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Last updated: 6/4/00

INSTALLATION.  The network installation on two Windows 98 computers was about as easy as it gets.  The network adapter installation was smooth and without incident: shut-down, turn-off, and unplug the computer; remove the cover; install the board; plug-in and turn-on computer; insert then floppy and the Windows CD when Windows asks for them; click when prompted to reboot after the files are installed.  The rest of the network configuration and hardware installation was made quite simple by D-Link's excellent documentation.  MidPoint Installed without to much effort even though the process involved more manual steps than Windows 98 SE Internet Connection Sharing and SyGate, and was more complicated  because MidPoint is a proxy server which requires more information, such as E-mail and news server information (no big deal, however), than a Network Address Translator (NAT).

Installation of the network on an NT 4.0 with Service Pack 6 was quite easy, but installing MidPoint on my server was a time consuming and frustrating exercise.  MidPoint uses the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol  (DHCP) to assign IP addresses to client computers on the network.  It does not allow static IP's on the workstations.  I had a heck of time getting it to work with my network which has two  web servers with static IP addresses running on Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS).  It insisted on assigning the IP addresses used by the web servers to clients on the network, causing IP address conflicts.  MidPoint finally worked (with no thanks to the hard copy or online documentation) after deleting the static IPs used by the network from the list of possible DHCP addresses found in the dhcp.ini file in the MidPoint directory.  Once working, browsing from client workstations via an SB2100D Cable MODEM networked to the server seemed quite snappy, but problems were soon apparent with Microsoft's Outlook 2000 E-Mail and FrontPage 2000.  At that point the MidPoint  installation had eaten-up all of the time allocated to test it in an NT/cable MODEM environment and it was removed from the server.

OPERATION.  The switch was tested with two pairs of computers transferring the Windows cab files to each other at the same time.  While one pair was transferring the windows 98 cabs (about 105 MBytes) the other pair was timed while transferring the original Windows 95 cabs (about 33 MBytes).  The time was about 15 seconds through the switch.  The time to transfer the Win 95 files without the other two computers  transferring data was, as expected, still about 15 seconds.  The time to transfer the files through a 100 Mhz hub with two pairs of computers transferring data was again about 15 seconds (so much for all of those educating words on the differences between a hub and switch).

The small fan in the switch is a bit noisy, but I have heard just as much noise from hubs and thinwire Ethernet repeaters made by other manufacturers. The noise tends to blend into the background of power supply noise, etc. when the switch is placed on top of my NT server.

A 56K dial-up MODEM was used to test MidPoint on a Windows 98 host.  The MODEM connected to the ISP at 49,333 KBS.  The host downloaded data at about 3.7 KBytes/sec. as the client simultaneously downloaded at about 2 Kbytes/sec.  Performance was acceptable for Internet sharing  by two computers.  However, the host appeared to excessively hog Internet resources when downloading.  This noticeably slowed down the browsing performance on the client.

BOTTOM LINE.  The DFE-910 retails for about $119.00. This is considerably less than the sum of the $149.00 and 2 X $59.00 MSRPs for the switch and adapters, respectively, when sold separately.  However, the street price of a pair of adapters, a hub, and cables is about the same as the kit.  If you just need to network just two computers, the price of two adapters, a crossover cable, and Internet sharing software is considerably less than the kit.  The kit includes excellent documentation, MidPoint Lite, and a lifetime warrantee and support from a major manufacturer.  But, MidPoint Lite is certainly not as good as some other Internet sharing products and is not supported directly by MidCore (the network adapter manufacturer--D-Link--is supposed to support the product).  It appears to be a product designed to induce the buyer into upgrading to a full-featured, higher-performance product from MidCore--a popular means of selling software lately.  The Installation even includes an offer of a 25% discount on MidCore products for owners of MidPoint Lite.  The cheapest MidCore Internet sharing product is the 2-user Companion product.  At $119.00, or $89.25 with the discount, it is considerably more expensive than the $39.95 for a 3-user license of SyGate which is presently running on my network.

If you don't mind running cable, opening computers to install network adapters, and you are planning to expand your network, then the DFE-910 makes for very fast, easy to install starter kit at a reasonable price.

Note.  The 20 foot stranded-core Ethernet cables exceed the three meter (about 10 feet) maximum length specified in the Ethernet Specification, but work ok.



Reference:  Cisco Systems, Fast Ethernet Hub or Ethernet Switch?

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