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Networking Technology

How To Set Up A Budget Home Entertainment Network

For many, the word “server” brings to mind an intimidating stack of unidentifiable devices with endless flashes of light. But in reality, a server can be that very basic featured, very old laptop or desktop computer you have gathering dust in a corner of your home.

Wikipaedia defines a Home Server as a server located in a private residence providing services to other devices inside or outside the household through a home network or the Internet. Such services may include file and printer serving, media center serving, web serving (host your website from your home!), and backup services. Because of the relatively low number of computers on a typical home network, a home server commonly does not require significant computing power and can be implemented with a re-purposed, older computer, or a plug computer. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) or Power Inverter is sometimes used in case of power outages that can possibly corrupt data.

Server in the home has witnessed increasing popularity in recent years. And for good reasons too.

So, what exactly would you be needing a server for in a home?

If you are like most people today, you have multiple home computers connected in a wireless network. You also have lots and lots of media files — digital photos, music, and videos — stored on each of these computers. Even though all your computers are connected, it is difficult to share or stream these media files from one PC to another.

Personally, I opted for a home server for the following reasons;

  • Centralized storage of my files. This gives you easy access to these files from multiple devices.
  • My boys love watching movies on their tablets. Problem is, there is only so much movies these tablets can contain. My home server gives them access to about 1TB of animated movies, streamed flawlessly to their devices.
  • Nothing beats watching CBT Nugget video files, downloaded video files or even stream Youtube videos directly to your big screen.
  • If you are the paranoid type, you can do away with Dropbox and the likes and host your sensitive files in your home. Access them over the Internet too!

The funny thing is, you get to achieve all these for next to nothing, using mostly existing hardware.

Find below a basic network diagram of my home entertainment network. Nice, aint it?

Drawing1

Over the next few posts, we are going to discuss about each component of this network and how to get them all set up.

 

Categories
Networking

Back To Life!

Cisco E1200I picked up a number of WiFi routers on Amazon last December for a very good discount, hoping to make a good profit selling them in Nigeria. The Linksys E1200 brand of WiFi routers was retailing for $19.99 (about N3,200) apiece, and my plan was to sell them for N10,000 each.

It was not until i had taken delivery of them that i realized that i just might have flushed my money down the drain because the router had a bouquet of issues bedeviling it.

Issues included;

– Dropping/Intermittent wireless connectivity
– Slow downloads and uploads speeds
– Seemed not to be able to handle more than 5 or 6 connected devices at once
– Power cycling does not always fix issues and sometimes hard reset is necessary

Apparently, there were issues with the firmware that was bundled with the device. Repeated updates to the firmware failed to fix the problems. Extensive search on the internet revealed a horde of very dissatisfied customers. The customer services of Cisco (the manufacturers of the device) also did nothing to help the situation.

It was a painful decision but i just could not sell devices that i knew were faulty, so i let them gather dust in the store, swearing never to be blinded with greed again when making business decisions.

That was until i decided to pay a visit again to DD-WRT.

DD-WRT is a site that develops and host Linux-based firmware for wireless routers and wireless access points. It is compatible with several models of routers and access points and is among the many third-party firmwares, which are designed to replace the firmware that ships pre-installed on many commercial routers. There are many advantages to running alternative firmwares as they unlock features that are not present ordinarily on all routers and can give your low budget routers features that are not available on even some professional grade routers, unlocking settings that are not accessible normally; static routing, VPN, repeating functions, boost your router range by increasing antenna power and overclocking.

It is a fact that your router is only as good as its firmware, the software that makes it tick.

My earlier check on the site dd-wrt.com in early December 2012 listed the Linksys E1200 as not being supported by this open source firmware. However, what i did not realize was that it became supported just a few days later.

I have upgraded the firmware of all the routers in my possession and now they are worth all the N10,000 ($62.50) that i am asking for them.

With the latest tested and stable builds of DD-WRT customized firmware, the true capabilities of the Linksys (Cisco) E1200 hardware are unleashed. Now you can create a personal VPN network, manage several wireless and guest networks, take advantage of advanced QoS bandwidth controls, and lots more. I have since parked up my Belkin Wireless N+ Router for this beauty and i am absolutely loving it!

Categories
Networking

The Mach 5 – Cobranet’s New Flagship WiFi Modem

On 1st of June, 2012, Cobranet ISP replaced its flagship internet modem, the CN438, with the more modern UGO Mach5. Targeted at homes and small offices, the new modem boasts of an array of features, which includes a higher data transfer rate and, more importantly, an in-built WIFI router.

I picked up one of these modems from dealdey during one of Cobranet’s many promotional offers. It cost N10,000 for the modem, with 9GB of data allowance (worth N8,500) included for me to play with. It was a very good offer, a steal if you ask me.

mach 5The router has a very sleek build and comes with a single ethernet port at the back, on the off chance that you would rather connect it directly to your laptop or to an existing router setup using a RJ45 cable. It also has a telephone port which i believe is not operational yet.

