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Hacks and tweaks for a faster, safer network

Hit [Enter] and enter a local name for the share. When you finish the wizard, Windows will attempt to open the share. If you're asked for a username and password, enter the name of the account that you use in Linux. The contents of the shared folder should appear.

Vista network discovery

You can make Windows Vista map your network for you. Go to the Control Panel and select 'Network and Internet'. The view changes to the Network and Sharing Centre. If network discovery is turned off, the graphical view of the network at the top of the window will show practically nothing.

To turn on network discovery, scroll down to the section named 'Sharing and Discovery' and expand it. You'll see options to turn network discovery on and off again. Switch it on, then at the top of the window click 'View Full Map'. Vista will attempt to uncover the machines it can see from its LAN card – including your broadband gateway. Click on a machine and you should be able to see the printers and folders it shares.

If you only use Vista machines on your network, the operating system can also draw a topographical map of how everything (including your Xbox 360) fits together using the Link-layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol. You can download LLTD software from Microsoft that enables XP machines to be included here: www.tinyurl.com/ynrkqf.

Speedier DNS

Whenever you click on a link or enter a URL into your browser's address bar, your computer calls your ISP's DNS servers so that it can make the conversion from domain name to IP address. However, these DNS servers can become heavily loaded at peak times, which often causes unexpected timeouts. Luckily, you can bypass this problem completely through the use of one of the free, high-performance DNS services that are available. One such service is OpenDNS (www.opendns.com). The IP addresses of its servers are 208.67.222.22 and 208.67.220.220.

In Windows XP, open the Control Panel, select 'Network Connections', and then select the active broadband connection. Hit the 'Properties' button and then the Networking tab. Select the 'Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)' entry and hit the 'Properties' button again. Select 'Use the following DNS server addresses' and enter the IP addresses of the two third-party servers.

In Vista, go to the Control Panel and select 'Network and Internet', then click on 'Network and Sharing Centre' and select 'Manage Network Connections' on the left-hand side of the window. Select the active network connection, select 'Properties', and double-click on the option 'Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)'. Finally, enter the IP addresses of the DNS servers.

In Ubuntu, select 'Network' from the Administration menu on the Confi guration desktop menu. Press 'Unlock' on the resulting window, enter the root password and select the DNS tab. Delete the original entry and add the new DNS servers instead.

You can also reduce the time that it takes to visit your regular, bookmarked haunts on the web simply by calling a website using its IP address in place of its domain name (typing http://89.167.143.12 instead of www.pcplus.co.uk, for example). This is faster because it completely removes the need for a DNS server to make the conversion of domain name to IP address.

To find the IP address of a target server, simply open a command line (in Linux, open your favourite shell) and type the ping command followed by the domain name (for example, ping www.pcplus.co.uk). The IP address will be returned. Make sure that you enter the IP address correctly, though, or you might surf to somewhere you'd rather not be.

Now read the ultimate guide to motherboards and the ultimate guide to graphics cards.