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JeffS

Occasional Visitor
Hi folks,

I have been puzzling over the best way to implement a new network in my home. Here are the "zones" and their equipment that needs connecting via wireless between the zones.

Office:
3 PCs, 1 Netgear ReadyNAS, 2 networked printers, all on a gigabit switch.
Wireless 11g bridge (netgear 606 print server I think) to the cable drop

Cable drop:
Nothing here except the cable modem & 11g wireless router (WRT54G)

Living room:
PS3 (11g)
Wii (11g)
TiVo (11g)

Den/other:
11g-based laptop and an audio system with Airport Express audio (11n version running in 11g mode)

It's all working fine now, except that I need faster streaming to the PS3 from the office, and I want to add Airport Express audio to the living room and maybe a couple of other places. Oh, also, the PS3 can't reliably see the NAS. I read someone else's comment that they had a similar problem when the PS3 and NAS were behind two wireless links (office Netgear 606 bridge -> WRT54G -> PS3)

Every zone needs to have access to the Internet, and the living room needs to have access to the NAS.

I am considering setting up a 5GHz 11n network alongside the existing 11g network by adding Airport Expresses to the living room, office, and other places where I want AE audio. The PS3 can plug into the living room AE's Ethernet port, bypassing the PS3's internal 11g. The Wii and TiVo can stay on 11g- not ideal for TiVo-To-Go, but probably acceptable. The laptop can also stay on 11g. My iPod Touch, which is used as a remote for Airport Express audio (which works extremely well and is absolutely fantastic- saved me from buying a Sonos!), also runs on 11g. So I need to keep decent 11g performance.

However, I can't find any performance data from SNB on the 11n Airport Express, and I do have concerns about 5GHz transmission through a couple of walls and/or a floor. The good news is that each zone is no more than about 30 feet away from anything else.

As previously mentioned, I would just move everything to 2.4GHz 11n except for the poor 11g client support. I don't want to use powerline because a power surge or lightning strike will then bypass my UPSes and surge protectors. (Why does nobody ever mention that?) Powerline is also out because I'd lose the link during power outages. My wireless router and cable modem today are on a UPS. Can't plug a powerline device into a UPS as far as I know.

I believe that in the office if I keep the 606 11g bridge and plug an Airport Express into the gigabit switch in the office, the AE can then route the internet to the PS3 (Internet -> WRT54G -> 606 bridge -> Gigabit switch -> office Airport Express -> living room Airport Express -> PS3). This will get me fast data from the office NAS to the PS3 as well as fast enough Internet streaming since my cable modem maxes out at 10Mbps anyway.

The WRT600N would be a decent choice at the cable drop, but with it going end-of-life and looking pretty ugly, too, I am wondering about the WRT610N instead. Unfortunately I can't find the WRT610N for sale yet locally.

I may need to upload a drawing of all of this, as I realize it's pretty complicated.

To summarize:

Need a fast link from office to living room.
Need good 11g performance throughout the house.
Need Airport Express support at multiple locations, including the living room.
Need wireless link from office to cable drop.

So- thoughts?

Jeff
 
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I had a friend in a roughly similar scenario 6 months ago - very connected home needing a 'little more' throughput everywhere (as well as adding another proprietary 2.4GHz home automation system, and plans for lots more to come in the coming months). We ended up pondering a few different solutions, but at the end of the day, the solution we didn't even consider at first ended up winning. We called an electrician to find out how much it would cost to have him run a couple Cat5's. It didn't end up being much ($80 a drop). $100/drop was the most expensive we found (and this is in a housing market where electricians are in very high demand).

I know this kind of goes against conventional wisdom now that wireless is so highly available and cheap, but unless you live in a gestapo-controlled condo or apartment that don't allow you to run some low voltage wiring upon penalty of death, I personally think it's worth your time to call a few electricians up and see what they'll charge per drop. I don't know if this fits for you, but sometimes people instantly write-off running some wiring, when it's usually very easy and in most scenarios (at least as far as I've noticed) not terribly expensive. This ended up simplifying things a lot and I think cost around the same as a couple AP's and bridges that would have been needed anyway.

Reading your post reminded me of this and hence the suggestion. I don't immediately have suggestions for your situation otherwise, sorry.
 
I forgot that caveat...

Hi Scotty,

Thanks for your suggestion. I failed to mention that major restriction. I would love to be able to run cables around the house. Unfortunately, it's not physically possible. The house has no attic, the lower level is on a concrete slab, and the floor/ceiling between the first and second floor is solid 4" thick tongue-and-groove wood supported at 8 foot intervals by 12"x4" cross-section Douglas Fir beams. (Our home is a modernist post-and-beam-construction dwelling.) So there's literally nowhere to run hidden cables, and exposed cables will look ugly.

