Network Connectivity Devices Archive

4 years of the Freebox Révolution benchmark in France

Article

Bilan: la Freebox Révolution a quatre ans | Freenews (French language / Langue Française)

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution – 4 years old (à quatre ans)

My Comments

As a consequence of the highly-competitive triple-play communications service market in France, Free had developed one of the “n-boxes” that has a lot more that is expected for this class of carrier-supplied equipment. Now this device, known as the Freebox Révolution, which is available in just about all of France for EUR€29.95 a month as part of a very tasty triple-play pack, has reached its fourth anniversary.

I have given a fair bit of editorial space to the Freebox Révolution including citing it as an example device in an article about setting up for Internet in France. This is due, not just to its exciting Philippe Starck design but due to the increasing amount of functionality that this device has come with and received over the four years. Here, Free kept with a program of frequent firmware updates which weren’t just about fixing up technical problems but were also about adding functionality to these devices, some of which I have drawn attention to on HomeNetworking01.info.

The Freebox Server was more than just a VoIP gateway with DECT base-station and wireless broadband router. Here, it had DSL and fibre support on the WAN side of the equation and a 250Gb NAS. There was even the ability for the unit to be a media player for Apple AirPlay, DLNA or online media, including playing audio content out via integrated speakers or through external active speakers. The LAN side had a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch along with 2.4Ghz three-stream 802.11n Wi-Fi, but the Freebox Révolution comes with power-supply units that have integrated HomePlug AV-Ethernet bridges. The newer iterations had been upgraded to HomePlug AV500 and the Wi-Fi on newer releases was upgraded to a dual-band dual-radio variety. Let’s not forget that some of the newer variants even came with a Femtocell that provided local mobile-phone coverage for your home as part of Free getting their paws in to a mobile-telephony service.

Firmware upgrades even had the Freebox Server acquire full Apple compatibility along with being a VPN endpoint router and one of these upgrades was fashioned as the “Freebox OS” with an interface very similar to a newer Linux distribution, one of the mobile-platform operating systems or something you would get with one of the newer high-end NAS devices. The server functionalities included UPnP AV / DLNA, Apple Time Machine, iTunes Server and a BitTorrent server, known as a “seedbox”.

The Freebox Player which served as the “décodeur” for the IP-based TV component of the triple-play service was infact a “full-blown” 3D Blu-Ray player, games console and digital-TV tuner. The gaming functionality was part of an app-store that Free operated, which was to the same standard as most smart-TV platforms, if not better. This device was also controlled by a “gyroscopic” remote control which communicated to it via Zigbee RF technology and supported “gesture-driven” operation. Lets not forget that this was a DLNA-capable media player which gained MediaRenderer functionality from a subsequent firmware upgrade. This device also served as an Internet terminal for the TV screen and even had the ability to interact with most online services courtesy of either the Web view or a native-interface “front-end” that came with one of the firmware upgrades or downloaded from the app store. There was a firmware update that give the Freebox Player “Shazam-like” song-identification abilities.

The Freebox Révolution raised the bar when it came to the concept of a premium triple-play “n-box” offer with the competitors offering systems that had very similar functionality and aesthetics. Examples of these include Numéricable’s La Box and the Neufbox Évolution. As well, I had a casual conversation with someone who came out from France and they even mentioned about someone they knew having one of these devices and being impressed with what it could do.

For me, I have viewed the Freebox Révolution as the flag-carrier for the competitive French Internet market because of the way the carriers can add more value to the equipment they supply their customers. In this way, I would place this device alongside the TGV or the Channel Tunnel as a symbol of French technological progress.

Happy Birthday, Bonne Anniversaire, Freebox Révolution!

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What is an ideal home network?

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

A wireless router that is part of a full broadband service

A home network needs to support both a wired and wireless local-area-network path for many different reaons. If you just use a wireless-only home network, you are exposing everything to the vagaries of the radio technology that the wireless network is all about such as interference to or obstruction of these radio signals. As well, a lot of sessile devices like desktop computers have the antenna and radio circuitry for the wireless network functionality located towards the back of the equipment and this can cause interference for equipment that uses a metal chassis.

