by Juan van Heerden

I didn’t get any flames or mail-bombs for Part 1 of this Go Inside Networks for the Masses series, so I think it’s safe to go on with Part 2. I am going to explain how to set up a UTP network “out of the box.” Everything is going to be pre-made. Just a basic UTP network.

Your options
You have two options. You can either buy everything out of the box, hubs, NICs and wire (already crimped), or you can buy the hub, NIC and wire to crimp yourself. As I said, this method is not for the faint-hearted or any beginners, although this method is the only way that you will get the wire through your roof, since you will pull it through your roof, and then crimp it to the right lengths.

This is the way professionals usually do it, since the ANY network wiring should not be rolled up; it causes “line noise.” I am not going to cover how to make your own wire, I believe that you have to have some visual demonstration to be able to do it. You should be able to see it yourself, but a video, or live demo will help a lot.

What to buy?
That simple question has kept people baffled for years, what to buy – I have a party, what dress do I have to buy? I need a new home, which one to choose? In networks, the situation is no different. The variety is staggering. I’d say you should go with a make that you think you trust. A few good ones are 3Com, Intel, Genius and Ovislink/Realtek. (By the way, what is this with Ovislink/Realtek? On the box it says “Ovislink,” but the driver calls itself Realtek?!?)

When you buy, buy everything of the same type. You don’t need to do that, but it helps. At home, I use the Ovislink PCI cards. It supports both PCI and BNC, so you can plug your PC into any network if you move it around, because I know you are going to print this series of articles, and give them to your friends, and they will all make a network, same as you. 😉

Anyway, the Ovislink products are cheap and reliable – a good choice for home or small office use. There are two speeds as well. There is 10mb/s and 100mb/s.

(Note: MB stands for megabits, not megabytes.)

If your network is going to be under 50 workstations, you only need 10mb/s, otherwise go for 100ms/s, but be warned, it is a lot more expensive. In this article, and the next, I am only going to work with 10mb/s, but the only difference with 100mb/s is a different hub and NIC.

Here is what to buy – I am going to buy Ovislink products exclusively. 10mb/s Ovislink PCI Card /w. PCI & UTP 10mb/s Ovislink 8 port hub Cat 5 UTP “flylead” cabling (make sure the ends are already crimped according to required lengths. Make sure that it is at least 2m and less than 100m.

When you buy it, make sure the ends have already been crimped to the wires. That is all you have to buy! People I have talked to before, believed that setting up a network is an extremely expensive experience, but it is not. I am not sure how much this is going to cost in the US, but in South Africa, it is approximately R500, and that makes about US$100 – quite cheap. In this price, I have assumed that you are only going to buy 3 or 4 2m wires, 2 network cards and 1 hub. The wires are spare for if a friend has his/her own network card already.

I have talked a lot about the hub, and I am sure you are wondering what it is. A UTP network is commonly called a “star” type, since the hub is in the centre and the workstations “branches” out of it. The following picture is the front view of the Ovislink hub I suggested you buy. It is a pretty close duplicate (not perfect), but I believe it will make do for this tutorial. In Part 1, you should have seen my line-art schematic of a UTP network. If you can’t remember, go back and take a look. It shows perfectly how the hub is in the centre and all the workstations branches out of it. As you can see, each port (receptacle) has it’s own LED that indicates if it is connected (link). That is useful in a home-network to easily check if all the computers in your house is switched off, since that light will be on, even if the person is not logged on to the network, as long as the wire is in place.

NIC Defined
“NIC” means “Network Interface Card.” A NIC (more commonly known as a “network card”) can either have a UTP or a BNC port on it. Sometimes it has both, like the one I mentioned above. One pit you shouldn’t fall into, is that you must never use both ports on one card on the same time. It will only pick up the computers on one port.

Which port to use? It depends on your card. In a worst-case scenario, it won’t even pick up anything. And even worse — there is no easy way to determine what the problem is, unless someone who knows their stuff takes a look behind your computer and unplugs the one wire for testing.

Sometimes on older cards which have both types of connections, I have heard that when you have a UTP cable plugged in, it never works. That is because the card you have doesn’t automatically detect that you have the cable in the UTP port and not in the BNC port. It tries to detect the network via the BNC port, and doesn’t even try the UTP port.

There is an easy workaround.

Put a terminator directly on the port on the card, and it will work right. I suggest you buy new hardware, since it is so cheap, and you will miss any other problems, like this one.

When you buy any cabling, I suggest that you buy a “flylead” or a “flex” cable. In that type of wire, the copper core isn’t solid, but actually made up from many little copper wires twisted up in the insulation. In solid, it is one solid core, but it is much harder/stiffer, and can’t be used directly from one computer to a hub. It is usually used to go long distances between two hubs, because it is much better protected against “line-noise.”

