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Vista Networking: Part 1- The Dragon's Trap

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Introduction

Updated 9/20/07 - Figure 11 changed.

What if you were granted the gift of human flight in exchange for possesing the average land speed of a duckbill platypus? Would you take it?

Such is the riddle proposed by Microsoft. Networking in Vista has been retooled from the ground up, promising unprecedented (at least in the world of Microsoft computing) advances in the field of TCP/IP, UDP, and many other networking protocols and services. But the company that today's home user and Information Systems strategists around the world have grown up with (and grown wary of when upgrade season comes) is still the same Microsoft it has always been.

So join me as we take a trip through Windows Networking... Vista style.

Author's Note: For purposes of this series, we'll be networking a Vista machine with an XP Professional machine.

Easing Into It

If you're on a network with machines running multiple operating systems, chances are you'll want all the machines to be in the same workgroup. This is where you get your first look at Vista "innovation."

Depending on whether you have upgraded from XP Home or XP Professional, the name of your Workgroup may have changed. (Vista may or may not change the Workgroup name to reflect what it was in XP... depending on how you upgraded.)

Changing the computer name, Workgroup, or domain is still a System Settings property. In Windows XP you would simply right-click on "My Computer", click "Properties", and starting from a "General" tab, which gave you a very basic report on your system specifications, you could click on Computer Name, Hardware, etc...

But in Vista, "My Computer" has been renamed "Computer". And rather than presenting you with tabs that would immediately allow you to modify your System settings, you're greeted with the window shown in Figure 1.

Vista System Properties.

Figure 1: The "System Properties Before System Properties" menu.

This window doesn't immediately allow you to do anything. So you scroll down to Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings, click "Change Settings" and...

Administrative authorization.

Figure 2: Windows doesn't believe you really want to do that.

...Windows needs your permission to continue (Figure 2).

After clicking "Continue", you finally arrive at the window where you can change your Workgroup and computer name. This "permission to continue" is a small thing, and has been covered to death by other articles. But it's a recurring theme (and annoyance) for Vista's Networking features as well, and I wanted to set the right tone here in the beginning.

So now that you have all of your computers on the same workgroup, you may be wondering why you can't access the shared documents on the Vista machine from the XP system. The reason is that File and Printer Sharing is disabled by default in Vista (as they were in XP).

But even if they were enabled, you wouldn't have been able to access the Shared Documents folder, because the Shared Documents folder has been renamed to "Public". And had you known that before hand, you still wouldn't have been able to connect to it, because shared folders in Vista are password protected by default. (More on that later.)




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