With more and more families and small businesses owning two or more PCs, interest in home networking increases by the week. The advantages of being able to share files, printers, modems – and Internet connections – should be obvious, and for anyone who has been forced to swap files regularly by walking between machines with a floppy (‘Sneakernet’), a true network should be very attractive.
The latest version of Windows, Millennium Edition, makes creating a network a very simple task. The software is geared to recognising a network connection, loading all the necessary protocols, services and clients behind the scenes and leaving you with a host of new ‘Network Places’ to explore.
You do need some hardware to create a network, of course. As well as the network cable itself, you’ll need a hub, which acts as traffic warden and directs packets of information around the network, and a network card in each PC. Adding a network card normally requires you to open up your PC, find an available expansion slot and plug in a card, but the USB to Ethernet adapter reviewed here avoids even this fiddling.
Consisting of a small round box, the size your grandmother might have kept trinkets in, the adapter is made of translucent greeny-blue plastic; the iMac has a lot to answer for. In one side is a 10/100BaseT Ethernet connection into which you plug the cable from your hub.
Diametrically opposite this socket is another, this time for a short USB cable, supplied with the unit. Connect this into one of the USB sockets on your PC and Windows 98SE or ME will recognise the new USB device immediately and ask for drivers. These are supplied on a floppy and once installed will give you direct connection to your network. In our experience, and we’ve connected the units to several different PCs, it really is that simple.
With the adapters costing £40 or less, depending where you buy them, there really is very little excuse for not cabling up your PCs. You’ll see the benefit of a network almost immediately and very soon begin to wonder how you ever managed before your machines were linked together.
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