[sclug] Power line ethernet tips

Tom Carbert-Allen tom at randominter.net
Mon May 18 07:47:12 UTC 2009

If you like the freedom of wireless, why not just boost your signal (and 
upgrade to 54mb atleast) There are many options here, depending on the 
layout of your property. There are loads of plans to make your own 
upgrades, from two pieces of card and some tin foil (called windsurfer 
antenna) through tuna tin quads, to home soldering broken pole omni's 
all depending on the sector size you are looking for. In the past I have 
used <?5 of kit to get a laptop to go from not connecting at all to 
getting full 54mbps speed in 30 mins. If you have an access point with 
two antenna, you can always upgrade one to point to the problem area of 
your property and use the other for omni-directional laptop use, 
although on some brands this can limit your speed if both are using at 
the same time as they switch between antenna at different rates. If you 
really do have something in your home blocking the signal, either move 
the AP or install either an active or passive bent radio pipe at one of 
it's edges to get the signal round the blocking wall, contact me if you 
need more info on that.

video roundup and guide : http://revision3.com/systm/surfer/
diy omni: http://wireless.gumph.org/articles/homemadeomni.html

As for the power line stuff: watch out for the cheaper units using very 
low key length encryption but with the words "strong encryption" on the 
box, especially if you live in a block of flats!
I have used them a couple of times in the past, even on temporary 
festival wiring, and when you have two identical units they work really 
well. Looking at how they work, I really wouldn't recommend more than 3 
on a single phase though. And I believe there are currently at least two 
incompatible formats being used by different manufacturers.


David Given wrote:
> I'm currently using wireless to allow the two main computers in my 
> house to talk to each other. This works, most of the time, but it's 
> unreliable and slow and is generally a pain to use.
> As an alternative to plumbing in Cat-5, I see that mains ethernet 
> widgets are now moderately cheap. They claim to do between 85Mbps and 
> 200Mbps depending on the brand, which is way better than the 11Mbps 
> wireless networking, and I get to avoid the horror of wireless driver 
> configuration (because they all use ethernet to talk to the outside 
> world). (I also see that Newlink do a combination mains networking and 
> wireless access point, which looks like a rather good idea.)
> Does anyone have any experience of these? For example, do you get 
> anywhere close to the rated speeds? Are the different brands 
> interoperable? Am I going to be broadcasting my intranet to all the 
> houses on my street? Any recommended/disrecommended brands?

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