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Ivens: Home Networking Annoyances—Your Household IT Department

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O’Reilly is fast becoming my go-to technical publisher because of these Annoyances compilations. The latest entry is Home Networking Annoyances, teaching us “how to fix the most annoying things about your home network.”

Maybe you don’t have a home network. Chances are, however, you do have more than one computer, with a printer or all-in-one output, modem(s), maybe digital cameras, and other sharable devices. The largest worry about linking up your home computers may be “what happens when I run into problems?” It’s not like you have a resident IT guy in the basement.

For those of us who leave the help-desk access at the office, and no longer have a teenager at home, Kathy Ivens’ book is a godsend. The information is divided in a sensible manner, starting with Hardware, then covering Software, Network Access, and Maintenance Annoyances. Security issues specific to networks get a thorough examination. Finally, Shared-Access and Network Expansion problems are covered.

Some of the tips and answers are well-known to techies. For example, the 12-minute wait for a new computer to “publish” itself on a Windows system: the “browser master” computer only runs the browser service task every 12 minutes. If a new computer on your network doesn’t appear right away, wait 12 minutes. Once the browser service runs, the new computer will show up in My Network Places.

Some tips are less obvious.

  • A limit to simultaneous connections in a Windows network can bite you when you’re using one home computer as a print server.
  • You can use Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) with broadband and cable modems.
  • Windows versions older than Windows 2000 can’t see a sharename longer than 12 characters.
  • You can enable “Family Login” (in which valid usernames are displayed in a pick list during login) on older versions than Windows XP.
  • A simple default settings change will protect your wireless network from most hackers.

My favorite tips are in the Hardware Annoyances section, about cabling your home for a network. In cabling between adjacent rooms, Ivens gives us “the easiest way, and then… the best way. The easiest way is to string the cable along the baseboard, or below the quarter-round… through the [door] opening… into the next room.” The best way, though, is to drill holes through the wall, which uses less cable and is actually less conspicuous and less ugly.

For cabling between non-adjacent rooms (as with second-floor and first-floor rooms, or from upstairs to the basement), Ivens reminds us, “Gravity is a great assistant.” Even with rooms on the same floor, it’s better to go up above the ceiling or down below the flooring to run cables, rather than drilling through multiple walls to run cables through rooms that will not be on the network.

There are not as many opportunities for elegant illustrations as in the previous Annoyances (Excel Annoyances, Internet Annoyances) I’ve used, but Ivens uses them well. I found the annoyance titles in the Table of Contents the best way to search for a particular answer in this book&#8212the index is less complete than the earlier volumes. The cover design is deliberately skewed and torn-looking. This is a graphic choice, not a misprint, in case you’re judging the book by its cover.

If you have more than one computer at home, you can use them more effectively in a home network, and you will need this book&#8212either that, or an IT tech living in the basement.

Unlike the previous ANNOYANCES books, this one has green as the second color. It is much easier to read, yet the command lines stand out from the rest of the text.

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