Wed 22 Mar
Among the many things I wish I knew a lot more about is how my home network works. I mean, I have a pretty decent if admittedly fundamental handle on how TCP/IP and DHCP work together, but heaven help me if I ever try to get them to behave reliably for anything other than the most basic of configurations.
I use a heck of a lot of what I think is network address translation or “port forwarding,” directing traffic from outside my LAN to a specific computer within it — a feature I find incredibly handy for SSH tunnels, light HTTP serving and AFP access. All of which frequently amount to exercises in frustration. I can never get my computers to reliably acquire the same IP address on repeated reboots and re-connections to the network. I’ve tried fiddling with a countless combination of settings, including manually acquiring IP addresses and address reservation, with little luck.
Granted, I have an inexpensive, consumer-grade wireless router, but so far, it’s the only one I’ve found that has that particular collection of features that (I think) I need: port forwarding, an inventory of attached devices, IP address reservation and more than one wired Ethernet port. None of the other routers I’ve come across seem demonstrably better. And when I say “the other routers I’ve come across,” I mean none of the other routers I’ve bought, taken home, unboxed, configured, tested and returned to the retailer.
If this is all a bunch of gobbledygook to you, believe me, it’s barely more than that to me. There’s room, plenty of room, for improvement on providing appreciably more facile interfaces to consumers who need to manage their home networks. Not even Apple does a particularly great job of shielding users from the arcane terminology of network protocols; which is a shame, but I can empathize. Hooking up one computer to another — let alone to a network of infinitely more computers — is an invitation to unbridled complexity, and to some extent it’s reasonable to expect users to learn this stuff.
For my part, I’m certainly willing to learn more about it, but I have yet to come across a text that really bothers to explain it to someone like myself who possesses only a moderate understanding of networking technology. Point me to a book that can explain all of this in plain English, and I’ll buy it. Similarly, point me to a great wireless router with an intuitive interface and reliable performance, and I’ll buy that, too.