Internet access from & to McMaster
Computers within McMaster are connected through a local network. McMaster's local network connects to the Internet through a service run by CIS. By default, no computer on McMaster's local network has access to the Internet. Individual computers are allowed access only upon bureaucratic request. The lab's general-purpose computers have access to the Internet, the experimental ones do not.
To connect to the Internet you will need an Internet service provider (ISP). One connection to the Internet can service several computers simultaneously, even a telephone connection, if you have an appropriate router.
Some ISPs are more reliable than others. There is no way to measure the reliability of an ISP but it is possible to look for attitudes and structures that encourage problems. Here are some things to consider:
Cable and ADSL (often called DSL) are the most common high-speed services. Cable service comes through the wire that carries cable television; ADSL comes through ordinary telephone lines. Cable ought to be faster but its speed can vary greatly, depending upon how the cable company has configured its operation. The speed of ADSL will depend on the length and noise of the telephone wires between your house and Bell Canada's equipment. You have no choice of cable company but any company can provide ADSL service. (ADSL service is independent of your telephone service: the ADSL service pays Bell Canada for the use of their lines.)
Either cable or ADSL will require a special modem. These modems have become standardized, so it may make more sense to buy one from a discount house than to pay a monthly rental. If you buy one, you might consider searching for a model that (a) is not installed inside your computer but stands alone, (b) connects to an ethernet port rather than a USB port, (c) can serve as a router, thus allowing several computers to share one Internet connection, and (d) does not require special software to configure it as a router but will allow itself to be configured from a web browser.
Many computers at McMaster require access from McMaster's private local-area network on campus. To connect to these computers from home, you need to go through a special computer on campus that will connect you to the campus network as though you were a part of it. You will then be joined to McMaster through a virtual private network (VPN). From a Macintosh this connection is easy to set up. First you will need an account with UTS (see "Obtaining a Login Account" on www.mcmaster.ca/uts/network/vpn/). After you have one, you can set up two different ways to connect, using the Macintosh's built-in tools or using a tool by Cisco that McMaster provides. Here is a comparison:
Operating system>For instructions on the former, search for "VPN" in the Mac's Help menu. UTS provide instructions for the latter.