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Last post Author Topic: Home Network Recommendations?  (Read 17515 times)

J-Mac

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Home Network Recommendations?
« on: April 13, 2008, 02:13:03 PM »
Hello all.

I have a fairly simple home wireless network that has been working OK for me for a few years now. However I want to make it a little better!

Currently I have a Linksys wireless router (WRT54G), 2 desktop computers connected via Cat V cables, and my notebook connects from all over the house/yard wirelessly. The router gets its feed to my ISP through an eMTA phone/high speed cable internet connection. Also, a wireless adapter that picks up the signal from a Slingbox Pro and feeds it to the router.

So the 3 computers are able to see one another and share files and one Canon All-in-One printer/scanner/fax machine.

All is working - except when it ain't, of course! I have to power cycle the router now and then when it just loses the connection to all computers - it is getting kind of old so I will probably upgrade that, though I'm not certain to what yet.

Also, I am thinking of setting up a server here and keeping all files stored on it - or at the very least store all my media files there. Just so I am not taking up gobs of hard drive space on all the computers so that I have access to my photos, music, and videos on all of them.

Anyone care to comment on the most effective setup? Equipment to use? Server format/OS? Also, any other advice is appreciated, like should I continue to share the one Canon AIO as it is currently connected only to my main desktop and that shares it with the others -- or should I set up the printing capabilities directly on the network itself?

Thanks!

Jim

Jimdoria

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2008, 06:58:44 PM »
Well, depending on the version of your router, you might want to look into the alternative firmwares for the WRT-54G. Not all versions of the router can support it, but if yours can it could give you some very nice extended cababilities for no extra costs, and might improve stability as well.

Check out Tomato, Sveasoft Talisman or DD-WRT for alternative firmware possibilities.

- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2008, 07:18:13 PM »
If you just want centrally stored files why bother with a server? Have you considered Network attached storage.

If you want to get things working faster you should consider Wireless n technology (I have found Netgear's RangeMax Next series excellent). Just make sure all the components are 802.11n draft version 2.0 compatible (there are still some older version 1 devices out there and there are some issues getting mixed draft working together). Almost all of Netgear's stuff now is either version 2 or has verion 2 firmware upgrades.

The 802.11n working group have said that version 2 is pretty much solid and should be ratified with no significant changes into the final version.

Having said all that my mission at the moment is to get my house wired for Gigabit technology as it is blazingly fast compared to any wireless network, and rock solid stable. You can transfer files at near ATA100 drive speeds. Wireless is great for laptop and media access to the TV/hi-fi but Gigabit cabled network is just brilliant and you don't need to worry about any of the security issues.

If you want to go down this route just buy a Gigabit switch (cheap), a gigabit card for each machine (they are cheap too) if you need them (most recent hardware has gigabit built into the motherboard) and a roll of cable, some connectors and a crimping tool. You basically connect all the computers to the switch and the switch to your existing router. If you don't need wireless you can then turn it off in the router control panel. All the computers talk via the switch at gigabit speeds to each other and just use the router to access the internet. If you get NAS make sure it is gigabit speed (even if you don't plan to use it at the moment - it will work at 100/10 speeds but you can upgrade other components later). Unless you actually need your computers to roam about the house this provides a magically solid and fast solution!

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2008, 07:41:43 PM »
Well, depending on the version of your router, you might want to look into the alternative firmwares for the WRT-54G. Not all versions of the router can support it, but if yours can it could give you some very nice extended cababilities for no extra costs, and might improve stability as well.

Check out Tomato, Sveasoft Talisman or DD-WRT for alternative firmware possibilities.



Jim, thanks - I currently have the latest optimal firmware for this router, which is - I'm pretty sure - a Rev. 5 WRT54G. I asked a tech about the last FW released for it and found out that was for a specific problem that I don't have. They recommended I stay with the version I have.

Jim

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2008, 07:53:38 PM »
Thanks Carol. Yes, NAS is definitely a consideration. (Forgot to mention it!) I've just started looking into upgrading -- after spending a couple hours under and behind my desk recovering from the router unexpectedly resetting itself.   :o  Never did find a cause, but I did have my router settings backed up and simply restored it to its previous config. But I wanted to see if I could find what triggered the reset.

I do need to investigate NAS also. Specific equipment recommended?

In looking for a new router I certainly plan to take a hard look at the "n" routers. Sounds like you have done your homework, and I like what I hear from you there.  As for Netgear I have an 802.11g Netgear router from about 2 years ago - hated that one! It automatically disconnected from the internet when connected wirelessly every 10 minutes, or after a few minutes of inactivity - though downloading did not stop the disconnects. Tried to turn that off but could not. Netgear support was not quite as helpful then as Linksys. Might have just been a not-so-good model, and support on a bad day! If you have good experience with them I'll assume I just had a bad one.

