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Chapter 1. Introduction to Home Networking > Advantages of Home Networking

Advantages of Home Networking

By creating a home network, you allow each of your computers to share information and hardware devices with the other computers. You also create exciting new ways to communicate and interact with people. Some of the advantages of home networking include:

  • Sharing an Internet connection All the computers on the network can share a single Internet connection. This means that you need to set up only one Internet connection for the entire network, instead of setting up an Internet connection on every computer and then fighting for the phone line.

  • Sharing files and folders You can view, modify, and copy files stored on a different computer on the network just as easily as if they were stored on your computer.

  • Sharing printers There is no need to purchase a second color printer or laser printer if you already own one. You can print on any printer connected to any computer on a network just as easily as printing on a printer connected directly to your computer.

  • Communicating with others Using programs that come with Windows XP, you can keep in touch with friends and family through the network and through the Internet. You can use Microsoft Outlook Express to send and receive e-mail messages on the Internet, and you can converse and exchange information with others in real time using Microsoft Windows Messenger.

    The Future of Networking in Your Home

    When networking in the home first began, the focus was on sharing information between computers. Just being able to transfer files between computers was a major advantage. Before long, it became clear that sharing devices such as printers, removable storage devices, and other computer peripherals added even more value to a home network.

    At the same time home computer networking was coming of age, the idea of being able to control the home with a computer was being adopted by computer junkies and other people who were into the nitty-gritty of how computers work. The thought of turning lights on and off and monitoring security cameras with a computer was a hobbyist’s dream. Until recently, the concept of home control hasn’t been taken into the mainstream, but now home control is being introduced to the less technical consumer. Small devices such as light switches and security cameras are becoming easier to add to your home network.

    The home networking industry is now gearing up for the next evolution in home networking technology. In the future, you will see home networking capabilities in many home appliances and other consumer devices not normally associated with computers. For example, your washing machine, television, or even your garage door opener will be able to talk to your computer and then communicate with you! Ever wonder if your garage door is open as you drive down the freeway? Ever start your washing machine, only to find out two hours later that you forgot to close the lid? With advances in home control, these annoyances will be a thing of the past. Your appliances and electronic devices will be able to communicate with the network, and then relay that information to you. In addition, as computers reach their potential as a means of communication, expect to see traditional means of communication—the telephone and television—continue to be supplanted by Internet chat programs and interactive multimedia Web sites.

    To enable these scenarios in the home, over 350 companies have come together to form the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Forum (www.upnp.org). The UPnP forum is developing a standard for the home networking industry that will make it a snap to add intelligent home devices to your home network. In the future, you will be able to bring home a new UPnP-enabled DVD player, plug it in, and have any UPnP-enabled televisions and computers on your home network recognize that it’s available and use it. You will then be able to watch a DVD anywhere in your home with ease. Or maybe you will be on vacation and will wonder if your house sitter is really watering the plants. Not a problem; plug in your UPnP-enabled cameras, and you will be able to see what’s going on at home by viewing the cameras on your home network from any Web browser.

  • Network games Computer games have been around as long as home computers themselves. However, the recent popularity of networks and the Internet has ushered in a new form of computer entertainment: the multi-player network game. Some of these games allow you to play with others on a network, while others allow you to play with larger groups of people on the Internet.

  • Home automation Believe it or not, you can connect other devices besides computers to your network and control them using your computer. For example, you can purchase devices that allow you to use your computer to control lights and appliances in your home. As more products emerge that take advantage of this new technology, expect to see new and exciting ways to use computers to automate your home.



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