Category: Network Management

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.

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It could be touch-to-connect for Wi-Fi devices very soon

Article

WiFi Alliance adds support for NFC | NFC World

My Comments

Two “quick-setup” features that I have liked are coming together very shortly for wireless routers and network-enabled devices. These features are being exploited by device manufacturers who want to be part of the level playing field and desire to see innovation.

One of these features is the WPS-PBC “push-to-connect” functionality where you invoke a WPS setup option on a client device you want to enrol then press the WPS button on your wireless router to “enrol” your client device in to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment. This feature has made it easier to bring new Windows  7/8 computers, Android mobile devices amongst most other Wi-Fi-capable devices in to a home network without having to transcribe in long WPA-PSK passphrases. I even set up one multiple-access-point network to allow this to happen on both access-point devices when I was fixing up network-connectivity issues. Similarly, I was pleased with a TP-Link TL-WPA4220 HomePlug wireless access point that used “Wi-Fi Clone” to learn network parameters from an existing Wi-Fi network segment at the push of a WPS button so it can be quickly set up as an extension access point.

Another feature that I am pleased about is NFC-based Bluetooth pairing. This is primarily used on most Sony Bluetooth-capable devices but other manufacturers are increasingly enabling it. It allows you to touch your phone or computer to the Bluetooth-capable device to instantly pair and connect both these devices. When I bought the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headset adaptor with FM radio, it didn’t take me long to “get going” with this device because I simply touched my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android phone to it to achieve this goal.

Now the Wi-Fi Alliance have merged both technologies and defined NFC “touch-and-go” setup as part of WPS-based wireless network setup standards. This functionality was seen as part of a “long-tail” vision for the WPS secure-network-setup standards with routers having to support the PIN-based and “push-to-go” methods. They defined a framework based around certain access-point and client chipsets including the Google Nexus 10 Android tablet. For that matter, Android, Linux and Windows 7/8 users could find this functionality either as a small app or “baked in” to an operating-system update.

This is another innovative step that will assure quick setup for Windows and Android devices with small-network Wi-Fi segments especially as most of the recent crop of these devices are equipped with NFC “touch-and-go” functionality and Wi-Fi connectivity.

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Network-enabling vehicles and boats–the challenges

Range Rover Sport

The home network to eventually be part of the car

Article

How To Network-Enable A Bus | Lifehacker Australia

My Comments

This article talked about implementing a 3G / Wi-Fi network in a Sydney transit bus to facilitate the Opal “touch-on touch-off” smartcard ticketing system in these buses. But it may also apply to other realities such as Internet access in the car or the car being part of the home network. This is being taken further with the desire for access to online or hard-disk-based infotainment systems that are likely to become the norm for today’s vehicles whether as a factory-supplied option or something installed after the fact.

Moving between different areas

Pleasure-boats at a marina in Melbourne

Even pleasure-boats will be considered as part of the networked world

One major issue is that the vehicle will be required to move between its primary network which could be your Wi-Fi network in your home or a marina’s Wi-Fi network to an Internet service provided by a mobile-broadband service. Here, this will require effectively a smooth switchover between these different services in order to provide a smooth Internet connection to network-connected devices such as an online-capable infotainment system and / or a small Wi-Fi network within the vehicle or boat.

The uneven power situation in vehicles

Another challenge is the power issue. Here, if the vehicle’s or boat’s engine isn’t running, the car battery is supplying the power from a finite resource and there also has to be a sufficient amount of current left in the battery to start the vehicle. But when you are starting the vehicle, there is a significant current dip that occurs while the starter motor is in operation. This is something you may notice where your car’s interior light will dim as you are starting the engine and you have one of the vehicle’s doors open. Once the engine has just started to run, there will be a surge of current which is typically limited by various regulator circuits in all of the vehicle’s equipment.

Ignition key Expected Power condition for network devices
OFF (key can be removed) Devices are expected to run at bare minimum from the battery to support standby functionality
ACCESSORIES (usually used to allow the car radio to be played without the engine running) Devices are expected to run at full power from the battery
ON Power spike occurs just when the vehicle has been started, but devices run at full power off the engine’s alternator.
START Power dip while the starter motor is being operated

 

How was this worked around?

