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(continued)

Newbie note: What is a Local Area Network (LAN)?  In ancient days, when people wanted to move information from one computer to another, they had to physically pick up carry objects such as punched cards, punched tapes, magnetic tape, etc. from one computer to another.  Nowadays you are more likely to use floppy disks, CD-ROMs, Jazz or Zip disks.  But using them is a hassle and slow.  If you hook up computers with a cable, however, they can share a hard disk and move information at high speeds -- much higher than you get with a phone modem to the Internet.  Because of this convenience, most businesses, even many small businesses, put their computers on a LAN.

Click here for the History of Ethernet

How to Set Up an Ethernet LAN

Types of Ethernet Cabling

To set up a LAN, you need some sort of cable to connect your computers.  There are several ways to cable Ethernets.  The oldest technique is Thick Coaxial cable.  Forget it, almost no one uses it any more.  The next technique invented, Thin Ethernet (also called Thin Net) is still in wide use.  It has its own IEEE standards (10BASE-5 and 10BASE-2), adopted in 1984.  Thin Ethernet uses coaxial cables to string together computers like beads on a chain.  To work properly, each end of this connector must be terminated with a little metal device.  You don't need a hub for Thin Ethernet, all you need is network cards, cable, connectors and terminators.  If you connect only two computers, you don't even need terminators.

This technique is only good for small networks.  Also, if anything breaks a Thin Ethernet cable, the entire LAN shuts down.  Still, it remains popular with small businesses because it's the easiest way to build a LAN.

However, if you want the experience of running an Ethernet in your home that is more like many of the ones you will encounter in large businesses or Universities, you'll want to use 10BASE-T Ethernet (ten megabits/sec speed), or even 10BASET (100 megabit/sec).  It's easy to install and run. It requires, however, that you buy an Ethernet hub, making it somewhat more expensive than Thin Net.

The basic way 10BASE-T works is that you run a UTP cable (looks like an oversized version of the line to your home phone) from each computer to the hub, which manages traffic on your LAN.  In 1990, this technology was accepted as IEEE standard 802.3i/10BASE-T.

Then there are fiber optics cables for Ethernet. If you are reading this, you are probably enough of a beginner that you aren't ready to learn how to install fiber in your home.

Switched Ethernet, Full-Duplex, Fast, Gigabit, and Layer 3 Ethernet are other advanced ways to network.  They also have the drawback that they are expensive and difficult to implement on a home network.  This Guide will only cover Ethernet technologies that are easy to do at home: Thin Net and 10BASE-T.  Even so, what you learn here are techniques widely used in businesses and schools.  Get good at running a Thin Net or 10BASE-T network at home, and you will be prepared to run networks at most businesses and schools.

More about setting up a home hacker lab --->


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