I am a total noob when it comes to networking computers so I have no idea how to go about this, but I would love to learn. This next week I'll be starting college and I'll be staying in the dorms. Between my room mate and I we will have two desktops, two laptops, an xbox, and if I can talk him into funding part of it, an HTPC. Assuming that our rooms have 2 ethernet ports (one on each side of the room by the desk) what would we need to get to allow internet access to all six devices. The laptops are both going to be fine using the campus wifi, but for the desktops, xbox, and htpc it would be great if it could have a wired connection. The other thing that I would love to be able to see is to be able to use the htpc as a media hub between our two desktops.
What would my roommate and I need to do to accomplish this network without getting into trouble with campus IT? Hopefully that can be fairly cheap.
Edit: The desktops are running win7, the htpc (as I see it right now) will be running xbmcbuntu.
The key reason you may need a router is if they limit the number of devices on a port. They more than likely have sized the subnets with the assumption that only 1 device per jack is active. To size it so every user could have 6 devices would make it hard.
In any case be very careful to only use 1 of the 2 wall jacks if you are going to connect all your equipment on the same network. Best case spanning tree will block one of the jacks. Worse case you will cause a broadcast loop and take everyone in the building down.
Even if the school didn't limit connections, you'd be a fool to not use a router for the same reason it's risky to use open wifi at Mickey D's or Starbucks. You're sharing that network w/ others! But by using your own router, you place your devices behind the protection of your own router's firewall and secured wireless AP. That alone is enough to warrant a router, even if you only had ONE device!
In fact, just like anytime you use open wifi, you should probably be using a VPN for internet access as well, thus protecting your traffic from eavesdropping. That could either be a paid VPN service provider (pretty cheap when you consider what ppl pay for tuition these days), or perhaps to your own VPN server back home (so it’s free).
Maybe, but that's something you'd have to research and consider. Regardless, nothing says a router has to be wireless. You can always disable the wireless radio and still enjoy the benefits of the router for wired devices.