Networks are awesome. Once you’ve got a home or office network, you can copy files from one machine to another—even between Windows PCs and Macs—just as you’d drag files between folders on your own Mac. You can send little messages to other people’s screens. Everyone on the network can consult the same database or calendar, or listen to the same iTunes music collection. You can play games over the network. You can share a single printer or cable modem among all the Macs in the office. You can connect to the network from wherever you are in the world, using the Internet as the world’s longest extension cord back to your office.
In OS X, you can even do screen sharing, which means that you, the wise computer whiz, can see what’s on the screen of your pathetic, floundering relative or buddy elsewhere on the network. You can seize control of the other Mac’s mouse and keyboard. You can troubleshoot, fiddle with settings, and so on. It’s the next best thing to being there—often, a lot better than being there.
This chapter concerns itself with local networking—setting up a network in your home or small office. But don’t miss its sibling, Chapter 17, which is about hooking up to the somewhat larger network called the Internet.