You have accumulated two or more computers, and you've decided to connect them together, so welcome to the wonderful world of creating your own home network! You are in for some fun, productive use of your time, as well as the occasional aggravations that comes with such an endeavor. Then again, nothing worth doing is always easy, is it?
Computers enable us to accomplish many useful tasks, and as standalone devices, they are quite extraordinary. However, when computers can communicate and share or exchange information, some of the things we take for granted, and indeed some of the most amazing tasks, can be accomplished. These days we send mail electronically, and it is received in seconds rather than days. As a matter of fact, nowadays we can communicate in real time with instant messaging rather than even having to wait for email to reach the recipient. In some cases, entire books are created without the creators being in the same room. As a matter of fact, many books are written without the authors or any of the people involved in the publishing process ever meeting face-to-face. Family reunions, birthday parties, camping trips, kids' sporting events, and many other activities can be easily shared with distant relatives by means of the Internet. The limits are literally as varied as your imagination. So while this book will show you how to accomplish a few of the tasks possible with a network, it is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you to use the wealth of knowledge available on the Internet to satisfy your curiosity. Start with an idea or a question and then use one of the search engines, such as Google, to take off from there.
In this chapter, we need to establish an understanding of what networking is, in the context of computers. We'll cover a little bit of the conceptual by exploring networking with the perceptual; that is, you'll learn by doing. To get started, let's cover some of the concepts and terminology that is typically used in the world of computer networking.