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August 24, 2006

Networking

My daughter entered fifth grade last week and, in her school, that means that she and her classmates were each issued a Dell Latitude laptop. They use them in school and then take them home and use them in preparing their homework as well.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the school laptop program. There are so many educational resources the kids can tap into. Tonight, her homework assignment involved looking up aurochs and woolly mammoths and other extinct large mammals. Even minor things, like her still-dodgy spelling, have shown marked improvement, thanks to the shear repetition of warnings from the spell-checker. On the other hand, there is something eery about watching a 10-year old give a PowerPoint presentation.

There was one thing, however, that I really dreaded: figuring out how to add her Windows laptop to our home network.

Last time I had to do that (for a guest’s Windows ME machine, which is to say it’s been a while), entailed hours of frustration. I never did succeed in getting the wireless card to associate with our closed network and getting past the %$#@ “Wizard”s to configure the ethernet interface with a static IP address was a major pain.

Anyway, this time things went quite a bit more smoothly.

  1. Her computer teacher happily supplied me with the MAC address of the wireless card.
  2. This time, the card had no trouble associating with a closed network; all I had to do was type in the SSID.
  3. After some emails back and forth, the teacher granted Admin privileges on the laptop and I was able to configure this wireless interface with a static IP address.
  4. Setting up the laptop to use our laser printer was slightly less obvious. This page from Microsoft is a complete lie. Microsoft discontinued AppleTalk support in Windows XP (it was there in Windows 2000). The solution was to turn on Printer Sharing on one of our existing computers, and then direct her machine to print to
    http://192.168.x.x:631/printers/PRINT_QUEUE
    (a remote IPP printer).

So far, “supporting” this Windows machine been relatively painless. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Update (8/26/2006):

I knew that was too easy. It turns out that assigning a static IP address to the wireless interface applies to all wireless networks. There’s no evident way (at least, none evident to me) to configure it to use DHCP on the school’s wireless network, but a static IP address at home. I guess my short-lived honeymoon with Windows XP is officially over …

Update 2:

I’ve found what, apparently, passes for a solution in Windows XP. It’s kludgy and inconvenient (there’s a 2 minute delay, on startup or on waking from sleep, before her machine obtains an IP address at home), and doesn’t really address the general problem. But she will, at least, be able to connect to the internet both at home and at school.

The same week saw another change in our home network. After over a decade of trouble-free service, our gateway router (a dual-ethernet Power Computing PowerCenter Pro, with a 400 MHz G3 card, running MacOS 9.2 and IPNetRouter) coughed and sputtered and decided that it needed to start enjoying an active adult lifestyle.

Off I went to Frys and returned with a discounted Belkin F5D7231-4. It’s about as full-featured a router as one could imagine, with Appletalk-bridging, a stateful firewall, inbound port mapping, … The only feature I miss1 is DNS-forwarding.

I don’t miss the whir of the three fans in the PCP, though.


1 Like most modern routers, the Belkin firmware is Linux. So, if the need were pressing enough, I could try installing OpenWrt on it. However, it’s not clear how well this Belkin model is supported and the version of the Belkin firmware available online, 4.05.03 (source) is older than the version (5.01.05) installed on the router, so I’m not about to experiment.

Posted by distler at August 24, 2006 11:49 PM

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Re: Networking

And suddenly some things seem a bit more clear.

But aurochs and mammoths? Feh. Now, megatherium, there’s some extinct megafauna.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman on August 25, 2006 12:06 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Networking

My daughter entered fifth grade last week

Wow. One minute she’s in kindergarten (though, in fairness, I seem to recall that she was learning about \mathbb{C}-numbers at that age). The next thing you know, you turn around and she’s entering fifth grade!

Brace yourself… only a few more years before you get to worry about boyfriends!

Aaron, I’ll see your megatherium and raise you a Deinotherium!

Posted by: Bob McNees on August 26, 2006 5:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Networking

I dunno. I’m not sure anything can compete with the sheer coolness factor of a giant ground sloth.

Posted by: Aaron Bergman on August 26, 2006 6:12 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Time flies…

Wow. One minute she’s in kindergarten…

My son just entered kindergarten. He’s the really precocious one.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 26, 2006 6:23 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Time flies…

My son just entered kindergarten. He’s the really precocious one.

He’s already working on quarternions?

Posted by: Bob McNees on August 26, 2006 8:25 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Time flies…

He’s already working on quarternions?

Not yet. But we’re working on it! :-)

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 26, 2006 9:40 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Networking

Hi

I’m Fred. I came across your site while researching XHTML compliance.

A solution for the XP DHCP/Static IP issue that I use for Work/Home switching with wired networks is to fit a second PCMCIA ethernet card with a static address in the laptop when at home and connect the wire appropriately. This can be completely transparent to the user otherwise in most circumstances if neither network uses a proxy for http, but if a proxy is set up in either then any browser must be (re)configured. In my case it’s often less trouble to leave the browser with the work settings for use at work and VPN in from home, you can set the proxy independently for a dialup connection. This *might* work for wireless if there is a slot available on the laptop.

I like your site, I’ll come back…

Posted by: Fred Gemmell on September 15, 2006 5:03 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Networking

You know sometimes I feel technically impaired whne my ten year old son and me happen to sit at one computer. I am using the laptop on the level of an ordinary user, and it is more like a typer for me. my son, Gregory is much more adanced in it and ima glad. The technology is really making our kids more technologically aware than we.

Posted by: RPG on September 20, 2006 12:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Networking

Jacques wrote:

Even minor things, like her still-dodgy spelling, have shown marked improvement, thanks to the shear repetition of warnings from the spell-checker.

Was this a subtle joke about the limitations of spell-checkers?

Posted by: John Baez on October 1, 2006 8:51 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Networking

The solution I use for this networking issue is to configure my DHCP server to dish out a fixed address for my laptop’s MAC address.

I’m using the open source dhcpd - the config looks like

host hostname {
  hardware ethernet AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:FF;
  fixed-address 192.168.0.1
}

With this I can set Windows to obtain an address and forget about it. Maybe your DHCP software has a similar option.

Posted by: Loz Hygate on December 6, 2006 7:49 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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