The installation was based around a customised Netcomm router that worked between a particular Wi-Fi network at the depot or Telstra’s 3G mobile broadband when on the road. This router was shoehorned to cope with the abovementioned power issue encountered in vehicles and boats most likely with a significant amount of extra circuitry so that it draws the minimum amount of current when the ignition is off but draws its normal amount while the engine is running. This extra circuitry also is about the provision of a regulator to allow it to cope with the current dip / surge that occurs when the bus driver turns the key to start the engine.

Vehicle builders like BMW, Chrysler, Ford and GM who have worked on the “online vehicle” have developed in-vehicle network equipment from the ground up when developing prototype or production in-vehicle routers for these projects. Typically these would have a mobile broadband setup as the primary setup and have perhaps a WI-Fi LAN for use with tablets and similar devices as well as a specialised Ethernet setup for the online infotainment setups.

In the context of the online personal vehicle or boat, it will mean that if the vehicle is at home, it can connect to the home network and do an update process for maps, AV content and similar material. Then when you are on the road, you could gain access to Internet-hosted content like traffic information, current “open/shut” status reports of nearby businesses, the location of cheapest fuel prices, and audio content from online services like Spotify or Internet radio.

This issue will be faced further as the in-vehicle network becomes as much a must have for vehicle enthusiasts as the souped-up car sound system. It will mean the availability of aftermarket routers that are designed for in-vehicle use along with connection standards for aftermarket infotainment setups that work online whether with a smartphone or their own network / Internet access.

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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.

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Olympus’s voice recorder that works with a smartphone via Wi-Fi

Article

You Can Start and Stop This Wi-Fi Voice Recorder From Your Smartphone | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Olympus America

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

When I mentioned about the digital cameras in my first report on the Consumer Electronics Show 2014, I had gave a brief mention to the Olympus DM-901 digital voice recorder which is able to exploit Wi-Fi wireless network technology. The question that could be raised is whether the recorder works as its own wireless network or is able to be part of an existing small wireless network such as a home network, a phone’s “personal hotspot” or a Mi-Fi’s local network.

This recorder uses Wi-Fi alongside a smartphone app to provide it with remote-control ability. For example, when you are recording a presentation, you could place the recorder on the podium or a piece of furniture near where the speaker is and choose where to sit rather than always having to be “up the front” with your recorder to make sure it’s recording properly.

There is also the ability to upload pictures you take with your smartphone to the recorder in order to create a visual index. This would be relevant when you are taking pictures of the slides shown in the presentation or items that are being demonstrated through that presentation or you take a picture of someone who is giving their report in a multi-speaker meeting.

The recorder also has the ability to upload recordings to Dropbox for cloud-based archiving or sharing but I would also like to see this be extended to the ability to upload to SoundCloud or other audio-sharing services.

Like most of the good-quality voice recorders, the Olympus has the voice-recording optimisation abilities which include 2 high-grade microphones with “zoom microphone” function that also ramps up the recording level, along with a voice-balancing algorithm to balance between loud and soft voices.

There is the 4Gb on-board storage but the Olympus has an SDHC card slot so you can record to SD cards and have separate SD cards for each project you are working on. The 4Gb on-board storage can allow for 850 hours of lowest-quality recording (WMA 8kbps mono). There is a high-quality PCM recording option along with the microphones having a 70Hz-20KHz frequency range that may get you by for basic live-music recording needs like recording a child singing or playing the piano. The battery can run for 29 hours recording on a single charge which will give you room for some of the big audio note-taking projects.

Personally, I would like to see future generations of this recorder also have Bluetooth A2DP or DLNA-over-Wi-Fi playback abilities so you can play the recorder through the new crop of wireless speakers for a larger room-filling sound yet have a wireless link. Similarly, a model with an external microphone input or line-level input could come in handy if the goal is to obtain a better recording from a PA system’s microphone. The Wi-Fi functionality could also be augmented with direct support for PassPoint-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots because of the prevalence of hotspots at meeting venues and hotels.

