One of my coworkers needed to make a null modem cable last week, and most of the sites he found made it far, far too difficult.
Most of the time, you only need three pins. In fact, I never needed more than three pins, no matter what I was connecting.
There’s an addition on the back of our house, probably added in the 1970s or 80s, where the wi-fi reception is exceptionally poor. Something about the walls makes it tricky, and I also suspect we get some interference from the neighbors behind us.
My project to fix that began with a TP-Link TL-WR841N router. It’s inexpensive–frequently available for around $20–has a good enough reputation for reliability, and if you dig deeply enough, you can find a DD-WRT build for it. There are fancier routers available, with more antennas and gigabit ports, but this one would take care of my immediate needs while I wait for 802.11ac. I don’t have any 802.11ac-enabled equipment yet, so I’ll wait for the price to come down before adopting it.
I covered the upgrade process yesterday.
To solve the problem I was having, I configured DD-WRT as a wireless access point. Read more
My mother in law didn’t have wifi set up, but she picked up a smart TV this year, so she asked me if I could help her with it. So I picked up a D-Link DIR-615 on sale, brought it with me and set up wi-fi securely (hints: set the SSID to whatever time it happens to be, disable WPS, disable WEP and WPA, and use WPA2 with a long password with some numbers and symbols in it) and once it seemed to be working right, I put her TV and laptop on it. Then, as other relatives trickled in, they asked me for the wireless key. Soon the air was full of Androids and Apples chattering away on wireless.
She said she never realized how often we use our smartphones and tablets. Any time a question came up, someone whipped out a device and looked up the answer.It was nice, and it was a cheap project. Grab a name-brand wireless router on sale, grab a couple of extra CAT5e cables from Monoprice just in case, and you can be a hero for about the cost of dinner for two at any restaurant with sit-down table service. Maybe less.
While you’re ordering stuff from Monoprice, it probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up a small assortment of cheap USB and HDMI cables too, just in case anyone gave an electronic gadget to someone else and didn’t realize gadgets are more likely to come with batteries than with cables these days.
As convenient as wireless is, wireless will never match the security, speed, and reliability of wired Ethernet. I ran some wired Ethernet jacks in mid-2009 and have no regrets, but on my last trip to Lowe’s, I spied a nifty shortcut for wiring: an Ethernet coupler that plugs into a standard keystone jack. They were expensive, but looked like a good way to cut out the most consuming part of wiring a house. I looked online, and they cost less than $2 from Amazon. Read more
If you’ve been procrastinating about deploying 450-megabit (802.11n) wi-fi to your house, I have a reason for you to procrastinate a while longer: Gigabit wireless (802.11ac).
It’s only about twice as fast as its predecessor, which pales next to the 8x improvement 802.11n provided over 802.11g, but if you’re wanting to stream HD media through your house, you’ll notice the difference.
Tearing into existing walls to thread CAT5 through them isn’t a chore that I think anyone relishes. It’s not too bad if you have an unfinished basement and can do everything in interior walls, but the further you deviate from that, the worse the job gets. One of my computers sits where it is solely because it was easy for me to get CAT5 there.
I stumbled across a novel solution to the problem. It isn’t cheap, and I want to emphasize that I haven’t tried it. But it’s possible that I will at some point. It’s called Flatwire.
Gatermann and I spent most of the day pulling CAT5e through the house. It’s long overdue. The guy who wired the phones in the house broke every single rule I could find about running voice/data cable, and it wasn’t good stuff to begin with. Plus, I was really tired of the lack of reliability of 802.11g in this house. Why I can see all of my neighbors’ networks but not my own is beyond me.Running a single CAT5e line from where the phone network comes in over to the center of the house made a huge difference. The phones sound clearer, the DSL is much faster (consistently 630K now–it used to dip to 300K frequently) and running lines is much easier when you’re away from the circuit breaker box and not surrounded by power cables everywhere.
At present I only have two rooms networked, but it’ll be easy enough to add to that as needed now.
Wireless is convenient, but 100-meg is very nice. It’s reliable and fast. Gigabit is even nicer. Now it would actually be practical to upgrade to gigabit. At gigabit, network resources run nearly as fast as local ones.
I wish I’d done this years ago.
My trusty Linksys WRT54G started dying yesterday. I think I’ve had it 3-4 years, so it’s had a decent run.
I have some temporary wiring in place until I decide what I want to do, but I really think I want some wired Ethernet.For one thing, my phone wiring is really bad, and I think that’s affecting my DSL speed and reliability. Modern CAT5 wiring would solve that problem neatly. And if I ran a dedicated unfiltered line straight to the modem and filtered lines everywhere else, I could get by with just a single line filter, instead of a half dozen. That should improve reliability too.
And while I’m running CAT5, I might as well run two wires, so I’ll have convenient network jacks in several places in the house. And if I’m running wire, I might as well run CAT5e and get gigabit capability. That should give me faster and more reliable networking, both locally and online.
The project would take about $100 worth of cable and jacks, I estimate. I already have plenty of jacks, so I’d just have to buy a spool of CAT5e. That, and find the time to run it.
I may keep wireless around for ultimate convenience (a combo DSL modem/router/access point costs about $70, which isn’t much more than another WRT54G, and my modem is getting old too), but I like the idea of having my desktop PCs connected via gigabit. It’ll make sharing drives more practical, and potentially much more secure if I get fancy with network segmenting and firewalling.
I think I’m going to be asking the network wizard at work a lot of questions… Good thing he sits right next to me.
And now mostly I need a free weekend to do all this.