Home Networks: Part 1

rather than trying to crack games, I’m beginning to realize a far more useful way to spend a Saturday afternoon is meddling around with electronics. 

For a long time, I was frustrated with the very poor networking setup at home. 

Imagine the flat like a triangle, each corner being a place where I need connectivity – but the router’s being used more as a switch than a wifi signal broadcaster, which means it needs to be in one corner (where my TV and PS3 need to be connected onto the net) with one long cable going into another corner (which had my computer). The router couldn’t be in the center without a mess of ethernet cables draped across the hall, and putting all other devices in proximity would turn my living room into Lamington Road and still not solve the issue of connectivity in other parts.

Back when you’re a penniless sales exec who just needs a single dedicated connection to a computer (and maybe a cheap wifi that easily reaches every corner of a pigeonhole apartment), the single-router method would work – and besides, wires and cables just added to the ambience at that time, the rest coming from discarded pizza boxes, beer cans, ashtrays and laundry. 

Now unfortunately there are other considerations – there are already 5 mobile devices that like wifi, 3 more that want an ethernet cable with this number likely to expand… and cables draped across the room being out of the question, I have to get creative. 

First off, I leave the better router (a Linksys E1000) at the core of the network in one corner. 

The dedicated ethernet line to the computer is taken to a point midway in the middle of the flat, maybe a bit further towards the non-wifi side, and my old Dlink DIR300 gets hooked up here. 

You can’t use 2 routers on a single modem / line, unless you want to end up with 2 networks (which would be fun but not very user-friendly for the other residents) so it’s better to repurpose this as an access point. Setting up an access point is fairly easy – 

  • Get the network name, IP address, SSID, subnet mask, and network mode from your primary router. You can get this by logging onto the router’s admin panel from your browser – usually, but google ‘default ip address for (your router model) to confirm what it’s going to be for you. Write this down. 
  • Plug a cable into any ethernet port of your second router (not into the internet-in port) and get into the admin there as well. You may need to factory-reset (just stick a pin into the reset hole at the back) the modem to factory, I had to – and set the same details exactly the same as your primary router. 
  • Switch off / disable DHCP server on the secondary router, save settings. 
  • If you don’t have a wifi password set, then set them – especially if you’re not on an unlimited plan and moderate to low speeds. Free wifi will be very easily picked up by any number of devices, your bandwidth will get used up, and you’ll never realize it until the bill comes – and it’s not just other computers and laptops, but also smartphones, PSPs, ipods, the works. 
  • On my PC, now disconnected from the cable, I put a USB wifi receiver dongle. You can get relatively cheap ones easily. 
  • The ethernet cable coming from the primary router needs to be plugged into an ethernet port on the secondary (NOT the internet-in port).
  • For a more detailed step-by-step, see here and here. I found these to be the best advisories, and they have pictures. 

And that’s it. I now have wifi connectivity all over the house, fewer cables trailing into the PC room (and they’re damn painful to manage if it needs to go through a door – either the door will never close again or the cable will keep getting damaged), and the original core system in the living room is unchanged – and I didn’t even lose an ethernet port!

Talking of which, I’m thinking about adding a network storage drive – any suggestions? I need it to store my movies and stream them to either the TV directly, or the PS3. Tried setting up a mediaserver on the PC, but it slows the system down dramatically and doesn’t always refresh – and besides, I don’t want 2 TB of media clogging up my drives. 

That’s going to take my last available port, so I guess that means I need a switch as well. But that’s for the next post, once I pick up and install the network drive.  

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