Soup up your home network
Tips for tuning a modern LAN
There can’t be many Reg Hardware readers who don’t have a home network. In fact, these days you’d have to look hard indeed to find an ISP that sells its connection as strictly single PC only and just tosses in a USB modem rather than some sort of router.
A decade or so ago, just about any network would do. My flat still has thin Ethernet taps in some of the rooms, not to mention the serial cable for a long disused Wyse 50 terminal in the kitchen. The network connection was a 64Kbps kilostream and, since people didn’t tend to turn up with laptops and phones that they wanted to connect to the internet, it worked just fine.
NE2000 cards, like this one from Arbor, were once all the rage
Now, though, with some broadband services boasting download speeds that can knock an NE2000 card into a cocked hat, not to mention streaming media in the home, and an ever increasing number of connected devices, from VoIP phones and iPads to security cameras and set-top boxes, it’s worth putting a bit more thought in to how you can make the most of your home network.
For many people, a wireless network is essential, partly because the lack of wires makes it much more acceptable to those with inclinations towards neatness, but also out of necessity, with many devices having no other way to connect them. Where once my flat just had a couple of computers connected to the net, now there are over 20 devices, not including kit belonging to the neighbours, who I allow to use my network too.
With so many ISPs giving away wireless routers with their broadband, congestion is starting to become a real problem for Wi-Fi users in some areas. In one Amsterdam hotel I visited, 22 different networks were visible from my room. I can see dozens from my desk here at home.
The more networks on a given channel, the more time each will spend communicating with the others and giving them space to send and receive data.
Most Reg Hardware readers will know that you can change the channel on your basestation to find a less busy one. But with each Wi-Fi channel overlapping the two on either side of it, and only 13 channels to choose from - or 11 if you live in the States and some other territories - you’re still going to suffer from congestion caused by too many networks operating in a small area.
With broadband top speeds now easily capable of outperforming an 802.11b connection – and sometimes even an 802.11g network too – even without congestion, many of us will need to take remedial action.
Tools like InSSIDer and iStumbler will help you pick a less congested Wi-Fi channel
Modern routers often have an ‘automatic’ channel setting, which should find the best channel – but it’s worth remembering that it’s only checking at the basestation. It’s well worth using a tool like InSSIDer or iStumbler to see what other networks are active in the places you’ll actually be using a laptop or other wireless devices.
Next page: Dual Mode
come on now RegHardware - it's not just radio hams that are sometimes affected by mains ethernet equipment - it's anyone that uses shortwave radio and even DAB (source: BBC).
Imagine if you were prevented from enjoying your favourite hobby by someone else's innocent purchase of equipment? It's a delicate sitatuation and not just 'outrage' by some beardy radio types.... (me included I should add).
(Paris, cos I would DAB her anytime)
Draytek make some great routers.
Would be nice to see some Microtik & Ubiquiti products in here.
Its worth noting that when moving from 100Mbps to Gigabit cabling that in the real world network performance will be limited by the speed of the hard drives and OS overheads. Especially if you are using a cheap NAS.
For me going from 100Mbps to Gigabit only doubled transfer speeds to around 20MBytes/s.
The major reason 5Ghz equipment hasn't made an impact at home is its poor wall penetration. 5Ghz is fine for an open room like a cafe or bar, however in a multi-room home with a router hidden in the under-stairs its not going to be a saving grace for wifi.
Longer term the wifi standard needs to include negotiation with competing base stations.
Horrid things. Being someone who likes to listen to the footie/Danny Baker on Radio 5 on good old AM you can hear the effect of these things driving past houses in the country from time to time. The noise is unmistakable as rather than the random interference you get from powerlines etc it is bursts of noise that sounds like data.
How this is allowed I have no idea. Older readers will remember that in the early 90's some EEC regs came in that required all electronic equipment to have EMF suppression. For example people may remember the good old Sinclair Spectrum used to kick out a hell of a racket on any nearby radio (in fact if you tuned to a sweet spot between LBC and Radio 1 you could actually hear the audio for a good 50 metres).
Lots of devices had to be either re-engineered or pulled from the market. It's why big metal shields started appearing inside home micros at that time.
Anyway my point is that if we had to go through all that to prevent radio interference, why the hell are these mains ethernet adaptors allowed?