It would be ideal to implement an Ethernet + wireless setup with a Wi-Fi network of at least 802.11n dual-band multi-stream specification providing the wireless coverage and Gigabit Ethernet wiring pulled through the house to all of the rooms. But a lot of factors can get in the way of this ideal such as the cost to pull Cat5 Ethernet wiring through an existing house or factor in Cat5 Ethernet wiring to each room in a new building.

On the other hand, I would head for a wireless + HomePlug powerline setup or one covering wireless, Cat5 Ethernet and HomePlug. Here, I would use at least 802.11n dual-band multi-stream technology for the Wi-Fi wireless segment and at least HomePlug AV500 for the HomePlug powerline segment. Using all three paths, where I include Gigabit Ethernet to some rooms like one or two of the main living areas, the office / den area and one or two bedrooms along with the other two technologies. This could create a home network that covers the house on what would be effectively a “beer budget”.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor press picture courtesy of Devolo

Let’s not forget HomePlug as a network connectivity tool (European setup)

In some environments like a multiple-building setup or a network in a commercial building or apartment block, I would consider implementing HomePlug AV2 MIMO technology to assure reliable operation.

Why a wired and wireless network setup?

A wireless link provided by the Wi-Fi segment is to primarily serve the mobile and portable devices that are intended to be located on a whim. Whereas a wired link provided by Ethernet and/or HomePlug AV is to serve the devices that are normally fixed by providing reliable network connectivity to these devices.

Another advantage is to set up an extra wireless access point to increase your wireless network’s coverage. This can do that job better than the typical wireless network range extender because this setup can supply full wireless-network bandwidth in the remote area due to the use of a wired backbone rather than a weak wireless network with all the vagaries of radio.

Why include HomePlug AV even if Ethernet wiring exists?

WD MyNet Switch rear Ethernet connections

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

HomePlug AV can serve as an “infill” solution for a wired no-new-wires setup especially if you find that you have to locate a normally-fixed device in an area that is further from an Ethernet infrastructure socket. This can be of importance if you have to shift it temporarily to suit a new need or you have network-capable devices in an area where you didn’t factor the need for Ethernet connectivity in the first place.

This could also allow you to work an Ethernet wiring setup on a “beer budget” with a few rooms covered and use HomePlug AV or similar technology to provide wired connectivity to other rooms. Similarly, you may have a part of your house that is separated from the rest by a thick wall made of brick, masonry or cinder-block where the Wi-Fi network won’t perform past that wall and it is prohibitive to pull Ethernet or other wiring past that wall. Here, the HomePlug AV technology “takes it past” the obstacle.

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Solwise to provide a HomePlug AV2 adaptor with integrated power outlet

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Solwise

Product Page PL-1200AV2-PIGGY

My Comments

Solwise have released some earlier HomePlug AV2 adaptors for the UK and Irish market but they have come up with a HomePlug AV2 MIMO “three-wire” adaptor which has an integrated UK-standard power outlet. Of course, this firm have been known about pushing the HomePlug powerline-networking concept along with advanced Wi-Fi wireless networking in the UK market.

The Solwise PL-1200AV2 HomePlug AV2 adaptor implements the “three-wire” MIMO concept that HomePlug AV2 has facilitated where it can use the “Active (Line / Phase) + Neutral” and the  “Active (Line / Phase) + Earth (Ground)” wire pairs as data transfer pairs. This is to allow for robust data transfer and higher throughput, but I would place doubts on this working across the three wires with building-to-building HomePlug AV2 setups where an outbuilding that is wired for AC may be earthed independently. Let’s not forget that each HomePlug AV2 device works as its own repeater in order to increase the robustness in this segment or push out over larger areas. But it can be of benefit if you are considering this “wired no-new-wires” technology in a large apartment block or a commercial or industrial building.

