Home Network Setup

Home Network Setup

Originally Posted 11/20/2000. Ironically a lot of this is still useful.


Home Networking



            In the day and age of Multi-computer families, a frequent argument is, who gets to be online? The answer is simple, Modem Sharing or networking. Modem Sharing can be done one of several ways, using a regular Analog Modem (300 baud to 56.6K,) DSL or ADSL, ISDN and Cable modems. You could also be on a T-1 (or greater!) network connection, but then why are you reading this? J



Which one is right for me?


            Analog Modems


            Pros: Can be used anywhere a telephone is located.

            Cons: Limited to an upper bandwidth of 53K due to telephone regulations in the US. May be slightly higher in other countries. Modems also suffer greatly from phone line quality, crosstalk (where two or more wires touch each other in the wrong place therefore mixing the signal,) and any line noise at all. More then two low-bandwidth applications can easily make this almost worse then nothing. Ties up the phone line if you only have one.



            Pros: Very fast, two 64K channels giving 128K total. Even one channel at 64K is cleaner and noticeably faster then 56k.

            Cons: Still only 128K, costs the same as DSL. In addition, totally against ISDN specs, some companies charge you for the 2nd line to automatically drop when an incoming or outgoing phone call is detected, so your phone is still tied up.




            Pros: Very fast… minimum 265K maximum 7 megabits, makes this very, very fast. Phone lines do not get tied up at all. Can easily support multiple high-bandwidth applications (web browsers, games, large downloads, etc.) Can get a Static IP, which is very useful if you wish to run servers at home.

            Cons: Suffers slightly at the phone companies end due to misconfiguration. Such things as dropped carriers, being able to see other people’s computers (in Network Neighborhood.) and depending on the carrier, a slight slow down in bandwidth due to the phone company over selling it. Remember, at this point the phone company does not have to guarantee a certain amount of bandwidth… you simply have speeds up what ever your limit is.




            Pros: As above, very, very fast

            Cons: Suffers greatly from overselling of bandwidth. If other cable subscribers are all using it at the same time as you, they effect your speed. If you’re the only one in the area then it’s not a big deal. But frequently this slows down to speeds that are little better then a regular modem. Can’t get a Static IP number,  you’ll never be able to run a server, at least not very effectively.


Initial Setup


            First you need to get the network equipment. Your best bet for ease of configuration and portability is to get a couple of  mid-priced range network cards, (Kingston is a good bet) and a decent 100Base hub. (NetGear, Bay Networks, Intel.) You can buy cheaper cards such as SMC but they will effect your speed. If you can afford it, a switch is even better, giving you more bandwidth and speed. You’ll also want several lengths of networking cables too. J

            Second, your modem or router should be hooked up to one of the computers. In the case of some DSL routers, these can be directly hooked up to your hub. Other products have a DSL router and hub built in to the same unit. In my opinion this is unncessecary and could cause problems down the road. Remember to install the 2nd network card if it’s an external unit. (Cable and DSL only.)

            The third step is to setup the modem/router itself to connect to the network. This changes from different brands of Cable modems and routers. If you’re using a regular 56k modem, connect as you usually would.

            The last step is to make sure you know what your IP Address, DHCP Server (if needed,) DNS Server, Gateway and Netmask numbers are. You may or many not have all of these options. These have four numbers or “octets” like or Each of these numbers or octets can be anything between 0 to 255, with some exceptions.

            Your network should look something like this when you’re done:

            ISP -> Modem/Routers -> Computer -> Hub <-> Other computers

            One thing to point out, the computer plugged into the modem/router needs to be running an Operating system capable of doing routing. Windows 95 is not capable of doing this.  Windows 98 sorta does it, while Windows NT, ME, 2000, FreeBSD and Linux are all capable of doing so. Mac OS X being based off of FreeBSD can also do this. Windows 95 is capable of doing so with the help of a third party commercial piece of software. I personally run FreeBSD on  a 486 SX-25, recently upgraded to a Intel P-166 to do this. (BTW, it runs quicker and more efficiently then Windows NT or 2000 on a AMD –450 with 128 megs of RAM!)


Network Setup


            The Network hardware is pretty straightforward. One cable from each computer plugs into the hub or the switch. Each port should have a LED saying the port is active. Usually there is a 2nd LED that shows network traffic on that port of the hub.