It is a very basic single band router with most of the bells and whistles that some may be familiar with missing. The router uses the 2.4 GHz band, which is limited in range and speed compared to dual-band routers that use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band. Dual-band routers are more efficient, have longer range, are less prone to interference from household devices, such as microwaves and older cordless phones, and are usually faster.

This is not in the least a deal breaker because single-band routers are compatible with most wireless cards and receivers, as they broadcast on the 2.4 GHz band, which is more common in Nigeria. The WIFI coverage is also more than sufficient to cover a mid sized home or office. And for the price, you probably can not get a better offer elsewhere.

By comparison and very surprisingly, the Mach 5 router boasts of a better coverage area than my old trusty Belkin N+ router which had a bit of a difficulty penetrating through the thick walls of my home.

However, network features like IP address reserving (which allows the router to give a fixed IP address to a computer in the network), port forwarding, access control, and firewall are not available in the Mach 5.

Overall, the Mach 5 WiFi router is a very good buy. The features are commensurable with the price it is being offered for.

Categories
Networking

Thinking Of Buying A WiFi Router? Read This First!

Buying the right routers has never been more difficult. Be warned! Wifi routers are not usually just a buy, plug and play affair.

Businesses often spend thousands of dollars to hire wireless networking professionals to perform site surveys to determine the best equipment and means to deploy a wireless network. However, our focus – the home and small businesses – do not have the resources to hire such and can feel frustrated about purchasing, setting up and maintaining a wireless router and their own wireless networks! What probably make it even more frustrating to these class of people are the barrage of technical jargon being bandied about by the manufacturers of these routers, usually more from marketing hypes than necessity.

The question now is, How do you determine the features that matter and those that do not when making your purchase? Bands, Standards, Range, etc – are all these important considerations when shopping for a wireless router? What exactly are the important features to look out for when shopping for a router?

Care to know? Then read on.

Speed

It is a tricky time to be in the market for a new wireless router. However, one key consideration before purchasing a wireless router is to determine how fast it transmits data. The speed of data transfer for any router is normally dependent on the standard.

802.11a An IEEE wireless networking standard that specifies a maximum data transfer rate of 54Mbps and an operating frequency of 5GHz.

802.11b An IEEE wireless networking standard that specifies a maximum data transfer rate of 11Mbps over the harmless 2.4GHz radio frequency.

802.11g An IEEE wireless networking standard that offers transmission at relatively short distances at a maximum data transfer rate of 54Mbps.

The above standards have all been superceeded and are not worth considering.

802.11n An IEEE wireless networking standard that offers transmission at a maximum data transfer rate of up to 450Mbps. Most popular standard at the moment and highly recommended

802.11ac The new kid on the block. Coming five years after the 802.11n, this standard promises data transmission at a maximum rate of 1.3Gbps. Caution here. All the horsepower the 802.11ac routers can offer won’t matter if the clients connecting to the devices do not have support to interface with these blazing fast speeds.

The fastest current 802.11n Wi-Fi connections max out at around 150Mbps with one antenna, 300Mbps with two and 450Mbps with three antennas. 802.11ac connections will be roughly three times faster – so that’s 450Mbps, 900Mbps and 1.3Gbps respectively. Note that these figures are theoretical maximums, the best you may likely get for the 802.11ac would be in the region of 800Mbps.

Range

Signal interference is one of the biggest culprits that might be at work if your Wi-Fi is weak. Walls and physical obstructions block your signal, so do signals emitted by any electromagnetic household object like your microwave oven, cordless phones, bluetooth devices and even fluorescent lights!

The range of your Wi-Fi signals is normally dependent on the Wi-Fi standard. Using a  router with 802.11b and 802.11g can get you as far as 95m while 802.11n can get you twice that. This range is only obtainable outdoors where there are no obstructions. Real life usage indoors will vary greatly.

Single Band or Dual Band?

While researching routers, you will inevitably stumble across the term “bands.” The 2.4 and 5 GHz bands are the frequencies in which wireless communications operate. 802.11 B and G devices use the 2.4 GHz band, while 802.11N can use either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. The 5 GHz band is less crowded then the 2.4 GHz band; less equipment runs on 5 GHz. That’s why it’s better equipped for throughput-intensive work within your home network such as gaming and file streaming. You will also get better internal network performance. These routers are ideal for the wireless gadget heavy home because you can connect gadgets that you use primarily for surfing such as a smartphone or tablet to the 2.4 GHz band and reserve the 5 GHz band for more demanding applications like devices that stream video and music or for gaming.

