NETWORKED AROUND US
 
          The consumer goods marketplace is flooded with an array of devices, all capable of networking. This has opened up new vistas, which would have seemed futuristic and far-fetched less than a decade ago. Consumers are spoilt for choice - you can take your pick from among laptops, tablets, smartphones, network-attached storages and consoles. What's more, you can network them in unimaginable ways! You can access your NAS box from your smartphone and use it to play a movie on your home theatre. In this chapter, we'll explore the different available avenues out there, for us to network.
 
Tablets and smartphones
Tablet computers serve as a great replacement when you want to read a book, watch some videos or just surf the web. However, just like smartphones, much of the use of tablets is dependent on network connectivity. Therefore every tablet manufacturer provides network connectivity in multiple ways such as through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc. You'll learn how to take advantage of them in later chapters.
 
Wi-Fi
The simplest and the most common way to connect to a network is using the Wi-Fi built into the tablet. With Wi-Fi you can not only connect to your local wireless network, you can also access the net if your network is connected to the internet. You can surf the web at any Wi-Fi hotspot which is now common in malls and coffee shops. Most devices are now shipping with 802.11n Wi-Fi which, as we've already seen, is the fastest and most flexible of all the technologies.
 
2G/3G
If you don't have access to Wi-Fi all the time you should consider a 2G or a 3G internet connection from a mobile network provider. This way you can stay connected anywhere you go. However you will have to pay your service provider too. Most network providers give you the option of choosing between various data plans according to your requirements. There are data plans for 3G as well as 2G but 3G is still pretty expensive in India and 2G is too slow. Although some mobile network operators have started testing 4G networks in India, we still have a long way to go.
 
Bluetooth
We know that Bluetooth technology is primarily a means of connecting wireless peripherals to mobile devices. This includes items such as keyboards or headsets. This technology can also be used for networking between devices and sharing an internet connection (commonly known as tethering). Tethering is a method of connecting a mobile device such as a laptop, netbook or tablet with a mobile phone or any other mobile device to share the wireless broadband connection. So you can share your internet connection on your phone with your tablet via Bluetooth. We'll learn how to tether different gadgets in the later chapters.
 
Wireless Base Station
An emerging form of wireless connectivity is Wireless Base Station. It allows an individual to connect a wireless router to a high-speed wireless network such as a 3G network, allowing other devices that have standard Wi-Fi to share that broadband connection. You just have to turn on the device and it connects to your network provider and creates a portable Wi-Fi hotspot to which several devices can be connected. Tata Indicom and MTS currently provide this service in India and charge you around Rs.5,000 for the base unit and monthly charges depending on your data plan. However if you use these, you can't switch your network provider. To have this freedom you need to get a Dlink DIR-457 pocket router. With this you can choose your own network provider, your data plan and switch network providers just by swapping the SIM card in it. You'll learn how to use this pocket router in the later chapters.
 
NAS boxes
Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a dedicated data storage technology, which can be connected directly to a computer-network in order to provide a centralised data-access and storage to all compatible network-clients. In short a NAS is a standalone file-level computer data storage device, into which you can install one or more internal or external hard disk drives, and then connect the NAS device directly to your network.
The NAS device is given its own IP address. This allows you to configure it to share the hard drives and their data contents on the network to other computers and other devices. With a NAS you do not have to have your computer(s) powered on permanently - your data is always available on your network and easily accessible from multiple devices. It's also possible to 'convert' a modest computer into a dedicated NAS device - we'll be covering this in the latter chapters.
 
Four cool ways you can use your NAS

As we can make out, the principle purpose of the NAS, is to store and share files on the network. However, the utility of these cool devices doesn't simply end here.
 
There are a loads of other things you can do with your NAS:
Ø  Streaming media to other computers from your NAS
If you have a home theatre PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or other UPnP enabled device, you can stream media straight from your NAS with just a few tweaks.
The first thing you need to know about is Digital Media Adapter (DMA, also referred to as Digital Media Receiver). DMA provides the most elegant way to share audio, photo, and video files between your PC and your television. The DMA connects to your TV via HDMI, composite or component video outputs; and it connects to your network via Ethernet or wirelessly. Once on the network, it can stream media from your net work hard drive -assuming the NAS box has an UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) media server embedded, as most of them invariably do. You can also use a video game console connected to your television, such as the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Microsoft Xbox 360, to stream the media from a NAS to your TV.
In order to complete the circuit, you'll need a router; preferably one equipped with wireless and wired gigabit ethernet. In most cases, gigabit ethernet provides a smoother playback experience with high-definition content.
NAS boxes with UPnP media servers also offer other media-centric features such as an iTunes server. What this translates into is you can simply store your songs on the drive, and the iTunes server will create a shared iTunes library that shows up automatically under the "Shared" heading of the iTunes navigation panel on your PC, or via your DMA. This little trick saves you the hassle of adding songs to every iteration of iTunes on your network.
 
