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The Technology behind hubs and switches:

I'll simplify as much as possible. A normal hub utilizes a system where all things connected to it share signal. Therefore, information that was meant for one node (one of your computers or even a networked printer) is sent to all things connected to that hub. What quickly happens in this situation is that a lot of unnecessary data is transmitted across all these nodes and the network becomes congested. This problem is compounded with the introduction of more nodes. This is why a 10 port hub at first may look appealing, especially when you consider its price. In actual use, depending on the speed of the hub and the amount of packets it will regulate, it may become a very frustrating situation in a short amount of time. What you are experiencing besides the noticeable slow down is what that blinking collision light is telling you. Your packets are being fragmented when they collide with other packets on the network. Whenever this happens the data has to be retransmitted which can result in noticeable slowdown (as if a large hub network already wasn't) or corrupted data. Pretty scary right?

There is one more problem with hub based networking I have to point out. The average hub can only operate at one speed. Therefore, even when you own a 10/100 hub, it can only work as well as it's slowest port. Having three 10/100 connections will result in a 100 Mbps capability. As soon as you plug in a 10 Mbps device the entire network is brought down to 10 Mbps.

What makes the EtherFast Cable/DSL Router so much better, and worth its price in my opinion, is that all nodes use a switch to regulate their traffic. Again, without making my explanation overly technical, packets are naturally created with a MAC address (Media Access Control). Within the MAC is information that will allow the packet to be sent to the correct node without ever being transmitted to all the other nodes on your network. Voila! No collisions! The benefits of this system easily outweigh the normal signal splitting of a hub. While collisions are prevented, and therefore the creation of corrupt data or lost data is prevented, another immediate benefit is increased speed across the entire network. The elimination of all the unnecessary traffic that is found on a normal hub network can create a noticeable speed improvement if there are several nodes involved. Have only two computers on your network? You're probably ok with a normal hub. As soon as you start adding computers and networked devices such as printers the need for a switched router becomes apparent when that collision light on your hub starts blinking like a strobe light.

Testing:

So at this point we've learned that big hub networks are a bad idea and that a switch does a lot to improve the speed and reliability of your network. Added to this is the fact that the EtherFast Cable/DSL Router utilizes a firewall and allows all the computers hooked up to it to share one IP address and the appeal of the unit begins to stand out further. The unit can support up to 253 users behind it. How is this possible? Since the router possesses the IP addresses it will send out data to all components hooked up to it through a port address that it assigns to the component. The optimal way to hook up more components would be to purchase another Cable/DSL Router or switch and attach it to the Uplink port. If you choose to use a more conventional hub to upgrade the amount of ports you are using you will reintroduce the problem of collisions to all components hooked up to that hub.

The unit came equipped with a great manual. I feel confident that anyone who is new to networking will have no problems getting the unit to work. Linksys also included a couple of updates that can be used as a quick guide. In the original manual there are instructions to use a setup wizard that is included on a floppy. Linksys no longer provides this floppy, as it is both unnecessary, and apparently was causing problems with some configurations. To setup the unit simply:

  1. Connect your broadband connection to the WAN port
  2. Connect the power to the POWER port
  3. Connect your computers to Ports 1-4
  4. Power on the unit

The unit has a Diagnostic LED that will turn red. This signifies that the unit is configuring itself. Once you reboot your systems you need to make sure that your network settings allow them to auto detect their network connection. Without a setup utility it would appear that it would be difficult to configure this unit. That assumption couldn't be further from the truth. Simply launch your web browser and type the address http://192.168.1.1 in. This will take you to the configuration area of the Router. My ISP supports DHCP, so I simply chose to let the unit auto-detect its settings. I also chose to dictate to the router to have four port addresses enabled. This worked perfectly. I rebooted and found myself on the network. A quick reboot with my other machines and each was working on the network. If your ISP does not allow you to use DHCP to auto-detect settings then you should run Winipcfg from the run dialogue in Windows prior to hooking the unit up. Make sure you write down your IP address, Subnet Mask, Default Gateway, and DNS. In the router setup you should choose to specify your IP rather than auto-detection and insert those values in their respective areas. I also setup the unit by manually inserting all my values and had no difficulties getting it to work.

 





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