NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2005
Book Excerpt: Five Home Networking Annoyances
by Kathy Ivens,
author of Home Networking Annoyances (O’Reilly Press).

In just five minutes you’ll be able to fix five of the most annoying home networking annoyances.

When you reach that magical moment when your home network stops working, or everyone on the network complains that your My Documents folder is missing, you’ve probably reached your annoyance threshold. Don’t fret – I have the fixes you need. Read on...

Uh Oh, Where’s my Network?

The Annoyance: I added a new computer to my network, but it didn't appear in My Network Places or in Network Neighborhood on any of the other computers. I know the cabling and the network settings are correct. I had to reboot all the computers on the network in order to see the new computer, which is really annoying.

The Fix: You don't have to reboot all the computers to see a newly added computer on your network. Just wait twelve minutes. Honest. Could I make that up? Go have a cup of coffee, empty the dishwasher, or change all the burned out light bulbs in the house. Then open the network folder again, or press F5 to refresh the display if you didn't close the folder. You should now see the new computer. Why does this happen? The icons in the network windows are controlled by a Windows service called the Computer Browser Service. This service browses the network, peering down the pipes (including the virtual pipes of wireless connections), checking to see who's on board. The service runs every twelve minutes.

Mapping Mayhem
The Annoyance: On two of the computers on our network, I created mapped drives for folders on the third computer. Those folders contain files that everyone uses. However, when anyone but me logs on to those two computers, the mapped drives aren't there. What happened?

The Fix: Mapped drives, along with many other configuration settings, are user settings, not computer settings. This is why the reconnection option is worded Reconnect at Logon, instead of Reconnect at Startup. Each user has to create his or her own mapped drives.

The Disappearing My Documents Folder
The Annoyance: I usually work on a particular Windows XP computer, but sometimes one of my kids is at that computer, and I have to do my work from another computer. I can't figure out how to get to my documents on the Windows XP computer. I know the My Documents folder isn't marked "private" because other users of that computer can access it. Why can't I get to that folder from another computer?

The Fix: The fact that you didn't configure your My Documents folder as private only means its contents are accessible to other users of the computer on which the folder resides. To access the folder over the network, you must specifically enable the option to share the folder on the network. Tell your kid to log off, then log yourself on, right-click the folder icon, and choose Sharing and Security. Then select the option labeled Share this folder on the network, and provide a name for the shared folder.

Overly Networked Networks
The Annoyance: We built a home network to share our Internet connection, period, end of it. The wizards we used asked about shared folders, private folders, and all sorts of complicated stuff I don't even understand. We don't want to share files or printers or anything else; we just want to share our DSL connection through our router. It seems to me I have this overly networked group of computers, and I don't know how to undo that. Why isn't there a wizard named Undo the Settings Except for Using the Router?

The Fix: It's hard to believe that Microsoft missed an opportunity to do something with a wizard, but there isn't a wizard that will do what you want. However, you can accomplish your goal quite easily. Go into Control Panel and right-click the icon for your Local Area Connection (labeled Network in earlier versions of Windows). Choose Properties from the shortcut menu, and in the Properties dialog box uninstall or deselect (depending on the version of Windows) File and Printer Sharing. Bingo!

Wireless in the Distance
The Annoyance: Our wireless network works fine until one of the computers moves more than forty or fifty feet away from the router. What's the distance maximum for wireless?

The Fix: The "rated" maximum distance for wireless network adapters is usually about 1,500 feet outdoors and 300 feet indoors. The word "rated" means "under perfect circumstances," and that's something to think about carefully. For outdoor distance maximums, "perfect circumstances" means your entire network is outdoors, including the router, any access points, and all the computers on the network. I'll bet big bucks this doesn't match your setup. The indoor distance maximum is very susceptible to suspicion, because it depends on structural elements in the house. I've never seen a building that passes a "perfect circumstances" test. Almost anything in the walls except for air can block or degrade the wireless signal. Since no walls will stay up with air as their only component, you lose some of the signal as soon as you ask the signal to pass through a wall. The nails in the studs, metal in plaster lath, air conditioning ducts, cast iron pipes, and even lead paint can further interfere with the signal.

Copyright © 2005 by Kathy Ivens and O’Reilly Press. Reproduced with permission. Kathy is a Senior Contributing Editor for Windows IT Pro Magazine and the author of over 50 books. She always carries a crossover and 10 foot Cat5 cable in her briefcase because, well, just in case. Check a sample chapter on Orielly.com at http://snipurl.com/homenet. Article reproduction coordinated by Steve Bass, PC World Contributing Editor and author of PC Annoyances Second Edition. Read a sample chapter at http://snurl.com/sample_annoyed2. It’s available on Amazon at http://snurl.com/annoyed2.

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