Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home networking - advice sought

It occurred to me over the winter break that I have cobbled together a rather ridiculous mess. I have a total of 14 devices connected (mostly via ethernet, some via wifi) to our home network, and I'm betting that the use of hand-me-down equipment is creating packet bottlenecks that I could easily eliminate. I just don't know how to diagnose the bottlenecks (if they exist) and how to benchmark whether the current setup is sub-par.

Here's the current state of affairs:
  • Room 1: I have a Netgear 4 port switch (I believe it's model FS105), into which my Sonos 90, PS3 and TiVo Series 3 are all plugged in. The Netgear is plugged into the CAT5 jack in the wall, using the existing home wiring to connect to my D-Link (DIR-625) router in the upstairs bedroom closet.
  • Room 2: A Sonos 120 is wirelessly connected to the D-Link upstairs.
  • Room 3: an Epson printer and two Windows desktop PCs are plugged into an older Linksys wireless router (where I've disabled the wireless antenna and am using it solely for the ethernet hub capability). A TiVo (series 2) is connected via 802.11g to the D-Link in the bedroom. The Wii is also connected via wifi to the D-Link in the bedroom.
  • Room 4: TiVo HD is connected via ethernet into the wall jack, which is connected to the D-Link router in the bedroom closet. In the closet, the other Sonos 120 is connected via Ethernet to the D-Link router. The D-Link is connected to the Comcast cable modem.
  • Both my wife's laptop and mine connect primarily via wifi to the network (she's on WinXP, I'm on a MacBook Pro).
I'm using WPA to secure the wireless. One of the wired connections actually terminates in the Sonos in the bedroom closet, don't recall which. (The Sonos has an additional ethernet ports to serve as a hub, specs on their site say "2-port switch (10/100Mbps, auto MDI/MDIX) allows Ethernet devices to connect through SonosNet".)

So... how badly am I slowing things down? What's the best resource for doing this right?


  1. The Comcast uplink is the bottleneck.

    Aside from that, there's some optimization you could do internally, but more information is needed. Which Linksys? The documentation for the D-Link DIR-625 does not clarify whether or not it is a hub or a switch. You want a switch. A switch will isolate traffic from each device and permit operation without collisions. The devices on the network will tell you whether or not they are connected to a switch or a hub. If the device has auto-negotiated a 100/Full Duplex connection, then you are on a switch. (The Sonos specs explicitly say "switch," so that's good.)

    Are your wireless connections 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or a mix? You mention the TiVo is 802.11g, but what are the rest?


  2. OK, the Netgear unit is the GS105, which according to the product page (http://www.netgear.com/Products/Switches/DesktopSwitches/GS105.aspx) is a 5 port gigabit ethernet switch.

    The Linksys unit is BEFW1154, which Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Linksys-BEFW11S4-Wireless-B-Cable-Router/dp/B00005ARK3) suggests is a hub.

    From what I can tell, the D-Link unit (model DIR-625) is a 10/100 switch.

    So far, Ryan appears to be right - my best course of action would be to swap out the Linksys for a gigabit switch, and probably add a gigabit ethernet switch in the bedroom closet, then run all connections through it (as opposed to splitting between the D-Link and the Sonos). This D-Link 8 port switch seems like it'd do the trick for $32 (after rebate): http://bit.ly/8jD2oQ

    @Will - both HD TiVos have wired connections; it's the non-HD TiVo that's on WiFi. While I agree that the Comcast upload speed is a bottleneck (sort of, I have ~20megs down and ~3megs up), I'm more concerned about transfers within the network: from TiVo to TiVo (which has seemed slower than it should, given two wired connections) in particular. Haven't done enough with the PS3 to really know whether it's suffering.

    @Steve - Thanks for the inssider link, going to fire that up on one of the Win boxes to see if that helps anything.

    Appreciate everyone's input so far. I've already learned a ton!

  3. I'm starting to think that maybe I don't have a high-speed Internet connection. :-)

  4. To summarize the network a different way:

    Your cable modem feeds the D-Link DIR-625, which handles wireless connections from two laptops, a TivoS2, a Sonos120, and a Wii. It also handles two wired connections from a Sonos120 and a TivoHD.
    The DIR-625 feeds an FS105, which in turn handles wired connections from a Sonos90, PS3, and TivoS3.
    The DIR-625 also feeds an older Linksys, which handles wired connections from an Epson printer and two PCs.

    Two suggestions:
    1. Most ethernet hubs/switches have bicolor status lights to indicate 10 vs 100 Mbps and full vs half duplex. You should check the ports between the DIR-625<->FS105 and DIR-625<->Linksys to make sure they are 100 Mbps full duplex. A half duplex network is limited in diameter to two repeaters, which your network has already reached and might be running on the ragged edge. A full duplex network will be fine with two levels of switching.

    2. I assume you had reasons for making the TivoS2, Sonos120, and Wii use wireless connections, such as having no way to run an ethernet cable. Nonetheless as I'm sure you're aware, if you could move them to a wired ethernet it would reduce wireless contention with your laptops.

    Otherwise, there's nothing really wrong with this network. If you had copious wiring everywhere you might do it differently, but there is nothing wrong with chaining a small number of switches.
    I do note that the FS105 connects to a PS3 and TivoS3, both of which can use significant bandwidth if streaming video files around. If you notice stuttering or lag, you could look at upgrading the connections.

  5. Huge thanks to everyone on the thread... this was a big help. Going to report back once I update some of the equipment!

  6. Hi Rick,

    Did you get any help on this? If you did I'd appreciate it if you could point those that did towards this blog post I've just written. I'm also asking for help on a home networking set up but I'm not as fortunate as you to have any networking points in my house so it all has to either be wireless or potentially powerline.

    Do you have any thoughts?


    Any help would be very much appreciated.



  7. I am interested in this as well because I am sure that I have some sort of bottle neck somewhere in the house and I am sure I don't have lead lined walls!

    Its amazing how quickly you build up wireless devices in the house, its probably just as well we have IPv6 on its way.

    I have 3 laptops, a wireless printer, 2 Nintendo DS's, a PSP and a couple of iPhones pounding my puny SKY router.

    Sometimes I think it would be easied just to have masses of cables running through the house :)