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2005-03-16Adventures in Proxy Land; home connection sharing...

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Internet Connection Sharing does not work. Not for me whilst trying to get two machines running with Windows 2000, anyway. There should have been no problem, as our cable modem is a USB device rather than taking up an Ethernet port — simply a case of getting fifteen metres of Cat5e crossover cable, running it between the two machines and following some simple instructions, right? Like hell.

I don't blame the instructions. Windows is a fickle beast at the best of times, though I find far fewer problems with 2000 than previous versions. Microsoft did at least think far enough ahead to modern homes having multiple PCs and some form of sharing of always-on connections being required.

So... there had to be alternatives to ICS? Yes, but fairly well-hidden ones. Several years ago most were commercial, such as the WinGate one mentioned in many tutorials written back then, but there are now a few free-for-home-use and free-as-in-beer options. 602LAN SUITE was ruled out immediately for being a bloated 30Mb download. AnalogX Proxy was downloaded and tried, but it's designed for situations where other networking between machines has already been set up. FreeProxy by Handcrafted Software is just the right balance of simplicity and features, routing HTTP, POP, NNTP, SOCKS and other common protocols. It's also nice and easy to lock down behind the firewall already on my system and to a specific machine.

There are hardware alternatives, of course, that don't require a host PC to be switched on and running a proxy for client machines, but this is very easy for the average home user to set up in situations where one machine is mostly used for net access but you want the option of connecting others without moving a cable modem, roll of cable, etc. around and don't want to fork out ~£50 for a hardware router that will work with USB devices and see infrequent use. Ten metres of cable shouldn't cost you more than about five quid including delivery.

Obvious caveats are that each machine needs a network card or onboard LAN and you need to remember to get crossover cable to link the machines; it's wired differently to the Cat5 stuff you'd use for linking into a proper network.

In other, unrelated news, Microsoft has announced that security holes will go unpatched for a month if you're a home or business user. Not that they usually give any evidence of giving a toss about security or stability unless it attracts sufficient negative publicity, but now it's official:

Under a plan to take effect later this year, Microsoft will give the U.S. Air Force versions of software "patches" to fix serious security vulnerabilities up to a month before they are available to others

Source: Reuters

Wonder who that'll piss off more?

I owe people email. Figured I should try to come up with ideas and examples first. :)


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