It's funny- I guess the house *is* more connected than I thought when starting this project. Since most of the gadgets run on 11g, it's been largely plug-and-play.
 
It's all working fine now, except that I need faster streaming to the PS3 from the office

Define "faster". What is your real measured throughput now and what do you need?

and I want to add Airport Express audio to the living room and maybe a couple of other places.
Shouldn't be a problem as far as bandwidth. Audio streaming is 100kbps or so a stream

Oh, also, the PS3 can't reliably see the NAS. I read someone else's comment that they had a similar problem when the PS3 and NAS were behind two wireless links (office Netgear 606 bridge -> WRT54G -> PS3)
You really don't want this. NAS throughput through one wireless link kills throughput bad enough. Two is probably making it slow and flaky as hell.

Every zone needs to have access to the Internet, and the living room needs to have access to the NAS.
I would think that all clients need access to the NAS. Maybe you mean fastest access?

I am considering setting up a 5GHz 11n network alongside the existing 11g network by adding Airport Expresses to the living room, office, and other places where I want AE audio. The PS3 can plug into the living room AE's Ethernet port, bypassing the PS3's internal 11g. The Wii and TiVo can stay on 11g- not ideal for TiVo-To-Go, but probably acceptable. The laptop can also stay on 11g. My iPod Touch, which is used as a remote for Airport Express audio (which works extremely well and is absolutely fantastic- saved me from buying a Sonos!), also runs on 11g. So I need to keep decent 11g performance.

However, I can't find any performance data from SNB on the 11n Airport Express, and I do have concerns about 5GHz transmission through a couple of walls and/or a floor. The good news is that each zone is no more than about 30 feet away from anything else.
This is worth a try, assuming you're going to buy the Airport Expresses anyway as networked music players. But given your heavy wood construction, you might find that throughput is ok for music (it's low bandwidth), but unsatisfactory for the PS3 (depends on what you want
for bandwidth).

I believe that in the office if I keep the 606 11g bridge and plug an Airport Express into the gigabit switch in the office, the AE can then route the internet to the PS3 (Internet -> WRT54G -> 606 bridge -> Gigabit switch -> office Airport Express -> living room Airport Express -> PS3). This will get me fast data from the office NAS to the PS3 as well as fast enough Internet streaming since my cable modem maxes out at 10Mbps anyway.
If the office is closer to the Living room, why not move the NAS there?

The WRT600N would be a decent choice at the cable drop, but with it going end-of-life and looking pretty ugly, too, I am wondering about the WRT610N instead. Unfortunately I can't find the WRT610N for sale yet locally.
If you're going to worry about end-of-life, don't by any tech gear! :)
Seriously, draft 11n gear will continue to be obsoleted quickly as manfs drive down cost.

I may need to upload a drawing of all of this, as I realize it's pretty complicated.
Sure would help. Help us help you. At least a floorplan showing the key locations.
 
Tim,

Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Define "faster". What is your real measured throughput now and what do you need?
That is a fair question. What I do know is that 1080p from the NAS to the PS3 is not playable- maybe a couple of seconds of video before it has to buffer. I need to do some searching on the best way to measure throughput.


Shouldn't be a problem as far as bandwidth. Audio streaming is 100kbps or so a stream
Yes, although I plan to stream uncompressed WAV files. Still shouldn't be a bandwidth issue, though.


You really don't want this. NAS throughput through one wireless link kills throughput bad enough. Two is probably making it slow and flaky as hell.
Yes, I have to say you're right about that.


I would think that all clients need access to the NAS. Maybe you mean fastest access?
Well, the main clients that need the NAS are in the office. The TiVo requires a PC with client software for TivoToGo, and the laptop is a corporate machine that can't access my LAN anyway. The PS3 is the only wireless client that needs the NAS.


This is worth a try, assuming you're going to buy the Airport Expresses anyway as networked music players. But given your heavy wood construction, you might find that throughput is ok for music (it's low bandwidth), but unsatisfactory for the PS3 (depends on what you want
for bandwidth).
Yes, I may just have to give this a try.


If the office is closer to the Living room, why not move the NAS there?
That is a fair question. The NAS is used for two purposes: (1) photo storage for the office PCs, and (2) shadow backup of office PCs. The photo access means I need the gigabit wired connection to make application responsiveness acceptable. It's nearly as fast as using internal drives, or at least it's fast enough. And, by the way, I love this ReadyNAS Duo, which I selected based on SNB's great information.


