Nana-kitty is snoring on my lap (and she’s loud!), and Puck-kitty is curled up on top of the VCR remote.

And wow, I haven’t had a good rant in awhile. I try not to, because ranting is where I’m most likely to fall on my face and reveal myself as a baka blowhard. On the other hand, it’s the best way to get some disagreement and some words going around. It’s the puckish side of me that likes to get a rise sometimes 🙂

Oh, and one other thing, since I can’t quite think of anything really significant to say… If you’re thinking of setting up a home network, getting a DSL line or cable modem, or just have more than one computer and only one phone line…

Buy an SMC Barricade (model SMC7004BR)

Why? Let’s see… I’ve been building little Linux boxen from spare parts for years now. The usual formula is a 486 and motherboard laying in someone’s closet, a lil <1 GB hard drive, 2 network cards, and a good afternoon of installation and tweaking and maybe a little scripting. And in the end we have a box that stands between the outside network and the inside network. Once or twice, I've even had it set up as a print server, and lately I've had it connected to both a cable modem and a plain phone modem for backup.

But you know what? This little box, the SMC Barricade, is all of the above (minus the hard drive). It's a 4 port switch (in short, better than a hub); is managable via web browser; does NAT so that up to 253 machines can share a connection; does DHCP so that those rhetorical 253 machines all get addresses; shares a printer between PCs; supports DSL, cable modem, and even plain PPP over a serial modem.

The thing is smaller than the US Robotics 56k modem it’s connected to right now. And it worked in 15 minutes. Plugged it in, got it on the network, plopped in the settings for my ISP, and voila. To use the printer I attached to the box, I had to install some drivers on my Win98 laptop that give it a simulated printer port that talks to the box over the LAN.

So, from the box, it took me all of 20 minutes to have a net connection via phone modem, IPs and network for all my machines, and a shared printer. I haven’t tried it yet, but supposedly the printer sharing even supports UNIX lpd printing.

And I bought it for US$120. I’d say that more than makes up for all the spare part scrounging, tweaking, and afternoons I’ve spend futzing with mini-linux boxen.

Wow. I love things that just work, and that simply do everything I want them to do.