Home Networking Project – Phase I

*** NERD ALERT ***

If you aren’t a geek that loves all things techie, you might want to stop reading now! You have been warned!

*** END NERD ALERT ***

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to start a project to run network cable (Cat 5e) to several of the rooms in our house. “Hold on”, you say “Why would you do that when you could just use a wireless router instead?” Well, we already have a wireless router and it allows us to connect many of the wireless devices in our house to the internet. We have, however, decided to replace our current DSL and Dish Network plan with AT&T U-verse and need a way to connect the TVs in our bedroom and the living room to U-verse. So you say “Can’t you get AT&T to connect everything together when they come and do the installation?” Of course I could do that. However, I have heard stories and seen first-hand what happens when AT&T comes in to install U-verse.

From what I understand, U-verse set-top boxes and DVRs can be connected using your existing cable (coax) network or via network cable (Cat 5e). And if you don’t monitor the activity of the installer, he/she will take the easiest route to get you connected. In one instance, I saw that they had put the network router behind a dresser in a bedroom because it had a convenient access point to the existing coax network and then had to put an external USB antenna on a desktop computer in another room to get it to connect wirelessly to the router. Additionally, they tend to run the wires through a hole in the floor instead of instead of putting the wires in the walls and exposing them with wall jacks.

Because our existing coax cables (which come up through the floor) are not ideally located with where our TVs are, I decided that I would wire the house myself so that the U-verse installer can just connect in to what I have already done. I have not yet scheduled our AT&T U-verse install so I’m not entirely sure that this will go as smoothly as I hope but from what I have learned from others, it seems like a sound plan. After much research on the great Interwebs and long discussions with my co-workers, I came up with a plan. I decided to create a “Network Wiring Closet” in a central location in the basement and run two wires of Cat 5e to each of five different rooms in the house.

The first step was to create a “Network Wiring Closet” in the basement. Okay, so in our case, we don’t have a “closet” to put the network equipment in. It is more like a board bolted to the wall with a shelf on it. The first picture above is what it looked like on Jan. 31st, when I first put it together. There is an 8-port Linksys gigabit switch to act as the network traffic manager for house. Additionally, I scavenged a 24-port Panduit patch panel from the trash. Apparently, when corporations move network equipment, it is more cost effective to cut the existing network cables from the patch panels and wire to a new one than it is to pay someone to unwire and rewire all of the patch panel jacks. Because, I will only be running at most 10 cables, I can use the jacks from the patch panel for both ends of each run. The patch panel will allow me to switch out equipment in the future without having to disturb the existing connections to each room.

Last weekend, I connected the first room to this new network. In our home office, I cut a hole in the wall and ran the Cat 5e down into the basement and over to the switch. The second picture is an image of jacks after they have been wired and tested. Cutting that first hole was really scary. Up until that point, any mistake that I made could be hidden or ignored. But cutting a hole that big in the wall can’t be easily covered up if things don’t go right. Fortunately, everything went well and the third picture is the completed jacks in perfect working order.

The final picture shows the “Network Wiring Closet” as it currently stands. I added a shelf for extra network equipment. I assume that the AT&T U-verse router will reside there. You can see that two network cables come into the back of the patch panel and then are routed into the switch. I currently have an extra Linksys router sitting on the shelf. It is set up as a wireless access point. It is my intention to move that to the other end of the house once those rooms are wired to extend the wireless coverage throughout the house.

So far, everything has gone pretty much according to plan. Of the four remaining rooms to be wired, only two are necessary before I call AT&T. This definitely has been a learning experience. As a software guy, I now have a deeper appreciation and understanding into how the network really works. Stay tuned for more updates as additions are made.

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2 Responses to “Home Networking Project – Phase I”

  1. behnnie Says:

    My household tech plan:
    1. Keep batteries in the remote control.
    2. Store the remote control on the left end of the couch so it doesn’t get lost.

    I applaud your ability to move a step or two further than that. ;)

    • Kurt Says:

      Your household tech plan is better than some others. I just hope that mine works out in the end. In either case, I will have learned a lot.

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