You will need this as the very minimum hardware, using 10-base2 (co-ax "Cheapernet"):
However BNC 10-base2 networking is kinda crappy, so why not go a little further and try 10-baseT? It's benefits are more expandable, much more reliable, and if you shop around it doesn't cost that much more. You will need this as the suggested hardware:
Conversely, a router is a much smarter device. Allowing better management, including paritioning, a router will cope with two high speed machines talking at high speed to each other whilst a high speed and low speed pairing talks on different ports.
If my understanding is correct, then obviously the router is the more desirable option, but it comes at a price...
I did quite well really, didn't I? The cost of the RiscPC network card was rather more than the
combined cost of all of the other bits of hardware utilised.
How did I do it?
Dead easy. Find a local dealer that specialises in networking contracts. As more and more people are finding a 10mbit network too slow (imagine, five WinME machines trying to pull streaming video from an ISDN link to the Internet!), they are dumping their old hardware and going for faster components. Thus, there are loads of incredible bargains to be had. Certainly, dead cheap network cards for PCs are ten a penny, but a good solid hub going that price!?!?
When this was first written there was no 10mbit network card for RISC OS machines. Now there is. It is quite expensive (not so much by RISC OS terms, but compared to PC kit...); and the worry I have is what spec is required to make best use of it? I suspect it will require an Iyonix to make it fly, and a Kinetic to get much additional benefit. Remember that there is quite a bottleneck with the podule bus and the 'front side bus'. 100mbit/sec is logically the same as 12mbyte/sec. It's an impressive thing to get a harddisc talking to a generic RiscPC at half that, so while you may be able to get better than 10mbit (which is just over 1Mbyte/sec), you probably won't get the full benefits of 100mbit networking. Still, even running a lame quarter speed, that's twice as fast as an old network card could do it!
My advice? Go for 10/100 kit if you can afford it. The more stuff that is 10/100 compatible to begin with, the less that will need to be changed in order to go for a better speed network.
Failing that, stick with a cheap and plentiful 10Mb parts. It isn't breakneck, but for a small home installation it will be plenty (unless you're into streaming media and/or VNC sessions). The 80486DX/4-66MHz machine running Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (with a generic NE2000 driver) served a 1Mb test file to my RiscPC (ARM7 40MHz) via OmniClient's LanManFS (NetBEUI) in a shade over two seconds. My harddisc is only just half that speed. However a benchmark showed a much poorer picture. My harddisc managed 1.26Mb/sec average and the Ethernet managed 430Kb/sec average. The reason? Transferring big chunks of data is a nice fast operation. But transferring lots of little blocks (as the benchmark program did) is tedious and slow and has many overheads. The speed of the network, though, is more likely to be 430Kb/sec instead of >1Mb/sec as application file handling is more likely to do a number of small transfers instead of large ones.
In more recent terms, transferring an application from RISC OS (ARM710 RiscPC) to the PC (450MHz P3) harddisc (for RedSquirrel) copied a number of small files (!Run, !Sprites, etc) and it did it in around three minutes, with a lot of time apparently doing nothing.
Transferring two TAR files (the RISC OS Open sources, after un-bzip2ing), totalling around 140Mb, was achieved in a pleasing six minutes.
It's kinda like a SCSI tar streamer. Little files are clunky and cumbersome, big files can fly...
Click here for a pictoral guide of how easy it is to fit a NIC into a RiscPC.