wireless network installed. Itâ€™s secure. Itâ€™s connected. Now you can share all
sorts of stuff with others in your family â€” not just your Internet connection,
but printers, faxes, extra disk space, Telephony Application Programming
Interface (TAPI) devices (telephone-to-computer interfaces and vice versa for
everybody else), games, A/V controls . . . oodles and oodles of devices.
In this chapter, we give you a taste of how you can really put your wireless
network to work. We talk about accessing shared network resources, setting
up user profiles, accessing peripheral devices across the network (such as
network printing), checking out your Network Neighborhood, and other such
Entire books have been written about sharing your network, such as Home
Networking For Dummies (by Kathy Ivens), and other books, such as Mac OS X
All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies (by Mark L. Chambers, Erick Tejkowski,
and Michael L. Williams) and Windows XP For Dummies (by Andy Rathbone; all
204 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
from Wiley Publishing, Inc.), include some details about networking. These are
all good books. In fact, some smart bookstore should bundle these together
with Wireless Home Networking For Dummies because theyâ€™re very comple-
mentary. In this chapter, we expose you to the network and whatâ€™s inside it
(and thereâ€™s probably a free prize among those Cracker Jacks somewhere,
too!), and that should get you started. But if you want to know more, we urge
you to grab one of these more detailed books.
Itâ€™s one thing to attach a device to the network â€” either directly or as an
attachment â€” but itâ€™s another to share it with others. Sharing your computer
and devices is a big step. Not only do you open yourself up to a lot of poten-
tial unwanted visitors (like bad folks sneaking in over your Internet connec-
tion), but you also make it easier for friendly folks (like your kids) to erase
stuff and use things in unnatural ways. Thatâ€™s why you can (and should!) con-
trol access by using passwords or by allowing users to only read (open and
copy) files on your devices (instead of changing them). In Windows 2000 and
XP, security is paramount, and you must plan how, what, and with whom you
share. Definitely take the extra time to configure your system for these extra
security layers. We tell you in this chapter about some of these mechanisms
(see the later section â€śSetting permissionsâ€ť); the books that we mention pre-
viously go into these topics in more detail.
A Networking Review
Before we go too far into the concept of file sharing, we should review basic
networking concepts a bit (that we touch upon in earlier chapters of this
book): that is, what a network is and how it works.
Basic networking terminology
Simply defined, a network is something that links computers, printers, and
other devices together. These days, the standard protocol used for most net-
working is Ethernet. A protocol is the language that devices use to communi-
cate to each other on a network.
For one device to communicate with another under the Ethernet protocol,
the transmitting device needs to accomplish a few things. First, it must
announce itself on the network and declare what device itâ€™s trying to talk to.
Then it must authenticate itself with that destination device â€” confirming
that the sending device is who it says it is. This is done by sending a proper
name, such as a domain or workgroup name, and also a password that the
receiving device will accept.
Chapter 11: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
For our purposes here, when we talk about networking, weâ€™re talking about
sharing devices on a Windows-based network. Windows 95/98/Me start the
network tour with Network Neighborhood. In Windows XP (both Professional
and Home) and Windows 2000 Professional, this is called My Network Places.
Although both show the same information and serve the same function, My
Network Places has more layers. In Network Neighborhood, you see all the
computers and other network devices that are currently on your network.
Your computer knows this because it has been monitoring your Ethernet net-
work and has seen each device announce itself and what it has to offer to the
entire network when each one first powered up.
With the release of Windows XP Professional and Home, Microsoft introduced
a new look and feel to the desktop. The differences in the new look were dras-
tic enough that during the beta testing of XP, Microsoft decided to offer
people a choice as to which look and feel they would like by implementing
themes. When we reference the XP desktop in this chapter, we are referencing
whatâ€™s known as the Windows Classic Theme in XP. If, at any point, youâ€™re
having trouble following any of our steps, do this:
1. Right-click the desktop and then choose Properties from the pop-up
menu that appears.
2. On the Themes tab of the Display Properties dialog box, choose
Windows Classic from the Themes pull-down menu.
You can always change the theme back without doing any damage to any
personal preferences that you set up for yourself.
Setting up a workgroup
To set up networking on any Windows-based computer, you need to decide on
a few basic networking options. A lot of these will be decided for you, based on
the equipment that you happen to be using on your network. As an example, if
you have a server on your wireless network, you have many more options as to
the type of network that you might create. With a server on your network, you
gain the ability to centralize your security policies and to use domains to con-
trol devices. In Windows, a domain is a set of network resources (applications,
printers, and so on) for a group of users. The user only has to log on to the
domain to gain access to the resources, which might be located on one or a
number of different servers in the network.
If you donâ€™t have a server (which most of us donâ€™t on our home networks),
youâ€™ll end up using the most common type of network: a workgroup.
206 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
The distinction between a workgroup and a domain can best be summed up
in one word: security. Domains make managing, maintaining, and modifying
security much simpler. In many cases, the domain controller â€” the server
that controls the domain â€” can set up security on each device on the net-
work remotely, and security can be managed in groups so that you donâ€™t have
to add every family member to every machine or device on the network. Of
course, all this great management comes at a price. Servers tend to be expen-
sive and require a much higher skill level to maintain. The initial setup of a
domain can take a lot of planning and time to implement. We donâ€™t take you
through setting up your own domain because you can find more detailed
books already written on the subject. If you do happen to choose some type
of domain for networking, keep in mind that the security of your domain is
only as strong as the security on each individual piece of equipment attached
to your network â€” and that includes all your wireless devices.
