For a family whose members use computers every day, there are few easier ways to increase fun and productivity than with a small local area network (LAN). With a LAN in place, you can use any computer in the house to run your finance software and access your electronic mail. A LAN also makes it easy for the whole family to share an Internet connection, particularly a fast cable or xDSL one. This Wired Home: The Microsoft Guide to Home Networking
is the gospel of home LANs according to Microsoft. It provides excellent instruction on designing, assembling, and configuring a home LAN that involves computers running Windows 98 or Windows NT 4. With its explicit statements of what to buy and what to do, you'll be happy with Alan Neibauer's work (unless you own a Macintosh).
Thankfully, Neibauer doesn't assume that a full-fledged LAN is the correct solution for everyone. He explains how to share a printer simply, using only a couple of extra cables and a switch box. But the real value in this book is in its clear explanations of installing network interface cards (NICs), setting up hubs, running cable, and configuring the software properly. Illustrations combine high-quality drawings (for hardware assembly sections) with screen shots (for sections on software setup). Even when explaining the complicated matters associated with sharing an Internet connection, Neibauer sticks to his clear, businesslike style. --David Wall
Topics covered: Advantages of a home network, alternatives to a full local area network (LAN), installing network interface cards (NICs), running cable, configuring Windows computers for LAN service, sharing an Internet connection, and performing specific tasks (printing, file sharing, and game playing) on the network.