holding my breath

One of the biggest mental shifts that I've had to make over the years as I think about computers--which I do a lot--is learning how to think about networks. Way back in the day--and I mean waaaay back in the day--my law firm put a box on my desk (it was a 286! w00t!), connected it to a network, and that was it. It ran or it didn't, and no one ever explained why to me. This was a big firm.

Twenty-one years later, my main business machine is a laptop (my beloved Thinkpad T61, still a classic) that travels largely between the wired network at my office over which I have some control, and a wireless network at my house over which I have complete control. It also trundles around from time to time to hook up with public networks from SeaTac to Aruba and parts in between (I'm particularly fond of the wireless network at the Satellite Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico).

I've always been able to make the laptop's connections work. But. In doing a little end-of-the-month maintenance on my system this morning, I focused for the first time that I have the following software running simultaneously on my Thinkpad:

(1) The Windows Vista Network and Sharing Center (part of the OS AFAICT);
(2) Lenovo's Access Connections (which has always worked really well); and
(3) Network Magic, which I used to set up my Rube Goldberg system at home that links a Win XP Home machine, a Windows 7 beta machine, a Windows 2000 machine, an XBox 360, a Zune, and, from time to time, my laptop (Vista Business SP 2 beta RC).

Now, I still know next-to-nothing about networks. How is it that I have been able to persuade these three pieces of software to peacefully coexist (and to split infinitives)? Is it time for dialectical bootstrapping?

I'm holding my breath.

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