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5 Powerline Networking Devices Reviewed

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the floor-to-floor dept.

Networking 153

An anonymous reader writes "Most people who can't or won't hardwire for broadband have an obvious alternative: Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, there can be architectural anomalies between floors or even between rooms that can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, resulting in spotty, or even dead, signals. So what do you do? Well, you can try using a powerline device. Computerworld reviewer Bill O'Brien tests powerline units from Belkin, D-Link, Linksys, Netgear and Zyxel, and compares their performance to that of his wired and wireless setups."

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153 comments

I remember these... (3, Informative)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908791)

They used to be kind of squirrely, and WiFi was just so much better. But with the explosion of interference, it might be time to look again.

Re:I remember these... (1)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908945)

They used to be kind of squirrely, and WiFi was just so much better. But with the explosion of interference, it might be time to look again.

According to the article, they are still much slower than Wi-Fi. But as a poster below pointed out, these people in the article didn't do an array of comprehensive tests, but rather only opted for a single throughput test.

Re:I remember these... (2, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909193)

According to the article, they are still much slower than Wi-Fi.

They used 802.11n. The results are more competitive with b/g. (It might be tempting if you don't want to run cable but want the security)

Re:I remember these... (1)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910603)

Dual band 802.11n, not 2.4Ghz 11n, of course it was faster.

Nicest thing about moving to the country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26909029)

I used to have massive interference when I lived in town.

I bought 10 acres out in the country, but can still get 7Mb DSL (telecommute). And the lot is backed-up to a nature preserve and a tree farm on the other side.
I don't even worry about encryption. WiFi range isn't 10 acres. Zero interference.

Re:Nicest thing about moving to the country (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909187)

I don't even worry about encryption. WiFi range isn't 10 acres with the standard antennas

Fixed that for you. You might want to rethink your policy about not encrypting your connection because you are out in the middle of nowhere.

I used to work for a WISP. One day I was out in the field doing tests with a 24db directional antenna. My laptop automatically associated to my home network before I could direct it to connect to the network I was trying to troubleshoot. My house was a little over a mile away and the AP at home had the standard issue dipole antennas on it. Had enough signal strength to surf the web at full speed and transfer files off my server.

Moral of the story: Don't underestimate what someone can do with a high gain antenna. Encrypt your network or don't come crying to us when the Feds kick down your door after someone uses your network to download kiddie porn, pirate software or threaten to kill the President.

Re:Nicest thing about moving to the country (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909365)

Just a mile? You should see what us private pilots can pick up from 10,000 feet =) (yes, yes, I'm aware that's right around 1.5 miles)

Re:Nicest thing about moving to the country (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26909403)

I've built a few "custom" ants myself for wifi (highest gain was about 16db) and while they ar'nt much to shout about in the city, you may be picking up ssids from 1/2 a mile away or so but nothing useful, in the countryside they really come into their own,you can beaming shit 2 or 3 miles becomes trivial. I've seen a post once where some lads used a homemade parabolic reflector's and USB sticks to make a 300mile LoS link.

So yeah, in the country encryption is doubly important, wardrivers don't even need to be in the same county as you.

Re:Nicest thing about moving to the country (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911781)

never mind custom antenna, never under estimate random blind luck! I once got a connection from what i knew was a cheep linksys router from a distance of around 3 miles with an internal laptop antenna! only reason i knew what it was is i had done a service call on the darn thing the year before when i was working for a small ISP, and remembered the network name.

Re:I remember these... (1)

telchine (719345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909249)

I hate WiFi, I find it unreliable and worry about security.

I'd like to hear about the reliability and security of these devices. I'd be worried that my neighbours would be able to listen in over their power lines.

Re:I remember these... (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909309)

I'd be worried that my neighbours would be able to listen in over their power lines.

If your using cable and your cable provider doesn't bother to use BPI (Time Warner doesn't, in my area anyway) then they have a much more direct way to listen to your communications -- the downstream portion anyway.

