Home network do-over

  • Posted: 22 October 2012 03:03 PM

    We did it! Our family has switched to Apple. I have a Macbook Pro. My wife an iPad. We have Apple TV on two televisions and both have an iPhone. I will replace my ereader with an iPad in the next year.

    My issue is this: My current router is barely cutting it. I want to upgrade my home network and have a few questions.

    One more piece of info. I had the great forethought to purchase a house that the previous homeowner wired for a home network. I have RJ45 jacks in every room, albeit often across the room from where our televisions, stereo and workstations are.

    With this in mind, I have the following questions.

    1) I have looked at Apple’s AirPort and Time Capsule products and wonder how they might best fit into my home network plans.

    2) Is it possible to run AirPort as a wireless router and have a wireless access point in another location (mainly I want better reception in the bedroom).

    3) I have a 2TB external hard drive I would like to attach to the network to access from my devices. Can this plug directly into the AirPort?

    Thanks for your help. As a Mac newbie, I have found your podcast invaluable.

    [ Edited: 22 October 2012 03:09 PM by John in Kansas City ]      
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    Posted: 23 October 2012 11:13 AM #1

    John in Kansas City - 22 October 2012 03:03 PM

    1) I have looked at Apple’s AirPort and Time Capsule products and wonder how they might best fit into my home network plans.

    That’s what I have. My house sounds like it may be smaller than yours (1850ft2 over two floors) so one AirPort will cover my place. I get plenty of signal everywhere though YMMV. I have my printer connected to the USB port, which works very reliably. Occasionally I use the RJ-45 connections for things I bring home to test. I’ve run everything from laptops to VOIP telephones through my AirPort with no problem.

    2) Is it possible to run AirPort as a wireless router and have a wireless access point in another location (mainly I want better reception in the bedroom).

    That is what we do. One Airport in the lower level of our house, I ran RG-58 to a spot near the middle of our house and put the modem from the cable company and the airport there. We get good signal everywhere. If you need to extend your WiFi network you will want to connect the second transmitter to the first with Cat5e/6. Wireless bridging works in theory but in reality I’ve found it to be iffy.

    3) I have a 2TB external hard drive I would like to attach to the network to access from my devices. Can this plug directly into the AirPort?.

    Theoretically yes. I tried it a few years ago by connecting it to the USB port and it worked but was finicky. More recently I got a Western Digital MyBook NAS (Network Attached Storage) that connected through one of the RJ-45 network ports. That worked more reliably however the drive itself was marginal and now I do backups with a USB drive I carry from system to system. I liked the NAS though and wouldn’t mind going back to it. That’s what the TimeCapsule essentially is. A big drive attached to the router that you can access from all devices.

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  • Posted: 23 October 2012 12:27 PM #2

    John in Kansas City - 22 October 2012 03:03 PM

    We did it! Our family has switched to Apple. I have a Macbook Pro. My wife an iPad. We have Apple TV on two televisions and both have an iPhone. I will replace my ereader with an iPad in the next year.

    My issue is this: My current router is barely cutting it. I want to upgrade my home network and have a few questions.

    One more piece of info. I had the great forethought to purchase a house that the previous homeowner wired for a home network. I have RJ45 jacks in every room, albeit often across the room from where our televisions, stereo and workstations are.

    With this in mind, I have the following questions.

    1) I have looked at Apple’s AirPort and Time Capsule products and wonder how they might best fit into my home network plans.

    We have the Time Capsule that works very well for us but we don’t have a wired house - just wireless. It’s a two-story 2600 sq. ft. house.

    2) Is it possible to run AirPort as a wireless router and have a wireless access point in another location (mainly I want better reception in the bedroom).

    I use an Airport Express to extend the network. I have it placed on the second floor in one of the bedrooms, and we get great reception there.

    3) I have a 2TB external hard drive I would like to attach to the network to access from my devices. Can this plug directly into the AirPort?

    I have a 500GB USB drive attached to the USB port on the Time Capsule. All the devices in the home can access it via the network. Additionally, I use Apple’s Time Machine software to do my backups and the latest version allows you to back up to the Time Capsule as well as the USB drive attached to it. Very slick.

    Thanks for your help. As a Mac newbie, I have found your podcast invaluable.

         
  • Posted: 23 October 2012 12:42 PM #3

    I never really got into Apple’s router products. Mainly because I’ve had to run very mixed ‘home’ networks for several years. By ‘home’ I mean shared living with non-family roommates. The primary advantage of an Apple router (Express, Extreme, or TimeCapsule) over a more generic brand is that it can keep Apple service lists (like Bonjour computer names) active and linked to the correct MAC/IP address, even when those computers are asleep or offline. This allows for easier Wake on LAN/WIFI setup for remote access.

