Networking Notes (part 1)

Introduction

These are the notes put together after the RougoL networking meeting on October 20th, 2003. My name is Andrew Davis, and my home email address is Andrew@BurleyHill.Com.

 

They are intended as a guide to setting up a network between Windows Computers and RISC OS computers. Any suggestions for adding to these notes are welcomed.

 

There have been no specific recommendations for any hardware manufacturers or resellers, since I am one myself and I do not wish to be biased in any direction.

The Hardware

Network Interface Cards (NIC)

Firstly, each computer must have a network card.

 

Computers that run Windows generally use PCI NICís (Network Interface Cards), although there are other types available, including USB NICís. The PCI NICís tend to retail very cheaply and many newer PCís and Laptops come with 10/100 NICís built in.

 

With RISC OS, the choice is far more limited. However modern network cards available for the RiscPC are far faster than earlier network cards (ďfasterĒ? Ė yes, I am coming to that). Both the Iyonix and the RiscStation come with built in network cards. The Iyonix has a gigabit network card and the RiscStation has a 10-base-T network card.

Switches and Hubs

Secondly, you need a piece of hardware to connect your computers together. There are various options:

There are others, but I will cover those later in these notes.

 

The alternative to buying a switch is to use a special cable called a cross-over cable. This is a specially wired cable which will allow you to connect two computers directly, however in my experience all but one situation where a cross-over cable has been initially bought it was eventually been replaced with a switch.

 

Some switches have printer ports on them, which is useful for windows but less so for RISC OS, unless you have a printer that you have a RISC OS printer driver for, more of this later.

Routers

Routers are special types of switches which make a direct connection to the internet and allow all computers to access the internet via the router. They usually include firewalls, DHCP servers (See later under IP Addresses) and can have additional functionality such as web page filtering and VPN termination (See later). If you wish to just connect RISC OS computers to the internet, this is perhaps the best way to go. Routers can be purchased which will access ADSL or Cable broadband or even 56k dial-up lines.

Cables

Thirdly, you will need network cables. The maximum length between any two pieces of hardware (computer-switch or computer-computer) is 100m. They can come in all sorts of colours and can be hidden in walls, behind skirting boards and through ceilings. Note that unless you are connecting two computers together directly, you will need normal cables and not cross-over cables.

Network Speeds

With cabled networks there are three main speeds, 10 megabit, or 10-base-T, 100 megabit, or 100-base-T and 1 gigabit or 1000-base-T. I will not discuss 1000-base-T network cards specifically in these notes as they are far more expensive, however they are much the same, just faster.

 

Most PCI NICís for Intel/AMD based computers these days are dual speed, i.e. they are classified as 10/100-base-T network cards.

 

Most cheaper network cards and switches will automatically sense and select between the two speeds. Using a dual speed switch, it is possible to connect a RISC OS computer with a 10-base-T network card to a windows computer with a 100-base-T (only) network card. If the windows computer is equipped with a 10/100-base-T network card, then a dual speed switch is not required, however most switches are dual speed these days Ė but not all, so beware what you buy.

 

Wireless speeds start at the equivalent of 11-base-T (11 megabit) and faster speeds are 22- and 54 megabit. Although slower than cables, remember that you can walk over the park (if it is close enough) and surf, share files and print from there. As a guide, the range is 100 metres indoors and 300 metres out doors. Also bear in mind that other people can hack into your network if they have their own wireless computer. I will not be discussing wireless networking here as I have no experience of connecting RISC OS to a wireless network, however the general concepts should be the same.

 

If your primary reason for a network is sharing the internet to all of your computers then the speed of your network does not matter. The fastest broadband speeds currently available is 2 megabit, which is still five times slower than the slowest network speed of 10 megabit.

 

Sharing the internet is perfectly feasible even with a 56k dial-up, I used this for several months before moving up to a 600k broadband line.

General Pricing Guide

This is a general guide to approximate prices, but do shop around

 

A five port dual speed switch (for connecting five computers) can be bought for between £20 and £25. An eight port dual speed switch can be from around £25 up to in excess of £1,000.

 

A PCI NIC may be bought for around £10.

 

Cables vary, but range from around £3 for a metre cable up to around £30 for a 50 metre cable. Note that the longest allowed single length of cable is 100 metres Ė the longest I have used is 50 metres.

 

RiscPC NICís are somewhat more expensive. A 10-base-T NIC is around £110 whereas a dual speed 10/100-base-T NIC is around £120. This makes the choice of network card somewhat easier.

Putting the Hardware Together

These notes assume that you are connecting one computer running Windows XP-Pro and a RiscPC running RISC OS 4.02. It also assumes that you have purchased a switch, although I will add appropriate comments which will apply to using a cross-over cable. I have also assumed that all of the network cards and switch are all dual speed (i.e. 10/100-base-T).

 

Take one network cable, plug one end into the Windows Computer and the other into the switch. Take another network cable and plug one end into the RiscPC and the other into the switch. Turn on the two computers and the switch.

 

Once they have both finished booting up, there should be a light on each of the network cards and indicator lights on the switch corresponding to the locations where you have plugged the cables in. This is the first (of many) tests. If the Windows computer has a network card on the motherboard then you may find that the light is difficult to see or does not exist. This does matter providing that there are equivalent lights on the switch, seeing lights on both ends is a double check.

End of Part One

Part two will cover the basics of the setting up RISC OS to join the network.