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Home Networking
An Introduction

The theme of this issue of PC Alamode [February 2003] is Home Networking. Home networking is about sharing — sharing computer resources among several computers. That means sharing an Internet connection, a printer, and files. Networking is also about communicating — like sending e-mails or playing games online. And to be useful in a home environment, networking has to be easy and cheap. As we shall see in this issue, it is at least cheap, and is getting easier. 

Networking originally required all computers be connected together with special wires, through an expensive box called a hub. Networking was expensive, and it was fiendishly difficult to set up and run a network. Some networks required special network operating systems that required many hours of special training to master. In other words, networking was too hard for the average home user.

Apple was the first company to try to make networking easy enough for the home user. Microsoft took a different approach, and began by making Windows a networking system first for the office environment, and later for the home. I suppose thatís logical; offices depend on networked computers for their existence, and can afford to hire trained network administrators to establish and maintain networks. At home, the user is the network administrator. But the home user canít afford expensive training, and probably couldnít spare the time even if the training was affordable. So home networking has to be easy. 

Another barrier to home networking is stringing all those ugly wires around the house. Although itís not hard to install network cable in new homes, doing so in existing homes can be difficult or expensive. Isnít there an easier way? There is. And what if you have a notebook computer and need to move around the house as you compute ó do you have to have a wire trailing you, where your spouse will trip over it and your cat will chew on it? Not any more, you donít. 

In this issue we try to assess just where the industry stands with home networking. We look at several attempts to solve some of the problems addressed above. We had hoped to have more networking hardware to review, but were unable to get it donated in time for this issue. However, we do have some interesting hardware reviews, as well as some useful how-to articles. Many of our hardware reviewers had to overcome minor problems installing new networking hardware, even with the automated help provided by the latest Wizards in Windows. So even though weíve come a long way, installation and set-up of home networking equipment isnít foolproof. But itís probably easy enough that you should be able to install and run a home network on your own now. 

In This Issue
Broadband Setup by Russell James KVM switch by Carl Deneke
Cables not Included! by Lee Besing Power Line HomePlug by Larry Grosskopf
Ethernet Networks by John Woody SOHO Sharing by Shane Hicks
I'm networked! by Clarke Bird Wireless Networking by Vade Forrester
Bluetooth Networking Starter Kit by Vade Forrester
Home and Small Office Networking by John Woody
Networking between Mac and Windows by Paul Vaughn

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