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Installation and Setup

The first thing I usually setup whenever I do a networking project are the NIC cards. I'd much rather find a problem there and get hungup at that point rather than after a couple of hours of cabling. Netgear's packs 2 of their FA310TX network cards in this kit. I have to say that these are probably the nicest NIC cards I've come across. Not only are they that pleasing blue color, they are also very compact. I'm happy to report that the install of these NIC cards went without a hitch. While that is not surprising, I have had a couple of installations go south with NIC cards that were of poor design or whose drivers were less than up to snuff. It is hard to tell from the picture to the right, but these NIC cards have more than just the standard Link and Activity lights. There are five LED's on these cards. Talk about information overload, but that's really a good idea. Having to troubleshoot your install? Why not look behind the computer at the NIC card and decipher what all those LED's are trying to tell you about the status of your network.

The installation of the hub also went very well. All the necesary connections are clearly labeled and conveniently located on the front of the unit. In the picture to the right the hub included with this kit is the unit on the top. Sorry, you'll have to fork over some more cash for a hub with an 8 port capacity! Most home based networking products have all their ports and other connections on the rear but I don't like that layout too much. What most people discover is what professionals discovered a long time ago: it gets to be quite annoying when you can't reach the rear of the unit easily to make changes in the network setup. Take your pick, a unit that has the connectors in the front or the back, but I'd rather see connectors that are easily accessed. The hub not only features the standard LED's that let you know whether your NIC's are running at 10 or 100 MBps, but it even features a percentage scale that displays the utiliaztion of the unit. Another great feature is the normal/uplink button that is on the right of the unit. If you are using the unit as a typical hub simply select normal. If you are using it behind a router or another hub then select uplink. Couldn't be any easier than that. One thing that isn't clearly labeled on the front of the unit (except by that small white line) is that port 4 is the uplink port. Packed in the box with the unit are the hardware to mount the hub on the wall. That's a minor thing to point out, but almost all hubs I've seen can be wall mounted - just they never seem to come with the hardware to do it.

I'm big on install manuals. I hate to see a good kit or component marred by a manual that is hard to understand - especially for someone who is new to networking. Between the install guide and the guide to file and printer sharing you can get the contents of a complete manual. I think the logic of putting them on fold-out guides is that a person can lay them out in front of them while they are in the process of installing the kit. I won't argue with that logic since they are at least complete and have plenty of diagrams and screen shots to guide the installer through the process.

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