Basic Computer Networking Tutorial

Set up a home wireless network. Understand what is going on in your computer when you are trying to access a networked resource. Start with TCP/IP and learn the basics of Ethernet and wireless cards. Learn the difference between static and automatic addressing. Know the difference between routable and non-routable adresses.

  1. The Components of a Computer Network

    • For a network to exist, there needs to be either two or more computers set up in a peer-to-peer configuration or one or more servers set up to either authenticate or act as application, database or file servers communicating with one or more clients that connect over a wired or wireless network via a transport system that runs on a specific protocol or protocols. In basic terms, this means that there has to be network software that permits connection to another computer.

    Some History

    • Before modern operating systems like Windows 9X through Windows 7, there existed little sophistication in computing networking. Before Windows 3.11, computers could connect using very primitive broadcast netowrking software (e.g., Netbui) over a wire. TCP/IP permitted the first routed protocols, where specific routing could take place and computers could selectively choose where they connected. Now, wireless and mobile computing dominate the arena and networks get larger and larger.

    Network Configuration Options

    • Networks can be configured to authenticate or to share. On a client computer, the simplest form of network configuration is automatic. In the TCP/IP properties the IP address is set to be obtained automatically like the DNS server addresses. The IP address is what "connects" the client computer to the router or switch, which then "connects" the client outwardly to the local area network (LAN) or further to the wide area network (WAN) and on to the open Internet or cloud, as it is also known. When the client computer is connected to the Internet, it needs to be able to connect to specific web sites which have a numbered address. The DNS servers act as a sort of telephone directory of IP addresses and translate the server name to a TCP/IP address. When the web site address is typed into the URL address bar in a web browser, DNS looks up the TCP/IP address and this routes the client computer directly there.

    Setting Up A Wireless Home Network

    • Set up a wireless home network by connecting an internal wireless router to a cable modem or DSL. The router provides an internal address system that can connect everything in the home to the Internet and with each other. This is useful for devices like TiVo, which gets its information from a website, and for printing, which can be managed centrally either from a wireless NIC card or via another PC which has a printer connected to it. And guests who come to the home can connect to the Internet with their laptops, cell phones or other mobile devices. All devices can be protected by setting up MAC filtering and a wireless pass key that will disallow any user whose MAC address is not registered and who doesn't know the key. The best form of protocol is WPA-2; the older forms such as WEP should be avoided. All PCs should be configured to belong to the same workgroup, and IP addressing can be automatic, even though you may have a preferred DNS server to set up in the configuration.

    More Complex Networks and Network Security

    • More complex are the client-server configurations, where a client must authenticate first before being admitted into a password-protected network, public or private. Large private networks are protected by firewalls which protect the "perimeter" of that network, and specific protocols such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) control the access to these areas. In certain networks, there are a combination of firewalls which control access to very specific areas of a network. Access to an area may require the prior access to another area, and this is how layered network protection is devised. Yet more complexity is applied when deflection hardware is used to protect a network against DDOS attacks (see References).

    The Future Of Networking

    • Networking will get easier and more comprehensive as more client applications move into the Cloud. Networked applications will be the rule rather than the exception, and mobile machines will become so feature-rich that users will be able to do as much on these small devices as on larger machines. More smaller portable devices will talk seamlessly to larger desktop devices like the Microsoft Surface and devices that side load images and videos.

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