Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 162 / MARCH 1994 / PAGE 71

How to install a home office network. (Compute's Getting started With: Personal Networking)
by Anne Fischer Lent

Most peer-to-peer networks are designed to be simple to install. In reality, they do require some degree of familiarity with PCs. Most networks come with add-in cards or network interface cards (NICs). You need to install one NIC in each computer that will run on the network. Next, there's the cabling that's needed to connect the PCs. Manynetworks come with a minimal length of thin coaxial cable. Most network cards have built-in connectors. You just plug one connector on the cable into the network card in one PC and run the cable to the next PC, where you use a T-connector. At the end point of the network, you need a terminator, which is a resistor that tells the electrical signals tht they've reached the end.

Software installation varies widely from product to product. We'll focus here on Windows for Workgroups because it offers powerful networking capability for a minimum of installation effort. Assuming that your hardware is up and running, you can now install the software. With Windows for Workgroups, you have a choice of installing it for the first time (whether or not you have Windows on your system) or upgrading to a new version of Windows for Workgroups.

Let's assume that we're installing it for the very first time, with no previous version of Windows on the system. The installation process is as follows.

Insert disk 1 into your A drive and type a:setup.

You'll be asked whether you want to use Express Setup or Custom. Choose Express because it automatically configures your system, detects your hardware, and modifies your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files for you. During the setup procedure, you'll also be asked for your name, your company name (which is optional), a name for your computer, the name for your work group, the type of printer connected to your PC, and which port the printer is attached to.

Standard or Enhanced

You have a choice of running Windows for Workgrpoups in a standard or enhanced mode. The difference depends on your hardware: standard mode requires at least 2386 with 2MB of RAM; enhanced mode requires at least a 386SX with 3MB of RAM. Enhanced mode gives you access to the virtual-memory capability of the 386SX, letting Windows applications use more memory than is physically available in DOS. Enhanced mode also allows multitasking of DOS-based applications. In order to share system resources, such as files and printer, you need at least a 386 processor running in enhanced mode.

After following the installation steps, you must reboot your system to install the network drivers that are needed to communicate with other systems. You'll get a message onscreen that tells you when to do this. Make sure you've taken the last floppy disk out of the disk drive and click on the Restart button. After your system reboots, you'll be back in DOS. Just type win and press the Enter key at the DOS prompt. You should get the Windows hourglass on your screen as Windows loads.

Now you can go back and customize the setup in a variety of ways. You can adjust keyboard speed, change desktop colors, add a screen saver, change or create icons, and more. You'll want to pay special attention to your security needs. Finally, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the whole work group concept, including the practice of sharing files and hardware devices and communicating over the network with other users.

Networking can be as basic as hooking up the One-Man-LAN, which lets one user operate two systems. It can be as simple as installing the board-free Coactive Connector. It can be as sophisticated as the next version of Windows coupled with networking ability, as with Windows for Workgroups. Or your network can leave you room for growth, as with Novell's Personal Netware, which gives you a path to the higher-level client-server NetWare network. Fortunately, considering the variety of sizes and configurations of home offices, there are a variety of choices among peer-to-peer networks.