Hacks and tweaks for a faster, safer network

On the machine to which the printer is attached, log on as an Administrator, access the Control Panel and select 'Printers and Faxes'. On the subsequent window, rightclick on your printer and select 'Sharing...'. In the Sharing tab of the Printer Properties window that appears, click the 'Share this printer' radio button and give it a name.

To connect to the printer from another machine, open its Control Panel and select 'Printers and Faxes'. On the subsequent window, select 'Add Printer' from the file menu. The Add Printer wizard appears. Click 'Next', select the networked printer option, click 'Next' again, select 'Browse for a printer' and press 'Next' again. Browse your network and select the printer. Press 'Next' again and press 'Yes' on the subsequent pop-up that warns of drivers carrying viruses. Windows will now install the driver for your printer.

Media sharing tips

You don't need a super-fast processor or dedicated NAS hardware to share media between computers, making it a suitable job for older systems.

If several people access different files simultaneously, a lack of memory can become a bottleneck, so it's a good idea to install extra RAM. If you know that your server will be busy serving multiple files, it's also a good idea to buy a second disk to store your data. You'll get better performance because the second disk's read/write heads aren't serving two masters at once.

When the hardware is as you want it, perform a clean installation of the operating system. If you use Windows on a single-disk system, clear extra disk space by going to the Control Panel, selecting 'Add or Remove Programs' and selecting 'Add Remove Windows Components'. Remove everything you don't need, like Outlook Express.

Linux accessibility

Linux is moving into the mainstream through machines like the Asus Eee. It makes an excellent alternative operating system for media servers. Here's how to access Windows shares from Linux, and Linux file systems from Windows.

Let's first examine mounting Windows shares in Linux using the new Ubuntu version 8.04, which has the Samba SMB software installed by default. Simply go to the desktop's System menu, click on 'Places' and select 'Network' from the pull-down menu. If no other machines show up in the subsequent window, click the 'Reload' button. Ubuntu will probe the local network for other computers. If any have shared folders, you can click on the machines to see them.

Sharing folders from Ubuntu is as simple as doing so in Windows. Open a command line and enter the command 'sudo nautilus'. After entering your root password, the File Manager appears. If you only set up a user account at installation, this is the password to use.

Right-click on the folder you want to share and select 'Sharing Options'. The sharing window pops up. Press the tickbox marked 'Share this folder' and if Samba isn't installed, you'll be prompted to install it. As long as you have an open Internet connection, Ubuntu will download and install the latest version for you after you enter your password.

Once Samba is installed, you can change the options on the sharing window. The default option is to share the folder with read-only properties. You can grant guest access to the share by having any remote users supply a username of 'guest' without a password. Finally, press the 'Create Share' button and Ubuntu should do the rest. If you go to the 'Network' option on the Desktop's 'Places' menu, you should see your Linux machine. Click on it and you should see the shared folder.

On Windows XP, go to My Network Places and click 'Add Network Place' to start the wizard. Click 'Next' and 'Next' again, then enter the path to the shared Linux folder in the form: \\\ , where is the name of the Linux machine and is the name of the folder.