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Feature Article
Sharing an ADSL Internet Connection

March 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

If you want to get a headache, try setting up Internet sharing of an ADSL modem, especially from SBC. I will tell you what it took to get mine working (yes, it can be done), no thanks to my ISP.

Peer Network

Last month I told you about my HP Pavilion Notebook Computer. It is rather heavy at 6-7 pounds, so I would rather call it a laptop. I wanted to be able to use the laptop with the Internet. That meant sharing my ADSL modem with my desktop.

I started off by installing a second network adapter in my desktop. One adapter will be connected to the ADSL modem, while the other network card will connect directly to the laptop's built-in Ethernet port through a special CAT 5 crossover cable. The crossover cable is a standard CAT 5 cable, but at one end it has two wires crossed. This allows two computers to be directly connected to each other without the need for a hub in a 2 computer peer-to-peer arrangement. A 25' cable cost me $11 at a local computer specialty store while the second network card cost me $15.

I noticed a strange anomaly after installing the second network card. My computer takes a very long time to boot. It will sit there for an extra 3-4 minutes (really). It looks like it is hung, but it then takes off and continues booting. I assume this is a Windows thing with regard to assigning resources to the two network cards. Let me tell you, having a computer that takes 5-6 minutes to boot is extremely frustrating when performing the kind of work I am about to describe.

Time To Start Sharing

For starters, don't expect much help if you are a SBC (Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, Nevada Bell, etc.) customer for ADSL. They were unable, and unwilling, to help me with setting up Microsoft's Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) with the EnterNet 300 software they provide. EnterNet is the software that is necessary to make the Internet connection. Without it you won't be able to access the Internet through the supplied ADSL modem. Personally, I much preferred Time Warner/Road Runner's cable modem service for its simplicity. Just plug the modem in the wall and into a working Ethernet card and you're online.

When I first tried installing ICS, part of Windows since Win 98 Second Edition, the EnterNet software would not connect to the Internet. A check of NTS' site (the authors of EnterNet) revealed a FAQ question about using EnterNet 300 with ICS. It provided a few key steps to enable this setup to function including installing version 1.34 or later of the EnterNet software. I was on 1.28 or 1.30 (the disc I have says 1.28 while the help/about says 1.30). I downloaded the latest version (1.41). However, it was only a trial version. I called Southwestern Bell to have them send me a full version.

The trial version said it was already expired, so I had to wait for the disc to come in the mail. After installing the 1.41 full version I started following the steps in the FAQ. When I switched the software from Private API to DHCP it would appear to connect to the internet, but I had no access. Installing ICS made no difference. So I called support. The number that came with the disc was a SBC number. They took me as far as they could, which was to make sure I had a valid hardware configuration. They did not support ICS or even the software beyond getting a valid connection, so they gave me a Southwestern Bell support number. Calling that number didn't get me much further. They would only get it working as far as a single computer accessing the Internet. No ICS support.

Even when I explained that somebody made changes to the EnterNet software, software they required me to use, to support ICS they still would not provide support for it. Contacting NTS, the authors of EnterNet, was out of the question. They only provide support to people who actually buy the product directly from them directly. They refer customers that receive the software from their ISPs to get support from the ISP. Catch-22!

So SBC/Southwestern Bell left me out in the cold. I did a search on the Internet for EnterNet and connection sharing. Everything I found either restated the steps on NTS' site, or on Microsoft's site for ICS. None of which helped me.

I came across a software package called AllAround! that provides sharing of an Internet connection. Two of their customer appreciation letters specifically mentioned getting sharing working with EnterNet where ICS had failed them. I downloaded their trial version and installed it. Unfortunately, AllAround wouldn't let my computers talk to each other, no less share an Internet connection.

Then I remembered WinGate being a software package that was popular before Microsoft's ICS. I went to their website and downloaded the trial version of their software. It was not easy, but I finally got it working.

I installed the WinGate software on each machine, setting up the desktop as the server and the laptop as the client. The laptop could not find the desktop. I switched the laptop to a fixed (static) IP address, following the WinGate instructions. After setting the gateway, and DNS information, I was able to establish a connection between the computers. But no Internet sharing.

When I first ran the WinGate software on my desktop ZoneAlarm wanted to know if I wanted to let WinGate access the Internet. I assumed that ZoneAlarm could be getting in the way. I turned on full access to all the components of WinGate (there were three listed in ZoneAlarm). Still no connection. Then I remembered when I first turned on ICS that ZoneAlarm popped up a message about high vs. medium security. Off to ZoneAlarm's security section. I set local access to low, and Internet security to high. Still nothing.

I shut ZoneAlarm down for the moment. The connection worked. It was ZoneAlarm at this point. A little digging into ZoneAlarm's security settings had an Advanced button. Clicking that brought up a list of all my network cards. However, I couldn't change any of the information on them. There was a place to add new items. I added the name and the IP address of my laptop (as separate entries, don't ask me why), and set them to full access according to ZoneAlarm.

That did it. I was fully connected. Both machines can access the Internet, as well as my printer and files. I couldn't connect to Napster from the laptop. I went into WinGate's settings on the client and noticed it listed Napster as having some low level access. I raised it to medium and then Napster worked fine.

Overall I must have reboot each computer over a dozen times each. Probably 2 dozen for my desktop. Remember I told you my desktop now takes 5-6 minutes to boot, so it was a painfully slow experience rebooting so many times.

Moral

So... the moral of this story is... good luck getting any help from your ADSL ISP in sharing your connection. WinGate works very well, but expect to spend some time custom configuring it. Also, if you use ZoneAlarm you will have to customize it as well. I would recommend shutting off ZoneAlarm while you work out your connection sharing. This will help you isolate problems.

I would expect Microsoft's ICS to work very well with a Road Runner cable modem since it doesn't require any other software to connect to the Internet. ICS did a fine job of letting my machines talk to each other... on the first try, it just stopped the EnterNet software from working.

Probably the best approach would have been to get a decent Router/Hub. Linksys and Netgear each make a nice 4 port router/hub for about $100-150 depending on sales and rebates. However, I am a cheapskate. If there is a way to do it for $26 without messing around with rebates, I will do that and save a hundred bucks. I vaguely remember reading a FAQ question regarding using a router/hub with the ADSL modem when I first got it. However, I was unable to find that question and its answer when writing this article to verify if a router/hub would work with SBC's ADSL service. The EnterNet software could not be installed on the router/hub, but I would assume Linksys and Netgear have figured out how to work with PPPoE connections (PPPoE is the protocol that the ADSL modem uses and the EnterNet software provides).

Final Words

So be diligent and don't give up. I spent a total of $76 (cable $11, NIC $25, WinGate $40). I might have been able to replace the NIC and Wingate costs with a $100 - $150 router/hub. I would still need a CAT 5 cable long enough to let me walk anywhere in my apartment with the laptop. Overall I probably didn't save much money, but I am on a strict budget. Besides, it makes for a better article than if a router/hub just worked by plugging it in. As Jerry Pounelle (my inspiration for Scott's Column and articles like this) is found of saying, "I do all these silly things so you don't have to." Great words Jerry. Thanks.

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