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Ethernet: The Fastest Connection and the Lowest Cost

Traditional Ethernet with twisted-pair wiring is a proven, reliable networking system. Of all home networking solutions, an Ethernet network will provide the fastest performance. It is also the least expensive solution. You'll need a basic Ethernet hub with four or eight connections—whichever meets your needs. Every hub has an uplink port that is used to connect additional hubs in a chain. On some hubs, the uplink port is an additional port on the hub; on others, it is one of the four, eight, or however many ports the hub has. You'll need one port for the firewall computer and one port for your primary computer. So, on a four-port hub where one of the four ports is an uplink port, this would leave only one additional connection.

The home network kits that are currently being sold at most computer stores can be a good choice because they include everything you need to hook up two PCs. Most kits include two PCI Ethernet cards, a hub, and Ethernet cables for less than $100. Extra cards and cables can be purchased for additional computers. If you get a kit, make sure that Linux drivers are available for the type of Ethernet cards you get. A handy list of Linux Ethernet drivers is maintained by Donald Becker, who wrote the core Ethernet drivers for Linux; some of his code is included in almost all Linux Ethernet drivers.

Unless you are a professional cable installer, you'll probably end up with exposed Ethernet wires running around your home, which can be both unsightly and hazardous. New technologies now make it possible to network without all of that wiring—and you still won't have to take out a second mortgage on your house to do it. The new wireless networking kit is one of the most elegant solutions.

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