Custom Built Computers

Thinking of Broadband and/or a home network?

Getting connected to Broadband and a home network is easy!
If you have more than one computer in your house or small office then consider the benefits of getting them connected: you can move data about between PCs without copying to a floppy disk or CD, you can share peripherals such as a printer attached to one of the PCs and, of course, share the Internet connection whether a modem or broadband.

Broadband? What is it, can I get it?
You may already be aware that the ubiquitous Broadband is anything but! Although BT make a great deal about the percentage of home owners who could connect, it doesn't hide the fact that millions of people don't have the opportunity to connect because they live either too far from their "local" exchange, or else their local exchange has not yet been converted to support broadband (also known as ADSL: Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line. Mmmm, let's stick with the terms "ADSL" and "broadband", right?).

If you have NTL in your area they could also provide an ADSL connection, using their optical fibre connections. Good value for money too, starting at just 14.99 a month for a "quarter-speed" 128k connection, that's still 4 times quicker than a modem. A 512k full-speed broadband/ADSL connection using the BT network starts at around the 20 mark.

So a summary of what broadband is: it is a means of using the copper wires connected to your telephone point to transport high speed network computer information. It allows you to use the telephone at the same time as your broadband because the two use totally different frequencies. You just plug in a small low cost "splitter" at each telephone so that the high frequency broadband signal doesn't cause any interference on the phone (sometimes heard as a low buzzing/clicking sound). It also protects your broadband connection against any odd signals from your phone that occurs when it rings or dials out.

ADSL Splitter for your phone So although your phone and broadband use the same wires to carry different information the two can be considered as separate items due to some clever trickery at the exchange, and your little plug in splitter. Clever stuff heh? Well, I'd be more impressed if BT (or the GPO as it was) had actually designed the phone system to do this. Actually they discovered it could by accident thus saving them loads of money having to install new high speed phone lines. Lucky for all of us then, really!

The signal from an ADSL line is different from that of a normal modem, so you need a special USB ADSL modem. In fact, these are usually supplied to you as part of the broadband package you sign up for. Good stuff. Except that if you intend sharing your broadband connection these modems are not good for you. You need a special type of broadband modem with a "router" and probably a "switched hub" (more commonly, albeit incorrectly, known as a "switch") so that you can plug in many computers. This is NOT rocket science. It is straightforward and once set up you probably will never need to touch it again. Our broadband router and switch was switched on for the first time in March 2002 and has been running ever since without intervention (even recovering from the occasional power cut). If you seriously want to share your broadband connection this is the way to do it and we are the people to advise and procure your equipment!

Prices? Costs? Money?
Typical ADSL modem To connect a single PC to a broadband connection requires no more hardware than what you have now, except that you must use the supplied ADSL modem (you can keep your existing modem connected too if you like, for emergency backup).

To connect multiple PCs to a broadband connection requires each PC to have a network card installed (less than 10 each). These are in turn connected to the switch (switched hub - 90) using network cables (6 each). If each PC is in a different room you won't want cables strewn over the floor so you'll have to (get us to) lay cables along skirting boards etc. Just as easy as connecting a TV set to a different part of the house.

If you're worried about all these cables you can go wireless. This is an affordable solution and uses radio waves instead of cables to receive/send those signals. Each PC needs a wireless network card and they send/receive from an "Access Point" - effectively a radio transmitter plugged into your broadband modem. A kit containing an access point and two USB PC cards can be had for less than 150. The range of these devices is far more than even the largest house (well, OK, I guess Her Majesty could conceivably lose the signal now and again round Buck House) but you could easily surf the Internet on your laptop from a deckchair in the garden! See my Wi-Fi page, all about wireless networking.

Damn! I can't get broadband till 2005! How can I share my connection?
You can still share a standard modem connection, the only downside being that the PC connected to the modem must be switched on for other PC to be able to dial out. It must also be running Win98SE, ME, 2000 or XP. Windows 95 and Windows 98 doesn't have this support built in. This is a standard feature of the other Windows flavours and is called Internet Connection Sharing. To achieve this your PCs must first be linked together via a home network as described above, either using cables or radio. We can install and configure this too!

Queries? Questions? Comments or suggestions?
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