As for the Gigabit technology, that does sound good, though wiring in a 100+ year old house is not easy, and I would still need wireless capability at times.

Thank you!

Jim

Veign

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2008, 08:02:38 PM »
Have you looked into Windows Home Server?  I have heard some great things about it.


J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2008, 08:10:49 PM »
Have you looked into Windows Home Server?  I have heard some great things about it.



I have read a lot about it - and a lot of good, actually. But I don't know anyone who has run or is running it, and that is usually a real good source of info!

Thanks!

Jim

mwb1100

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2008, 10:02:53 PM »
Quote
Check out Tomato, Sveasoft Talisman or DD-WRT for alternative firmware possibilities.

For what it's worth, I've been running DD-WRT v23 SP1 Final  and it's been rock solid.  I used to have to occasionally reboot my WRT54G, but not with DD-WRT.

And my 'server' is just a retired desktop machine.

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2008, 11:04:35 PM »
Hmm...  Netgear Wireless-N RangeMax Next router gets only 2 stars out of 5 average at Newegg.com. This is Netgear's top Wireless-N router. Sounds like a lot of firmware issues are still outstanding.

Jim

Carol Haynes

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2008, 06:02:27 AM »
I have had a Netgear DG834N practically since day one and have never had a single issue with it except for inter connectivity with an Intel mini-PCIe wifi card - and from what I have read that is partly because Intel have gone their separate way on 802.11n 2.0 implementation. Netgear have yet to release a version 2.0 firmware for my router but it is in the pipeline and should appear shortly (I have been doing pre-release testing with a version that still has a couple of minor glitches though connections are still rock solid).

My DG834N connects to the internet almost instantly when switched on and the connection is rock solid. There is an option to disconnect after a period of inactivity but it is easy to uncheck that in the router settings (I presume the option is for people who are still paying by the minute).

My only gripe with Netgear stuff (and I suspect a potential source of problems for users who don't or won't follow the instructions) is that if you want to upgrade the drivers for network cards or USB adapters they have to be uninstalled (including removal from the machine) before installing the new software. This is a bit of a pain but it happens so infrequently as to not be a problem in practice. The only time I had problems was when I tried to be clever and avoid removing a PCI card as instructed - the new software didn't install properly and caused a few headaches. That was my fault though as Netgear explicity give instructions on installing drivers which include installing the sofwtare BEFORE the PCI or USB device is physically present in the machine.

The one thing I will say is that previously I had LinkSys 54g stuff (IIRC a WAP54G) and I had to use repeaters around my house to get any sort of signal out of direct line of site. I live in a stone built cottage with thick walls and the Netgear RangeMax signal never drops below 90% and the speed never drops below 270Mbps (which is the maximum for my router). The only exception is the Intel laptop WiFi which seems to connect at 130Mbps - but that is apparently a 'design feature' of the Intel device. I am thinking of ripping it out and buying a Gigabyte card instead which seem to have good reviews. (I haven't seen a Netgear mini-PCIe Rangemax Next card or I'd go for that).

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2008, 10:08:40 PM »
The NAS idea is getting a lot of thought here.  Regarding centralized storage of files for serving out to my PC's, NAS or a server would accomplish the same thing easily, correct?  I don't know of any advantages of one over the other for storing and accessing files.  But I am wondering what other benefits I would derive from using a server that would not be available with NAS, other than using a server for things like hosting my own email server (which I have actually done right on my desktop PC in the past).  Can anyone tell me what all they use a home server for?  Especially the things that could not be accomplished using NAS.

Might sound like a stupid question - and, Lord knows I throw out quite of few of those! - but I'm just trying to avoid discovering all the reasons I should have gone one way or another after making the investment in the other alternative and getting it all set up.

Thanks!

Jim

Carol Haynes

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2008, 03:52:52 AM »
Personally I can see little point in home servers - especially if you plan on a Wifi only network as any connections (even with 802.11n) are going to be too slow for general file shifting. I suppose it is sometimes conventient to have a central place where you can have a printer(s) and extra storage. Sharing stuff, such as photos and video, in one place (and available all the time) is one reason.

If you want to see why MS think you should go down the Home Server route see http://www.microsoft...eserver/default.mspx

Here is one of their FAQs:

Quote
How is Windows Home Server better than home Network Attached Storage (NAS) products?

Windows Home Server provides unprecedented simplicity for home users and it was designed to solve problems for households with multiple PCs.

More than just storage, Windows Home Server uniquely provides a single pool of storage for your content and pre-defined shared folders, such as "Music" or "Photos," making it easier to organize and find your files. Windows Home Server also makes it easy to add more storage, provides built-in search capabilities, monitors the health of your home computers and allows you to stream content to other devices in the home, such as Xbox 360.

