Category: Network Connectivity Devices

Solwise offers a two-part Wi-Fi repeater for caravans and similar applications

Article

Great gadgets: Solwise antenna and wifi hotspot | John Norman’s Blog

From the horse’s mouth

Solwise

Wireless 11n USB CPE with built-in 12dBi antenna GBP£41.08

Solwise Wireless USB repeater GBP£47.75

System total GBP£88.83 VAT and delivery to UK included

My Comments

There are those of you who use a caravan, motorhome or other similar recreational vehicle as the mobile holiday home and are likely to spend time at caravan parks or campgrounds rather than set up somewhere like at the beachfront or the bush. Increasingly these places are offering a public-access Internet service with Wi-Fi either as part of the package or for an extra charge, in order to make themselves relevant to the “switched-on” traveller.

But the problem with gaining access to these Wi-Fi services from your caravan is that your site may not be in a position where you can gain reliable reception of that service. Similarly, the vehicle’s metalwork will also play a part in attenuating the Wi-Fi signal that gets in to the van.

You may think that the typical Wi-Fi range extender may cure this problem but most of these devices have integrated antennas which may not be all that “crash-hot” when it comes to picking up the Wi-Fi network’s signal properly. But the clever people at Solwise have partnered a pair of devices that can bring the Wi-Fi network in to the caravan wherever you are.

The first device is a USB Wi-Fi network adaptor with a 12dBi panel aerial. This single-stream 802.11g/n device can be mounted outside the vehicle or building and connected to a regular computer via its USB socket using a 3 metre USB cable. The second device is a dual-WAN 802.11g/n wireless router with a choice of Ethernet or USB serving a wireless-broadband modem for its WAN / Internet service. But it also is able to work with the abovementioned USB Wi-Fi network adaptor effectively as a router.

On the LAN side of this router, you have a separate Ethernet connection along with the Wi-Fi network offered by the device. This earns its keep not just with smartphones and tablets but also with devices like network-attached-storage units, printers or DLNA-capable media devices because this means that you are not dealing with having to log on to the venue’s public-access Wi-Fi network to run these devices or share their resources through that network.

Being a two-part setup, you you can locate the network adaptor outside the vehicle and plug this in to the router’s USB port to effectively “bring in” the Wi-Fi service. It is also designed to support the “quick set-up quick tear-down” requirements that these kind of travellers would need and there are accessories available through Solwise to provide a semi-permanent mount for the USB network adaptor.

According to the screen shots in the manual, there is apparently a “bridge” mode to allow the router to be an extension access point that plugs in to your Ethernet or HomePlug AV(2) wired backbone. This could come in handy at home for extending that wireless network but I am not sure how this is implemented fully, something which could be written up on further.

It sounds like Solwise are fielding another device which would have some utility value when it comes to having that small network how you like it.

Send to Kindle

D-Link offers a wireless network extender that is a network music player

Article

Extend Your Network, Listen To Music With D-Link’s New Adapter  | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

D-Link

DCH-M225 Wi-Fi Audio Extender

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

D-Link are another company who are emulating the success of the Apple AirPort Express multifunction device by offering a device that works as a 2.4GHz wireless range extender or a network audio player for the home network.

The DCH-M225 Wi-Fi Audio Extender can extend a 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi segment’s range using dual-stream technology and WPS “push-to-connect” enrolment. Or it can work as a Wi-Fi-connected audio player according to either AirPlay or DLNA MediaRenderer standards, thus making it feasible to play out music from your smartphone, tablet or computer to your favourite stereo equipment that is connected to this device. It would earn its keep in the “smartphone-based DLNA’ setups as well as with music piled up on a DLNA media server as described in this feature article.

Personally, if I wanted this device to be a direct competitor to what Apple offers, it would have to have an Ethernet port so it can also work either as a wireless client bridge or an access point as well as the music player and wireless-network range extender.

At least D-Link is using the audio playback functionality as a way to differentiate itself from the horde of wireless-network extenders that is being offered.

Send to Kindle

AVM Fritzbox 7490 to be the first router to offer automatic firmware updating

Article (German language / Deutsch Sprache)

Automatische Updates für Fritzbox-Router | PC Welt

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

Software update page

My Comments

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

AVM Fritzbox 3490 to be able to update itself like your Windows or Mac computer

One of the big holes in data security that has been recently identified is the typical Internet gateway device sold to most households and small businesses as the “edge” between their home network and Internet connection.

