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A computer network can be two computers connected:

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The primary purpose of a computer network is to share resources:

Am 8ou can play a CD music from one computer while sitting on another computer
Am 8ou may have a computer with a CD writer or a backup system but the other
computer doesn¶t have it; In this case, you can burn CDs or make backups on a

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computer that has one of these but using data from a computer that doesn¶t
have a CD writer or a backup system
Am 8ou may have a computer that doesn¶t have a DVD player. In this case, you can
place a movie DVD on the computer that has a DVD player, and then view the
movie on a computer that lacks a DVD player
Am 8ou can connect a printer (or a scanner, or a fax machine) to one computer and
let other computers of the network print (or scan, or fax) to that printer (or
scanner, or fax machine)
Am 8ou can place a CD with pictures on one computer and let other computers
access those pictures
Am 8ou can create files and store them in one computer, then access those files
from the other computer(s) connected to it

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Based on their layout (not the physical but the imagined layout, also referred to as
topology), there are two types of networks. A network is referred to as peer-to-peer if
most computers are similar and run workstation operating systems:

It typically has a mix of Microsoft Windows 9X, Me, Windows XP Home Edition, or
Windows XP Professional (you can also connect a Novell SUSE Linux as part of a
Microsoft Windows-based network; the current release of the operating system is
really easily to install and made part of the network).

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In a peer-to-peer network, each computer holds its files and resources. Other
computers can access these resources but a computer that has a particular resource
must be turned on for other computers to access the resource it has. For example, if

a printer is connected to computer A and computer B wants to printer to that printer,

computer A must be turned On.

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A computer network is referred to as client/server if (at least) one of the computers is
used to "serve" other computers referred to as "clients". Besides the computers,
other types of devices can be part of the network:

In a client/server environment, each computer still holds (or can still hold) its (or
some) resources and files. Other computers can also access the resources stored in a
computer, as in a peer-to-peer scenario. One of the particularities of a client/server
network is that the files and resources are centralized. This means that a computer,
the server, can hold them and other computers can access them. Since the server is
always On, the client machines can access the files and resources without caring
whether a certain computer is On.

Another big advantage of a client/server network is that security is created,

managed, and can highly get enforced. To access the network, a person, called a user
must provide some credentials, including a username and a password. If the
credentials are not valid, the user can be prevented from accessing the network.

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The client/server type of network also provides many other advantages such as
centralized backup, Intranet capability, Internet monitoring, etc.
In these series of lessons, the network we will build is based on Microsoft Windows
operating systems (I have been able to fully connect some versions of Linux, such as
Novell SUSE Linux, into a Microsoft Windows-based network but at the time of this
writing, I will not be able to address that).

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6m  € An Intel Pentium or Celeron family of processors or an AMD
K6/Athlon/Duron family of processors. The processor should have a 300
megahertz clock speed. A higher speed is recommended.To check the speed of the
processor of a computer, you have many alternatives:
When the computer starts, you can access its BIOS by pressing F2 or F8
depending on the computer, the model or the manufacturer
6m From the computer's desktop, if it's running Windows 95 and later, you can
right-click My Computer and click Properties
6m 8ou can open Control Panel and double-click System

With these two previous options, you can see the processor's speed in the Computer
section of the General property page.

As another alternative to check the computer's processor, from Control Panel, you can
double-click System, click the Hardware tab, and click Device Manager. In the Device
Manager window, expand the Processors node and double-click the first node under

'.1€ The computer must have a memory of at least 64 megabytes (MB). As memory
is not particularly expensive nowadays, you should upgrade the computer's memory to
at least 512MB
 m! ( Before installing Microsoft Windows XP Professional on an existing computer,
make sure the hard drive has the appropriate capacity to handle the OS. To find out how
much space your hard drive has, you can open Windows Explorer or My Computer, right-
click the C:\ drive and click Properties.

3 € The computer should have Super VGA video adapter and be able to handle at least
an 800 x 600 or higher-resolution.

!'*1 or !3! drive: Unless you got this computer a long time ago, it should already
have either a CD or a DVD drive or both. If it doesn't, you use one of its empty bays to
install one. If the installation seems difficult or something you don't feel like doing, you can
purchase an external drive. To do this, you can shop to a computer store or a web store.

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Cable is used to connect computers. Although we are planning to use as much
wireless as possible, you should always have one or more cables around. In our
network, we will use Category 5 cable RJ-45. The ends of the cable appear as follows:

They can be in different colors:

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In our introduction to networks, We mentioned that you could connect one computer
to another. This can be done using their serial ports:

This is possible because almost every computer has a serial port. If you have to
connect many computers to produce a network, this serial connection would not be
practical. The solution is to use a central object that the computers and other
resources can connect to, and then this object becomes responsible to ³distribute´ or
manage network traffic:

The most regularly used types of network distributors are the hub, the router, and
the switch.

