Sunday, March 21, 2010

Master of My Domain

Yes, that’s right, I am Master of My Domain. Oh, it wasn’t easy. It took 7 years of hard work, but I am finally Master of My Domain. At long last, the home networking project is complete. You didn’t think I was talking about something else, did you?

It all started back in 2003 when I rewired the house. It took about 3 months, but I replaced every last inch of wire, along with a new mast, main disconnect, and a first floor and second floor sub-panel. All new outlets, switches, and ceiling fixtures. I did a first-rate job and it was all done with a permit and even exceeded what was code at the time because I installed the new arc-fault breakers in the upstairs bedrooms. If it hadn’t been for one faulty GFCI outlet I would have passed inspection on the first try {Damn you GFCI outlet! Damn you to hell!!!!}

The second floor sub-panel is in the attic, so I needed to pull a 3-wire, 2# cable (think Romex on steroids) from first-floor sub-panel, up through the first floor, up through the second floor, and in to the attic. It was no small feat. The butler’s pantry was already thrashed, so I ran the cable up through that wall, and then through the wall of the attic stair-well. At that time, I also pull two networking and two coaxial cables up in to the attic.

So now fast-forward to 2 years ago when I did the butler’s pantry. I built a ventilated cabinet and installed a Steren Home Networking panel with snap-ins for networking, cable TV, and phone. At that time I also ran cable for those items to the kitchen and front parlor. I used face-plates with keystone jacks in the rooms.

All of this time though, the coax and networking cables have been hibernating under the floor in the attic close to where the sub-panel is. The cable has been waiting to be fed down to the four upstairs bedrooms. Two weeks ago I started to finish this last part of the puzzle and as of today I am Master of My Domain. Not only is the home-networking finished, but I can honestly say that I am finished with wire altogether.

If you read back through this blog I am sure you will find about a dozen places where I have proudly exclaimed that I am finished with one project or another, only to find me writing about it again a few months or a few years later. Well not this time. I am DONE with wiring this house. If an outlet stops working then I refuse to fix it. Anything beyond a burned out light bulb and it will just stay that way until I sell the house or die, which ever comes first.

Above is the attic sub-panel. Attached to the old redwood board with a 1901 Eureka newspaper glued to it is, starting from the right, a Cisco 5 port network switch, a 5 port telephone splitter, and 2, 4 port cable TV splitters. The cables, both in and out, are all run under the floorboards (1X12 redwood planks) so this is the extent of the cable you see.

Now, at this point many of you are asking one of two questions, and maybe even both. First off, why 2 cable TV in each room. Well, I don’t really have a good answer for that. Years ago when I bought all of the equipment I bought the face-plates with room for 4 jacks. I knew that one would be telephone, one would be network, and one would be TV. What to do with the forth. I thought about just keeping it empty and covering the hole with a blank, but that would throw off the symmetry. Somehow I made the decision to go with a second coaxial cable, thinking that someday I could find another use for it. Once you have walls open and you are pulling cable, one more doesn’t matter all that much. Trying to do something after the fact, would never happen.

The second question is, why do cable at all. Why not just go wireless. Well, I wouldn’t be doing wireless cable TV, so there is one cable. I don’t own a cell phone {Gasp!}, so I need phone lines. As for wireless networking, in my opinion it is not reliable enough and the protocols change too often. For instance, my new wireless N router works well with my new netbook, but the wireless G card in my older notebook can’t connect to it. The desktop computer does not even have a wireless card. I’ve also noticed that the only place I can get a good connection over the wireless router is in the kitchen. In there I can get up to 90%. In the front parlor, 2 rooms away, I hover between 60% and 70%. So at some point I had to make the management decision to either pull cable or not. If I’m going to do it, now is the time to do it.

Each bedroom gets one of the these lovely little things on the wall. Oh, the white plastic is sooo Victorian, isn’t it? That is phone and network on top and two TV on the bottom. If anybody asks why there are 2 jacks for TV, I won't give them the reason above. Instead, I'll just say that I like to watch two shows at one time and none of my TVs has picture-in-picture.