This hole has been identified because most of the devices, especially those sold through most retail, value-added reseller and most service-provider channels, work simply on the firmware installed in them when they left the factory. As we all know, a lot of this firmware can be full of bugs and software exploits that place the home network and the computer equipment on it at risk of security breaches.

Most regular and mobile computer equipment and some set-top boxes benefit from a continual update process with the ability to have the critical updates delivered by the software vendor automatically without any user intervention. But this doesn’t hold true for the typical consumer router, which requires the customer to install updated firmware manually. In a lot of cases, the user may either have to run a firmware-installation tool on their regular computer or download a special firmware-package file from the manufacturer’s Website and subsequently upload the firmware to the device via its Web-based management interface.

A few devices may allow you to deploy updated firmware by causing the device to download and install the latest firmware from the manufacturer’s Web site by clicking on an “Update” button. These devices make the job easier but you have to regularly visit that user interface to check for new updates and start the update process.

These tasks can be considered very difficult for anyone to do unless they have had a lot of computer experience and expertise and is something commonly performed by the computer expert in the family or community.

AVM, a German company who makes premium-grade routers and networking gear for consumers and small business, have answered this need with the latest firmware for the Fritzbox 7490 Internet gateway device. This firmware offers automatic updating for firmware patches to enhance the device’s security.and reliability.

You would have to visit the AVM site to download and install the latest firmware in to the Fritzbox 7490 but this would be the last time you would need to do this because the Fritzbox could simply “look after itself” when it comes to the updates. There is a question remaining about whether AVM will roll this feature out to other Fritzbox routers and network devices so as to keep them secure.

At least AVM are setting a good example for all Internet-gateway-device manufacturers and resellers to follow by putting up the idea of self-updating equipment in to the consciousness. This could even extend to other devices like smart TV and devices that constitute the “Internet Of Everything” as we think of the smart home.

Send to Kindle

The latest Freebox devices now are VPN endpoints courtesy of a firmware update

Article – French language / Langue Française

Mise à jour Freebox : du Wi-Fi programmable et un VPN intégré | DegroupNews.com

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution to be a VPN endpoint

Free.fr have been adding some extra functionality to their Freebox Révolution and Freebox Crystal “n-box” Internet-gateway devices. This is being delivered through a free firmware update (version 2.1.0) as in the nature of the highly-competitive French Internet-service market and users can download and implement them in these devices.

VPN Endpoint Router

One key product is the ability for a Freebox Révolution or Freebox Crystal Internet-gateway to become a fully-fledged small-business-grade VPN router. Here, you could set these devices to work as an endpoint for a client-to-box VPN or, perhaps, a box-to-box VPN joining two small networks via the Internet backbone. For example, you could set up a secure-browsing or secure-file-transfer link to your home or small-business network in Paris or even buy a Draytek VPN router for your home network in the UK and a Freebox  Révolution for that chic French “bolthole” and establish a “box-to-box” VPN for backing up data between both locations, including making the same media available at both locations.

This is made feasible with hardware or software endpoints that work to PPTP or OpenVPN technology, which would suit software endpoints available on all the main desktop and mobile platforms as well as most other VPN endpoint routers.

Even the “seedbox” BitTorrent client integrated in these devices has been updated to be able to take advantage of the VPN functionality for user privacy.

Wi-Fi network improvements

The Freebox Révolution has been able to benefit from a software-based 802.11ac implementation which opens it up to high-speed data transfer with 802.11ac clients. Typically this would have required one to replace or add hardware to upgrade to the newer 802.11ac standard.

Similarly, the firmware has mad it easier for a Freebox user to optimise their Wi-Fi network performance by changing the channel the Wi-Fi access point is working on. It also includes a “site-survey” function which lists what Wi-Fi networks are operating on what channels at what strengths so you can choose the right channel to work on. This can be important in a neighbourhood where everyone is running a home network and could make things also easier for Free’s technical-support staff.

There is even the ability to turn Wi-FI functionality on or off according to a schedule which can be of importance for people who are sensitive to RF emissions or need to keep a lid on out-of-hours access to the Wi-Fi network.

Conclusion

You just never know what Free or other French ISPs have in store to increase the real value that they offer to their customers in that highly-competitive market.

Send to Kindle

TRENDNet to supply unmanaged switches with Power-Over-Ethernet Plus at all ports

Article

TRENDNet Adds Unmanaged POE switch pair | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

TRENDNet

Product Pages (TPE-T80H 8 port, TP-T160H 16-port)

My Comments

TRENDNet TPE-T80H 8-Port Power-Over-Ethernet switch Image: TRENDNet press imageTRENDNet have just launched a pair of unmanaged desktop switches that have 802.3at Power-Over-Ethernet across ports and are offering them as a USD$280 8-port variant and a USD$510 16-port variant.

