home network

1) Using Mobile IP (Mobile Internet Protocol), the home network is where a mobile device has its permanent IP address. With Mobile IP, a mobile device can be plugged into "foreign" networks using a temporary care-of address so that it doesn't have to be assigned a permanent IP address each time it is plugged into a foreign network. The care-of address allows the device to be located when it is not plugged into its home network.

2) A home network is two or more computers interconnected to form a local area network (LAN) within the home. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that 15 million homes have more than one computer. A home network allows computer owners to interconnect multiple computers so that each can share files, programs, printers, other peripheral devices, and Internet access with other computers, reducing the need for redundant equipment and, in general, making everything easier to use. For example, if you have an older computer without a CD-ROM, you can access your newer computer's CD-ROM instead of purchasing one for your older computer. Sharing files across a home network is also easier than copying a file to a floppy and running to the other computer to use the file. A new trend, sometimes referred to as an intelligent network, extends the home network to include controls for the home ambient environment, security systems, and kitchen devices. In general, a home network is distinguished from a small office-home office (SOHO) network only by its more general purpose and possibly by the kinds of devices that are interconnected.

Before deciding what kind of home network you want, you must ask yourself if it bothers you to drill holes and run wire throughout your house? Do you mind opening your computer and installing network cards? Are your computers in the same room? What is your budget for a home network? Do you mind paying someone to come in and do the setup for you?

There are five types of home networks, two that use wire connections and three that use wireless connections:

  • Direct cable connection: This allows you to connect both computers with a $10 null modem that plugs into both computers' serial, parallel, or Universal Serial Bus port. You simply configure the Windows 9x/NT Direct Cable Connection feature and you're ready to go. You lose your printer's parallel port if you use a parallel port connection. USB is faster than both serial and parallel, but you must make sure you are using Windows 95B or Windows 98 when using a USB network. This is a possible choice when two computers are in the same room.
  • Traditional Ethernet: A peer-to-peer Ethernet network requires installing network interface cards (NIC) inside each computer and interconnecting them with a coaxial cable cable or a twisted pair cable. You have to install driver and configure Windows 9x/NT. The drawback to an Ethernet network is the difficulty of hardware installation. Will your computers recognize the new cards? If your computers have several cards installed already, you might run into hardware conflicts. This type of network is suitable for use with two to twelve computers. You can have your computers scattered throughout your house, but you will have to wire each room that has a computer. Beginning cost of an Ethernet network is $100.
  • AC network: An AC (alternating current) network is a possibility when computers are in different locations in your house. You don't need to drill any holes or wire any rooms. You simply plug one end of an adapter into the parallel port of your computer and plug the other end into an outlet. You do the same for each computer. Your data is transmitted through the power lines. You can have a ready-made network anywhere in the house at any time. When purchasing the equipment and software for your AC network, make sure it includes extra outlet strips and an adapter for your printer. The software setup can be difficult for AC networks. The cost of an AC network is $200 for two computers.
  • Phoneline network This type of wireless network was developed by the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) to offer an easy and inexpensive (starting at $150 for two computers) solution that uses existing phone lines. For example, Action Tec's ActionLink Home Networking Kit provides PCI card that share a single registered jack with your modem and telephone. The HomePNA technology is designed to not interfere with your voice and data transmissions. This means that you can talk on the phone and use your Internet connection at the same time without any noticeable decrease in modem speed. A phoneline network does require you to install PCI cards and software drivers. The data transfer rate of a phoneline network is 10 Mbps.
  • Radio Free (RF) network: This type of wireless network uses radio frequency (RF) waves to transmit through walls and floors up to 800 feet. The only hardware is a special card inserted into each computer or a transceiver plugged into each computer's parallel port. If you purchase an RF network that uses transceivers, make sure equipment is included for connecting your printer. The problem with an RF network is interference from other wireless communication devices. Some RF network packages promise no interference from other wireless devices. RF networks start at $100.

A number of companies offer approaches to an intelligent network in the home. For example, IBM is partnering with home developers to equip new houses with Home Director Model 200, which includes the distribution of video and satellite connections throughout your house, using your DVD player in the living room to watch a movie in your bedroom, automatically turning on and off your lights, and lowering your thermostat at night.

This was last updated in September 2005

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