What can you do with a second Ethernet port?

Purchase a new PC or motherboard soon, and the chances are good that it will come with two built-in network interfaces — either two Ethernet jacks or one Ethernet and one Wi-Fi. Tossing in a second adapter is an inexpensive way for the manufacturer to add another bullet point to the product description — but what exactly are you supposed to do with it? If you are running Linux, you have several alternatives.

Plugging another Ethernet cable into the second jack and hoping for the best will accomplish nothing; you have to configure Linux’s networking subsystem to recognize both adapters, and you must tell the OS how to use them to send and receive traffic. You can do the latter step in several different ways, which is where all the fun comes in.

The big distinction between your options lies in the effect each has on the other devices on your network (computers, routers, and other appliances) — intelligently routing network traffic between them, linking them together transparently, and so on. In some cases, the simplest end result is not the easiest to set up, so it pays to read through all of the alternatives before you decide which to tackle.




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