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The Network Adapter
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To set up a home network, you need a network adapter (an NIC) installed on each PC The network adapter can be installed internally as a PCI card on desktop PCs and as a PC card on notebooks Or, it can be an external unit connected via a USB cable An Ethernet adapter is built in to most modern desktops and all notebooks Other popular types of home network NICs are the HomePlug powerline adapter, the HomePNA phoneline adapter, and the wireless adapter Table 18-1 provides a summary of costs, speeds, and advantages of these technologies, all of which can be mixed in a single home network The HomePlug adapter is usually an external or wallmount unit that links to the PC via an Ethernet or USB cable In either case, you plug the unit into a normal AC
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CHAPTER 18 Building a Home Network
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power outlet just as you would any other appliance Both electricity and data flow to the adapter The HomePNA adapter usually is a PCI card in a desktop or a USB external unit In either case, a regular telephone wire with RJ-11 connectors links the adapter and the telephone wall jack The phoneline adapters link PCs via the regular phone lines that run throughout the house The phoneline home network adapters work on a different frequency than your voice conversations and your DSL broadband signal (which also is delivered over telephone lines), so you can use your telephone while data flows between your computers and over the Internet The other option is the wireless home networking adapter Again, these can be internal or external devices The internal wireless network adapter is a PCI card in desktops and a PC card on notebooks (see Figure 18-1) The wireless adapters, which link to an access point, eliminate the need for extra wiring and give you flexibility to move about and around the house if you re operating from a notebook PC The transmission speeds for wireless home networking are comparable with HomePNA and HomePlug (see Table 18-1)
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Often, the residential gateway will have a USB port If this is the case and two of the PCs to be networked are in the same room as the gateway, then one of them can be linked with a USB cable, thus eliminating the need for any special network adapters
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If you design a home network with at least one wireless link, you will need an access point or AP The AP is a communications hub that enables the transceivers embedded in the wireless network adapters to link to the home network via short-range radio
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waves, like those used by cordless telephones The AP can be a stand-alone unit or integrated into a residential gateway (see Figure 18-2) Under normal circumstances, a single AP is all that is needed to link the PCs in a home network
Figure 18-2
Wireless-G cable modem residential gateway
(Photo courtesy of Cisco Systems, Inc)
Having an AP is highly recommended for home networks with wireless communication, but the AP is not essential PCs with wireless NICs can also communicate with each other in ad hoc mode, where devices communicate directly in a peer-topeer manner Mostly, ad hoc mode is used to form spontaneous networks For example, any group of people with wireless NIC-equipped PCs can easily form an impromptu LAN using ad hoc mode Here are a few tips that can help you optimize the performance of your wireless connections:
To minimize the possibility of eavesdropping, position the AP near the
center of the network
Keep line-of-sight obstructions to a minimum Avoid placing wireless components next to large objects, such as
refrigerators or fireplaces
To minimize radio wave interference, position wireless components away
from radios, TVs, microwave ovens, and cordless telephones
CHAPTER 18 Building a Home Network
The Residential/Home Gateway
The central component in a home network is a residential gateway, also called a home gateway The residential gateway doesn t have a specific function; instead, it embodies a variety of functions needed to control a home network and interface with the Internet Most home gateways include these features:
Router The router provides a link between the home network (a LAN)
and the Internet (a WAN) such that the entire home network can share a single high-speed Internet connection Sometimes the connectors on routers are labeled LAN and WAN Cable and/or DSL modem Although some home gateways may have both, most have either a cable modem or a DSL modem for broadband Internet access Some home gateway products are designed to connect to the modem provided by your ISP Access point The AP works with wireless network adapters to enable wireless communications over the network Gateways with wireless access normally have two, and possibly three, antennas Most wireless gateways include a data encryption feature that protects transmissions within the network Without encryption, wireless signals on the network are vulnerable to external interception For example, someone could park in front of your house and tap into the Internet through your broadband access Ethernet switch The typical home gateway has a four-port Ethernet switch (four RJ-45 jacks) into which four Ethernet cables can be connected Essentially, the switch enables the connection of PCs in a network The switch interprets the destination address, perhaps the PC in the upstairs bedroom, and then forwards the information to the appropriate port If you need more jacks, you can expand the network by connecting any Ethernet cable to an Ethernet hub, which provides more RJ-45 jacks (usually 4, 8, or 16) These inexpensive hubs can be daisy-chained at any point in the network to create as many Ethernet ports as you need There is a four-hub limit for 10 Mbps networks The limit is two and one for 100 Mbps and 1000 Mbps, respectively You can pay a little more and get an intelligent switching hub that can expedite the flow of information through the network Firewall The convenience of always-on Internet comes with a price the ever-present threat of Internet intruders A built-in firewall keeps Net intruders and attackers out of your home network Firewalls are described in 13, Internet Security: Protecting Your PC USB port Residential gateways often have a USB port for connecting another PC to the network without the need for a network adapter
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