Re:I remember these... (1)

TheCabal (215908) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909877)

I use some Netgear adapters at home. They've been rock solid for almost two years, after abandoning wireless for these due to my neighbors flooding the airwaves. The ones I have will encrypt the signal. Since they're older units, I believe they do DES, possibly TripleDES. The newer units are claiming to do 128-bit AES.

Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (3, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908827)

What about packet loss, ping, ping jitter and resistance to interference?

Bulk transfer is useful, but may not be important to gamers or people who want responsive.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (4, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908963)

How about they try turning on a toaster, microwave, dish washer, space heater or some other high consumption device as well? I played around with these back in the day and somebody turning on a toaster in the different room on a completely different circuit was enough to murder my connection.

There are still a few hitches. Here in the U.S., we tend to run split-phase wiring. The electrical service enters our homes as 240 volts made up of two 120V lines (or legs). Our 120V outlets are derived from tapping off one or the other of those 120V legs. As a result, you may not be able to network devices that are plugged into outlets on different legs.

Good catch on the different legs of split phase. Always wondered about that. Guess they can't use the ground wiring for some reason?

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909069)

Just make sure that a 240V device, like an oven or dryer, is on when you want to use the network.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (2, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909099)

Just make sure that a 240V device, like an oven or dryer

Shit, I have a gas oven and dryer. Guess I'm stuck with this crappy Cat5e infrastructure instead ;)

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909131)

I have both and can use these without problems,

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909371)

Just stick a 1 ohm 240W resistor between phases

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909395)

Damn - make that 57600W.

(Getting late)

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (2, Informative)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909929)

Guess they can't use the ground wiring for some reason?

Nope, because it's ground and is therefore tied to either your household plumbing or a large copper stake driven into the ground. You can't pick any signal off of it because of course anything attempting to transmit on it will simply be swallowed up.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (4, Informative)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911029)

Since the "ground", the third wire, the bare or green wire, properly known as the "grounding" conductor, is, at radio frequencies, somewhat separated from the "neutral", the white wire, properly known in a 120 Volt circuit as the "grounded" wire (it and the "grounding" wire are tied together at the meter base only)(it's only the "neutral" in a 240 volt circuit where you have 2 "hot" wires 240 volts apart and each 120 volts away from the neutral), you should be able to insert a radio frequency signal between the "ground" and the "neutral" and have the "neutral" act as antenna, which would solve the "are you on the same leg or not" problem, since the "neutral" is common to both 120 Volt sides.

Don't know how Underwriters Lab and the National Electrical Code folks would feel about it, though, or whether it might "confuse" Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters.

Anyway, I hope it works better than those NICs that used (or tried to) the telephone wiring--Home Phone Network Alliance, or something like that.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910553)

Good catch on the different legs of split phase. Always wondered about that. Guess they can't use the ground wiring for some reason?

For many reasons, not the least of which is that ground wiring is not guaranteed present, and is often wired wrong even when present (floating, hot, etc.).

And the different phases are not a problem. X10 et al solved this problem years ago, and the newer versions work for HomePlug as well. Or you can DIY if you feel adventurous.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910605)

Good catch on the different legs of split phase. Always wondered about that. Guess they can't use the ground wiring for some reason?

Because voltages are between two points in a circuit. If one transceiver is between ground and phase 1, and the other is between ground and phase 2, you don't have two conductors in common.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910697)

The Linksys units work fine across both legs of my house wiring.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911591)

Guess they can't use the ground wiring for some reason?

I'm not an EE but I don't think a grounded medium will transfer electromagnetic waves. Even a "grounded antenna" isn't directly grounded, but has a ground wire running near it, but with an insulator separating them.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (4, Informative)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909051)

I have a Linksys PLK200 set connecting my living room to my basement router and over that I:

Stream HD movies from Netflix
Stream tons of other content from my media server
Play online games over Xbox Live
Surf the internets

All without a problem. But then again I also use a wireless mouse and an LCD monitor to play first person shooters...

I've also noticed no problems due to microwaves or the dishwasher.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910911)

I have old wiring plus a ham radio operator next door. So, to be on the safe side, I had my electrician put Cat 6 into every room. Now I have mythtv frontends all round the house, with the server in the basement...

