May 192001

New city, new LAN, new Laptop

The flight from San Francisco down to LA and back up to Ottawa was non-eventful. Good. I don’t like exciting flights. They can kill you. As it was, I arrived safe and sound on Monday morning. Those west-east flights are known as red-eye flights. Mine left at about 10:30pm, which was really 1:30 am east coast time. And they arrive at 6am, which is really 3am. No wonder people feel shagged as they get off the plane. Coca-cola is my friend.

I spent Monday catching up on my email, getting myself a cellphone, visiting a car dealer (anyone have a friend who is a Subaru dealer?), playing a game of lob-ball, and watching a friend’s touch football game. So much for jet-lag. The cable guy arrived on Tuesday to install my cable modem. That was a straight-forward event. I’m with Rogers who are a huge multi-media giant (cell phones, cable, internet, magazines, radio, etc). Rogers Cable comes under the HUGE @Home umbrella. So far, the service has been good. All four days of it.

The computer gear arrives

My gear arrived via air on Wednesday. I used Danzas to ship my stuff from Wellington, New Zealand to Ottawa, Canada via air frieght. This is not the cheapest way to do things, but it is the fastest. I had about 127KG which included two bikes and two computers. As far as I can tell, nothing has been damaged. All the computers are up and running. It took a while to get the network functioning, but most of that was user error. Unfortunately, I was repeating some old mistakes. More of that later.

I didn’t bring my hub with me. It ran on 230VAC. Canada is 215VAC… go figure… Therefore, I went out and bought some new gear from FutureShop:

  • an 8 port 10/100Mbps Netgear hub. This hub feels solid. It’s a metal case and just feels good. You can see the FutureShop entry here.
  • three el-cheapo 10/100 NICs of the Cicero brand. They come up as an rl0, which is a RealTek 8129/8139 device. At CAD$19.99, the price is good enough for me. I originally bought just one of these and two other NICs which were $29.99 each. But the Cicero worked and was cheaper. So I returned the two NICs and bought two more Cicero NICs.
  • OK, so something did get broken in transit. a Pentium fan. I found on at Radio Shack, but it was $20 or so. The one I found at CBA Computers on Kaladar Ave was cheaper at $10. And they gave me a power adaptor. The fan was designed to plug into the motherboard, but I needed a converter so I could plug it into the power supply.
  • Power cables. These were $8 or so at Radio Shack. But CBA had them for $1 each. BARGAIN!
  • I also purchased three CAT5 cables from FutureShock at $8-10 each, but returned them after I found my own cables I brought from NZ.

LAN problems

All the problems were my own doing. Funny how that happens.

When the cable guy left on Tuesday, all I had here was my NT box. I set that up for DHCP and tried the connection. NT reported that it couldn’t find a DHCP server. Ouch. I rang Rogers @Home helpline. I guess I should mention that Rogers provdes a 100 page User Guide with lots of color photographs. Of course, I didn’t read it. But I did notice they don’t have an NT section, but they do have Windows 2000 instructions. I also did not use their CD.

The DHCP problem was my fault. I hadn’t set my computer’s name to match my Client ID. That’s what the DHCP server uses when allocating IPs. Once I set that in Control Panel | Network | Identification | Change | Computer Name, the NT box found the DHCP server and I was up and running. And running fast. Cable is so much better than dial up….

@Home support

I have spoken with two @Home technicians. The first was for the DHCP problem. I told her about the problem and she asked about the computer name. That fixed it right away. The next problem concerned DNS. My IP had a name, but the name didn’t have an IP. The @Home technician knew exactly what I mean when I said “nslookup on my hostname fails”. That’s not something you get at all help desks. I was impressed. For that matter, both helpers seemed very clued-up. Oh, and the DNS problem was fixed within a few hours.

Setting up the LAN

Since I needed to buy a new hub, I figured I would go for 10/100 rather than just 10. This would allow my boxes to talk to each other at a faster speed. And whenever I needed to transfer data around my LAN, it would be that much faster. The purchase of three new NICs wasn’t a big deal. But there was no sense in adding a 100M NIC to my gateway’s external interface as my cable modem can’t do more than 10Mbps anyway. What I did do was change all NICs on my internal LAN to 10/100 NICs. This gives me the added bonus of freeing up three 10Mbps NICs which I know work with FreeBSD.

The computers arrived on Wednesday morning. I had to clear the stuff through Customs, which wasn’t a big deal at all. What with doing other things, I didn’t get them home until about 8:30 that night. So first thing on Thursday morning I went off to FutureShop to buy the stuff I mentioned above.

The first stage was to get my gateway running. After I re-installed the hard disk, which I took in my carry-on luggage, the box fired up without problem. The key to getting the gateway box connected was DHCP. I used the FreeBSD @home — setting up your cable modem article written back in Feb 2000 to get me going. Also of use was the article by Chris Wicklein.

I was able to get the NICs working in all of the boxes but I couldn’t get the new 10/100 NIC to work in my firewall. That was odd. I couldn’t figure it out. I kept getting “no route to host”. when I tried the pings. It wasn’t until Friday that someone mentioned firewall rules. Of course! The firewall rules needed to be changed! Why? Because I had a different device name for my NIC. It was no longer a de0. It was an rl0 and the rules needed to reflect that change! DOH! No wonder the ping failed. There was no route to host.

The moral? When it says “no route to host”, and your routing tables look OK, check your firewall rules.


When I brought my NT box here back in April, I was using dial-up. I installed ZoneAlarm to act as my firewall. This seems to be a very good choice for someone who has a standalone box on an Internet connection. If that’s you, I’d recommend ZoneAlarm.

I did have one problem with ZoneAlarm. After getting the gatway running and connecting the other boxes to the LAN, I couldn’t ping the NT box from other boxes. This was really confusing. But with some online help, I was told that with ZoneAlarm you can devfine your local area. See Security | Advanced and add your machines to the list of computers in your local zone. I also selected the Medium security setting for local access. For now, I’ve actually disabled ZoneAlarm as I have no need for it now that my gateway is running.

The Laptop

I am now the proud owner of a Compaq Presario 1620 laptop computer. My thanks to John Van Boxtel. I have yet to get FreeBSD installed on it, but I do have an Orinoco card which I’m going to use with it. I’ve offered to help test some upcoming changes to the install process. Eventually everyone will be able to install via a wireless NIC. Watch for an upcoming article on that.