            Start with the computer connected to the modem/router. The protocol that you wish to run is TCP/IP, make sure IPX/SPX and Netbui are both disabled unless you need them. Most games these days don’t care what protocol you’re running, but some of the older ones need IPX/SPX (Duke Nukem 3D, Warcraft, early Diablo releases, etc.) Having Netbui disabled helps keep people from hacking into your computer, there are hundreds of security holes in Windows with this protocol.

            After adding TCP/IP in the Network option under Control Panel Add in your network settings as provided by your ISP. Usually your ISP gives you instructions on how to do this, you’ll want to follow them. Test your dial-up and networking. The computer should run perfect.

            Now comes the tricky part, configuring the other computers. The easiest configuration is the dual network card and external modem/router option. The first NIC connected to the modem/router is configured exactly as it should be. The 2nd NIC’s TCP/IP Address should be one that is assigned by you. For ease you should pick something like You can pick any number, but make sure the first three octets are all the same. Do not pick the same first three octets as the IP assigned to your 1st NIC… it will cause problems.

            Your Netmask is always do not ever change this unless you know what you’re doing, your network will become unreachable. The Gateway address is the same as the IP address of the 1st network card. Keep in mind this is only for this card. Certain operating system will not accept this option either, but most Windows systems should.

            In addition some operating systems will need a flag set to make it a gateway or router machine. For instance, in FreeBSD and Mac OS X /etc/rc.conf needs the line “gateway=enable” This also invokes the NAT or “Name Address Translation” program. NT and 2000 should both give you a similar option.

            The 2nd (and all subsequent computers) will have an IP address of 192.168.1.x (where x is any number between 2 and 254, do not use 1 as it’s already used, 0 and 255 should also be reserved, Just in case.) Their Gateway address will be the IP of the 2nd network card in the first computer! DNS or Name Server address will be the same across all computers, unless you setup a nameserver, which for a small network I recommend against doing.

            For computer with a single network card, and a modem, the theory is the same. Use the gateway to be the IP number of the modem/router. Remember that IP numbers are assigned to Network interfaces, not to the computer. A computer can theoretically have an infinite amount of IP addresses, in reality it’s whatever number the operating system is capable of handling, at least 254 though, and more then most people will ever need.

            If you have a large amount of computers, say more then 5 or 6, you may want to look into assigning these IP numbers via DHCP, it’s initial setup is harder, but more robust with large networks, it also makes the client machines virtually Plug and Play.




            Now that your network is running, it’s time to turn your eye towards security. The best way is a firewall. Windows NT, 2000, FreeBSD and Linux can all do this. Linux has more security holes fixed then Windows NT or 2000, and FreeBSD even more. If you’re really serious about security and wish to really learn, OpenBSD is the best of all. FreeBSD offers the best choice of security and ease of setup.

            A Firewall is simply that, it keeps the bad stuff from coming in, and if you wish, keeps stuff from going out. It works by stopping or dropping traffic if it does not adhere to the rules that you define.

            The first step in building effective firewalls is to block everything. Then step by step you want to unblock stuff you want. Port 80 (http requests,) 21 and 22 (FTP) are good starts. Some programs will want other ports open, PCAnywhere needs 186 & 187 open. Remember, it’s easier to block stuff before it’s broken, then to block if after somebody has hacked into your computer.




            These are really some very basic instructions. Unluckily due to the sheer amount of different configurations out there, I can’t give step by step instructions like I’d like too. If you have specific questions though, post to the Hardware and Software forums and somebody can help! J Even then you should have a working network configuration in no time at all!

How To: Budget Network Attached Raid 5 Fileserver, Part 3

The server is up and running, the drives are formatted and now serving just under 750gb of Raid5 goodness. Since I have a mixed network of machines, Windows and Mac I need to make it will work with each of those. So we’re going to setup SMB. I could also setup NFS as it’s slightly faster and would add compatibility to Linux machines but it’s not needed in this case. And SMB is actually a more common need since most people run Windows.

Again, counter intuitively I found it was best to setup users first before trying to setup the actual shares. There are two ways to do this. The easy way, or the secure way. If the NAS server is on a local home network, guest access may be the way to go. But I always suggest even in such cases to at least have basic security.Go to Access then Users and Groups. Type in the name of the first user and a password. Leave the User ID to default, it will increment automatically for every new user created. The next option, Primary Group has a drop down list of the standard Unix groups.      