Ø  Backing up data to your NAS
Since a NAS can hold many large drives, it's a popular option for backing up data. FreeNAS recommends a software called Rsync for backup, but there are better alternatives. Microsoft SyncToy, is a case in point. In case you're a Mac user, you can use Time Machine with your NAS.
 
Backing up with SyncToy

So if you have to back up a folder or even a group of folders on Windows, you first need to download and install SyncToy. SyncToy is extremely simple to use: all you need to do is create a new folder pair, using the "left" folder as the folder from your computer that you want to back up, and the "right" folder as the folder on your NAS to which you're backing up those files. You have three different types of sync: Synchronize, Echo and Contribute.
Ø  Synchronize will keep the two folders in sync at all times, so if you change or delete something on one side, it will sync those changes to the other side.
Ø  Echo will only sync changes you make from the left side (your com puter)- if you change or delete anything on the NAS, those changes won't be synced back.
Ø  Contribute does the same thing as Echo, but won't sync over deletions. This means if you accidentally delete a file from your hard drive, it will still be on the NAS, and you can go grab it and replace it. When you're done, you can run your first sync and make sure all the files copied over correctly.
          SyncToy, unfortunately, only runs when you tell it to, so if we want to automate this process, we'll have to do it ourselves. Open up your Start Menu and type "task scheduler" into the search box, and start up Microsoft's Task Scheduler program. Click "Create New Basic Task" in the right sidebar, give it a name and set it to run daily. When asked, tell it you want to start a program. At the next screen, browse into C:\ Program Files \ SyncToy 2.1 folder and choose "SyncToyCmd.exe". Type -R into the Arguments box, hit next and finish setup.
 
Backing up with Time Machine

If you want to back up with Time Machine, you'll need one of the drives in your NAS shared through AFP instead of CIFS. If you do, you can head into Services > AFP > Shares on the web interface, edit the settings for that share, and pick "Time Machine" from the 'Automatic Disk Discover Mode" dropdown. The next time you open up Time Machine, your NAS drive will be available as a backup disk.
Note that to do this, you'll want to mount the NAS drive at logon, which you can do by opening up System Preferences on your Mac, going to Accounts > Login items and dragging the NAS drive from your desktop right into the login items window. That way it will always be connected and Time Machine will be able to access it at all times.
 
Ø  Downloading torrents using your NAS
One of the coolest features of FreeNAS is the ability to download torrents without the help of another computer. FreeNAS has a version of Transmission built right in, that can watch folders for torrents and download them. This means you will never have to worry about keeping your main computer on, being logged in, or avoid rebooting it. Your NAS will automatically download all those torrents for you.
In order to set up BitTorrent support, just open the web configuration of FreeNAS and select BitTorrent from the Services menu. Click the Enable checkbox on the righthand side, and specify a Download Directory. This is where your completed torrents will go. You can also set up a Watch Directory that will allow you to drop torrent files right into a specific folder on your NAS and it will immediately start downloading them. You can save the settings when you're done.
 
Ø  Using your smartphone or tablet with your network attached storage
Now comes the interesting part - there will be times when you would want to upload or download files from your network-attached storage device using your smartphone or tablet computer. You may even treat the NAS simply as a network transfer point for your data. In this section we'll tell you how to use your smartphone with your NAS.
 
How to do it
When it comes to shifting or syncing multimedia files like music or images, different NAS may follow different methods. Some network attached storage devices may use a web front for the file collections whereas others may implement certain extensions to DLNA for uploading and downloading some media files. These environments don't necessarily provide a consistent or ideal user experience for the
mobile device user, due to a number of factors. Typically this is due to a web front that is optimised for desktop use only. In certain cases, the DLNA server and client apps may not offer the proper sync or file transfer functionality.