But what I see of this is a cutting-edge voice recorder that offers functionality that wouldn’t be offered on this class of device.

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Don’t forget HomePlug powerline networking in your home network setup

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor – part of a wired no-new-wires segment that is worth considering

I have often seen network setups pitched especially at consumers as to be the wireless network. Typically this is about an 802.11n Wi-Fi segment hosted by a wireless router with 802.11n range extenders used to boost the signal coverage out further. Having a wired backbone for one of these networks typically has us thinking of Ethernet as the way to go but if you want it to look neat, you have to have the Ethernet cable pulled through your home which only works well if you are building or renovating your home.

Another technology that is easily forgotten about is HomePlug AV powerline-network technology. This technology uses the AC wiring in your home as a wired-network backbone. This initially existed in the 1.0 format with 14Mbps data transfer and graduated to 85Mbps. Now it is available as a HomePlug AV setup which works at 200Mbps or a HomePlug AV500 (IEEE1901) setup that can work at 500Mbps.

Just lately, there have been the arrival of HomePlug AV2 devices that provide increased robustness for the data as well as working at 600Mbps or 1.2 Gigabit speeds in newly-released varieties. The increased robustness comes about due to each device on the HomePlug segment serving as a repeater as well as use of all three wires including the “earth / ground” wire of the AC wiring setup for the data transfer.

Similarly, choosing a HomePlug adaptor with a built-in AC socket can lead to more reliable operation due to the fact that he integrated AC outlet is filtered in a way to prevent electrical noise from the device you plug in to it getting in to the AC current. This noise, typically generated by a lot of switch-mode power supplies used in today’s electronics, can impair the data communication on the HomePlug network segment that is sharing the same AC line.

The devices typically come in HomePlug-Ethernet adaptors with some of them having a multiple-port Ethernet switch in them and, in the UK especially, a HomePlug-Ethernet adaptor which directly plugs in to the wall and has one Ethernet socket is typically referred to as a “homeplug”. This means that you connect your computer, router or other network device to the HomePlug device using an Ethernet cable.

It is worth noting that a few HomePlug-Ethernet adaptors are appearing that also work as Power-Over-Ethernet power-sources according to the 802.3af or 802.3at (high-power) standards. This means that they can supply power to network-connected devices that take power via their Ethernet connection and it leads to one cable between these “homeplugs” and the network-connected device as well as not needing to consider extra power for these devices. The key applications that these adaptors serve well would be Wi-Fi access points, IP-based surveillance cameras or VoIP desk telephones where there is a desire to run one thin wire to these devices.

There are also a few HomePlug devices which have an integrated Wi-Fi access point along with an Ethernet connection and these are pitched at the idea of extending the coverage of your Wi-Fi wireless network segment without losing the bandwidth available which happens with wireless range extenders.

Where do I see the HomePlug powerline network fit in

I see this network fit in as a supplementary “wired no-new-wires” network segment suitable for a variety of reasons. For example, if you aren’t wiring your premises for Ethernet, you can use a HomePlug segment to provide reliable wired network connection for normally-sessile devices like smart TVs and video equipment, printers and the like. Even if you do have an Ethernet segment, you can use a HomePlug powerline segment as an infill measure to cover parts of the house that you don’t have Ethernet connections in.

HomePlug comes in to its own with a temporary wired network where you don’t want to use extra cables. This comes in to its own when you are repositioning furniture on a trial basis before you commit to calling in electricians to pull Ethernet sockets for your new setup; or a small shop where you want to shift the POS system during a sale or special event. As well, HomePlug comes in to its own as a wired network for rented premises where you are not allowed to or it’s not worth the resources to pull extra wiring through the walls.

There are even some places where HomePlug technology is the only cost-effective network technology to assure premises-wide network coverage. These are where a place has, for example, a very thick dividing wall or remnants of a disused fireplace, that is not worth the cost and time to pull wire through and Wi-Fi wireless networks will not perform adequately past that wall.

HomePlug link between house and garage

HomePlug – to connect the man-cave to the main house

In some cases, HomePlug can work well with linking an outbuilding like a garage, barn or cabin / granny-flat to the main house’s network and Internet connection. I have even successfully set up one of these arrangements successfully to link a garage that was purposed as a “man-cave” to the home network and Internet that existed in a suburban home.