Users and Groups   

The first user should be added to the admin group. Other groups can be staff and wheel. This will give the user maximum permissions to read and write files. Again for home use this is sufficient. Of course FreeNAS also has access to add LDAP and Active Directory authentication. Both of these are simple setups for any System Administrator.Since it’s first on the list, and there are more Windows users around, we’ll explore setting up SMB before NFS. Under Services go to CIFS/SMB. Click on the Shares Tab, then the Plus to add a new share. I simply called the name raid and put in a comment to note which raid it was. (In this case, raid because it’s the only one.) On the path option click on button with three dots. This brings up a filebrowser window, chose the raid directory that we’ve already setup and hit ok.  

File Browser  

 As can be seen below the it automatically puts in /mnt/raid which is what we setup back in Part 2.  


Before clicking the OK button notice two options for increased security. Host Deny and Host Allow. Adding in specific IP addresses to the allow box and ALL for deny will greatly increase security for connections. Keep in mind if the IP address of the computer changes, for instance DHCP on the DSL/Cable router is reset this could cause connection problems later on. At this point, the server is ready to test. Mac OS X 10.5(Leopard) actually sees these connections automatically, even if sharing across SMB (under file sharing) is turned off. Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) will need to connect to the drive via the Connect to Server option. Windows can now be connected just like any other server. Vista Directions are here, and Windows XP is here

FreeNAS is an incredibly powerful program. Even though it’s still only in Beta it seems like a very solid product and does RAID NAS very well. I’ve really enjoyed playing with it and want to give a big congratulations to the development team for a job well done.

How To: Budget Network Attached Raid 5 Fileserver, Part 2

How To: Budget Network Attached Raid 5 Fileserver, Part 2

In Part One I talked about selecting the hardware and my thoughts behind the choices I made. It’s all been put together and the next step is to install an OS. For various reasons I decided to install FreeNAS which is based off of FreeBSD. It can be grabbed from here.

After a few minutes of looking at FreeNAS I was really quite impressed with it. They’ve taken a quite hard and convoluted process, added menus and made quite easy to setup. Like FreeBSD in general it can feel picky about hardware. If you’re using some off the shelf no-name SATA RAID controller, the odds are it’s not going be supported. But a lot of the more popular and better quality models are supported. The FreeNAS website (and also the FreeBSD website,) are both a tiny bit hard to find information and support when first using it. Counter intuitively you need to click on the Wiki link first, then knowledge base, not the Support link to find Installation and Configuration documentation. Luckily the menus within FreeNAS are fairly self explanatory.

The first step is of course to download the image. In my case I grabbed the live CD so that I could simple have the machine boot off of it and was good to go. Another option is to use a USB thumb drive to boot off of. I’m personally disinclined to use one as they stick out and get broken easily.A UNIX installer screen will come up and start probing and self configuring hardware in the machine. A FreeNAS graphic screen may come up, and eventually it’ll beep when ready. Hit the escape key and choose option 2 to get an IP address via DHCP. Make sure to hit “Yes” when it wants to choose a IPv6 address. That step messed me up the first time I saw it, but it’ll simply fail as most likely there is not an IPv6 server around. Most home routers have a DHCP server built in, but there may be some configuration needed so check the router’s documentation.

Once the IP address has been discovered, type the address it gives you into a web browser to open up the FreeNAS configuration page. The default user name and password is admin:freenas, it’s highly suggest you change the password ASAP. Once everything is fully configured we’ll go ahead and change this. At this point the instructions proved useful.

Step One is to add the physical disks. Under Disks Click on Management, then the + sign. This brings up the disk management screen:

As can be seen the available disks are at the top. In this case ad0 is the 40gb IDE drive I’m going to eventually use as a boot disk. Per the instructions change the “Preformatted file system” option to “Software raid” (the other options in that article may not be available). In this case I have four SATA drives so each needs to be added individually. Hit the apply button and each drive is added.