This Solwise HomePlug AV2 adaptor also has an integrated 2-port Gigabit Ethernet switch which can provide an “on-board” to the HomePlug AV2 segment for two wired Ethernet devices. One advantage with this is that it could serve a desktop computer and a network-capable printer or a NAS; or serve a smart TV and a Blu-Ray player or PVR. Personally, I would like to eventually see a variant that has the 3 Gigabit Ethernet sockets as a switch, to cater for home AV setups. The integrated power socket makes sure that you are not forfeiting a power outlet just because you want to have HomePlug AV2 connectivity.

Personally, I would see a lot more coming about with HomePlug AV2 as a robust “wired no-new-wires” network setup with Solwise advancing the cause for the UK market.

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MoCA wireless access point–at least

Article

MoCA 2.0 WiFi Adapter Announced. Good Luck Getting One  | SmallNetBuilder

My Comments

Teleste has premiered the first wireless access point / Ethernet switch that can work with the MoCA TV-coaxial-cable network backbone.

In a nutshell, MoCA is based purely on 75-ohm TV coaxial cable used in cable-TV distribution systems and TV-aerial (antenna) installations. It is totally different to the older 10Base2 coaxial Ethernet system because it is not dependent on the cable being properly terminated with resistors at each end, rather catering for the norm with these setups which commonly have sockets with nothing plugged in them, perhaps to cater for portable or transportable TVs.

It has an 802.11ac access point and an Ethernet switch but is intended to refresh on a previous MoCA-Ethernet bridge that the same company offered. The common question is where are they available to consumers who have an established MoCA backbone? It is because Teleste only sell these devices to cable-TV installers to onsell to their customers.

For MoCA to work properly, there needs to be an increased retail availability of hardware like MoCA-Ethernet adaptors and access points. This is so that customers who have established TV-aerial or cable-TV infrastructure in their homes or offices can make use of this as a wired no-new-wires network backbone.

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HomePlug AV500 now available with newer Freebox Révolution

Article (French language / Langue Française)

De nouveaux Freeplugs à 500 Mbps pour la Freebox Révolution | Freenews.fr

My Comments

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

Freebox Révolution now available wiht HomePlug AV500

The Freebox Révolution is the first wireless modem-router to support software updating to 802.11ac through its latest software update (mise à jour). But both the Freebox Server and Freebox Player came with the “Freeplugs” which are power supplies that integrate a HomePlug AV bridge in their functionality. This is typically to link the Freebox Player in the living room to the Freebox Server in the study or home office.

Both the “Freeplugs” were compliant to the HomePlug AV specification which worked the link at a best-case line speed of 200Mbps. This is although there are many HomePlug AV500 devices that can work the link to 500Mbps and are compliant to the IEEE 1901 specification for powerline local area networks.

Free have raised the game for the Freebox Révolution by delivering newer systems with “Freeplug” power supplies that work to the HomePlug AV500 specification rather than the older HomePlug AV specification. The only problem that I see with this is that customers who own an existing Freebox Révolution can’t easily purchase these adaptors as accessories for their existing setup i.e. they are only available to customers who are upgrading existing equipment or establishing a new installation. Personally, I would recommend that they be sold as aftermarket accessories for existing users.

On the other hand, you could use separate HomePlug AV500 devices to link these boxes while the existing Freeplugs are used simply as power supplies. This could allow you to use a uninterruptable power supply with the Freebox Server to avoid loss of telephony when the power goes down.

At least this is another example of the Freebox Révolution being considered cutting-edge for carrier-supplied consumer-premises equipment especially in an Internet-service market that has healthy competition.

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APC releases a UPS targeted for your router

Article

This Compact Device Keeps Small Electronics Running On | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

APC

Product Page

My Comments

An uninterruptable power supply that I have previously recommended for use with routers, modems and the like was the APC Back-UPS ES series of UPS devices. This was typically for households who live in areas where the power supply may not be stable and they end up having to reset the equipment at the network’s edge in a certain manner every time the power goes down.