What needs to be done

Retailers and Internet service providers need to do their bit to promote HomePlug technologies and the concept of having two or more network media in a small network. This includes using a wired backbone and access point to “push out” a Wi-Fi segment or using something like HomePlug to connect your home theatre to your home network.

One positive step that is taking place is nVoy which allows a single point of control to apply between Wi-Fi, HomePlug, MoCA and Ethernet to allow for “best case” data transfer and simplified network configuration. Here, this could come in to its own with creating the business-grade “extended service set” for the Wi-Fi segment where you have two or more access points connected to an Ethernet or HomePlug backbone and with the same SSID and security parameters. Once this is established in the marketplace, there needs to he help with exposing the reality of complementing network media providing the home network that works smoothly.

How to give this a go

One device and situation you could target with HomePlug AV in your existing network would be your games console or smart TV and setting this up to work with this technology when bridging it to the home network. This is more so if you haven’t wired your home for Ethernet or haven’t put an Ethernet connection where the TV currently is.

Similarly, repositioning your Ethernet-capable network printer to somewhere where it looks better to you and suits your needs better could be a chance to implement a HomePlug network setup in your network.

Here, it is simply about giving the HomePlug powerline segments a go as a “wired no-new-wires” medium to connect devices to your home network and is something I underscore on this Website.

This article has been updated on January 2014 but has been updated to reflect the existence of HomePlug adaptors that can power network devices using Power-Over-Ethernet. As well, I have added a use-case regarding linking an external building like a garage or barn to the main house’s network and Internet connection.

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802.11ac Wi-Fi network specification now a standard

Article

802.11ac Specification Is Final | SmallNetBuilder

My Comments

There is a lot of Wi-Fi wireless-network hardware out there that is compliant to the 802.11ac wireless-network specification but this equipment is built on a draft version of that standard. This standard uses the 5GHz band to offer around very high data transfers with rates that are even close to Gigabit Ethernet speeds. Some of us may be loathe to buy or specify the earlier equipment due to it not working well with equipment from different vendors due to the earlier draft standards.

But this week, the IEEE standardisation body have called the final version of the 802.11ac specification a final standard which is capable of even working to 7 Gbps. To make sure that your current 802.11ac equipment works to this standard, it is worth checking at the manufacturer’s Website for newer firmware that implements the final version of this standard.

Similarly, it would be the time to be able to buy or specify 802.11ac wireless-network equipment that works to the final standard or is able to work to that standard after a firmware update. As far as rolling out or improving your wireless network is concerned, the 802.11ac-compliant wireless router or access point can work with 802.11n clients at the 802.11n speeds but I would recommend these are set for any n/ac compatibility mode.

For that matter, this announcement has not come at a good time as the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas due to the plethora of home and small-business network equipment based on this standard being launched there. The next milestone would be for Intel to embed this technology in to their Centrino wireless-network chipsets to work with the latest laptops. Welcome to lightning fast Wi-Fi multimedia on your tablet or Ultrabook.

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Even small businesses can benefit from a standard operating environment

Article

Even small businesses can benefit from a standard operating environment

My Comments

HP Elitebook 2560p at Intercontinental at Relto, MelbourneWhat is a standard operating environment?

A standard operating environment is a set of hardware and software specifications required for computer systems operated in a business or other organisation. This can range from a particular hardware build for the regular computers, through a particular version of the computer’s operating systems to the mix of application software that runs on these computers including the version of these programs.

Small businesses who run a few computers may find the concept of a standard operating environment very foreign because their IT situation tends to work on an organic basis. This is typically where computers and peripherals are purchased one at a time on an “as-needed” basis.

Where is this often seen?

Large organisations who maintain many computers run the computers on a standard operating environment in order for make the task of deploying or supporting these computers easier for the organisation’s IT staff. Some of these organisations also place value on the standard operating environment as a way to assure system and organisational security along with employee productivity.

Similarly, IT contractors and value-added resellers who set up computing environments for small businesses such as POS systems for retail work on a standard operating environment when supplying these systems. This is more so if the systems are being offered on a “turnkey” basis.

