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This article was prepared for the November 14, 2001 edition of
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Computer Networking For Home & Small Business
You have a PC in the home office, one in each child’s
bedroom, and you and your wife each have a laptop. Battles erupt over
Internet time, the scanner was dropped as it was being spirited away
from the home office en route to a bedroom, and each of the teen-agers
is putting forth a case for adding more printers to the family’s
Sounds like it’s time to network the machines so that everyone can
access the Internet at once, share the printer and scanner, and even
announce that dinner is served via instant messaging. Networking,
despite its grim reputation for inducing tantrums, is not all that
company with a comforting name — Yes! Consulting
He provides a detailed road map for every possible computer
when he speaks on "Home Networking and Network Sharing" on
Monday, November 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton PC Users Group
at the Lawrence library on Route 1 South. Free. Call 609-292-6219.
Networking computers at home or in the office may be a snap, as White
soothingly insists, but pitfalls await, as his attorney recently
"Networking killed his PC," White says. The hapless attorney
decided he wanted to link his machines, and set out to complete the
task himself. Soon his computer crashed, and he called Compaq computer
support. Round about 2 a.m., after he had turned the machine around,
the better to look into its innards, he tripped over a computer cable,
the thing slid onto the floor, and its useful life ended.
White is quite sure he knows how the networking installation went
awry. This, he says, is how such unfortunate outcomes usually start:
"It asks you for a CD you don’t have. It might ask for the
CD from Microsoft. You think `Oh, I know what happened. The dog ate
it.’ You decide it is not all that important, and press the `skip’
icon appearing with message."
The computer is looking for a driver on the CD, White says, and you
had better provide it if you don’t want to end up committing computer
mayhem in the early hours of the morning. If the thing is lost, just
go borrow one from a neighbor, White suggests, adding that this is
not even a breach of your Microsoft license because your machine is
already running Windows, and you are just feeding it a driver from
the borrowed CD.
White knows this — and a whole lot more — because he has been
enthralled by computers since he was a teenager. When he was a
student at a prep school in his native United Kingdom, his counselor
told his parents he should not be wasting his time playing with
but rather should get on with his "real work." His parents
ignored the advice, and bought him a Sinclair ZX 81. Made by Timex,
the computer used a tape player to record and load programs.
White studied chemical engineering at Wales Polytechnic. After failing
the first year twice, he decided chemical engineering was not for
him, and joined a small software firm. He learned that programming
was not for him either in a subsequent job where he was writing
control software. "My brick press nearly killed someone,"
The year was 1986, and the company for which he had attempted to
brick press software was getting in lots of PCs. He migrated toward
setting the machines up, and showing the firm’s secretaries how to
use them. He had found his niche. His next job was for Lloyd’s of
London, where he provided desktop support for both PCs and Macs. Then
he took a job with Unilever, where, among other things, he provided
tech support at a margarine factory. The entire margarine production
process is done by computer, he says, recalling with great enthusiasm
the sight of great pyramids of margarine boxes being loaded onto
without human intervention.
From margarine production, White moved to Unilever’s head office,
where he provided PC support for a new breed of computer, the
desktop. These machines are being adopted by corporations all over
the world, he says, because they are pre-loaded with all the software
employees need, and are "locked down," so that employees with
a yen to install a cool new application can not do so. White says
employees’ installation of software on their machines is first among
the causes of their computers malfunctioning. (Just think back to
the attorney and his attempt to install networking software.)
In adopting these corporate desktops, he says, companies are not only
protecting their machines and files, but they are moving toward a
day when on-site tech support will no longer be needed. These tech
support people command high salaries, he says, and yet add nothing
to a company’s bottom line. Already, many corporations, their
desktops in place, can get by with remote tech support through which
PC experts diagnose and fix problems by tapping into a computer
from a site that can be thousands of miles away from the balky PC.
Many PC owners, including home users and small business owners, have
to slog along without this support, upgrading all on their own. For
those among them that are ready to take on the challenge of
White offers this guidance:
Among them is an old 486. The thing is no good for surfing the ‘Net,
and has nowhere near the horsepower needed to run a good game, but
White has found a most important use for it. He uses it as his
It is networked to all of his other computers, and protects them all.
White is adamant about the necessity of having firewall protection,
especially for users who connect to the Internet via a cable
"It’s on all the time. Your computer is connected to the Internet
all the time," he says. This means that other Internet users with
mischief on their minds can attach themselves to you, and you won’t
even know it.
Most commercial firewalls cost anywhere from $100 to $50,000 (for
something that will protect thousands of machines). Zone Alarm
however, is free for home users. An alternative White prefers is
(www.smoothwall.org), a Linux program that asks only a donation. That
is what White uses on his network.