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909253)

Definitely important parameters. For what it's worth, I have a pair of 85Mbit Devolo plugs (a popular brand in the UK at least) that the diagnostics state are giving me a 51Mbit link. The plugs link my downstairs office area to the ADSL router and server upstairs.

As well as a PC and network print server, I have a Snom 360 VoIP phone on the desk, with accounts registered on the upstairs server and also at Head Office. I've had no no problems with the phone using both the the G.729 and uLaw CODECs, implying that jitter is not an issue on my setup at least.

The office area is close to the kitchen and operating the microwave oven (about 2m from my desk) seems to have no effect.

YMMV etc.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910223)

Similar experience here - I have the 200MBit Devolo plugs in the UK. It's a 10y/o house (so modern circuit breakers etc which no doubt help).

Powerline has provided a far more reliable connection for me than wireless, and I can happily transfer HD video to my media box, and access the internet simultaneously on it (which is basically all it needs to do).

Setup-wise, I'd definitely recommend them to non-tech-savvy friends too - no messing with settings, literal plug and play.

Obviously UK and US electrical systems have marked differences, so YMMV.

I'm surprised by all the people complaining about electrical interference but who haven't complained about wireless interference. My boiler (with faulty relay - now fixed) used to be able to disconnect my internet access by upsetting my wireless router with interference alone. I've found the powerline cable to be much more reliable in this regard. Then again NB that UK wiring keeps major electrical items on a different circuit to the main house sockets.

and security? (2, Interesting)

Adam Hazzlebank (970369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909331)

Some people might think these are attractive because the signal can't be intercepted as easily as wifi. However Powerlinecommunications hacking seems to be moving on nicely http://events.ccc.de/congress/2008/Fahrplan/events/2901.en.html [events.ccc.de] . My understanding is that it's sometimes possible to pick up signal leaking from other users in the building.

Re:and security? (1)

xeoron (639412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911817)

Secure? Not a problem if you turn on subnetwork encryption channels that some of these devises use. And if that is not enough, you can always create a ssh tunnel between the two machines that are at either end of the powerline connection.

Re:and security? (1)

Adam Hazzlebank (970369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911895)

Sure, but some people like the idea of physical security as well. Particularly as wifi security has suffered so many problems.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (4, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909405)

>What about packet loss, ping, ping jitter and resistance to interference?

Heck, how about reporting in standard units? Time it takes to transfer his porn collection in a zip archive, i mean 8.05gigs of data? What the heck is that? How about just running iperf and reporting standard mbps.

Re:Only metric is time to transfer 8.05 GB? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911621)

I have a pair of trendnet TPL-202E's [newegg.com] , and they run flawless. Never wavering connections, or anything. I've hit above 1MB/s in transfers on comcast which is pretty decent.

No matter what is added, they run constant. In addition I tested the maximum throughput (since I run them on an extension cable) with a heater on the other side of the extension cable and it didn't affect speed at all. I have not bothered with the encryption but I could, I guess.

For me for gaming it is dead on perfect, no problems of packetloss. Keeps up with games.

Viable, but for whom? (1)

Coder4Life (1396697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908873)

I suppose if all else failed, you could do this. I however, would look into wireless just a little bit harder. There are all types of antennae mods you can get for range extending, and not to mention wireless repeaters. The problem is your average joe 6pack consumer wants results and wants them now. For your average slash dotter like myself, we're more prone to get the wireless running and tweaking every aspect of the router from angle, transmit power, etc. to milk every last bit of performance.

Wow... (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908901)

A little slow; but at least they are flaky and expensive, so I give them a thumbs up.

Re:Wow... (4, Funny)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909095)

Sounds like my ex.

Re:Wow... (4, Funny)

peektwice (726616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909947)

nah, she wasn't all that expensive.

