Do I need a network?

  Rodders 10:44 14 Sep 2005

I currently have 1 PC. It's a bit old but it's doing a good job in my home office. Runs WinME, 1.2GHz Athlon, 256MB SDRAM.

I'm connected to NTL Broadband.

What I'd like is to get a 2nd PC for my kids to use for educational software and for the internet. Of course, I'd like to use the same broadband connection that I use for my office PC.

The office is an outbuilding and the 2nd PC will be indoors so perhaps I need a wireless solution. Do I need to network the 2 PCs together? Or do I need some kind of hardware that splits the broadband connection. I'm not fussed about sharing files between the PCs, but perhaps the printer could be connected to both if possible. Printer is an HP PSC 1205.

What equipment do I need (network cards, modems, routers, etc)? And has anyone any recommendations?

  Agenajohn 12:44 14 Sep 2005

I have a desktop linked to the telewest broadband service via the motorolla surfboard cable modem (512kbps down, 120k up) using the onboard fast ethernet PCI connector (which claims to be running at 100MBPS - I presume only as far as the modem). The modem came with a USB lead too, though only one can be used at a time. What should I look for to link a laptop wirelessly (mainly file swapping/ printer sharing) beside the laptop PCMCIA card - a router between the cable modem and the desktop (do these have firewalls built in?) or something which plugs into the desktop on PCI, ethernet or USB? Any good brands which are easy for network newbies to set up out of the box? I am using XP's firewall on the desktop but see that Zonealarm (I used to use with W98) is preferred.

  Rodders 13:05 14 Sep 2005

I'm thinking I will get a Linksys BEFW11S4 wireless router. Then I need wireless cards for each PC.

I have some other concerns. I use FTP to maintain websites and read that there may be problems using FTP through routers, especially NAT routers like the BEFW11S4.

Will wireless work through external house walls?

  aceclose 15:55 14 Sep 2005

i have 2 pcs. one is by the master phone socket and using aol broadband the other is my daughters pc upstairs which is just used for games but i want it online for her also to share the same broadband connection. my pc is brand new fujitsu seimens p series. the little girls pc is e machines about 18months old, so i would say its hardware is relatively up to date. what stuff will i need to buy to have these both connected and on the net please. they dont need to share the same files etc just the cconnection to the net. although i would like it connected to the printer i have downstairs on my pc.

  Strawballs 20:55 14 Sep 2005

I don't know about the FTP side of things but I have a wireless router (Linksys) and my laptop will pick up my network from a friends house over the road and my router is at the back of the house

  Rodders 14:52 16 Sep 2005

thanks strawballs, very useful information. If only i lived nearer you i could probably save some money!!!!

i still need some info about FTP issues - are there any?

i also need some advice on wireless cards for each PC. Should i match manufacturers?

also, is there any real gain in buying a leading brand or is it OK to buy 'value' brands like 'dabsvalue' or 'ebuyer'?

  Taran 19:53 16 Sep 2005

Many users complain about router issues and there seem to be some models with specific problems while others suffer problems in an intermittent or random basis.

Common sense dictates that if you want to regularly use FTP and the router you have in mind has a known concern with it, you select an alternative product. However, some of the issues could well be down to factors other than the specific device, like the FTP mode being used, ISP/web host support for it, user authentication and so on.

Printers are comparatively inexpensive and you may want to consider one each - this may seem extravagant, but it would avoid the obvious issue I can see here where either you have to go inside the house to retrieve your prints or your daughter has to leave the house to retrieve hers.

Depending on the distance between the house and your office, and the location of your broadband telephone socket of course, you may like to consider a "network cable to router" connection in the house for your daughters PC, and a "wireless adapter to router" solution from your office to the router. You could just as easily do this in reverse, should you want the device on hand where you work.

I have never used own brand products from Dabs or similar, but if they are even remotely similar to the products from Netgear, SMC, Linksys and similar you should have no problems. For the record, I usually install Linksys and Netgear devices for home users, simply because I usually get excellent results from them.

Not many people know about Buffalo products, but if you get a Buffalo router and Buffalo wireless cards for each computer, the wireless cards will auto-connect quite securely to the router without any jiggery pokery from you, which kind of takes all the brain bashing out of WiFi home networking. PC World had Buffalo wireless cards for £20 each yesterday in my local store. I can't remember the cost of the router though.

If your outbuilding office has an underground conduit carrying electrical cabling from house to outbuilding, you could run a network cable from building to building but please don't think I'm recommending this as a good solution because it isn't. Different buildings have different earth properties, there could be environmental issues (heat, moisture etc) to contend with, and it can be illegal in certain respects to run such a connection - more detail would be required to make a decision on that front.

Almost all routers feature NAT. The trouble here is that home networking has mushroomed in popularity and devices are being made that struggle to deliver a range of features that non-technical people can deal with, understand and configure. NAT is a big subject and this isn't the place to go into it - suffice to say that any good router will offer it and most will not need any tweaking to get things running how you want them to.

FTP issues can be down to the router denying certain ports by default. This is where security lock downs can become a bit overenthusiastic, but some minor settings in the router control panel will normally sort out any issues.

What I will say is this: I would strongly recommend you consider a network cable from one machine to the router.

When wireless drops for any reason, and it will, the only resolution sometimes is to call up the router control panel (not possible if your wireless connection doesn't connect) and reboot or restart certain elements of the router using its own browser-based software. It is also much easier to set up a wired network than a wireless one, so by using one hard wired connection you remove some of the config issues you may have with WiFi and offer yourself an easy access solution to the routers control panel in the event that things go that strange shape of pear.

Just some thoughts for you to mull over.


  Rodders 22:51 16 Sep 2005

that's great info, thanks. particularly like the idea of using a cable connection from one pc. most WiFi routers have cable ports also, right?

Any recommendations on specific products, or is it that most of Linksys/Netgear/Buffalo products are user-friendly?

where can i find out if a certain router has known FTP problems?

  reece1705 11:53 17 Sep 2005

If u r goin yo try a wireless solution make sure the walls in ur house arem't 2and a half or more ft thick otherwise u will lose considerable signal strength. This is only really a problem for houses built about 200 years ago (literally)

  Rodders 13:20 17 Sep 2005

i'd be lucky if my walls were 2½ inches thick!! thanks for that advice though, i'll bear it in mind when i by my mansion in the country!

  Taran 14:01 17 Sep 2005

Recommending specific products is always difficult.

The main considerations are cost, ease of use and features. Obviously this should go hand in hand with good build quality.

The devices I prefer are not necessarily the least expensive, so without knowing your budgetary constraints it would be impossible to suggest one product over another.

Buffalo have about the simplest WiFi I've seen since the adapter cards automatically negotiate a connection to the Buffalo router with little or no help from you. After installation you literally start up the PC and the wireless adapter goes off and finds then connects to the router.

You still have to tell the router which settings to use for your ISP, although some routers are getting smarter at autodetecting the ISP settings, at least up to ap oint.

Perhaps those with experience of own brand devices from Ebuyer and Dabs etc could coment on the device performance.

Personally I'd lean towards the brands I've already named. They are all readily available off the shelf at any PC World or similar store, as well as by mail order. Many Linksys products, just as an example, carry a long warranty which may give you some peace of mind during ownership.


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