Simultaneous Surfing

These days, it seems as though the whole world either is on the Internet or wants to be--which probably includes everyone in your house. Problem is, they all want to surf at the same time.

You could pay through the nose to set up an Internet connection for every person. But here's a better idea that will save you money: share a single Internet connection among multiple Macs and PCs. If you have high-speed broadband access, such as DSL or cable modem, your connection speed won't suffer from simultaneous surfing. Sharing a connection may have more impact on a dial-up modem connection, but you may still find it worthwhile as a low-cost alternative.

To share an Internet connection, you need a network to connect your computers and gateway software or hardware so you can interface between your network and the Internet. Once you've got these installed, you're on your way to Internet independence for the whole household.

John Rizzo is the author of How Macs Work, Millennium Edition (Macmillan, 2000) and the editor of the MacWindows Web site.

1. Gather Your Tools   Here's a checklist of items for a shared Internet connection using a DSL or cable modem. It doesn't include modem equipment because your ISP provides that.

Ethernet Cables
You need an Ethernet patch cable (with standard RJ-45 connectors) for each computer on the network. You need another cable to link your hub and the DSL or cable modem. The type of cable depends on which port of the hub you use--for the uplink port, use a patch cable; for any other port, use a crossover cable. Cables range in price from about $2 to $15.

Ethernet Hub
A 10-Mbps hub with four or five ports, such as Farallon's Starlet hub (510/346-8001, http://www.farallon.com ) or Asanté's FriendlyNet (800/662-9686, http://www.asante.com ), costs around $40. You could spend more and get a 100-Mbps hub for faster file transfer between your computers, but it won't speed up the Internet connection.

Internet Gateway
Your gateway can consist of either hardware or software. Software tends to be less expensive but requires that you have the gateway computer running for any computer on the network to access the Internet. In my example (Step 5), I use Vicomsoft's SurfDoubler ($30 for three users; 800/818-4266, http://www.vicomsoft.com ).

2. Create a Network   This topology is for a broadband modem network. The setup for a standard modem is similar--each computer connects to the hub. The difference is that the modem connects to the gateway computer. If you have only two computers, don't use a hub--connect them with an Ethernet crossover cable instead.

3. Configure Your Gateway Mac   Decide which Mac will run your gateway software and configure its TCP/IP control panel. For a DSL or cable-modem connection, this information depends on whether your ISP gives you a static IP address (a fixed number you enter) or a dynamic one (a number your Mac gets from the server whenever it connects).

Open up the TCP/IP control panel.

Set the Connect Via pop-up menu A to Ethernet.

If your ISP gives you a static IP address, set the Configure pop-up menu B to Manually. If your ISP gives you a dynamic address, set it to Using DHCP Server. (For dial-up modems, use your existing configuration.)

If you have a static IP address, type in the numbers C your ISP gives you. (Note that the name server address is also commonly called the DNS server address). If you have a dynamic IP address, you don't need to enter anything in these fields.

Type the domain name of your ISP in the Search Domains field D .

4. Configure the Other Computers Configure the other computers (those without gateway software) so that each one will look for a DHCP server--software that assigns an IP address, subnet mask, and name server address.

On each Mac, open the TCP/IP control panel.

Set the Connect Via pop-up menu A to Ethernet built-in.

Set the Configure pop-up menu B to Using DHCP Server.

SurfDoubler and many other Internet gateways contain a DHCP server. However, it doesn't matter if the DHCP server or the gateway is running. If a Mac doesn't find a DHCP server, it configures the information in the TCP/IP control panel for you if you use the setup shown here.

5. Install the Gateway Software   Next, install and configure the gateway software on the chosen Mac. SurfDoubler configures the software for you after you run the installer. It then launches the Vicomsoft Local Administrator utility and your Web browser so you can test the connection and modify the configuration.

At the end of the installation process, SurfDoubler prompts you to test your connection. To do so, simply click on OK.

When the gateway is running, the Vicomsoft Local Administrator utility displays two IP connections. The gateway uses the address next to the Mac icon A for your local network connection. It uses the other address B on the Internet.

If your gateway Mac has a static IP address, you're all done. However, if the gateway Mac gets a dynamic address from your ISP, you have to disable the gateway's DHCP server. In the Vicomsoft Local Administrator utility, go to the Edit menu, select Preferences, and select the Network tab. Finally, deselect Enable DHCP Serving.

TIP: Installing SurfDoubler creates a new TCP/IP configuration called VICOM. You can switch between it and your old configurations by opening the TCP/IP control panel and pressing command-K.

Page 90 September 2000 www.macworld.com

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