Most unmanaged desktop Ethernet switches that offer Power-Over-Ethernet power typically offer this for half of the ports that they have but this pair of switches has all ports with Power Over Ethernet. These units have 30 watts maximum per port for 802.11at power with the TPE-T80H 8-port variant having 125 watts total power and the TPE-T160H 16-port variant having 250 watts total power.

One major limitation with both these switches is that they are limited to 10/100Mbit/s throughput which may be OK for running most cameras, IP phones or 802.11n access points. It would be better to see TRENDNet offer them as an all-Gigabit version to cater for the newer 802.11ac access points or higher-throughput 802.11n access points, especially if adding this functionality has a slight per-port premium over a 10/100 setup.

Both of them can be desktop switches but also come with “rack ears” so they can be installed in a 19” standard equipment rack. This allows contractors to install the switches in an “integrated” manner rather than having them pile up on a desktop.

Here, I would position these switches for a baseline VoIP or IP surveillance setup or a system that has a mix of access points and entry-level VoIP or IP-surveillance equipment.

Send to Kindle

Linksys returns to the small business and contract-supply field

Article

Linksys Gets Back Into SMB Networking  | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

Linksys

Press Release

Product Pages

SMB switches

LRT-214 VPN endpoint router

LRT-224 Dual-WAN VPN endpoint router

My Comments

Linksys are returning to the small-business field with a range of unmanaged switches and two VPN-endpoint broadband routers that are pitched at this user class.

All of the equipment works with Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and some of the switches provide 802.3at Power-Over-Ethernet power to half of their ports. For that matter, the cheapest switch in the bunch which is a 5-port Gigabit Ethernet switch calls for US$50. Here, they would also appeal as another quality option to contractors who are wiring a house for Ethernet.when they want a highly-reliable Ethernet switch as the central switch.

As for the routers, these support VPN endpoint along with 802.1q VLAN functionality and are IPv6 ready. As for this functionality, they would support PPTP and IPSec protocols for box-to-box and client-to-box VPN work along with OpenVPN protocols for client-to-box work. They are also future-proof in the context that they implement Gigabit Ethernet LAN and WAN ports thus making them work with next-generation broadband setups and the more-expensive model offers dual-WAN operation for failover operation or load-balancing.

But who knows how Linksys will return to this market further especially when there are companies like Netgear, Draytek and D-Link keeping this market in their grip as far as small-business network technology is concerned.

Send to Kindle

Telstra brings a colour-screen Mi-Fi to its 4G network

Articles

Telstra’s new Wi-Fi 4G modem first to work with LTE-Advanced | PC World Australia

Telstra introduces its next-generation LTE-Advanced 4G hotspot | CNet

My Comments

Telstra have released the latest iteration of their premium “Mi-Fi” device for the 4G mobile-broadband network. This device seems to have “all the fruit” when it comes to the design of these devices such as a colour touchscreen as its on-device interface as well as the use of the dual-band Wi-Fi technology for its LAN side.

But it is also the first to exploit the newer “LTE-Advanced” technology which Telstra are trialling up in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. This implements the use of both the 900MHz and 1800MHz wavebands and bonds the output of two “cells” together to create a “fatter” WAN pipe this increasing the bandwidth available, much in a similar way to how the MIMO functionality on the 802.11n Wi-Fi networks and HomePlug AV powerline networks work.

This device has been built by Netgear since it took over Sierra Wireless who made most of the previous USB wireless-broadband modems and “Mi-Fi” hotspots that are in circulation like the currently-issued device that Telstra is running as their premium “Mi-Fi” option.

As for battery runtime, the supplied 2500mAh battery can run for 10 hours. But I am not sure if this device will offer more than the typical “Mi-Fi” functionality like mobile NAS functionality. Telstra are intending to run it at a similar cost to the existing premium Mi-Fi device i.e. for AUD$6 per month on a AUD$50 per month 24-month contract with 8Gb data allowance. I am not sure if they will offer this as a shared plan where many mobile-broadband devices like a smartphone and a “Mi-Fi” can share the same allowance pool.

Send to Kindle

Cloud routers–the current hot feature for the home network

Increasingly every home-networking equipment vendor is pitching a mid-range or high-end router range that offers “cloud” abilities and features. This kind of feature was simply offered as a remote-access feature but is being marketed under the cloud term, used as a way to make their devices appear to look cool to the customers.