If you're going to worry about end-of-life, don't by any tech gear! :)
Seriously, draft 11n gear will continue to be obsoleted quickly as manfs drive down cost.
Yes, very true. This is only a problem because I can't buy it locally to try it out, and the 610 isn't in the stores yet. I'll wait for your review of the 610 before picking one up, though. I just don't trust those internal antennas. There must be a reason the external antennas on the 600 are so big and ugly.


Sure would help. Help us help you. At least a floorplan showing the key locations.
I'll get one uploaded soon.
 
Floor plan drawing

Okay- here's the floor plan.

As you can read, I could move the cable modem to the living room, but there's nowhere handy to hide it, its UPS, and the router. Right now it's on top of a kitchen cabinet, so the WRT54G is physically high up in the house, and it's out of sight. The kitchen is directly above the living room, and I could theoretically get a network cable between the two of them, but there's no way to cable the office to anywhere else.

Also, it's not drawn quite right: the kitchen and den are only about 10' apart, although the drawing would suggest they're 34' apart. All three rooms are on the same floor, with the living room on the lower level.

Thanks everyone!
 

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Thanks for the floorplan. Helped a lot.

That is a fair question. What I do know is that 1080p from the NAS to the PS3 is not playable- maybe a couple of seconds of video before it has to buffer. I need to do some searching on the best way to measure throughput.
NetMeter is a pretty easy way to do this. Temporarily connect a computer with a 1080P file and PS3 via Ethernet. Then run NetMeter and play a file. I think uncompressed 1080P bit rate is going to be in the 10-20 Mbps range. This is beyond what 11g can give you, given your setup.

You're probably getting between 5 and 10 Mbps. You could measure that using Jperf.

Well, the main clients that need the NAS are in the office. The TiVo requires a PC with client software for TivoToGo, and the laptop is a corporate machine that can't access my LAN anyway. The PS3 is the only wireless client that needs the NAS.
Then you want to leave the NAS where it is.

So this boils down to the need for a link that can reliably support close to 20 Mbps bandwidth between the office and living room. If you go wireless, the only thing that can do it is draft 11n on both ends of the connection. This means a draft 11n bridge.
Choices are the D-Link DAP-1522, DAP-1555 (not tested) and Netgear WNHDE111. The WNHDE111 is 5GHz only, but worked well. The DAP-1522's 2.4GHz performance was flaky.

It's too bad that you're ruling out powerline. It would probably be a more reliable and faster connection than wireless, and cheaper too.

Last suggestion is to run the drop between kitchen and living room. That will at least get one wireless hop out of the equation. But given the 1080p bandwidth requirement and 11g wireless, I'm not sure it would be enough.
 
What about Airport Expresses?

Hi Tim,

Thanks. Yes, I guess in the end that's what it boils down to.

Since I am installing an Airport Express in the living room anyway, I will also temporarily put one in the office to see how well they work as a 5 GHz bridge. Am I correct that the Airport Express (11n) is not on the Wireless Charts? I also expect these devices are sensitive to placement.

I believe I could also use a dual-band, dual-radio device in the office so that the office stays connected to the Internet via 11g and is bridged to the living room via 5GHz 11n. That would make for a short list of candidates. I need to check to see if the WRT600N or 610N use a chipset that matches the Airport Express 11n.

I will also consider the bridges you suggest. Getting to a dual-radio box would be nice for space savings, but I can do two boxes if necessary.

Thanks very much.

Jeff
 
Right. We haven't reviewed the draft 11n Airport Express. Apple is pretty selective for reviewers.

Good catch on matching draft 11n chipsets, but bad news. The Airport Extreme uses Atheros XSPAN. The Linksys routers use Broadcom Intensifi. The Airport Express uses Marvell TopDog. I'm surprised by this, since I thought that Apple had gone with Atheros for all of its draft 11n stuff.

Your plan is the best right now, since you're going to be buying the Airport Expresses anyway. Apple products lock out 40MHz bandwidth in 2.4 GHz, so you don't have to worry about that. You can try 2.4 and 5 GHz and see which works best.

Like all wireless products, the Express will be sensitive to placement and home construction.

Please let us know how you make out.
 
Thanks

Tim,

Thanks. I really wonder how the average consumer figures any of this out. Any time I'm in the networking section of an electronics store, there are a number of baffled customers, and they're not even getting into details like chipsets. They're just trying to sort out the marketing hype.

I'd be happy to lend you one of my Airport Expresses if you're interested in testing it.

Jeff
 
I have another possible solution. What about buying a single drive NAS and connect it to the router in the kitchen. Set up the two NAS devices to be synronized (or a subset, maybe just music for example). Since performance isn't critical, the two wireless bridges may not be such an issue.

See attached.
 

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