This chapter discusses the OSI network model. The topics of this chapter are:
A Network Interface Card (NIC) is the most common device used to directly connect a computer to a network. (It is called a NIC, not a NIC card. The C stands for card.) Sometimes, a motherboard may have this kind of device built into it. Sometimes, users connect by other methods, such as by using modems. A NIC is an example of basic hardware needed by most network devices. Each type of NIC is typically designed for use on one kind of network. For example, you can't use an FDDI card on an Ethernet, or a Token Ring card on FDDI. A driver should come with any card you buy. The card and the driver are specific to the network type, but the other software on a workstation is not. MS Office, for example, does not need to be told which network architecture you are using.
Most NICs have physical addresses burned in at the factory. These addresses are called MAC addresses since they work on the Media Access Control sublayer of the ISO network model. This address serves to provide a unique identifier for every device that has a NIC installed.
When buying a NIC, you should pay attention to three major choice factors:
In order to use a protocol with a Network Interface Card (NIC), the protocol must be bound to the NIC. In ancient times, there was a problem binding more than one protocol to a NIC at the same time. This problem was overcome by two similar technologies. Network Device Interface Specification (NDIS) was created by a Microsoft consortium for this purpose. Open Data-link Interface (ODI) was created by Novell and Apple for the same purpose.
Some NICs use boot PROMs. The idea is this: a workstation has a chip called a boot PROM (Programmable Read Only Memory), that allows the workstation to contact the server, and read an image file that tells it how to boot. The concept is most useful with workstations that do not have hard drives. Why would you have such a workstation? It is typically done to save money, or in places where you do not want the user to save any data to the workstation between restarts.
When installing a NIC or any other expansion bus card, you may need to configure settings for its properties. When installing new equipment, you need to install the hardware itself, you may need to install software (which could include device drivers and application software), and you may need to set whatever system resources the hardware will use. Resource settings can include:
You usually install a device first, then install a driver. Most of the time you allow Windows to notice a new device, and allow it to offer a driver for it. However, sometimes the correct procedure is to install a device driver first, which you cannot know unless you read the instructions for installation of the device. This will be a foreign concept to many of you, I am sure. Trust me, there is something to be gained by reading the instructions first.
The text presents an exercise in setting the properties of a NIC in a Windows PC. Regarding the objective of configuring the IP stack on a Windows computer, be aware that you can access the stack from the Network icon in Control Panel (white icon on the near right), or from the Network Connections icon, if you have XP (blue icon on the far right). You can also drill down to the IP stack through Device Manager or My Network Places. As you hear many times, the actual appearance of windows and tabs will vary from one workstation to another, so do not assume that the configuration screens you encounter will look exactly like those in the text.