These features are more about simplifying the process of providing authorised users remote access to the control functionality and similar features on these devices and providing this kind of access to someone who is using a smartphone or tablet. It also extends to file access for those of us who connect an external hard disk to these devices to purpose them as network storage.

What benefits does this offer for the home network router

The key feature that is offered for these devices is the ability to allow you to manage them from any Internet connection. This may be about troubleshooting your connection or locking down the Internet connection for rarely-occupied premises like a holiday home or city apartment.

If you connect an external hard disk to your cloud-capable router, you would have the same remote-access functionality as a cloud-capable NAS. This means that you could put and get data while you are on the road using your regular or mobile computing device and an Internet connection.

Some vendors integrate an application-level gateway to their cloud-assisted network services like video surveillance as part of this cloud functionality. This allows you to gain access to these services from the same point of entry as you are provided for your router.

How is this achieved

Like the cloud NAS, this involves the vendor providing a dynamic DNS service to aid in discovery of your router along with the use of SSL and other technologies to create a secure path to your router’s management dashboard.

It is also assisted with a client-side app for the mobile computing platforms so as to provide an integrated operational experience for your smartphone or tablet. This caters for items like access to the notification list, use of the interface style that is distinctive for the platform as well as the ability to get and put files according to what the platform allows.

Vendors who offer other cloud-based services would provide an application-level gateway in the router that ties in with these services and the devices that benefit from them. This is to provide a tight and finished user experience across all of their devices on your network, and is a way to keep you “vendor-loyal”.

Current limitations with this setup and what can be done

As we head towards cloud-capable network devices and add more of these devices to our networks, we will end up with a situation where we have to remember multiple Web addresses and user logins for each of these destinations. The manufacturers like D-Link would exploit this by integrating the cloud functionality for all of their devices or, more likely, devices within certain product ranges so that a user comes in to one entry point to benefit from the cloud functionality for that manufacturer’s device universe.

But the reality is that most of us would create a heterogenous network with devices supplied by different manufacturers and of different product classes. Here, one would have to keep a list of usernames, passwords and Web entry points or install multiple apps on a mobile device to benefit from every device’s cloud functionality.

Similarly, a manufacturer would be interested in evolving their “cloud-side” part of the equation for newer products but could place older products at risk of being shut out. Here, they could maintain the same functionality by keeping the remote access functionality alive and passing stability and security improvements to those of us who maintain the older devices.

Of course, working on systems that are true to industry standards and specifications like TR-069 for remote management can allow for pure interoperability and a future-proof environment. It can also allow for increased flexibility and the ability for third parties to provide the “cloud router” services with their own functionality and branding.

Send to Kindle

Taking the integrated access point practice further with Wi-Fi-capable client devices

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock – an example of a device that uses an access point for initial network setup

An increasing number of consumer-electronics and small-business devices that don’t have a large screen are repurposing their integrated Wi-Fi functionality as an access point as part of the setup routine. This is used alongside an integrated Web server and is mainly for when the devices are being integrated with a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t implement WPS one-touch setup.

But a lot of these devices also implement an Ethernet wired-network connection for use when there isn’t reliable Wi-Fi wireless-network connectivity. This function is used primarily as a product differentiator for the consumer printers but is common on a lot of “big-set” consumer AV equipment. This concept can be taken further in one of a few ways in order so that the Wi-Fi wireless network ability in these devices doesn’t go to waste, especially when the device is connected to a wired (Ethernet or HomePlug AV powerline) network segment.

Setups

Separate Wi-Fi logical network

One of these devices, typically a wireless speaker or printer, could implement a logical network that just serves the access point and run its own DHCP server. This could come in to its own where you just want the device to provide its function to portable devices in a walk-up manner but you don’t want the portable devices wandering on to the Ethernet-connected network or Internet service.

This may be a situation with a wireless speaker or a network printer where you want to allow the device to gain access to Internet and network resources or allow other network devices to have access to the device. But you don’t want people who use the device in a “walk-up” manner with unauthorised devices to maraud around the network or use the Internet bandwidth, which is something of concern with business users with larger networks.

Some of the wireless speakers like what Pioneer offers follow this pattern by working as their own networks so as to create an ad-hoc setup to get the tunes going in environments where a small Wi-Fi network segment isn’t in service. Pioneer achieves this through a switch on the back of the speaker which enables this mode specifically rather than for setup and this method could be exploited by other device manufacturers through a “permanent setup mode” where the speaker doesn’t stay in the setup mode if it succeeds in connecting to a wireless network.

