Building Your Network, Part 2

By: Walter Metcalf
Revised: 28 April 2000

At long last we are returning to our series on SOHO networking in OS/2 Warp 4. In the previous article in the series, we summarized the information that the key network objects must contain.1


Until now all we have looked at is installing and configuring software and individual computers. In this article we look briefly at how computers are connected together to form a network.

  1. Network Designs

    Two of the best known design architectures are Token Ring and Ethernet:2

    1. Token Ring is a star-wired ring topology, meaning that each computer is connected to a ring, capable of transmitting up to 16 Mbps through 4-wire twisted pair. Information is passed around the ring using tokens which must be passed to all computers on the ring until the initiator of the message receives it. For complete information see Why Token Ring.

    2. Ethernet, on the other hand, is a star topology, referring to the fact the each computer has a direct connection to the main computer through a device called a hub. Transmission speed, traditionally defined as 10 Mbps, has recently been raised to 100 Mbps using 8-wire twisted pair, frequently referred to as Fast Ethernet. Each computer requires only one network adapter.

    Because of its simplicity, speed, and low-cost, Ethernet is almost universally used for SOHO LAN's, and is the one I'll be assuming for the rest of the series.

  2. Hardware Components

    Besides computers, an Ethernet network requires the following hardware components:

    1. LAN adapters (aka network cards)

      1. The most common brand of LAN adapter is probably 3Com. These have the advantage of having drivers on the Warp CD. However you may still have to load updated drivers for newer cards. I personally have almost no experience with 3Com cards.

      2. At a recent Warpstock one of the presenters recommended LinkSys over 3COM saying he found them cheaper and more reliable than 3COM. I have since found that advice very sound. I have been able to readily find all the hardware I need at local office supply stores at very reasonable prices. The components come in a wide variety of configurations, perform reliably, and the adapters come with up-to-date OS/2 drivers.

      3. You'll need one more adapter than the number of computers to be connected in your LAN.

    2. Twisted pair cables

      One of the keys to reliable communication on your LAN is to use high-quality cable. To work properly, Ethernet requires Category 5 twisted pair, which is relatively expensive compared to some other types of cable. However, don't scrimp: Category 5 cable is specifically designed to transmit Ethernet data packets securely at 100 Mbps over considerable distances with negligible loss in signal strength.

      You'll need one cable for each network adapter. See Page 2 for additional information on the cables.

    3. Hub

      The Hub is an electronic switchboard that interconnects the cable from each computer to all the others computers, making sure that the proper signal wires are connected properly.

      Make sure you get a hub with sufficient ports to handle the number of computers in your LAN, plus some room for future expansion. If possible, get the same brand of hub as the rest of your network hardware.

      You just need one hub.

Next page > Network Layout  > Page 1, 2

Walter Metcalf

Next week: Adding the Internet Connection


1 After I wrote that material I discovered some errors in the original document which I have since corrected. The errors are in the HostNames table; please reread the article and make sure the correct data is entered in your computer. I apologize for any inconvenience these errors may have caused you.

2 See Building a Home Network, Part 1: Planning for a good description of more recent technology currently under development.

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