Saturday, 10 October 2015

Changing the home lan

My home lan is a little strange. Its not probably what everyone has. Ever since I put a router into my home 20 years ago I have had PCs on a network. Back in 2012 I decided to buy a small server and put ESX on it to try a bit of virtualisation.

I choose a special offer from Dell. An underpowered T-110.

As it had fans it had to go into the attic room and eventually, after several incremental upgrades I got it onto 32bg of memory. It got upgraded with special offers and cheaper memory. The i3 Xeon processor is somewhat underpowered today but it's OK. You can pickup ESXi for free here.

If a pure Microsoft Hyper-V solution better meets your needs then have a look here.

Tip: Before buying your server make sure it uses virtualisation chip features!

Intel info
AMD Info

As it turned out I got the lab working pretty easily and subscribed to the now retired Microsof Technet Subscription service. This was the best value to test Microsoft OS's at a reasonable cost.

The issue that most troubled me was access via my laptop in my back room downstairs. if I could d stuff remotely over two floors then I would be able to watch tv, listen to music and check on stuff I was experimenting with. Most people of my age are familiar with girlfriends/wives saying "you are spending too much time with your computer". This way you can be social and technical at the same time.

The solution that seemed to work for a while was using powerline adaptors. You run your ip connection via your domestic electrial supply and it pops out back into ethernet.

Great. Except sometimes not great. Every so often, if my server generated a load of traffic, the electrical system couldn't cope and everything would time out and disconnect.

Not so good. The solution was, in the famous IT jargon, to pull out the plugs and put it back in again. Then things would work. If were just an Xbox and a couple of PCs the network would have been fine but I was running a small virtual data centre. Not as robust for that solution.

My new idea was to look at wireless to wired converters. I had an old Cisco Linksys E300 cable router. This isn't optimised for what I want but maybe it could be.

What you need is some new firmware. Fortunately some hackers have created exactly that here.

So you flash the firmware and set it up to go from wireless to wired. What is called a client bridge. It sort of works. The main problem is that you work out pretty quickly why the original firmware didn't give this option - the router runs horrendously slow and dhcp/dns forwarding is a bit of a nightmare. So back to the original firmware and maybe a quick sale for a few quid.

There is actually a home based solution to the issue. Loads of people want to covert wired stuff, like tvs, tivo devices and sky boxes to the internet but they dont have wifi. Hence you have wifi to wired boxes like this NETGEAR WNCE4004-100UKS N900 Universal 4 Port Smart TV, Video & Gaming Wi-Fi Adapter.

So you buy this box with 4 ports on the back and you have a wireless to wired adaptor that runs up to 300mbs. Plenty for the home server. Victory!