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When you have a broadband connection to the Internet, security
becomes an issue. Even if your ISP does not assign a static IP
address to your account, you keep the same number for a much longer
time than is the case with dial-up (weeks or days as compared to
minutes). This provides a much greater window of opportunity for
intruders and makers of mischief to locate and violate your system.
After installing the Linksys router, we visited the free service
called "Shields Up" at
With the default
installation, our computers showed up as not showing up- for all
practical purposes, invisible to cyber evil-doers.
The router has a very slick control interface accessed through its
IP address in your browser. Here there is a wide array of advanced
options for enabling special settings that may be required for
Internet gaming, video conferencing, IP forwarding or filtering, and
Although it appears to be top-notch in thwarting would-be hackers,
firewall services are not the primary function of the device. If
someone manages to plant a trojan on one of your machines, it will
not detect the resultant unauthorized outbound traffic.
This unit currently ships with an optional presumably discounted
version of Zone Alarm Pro, generally considered one of the best
software firewalls available at any price. This allows inspection
and control of virtually any aspect of Internet traffic through your
system. It also includes an option to install PC-cillin, one of the
better anti-virus packages.
Whether your system is susceptible to trojans and viruses is a
function of who uses it and how. If careless or unsophisticated
users will have access, it's probably a good idea to install and
configure one or both of these options.
High Speed Internet Access
Router Upgrades LAN
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Linksys Cable/DSL Four Port Router
As prices continue their plunge toward affordability, multiple
computer households are becoming more and more common. Old
systems get handed down, and before you know it, you're ready
for home or small office networking.
Meanwhile, as people become more familiar with the Internet and
content grows exponentially, the luxury of high-speed
(broadband) access begins to look more practical.
Not coincidentally, broadband internet and local area networks
go together like pretzels and beer. Whether you have cable or
DSL, your computer connects to the Internet through an Ethernet
network card, the same kind of card used in local area networks
enabling multiple computers to share data and resources.
Each and every computer you own can be configured to access the
Internet through the same network connection, enabling multiple
users to access the Internet simultaneously and independently.
Hardware solution enables independent access
There are several ways to accomplish this, and your broadband
service provider would probably prefer you to choose their
solution, which typically involves an extra fee for additional
There are software solutions, proxy servers like Sygate. We used
this for several years, installing two network cards in the
primary access computer- one for the Internet connection, and
another for the LAN. This worked fine, except for creating a
minor drag on the primary system, consuming resources, and
squawks from down the hall when I rebooted at the wrong time
(which I'm prone to do with regularity).
So, we at last decided to upgrade the equipment with a network
router. We chose the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router with
Four Port Switch, primarily because of our satisfaction with
other Linksys products.
This is a small device (about the size of a cable or DSL modem)
that connects between the modem and the computer.
Upgrades existing LAN
This unit also serves to upgrade the LAN, as it incorporates a
four port switch that will replace our existing hub (a switch is
basically a smarter, more efficient hub). If you have more than
four stations on your network, the Linksys unit includes an
uplink port to chain it to another hub.
Although it contains ports for only four network connections
(plus the one from the modem), this nifty little gadget is
capable of handling up to 254 computers, with multiple
simultaneous connections through a single IP number.
Compact enough for a desktop and attractively styled, the unit
has a high quality look and feel which is carried through in its
performance. The LED arrangement on the front conveys useful
information, easily interpreted, about the traffic on your
network as well as through the modem.
Installation was relatively easy, and would likely have been
easier if we knew less about it. If anything, it comes with too
much instruction: a quick-start guide, a detailed user manual
(which goes so far as to show you how to make your own Cat5
cables), a couple of how-to video's on the CD Rom, and a
software-based installation wizard.
For most people, the wizard is probably the best bet. Just don't
do anything at all until the software tells you to, and it
should go off without a hitch. We got ahead of ourselves and had
to start over a couple of times.
If you do run into difficulties, there are trouble-shooting
wizards on the accompanying CD's. If all else fails, Linksys
offers product support via their web site, email, or telephone.
So you'll know, the wizard reconfigures the card you're
currently using for your Internet connection. If, like us, you
have a multicard installation and one's a higher quality, you'll
want to set it up as the Internet card before you run the
When you're done, you'll be able to remove the second card,
since your computer will connect to both the Internet and your
local network through the router.
Extensive flexibility, Great performance
The Linksys router functions as a DHCP server, automatically
assigning IP addresses to the computers on your local network
while presenting its own IP address to the modem. As far as the
modem (and your ISP) are concerned, the service is still
connected to a single network card.
In case your ISP has keyed your service to it, the Linksys
router can even duplicate the MAC address of, and proceed to
masquerade as, the original network card. Slick.
There are extensive
setup options, providing the flexibility needed to function in
almost any network environment. With a static IP address,
you can even configure it to permit your own web or FTP server.
In use, the router functions fast and flawlessly. Through it,
each computer on the network goes online independently, without
requiring any other system. Although it's hard to measure such
things, it appears to be much faster than our prior setup.
Costing only slightly more than software solutions, the Linksys
Four Port Router is an excellent value, particularly for a new
installation or for one being upgraded from 10 BaseT to Fast
Ethernet. In that situation, it costs less than reliable
Internet sharing software and a comparable network hub, while
providing much higher functionality.
If you have a use or need for this kind of equipment, we highly
recommend the Cable/DSL Router with Four Port Switch from
Direct Connect Buy Now at Amazon.com:
Linksys 4 Port Cable/DSL Router...
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