Why is this advantageous

The advantages offered by a standard operating environment mean that it is easier to diagnose problems that crop up on these computers, train users on how to operate these computers and deploy any newer computers.

This is facilitated with practices like installing software on a new computer from a baseline disk image that you keep or specifying to an IT supplier the make-up of your machines that you are buying. The use of group policies and similar functions supported by the desktop operating systems can be used as a tool to lock down the standard operating environment.

There is also the ability to test new software on a few machines to “smoke out” any problems with the software or test-drive new hardware specifications before you call it as being part of your environment.

Can multiple standard operating environments exist?

You can create multiple standard operating environments for particular computer-usage functions.

One way this can be achieved is through a “modular” standard operating environment that has a baseline specification for hardware, operating system, Web browser, security, office-productivity and other software; along with a list of other software that matches the computer’s function such as accounting, video-editing or other software. This would work well if your computing equipment is based on the same platform such as Windows or Macintosh.

Another way would be to create a few standard-operating-environments which can pertain to particular hardware platforms such as creating a Windows environment, an Apple Macintosh environment and an Android tablet environment. These would appeal to organisations that work with different platforms based on their prowess.

What to avoid

Inability to roll out system-improvement patches and updates

A mistake that can be easily made with a standard operating environment is to “freeze” the software specification to the exact version you are running. This habit may preclude the deployment of critical updates, security patches and other incremental revisions  that are necessary to keep a system that runs smoothly and is secure in your business environment.

There was a situation where a video-surveillance system with cameras that ran older firmware that couldn’t work with anything newer than an older version of Windows server. This system’s server which was on its own network with the cameras had been compromised due to a weakness in the software.

To avoid this, make sure that when you call a standard operating environment, you use the major versions of the software as your defined versions. As well, assess the standard operating environment every few years so you can run newer software in to the equation.

Systems that shirk the established software interfaces and device classes

Another mistake that can occur is avoiding updates or upgrades that don’t touch established interfaces for hardware and software.

Currently, we are seeing class-wide interface specifications for particular hardware and software like the Mass-Storage Class, Audio Class and Human Interface Device classes for USB connections; A2DP/AVRCP Profile, Headset/Handsfree Profile and Human Interface Device Profiles for Bluetooth; along with SMB/CIFS, DLNA and WebDAV for network-based setups.  These have allowed the use of devices that do the job better with a standard operating environment because it is feasible to upgrade the devices to suit one’s needs without deploying new software that could break the setup.

This is also important as newer hardware that will supersede your existing hardware becomes part of the equation and you find existing hardware approaching the end if its useful life. Here, you may have to run software components to allow your legacy software to benefit from the industry standards or, as I have mentioned before,, factor in the industry standards when you revise the standard operating environment.

How to go about it

This could be applied by using “downgrade rights” for operating systems that are supplied with computers if your organisation runs an earlier version of that operating system. It can also include buying equipment from the same dealer such as a business-focused computer store rather than Harvey Norman or the like.

Also identifying a “mix” of hardware and software that is working together yet is able to take the latest updates and patches that assure security, stability and performance can be a useful method for determining a standard operating environment. For a small business, this could mean identifying a computer like a laptop that you can tolerate as a “testbed” computer and using that to take updates before organising mass updates.

Similarly you can use this machine to test-drive new software versions to see how they run and whether it is worth it to deploy them in to the standard operating environment. This, along with flexibility to use particular productivity-boosting tools avoids the creation of a standard operating environment that is reminiscent of that ordinary old Ford station wagon.

One way that I would prefer for establishing a standard operating environment is to call a baseline software specification for each computing platform you are using i.e. Windows, MacOS X, etc. This covers the operating system and the desktop productivity suite that you run with. As for the class of computer to use, you could call a baseline specification for the different hardware classes such as desktops, laptops, etc. For function-specific software, you can then call a mix of software that does the job to full effect and this may be assisted by an IT contractor which focuses on the business class you are representing.