PCs — perhaps the machines in the kids’ homework room — is
different from linking the PC in the basement with that in the attic.
of PCs, all sitting next to one another on a desk, networking cables
will do the job for a small amount of money. For machines that are
scattered throughout the house, you can use ethernet or coaxial
The cables run about $1 a yard. Networking cards are $10 apiece, and
a hub can be as little as $10. Of course, using cables could mean
pulling up carpets, or even drilling through walls.
and while it is more expensive than wire, it is easier to put in
Networking cards are about $80 and a base station that will connect
up to 255 PCs is about $200. The range of these systems is good enough
that your son can do Internet research in his attic bedroom while
your spouse E-mails friends from an easy chair in the living room.
to be all or nothing. Look at the location of your machines, count
up your laptops, and see what makes sense. You can network one through
a phone line, a couple of more through cables, and still use wireless
thought of accomplishing this, White’s website includes dozens of
links to sites that will walk you through an installation. He says
it’s as easy as slipping network cards into each computer and moving
a few cables from your PC and peripherals to a base station. He
likes Linksys (www.linksys.com), a site that sells all manner of
essentials, and explains how to use them.
installing new software and/or hardware, all the while alternately
weeping and alarming the children with words they rarely hear outside
of the schoolyard, can opt for professional help. White says he would
charge somewhere between $50 and $100 to set up a simple home network.
considered this a pittance. Although, says White, he is not all that
upset. He shoved the ruined PC into a closet (Why can’t we throw darn
things away?), and went directly to his nearest computer superstore.
He now has a much spiffier machine, and a flat screen monitor too.
Sitting in the classroom is not the only way to gain
knowledge. That’s what a group of business leaders and governors of
Western states decided when they formed Western Governor’s University,
an online university supported by 19 states and governors as well
as 24 corporations and foundations (www.wgu.edu). It has 500 to 600
active students and a staff of 30, located in Salt Lake City, with
mentors and teachers from all over.
WGU offers competency-based degrees — associate, bachelor, and
masters degrees in information technology, business, and education.
In fact, WGU bills itself as offering the only online competency-based
degrees in the country. It has contracted with the Princeton-based
Chauncey Group International, the non-profit arm of Educational
Service, to provide these tests. The Chauncey Group provides
and licensing examinations for professionals, business and government,
and has 160 employees located on ETS’s Rosedale Road campus.
Competency-based learning is familiar to GIs who for decades have
been getting college credit for taking Dantes tests (also an ETS
It is also familiar to students enrolled at Thomas Edison State
the Trenton-based institution that helps non-traditional students
get college credit for life experience (www.tesc.edu). TESC
awards credits to those who successfully pass Dantes and similar
and it also gives credits through portfolio assessment. If you have
expertise in your job, you complete a portfolio that displays this
knowledge, and you may be able to earn credit for it.
In contrast, WGU offers no credits. "We offer competency-based,
not credit-based degrees," says
of WGU. An alumnus of Brigham Young University, Class of 1977, his
previous job was running IBM’s worldwide business under CEO Lou
"We bring together a panel of experts and ask them to define what
competencies would be expected in a graduate at any of three
says Mendenhall. "We find the courses that relate to those
and our full-time faculty members, PhDs, map the courses to the
Students may have to complete courses that mentors select, "but
we do not count the courses they take nor do we count the
says the college president. "The mentor determines the
they likely have and the competencies they need to gain, and we build
an academic action plan." Mentors are in constant contact with
students by phone or E-mail — and mentors can encourage distance
learning opportunities and assign papers and portfolio work.
Students demonstrate proficiency through such assessments as written
tests, portfolios, projects, and performance tasks. Master’s degree
students do a capstone project and an oral defense. The testing part
of the assessment is administered in a proctored testing center.
WGU has been accredited by Distance Education Training Council and
is a candidate for regional accreditation in four regions. One big
difference between it and the Trenton’s "college without
is in cost. TESC students who are New Jersey residents or on active
military duty pay an overall fee — including registration,
AV fees, portfolio assessment, testing, transfer evaluation, and
— of $2,825 or about $76 per credit for up to 36 credits for the
first year. For subsequent years it costs $2,320 or $64 for 36
Out of state residents pay $4,025 or $110 per credit for the first
year, or $3,450 or $96 per credit for succeeding years.
Whereas TESC students taking a lot of courses at once can save money,
WGU charges for the degree. Any two-year degree, whether an associates
degree, master’s degree, or the second half of a bachelor’s degree
costs from $7,000 to $9,000. Of that the tuition is $4,500, and the
courses can cost from $2,500 to $4,500, depending on the competencies
of the student.
