Tag Archives: cat5e

How to make a null modem cable

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, there has never been a time I’ve ever needed more than three pins, no matter what I was connecting.

Continue reading How to make a null modem cable

Extending wi-fi with a $20 TP-Link router with DD-WRT

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. Continue reading Extending wi-fi with a $20 TP-Link router with DD-WRT

How to be a hero next Christmas (or your next family get-together)

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.

A shortcut for wiring your house with Ethernet

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. Continue reading A shortcut for wiring your house with Ethernet

If you’ve been delaying upgrading your network, keep delaying

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.
Continue reading If you’ve been delaying upgrading your network, keep delaying

Wiring your house without tearing into walls

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.
Continue reading Wiring your house without tearing into walls

New wiring

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.

Forget Home Depot… Forget chain stores.

So I’ve been working 50+ hours a week. So the range in the kitchen breaks. All I want is the problem solved, quickly and easily. The range is old. Judging from the styling, I was probably in grade school when it was new. It’s probably well over 20 years old. There’s probably not much point in fixing something that old. But I’d sure like to get a new one just like it, only with automatic shutoff and the other modern conveniences.So I went to the library. The old stove is a GE. Consumer Reports verified GE stoves are very reliable. So I went to the Web. Sears had the best price on the stove I wanted, but delivery and installation was another $120 or so. The best delivered price was from Home Depot. The stove cost about $70 more there, but delivery and installation was free.

As it turned out, it was worth what I paid for it.

Two delivery guys showed up on Monday while I was getting ready for work. My wife came back and broke me the news: They wouldn’t complete the installation because the gas shutoff valve is in the basement, like it is in many older homes.

They showed me where this asinine policy was in the contract. Of course nobody in the store went over that with me.

They told me I needed to go to the hardware store and get a valve. I said I’d be right back–the hardware store is five minutes away. They said no, they’d have to reschedule, after I’d put the valve in. In the meantime, where could they put the new stove?

I don’t particularly want two stoves in my kitchen, especially not with a 15-month-old running around. But besides that, who has room for an extra appliance?

I asked specifically what I needed to get at the hardware store, but they dodged the question. Then one of the men went to front porch to wheel in the stove. I walked to the front of the house, looked out the window at the stove, and saw it wasn’t even the right one. I ordered white, to match the dishwasher and fridge. They brought black.

“You won’t be charged for the installation until we come back and do it,” one of the men said.

“But that’s not even the right stove! I ordered white!”

“Oh, you’ll have to go back to the store and re-order then.”

OK. I don’t know whether it was Home Depot or one of its subcontractors who messed it up, but if I have to go back to the store, once they’ve messed up, I might as well go to a different store.

“Cancel the whole thing,” I said. Or something to that effect.

“Never give a Scotsman a chance to reconsider spending money,” my wife muttered, shaking her head.

During the week I hit the Web again. But I couldn’t find the installation policies of the other chain stores. So I did what I should have done in the first place–track down a locally owned appliance store. They’re not all that easy to find anymore, thanks to predatory chains from out of town, but I kept looking.

None of the ones around here have elaborate web sites, but they have links to e-mail addresses. It took a few hours for Slyman Bros. to get back to me, but they had what I wanted for $10 less than Home Depot charged me, and didn’t care where my shutoff valve was.

Yesterday afternoon I drove out to close the deal. We got there around 4:30, a half hour before closing time. There were two Slymans working (possibly a father and son, or an uncle and nephew). In the 20 minutes we were there, the two of them helped two other customers besides us. They closed three deals in 20 minutes. I said I’d e-mailed earlier in the week about a stove but couldn’t find it in the showroom. They gave me the same price on a similar model, a Hotpoint. That’s fine, Hotpoint is made by GE and actually got a slightly better rating in Consumer Reports, somehow. Whatever–it’s like the difference between a Ford and a Mercury.

The total price ended up being about $50 more than Home Depot, but that includes a shutoff valve and installation. And they’ll get it to us a week faster than any of the chains could, and, in all likelihood, the installers will be more experienced. And more of my money stays in the local economy, which is also worth something. I could have saved some by going to Sears and doing it all myself, but that would consume an entire Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and I’d really rather have that time to do other things, like re-caulking the bathtub, running phone wires, or putting my son’s swing set together. I’m not exactly looking for things to do right now, if you catch my drift.

He mentioned they’re getting a lot more business from our area lately. We told him about our experience with Home Depot. He said he’s had people coming in and complaining about them lately, and also about Sears.

As we left, he emphasized that the stove has a one year warranty, and if anything goes wrong, to call him and he’ll take care of us.

I’ve never bought a major appliance that quickly before.

Other than my microwave and dryer, all my other major appliances are less than six years old. The microwave isn’t much older than that, which leaves the dryer. But the next time I need anything like that, I’m headed back to Slyman Bros., as long as they sell something Consumer Reports rates highly. I’ve never been treated that well at any chain store.

And for all you bozos sitting in corporate offices at big chains, assuming you’ve read this far: My wife gave some really good advice. This especially applies to Scottish misers like me, but it’s true of everyone. The more chances you give someone to reconsider, the more likely they are to do it.

I suppose you do save some money, short-term, by requiring your customers to have gas shutoff valves right there in the kitchen. But the people most likely to not have a shutoff valve are also the people most likely to have older appliances and be in the market for new ones. Do you really want to lose that market?

I suppose you save some money by employing and subcontracting people who make $8 an hour and don’t give a rip about getting the order right, or making the order right. But how much money did you lose by pulling the wrong appliance out of the warehouse, trucking it to me, and then having to take it back? Not to mention now you’ve lost a customer–a customer who’s going to be in the market for windows, gutters, a dryer, and CAT5e cable, at the very least, in the next few years.

Circuit City is out of business because it got all of these details wrong. Judging from what I read every day at The Consumerist, none of the chains really get it all that much better than Circuit City did.

That’s fine. If all the big-box chains go under and their empty stores get changed into Goodwill thrift stores or office space and small, local businesses–run by people who give a rip because that’s the only way a small business can survive–rise up to take their place, it can’t happen soon enough.

Wiring the house

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.