Friday, January 18, 2013

Upgrading my Home Network

For 2013, I've set out a goal for myself to upgrade several key components of my home network. I have a household with PCs, Macs, iPads, Kindles, and smartphones (which makes me feel like a mini IT admin). Making sure those devices operate optimally and efficiently is my goal. Also with newer technology being designed to use less energy I think this effort can lower my overall power consumption. My three initial items are:
  1. Update wireless network
  2. Update file server and backup strategy
  3. Update home theater PC.
Once I get those items done I can reevaluate the next steps.

First up is my wireless network. I currently use an ASUS (RT-N16) running DD-WRT as my main router connected to a cable modem. While speeds on the wired connections with the gigabit switch have been great the wireless performance has just been ok. As I started researching this more I found out that just having G devices on the same network as N devices forces the router to lower speeds. First I tried to figure out which devices were using which protocols on the network but this proved to be surprisingly difficult. Basically the best I could find from googling was tools to scan the network for wireless devices (dd-wrt already has this list) and then go to each device and check its adapter and connection speed. Instead I set my router to N only and found out which devices could no longer connect. This helped me isolate the G devices to the Kindles and some older iPods (nothing that was critical).

RT-AC66UI looked at upgrading to this beast the ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band Router (what SmallNetBuilder calls the Dark Knight) but at close to $200 it was an expensive option. My plan if I got that was to put the N devices on 5GHz band and the G devices on the 2.4GHz. I seem to remember reading that this was possible but might lower the N a little bit. I don't have any AC devices yet but a little future proofing doesn't hurt.

Instead I decided to buy an old router off of eBay and just dedicate that for the G devices. I wanted something compatible with Tomato firmware as I've been interested in trying that out as an alternative to DD-WRT. There are number of newer builds of Tomato (eg Shibby or Toastman) but the original polarcloud one had the best documentation to get me started.

I was able to find a Linksys WRT54G for $20 shipped and quickly went to work getting it setup. I plugged my desktop directly into the router and was able to connect on with the default username/password. Uploading the firmware went smoothly and soon I was running Tomato. Played around some of the settings and went to configure the router.

I made my only mistake when I configured both the router's IP address and its WAN address to be (since the ASUS was still going to be the main router at Connecting the Linksys WAN port to a port on the ASUS router didn't allow me to see the router. After a quick reset I set just the router's IP address to, skipped the WAN port and just connected it to one of the switched ports and all seemed good. I then configured the wireless on the Linksys with it's own SSID. I set each router to only serve a specific protocol and put them on channels far apart.

So far everything seems good and connection speeds are higher on the N devices. Fairly inexpensive fix to speed up things. The next project is not going to be as cheap.

These articles were a great in helping me figure out what I needed:

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