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Setting Your Internet Connection Preferences in Mac OS X Lion

Mac OS X Lion has the best and most comprehensive Internet tools ever shipped with a Mac operating system. OS X Lion offers built-in Internet connectivity right out of the box and comes with

  • Apple’s Safari web browser, which you use to navigate the web, download remote files, and more

  • iChat, Apple’s live online chatting client that works with other iChat users; people using AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) clients; and people using Jabber (an open-source chatting protocol), Google Talk, and Bonjour (which discovers other users on your local area network)

  • The FaceTime app for video chats with other Mac or i-device users

  • The Mail application (for e-mail)

If you didn’t set up your Internet connection when you installed OS X, you need to open System Preferences (from the Applications folder, the Dock, or the Apple menu) and click the Network icon. The Network pane offers options for connecting your Mac to the Internet or to a network. The easiest way to use it is to click the Assist Me button at the bottom and let your Mac do the heavy lifting. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started.

If you’re part of a large office network, check with your system administrator before you change anything in this pane. If you ignore this advice, you run the risk of losing your network connection completely.

Here’s a brief rundown on the most common things you might need to know to set up a network connection:

  • TCP/IP: TCP/IP is the language of the Internet. You might be asked to specify things such as your IP address, domain name servers, and search domains.

  • PPP or PPPoE: These acronyms stand for Point-to-Point Protocol and Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet. Which one you see depends on what service you’re using to connect. All analog modems use PPP; some cable and DSL modems use PPPoE.

  • Proxies: If you’re on a large network or your Mac is behind a firewall, you might need to specify one or more proxy servers.

If you use your Mac in more than one place, you can set up a separate configuration for each location and then choose it from this menu. A location, in this context, consists of all settings in all items in the Network System Preferences pane.

After you have this entire pane configured the way that you like, follow these steps to create separate locations:

  1. Pull down the Location menu, and choose Edit Locations.

  2. Click the + button at the bottom of the Locations list.

  3. Type a descriptive name for the new location, such as AirPort at Starbucks or Ethernet at Joe’s Office.

  4. Click Done and then click Apply.

If, on the other hand, your Mac has a single network or Internet connection (as most home users have), just leave the Location menu set to Automatic and be done with it.

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