Conclusion

The idea of a standard operationg environment can come in to its own when your business matures and you start to acquire a significant number of computers and could be a way to describe a business “growing up”. But there needs to be a proper way of going about it and allowing for software performance, security and stability updates.

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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.

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How to consider the online future when doing up that old house or apartment

House that may be fixed up

A house of the kind that you may buy to fix up

You have set a goal for yourself to buy that old house or apartment and move in to it with a view to improve it over the near term to make it more suited to you and your lifestyle. On the other hand, you want to buy a cheap old house, apartment or shop that isn’t in a serious state of disrepair; and “do it up” with a view to either sell it or rent it out at a later date.

These ideas may be brought on with the home-renovations TV shows and magazines, or you are a builder, architect or someone similar who has retired from the trade but want to “keep your hands busy” with a home-improvement challenge.

Of course, your effort will primarily be focused on a structurally-sound house with all of the deterioration removed from the house. You will also be targeting energy efficiency by replacing older inefficient fittings and appliances with newer efficient equipment as well as installing insulation. In some cases, you may also increase your project’s safety and security factor by making deck rails and the like compliant to new standards, installing smoke alarms or installing newer better locks on the outside doors.

Wiring infrastructure

But you would need to consider factoring in the online and networked life as part of this effort. This can be done by assessing the electrical and telecommunications wiring that is part of your house’s infrastructure. It also includes whether to plan a Category 5 Ethernet wiring infrastructure as described in an article I wrote about wiring your house for Ethernet.

Choosing your trades

When it comes to the time for you or your builder to choose the trades involved with your renovation project, you will have to pay attention to what your electricians are capable of. Here, it is important to know whether they are aware of today’s online lifestyle and are competent with making wiring suit this.

For example, most of the electricians who work with AV and IT wiring or do “connected home” wiring are more likely to work for the online lifestyle. Here, they are more likely to assess and work with telephony, Ethernet and similar wiring setups or see AC wiring from an “online lifestyle” view.

Wall plates and fittings

If your effort is centred on a house with particular fitting styles like the round fittings and you want to “keep the look”, it is a good idea to know of people who can source modern switches and outlets commensurate to the styles. Here, you have the advantage of safer and more modern designs that suit today’s requirements while you have something that blends in attractively with the look.

AC wiring

HomePlug AV adaptor

AC-wiring infrastructure that is in good order isn’t just safe but reliably serves as a wired no-new-wires segment with these HomePlug devices

The AC wiring in the house has to be in good condition not just to be safe and reliable but to reliably run a HomePlug AV segment over that wiring. This is something you would also tackle as you move the house towards modern reliable efficient appliances and equipment such as moving the heating away from oil and other inefficient fuels. Similarly your effort may also be about rewiring to accommodate newer power usage requirements like an increased number of appliances in use at one time.

I would make sure that the switchgear that is part of your AC infrastructure is up-to-date and reliable not just for safe electricity supply but also to allow a HomePlug AV powerline segment to operate in a reliable manner. As well as a fuse blowing too frequently or nuisance tripping from a circuit breaker, a HomePlug segment that exhibits unreliable or poor operation is also an indication of switchgear that has “gone to pot”.

The first thing to be aware of are older fuse boxes and consumer units that use the really old switchgear. This is more something you come across with older houses that haven’t ever been rewired or had a “shotgun approach” when it comes to maintenance of their electrical infrastructure. If a house has been recently rewired with newer switchgear, you are more likely to have reliable HomePlug network operation.

US readers will come across the Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter circuit breakers in their consumer switchboards as these are being mandated for most residential AC circuits as part of recent iterations of the National Electrical Code. There are some variants of these circuit breakers that use a capacitor across the power-supply bridge rather than an inductor and these work against a reliable well-performing HomePlug segment. A good practice would be to make sure that you have the AFCI circuit breakers that implement inductors across the power-supply bridge installed in the consumer switchboard where this type of circuit breaker is needed. Existing installations may require your electrician to “go over” your switchboard to install inductor-based AFCI circuit breakers in place of the capacitor-based types.

Telephone

As for reworking the house’s telephone wiring, you may have to set up a “top-down” approach for each telephone line. This is where you identify a “hub” close to the demarcation point for your telephone infrastructure and make this easily accessible from indoors.