SMB file-manager apps

The recommended method for this task is the SMB/CIFS network file handling, because of various reasons:
Ø  It's supported by every network-attached storage device thanks to Linux's SAMBA software.
Ø  Even the USB-linked file servers support SMB as well as the internet HTTP and FTP file transfer protocols.
Ø  This has been a standard for regular computing devices with the Microsoft Windows Platform, as well as Linux and Apple Macintosh platform, for a long time.
The platform-based mobile devices have joined the SMB party through the use of SMB-enabled file-manager apps. These are typically low-cost or free apps that expose the mobile device's file system and the SMB file shares (entry points) made available by computers or network-attached storages.
Listed below are some of the most popular file manager apps with SMB file transfer below. You can even find more such apps at the various app stores for the popular mobile device platforms by using the terms "SMB file transfer" in your search query.
 
iOS (App Store)
Intuitive Commander - $0.99
FileBrowser - $4.49
Syncsellence - $5.49, free limited version available
Android (Android Market)
ES File Explorer
File Expert
File Manager / File Manager HD by Rhythm Software
 
BlackBerry (BlackBerry App World)
File Expert - $1.99
File Manager Pro by Terra Mobility - $4.99
Arrangelt File Manager by Conceptual Designs - $1.99

          It's also worth noting that your NAS's vendor may offer file-transfer apps for their device on the iOS and/or Android platforms so you can transfer the files to their device. These programs may also work with the remote-access functionality that some of the consumer and SMB NAS units provide. As a result, one can keep login credentials for the devices and thus streamline the entire remote-access experience.
 
Consoles
Gone are the days when LAN gaming was just for computers. You can now enjoy online gaming with your friends on almost all new gaming consoles. Let's see how we can network different gaming consoles.
 
Online gaming

PlayStation 3


1.  Turn on your wireless network and make sure your PlayStation 3 in within range. Make sure that the ethernet cable isn't plugged into the system.
2.  Turn on the PS3 console, go to Settings and select "Network and Settings"
3.  Select the Internet Connection-Settings tab and the system will display a new screen saying you’ll be disconnected from the internet. Select "Yes".
4. On the next screen, select "Easy" when the system asks you what kind of installation you want to use.
5.  When it asks you what type of connection you have; select "wireless".
6.  Select "Scan" on the next screen and the console will search for all available networks in the area.
7.  When it completes scanning, select your home net work. Select your security settings, enter your encryption key and save your settings.
8.  You can test the connection by selecting the "Test Connection" option. If the connection has been made, your network information will appear on the screen.
 
Stream media

Do you know that your PS3 can do more than just online gaming? With a few tweaks to your settings, and some software set up on your computer, you can stream music, videos and photos from your computer to your PS3 over your home network.
To do this, make sure your PS3 is connected to the same network (via ethernet or wirelessly) as your computer. Then, on your PS3 go to Settings > Network Settings > Media Server Connection and set it to “Enabled”.
 
Ø  If you have a PC with Windows
1.    Open Windows Media Player
2.    Go to Library > Add to Library and add folders you want your PS3 to access. All personal folders (Photos, Videos, and Music) are selected by default, but if you have media in other folders, add them.
3.    Go to Library > Media Sharing, and check Share Media. Press OK, your PS3 to show up as one of the devices in some time. Select it and click allow.
 
Ø  If you have a Mac
You have to install a free software called PS3 Media Server. With this software your Mac will be visible to your PS3
1.  Connect to your network
2. Go to Navigation/Share Settings and uncheck everything in the Thumbnails section (at the top). Then, at the bottom, add folders you want yourPS3 to access. You can choose to add your entire hard drive, but it's advisable only to add the folders that have media.
3.  Now, go to Transcoding Settings and change the Maximum bandwidth to 14 or 15. Leave it to 0. If you have a very strong network connection.
4.  Click Save and Restart HTTP Connection.
 
Now that we'are done setting up the computers, it's time to move on to your PS3:
1.    Open the Photos, Videos or Music tabs and you will be able to see your computer name in it. Make sure you're in the right section; you can't view photos in the video section.
2.    When viewing a photo, hit the triangle button to view extra options, like starting a slideshow of images in the selected folder.
3.    When listening to music, you can keep it playing in the background by hitting the PlayStation (home) button.
4.    You can copy music, photos and videos onto your PS3 hard drive. When viewing a file, hit the triangle button and select "Copy".
 
Xbox Live

Xbox 360
Xbox Live is an online multiplayer gaming platform provided and main tained by Microsoft. To play online on your Xbox you will have to buy an Xbox 360 Wireless Networking Adapter and an internet connection.
1.    After connecting your wireless adapter, press the Guide button on your controller, go to Settings, and then select "System Settings".
2.    Go to Network Settings, select your wireless network and enter your password. You're now connected to Xbox Live.
 
Stream media
Just like the PS3 you can also stream your computer data on your Xbox. All you need is the free version of the TVersity software and a Wi-Fi network.
1.    The first thing you need to do is make sure that your computer and Xbox are connected to the same network.
2.    After you've installed TVersity, run it and click on the plus symbol on the top left. Click "Browse" to select the folders you want to stream from your network hard drive.
3.    If you have media in incompatible format, TVersity can translate it. Select "Transcode" when needed in the advanced menu to convert media on the fly. TVersity will automatically start finding and sharing your files over your home network.
4.    Go to your Xbox and navigate to the Music, Picture, or Video Library where you will see a new category called "TVersity on [computer name]". Select it and you will be able to see the media stored on your computer.