802.11ac will be purely 5GHz. It differs from 802.11n

  • Do you have multiple family members streaming video, or playing games online at the same time?
  • Is streaming high-definition video a must?
  • Do you plan to stream lots of content to an iPad?
  • Are you moving high volumes of data for your home office.

If any of these apply, then you’re a good candidate for a dual-band router. If not, you can probably get away with a cheaper single band router. Well, that’s the genius of dual-band routers; they allow each device to connect simultaneously, using its preferred band. The weakest link doesn’t have to slow the other devices down. The one downside of 5 GHz is that it does not sustain signal at greater distances as well as the 2.4 GHz band. So, if you are looking for a dual-band router to take advantage of the 5 GHz bandwidth—you’ll want to factor in distance when placing the router in your home or office.

Please note that 802.11ac won’t crystallize into a bona fide standard until sometime next year

Security

You’ll definitely want to make sure the router supports the latest WPA2 security rather than just WPA or, even worse, WEP. Most current routers support WPA2, but free routers from an ISP can sometimes be really outdated. If you’re building a wired network with clients that have gigabit ethernet adapters, also look for a router that supports that fast gigabit transfer speed. Also make sure the router supports Wireless-N (802.11n) for fastest transfer speeds; Wireless-N is backwards compatible with Wireless-G (802.11g) and Wireless-B (802.11b) devices, so your older computers and gadgets will still be able to connect to it.

And for The Geeks …

Do You Like to Tinker? Consider Custom Router Firmware If you’d like to hack your router for more features and customization with free, open-source firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT, be sure to check those site’s supported routers before going shopping. Some routers—like Buffalo’s Nfiniti G300NH—actually ship with DD-WRT pre-installed.

USB Ports

If you’d like to create a shared network drive, some routers enable you to plug in a USB hard drive to the router and share that drive. It’s a useful feature, but can be very slow and/or inconvenient (forcing you to use a FTP or HTTP server to access the drive, for example). If you don’t have a network attached storage (NAS) device, however, and don’t mind the performance compromise, look for this feature in your next router.

PS: You must ensure your wireless devices support whatever router you intend to buy. There is absolutely no benefit in switching to a higher grade router when your device can not take advantage of it.

Your Wi-Fi network is only as fast as the standard of the slowest device connected to it. If you connect a 802.11g device to a 802.11n network, the speed of your network will be limited to that of the slower standard, 802.11g.

Categories
Networking

802.11ac: The Next Wi-Fi Standard

THE UPCOMING 802.11ac wireless networking standard promises to do to 11n what 11n did to 11g. While the IEEE 802.11ac standard probably won’t be completed before the end of 2013 (Draft 2.0 is under development), and although the Wi-Fi Alliance has issued no interoperability criteria, consumer products claiming compliance with 802.11ac could be available on store shelves as soon as the middle of 2012.

Most of these early residential and small-business products likely will spend the vast majority of their useful lives operating backward-compatible to 802.11n. And it’s questionable whether residential users will get much out of 802.11ac, as home Internet connections (to say nothing of residential ethernet switches and router ports) top out well below the 1.3-gigabits-per-second speed that a three-stream, 40MHz 802.11ac product can nominally reach.

The improvements in rate-versus-range performance and overall link reliability even in backward-compatible 802.11n mode should be appealing, however, and video distribution within the home may also provide buyers some incentive to implement 802.11ac early on.

Wi-Fi standards are rated according to their maximum theoretical network bandwidth. Wireless local area networks (WLANs) feature differing levels of performance depending on which Wi-Fi standard they support.

  • 802.11b offers up to 11 Mbps
  • 802.11a and 802.11g WLANs offer up to 54 Mbps
  • 802.11n offers up to 300 Mbps

The performance of Wi-Fi networks in practice never approaches these theoretical maximum. 802.11b networks, for example, generally operate no faster than about 50% of theoretical peak, around 5.5 Mbps.

Likewise, 802.11a and 802.11g networks generally run no faster than 20 Mbps. And even though 802.11n rates at 300 Mbps compared to wired Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps, the Ethernet connection can often outperform 802.11n Wi-Fi in real-world usage, though some may disagree.

A Wi-Fi network connection operates at the highest possible speed that both endpoints can support. An 802.11g laptop connected to an 802.11n router, for example, will network at the lower speeds of ‘g’.

On home networks, the performance of an Internet connection is often the limiting factor in perceived network speed. Even though files can be shared within the home at speeds of 20 Mbps or more, wireless clients will still connect to the Internet at the speeds supported by Internet providers.

Wi-Fi performance continues to be improved with future generations of the technology. Speeds upwards of 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) are expected with next-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Categories
Gadgets Networking

Wi-Fi May Damage Sperm

A team of scientists has suggested that Wi-Fi-connected laptops sited too close to chaps’ gonads could damage their sperm.