Access Point

On the other hand, you could have the Wi-Fi functionality that is normally dormant when the device is connected to the wired network, become a simple access point. Here, this setup could come in to its own if the device is being used in an area where Wi-Fi wireless reception for your network is very difficult.

One classic example could be a smart TV that is installed in a secondary lounge area but this lounge area is out of reach of the main wireless router. Here, the Wi-Fi-capable smart TV can serve as an access point for the secondary lounge area and neighbouring rooms even while it is on standby.

This kind of setup could be simplified with a WPS-based “Wi-Fi Clone” function so you could switch to the access-point mode even if the device worked initially with the Wi-Fi segment. On the other hand, a device like a business-grade network printer could implement WPA2-Enterprise access point functionality in order to work with business-grade wireless networks.

As well, this functionality could be simplified by the device detecting the connection to an Ethernet network and asking the user if they want to operate it as an access point if the device was previously connected to a wireless network.

Wireless Client Bridge

In a similar context, the Wi-Fi and Ethernet network interfaces that these devices have could permit the device to become a wireless client bridge for an Ethernet-based device or segment. This would be of an advantage if the device is picking up a reliable strong signal from your Wi-FI network.

The classic use of this would be to provide network connectivity to a games console or Blu-Ray player from a Wi-Fi-enabled smart TV working with an existing Wi-Fi wireless network. Similarly a desktop computer in a remote room could work with the integrated Wi-Fi ability in a network printer for its network connectivity.

Simplifying the Setup Experience

The setup experience could be set up with the use of WPS-assisted “setup copy” routines and vacant-channel-seek routines for network integration. For “standalone segment” setups, the device could implement setup routines that are similar to carrier-provided wireless routers like SSID / passphrase stickers or cards.

This can be augmented through the use of nVoy technology which is intended to make the configuration and operation of small networks simpler yet giving these networks the ability to be like a big network.

Business-grade setup could involve support for WPA2-Enterprise functionality and multiple-SSID / VLAN functionality that are part of larger networks. This would be more relevant for printers or other devices that small business could take advantage of. It can be assisted with a technology similar to the original Windows Connect Now USB technology where parameters are transferred between devices using a USB flash drive.

Similarly the above technology could work hand in glove with Wi-Fi Passpoint technology in order to support the simple-yet-secure hotspot login technology that the Wi-Fi Alliance have proposed. This can work through the devices linking back to access controllers that implement this technology.

Conclusion

Manufacturers could take the concept of the integrated access point that is part of their network-capable devices and make sure that they don’t go to waste when these devices are connected to a wired network. Similarly, they could make sure that the wired network functionality doesn’t go to waste if a wireless link is exploited for network connectivity.

Send to Kindle

Gadget List–Best bets for setting the family house up for the Internet

Introduction

You may have read “Is it worth it to put full broadband in the family house”, which is an article that I wrote about going about setting up a fully-fledged home-network setup with wireline broadband at a house which ends up a “common property” for a family. Typically this place may be a house resided in by one or both of the parents or an occasionally-occupied “resource” property like a holiday house or city apartment.

Here I raised issues like the amount of “online” activity that would take place at this location, the availability of the full broadhand services including the packages and what kind of hardware to get if you go about this.

Your home network

Full broadband service

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

A router that is part of a full broadband service

Firstly, identify whether there is either a landline telephone service or a cable TV service in place at the “Family House”. To the same extent, it is worth identifying whether next-generation broadband is available at this location.

A landline telephone service with a regular telephone may be considered highly important due to the desire for a robust ermergency contact arrangement and will be essential to the operation of a medical-alert system if you are dealing with elderly parents who are at a fragile point in their life.

Here, look at the information provided by the telephone service provider or cable-TV company for packages which include the broadband Internet service along with the telephone or cable-TV service.  Some of these packages may also integrate mobile service for your parents or relatives living there. This is more so when you have elderly parents who are loyal to a particular service provider for most of their lives and are hesitant to change providers.

The cheapest Internet-service packages may only suit very casual Internet use such as daily email checking and Web-browsing where regular use of online games (Facebook games, MiniClip, MSN Games, etc) or multimedia (YouTube, Spotify, etc) aren’t part of that activity. A mid-tier service may be more relevant with a busy household, or regular use of Internet-based communications and entertainment like Skype, YouTube, Spotify or Internet radio is expected to be the order of the day. This also includes a “Family House” situation that has relatives or friends who are regularly stopping by as part of business travel or you have teenagers and young adults who regularly visit that location.