    The other big advantage would be a printer connection. However I can’t find verification if it lets you turn a non-Airprint printer into one. It seems like it does not, so be cautious there. Basically even if you slap on any old printer your iOS devices may not be able to print to it. This seems like a serious oversight by Apple.

    In terms of NAS (networked attached storage) it really depends on what you want to use it for. I have a Mac Mini Server that plays the role of my NAS when I need one. For backups I still use directly connected external drives (actually one internal in my Mac Pro tower for “just in time” backups). Again no direct experience with Apple Airports, however I’d think the format of the device would be important. Hopefully the Airport should walk you through setup if needed.

    In terms of network drive access from your iOS devices the key word you’re looking for is WebDAV, which is a way of getting file access through HTTP. I use WebDAV shared folders a lot actually, It’s the primary way I get files to and from GoodReader on my iOS devices. It’ll also help with compatibly issues if you have guests with PCs that need network drive access. The documentation shows the Airports will allow drives to be accessed through WebDAV, which is good. Even if you don’t go the Apple route and get a different NAS, make sure it supports WebDAV.

    [ Edited: 23 October 2012 12:46 PM by Dorje Sylas ]      
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    Posted: 29 October 2012 11:38 AM #4

    Just chiming in here to echo what geoduck said about extending your network: The best thing to do is to have Ethernet connecting all of your routers and access points, and then let them each broadcast on their own. A few configuration tips:

    1) Set them each to diferrent *channels* (so the radios don’t overlap much, if at all). With 2.4GHz “separate” means 1, 6, or 11. The rest all overlap in between.

    2) Set them to the same SSID (or network name) and security/password. This way you can set your devices/laptops/etc to connect to your SSID and they will automagically connect to the closest base station as you move around the house.

    3) Ensure that only ONE device is in “router” mode (i.e. distributing IP addresses, managing NAT translation, etc) and that all the others are in “bridge” mode (i.e. just acting like “dumb” wireless access points and letting the router do all the routing work).

    That’s what I do here at the house & office and it runs quite smoothly.

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  • Posted: 31 October 2012 10:06 PM #5

    Thanks everybody. I’ve got my weekend project planned!

         
  • Posted: 02 December 2012 10:42 AM #6

    Dave Hamilton - 29 October 2012 11:38 AM

    1) Set them each to diferrent *channels* (so the radios don’t overlap much, if at all). With 2.4GHz “separate” means 1, 6, or 11. The rest all overlap in between.

    2) Set them to the same SSID (or network name) and security/password. This way you can set your devices/laptops/etc to connect to your SSID and they will automagically connect to the closest base station as you move around the house.

    OK for 2.4GHz only; but if you have a 5GHz network as well would you set that to same SSID and password?  I guess the question really is, if you did set 2.4GHz and 5GHz to same SSID and password would the clients choose the optimum network to connect to?

    Mike

         
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    Posted: 10 December 2012 11:06 AM #7

    ashpole - 02 December 2012 10:42 AM
    Dave Hamilton - 29 October 2012 11:38 AM

    1) Set them each to diferrent *channels* (so the radios don’t overlap much, if at all). With 2.4GHz “separate” means 1, 6, or 11. The rest all overlap in between.

    2) Set them to the same SSID (or network name) and security/password. This way you can set your devices/laptops/etc to connect to your SSID and they will automagically connect to the closest base station as you move around the house.

    OK for 2.4GHz only; but if you have a 5GHz network as well would you set that to same SSID and password?  I guess the question really is, if you did set 2.4GHz and 5GHz to same SSID and password would the clients choose the optimum network to connect to?

    I don’t recommend setting 2.4 and 5 to the same SSID because “Optimum” gets very subjective here. As we discussed on Mac Geek Gab 425, in *most* instances I’ve actually found 5Ghz to be slower than 2.4GHz (assuming both are running 802.11n). If you have a MacBook Pro or iMac or some other dual or perhaps tri-antenna (i.e. 2x2 or 3x3) setup, then 5GHz might be faster IF you’re in the same room, but with iOS devices we’ve found that even in the same room 2.4GHz almost always wins out, speed-wise.

    Obviously if you have interference or something on the 2.4GHz band, that’s different.

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  • Posted: 10 December 2012 11:47 AM #8

    Thanks Dave.  Yes, I heard 425 - IIRC, it was your son that did all the hard work on network speeds!

    Cheers,

    Mike

         
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    Posted: 10 December 2012 11:50 AM #9

    ashpole - 10 December 2012 11:47 AM

    Thanks Dave.  Yes, I heard 425 - IIRC, it was your son that did all the hard work on network speeds!

    LOL, yep, he did!

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    -Dave Hamilton / The Mac Observer / Mac Geek Gab / Dave on Twitter
    When you find a big kettle of crazy, it’s best not to stir it.