Hubs, switches, routers and access points

In order to connect computers together on a network, we use a plethora of devices. These include hubs, switches, routers, and access points; each of them have different capabilities and serve different purposes. Let's explore each.
 
Hubs

In their bare essence, hubs enable computers on a network to communicate. An ethernet cable is used to plug each computer into the hub, and information is then sent from one computer to another through the hub. One of the glaring drawbacks of a hub is its inability to identify the source or intended destination of the information it receives. As a consequence, a hub ends up sending the information it receives to all of the computers connected to it, including the one that sent it. Moreover, a hub can send or receive information, but it can't do both at the same time. This makes hubs slower than switches. On the upside, hubs are the least complex and the least expensive of these devices. Technically speaking, three different types of hubs exist:
Ø  Passive hubs:Do not amplify the electrical signal of incoming packets before broadcasting them out to the network.
Ø  Active hubs:Perform this amplification. Another dedicated network device which is capable of amplifying the electric signals is a repeater. Some people use the terms "concentrator" when referring to a passive hub and "multiport repeater" when referring to an active hub.
Ø  Intelligent hubs:Used to add extra features that are of particular importance to businesses to an active hub. An intelligent hub typically is stackable, i.e. it's built in such a way that multiple units can be placed one on top of another to conserve space. It also typically includes remote management capabilities via SNMP and virtual LAN (VLAN) support.
 
Switches

The working principle behind a switch is somewhat similar to that of a hub's. However, switches are capable of identifying the intended destination of the information that they receive as a result, they can send that information to only the computers that are supposed to receive it. Besides, switches can also send and receive information at the same time; making them much faster than hubs. If your home network has four or more computers, or you want to use your network for activities that require passing plenty of information between computers (such as playing net work games or sharing music), you should probably use a switch instead of a hub. Switches cost little more than hubs.
          As with hubs, ethernet implementations of network switches are the most common. Mainstream ethernet network switches support either 10/100 Mbps fast ethernet or gigabit ethernet (10/100/1000) standard. Different models of network switches support differing numbers of connected devices. Most - consumer- grade network switches provide either four or eight connections for ethernet devices. Switches can be connected to each other via a so-called daisy chaining method to add progressively larger number of devices to a LAN.

Routers


Routers are devices which enable computers to communicate. They have the capability to pass information between two networks - such as between your home network and the internet. It's this capability to direct network traffic, which gives a router its name. Routers can be wired (using ethernet cables) or wireless. Hubs and switches work well if you just want to connect your computers, however, if you want to give all of your computers access to the internet using one modem, use a router or a modem with a built-in router. Routers also typically provide built-in security, such as a firewall. Understandably, routers are more expensive than hubs and switches.
Home networkers often use an Internet Protocol (IP) wired or wireless router, IP being the most common OSI network layer protocol. An IP router such as a DSL or cable modem broadband router joins the home's local area network (LAN) to the wide area network (WAN) of the internet. By maintaining configuration information in a piece of storage called the routing table, wired or wireless routers also have the ability to filter traffic, either incoming or outgoing, based on the IP addresses of senders and receivers. Some routers allow the home networker to update the routing table from a web browser interface. Broadband routers combine the functions of a router with those of a network switchand a firewall in a single unit.
 
Access points
Access points, also known as base stations, are capable of providing wireless access to a wired ethernet network. An access point can be plugged into a hub, switch or wired router and can then be used to send out wireless signals. This enables computers and devices to connect to a wired network wirelessly.
In principle, access points act a lot like cellular phone towers. Just like you can move from one location to another and still make and receive calls, you can move around and continue to have wireless access to a network. When you use a public wireless network in an airport, coffee shop or hotel to connect to the internet, you're usually connecting through an access point. If you want to connect your computers wirelessly and have a router that provides wireless capability, you don't need an access point. Keep in mind that access points don't have built-in technology for sharing internet connections. So if you have to share an internet connection, you must plug an access point into a router or a modem with a built-in router.
Although very small WLANs can function without access points in so-called "ad hoc" or peer-to-peer mode, access points support "infrastructure" mode. This mode bridges WLANs with a wired ethernet LAN and also scales the network to support more clients. Older and base model access points allowed a maximum of only 10 or 20 clients; many newer access points support up to 255 clients.