Internet Gateway Devices

This is an important piece of equipment when you are getting the “Family House” on to a full broadband service. Here, if you are supplying your own modem router for a cable or ADSL service, you can opt for “wires-only” / “bring-your-own-device” services where the provider can enable the device at the office rather than supplying the equipment.

Most modest retail-grade broadband routers and ADSL modem routers with simultaneous 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi LAN connectivity and four Ethernet LAN sockets would answer this need. If next-generation broadband is becoming very imminent, I would suggest that the router being purchased has Ethernet WAN connectivity and preferably have Gigabit Ethernet connectivity throughout.

You can get by with carrier-supplied equipment if it is known to work to a similar standard to the retail-supplied equipment. For example, if you are in France, you could get by with one of the newer triple-play “n-boxes” offered by Free or any of the other carriers there.

Network equipment

HomePlug AV segment

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch connected

The WD LiveWire HomePlug AV switch that fills in the network gap

A good practice with setting up the home network in this location is to create a HomePlug AV segment which uses the house’s AC wiring as its medium. This can be compliant to either the HomePlug AV 200Mbps standard or the newer HomePlug AV 500Mbps standard. The advantage of this medium is that it works on a wired medium without you needing to lay new wires, thus allowing you to set up a reliable semi-permanent network for fixed devices.

You can get going with this by purchasing a HomePlug AV kit and connecting one of the adaptors to the router and the other to another network device that uses an Ethernet connection in another room. These adaptors simply plug in to the nearest power outlet.

Here, the HomePlug AV multi-port switches like the WD LiveWire can come in to their own with clusters of AV equipment such as the TVs. This device provides a single on-ramp to the HomePlug AV segment for equipment like a smart TV, PVR and Blu-Ray player. As well, a spare single-port or multi-port “homeplug” adaptor can come in handy when you need to bring in a network-capable device on an “ad-hoc” basis. The example that I outline below is the situation where an adult child brings around a games console to either entertain the grandchildren or show off a game to his brothers.

HomePlug AV adaptor

A typical HomePlug AV adaptor that is worth keeping as a spare

Improving the Wi-Fi wireless segment

You may find that you don’t get good Wi-Fi wireless coverage across the house. This may be due to construction issues such as a thick brick or stone wall or extensive use of metal in the construction of a wall. Even the use of some heat-reflecting materials like Pilkington glass treatment or aluminium-lined insulation may affect radio waves that are part of a Wi-Fi wireless network.

You can answer this problem through the use of a Wi-Fi access point that is connected to your Internet router via a wired backbone such as the HomePlug AV segment. Infact there are some access points that connect directly to a HomePlug AV segment and effectively do their job as an extension access point.

On the other hand, you can repurpose an older router with the same wireless-network technology as your current Internet router as an access point. Here, you have to disable DHCP and allocate it a unique IP address within your network.

Computer equipment

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet

Sony VAIO Duo 11

Most portable and transportable computer equipment can work well in the “family house” to underscore the notion of lifestyle computing there. Here, I am thinking of the idea of using these computers around the house and out in the garden to manage email, news, media and similar activities.

  • Apple iPad (tablet, iOS, 10” 4:3 screen)
  • HP Envy x2 (detachable tablet, Windows 8, 11” widescreen) – review
  • Dell XPS 12 (convertible notebook, Windows 8, 11” widescreen)
  • Sony VAIO Duo 11 (slider convertible notebook, Windows 8, 11” widescreen ) – review
  • Toshiba Satellite U920t (slider convertible notebook, Windows 8, 12” widescreen)
  • Sony VAIO Duo 13 (slider convertible notebook, Windows 8, 13” widescreen)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet (tablet, Android, 10” widescreen) – review
  • Sony VAIO Tap 20 (adaptable all-in-one tablet, Windows 8, 20” widescreen)
    Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a desktop

    Sony VAIO Tap 20 – an example of an “adaptive all-in-one” computer

    review

  • HP Envy Rove 20 (adaptable all-in-one tablet, Windows 8, 20” widescreen)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 series (tablet, Android, 8.9” widescreen)
  • Google Nexus 10 Series (tablet, Android, 10” widescreen)

Printers

Network-capable multifunction printers work well for turning out hard-copy documents. Here, features like the availability of extra-yield cartridges as an option and auto-duplex (double-sided) printing are a must. As well, pay attention to units that use four or more ink cartridges and make sure that you can choose between standard-capacity and high-capacity cartridges so you can choose the capacity that suits the amount of usage your machine is going to have but cater for particular seasons of use.