In addition, as a development platform, Windows Home Server offers partners great opportunities to create solutions for the digital home. This means that a wide range of applications and tools that integrate with and take advantage of Windows Home Server will be available.

The only feature that I can see that may be useful is that family and friends can log in and share your photos (or you can when away from home). Fair enough I suppose that could be useful but it is possible without Home Server anyway, and you don't need to do it through a Windows Live account! The other problem is that most ISPs (at least in the UK) limit upload speeds to pathetic levels - I have an 8Mbs broadband connection (in theory as it maxes out at about 2-3 Mb) which is comfortable in use but my upload speeds rarely get beyond about 50Kbs which is SLOW! Trying to use a home server when away from home (or allowing others to access your server) is viable but can you imagine the frustration level if more than one person is using it - you'd have analogue modem speeds!

If you have a very fast network (such as a gigabit network) I can understand there are some advantages - it would be practicale to use the server for back and recovery of client computers but over WiFi it would just be too slow (if it works at all as most WiFi needs specific drivers in the client to function and if you are performing disaster recovery they might not be available - wired network connections often work without drivers).

If all you want to do is share files and possibly a printer I would go down the NAS route - it is far cheaper. Lots of NAS type devices are expandable (buy bare bones and install the drives you want, many come with USB expansion for adding an extra drive externally later, and lots support a USB printer - or get a router that supports a shared printer). The whole thing will cost you less than a single copy of Windows Server 2005/2008 (just the software - overkill, complicated and probably cost more than your entire network) and I am not sure but I think Windows Home Server only comes as part of a hardware package (unless you buy the OEM version which is $200 at Amazon you could buy a bare bones NAS device and a hard drive for that price).


Finally before considering Windows Home Server you might want to check out the following two articles:

http://support.micro....com/kb/946676/en-us
http://support.micro....com/kb/943393/en-us

The first article is really worrying as there is no solution on the horizon - note the programs they say are related to the corruption problem include Windows Media Player, iTunes, OneNote (both 2003 and 2007), Thunderbird, Excel ... the list goes on.

Would you really want to trust data to such a system - even if it does only happen rarely. Also note the original article was published before Christmas and there still isn't a solution! [Oops sorry - they may fix it by June ... big of them]
« Last Edit: April 16, 2008, 04:22:20 AM by Carol Haynes »

Stoic Joker

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2008, 06:19:18 AM »
I don't use WHS currently, but I was in on the Beta testing.

Any time you are sharing files, you have a chance of running into file locking issues. So it really depends on how you use WHS as to whether or not that bugg applies.

If all your files are centrally stored, then you must have a fast network to access them at anything other than agonizingly slow. On the other hand, if they're on your local machine's drive access is quite zippy (can't get any faster than right there)...and backups are the only issue. WHS works just fine for that, and is as close to a set & forget setup as you can get.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2008, 08:31:52 AM »
WHS works just fine for that, and is as close to a set & forget setup as you can get.

If you read the reviews at Amazon you will see that WHS is great when it works but the unfixed bug mentioned in the first MS KB article also affects the backup routine. I guess if you are lucky then it works fine but if you install it and find you are one of the affected people you have basically but a lot of rubbish (until it gets fixed).

The bug has been mentioned in these forums before but there is widespread dissatisfaction on the web with MS's response to the bug. In any other system it would be deemed critical and get fixed quick - even by their own estimates it is going to be at least 6 months from acknowledging the fault before it is likely to see a solution. Pretty indefensible in any operating system but for a server it makes it useless until it is fixed.

iphigenie

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2008, 09:28:50 AM »
Another thing in the homeserver versus NAS is of course power consumption.

I used to have a routing gateway/mail server/backup built on a pc, but I decided it was silly to have something like that running all the time. Even though it was using a low powered epia chip it was still more power than the single purpose mini boxes use.

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2008, 12:55:52 PM »
Well I'm already trying to deal with a vastly inferior product from Microsoft - Vista on my new notebook. I don't need to risk using WHS and getting smacked with the bugs you pointed out, Carol.

Looks like NAS is the way to go.

Thank you.

Jim

edbro

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2008, 01:41:32 PM »
I just got the HP MediaVault MV2120 NAS yesterday and I gotta say, this baby is nice! Small footprint, low power, linux based. I added a spare disk I had lying around and now I have 1TB shared on the network. It also serves music to my Roku Soundbridge without needing the computer running. I highly recommend this. Only $300 and no data corruption bug in WHS.

Stoic Joker

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2008, 05:08:14 PM »
WHS works just fine for that, and is as close to a set & forget setup as you can get.

