Mac OS X is capable of intelligently detecting whether a cat5 cable is connected to a network device or to another PC. When connected to another PC, it will (digitally) flip the pins to “emulate” a cat5 crossover cable.
Here’s an example on how to share files between a Macbook and another box (XP, Linux etc). All you need is a standard CAT-5 cable.
First, connect the Macbook directly to the machine running XP using the cat5 cable.
Now on the mac, go to System Preferences -> Network, and manually (no dhcp) set the following:
IP address: 192.168.1.1
Please note that these settings don’t need to be different if have a router running on that, or a similar IP. I.e., if your Belkin router is at 192.168.2.1, it doesn’t mean you should substitute that for the above settings. Just use the settings provided here as-is before experimenting, or you might run into problems.
Now on the other box (XP, Linux, whatever), set the following manually:
IP address: 192.168.1.2
The only difference is the last segment of the IP address. You can make this anything between 2-255.
You’re done. Make sure some files are being shared, and then browse the local network on either box.