GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkHome Office Network Upgrade - Not Quite Done
04:47:00 PM

There's just one more thing to do: swap the NIC in my server.

And check the cables. OK... Two things left to do.

And hope it works. ... That's three.

My home office network dates back to 1992. Back then, Cat-5 and 10Base-T equipment were a bit too expensive, so I went with coaxial RG-58 cable and 10Base-2, a.k.a. "thin net", a.k.a. "cheaper net" NICs. I drilled one 0.75" hole in the floor upstairs in a location that was well hidden by carpet, and using a long 0.25" drill bit extended through the hole from upstairs I made a hole in the downstairs ceiling. A coat-hanger taped to an unterminated coax cable was easy enough to thread through the 0.25" hole and push through to upstairs, and I actually had my own RG-58 crimper so I was able to attach the connector properly. That cable has been the only upstairs-to-downstairs link ever since.

It wasn't until about five years ago that I started to make the switch to Cat-5 and 10/100 NICs. The impetus came when I got broadband. The router only had an RJ-45, and by then the cost of a single adapter that would let me plug into the thin net cable was higher than the cost of an 8 port 10/100 hub with a single coax port , so that was the start. From then on, all new machines installed downstairs had 10/100 NICs -- but everything ran at 10 Mbps.

The next part of the switch occurred when I put in wireless. Because the bulk of the wireless usage would be upstairs, I installed the router/access point upstairs, and so another 10/100 with a coax port had to go in upstairs. And by the way, by this time anything with a coax adapter was incredibly hard to find and expensive, too! Why didn't I just run a Cat-5 cable from the downstairs hub to the access point upstairs? Because that would have either required expanding the hole in the downstairs ceiling or crimping RJ-45 connectors onto raw cable. So the 10 Mbps coax link between floors stayed in place, and there was actually still one device connected to it: my server.

Ever since I started mixing thin net, 10/100, and 802.11G wireless all on the same network, I've been having occasional device hangs -- mostly during big file transfers. Bear in mind that I was using hubs, not switches (becasue there were no 10/100 switches on the market with coax ports for the thin net -- at least none that I could find for less than a small fortune), and that meant that all ports on the hub would step down to 10 Mbps to match the speed of the thin net NICs. My theory about the hangs was that the higher speed of the wireless was saturating the 10 Mbps devices and causing buffer overflows that resulted in hangs of devices that just couldn't cope. I've been living with these problems, but in the past month or so both hubs started getting flakey, too, and that convinced me that it was time to get rid of the thin net once and for all.

Today was upgrade day. I expanded the hole in the downstairs ceiling enough to fit a pre-built Cat-5 cable through, taped it to the coax and pulled it upstairs. I installed 10/100 switches in place of the old hubs, and I ran a Cat-5 cable to my server. The NIC on the server is an old 3Com combo device with coax, RJ-45 and AUI, so all that was necessary to do was reconfigure the driver settings to use the RJ-45 port.

That took care of everything. The last vestiges of the 1992 network are gone. Pings are working... with 1K packets, only 1 in 1000 lost seems good enough.

But... you could see that coming, couldn't you?

I'm getting some intermittent errors in the Notes client. E.g. "Notes error: Network protocol error: message from server cannot be deciphered," when opening a view or running an agent. That's got me thinking that replacing the old NIC in the server with a 100 Mbps NIC will probably be a good idea, and hopefully that will take care of the intermittent errors.

Of course, it could be that one of the the new switches is flakey.

Or a cable.

Or that the poor little old server (think about it... it was still on coax, so it pre-dates my getting broadband, which was five years ago) just can't keep up now that the switches are pumping data at it, getting considerably closer to saturating the NIC's 10 Mbps capacity than the old hubs ever could.

So, how many things are left to do?

I guess I'll find out.

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Comments :v

1. Danny Lawrence02/09/2006 11:55:29 AM

Gee, I pulled out my thinnet connecton (which went from the wife's office in the 2nd floor to the basement, then back up into the home office) 3-4 years ago when I got my first home router (thereby eliminating the "2 NIC trick" I had previously used to share the broadband connection). I did what you did, taped the Cat-5 cable to the thinnet and pulled it through the wall, but somehow I tore or kinked the cat-5 cable because I could never get anything on the cable to run faster than 10 Mbps, so eventually we switched her to a Wi-fi connection. My recently finished renovation of the home office included running a new Cat-5 line up to the Wife's office so we could get rid of the Wi-fi card in her PC.

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