Fax-capable printers can work as a good substitute to those economy “plain-paper” fax machines that use a thermal-transfer ribbon to print on to the paper which can be costly to run.

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one inkjet printer

  • HP Envy 120 inkjet all-in-one (review) – a neat stylish all-in-one with duplex printing and its own email address
  • HP Photosmart 7520 inkjet all-in-one with fax – an elegant option that can offers photo printing, colour faxing and separately-replaceable cartridges so you can get rid of that old half-dead costly-to-run fax
  • Brother DCP-J925DW inkjet all-in-one without fax (review)  – an elegant machine that has basic A4 duplex print and a photo tray
  • Brother MFC-J825DW inkjet all-in-one with fax – similar to the DCP-J925DW but is equipped with the colour fax functionalityBrother DCP-J925DW multi-function printer
  • Brother MFC-J4410DW inkjet all-in-one – low-tier version of the MFC-J4710DW reviewed on this site

DLNA Home Media Network

The home network offers up plenty of resources for entertainment and, in some cases, communications. Here, it could be to create a reserve of content that can be “pulled up” and played at a moment’s notice or you simply pulling in content from an online resource like a catch-up TV service, Spotify or an Internet stream hosted by a radio station in your home country or country you love so much.

Network Attached Storage with DLNA

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS - an example of an entry-level NAS

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS

A network-attached storage device allows you to store and retrieve data via the network without having to keep a computer switched on all the time. Similarly, the computer doesn’t underperform due to it handling data that it keeps for other devices.

The ability to use common standards to add and view content is very important. For example, using the SMB standards to transfer content to and from a NAS is important if you use a portable computer based on a regular-computing operating system like Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. Similarly, you can add a file manager to most Android and iOS devices so you can transfer files out between these devices and a NAS.

The DLNA requirement is important for whenever you want to gain access to audio, photo and video files from that smart TV or Blu-Ray player.

  • WD MyBook Live
  • Seagate Central
  • Seagate GoFlex Home (review)

Some Internet gateway devices have the ability to be connected to a USB hard disk and work also as a network-attached storage device. These typically provide SMB-compliant file transfer from regular computers and also have DLNA and / or iTunes media server functionality.

TV or video peripheral with DLNA and / or Skype

Here, I am covering either Internet-enabled TV sets which come in to their own if the goal is to upgrade one of the TV sets, especially any set installed in any of the main living areas. On the other hand, I would recommend using Internet-enabled video peripherals like Blu-Ray players / home-theatre systems, games consoles or Skype cameras where a TV is working very well and satisfying the current needs for the area it is installed in.

  • Most recently-built Samsung, Sony, LG or Panasonic smart TVs. These sets come with online video, DLNA player / renderer, and Skype functionality on most currently-built units, if not all of the units of the popular screen sizes. You could even consider the Skype cameras that the manufacturers make available for these sets so you can run them as a large-screen Skype videoconferencing terminal which is a feature I recommend for families separated by distance.
  • Panasonic Blu-Ray players especially the DMP-BDT220 which offers Skype and DLNA at a reasonable price for a good-quality machine even with the TY-CC20W Skype camera. The Panasonci SCC-BT480 Blu-Ray home-theatre system and similar models in the Panasonic lineup are enabled for Skype and DLNA, which can be of value if you are factoring in a home theatre system with the speakers in to the equation. These use the same Panasonic Skype camera to work as a Skype terminal and exploit the speakers so you can hear the people whom you are talking to clearly. More expensive models in this lineup offer the Viera Cast smart-TV functionality so you can enable other TVs to become smart TVs and have access to online content.
  • The Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray player (review)
    Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

    Sony BDP-S390 Network Blu-Ray Player – a Blu-Ray player that adds DLNA to an existing TV

    and the newer Sony Blu-Ray home-theatre systems add smart-TV functionality and DLNA connectivity to existing TV sets. But they don’t offer Skype connectivity which may put you back if you are thinking of Skype on your TV at affordable costs. The mid-range and premium Sony Blu-Ray players also are Skype ready with the same optional Sony camera if you are considering this function for your TV set.

  • The Logitech TV Cam HD Skype camera which simply adds Skype functionality to most flat-screen TVs.

