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Chapter 2. Getting Ready > Learning Some Basic Networking Terms

Learning Some Basic Networking Terms

Here are some terms we use throughout the book. Don't worry too much about remembering all of these now. We'll reintroduce them in context. If nothing else, you can use them to intimidate the salespeople at your local computer store.

LAN (local area network): A network of computers in one location, usually a home or office.

Network adapter: Also called a network adapter card (Figure 2.1) or network interface card (NIC), this is a device you use to connect a computer to a network.

Figure 2.1. A wireless network adapter plugs into your computer and transmits and receives data by radio waves.

Access point: This hardware device allows wireless network cards to connect to a wired network (Figure 2.2). An access point has a wired component (an Ethernet port) and a wireless component (a radio that allows wireless network adapters to connect to the network).

Figure 2.2. An access point acts as a wireless go-between, connecting a wireless network to a wired network.

Router: A router is a hardware device, or a software program, which allows one network to connect to another. In a home network, you can use a router to connect your LAN to the large network of interconnecting networks called the Internet. You can buy an access point with a built-in router (Figure 2.3). Your router will allow you to share a single Internet connection among all the computers connected to your network.

Figure 2.3. This access point includes a built-in router.

Gateway: A gateway can be hardware or software that allows multiple computers to access the network. In most cases, on a LAN, your gateway is a router. Your gateway could also be a single computer sharing its Internet connection with the other computers on the network.

Protocol: A protocol is a language used by a network to send and receive data. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol) is the protocol used to transfer data over the Internet. You can also use TCP/IP as the protocol for your home network, for sharing Internet access, files, and printers.

Broadband modem: Unlike a 56-kilobit per second modem, which sends and receives data over analog phone lines, a broadband modem sends a digital signal over your telephone or TV cable wiring, depending on whether you use a DSL or cable modem, respectively.

Ethernet: A wired standard for networking hardware. Why mention a wired technology? Some of your equipment, such as a broadband modem, will connect to your access point by an Ethernet cable (see Figure 2.4). Until recently, Ethernet was pretty much the only technology available for networking your computers.

Figure 2.4. Ethernet cabling is often used to connect networking hardware, including a broadband modem, hub, or an access point.

Hub: A wired hardware device that is used to connect multiple computers to your network. A hub has ports, usually four or more, in which you connect an Ethernet cable, which looks like a phone cable but is slightly thicker (Figure 2.5). You can use a hub to connect wired devices, such as a cable modem or router, to elements of a wireless network, such as an access point. An access point works a bit like a wireless hub and connects a wireless network to a wired network.

Figure 2.5. A four-port hub.



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