On the other hand, setting up a workgroup is relatively simple. All thatâ€™s
really required is to decide on the name of your workgroup. Many people use
family names or something similar. Microsoft has a default of Workgroup
MSHome for workgroups in Windows, for instance. Keep in mind that domain
and workgroup names can only be 15 characters long and cannot contain any
spaces or special characters.
To set up a workgroup in Windows 95/98/Me, you start by right-clicking the
Network Neighborhood icon on your desktop or choosing StartâžŞSettingsâžŞ
Control Panel and then double-clicking the Network icon. On the Identification
tab of the Network dialog box that opens, enter the following:
A simple computer name of eight characters that describes the machine
The workgroup name of no more than 15 characters
A good computer description so others on the network will have an idea
of whatâ€™s on this computer (such as Dannyâ€™s Office Machine)
To set up a workgroup in Windows 2000/XP, start by right-clicking the My
Computer icon (in the upper-left of your desktop) or by choosing StartâžŞ
SettingsâžŞControl Panel and then double-clicking the System icon. On the
Network Identification tab of the System Properties window that opens,
you can click the Network ID button to have a wizard walk you through the
process of setting up your networking options. A simpler method is to click the
Properties button and just enter the computer name, description, and work-
group name (and a handy way to quickly check â€” and rename if necessary â€”
workgroup names on the computers on your network.)
Will You Be My Neighbor?
â€śHello! Iâ€™m here!â€ť When a computer attached to a network is turned on, it
broadcasts its name to every other device on the network and asks every
Chapter 11: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
device to broadcast as well. If that computer is sharing something, such as a
folder or a printer, the other devices can see it. By asking the other devices to
broadcast, it can then see all of them. This process is repeated (on average)
every 15 minutes in most networks with Windows computers attached to them.
The â€śHello, Iâ€™m hereâ€ť process is a great way to add devices to a network.
Unfortunately, itâ€™s not too great at detecting if a device falls off or is discon-
nected from that network. If a machine or shared device seems to be visible
on your network but doesnâ€™t respond when you try to access it, the problem
might not be on your computer. Devices that get disconnected from your
network donâ€™t immediately appear to be disconnected on some of your
other computers. They usually only get removed from the list of available
networked computers if they fail to answer the every-15-minute â€śHelloâ€ť call
from the other machines.
The Network Neighborhood (or My Network Places) icon is your ticket to the
network and seeing what shared resources are available, like a printer. (The
risk versus rewards of sharing these types of items just makes sense. The
chances of a bad guy getting into your printer and printing out documents is
really rather low â€” thereâ€™s not much reward for doing that.)
You can see whatâ€™s shared on your network by checking out your PCâ€™s
Network Neighborhood (or My Network Places).
Windows 95/98/Me: Double-click your Network Neighborhood icon (usu-
ally on your desktop), and you will see all the devices in your workgroup
or domain. You will also see an item labeled Entire Network. Under this,
you can see devices residing in other workgroups or domains that happen
to be on the same physical network as the computer that youâ€™re working
Windows 2000 and XP: Double-click the My Network Places icon (also
usually found on your desktop) to see options such as Entire Network
and Computers Near Me. Microsoft added a layer to the old Network
Neighborhood icon and consolidated the devices in the same workgroup
or domain to the Computers Near Me folder. The Entire Network folder
still shows all the available devices on your physical network. The root
of the My Network Places folder is now reserved for shortcuts to net-
work resources that you tend to use on a regular basis.
Looking at Network Neighborhood (see Figure 11-1) shows you all the com-
puters on the network, including the PC that youâ€™re using at that particular
moment â€” if it happens to be set up for sharing. If a computer is networked
but not turned on, you wouldnâ€™t see it â€” only turned-on computers show
up in Network Neighborhood. When you double-click a computer listed in
Network Neighborhood, a new window pops up showing you what is shared
on that computer or device.
208 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
If youâ€™re using Windows 2000 or XP, My Network Places (see Figure 11-2)
serves a similar (but enhanced) purpose. My Network Places gives you
access to your entire network resources and also enables you to add short-
cuts to your favorite places. To check out everything thatâ€™s on your home
network, click the Entire Network icon. This will show you your workgroup.
Regardless of the operating system, youâ€™ll always see devices set up to share
represented by small computer icons. If you double-click one of these icons,
you can see any shared printers, folders, or other devices represented by
appropriate icons. Sometimes you have to drill down (continue to double-
click icons) a little bit to find all the shared items on your network.
In general, youâ€™ll see two types of devices on your network:
Standalone network devices: These are computers, storage devices,
gaming devices, and so on that have a network port and are on the net-
work in their own right.
Attached devices: These are peripherals, drives, or other devices that
are on the network because theyâ€™re attached to something else, like a PC.
Just double-click your workgroup to see all your home computers and other
networked devices. Click any to see what you can share within them.
Chapter 11: Putting Your Wireless Home Network to Work
All this mouse clicking can be a pain. Save your wrist and create a shortcut
to your shared resources by clicking the Add Network Place icon within My
Network Places. Shortcuts are especially handy for people who have net-
worked devices out on the Internet that they visit often, such as File Transfer
Protocol (FTP) sites.
If you find a computer that you expect to be on the network but itâ€™s not, make
sure that its workgroup name is the same as the other machines â€” this is a
common mistake. (See the earlier section â€śSetting up a workgroup.â€ť)
We find using Windows Explorer to be the best way to visualize whatâ€™s on
your computer and your network. You can get to Windows Explorer in all
Windows operating systems the same two ways. Either right-click the Start
button and select Explore, or choose StartâžŞProgramsâžŞWindows Explorer.
Figure 11-3 shows Windows Explorer looking at available network resources.
Just because you see a device in the Network Neighborhood or My Network
Places doesnâ€™t mean you can share with that device â€” where share means