Friday, June 25, 2010

A series of unfortunate hacks, network edition

So, if I know my audience, then I'm sure that this article is going to fascinate you all!

I've had a problem getting usable WiFi coverage in my house.  This is understandable as my house has lots of walls with lots of metal in them, and my WiFi server is my FreeBSD system with a cheap PCI WiFi adapter in it.  I tried adding a bigger antenna and that helped some, but connectivity still sucked in most parts of the house.

A couple months ago, I learned that power-line Ethernet adapters are inexpensive and really work.  So, I bought the cheapest set I could find (and I now see that I can get them on eBay significantly cheaper -- with shipping, about $30 each, perhaps $25 if you are patient).  One connected to my server-side switch, and the other went into my bedroom.  I connected an old WiFi router that I had to that, and set up a second WiFi network there.

This new WiFi network in that part of the house has been great for our iPhones and laptops.  Our guest room now has much better coverage (come stay and try it out!). With the Ethernet ports on the switch, I was also able to directly connect my Roku Player to the network, so streaming movies works well.

However, there was a problem.  I want the Tivo in the bedroom to talk to my PC to exchange programming.  The Tivo Desktop software requires that the systems be on the same subnet. The new router acts as a router, which means it gives out IP addresses from its DHCP server on a different subnet.  So, I've been forced to leave the Tivo on the distant WiFi network, which makes for flaky connections and slow transfers.

Yesterday, I read this article, linked from Lifehacker, about turning a router into a switch; the simplicity of this is genius -- I wish I had thought of it.  Today, I disabled DHCP on the router, and connected the upstream cable into a LAN port instead of the WAN port, and now the Tivo shows the WiFi connection is at 100% and on the same network as my PC.

Now, all the devices on my network are on one subnet (except my VOIP phones).  This should make printing possible from all the computers.  I am very happy.

Here's another small project that I should do.  I use uTorrent software to download shows selected using the website ShowRSS.  That happens automatically, but I have been manually moving the files to another directory for them to be transferred to the Tivo.  I've seen a couple different tools that should be able to move files, based on name, to the right directory.

Oh wait, my audience likely doesn't care.  Oh well. Hi Mom.

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