wants to get on the computer at the same time. Which generally means that I get very little time on MY computer. 

When I purchased my latest computer I was determined to keep the one from which I had upgraded and network the two together. My main goal was to have both computers share my broadband Internet connection, in my case this is the RoadRunner Cable Service. I am aware that I could do this by paying RoadRunner for an additional IP address. But since the second computer will only be used during school holidays I didn't want to pay an extra monthly fee. The solution was to get them connected using a single IP address.

When I started out on this little adventure I knew where I wanted to go, I just had no idea how I was going to get there. I had read numerous articles on the subject in the past but had not studied them closely. I only stored the information away in my brain in a very general sense thinking the information would be "out there" if I ever needed it. 

I love researching on the Internet. I always look forward to packing up my little knapsack full of questions to journey through the infinitely vast labyrinth of information that is the World Wide Web. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know what questions to pack. How do you search for something if you don't know what it's called? It always pays to bring along a healthy helping of determination. If one pass through the search engine reveals nothing (or too much) try some other wording. Try another search engine. Try, try and try again. I think I can... 

Along the way I remembered that one of the articles I had read was written by an Alamo PC member. The article had been written before I joined this wonderful organization so I didn't have a copy of the PC Alamode in which it appeared. I tried searching for it on the Alamo PC web site. But I could not remember who had written it. I finally decided to ask Clarke Bird for help. He was kind enough to track down the author for me and send me a photocopy of the article, written by K. Joyce McDonald. He also sent me her e-mail address so that I could contact her directly.

The article didn't quiet address what I was trying to do because it was written before RoadRunner realized they were leaking IP addresses and corrected that situation. But it did give me fresh ideas for continuing my information search. At this point I still didn't quite know what equipment I needed to buy. I wrote to K. Joyce McDonald to see if she had any wisdom to impart to me.

In the meantime, not being one to sit on my hands and wait for answers, I continued my pilgrimage through the Internet. I followed a link from RoadRunner's local San Antonio web site to SpeedGuide.net (a superb site, packed full of useful broadband information). There I spotted a few product reviews for various routers. "Hmm, router, I think this might be what I need."  I read through all the reviews. When I got to the one on the "Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router with 4-Port 10/100 Switch" (BEFSR41) by Brent & Vorpal I knew my wanderings were over. I have found the product I needed! Their review was highly informative as well as entertaining. It even included a humorous pictorial "A Day in the Life of Linky" that brought tears of laughter to my eyes. But more importantly, the article contained links to the Linksys homepage where I was able to access the actual User Guide in PDF format. After reading through the User Guide, I was even more convinced that this was what I needed to connect my two computers. The beautiful thing was that, except for two RJ-45 male-to-male category 5 cables, this is all I would need. I think I can... I think I can...

Armed with the knowledge of what was needed to get the job done, I started my search of places that carried it. More importantly I was looking for the best price and immediate availability. First, I lined up all of the usual local suspect: Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Depot, Office Max. Those that had the Linksys 4 port Router were offering it for between $159.00 and $149.00. I was really hoping to buy it locally because, now that I knew what I needed, I wanted it now! But after looking around on the Internet I realized I could get a much better deal by ordering online. Buy.com had it listed for $104.95 but didn't have the cables I needed to go with it in stock. I hate backorders! I considered ordering the router from them and ordering the cables elsewhere or even buying the cables locally. Poking around a bit more, I found that Egghead.com also had the router for the $104.95 price and they had the cables I needed in stock as well. (Some of you may remember Egghead had a local store here a few years ago. Waxing nostalgic, I remembered buying my first CD ROM installation kit there.) In addition to the great product pricing, they were running a shipping special of unlimited items for $6.95. Adding it all up: everything I needed came to $122.05 including shipping. The price made it worth waiting a few days to get my router.

During my week in waiting I went back to the Linksys homepage to read more of the User Guide. The plan was to tear open the Linksys box as soon as it arrived so I wanted to be prepared. The Guide indicated there were a few questions that needed to be answered by the User's ISP:

  1. Does your ISP require that your broadband-configured PC have a Computer Name and Workgroup Name?
  2. Does your ISP require that you enter a Router Name & Domain Name during the set up?
  3. Is your IP Address: static or dynamic? 
To find out these answers I went to the RoadRunner News Group. The answer to the first two questions was the same, "No, these are not required." For the third I was told that my IP address was dynamic. This information told me that I was going to have the easiest possible installation! I also received lots of helpful tips and information from RR members who have setup their own Linksys routers. 

Feeling confident that I have made a good choice, I received an e-mail from K. Joyce McDonald telling me that she had the Linksys single port router connected to her already exciting hub. This gave me even more confidence that I was on the right track. I think I can... I think I can...

When my Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router with 4-Port 10/100 Switch finally arrived I was on my way out the door to an engagement I could not break. Sigh, the installation would have to wait until I returned home. I did, however, allow myself a peek in the box to admire its beauty. 

Later that same night I got down to business. With the 2 PCs, the cable modem, and the new Linksys router all powered off, I connected all the appropriate cables. The User Guide gives good detailed instruction on what to plug in where. First I powered up the router then I powered up the cable modem. After powering up both PCs I accessed the Setup Utility . From there the setup was so incredibly easy I had to wonder if I had missed something. For the most part I simply accepted all the default settings, since they happened to be what was needed for RoadRunner. The only exception to this was the number of PCs I needed to enter into the DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) field. The Setup's default is 50 but I only needed 2. I reset my cable modem according to the User Guide and I was good to go! That was it! Easiest thing I've ever done. I thought I could... I thought I could...

I spent some time accessing Web sites, sending and receiving e-mail to make sure all was working well on both PCs. No Problem with either one. I even tested out Napster because the SpeedGuide.net article had mentioned having a problem with it. Apparently, Linksys has addressed the problem since that article was written because it worked like a charm. I may look into some of the more advanced features of the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router with 4-Port 10/100 Switch in the future, but for now I am satisfied to have both computers connected to one RoadRunner IP address. Next time the kids are home the new computer will be all mine!

I thought I could... I thought I could... I thought I could...   And you can too.

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