July 2004 Reader Challenge

The Problem:

Many of the responses I receive each month for this Challenge column request one of my home networking books as the prize (if the writer wins). Frequently, these requests mention overcoming the difficulties of running a domain at work and a peer-to-peer network at home. Apparently, many IT pros who work in large companies maintain peer-to-peer home networks, and quite a few IT pros are working in small or midsized businesses that run peer-to-peer networks--whereas most books and magazine articles assume a domain. So, I thought I'd try challenging you on your knowledge of peer-to-peer or home networking.

Question 1:
Your home network shares your Internet connection by using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). Without a router, how does Windows assign IP addresses and resolve those addresses to computer names?

Question 2:
Every computer on your home network runs Windows XP. You have a router connected to a cable modem to share Internet access. You ran XP's Network Setup Wizard on each computer and indicated that you had an always-on connection. Every computer can access the Internet, but the computers can't access each other's shared resources. Each computer is configured for file and printer sharing, and each contains shared folders that are configured for sharing with the network. What's the most likely cause of the "access denied" problem?

Question 3:
On a Windows XP Home Edition computer running NTFS, you've created a folder that holds the novel you're writing, and you don't want anyone to see the folder's contents. You share the computer with other users (typical in a home network). You want to use the nifty XP feature "Make this folder private," which denies folder access to any users on the computer (except you, of course) or on the network. You right-click the folder, select Sharing and Security, and discover that the "Make this folder private" option is inaccessible. Why can't you make the folder private?

The Solution:

Question 1:
In ICS, the host computer (i.e., the computer that has the modem) becomes a DHCP server and maintains a HOSTS file to resolve names to IP addresses.

Question 2:
XP's Network Setup Wizard usually enables the built-in firewall (which blocks network traffic) when you indicate you have an always-on connection. Disable the firewall to facilitate network communications. Then either upgrade to XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and its firewall, which you can configure to allow network traffic; install a router with a built-in firewall; or install software firewalls on all the computers.

Question 3:
Your folder isn't a subfolder in your user profile. In XP Home, you can make folders private only when they're part of your user profile. This means the folders must exist under \Documents and Settings\. This requirement is part of the Simple File Sharing paradigm that's configured by default on both Windows XP Professional Edition (if it's operating in a peer-to-peer network) and XP Home (which can't join a domain). You can't turn off Simple File Sharing on XP Home. To make the folder private, you must move it to your user profile.

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