Argentinian and US boffins collected semen from 29 healthy males, divided each sample into two containers*, then exposed one “to an internet-connected laptop by Wi-Fi for 4 hours”. The second sample “was used as control, incubated under identical conditions without being exposed to the laptop”.

The results were that exposed samples “showed a significant decrease in progressive sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation”. The researchers concluded: “We speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility.”

However, they note: “Further in vitro and in vivo studies are needed to prove this contention.”

Fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey of the University of Sheffield agreed that more in vivo tests are in order. He told the BBC: “The study is very well conducted, but we should be cautious about what it may infer about the fertility of men who regularly use laptops with Wi-Fi on their laps. Ejaculated sperm are particularly sensitive to many factors because outside the body they don’t have the protection of the other cells, tissues and fluids of the body in which they are stored before ejaculation.

“Therefore, we cannot infer from this study that because a man might use a laptop with Wi-Fi on his lap for more than four hours then his sperm will necessarily be damaged and he will be less fertile. We need large epidemiological studies to determine this, and to my knowledge these have not yet been performed.”

Dr Pacey did, though, warn that sperm might be affected by “inadvertent testicular heating” from balancing a lappy on your lap for extended periods.

He concluded: “There is a case report of a man who burnt his penis after using a laptop resting on his lap for a long time. Therefore, there are many reasons to try and use a laptop on a table where possible, and this may in itself ameliorate any theoretical concerns about Wi-Fi.”

The penis-burn laptop shocker in question was back in 2002, when a 50-year-old scientist scorched his wedding tackle after one hour tapping away on what was allegedly a Dell.

He suffered “penile and scrotal blisters”, but no lasting damage.

Source : The Register>

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Categories
Networking

Host Website on your Local Computer with Opera Unite

Opera is probably the most successful browser on the mobile platform. The same can not be said of desktops. However there is just one more reason why you may consider giving Opera a try on your computers. Below is a write up i stumbled upon on Clifonf5 a few months back. I have reproduced it here for all to share. Please note that the latest stable version of Opera as of this writing is version 11.51


Do you own a website and paying hosting charges to web hosting service provider? If you are having a normal computer running most of the time, then you can host your website on your own computer and let the world browse that from anywhere. You can convert your local computer into a web server in less than 5 minutes and start doing everything that you can do on web hosting servers. For example, you can share files online with your friends by providing a URL which will let them download the file from your local computer. These and many more things are possible with Opera Unite.

Opera a popular web browser and very much suitable for slow Internet connections because of the Turbo feature. That browser is having a superb application named “Opera Unite” which can convert your computer into a web server and let you host your website’s HTML files. Here is how you can start and setup web hosting server on local computer using Opera Unite.
Enable Opera Unite on browser

Download and install Opera 11.10 which is having Opera Unite feature. Now you need to enable “Unite” on the browser. To do that, click on the “Opera Unite” button available on left-bottom of the browser on status bar. You can find the button near to the “Turbo” button.

Sign in with Opera account

If you are already having Opera account, you can sign in with that or you will have to create a new Opera account. Just enter a unique ID and password and share your email address for communication.

Account created, Setup Unite

Its time to setup the web server using Unite. You just need to locate a folder on your computer where you want to host the website’s HTML files. Currently it doesn’t support PHP and MySQL, so you will only be able to host static files like HTML, Images etc. Locate the folder in Unite and save changes.

Now you can move or create new HTML files into the located folder on your computer. If you located the folder to the public folders on your computer then HTML files will not be password protected. And if you located the folder to somewhere else like in “My Documents” then by default those files will be password protected. You can make that folder “Public” as well from the Unite dashboard.

Once your setup will be done, Opera will provide you a URL for that folder. Now you can share that URL with your friends to let them open your website hosted on your computer.

There is a left panel in Opera to access Unite admin panel including Web Server dashboard, File Sharing option, Photo Sharing and much more.

The default URL generated by Opera for a particular Unite account will be something like “http://home.XXXX.operaunite.com/webserver/content/index.html” where XXXX is your Opera account username. If you want to have a pretty and proper domain as per your choice, then add a CNAME in your domain registrar admin panel (like GoDaddy or any other domain hosting service from where you purchased the domain or hosting the domain). Point the CNAME to the URL provided by Opera.

That’s it. Using the Opera Unite, you can share files with your friends by just sending them a download link which will start the download on their computers from your computer.

Categories
Networking Tutorials

Securing wireless networks at home and at work

Not securing your wireless network is pretty dangerous these days. As an IT professional you really have a responsibility to not only secure your own wireless LAN, but also those of the people close to you. I mean, if you were a doctor and stopped by your mom’s house one day to find her chain smoking in a tanning bed, wouldn’t you say something?

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