If you read the reviews at Amazon you will see that WHS is great when it works but the unfixed bug mentioned in the first MS KB article also affects the backup routine. I guess if you are lucky then it works fine but if you install it and find you are one of the affected people you have basically but a lot of rubbish (until it gets fixed).

The bug has been mentioned in these forums before but there is widespread dissatisfaction on the web with MS's response to the bug. In any other system it would be deemed critical and get fixed quick - even by their own estimates it is going to be at least 6 months from acknowledging the fault before it is likely to see a solution. Pretty indefensible in any operating system but for a server it makes it useless until it is fixed.
From the MS KB Article you posted.
Quote
Note Windows Home Server-based computers that have a single hard drive are not affected by this issue, nor are Windows Home Server Computer Backup and Restore capabilities, Health Monitoring, and Remote Access functionality. This issue is specific to Windows Home Server and does not affect other Windows Server-based products.

So a single disk system wil work just fine, and the reviews at Amazon are writter by End Users ... and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. I'll wager that over 90% of the ones that "Lost all their files", caused the problem by panicking. <-I see this kind of crap in the field daily...)

Mark0

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2008, 05:49:27 PM »
Looks like NAS is the way to go.
Take a look at Synology lineup.
Very nice stuff and top notch support.

http://www.synology....u/products/index.php

Bye!

Carol Haynes

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2008, 06:24:44 PM »
So a single disk system wil work just fine, and the reviews at Amazon are writter by End Users ... and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. I'll wager that over 90% of the ones that "Lost all their files", caused the problem by panicking. <-I see this kind of crap in the field daily...)

OK they say single disc systems work BUT there has been more than one report (including in the reviews on Amazon) that automated 'set it and forget it' backup led to corrupted files. I don't know for sure as I have never used the product (and am unlikely to). Having said that if MS admit that the file types that screw up are most of MS Office and Windows Media Player (ie. precisely the sorts of files that the system is designed for) then it is difficult to recommend it as a system with any sort of confidence!

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2008, 11:50:26 PM »
Since I currently have 3 internal SATA drives plus 2 external USB drives on my main desktop, along with one internal and two external on my wife's PC, I wouldn't want to risk losing anything. Also, I am one of those apparently clueless "end users"...  Not that I have reviewed WHS on Amazon, but I am not a professional tech either.  But I like to think I am not a complete idiot around computers (maybe a partial idiot?  Never mind - I won't go there...).  However, though I am at least more knowledgeable than rank amateurs at computer technology, I prefer not to jump into a product that is having such issues around setups so similar to my own.

Jim

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2008, 11:51:30 PM »
Looks like NAS is the way to go.
Take a look at Synology lineup.
Very nice stuff and top notch support.

http://www.synology....u/products/index.php

Bye!

Thanks for the tip, Mark0!  I'll go take a look at that now.

Jim

J-Mac

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2008, 12:23:07 AM »
Mark0:  They do look pretty good.  I was a little confused by the fact that they have no pricing at all on their site that I could find. Put me off a bit, as I figured they must be very high. Then I searched on Newegg and saw that line there. Very reasonable, actually. However they are not purchased very often and thus have no or very few reviews.

Thanks!

Jim

Carol Haynes

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2008, 03:30:31 AM »
I agree they look brilliant - anyone any experience playing with one?

It also isn't very clear what support is provided for printers - is it just basic printing support of can you use other functions such as printable CDs ? I notice it doesn't support multifunction printers but I suppose that is pretty reasonable.

They could do with a more technical description on their website (at least I couldn't find anything other than the general features - but I didn't look very hard as I am finding it hard to focus with feeling pretty crap over the last few days). It doesn't, for example, make it totally clear what you can use the multiple USB sockets for on the back panel, or the eSata connector. Presumbly the eSata connector is for backing up files from the installed drives or running as an external mirror.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2008, 03:33:24 AM by Carol Haynes »

Mark0

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Re: Home Network Recommendations?
« Reply #24 on: April 17, 2008, 04:26:58 AM »
I have a CS406 (the previous version of the 4 drive bays NAS, now CS407), and it work well.
Little to no experience using the USB ports here: the only thing I tried was putting an USB thumbdrive there, and it was shared with the rest of the network. The NAS can also configured to automatically backup an USB drive to a designed folder. It sports a BitTorrent client, web server, etc.
You can find lot more info in the forum or the wiki at their site.

If I had to buy something now, I would probably go with the 2 drives version, '207, in RAID 1.
Less pricey, top performance (almost no overhead, respect to RAID 5), and if something goes wrong with the hardware, you can pull a HD, put in a USB box and access it with anything that can deal with the EXT 2 File System.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2008, 04:41:37 AM by Mark0 »