Here are other comparisons:
in 1972 but WGU was established five years ago and has been actively
offering degree programs for two years. Only a handful of students
have earned degrees so far. "In some ways it is pioneering, in
other ways it is adapting technologies and putting them together in
a new way," says John Becker, WGU spokesperson.
trendy term for courses taken online. But whereas WGU offers none
of its own distance learning courses, TESC offers a wide array of
distance learning opportunities.
college credits, but WGU students present the portfolio work as part
of their overall preparation for the degree.
degrees. TESC does not have its own proprietary tests.
of TESC’s tests are scored electronically. The Chauncey Group’s latest
project for WGU is on electronic assessments for students seeking
business degrees, for instance, and it is also working in the areas
of quantitative literacy and language and communication.
Using ETS’ E-rater tool, it will develop the objective portions of
both tests and will also create the essay portion of the language
and communication assessment. With this tool a computer scores the
essay, and then a human person scores it. "If there are
it goes to another human, and it is usually found that the computer
was more accurate," says Bill Cramer, spokesperson for the
Among the other test developers for WGU are Galton and InterEd.
Prometric (formerly Sylvan Learning) delivers the WGU electronic
Portfolio, essays and projects are scored by faculty.
in Salt Lake City. When the Olympics come to town, the University
of Utah will have to close down, but WGU gets to stay open.
— Barbara Fox
The Nassau Inn is donating 10 percent of net
from all holiday functions from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day
to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund. The hotel also is donating
10 percent of net profits generated from the Yankee Doodle Tap Room
restaurant and bar from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the
The Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund provides aid to the families
of victims of the World Trade Center tragedy who worked in the food
service profession throughout the entire complex. Restaurants taking
part in this effort helped initiate a fund that provided immediate
emergency aid, as well as future scholarships and funds for the
of victims of the September 11 tragedy. To date, Windows of Hope has
raised over $4 million.
Direct contributions can be sent to Windows of Hope Family Relief
Fund, c/o David Berdon & Co. LLP, 415 Madison Avenue, New York 10017.
the state’s motor vehicle inspection stations, has contributed $25,000
to the New Jersey Conference of Mayors Relief Fund. The fund directly
benefits families of New Jersey victims of the September 11 terrorist
to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund at their September
17 luncheon. The Rotary Club matched its members’ donations.
a toy drive to benefit the homeless and disadvantaged children served
by Homefront. Sales associates from Weichert will be collecting toys
on Saturday, November 24, and Saturday, December 1 between 10 a.m.
and 2 p.m. at KayBee Toys in the Quaker Bridge Mall.
attendees at its annual event on Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5,
at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison.
The Trenton Computer Festival seeks speakers with expertise on a
of topics, including the Internet, multimedia, networking, security,
graphics, photography, video conferencing, database management, music,
robotics, operating systems, and programming.
Anyone who would like to present a talk or lead a forum or user group
session can fill out a speaker application at www.tcf-nj.org. For
more information call
The New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology
Springboard Fund Technology Investment Program will provide
loans of up to $250,000 to small businesses in New Jersey to develop
and market technology-based anti-terrorism and public safety products.
The Springboard Fund, currently funded at $5 million, provides 10-year
interest-free loans of between $50,000 and $250,000 for product and
prototype development, proof of concept or demonstration products,
field and clinical trials, and other projects with a near-term
outcome. Companies are required to repay only the principal amount
of the loan and the repayment schedule is based upon company revenue.
There is a dollar for dollar matching requirement, which may be
satisfied through company, third party, or in-kind resources.
statement: "We want to make our Springboard Fund technology
program known and available to entrepreneurs and small businesses
that may have new technologies to detect, neutralize, and/or mitigate
terrorist threats and attacks."
Applications are reviewed on a quarterly basis and the review process
takes about three months. The deadline for applications is Tuesday,
January 8. Call 609-984-1671 or visit (www.njcst.com).
card, banks, and other creditors that payments were mailed on time
may just be right, especially if they live in New Jersey. With a major
regional post office closed for nearly a month, and smaller post
closed for shorter periods of time, the mail is slow.
Helping consumers out is Acting Governor
who has directed the Division of Consumer Affairs to review the
of late fees by credit card issuers in cases of delayed mail.
Consumer Affairs notified card issuers that it is seeking forbearance.
Many have responded, assuring the department that customers calling
the customer service number on their cards to report delayed mail
will receive an accommodation for any late fees. Any consumer having
difficulty achieving a successful resolution of a late fee problem
can seek help at www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/home.htm.
The Greater Mercer County Chamber of Commerce is seeking
nominations for its 2001 Business Awards. Categories are 2001 Citizen
of the Year (for a lifelong contribution to the area); 2001
of the Year (open to companies with more than 100 employees); 2001
Small Business of the Year (for companies of fewer than 100 employees
that have been in business in the area for more than five years).
Mail nominations and justifications to the Greater Mercer Chamber
of Commerce, 2001 Business Awards, 214 West State Street, Trenton
08608. Or send them by fax to 609-393-1032. The deadline for
submissions is December 15.
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