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A hub is rectangular box that is used as the central object on which computers and
other devices are connected. To make this possible, a hub is equipped with small
holes called ports. Here is an example of a hub:

Although this appears with 4 ports, depending on its type, a hub can be equipped
with 4, 5, 12, or more ports. Here is an example of a hub with 8 ports:

When configuring it, you connect an RJ-45 cable from the network card of a computer
to one port of the hub.

In most cases for a home-based or a small business network, you may not need a hub.

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Like a hub, a router is another type of device that acts as the central point among
computers and other devices that are part of a network. Here is an example of a
wired router:

A router functions a little differently than a hub. In fact, a router can be considered a
little "intelligent" than the hub.

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Like a hub, the computers and other devices are connected to a router using network
cables. To make this possible, a router is equipped with holes, called ports, in the
back. Here is an example:

Based on advances in the previous years from IEEE and other organizations or
research companies, there are wireless routers. With this type, the computers and
devices connect to the router using microwaves (no physical cable).

In our (small) network, we wish to use a wireless router. Therefore, this is the kind
we suggest you purchase. 8ou can purchase a wireless router from a computer
store.etc). 8ou can also buy a wireless router from a computer store.

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In order to connect to a network, a computer must be equipped with a device called a
network card. A network card, or a network adapter, also called a network interface
card, or NIC, allows a computer to connect to the exterior. If you buy a computer
from one of those popular stores or big companies on the Internet, most of their
computers have a network card tested and already. 8ou can reliably use it. If you go
to a store that sells or manufactures computers, you can ask them to install or make
sure that the computer has a network card.

If you have a computer that doesn¶t have a network card, you can install one. If you
have a computer that already has a network card, you can still replace it.

When it comes to their installation, there are roughly two categories of network
cards: internal and external. An internal network card looks like a printed circuit
board with some objects "attached" or "glued" to it and it appears as follows:

What this card looks like may not be particularly important and it may depend on the
manufacturer but some of its aspects particularly are. To start, there are two types of
cards and you should know which one is suited (or which one you want to use) for
your computer. One type of NICs uses a peripheral component interconnect (PCI)
connection. Another type uses industry standard architecture (ISA).

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There are two primary ways you replace a network card. In most cases, you will
remove the card your computer already has and install a new one. In some other
cases, you will only add a new card but you cannot replace the existing one because
it is part of the motherboard (I have found that out lately when opening a few
computers for my users (I was not aware of that)). The area where you add a
network card is called a slot.

To proceed, you must find out what your computer has to offer when it comes to
network cards. To do this, you have three main alternatives. 8ou can open the
computer and examine the available slots of your computer. They are usually located
inside of what would be considered as the back (wall) of the computer (if you know
where you connect the monitor, you should be able to locate the area that has the
slots. Unfortunately, unless you have experience with this, simply looking at the slots
will not tell you what type of connection you are dealing with.

The second alternative is to open the manual that came with you computer (provided
you haven¶t thrown it away). The manual usually lists the (types of) slots that your
computer provides and where they are located.

The last alternative to knowing the types of slots that your computer provides is to
contact the company that sold you the computer. They usually know, provided you
can get a human being on the phone, as long as you give them the model of the

Once you know the type of slot available to you, you can go on the Internet or to a
computer store and buy an appropriate network card. One of the most important
characteristics of a network card is the speed it can use to carry information. The
speeds are either 10 or 100Mbps (megabits per second). When buying a network
card, you should pay attention to this.

After buying a network card intended for internal installation, you can/must install it.
The network card should come with a manual and all (easy to follow) instructions.
8ou can also install the network card after setting up the computer.We mentioned
that a network card could also be used or installed externally. This can be done using
USB. To use it, you can go to a computer store or find a web site that sells them. The
device you buy may look like this:

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Here is another example:

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Depending on your network budget or your customer's, instead of using wired
network cards, you can use wireless ones. A wireless NIC appears as its wired
counterpart. Here are two examples:

Overall, the physical installation of a wireless network card follows the same rules as
that of a wired NIC. They normally come with easy to follow instructions but it may
be a good idea to install the wireless network adapters after installing the wireless
router. Also, it may be a good idea to purchase the network cards and the wireless
router from the same manufacturer.

