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You can, of course, build a more complicated network with Linux. A PC can have 2 (or more) ethernet cards. It may then work as bridge between 2 (or more) networks. The PC will act as a gataway for all traffic between
Part 1. Before Linux Installation
Linux Newbie Guide by Stan, Peter and Marie Klimas 01/08/2003
between the 2 networks. The networks do not have to be known to the outside world ("local private networks") and sit behind a firewall enabled on a gateway computer. The outside world will only know about 1 computer of mine, the "gateway" to the external network. Other computers will still be able to communicate with the outside world, but all the traffic will appear outside to originate from one, very busy computer--the gateway.
Here is another suggestion on setting up a different kind of network, using a very much older type hardware, which uses coaxial cables (like for the cable TV). For this, no hub is necessary. Because this networking scheme is older, it can be assembled using cards and parts that are sometimes available for free:
(edited for space) From: John.Edwards@brunel.ac.uk Subject: Linux Guide-a suggestion
Hi. Many older 10Mbps network cards (and some newer ones as well) have a BNC connector and you can usually pick up old co-axial cabling when companies upgrade to UTP. Add a T piece for each machine and a 50-ohm terminator at each end (about 1 pound or $1.50 each) and you have a home network that will happily support more machines than you probably have room for. And most importantly--no expensive hub (or cheap hub that can cause trouble). There are other advantages to co-ax as well, it's tougher to break and more resistant to noise from other equipment.
Disadvantages: There is a limit of 185 meters per network segment of thin co-ax, 30 machines per network, and you're stuck at 10Mbps, but I don't see any small home network needing more than that. Also if one cable goes down then the whole network stops, this shouldn't happen often unless someone unplugs a cable section. You can disconnect the T piece from a PC without harming the rest though.
Quick diagram, T for a T piece and Term for a terminator:
I I I I
PC PC PC PC
The various parts connect together using BNC connectors similar to a TV & video connector but with a bayonet that secures the two sockets together. For more details see the /usr/doc/HOWTO/Ethernet-HOWTO
The most straight forward and modern, however, is to get 10-base-T ethernet cards for your computers and a hub to connect them.
1.3 Will my hardware work under Linux?
Not every piece of PC hardware is supported under Linux, but most are, particularly the more standard, older, and popular ones. This applies to SCSI adapters, CDROMs, writable and rewritable CDs (CD-R and CD-RW), video cards, mice, printers, modems, network cards, scanners, Iomega drives, etc.
The most notable exceptions are the so-called Winmodems (=MS Windows modems also called "software modems"). Avoid these like fire--they are a bit less expensive than full modems, but they are crippled (some processing is done by the main computer CPU instead of by the modem), and there is little chance you will have a Winmodem running on Linux right away (for more info on Winmodems, see http://www.idir.net/~gromitkc/winmodem.html). External modems are never "Winmodems" so if in doubt, purchase an external modem (external modems are more expensive, but they don't drain your PC power supply, are easily portable between machines, look better, and show modem activity). Additional points to consider with modems: "Older externals using a Rockwell Protocol that don't work too well. Also, the newer USB modems are not currently (March 2001) well supported. See the winmodem page." [source: B.Staehle].
Another area of potential problems is the video card. If you have a recent "cutting edge" 3D or uncommon card, you may want to check its compatibility at http://www.Xfree86.org.
Zip drives of all kinds are supported fine.
I wouldn't count on Linux supporting a parallel port (non-SCSI) scanner, no matter if the manufacturer claims TWAIN (="Technology Without An Interesting Name", no joke here) compatibility.
So the short answer is yes, in all likelihood your standard PC will run Linux with no problems. You don't invest much when trying Linux, so probably the easiest way to make sure is to attempt an installation on your existing hardware. There are Linux hardware compatibility lists at http://hardware.redhat.com/hcl/genpage2.cgi and http://metalab.unc.edu/LDP/HOWTO/Hardware-HOWTO.html if you want to check your newer or less popular hardware.
When purchasing new hardware, I would always check its Linux compatibility on the above lists. You can also ask your supplier if the hardware is supported under Linux, but I would take the answer with a grain of salt--too many companies have incompetent sales personnel/technical support. When purchasing a new computer, I would consider a system with Linux pre-installed. A number of major suppliers offer systems (particularly large ones) with Linux, but many don't. You can always get a system with