Always get cat 5 wire, which is the standard used for 100mb/s, even if you only have a 10mb/s network, since this type is much more secure and reliable, and it is maybe 2c more expensive per meter. If you want to install the network in an office, you better not even consider cat 4 wire, because this way also, when you need to upgrade to a cat 5 (100mb/s) speed, you only need to replace the hub and the NICs.

The correct wiring is already in place, and you will save a lot of money and down-time.

Now the juicy part – Installing
What you need: Your equipment

You must at least know how to install a sound card or video card
A screwdriver
A nice, big, table (optional – otherwise just a table)
Okay, let’s start the part you have all been waiting for.

Clear your table. It is always easier to work on a big table that is not cluttered with junk. Upgrading your computer is seldom an easy one-step process (although I hope this will be one for you)
Put your computer on the table with it’s back pointing at you. Unscrew the four, or sometimes 3 or even 6 screws and put them aside in a cup. It doesn’t matter how many screws — keep the lid of the case tightened, take them all out, just make sure you ONLY take the screws out that keep the lid closed. Sometimes the screws that keep the power supply inside the case suspended is outside as well – you don’t want to remove them! After that, look at which side is “open.” Lay the computer on it’s side with that side at the top, and the bottom facing you.
If you bought a PCI card, find an empty PCI slot. Otherwise, find an empty 16 bit ISA slot. When choosing a slot, make sure you don’t use a shared slot that is already “occupied.” Not all motherboards have a shared slot, read up in the user guide that came with it to see if yours has one.
Now, take a closer look at the slot – to make life easier for you, choose a slot that doesn’t have any cables running past it. It will just make life easier to fit the card. I have encountered two types of “coverings” in the back of the cases. It will either be one that you can remove with a screw, or you will have to take a screwdriver and break a perforated piece of metal out of the back of the case. If you have the type that you unscrew, keep the plate. If you have the other type, throw it away, you can’t use that strip of metal for anything else I know about.
Align the network card with the slot, making sure the metal back is pointing to the outside of the case. Push it firmly, but gently into the slot until it “locks”. The metal backing should be aligned with the back of the case. Take a screw and screw it into the hole in the card to secure it.
Feel if the card is loose. Look at the pins that gets put into the slot, and make sure that it is not exposed too much. In general, if it is even, there should be no problem with the installation. If it isn’t even, it probably means that your motherboard was not secured tightly enough in the beginning.
Repeat this process with all the other computers. Do not close them yet.
Now the hub:

Unpack the hub.
Put the hub in the centre, between the two computers. Find a power-outlet, and plug it in.
Take the wire, and put one end in the port on the computer’s network card. Plug the other end in any port labeled IN on the hub.
Do that for all the other computers. It doesn’t matter if the hub is on or not. You should be able to add and remove workstations even if the hub, or the computer is on. This is not the case with BNC.
Plug all the computers in, and power them up. The LEDs on the hub, that goes with the port should light up. The link light should go on, and not the partition light.
If the lights came on, you can switch the computers off, and close them again.
If you want to test the network, use the driver disk that came with the card. There should be a program on that disk that includes a diagnostic mode. My card’s is called RSET8029.EXE. Run it.

Open the menu for the diagnostic mode. One computer should be set up for server, and once it is running, run the other one as well, and set it up for client. Make sure that it MUST be the same card and program to do this, otherwise it won’t work.

If it asks for a protocol, select NetBEUI for now. I will explain in a later chapter what that means. If it doesn’t have NetBEUI, choose IPX/SPX or TCP/IP. Make sure that you choose the same one for both computers, but you can use any protocol that you want.

Also, if it doesn’t ask a protocol, it doesn’t matter. Now, you should see a table that is ticking off numbers in tables that you won’t understand much. Don’t worry, give yourself a pat on the back to a job well done.

Now, the hard part is past, and you only have to set up your OS. If you use Windows 95, it will be nearly automatic, you only have to choose the protocols. If you want to try and do yourself, make sure the following is in the Networks list in Control Panel. This list assumes that you have a modem installed for the Internet:

Client for Microsoft Networks
File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks
(Your card’s driver)
Dial up Networking
NetBEUI -> (Card’s Name)
TCP/IP -> (Card’s Name)
TCP/IP -> Dial up Networking
IPX/SPX -> (Card’s Name)
If you don’t understand that, don’t feel ashamed. At the moment, there is no need for you to understand it. I didn’t explain it yet. Wait till the part about Windows 95, and I’ll go through it step by step.