The next step is to create the raid partition. Go to Disks, Software RAID, then choose RAID5. Choose a RAID name it doesn’t matter what. For simplicity I used “server” put a check next to all the disks that are going to be part of the RAID then another on the “Format and Initialize” box. Hit OK, then once again “Apply”. Now sit back and wait. On this screen very little is going on. But on the RAID server itself messages will start popping up. Even better, they’re helpful!GEOM_RAD5: server: all(-1): re-sync in progress: 0.01% p:x ETA:232min (cause: store verify progess). After 232 minutes of waiting we then got this screen:

As can be seen my four 250gb SATA drives have been built into a 715gb RAID5 Partition. It now needs to be formatted which is done in Disk, Format. Choose the RAID array, give it a name again, no hurt in using the same name again. We’ll format it out to UFS+ with GPT and Softupdates as the as the filesystem. The other options may work, but are not recommended by the FreeNAS team. Hit the format button and thirty seconds later the drive is ready to mount.

The mounting screen is sort of confusing at this point. After all we’ve already created and formatted the RAID drive so it should be ready. But this physically mounts it so that it can actually be accessed.

Under Disks, click on Mount Point. Pick the disk. Then choose “EFI GPT” under the partition menu. This menu was a bit confusing for me at first, and once again FreeNAS’s documentation left this step out. Reading it at first it seems option 1 was wanted as we’d setup UFS before. The filesystem stays UFS though, and the name can be what ever. I choose the simple “raid” moniker for simplicity. The last option could be a real life saver if the power ever goes out. “Enable foreground/background file system consistency check during boot process,” would run fsck and other filesystem utilities when the machine was powered back on. It might take longer to get the RAID back up, but could save problems in the long run.At this point we’re ready to start mounting the RAID and writing data to it. I’ll talk about doing that in the next article in this series, including troubleshooting and setting up Time Machine to back up to the RAID automatically.

Part Three

How To: Save Money on your next computer purchase

How To: Save Money on your next computer purchase

Us computer geeks always looking for ways to save money, especially since a recession is very likely. After all, upgrading to a bigger hard drive or more RAM is an expensive but sometimes very needed upgrade!

Luckily in the 21st century there are plenty of choices when it comes to buying computer hardware and accessories. Online services such as Newegg.com and BestBuy.com are good choice if you do not have a decent local store available. In addition to those though are literally hundreds of retailers who’ve taken advantage of the global economy potential in the Internet. Worse yet, they’re all having sales, rebates, and special offers on a daily basis.

Fear not though, there are plenty of online services to help you track down the best prices in hardware. Some of the best are:

  • http://www.techbargains.com
  • http://www.spoofee.com
  • http://www.hot-deals.org
  • In addition, many forums have good buy/sell/trade sections. These are especially good places to get really good deals, plus you’re usually able to post a want list to find the parts you need. Some good forums are:

  • http://www.arstechnica.com
  • http://www.hardocp.com
  • http://www.nekochan.net (good for obscure parts)
  • http://www.markeedragon.com(good for Game Consoles and gaming hardware)
  • Other resources such as Ebay and your local Craigslist are great choices. But remember, try to hit your local retailer first. Just because we live in a Global Economy, it’s not a reason to stop supporting your friends and neighbors.

    How to: Clean Apple Mighty Mouse

    How to: Clean Apple Mighty Mouse

    I am a big fan of the AppleMighty Mouse. It feels right in my hand.

    Unluckily the little ball attracts grime and stops working. There have been multiple posts on how to fix them.

    The problem is just like any other mouse. Grease from fingers gets on the ball which attracts dust. The dust gets rolled into the mechanism clogging it up. Canned does not get this gunk out as it’s like glue. WD-40 does a bit but can damage parts inside the mouse, or the rubber of the ball itself. Plus it leaves a thin film that merely makes the problem worse. Taking the mouse completely apart tends to break them. Rubbing the mouse ball upside down against your hand merely gets out loose pieces.

    The best, longest lasting method I’ve found is to use a wire twist tie. Push the mouse ball down and run one end of the wire tie along the groove. You’ll be able to physically see the gunk under the lip holding the ball in. Remove everything that you can physically see.

    Step 2 is a variation on other fixes. Pour some rubbing alcohol on a lint free rag. Turn the mouse upside down and rub the ball with the rubbing alcohol. This will clean the rubber ball itself and help remove any smaller pieces of gunk that the wire tire removed. Keep doing this for longer then you think you’ll need.

    Follow these steps and you should see a noticeable difference in how the mouse ball moves. It’ll be like getting a new Mighty Mouse, but cheaper.

    For long term cleanliness wash your hands before using the mouse. This will help keep the build up to a minimum.