Here, you can set up a central ADSL or VDSL2 splitter which is essential if you have an alarm system, especially a “full” monitored type rather than simple dial-out system is in place or you consider using a business telephone system. This also plays well for if you move towards a VoIP telephone system with an analogue telephone adaptor or Internet gateway with integrated IP telephony functionality like most of the “n-boxes” sold in France. It also works well for fibre-to-the-premises or telephony-via-cable-TV installations where a telephony bridge of some sort is to be in place.

The in-place wiring has to be assessed for reliability and quality to make sure that you aren’t dealing with wiring that will ruin reliable DSL operation or cause excessive noise on the phone system.

I would also see if you can get the telco to investigate the wiring from the exchange to the premises especially if the property is in a rural, regional or peri-urban area. This is because it is known for telcos to allow the wiring to “go to pot” because these areas aren’t considered “worth it” and an ADSL install may simply be just a DSLAM installed in the exchange. Flaky connectors may pass for a voice call but they impair the reliability of any data traffic like ADSL or fax traffic.

Ethernet

WD MyNet Switch rear Ethernet connections

8-port Gigabit Ethernet switch for use when you wire for Ethernet

An Ethernet backbone is a must when you are dealing with a large house especially a large country house or a house with a lot of interior walls that are made of brick, stone or similar material including brick or masonry fireplaces of the remnants thereof. But this option is worth considering for most mid-size and small houses if you can afford it. Here, this allows for high throughput network and Internet traffic across the house including working as a backbone for a multiple-access-point wireless network

In the case of a large house, an Ethernet backbone must reach at least a few rooms upstairs and downstairs and across the length of the large house. This could cover the office area and all of the lounge areas plus one or two bedrooms like the master suite. Smaller properties could allow you to just cover an office area and one or two of the lounge areas.

If you are wanting to read more about wiring for Ethernet, I have written a special article about wiring your premises for Ethernet and how to go about this. This includes covering a larger number of rooms or achieving the bare minimum along with two or more possible wiring layouts that can be used.

Positioning all the equipment

Here, you could identify a well-ventilated cupboard or similar space which you could use as a “hub” for your telecommunications equipment. This area would require plenty of wall space and the ability to install shelving where you can keep modems, routers, NAS units and the like. The wall space can play its part if you are using Ethernet switches and routers that can be mounted on the wall.

Some of you may prefer to position all of the equipment in the home office but this may require a way to conceal the equipment where aesthetics are desired. You could achieve this with an integrated cupboard similar to a wardrobe where you can store this equipment.

One goal with this area is to make sure that it is ventilatied in some form so as to allow the equipment to be kept cool. As well, make sure you have the outlets, including plenty of power outlets in that area. If you are doing anything with an existing in-place alarm system such as upgrading it, you could move the “panel” to that cupboard, but you would need to be sure there is enough room for the other network devices in this space.

Factoring in the online lifestyle

In the main lounge areas where you are likely to do a lot of TV watching, make sure that where there is the TV antenna (aerial) socket, there is an Ethernet socket if you integrating Ethernet infrastructure.. This is to cater for reliable operation of your smart TV’s online functionality. As well, the Wi-Fi segment should reliable cover that area especially as people use a smartphone or tablet as a “second screen” during TV watching or game playing.

At least one or two of the bedrooms should be considered important in the online lifestyle context because some households purpose these beyond a bedroom. For example, these may be used as a study / office or den / secondary lounge space. Here, you would need to make sure that an Ethernet outlet exists in this room if you run Ethernet infrastructure, while you have optimum Wi-Fi wireless coverage encompassing that room.

The private spaces are still important in the online lifestyle especially when you want to work on a project of some form alone. Here, the home-office or “den” is important as a private space. But you may find that another room or hall space serving as a secondary “study / office” area. Here, the secondary space should have reliable Wi-Fi coverage at least.

Conclusion

Once you tackle a home renovation job with the online lifestyle whether for yourself or as part of something that others can benefit from, you are able to be assured of reliable operation of the new technology that is part of your online lifestyle even though you keep the old place maintaining its charm.

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