Now APC have issued a new and cheap UPS device specifically targeted at modems, routers, VoIP ATAs and the like in the form of the Back-UPS Connect 70. This 75-watt / 125 VA device is sold for US$50 and has enough power to service laptops or these other devices. You could even think of running more of these devices to allow you to support different loads such as one servicing a router, modem and VoIP ATA and another one servicing one or two consumer-tier NAS units.

At the moment, it is only available as a 120V unit for the North-American market, but personally I would like to see the arrival of a 240V unit targeted at the European market at least. This is more so with the French market where the Freebox and similar “n-boxes” are there to provide telephony and Internet service and are dependent on a reliable mains supply.

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AVM hardens consumer router security with latest FritzOS version

Article (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

AVM kündigt FritzOS 6.20 mit neuen Sicherheitsfunktionen für Ende Juli an | ZDNet.de

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

Press Release (English / Deutsch)

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

Previously I had covered AVM being the first consumer router manufacturer offering automatic firmware updates for their router products. Here, this firmware, known as FritzOS 6.20 will have this feature and be rolled across most of their product lineup.

But it will also have the ability to notify users of newer firmware being available along with identifying ports that are open and who logged on or off the management user interface.

What AVM have done is reacted to an industry-wide issue with consumer and small-business routers running old unpatched firmware, typically the software that is “out-of-the-box”. This is often found to be a security risk due to software exploits or vulnerable configuration setups not being rectified even though manufacturers do rectify this through newer firmware updates which the customer has to download and deploy.

A step in the right direction for idiot-proof home network security

As well, they are throwing in enhanced Wi-Fi hotspot, VPN endpoint setup functionality and Web based access to shared storage in to this firmware. It is becoming a sign that firmware integrated in an Internet gateway device is being treated by the device manufacturers as an operating system along the same lines as what you would run on a computer, tablet or smartphone. This means having a continual upgrade program to rectify any bugs or vulnerabilities, allowing for hands-off or one-touch software deployment and even adding functionality in a device’s life.

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Solwise offers an in-wall multi-function access point for £33.68

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Solwise

IP-W30AP product page

My comments

Solwise have released another of the wall-mount wireless access points which are initially pitched at the hotel and bed-and-breakfast trade. But in their sales copy, they were also pitching it at those of us who want a neat installation for that extension access point in our home network.

The IP-W30AP access point can create an 802.11g/n 2.4GHz dual-stream Wi-Fi segment and also has an up-front Ethernet socket. It connects to the host network using a rear-mount Ethernet socket and is powered by 802.3af-compliant Power-Over-Ethernet. As well, there is an RJ11 pass-through telephone socket so you don’t have to have a separate outlet for your landline phone.

But, to cater to today’s people, they have provided a USB charging socket for use with charging smartphones, external battery packs, Bluetooth headset adaptors and similar gadgets. This would be able to work at 500mA which would satisfy overnight charging of most of these gadgets but wouldn’t work well with tablets like the iPad or just work in a way to avoid compromising these devices’ battery runtime.

As for this device’s power supply needs, Solwise have you covered with a power injector or, as I have covered before, you could bring this access point on to a HomePlug AV500 segment with their Power-Over-Ethernet-capable “homeplug”.

Being pitched to the hotel installation, this device can support the sophisticated VLAN setups with multiple SSIDs mapped to different VLANs. On the other hand, it doesn’t have the ability to support WPS-based “push-to-connect” device enrollment – this would be something you would have to do at your home network’s main router. As well, they could make available a simultaneous dual-band variant that can exploit the 5GHz band either to 802.11n or 802.11ac standards.

For home network users, this device would come in handy as an extension access point for installations where you are wiring for Ethernet and need to bring Wi-Fi in to the “other part” of the house. This is more so with those houses that implement thick walls or foil-lined insulation where the Wi-Fi wireless network wouldn’t perform properly. Similarly, this would work well for that “guest-house” bungalow or similar building where you are wanting to “go the extra mile” and wire for Ethernet as part of establishing a multi-building home network.

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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.

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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.

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