Saturday, December 13, 2008

New network topology

Annoyed by the constraints of the old setup, and wishing to make use of the Draft-N cards in so many of my computers, I bought a Linksys WRT310N, which has both GigE and 802.11n.

The GigE is valuable because the WHS can't support N, but does support GigE as well, so a cable between them gives me fast access to the server over WiFi.

This means I can sever the wire between the WHS and the MCE, and the desktop can also be wireless.

The new topology is generally simple: each computer is connected only to power & its peripherals. The exception is the TELCO -> Actiontec -> Linksys -> WHS -> external HD.  (The interconnects are Cat 1 telephone -> Cat 5 100Mb/s Ethernet -> Cat5 1000Mb/s -> USB 2.0.)

Because the only wires coming out of that section are power and telephone, I have a little more flexibility about where they should live.  I pulled the old stereo cabinet out of the garage to hold it all, and it looks decent.  The other equipment in my "rack" is a UPS and the printer/scanner. (The last has WiF, so it could be anywhere, but this is the best spot.)

There are a few other benefits of this change:

- The Actiontec Wi-Fi is outside the firewall, so I turned off security. Anyone who needs internet can use it without hassle.

- Ripping DVDs to the server can be done at any computer, transferred over 802.11n (not just at the MCE over Ethernet).  

- Since the MCE doesn't have to write to the server any more (and it always authenticates as Guest), I can restrict Guest on the server to improve security.

- A lightning strike on the phone line can't reach the rest of the network.

Now that it's all done, and my mind has relaxed, I find myself wondering how to improve things. Imagine if the laptop supported 802.11n, and SATA. I could put 2x 500GB drives in it, and a second Wi-Fi in the PCMCIA slot. It could replace the linksys, working as a wireless access point, NAT for the home, firewall to the outside world. It wouldn't have to be wired to the Actiontec, since it could uplink over wifi. It wouldn't need to set on the UPS, since it has battery backup built-in. The only wire would be power.

The drives would cost $230; the laptop could be a Dell D630 for about $500 on E-Bay.  After other items, shipping, etc., it'd be $1000, which is way to much. But I can imagine for free.

EDIT: One of the things I dig about this setup is that almost every item was under $100.  (The laptop was $300, a couple years ago, so its value is close to $100 now).  If someone breaks in to my home & steals equipment, it won't be that difficult to replace, and I have good backups.  

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