My Home Network



Attn: as of 10/7/2012 This is out of date, and will be updated shortly!



The History:


My network has been the topic of interest by many people I know, primarally because of it's complexity and use of new, old, and emerging technologies. Looking back on my childhood, networking first caught my attention in third grade, when I used the appletalk protocol to share a printer amongst 3 computers in a classroom during lunch recess. The way computers could communicate amongst eachother and transfer data became a facination of mine, and when I heard of "The Internet" I had to learn more about it. I spent many hours during my lunch time in the computer lab talking to the school's computer teacher named Mr.Mabli who showed me that he could "dial-in" to another computer using the telephone lines and talk with teachers from other schools. A few weeks later, I helped install 10base2 cards into the Macintosh computers the school had recently purchased, and helped setup a program that let the teacher station remotely access any of the computers giving the teacher full control over the class. Just a few months later, I begged my parents in 4th grade to sign up for "America Online 2.5" this would be my first hands-on look at the internet from my own Packard Bell 486 running at 75Mhz at home.

Fast Foward... The year is now 1999.

I was in eight grade and my parents finally had enough of the old packard bell computer that sat in the living room and decided it was time for an upgrade. We packed the old 486 up and unpacked our new Compaq Pentium 3 800Mhz, with 128MB of ram and to make the whole package complete: Windows ME, a HUGE upgrade from the previous Windows 3.11 I was used to.
Well, I began to build my first website at this time, "Tenemag"... originally just a gaming website with 5 java games that I often played. I had hosted it on once free "homestead.com" and eventually I learned more about HTML and decided to make a website from complete scratch. I found another free webhost where I uploaded a small forum, but running on dialup, the 10MB forum took over 6 hours to upload making the site a week-long project. This is when my home network was born.

I begged my parents for months, explaining how slow dial-up was, and showing them how fast the computers at the school were (T1 line). Finally in the summer of 2001 before I started high-school, my parents called Optimum Online and scheduled to have a cablemodem delivered. I installed the Motorola surfboard 3100 cablemodem in the basement of my house placing it on top of my dryer, hooking up a Linksys WRT54G v1.0 and within a few minutes I was able to plug it in to see a bunch of flashing lights. I cracked the case of my compaq desktop open and installed the Linksys wireless card and ran through the setup CD a few times until I could figure out how to configure the wireless network. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen, a wireless internet connection...

      

I started high-school and met a friend who had setup a 'server' in his basement to store files on. When I heard this I was determined to setup my *own* server so I scrambled to get whatever parts I could find from local town dumps, computers laying on the side of the road, and even by asking friends for their old machines. from the parts I received I built a Pentium 3 machine with just 128MB of ram and about 20GB of disk space amongst 3 drives.


I plugged it in, went to the store, bought a ethernet cable, and plugged it into my router. I then spent the better part of a month setting it up configuring it the way I wanted, eventually installing windows 98 on it followed by the Apache web server. I had built my very own web-server using a guide that i had found on http://www.dslwebserver.com/. I later found out after all the time and effort I put into the project, I could only use port 81 since 80 was being blocked by Optimum Online.

It was at this point I decided that it was time to find a real server for my website, now defunct, tenemag.com. From this point I continued to mess with the server in my basement, with it's CRT on top of a dryer where the modems still resided. when Senior year of high-school was coming to an end, I got my first computer of my own: A Compaq Pentium 4 laptop with all the works, including built-in WiFi.

It wasn't until the summer of my freshman year of college when I saved up whatever money I could and purchased my own Dell XPS Desktop. I also had an Xbox, and an additional server that I had found in the dumps that summer. This created a problem because I had no way of connecting it in my bedroom as I did not have a cable connection to move the cable modem. Since I did not know how to run the cable at this time to my bedroom, I used a second WRT54G that I had laying around to act as a wireless "bridge" connecting my bedroom to my basement. this gave me 4 ports I could connect to my various devices and still maintain a reliable connection to the internet. You can see this "Bridge" in the above picture sitting on top of my old server.


When I heard FiOS was going to be available in my town, I sat down with my parents and decided to make the switch away from Optimum. The FiOS techs arrived to find that I had already mounted a wooden board on the inside of the house to mount the "ONT" along with a pre-run cat5 cable going to the router I had sitting now next to my dryer. I assisted the techs during the installation and was given the remainder of a spool of coax so I could wire my bedroom with TV.

      

My network during this time changed many many times, first by replacing the router, and then eventually moving everything over to a series of wooden shelves next to the dryer. I then mounted the router up in the floorboards so I would get a better signal on the first and second floors of my house as seen in the picture above (on the right). I added external antennas, installed DDWRT, and installed my first "real" server that I had purchased from the Trenton Computer Festival with my friend Shahab. This server was just a Pentium 2 running gentoo but the server would eventually run for over 3 years only being shut down once when we had a powerfailure that lasted more than 4 days.


