This book provides you with a guide to some of the most productive, interesting, and just plain fun things you can do with your computers. Many people these days have more than one computer at home and can easily become bewildered by all the possibilities. The topics covered in this book will take you from the basics of computer networking to how to use your computer to accomplish many everyday home networking tasks.
Along the way, this book provides you with enough extra information in the form of sidebars to either pique your interest or satisfy your curiosity, depending on your level of interest in the topic. Because I am firmly convinced that people learn best by actually performing a task rather than simply reading about it, this book provides detailed, step-by-step procedures that show you exactly what to click or type to achieve the desired result. It also provides web links along the way, where appropriate. When you have your home network set up, you can follow these links to get more information.
The most important assumption this book makes is that you are using Windows XP as your operating system and that you are familiar with the basic operation and functionality it offers. This book does not cover any background operating system concepts, but many fine books are available to help you with that sort of information (for example, Sams Teach Yourself Windows XP All in One from Sams Publishing). Most of the projects presented in this book can be accomplished by using what ships (and should be installed) with your copy of Windows XP. Where appropriate, this book tells you where and how to obtain any other software and then describes how to install it.
The five projects described in this book are designed to build on a common foundation. You will first implement a network for your home computers to enable connectivity. You will learn enough background information to understand the underlying rationale for what you are doing. To build on the network foundation, you will then enable sharing of information and devices. In the next project, you will learn how to share music on your network, as well as how to import music from various locations to the computers on your network. This is followed by a project where you will enable instant real-time communications with users on your network as well as the Internet at large. You will then see how to make your home videos available across your network. You'll find guidance on problems that commonly occur in networks and how to resolve them. Finally, the last chapter shows you how to use your computers to create your own website.
You can do many more things with the solutions described in this book. So as you read through these chapters and work through the projects, you should think beyond the projects and look for more, related information, either on your own or with the help of a well-placed Internet search engine query. Finally, because I am a fan of philosophy, I ask that you keep in mind that the journey is the destination.