Most desktop computers (workstations) come without a wireless network card. If you
purchase a computer from one of the big companies on the Internet, you can choose
to have it shipped with a wireless NIC. Some companies may propose to install it
before shipping the computer. If you buy a computer from a store and if you want to
use wireless networking, you can buy a wireless network card separately. As stated
already, a wireless network card is not particularly difficult to install.

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Besides the wireless network cards that can be installed inside the computer, you can
use external cards. These are installed using a USB port. Here is an example of a USB

Here is another example:

These adapters, like most USB objects, are easy to connect and use. Like the other
hardware parts, when you connect these, the computer detects them and helps you
get them ready for use.

Unlike desktop computers, most laptops nowadays come equipped with a wireless
network card (in fact most laptops today ship with both a wired and a wireless
adapters). This means that, after purchasing or acquiring a laptop, you should simply
check whether it has a wireless adapter. The way you check this depends on the
laptop. Therefore, check its documentation. If your laptop happens not to a have a
wireless adapter and you want to use one, you have two main options. The classic
style of adapter appears as the following two examples:

This adapter is inserted on a side of the laptop. Normally, you would easily see its
port as there is usually only one that is suited for this type of card on the laptop. As
you may guess, this card can be inserted and removed at will.

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If you attach a printer to one computer and share it, when that computer is off,
nobody can print. An alternative is to purchase a network printer. That is, a printer
that will directly connect to the network and people can print to it any time. There are
two types of printers in this case:

Am Some printers come equipped with a network card. In this caseyou can use an
RJ-45 cable to connect it to a router or a hub
Am Some printers are equipped for a parallel port. To connect them to a network,
you can purchase what is referred to as a print server (or a Jet-Direct card). The
manufacturer of the printer can sell it to you
If you are using a wireless network, you can purchase a wireless print server. This
allows you to connect almost any type of printer, with or without a network card, to
the network. 8ou can purchase a wireless print server from a computer store or from
a web store. It is usually easy to install as it comes with easy-to-follow instructions.

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An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that serves as the intermediary between
your network (or you) and the Internet. If you plan to give access to the Internet to the
members of your network, you may need this type of company. 8ou can start by
checking with your local telephone company or your local TV cable company.

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Firewall is a security measure that consists of protecting your network from intruders.
This is primarily important if you plan to connect your network to the Internet. There
are two types of firewalls: hardware and software.

For a small network, when buying a router, you can inquire as to whether it has a built-in
firewall. Many of them do. Alternatively, you can use or configure one of the computers of
your network as a firewall.

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1.m Shut down all computers and the router (if necessary)
2.m Turn on one computer you will use to setup the router
3.m 8ou router should have come equipped with a piece of paper or a brochure of just a
few pages that lists the instructions to follow to setup the router. One of the early
instructions may ask you to insert the CD that came with the router, in the CD drive
and wait for the instructions. Follow these instructions faithfully
4.m After setting up and configuring the router, turn it off and turn off the computer you
used to set it up (this step is optional)
5.m Connect each of the other computers to the router using an RJ-45 cable for each

If you had turned off (some of) the machines, first turn on the router. Then, after a few
seconds, turn on the computers. If you receive some messages indicating that a network
was detected.

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If you plan to setup a wireless network using a wireless router, you will need to use one
computer to set it up.

1.m Start the computer you will use to setup the router (you should turn the others off):

Most, if not all, wireless routers come with very easy to follow instructions. Most of them
usually ask you to first insert the CD that accompanies the router, that is, before physically
installing the router. Consult the documentation (usually just one or a few pieces of paper
or a small brochure) and faithfully follow its CD's instructions. At one time, the instructions
would indicate to you when to connect the computer and the wireless router. To do this, you
will use a cable (usually supplied to you) to connect one end to the computer and another
end to the router:

1.m Because the steps to perform depend on the router (or the manufacturer), we will let you
perform as described by their documentation
2.m After installing and setting up the wireless router, turn it off and turn the computer
3.m If you didn't yet, install the wireless network card(s) on the other computer(s).
For any computer that doesn't have a wireless network card but has a wired network
card, connect it to a port of the wireless router using an RJ-45 cable. The computers
that have a network card will not need a physical connection to the wireless router:

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Once you have built a computer network, from time to time, you will need to check what
computers are available and/or what files or folders have been shared. To assist you with
this, Microsoft Windows XP provides a window named My Network Places.

1.m On one of the computers, click Start -> My Network Places.

If you don't see that option in the right column of the Start menu, depending of your
configuration, click Start -> Settings -> Network Connections. Then, under Other
Places, click My Network Places.
As an alternative, you can click Start -> Control Panel or Start -> Settings -> Control
Panel. Under Other Places, click My Network Places.