R.I.P. Anubis (2006-2010)

Present Setup:

All of this leads me to where my network is *today*. Today the network is a mix of old, new, and emerging tech as I had mentioned above.

Currently my network is comprised of a WRT54G2 running stock firmware v1.5, a cisco 3548 48 port switch, a Actiontek MoCA enabled router, and my dual-xeon 3.2Ghz 1Gb RAM running Debian linux 64bit.

I decided to use MoCA to replace the wireless "Bridge" that connected my bedroom to the basement since I already had Coax running to my room. I puchased an addtional MoCA enabled FIOS Actiontek Router from Ebay and configured it to act as a MoCA to Ethernet bridge. I did the same with the router that was supplied to me by Verizon since I was not using the router outside of Video on Demand. I later discovered that with a few tweaks, I was able to manage all of my Cableboxes through my DDWRT enabled router allowing one router to hand IP addresses out to all devices on the network. This included all devices connected via Ethernet, Coax, or Wireless. The following pictures were taken on 9/14/2010 and are pictures of the actual setup of my current network. Below each picture is a simple explantion of what is going on as it is very easy to get lost.


Above is a picture of the FiOS ONT (Optical Network Terminal). Unlike the "default" FiOS install, I requested that the ethernet port be enabled by default and MoCA set to "Off" by default. It was explained to me that they could not guarentee the FiOS TV service if I did not use their router but they did not explain why at the time.

The main Linksys WRT300 Router is shown above. This router acts as both the gateway and DHCP server for my network. It hands out IP addresses to both computers as well as each cable box for use with the On-screen guide and Video on Demand.

This is the server that replaced Anubis. It is the aformentioned dual-xeon server that also hosts this site. on top of the server is the 48 port Cisco switch and on top of the switch, a Verizon supplied Actiontek router which has been repurposed into a MoCA bridge.

Now, here is how this works, there is a Cat5 cable running from the WRT router, to the 48 port switch, from there, 3 cat5 cables run to the dual xeon server and some other cables run to various parts of my house. one of these cables run from the Cisco switch to the MoCA router into one of the LAN ports (I used number 1 in this case). It is important to note, I did NOT connect the ethernet cable to the Ethernet WAN port but one of the 4 LAN ports as seen by the lit up green indicator light. This is vital for the Actiontek router to function as a Bridge.

The Actiontek router takes the internet connection supplied to it and actually creates a MoCA LAN using the pre-existing coax in my house (RG6 coax). This allows the WRT router to pass IP addresses to devices connected to the MoCA network. How it's intended to work, is that the actiontek router "grabs" an IP via it's WAN port, and then acts as a DHCP server to the cableboxes within the house assigning each cablebox an IP from it's internal pool of available IPs. By turning the Actiontek's DHCP server off, and a few other tweaks mentioned in the MoCA project on the left, I was able to bypass it's internal DHCP leases and actually let my WRT handle all MoCA traffic. Think of this router as a Massive Media converter because that's what it's really doing.



This splitter's input is fed FROM the FiOS ONT, with 8 outputs, each one bidirectional to rooms within the house. one of the 7 outputs being used is actually a direct connection to the Actiontek router that I just discussed. This is how I am able to create a MoCA network without having to enable MoCA directly from the ONT as in most FiOS installations. I capped off the remaining output off the splitter and replaced the fittings with compression style fittings to prevent any interferance or loss over the coax network. The splitter is also grounded using 10ga stranded copper wire directly to the water main entering the house. this is to maintain the ground throughout the sheilding on the coax cable, improving the quality of the signal to each cable box.


This is where the coax enters my bedroom from the basement. It is split one more time with a 3.5db loss on the split. The signal however is not degraded due to the strong signal and good shielding/grounding on the coax side of the network. from here, the line is split one way to my cable box for my TV, and the other way to the MoCA to ethernet bridge converting the signal back into useable ethernet.

      


As you can see, the moca bridge shows a "Coax LAN" connection indicated by the solid green light, and port 3 of the Ethernet LAN is lit up (you can really use any port 1-4 to connect, I just chose 3). What this means is that it has successfully connected to the Actiontek router in the basement and is ready. Take note that the cablebox is operational as well with the current time when this picture was taken and that the picture is only blurry due to the camera not being able to take a picture of a CRT well.

      

And there you have it... The desktop that I wrote this page on, using the MoCA connection to upload the site to the server. Also, I have run some speed tests and I am capable of a full 3.5MB/sec (Yes, MB not Mbit) over the MoCA connection. this is just as fast as if I plug directly into the WRT in the basement. It should also be noted that there is no noticable increase in ping times, and that the connection is just as stable as a regular cat5 line being run between the desktop and the router unlike the wireless bridge that it replaced.

Well that's it folks. I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of my network and its evolution. It will continue to evolve and change as new technologies are released. In the meantime check out the tutorial on how to convert an actiontek router to a MoCA bridge and setup a MoCA network of your own.


(just a picture showing that it connects all the cable boxes through the DDWRT router)