If you configure the networking software on your host for standalone operation (for instance, to be able to run the INN Netnews software), you can safely skip this section, because the only IP address you will need is for the loopback interface, which is always 127.0.0.1.
Things are a little more complicated with real networks like Ethernets. If you want to connect your host to an existing network, you have to ask its administrators to give you an IP address on this network. When setting up a network all by yourself, you have to assign IP addresses yourself.
Hosts within a local network should usually share addresses from the same logical IP network. Hence, you have to assign an IP network address. If you have several physical networks, you have to either assign them different network numbers, or use subnetting to split your IP address range into several subnetworks. Subnetting will be revisited in the next section, the section called Creating Subnets.”
When picking an IP network number, much depends on whether you intend to get on the Internet in the near future. If so, you should obtain an official IP address now. Ask your network service provider to help you. If you want to obtain a network number, just in case you might get on the Internet someday, request a Network Address Application Form from firstname.lastname@example.org, or your country's own Network Information Center, if there is one.
If your network is not connected to the Internet and won't be in the near future, you are free to choose any legal network address. Just make sure no packets from your internal network escape to the real Internet. To make sure no harm can be done even if packets did escape, you should use one of the network numbers reserved for private use. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has set aside several network numbers from classes A, B, and C that you can use without registering. These addresses are valid only within your private network and are not routed between real Internet sites. The numbers are defined by RFC 1597 and are listed in Table 2-1 in Chapter 2. Note that the second and third blocks contain 16 and 256 networks, respectively.
Picking your addresses from one of these network numbers is not only useful for networks completely unconnected to the Internet; you can still implement a slightly more restricted access using a single host as a gateway. To your local network, the gateway is accessible by its internal IP address, while the outside world knows it by an officially registered address (assigned to you by your provider). We come back to this concept in connection with the IP masquerade facility in Chapter 11.
Throughout the remainder of the book, we will assume that the brewery's network manager uses a class B network number, say 172.16.0.0. Of course, a class C network number would definitely suffice to accommodate both the Brewery's and the Winery's networks. We'll use a class B network here for the sake of simplicity; it will make the subnetting examples in the next section of this chapter a little more intuitive.