The More Online, the Merrier

How to Get Everyone Connected Under One Roof

It wasn’t all that long ago that most households had just one television. Today most seem to have two or more. The same has happened with computers. And guess what everybody wants to do with his or her personal PC or Mac? So guess what everybody wants to do? Yes you guessed it connect to the Internet. The trouble is, multiple Internet-service provider (ISP) accounts can be costly. If you are using a dialup connection you may have to add phone lines to make it work. Isn’t there a less-costly solution to this problem?

Here at the monastery I was faced with this very dilemma. The monks were all using one computer for the Internet, taking turns using it. Yet we have other computers here as well. Why not share an Internet connection with the multiple computers? How do you do this? Networking. All the computers would have to be networked together to share our broadband-cable connection.

Now there were various options for hooking multiple computers together. The most reliable is by Ethernet. Other options are wireless, by phone jacks or even by electrical outlets. I chose Ethernet. We are building a new monastery, so it will be fairly simple to have Ethernet cables routed throughout the new building. For houses already built, there is no problem if all the computers are in the same room. However, if computers are in different rooms, Ethernet cables will have to be routed through floors and walls.

Having worked with computers long enough, I was expecting problems in getting the Ethernet network up and running. My first step was to purchase a cable/DSL router. I chose Linksys at linksys.com. Since two of our computers did not have an Ethernet connection I had to purchase Ethernet PC cards for them. (It is also possible to urchase USB network adapters if your computers have USB ports.) Finally, I purchased the Ethernet cables that would be run from each computer to the router. The total cost to do this was less than $200. I hooked up the cable modem to the router and, from the router cables, went out to all three computers. I then followed the quick installation instructions and held my breath. Sure enough, every computer was able to access the Internet through our one Internet-cable account.

There were other benefits to the router, as I soon discovered. For instance, it acts like a firewall, hiding all your computers from the Internet. This keeps malicious Internet users from probing your computers. Another benefit, which parents will enjoy, is the option to enable the router to keep a password-protected log of all Internet activity. This means that parents would know exactly where their children have been on the Internet. Last but not least, all the computers can be enabled to communicate with one another. This allows for sharing files, printers and so on between computers.

Now I know that some of my readers already have a drill in their hands ready to put those networking cables through floors and walls. But wait you’d better ask your spouse about this first! And if the answer is as I suspect, we have three other options that may help you avoid arguments. The easiest to work with would be electrical-outlet networking. HomePlug at homeplug.com has developed adapters (available from Linksys, where you can get a device called a PowerLine Bridge for anywhere from $25 to $50 per computer) that will plug into your computer’s Ethernet or USB port and then into any wall electrical outlet. Through your home wiring already in place, you can network all your computers together. Then purchase a Powerline Router for about $179 to share your broadband Internet connection.

The next option for easily installing a network and then sharing the Internet is to use an existing phone line and corresponding phone jacks in the house. Unlike electrical outlets, you may not have as many phone jacks or any phone jacks in rooms where you want to network your computers. But, if they are nearby, phone-line networking is possible. And surprisingly, you can use that same phone line for the telephone at the same time. For more information on this possibility, see HomePNA at homepna.com

Finally, we come to the wireless network. This could be seen as the most convenient way to set things up. You could walk around with your laptop and still surf the Net. However, for those wanting to pursue this possibility, a number of companies have networking packages ( including Linksys, mentioned above).

Now some of you do not have broadband or are not interested in paying for it. Still, you want to share that 56kbps dial-up modem account. Well, don’t dispair. D-Link Systems at d-link.com sells the DI-704P Broadband Gateway which also includes an external serial port for a dial-up modem. Also, it includes an external parallel port for sharing a printer.

Sharing an Internet connection through networking can save you money. And you may actually be able to communicate with your kids in you enable network communications between computers. Surprise them !

Monthly Web Picks

This month, we’ll look at some examples of Web portals and start pages.

Many people use our live chapel Webcam page at monksofadoration.org/chapel.html as their start page. Why not start your surfing with Jesus in our chapel?

My Catholic start page at catholic-pages.com was set up by a young Catholic family with three small children all living in Australia. You can personalize the page with your name, time zone and favorite links.

Web designer Nik Stanosheck has put together your Catholic Web at YourCatholic.com. It includes a discussion forum and Web portal.

Catholic Exchange at catholicexchange.com includes some extras not usually seen on Catholic portals like global, national, business and sports news. You’ll also find health and science information, weather and a stock-lookup feature.

Why limit yourself to English? How about an Italian Catholic portal at noicattolici.it?

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org