Games consoles

Sony PS3 games console

Sony PS3 games console – best brought around as needed

You may think of keeping a games console connected to a TV at the “Family House” but this may work if you have a TV in a secondary lounge area and the console is going to be used by the grandchildren. On the other hand, one of the adult children who owns a games console can bring it to the “Family House” on an as-needed basis and connect it up to the TV there especially if the idea is to entertain the younger children.

But they would need to have it be part of the “Family House’s” home network and this setup routine for the Wi-Fi network only needs to be done the first time a Wi-Fi-equipped console is used there. On the other hand, the previously-mentioned spare “homeplug” can come in handy for linking a console that has an Ethernet socket on it to the home network. Of course, some older people may find that the games console would be difficult to use, including playing a game or navigating the user interface. These are best used when you are with the younger people who regularly play games on these devices.

Network-enabled music systems, wireless speakers and receivers

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled micro music system

Sony CMT-MX750Ni 3-piece music system

These music-system and receiver suggestions can fit the bill of you want something that can play content held on the DLNA-capable NAS or take advantage of online media resources such as Spotify or the “new short wave” i.e. Internet radio.

  • Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system. (review) This system has FM and DAB+ for regular broadcast radio, a CD player as well as an iPod dock. But it can work with DLNA-hosted media content as well as online music services including Internet radio.
  • Sony CMT-SBT300WB music system – This is anther 3-piece music system that follows on from the CMT-MX750Ni music system but uses Bluetooth local connectivity as an audio path as well as being able to connect to your home network and supporting AirPlay functionality for Apple devices.
  • Denon CEOL and CEOL Piccolo music systems (review).
    Denon CEOL music system (Image courtesy of Denon)

    Denon CEOL music system

    These systems work as part of the DLNA Home Media Network and can pull in online music sources including Internet radio and Spotify. They also have an iPod dock and support Apple AirPlay but the CEOL also has a CD player and FM radio tuner.

  • Onkyo TX-8050 Stereo receiver. If you are thinking of a stereo receiver rather than a home-theatre surround receiver, this Onkyo unit can also provide access to
  • Most home-theatre surround-sound receivers that are placed in the mid-tier of the market also come with home network abilities including DLNA, Spotify, Internet radio and the like.  But listening to audio-focused content on a lot of these systems typically requires you to use the TV to navigate for the content.
  • Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock (review).
    Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

    Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

    This is one of a few iPhone speaker docks that connect to the home network as a wireless speaker for Airplay and DLNA-capable mobile devices or an Internet radio, yet yield that high-grade sound.

  • Boston Acoustics MC-i200 Air wireless speaker (review). One of a few wireless speakers that excel on the sound but works primarily with your home network.
  • Denon Cocoon speaker docks – A more affordable speaker-dock setup that doubles as an Internet radio or can accept the popular iPhone 4S or iPod Classic.
  • Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker (review) – A DLNA / AirPlay wireless speaker that can be used around the house and doubles as an Internet radio
  • Sony SA-NS510 portable wireless speaker (review) – A highly-portable DLNA / AirPlay wireless speaker with Internet radio functionality that runs on its own batteries thus being appealing for the garden or other outdoor use.

Network audio devices

NAD C448 network media tuner

NAD C448 network media tuner connected to an amplifier

These units can be connected to a regular stereo or home-theatre system via a vacant line-level input to serve as an audio-focused network media player. They also have an integrated broadcast-radio tuner which you may use in lieu of the FM or AM tuner that is part of your system or could replace a regular tuner component for broadcast-radio reception.

  • Sangean WFT-1 FM/DAB+/Internet network audio tuner – An economical way to add digital broadcast radio, Internet radio and network-hosted audio to your sound system
  • NAD C448 FM/AM/DAB+/Internet network audio tuner – The first “full-band” hi-fi tuner and network audio adaptor with serious hi-fi credentials
  • Onkyo T-4070 FM/AM/DAB+ Internet network audio tuner – Onkyo’s “full-band” tuner and network media adaptor for the hi-fi system
  • Denon DNP-720AE FM/AM/Internet network audio tuner – A similar “FM/AM/Internet” tuner with network media playback for the hi-fi system.
  • Yamaha CD-N500 Network CD player – This CD player can come in handy with a sound system or speaker dock by being able to play CDs as well as tuning in to Internet radio or playing content held on your network-attached storage

Conclusion

Of course, there are better and newer devices that would fill the needs for a house that either serves as an older parent’s residence or commonly-resource property as well as a family hub.

Send to Kindle