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My Network

    From small beginnings, my network has turned into an almost full time occupation; I should put this much effort into my job. I am now at the point where I am learning about routing, and about wireless. The routing is required because my network has spilled over onto two hubs, and will soon be using a third via a wireless connection. The wireless will allow me to network with my brother's three computer net in his apartment downstairs. I am also considering a dial up networking connection to my mom's, and my other brother's computer. This could either be a direct dial up connection, or a tunneling connection through the internet. If I were to do this, I would strongly consider putting in an ISDN line, as they are not much more costly than adding a second phone line, and are much faster and more versatile. My basic network is set up to use TCP/IP exclusively. I have recently converted to a domain, setting many of my machines to user level security. Presently, my server is the Chief, and he will also by the machine with both of my main back up devices on it. All of my computers are set up to use Client for Microsoft Networks, with file and print sharing enabled.

    At the present time five of my machines have modems, and three of these modems are tapped into my phone line. All of my machines connect to the interenet through my firewall machine, using a proxy server. This is far better than the modem sharing used by some operating systems.Modem sharing is a nice feature of Winows, but it is a mixed blessing. It insists upon placing all of my computers on the subnet. This, in itself, is no problem for me, as this is the proper subnet for a private network anyhow, though it may be a problem for those who have a large network with several different subnets on it. My initial reservations about using modem sharing were the stated requirement that all machines must have their I.P. addresses assigned dynamically. I vastly prefer assigning the numbers myself, and am more comfortable with the idea of each machine having it's own, dedicated I.P address, unique to itself. It is kind of neat to be able to access the web from any of my computers, and to have the net transparently accessed through the little intranet I have put together. I will soon be removing the modems from all but a couple of my machines, except the Chief, Gateway, and mybe Bigguy.
    The Chief has been a domain controller for a while now, and I have begun to back up my other computers to his tape drive. The thing takes an amazingly long time to format, and then to write. I will generally set it to back up before I go to sleep, and it is often still running when I get up in the morning. I also have a CDRW in the Chief, though I will keep the tape drive on him for big jobs. I now have most of my network in his domain, and have not yet run into the problems I was half expecting with the W98 modem sharing. I have entered my 2000 workstations onto his domain, and everything seems to work well, but we shall see. In the meantime it is kind of neat to play with all of these networked machines, and it certainly makes updating, loading, and backing up easy. Bigguy has also got a tape drive, this one being an 8 gb unit, and a cd writer, both of which can be used to back up any of the machines on my network. This being the case, I have no excuse to not have my machines backed up, though I am attempting to come up with a good one. Presently six of my networked machines are on my domain, and three others are not. The domain name is "truth", while my workgroup name is "self". These names have no special significance of which I am aware, and were both chosen spontaneously when I set up the machines.
    I have installed a pair of wireless networking units called Aviators. They plug into the parallel ports of my computers and are reputed to have a range of 125 feet. These are what I had initially wished to join my network to my brother's with, but they would not work with Windows NT. I really had hoped to use my NT machine as a gateway between the two networks, but I could not find the proper drivers. I had planned on having a main server setup (the Chief initially, but eventually Stevens) through which my machines would access the net, be verified into the domain, back up, etc. This machine was never to be turned off, so that it's resources would always be available to any computer which logged on to the network. The problem with this right now is, that for most of these requirements I would need an NT, or back office server machine, but the aviator wireless set won't work on those operating systems. Aviator has said something about a set of drivers designed to work with NT coming out "real soon now"; we shall see. I have tried the Aviator beta software for NT, but it wouldn't work. I presently have the aviators set up on littleguy, and on one of my brother's computers, with littleguy set up as my gateway. It actually works pretty well, and fortunatly, the Aviators use the 192.168.0 subnet as their default, so my setup was fairly easy. The units work well, but are slow, though not as slow as a modem connection. These operate up in the 2.4 ghz band, and do not interfere with any of my other electronics. I primarily use this as a way to (dare I admit it) play games across the network with my brother. I have kind of given up on the Aviators, and have switched over to some Cisco wireless units. I Presently have four of them, though only two are in use at the moment. I plan to have my server, or perhaps my intenet machine be the gateway to the rest of my network, from the wireless machines. I will probably never have more than two or three wireless machines on my network.
    In the personal section, I mention my job at G.E. Medical. We use Sun Solaris machines there along with Windows machines, and I have the opportunity to learn and use Unix. This takes a bit of the luster off of my affair with Linux, since I have always looked at Linux as a sort of poor relation on which to learn Unix. I now have the Sun Solaris, Unix operating system for the Intel platform, which is to say, I have Unix for the PC, though Sun might be a bit insulted to hear Solaris referred to as simply an implementation of Unix. I presently have Solaris 9 operating on a PII machine. I also have Redhat Linux running on a slower Pentium machine. I have not yet developed a taste for Linux or Unix, but remembering how alien Windows 95, and then NT felt before I got used to them, I suppose a liking for these unfamiliar operating systems will develop over time. Solaris can port Linux applications in with no trouble, and there is a limited ability to port Unix applications out to Linux. How well the Unix applications port out, I do not know. This almost makes my Linux machine moot, almost, but not quite. I have downloaded the entire Sun Star Office suite in versions for Linux, Unix, and windows. Corel is coming out with an array of software for Linux, which I will put on both my Linux, and Unix machines, and others are certain to follow. I am working on getting Samba up and running, but can already do remote shell log ins to my Unix machine, and FTP to the Unix and Linux machines. I have played around with mapping some drives, and doing some other things, but until Samba, and then Apache are running on both of these machines, they will not be comfortably accessible to the rest of the network. It may be that the Linux/Unix relationship may evolve into what microsoft hoped to do for the NT Workstation/NT Server relationship. As Linux takes out a bigger chunk of the OS market, and Unix continues to dominate internet servers, it may soon come to pass that Windows goes the way of the dinosaur. I wouldn't give up my quest for the MCSE or CNE just yet, but it seems that he future may belong to Linux/Unix.
    Regarding Unix, I plan, at some future date, to get a sparc machine so that I may run Sun Solaris on it's native platform. These machines are not cheap, but they are not as expensive as you might think, at least not the lower end workstations. I am still kicking myself for turning down an offer at work of having a sparc machine to take home. This would have been an older SPARC 10, or even SPARC 2 machine, but this would have been more than enough for me to learn on. The machines in question were simply thrown out, but who could have known?