Networking seems easy at first, it's just wires and plugs, but getting operating systems to talk to one another and data packets to transfer successfully isn't easy. Since 1996, I've worked in multiple operating system, multiple workstation, single internet connection environments, and I've used everything on the market.
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The first software proxy servers were unsecure, tedious to install, and frequently unstable. (1996 - I lived in a geek house with 2 PCs, 2 Macs, and one digital unix machine, all on a single 28.8 line).
Later revisions of software proxy servers plugged security holes, were stable, but still required extra hardware and a long setup. The first integrated DHCP server I used flooded my ISP with addresses and got me banned from the system for a day. Later on, I learned how to set them up properly, and got them working with a bit of effort. Security was also a concern as the proxy server PC was regularly bombarded with hacker attempts, since it was sitting directly on the internet. (1997-1999 - cable modem feeding into a PC with a PC laptop and Mac desktop sharing)
When I moved to a new place in the Bay Area and got my first DSL line, I first setup a software proxy, but my ISP required a software layer just to log onto the network (PPPoE). When the line was shared, my machine had to be on for the other PCs to connect, and the PPPoE client frequently crashed.
I decided to try a hardware solution a friend recommended. The linksys 4 port DSL hub/firewall.
As soon as I got it, the first major plus was a built in PPPoE client that would store my user info and auto connect if dropped. Then I saw the DHCP server that seamlessly granted networked PCs access to the network with no setup at all. It's also a standalone router, meaning it doesn't matter what platform any machine using it is, and none of your computers have to be on to share the connection.
The time between removing it from the box and getting the last PC sharing the connection was about ten minutes. The web based administration is simple, straightforward, and easy. I only had to fill in a couple form elements, click a few buttons and everything was working great. And it's continued to work great ever since. The firewall has worked flawlessly, keeping the PCs safe and directly off the internet, while allowing all traffic (icq, napster, gaming networks) to pass through from my machines.
It's been continuously operating since I got it 5 months ago, and hasn't had a glitch yet. It's the first piece of computer hardware I've ever owned that was completely "set it and forget it." It could not be any more perfect, or any easier to use.
I love my linksys DSL router.
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