Heat (3, Informative)

Jon.Laslow (809215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26908969)

Flipped through the article, but what I'd like to know is if they've improved heat dissipation on these things. I tried a few different makes years ago (back when the best you could hope for out of them was ~10Mbps), but after about a month they'd cook themselves to death unless you modded them with vents and fans.

Re:Heat (3, Informative)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909083)

I have a pair of cheap Airlink adapters from Frys that have been running well for several months now, despite them both being enclosed in areas with poor airflow. I use them to connect the Xbox (running XBMC) in my bedroom with my router in the living room.

The connection is fast enough to play back downloaded videos with zero issues. I tried some tests using computers at opposite ends of the house and was able to get around 3 or 4 MB/s transfer between them. My 802.11n wireless network usually peaks at around 6-8 MB/s, so while it is slower, it's not noticable for most tasks and still enough to max out my FIOS connection.

Re:Heat (1, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909251)

tried some tests using computers at opposite ends of the house and was able to get around 3 or 4 MB/s transfer between them. My 802.11n wireless network usually peaks at around 6-8 MB/s

You should translate those hard to understand units into something more intuitive like "minutes to transfer 8.06GB of data" ;)

Re:Heat (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909659)

actually he should translate it from MB to Mb, cause multiplying his number * 8 is to much work for me

Re:Heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910663)

Wireless simply does not work at my house (I've tried the full alphabet to no avail: persistent interference from a house down the way buggers the signal every 15-20 seconds), so I've been using HomePlug since it came out. Works like a charm, though my power lines are noisy enough that I only get ~3 Mbps at some outlets.

As to heat: I've had that same set of 10 Mbps NetGears running 24/7/52 the whole time. They do get warm, but not "hot." The HomePlug/802.11g bridge gets hot, but is useless anyway--so it usually sits in a drawer. Maybe there's something funky about your power.

Re:Heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26912043)

Wi-Fi signal from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor of our townhouse proved completely unreliable. My wife's computer couldn't maintain a connection.

Was browsing for solutions in the local computer store, and debating trying out an N-compatible network card (and considering the cost to upgrade my wireless router as well) and spotted a pair of Panasonic powerline adapters sitting nearby. Figured I'd give them a try as I was unsure about getting the Wi-Fi to work.

It was basically "connect and forget". They've been running without issue for over two years. The only event that caused any problems was the FiOS battery backup. Apparently that caused enough interference that the powerline adapters couldn't find each other. Plugged the FiOS battery into a different outlet (on the far side of the room) and the powerline adapters came right back up.

Overall, they took five minutes to set up, and have been running non-stop for nearly two and a half years.

They hit the biggest problem... (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909007)

There are still a few hitches. Here in the U.S., we tend to run split-phase wiring. The electrical service enters our homes as 240 volts made up of two 120V lines (or legs). Our 120V outlets are derived from tapping off one or the other of those 120V legs. As a result, you may not be able to network devices that are plugged into outlets on different legs. In addition, older wiring and long wire runs can slow down power-line transmission speeds.

Which, I if remember my breaker right, the breaker divides the two lines into two buses. You deliver 240v to your stuff by taking up two slots on one buss. Then again, I think you put your heavy draw devices on one buss and the room outlets on the other, meaning it would prolly work. Then again, I'm not an electrician. I'm sure someone here will point out the correct wiring practice.

Re:They hit the biggest problem... (2, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909067)

Then again, I think you put your heavy draw devices on one buss and the room outlets on the other, meaning it would prolly work. Then again, I'm not an electrician.

I'm not an electrician either but that's most defiantly not the standard practice in any application that I've ever seen. Most of your heavy draw devices are going to be 240V and will hit both legs by default -- the other circuits are usually divided as equally as possible between the two legs. Open up your circuit box sometime -- you'll see how it's arranged internally.

Re:They hit the biggest problem... (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909383)

Just re-read it and yeah, it didn't make sense. Good thing I don't make a living as an electrician. Though if I did, I suppose I'd know already....

Re:They hit the biggest problem... (0)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911131)

You know that suggestion that you open up your circuit box sometime?

Perhaps you should postpone that until sometime when you have a licensed electrician handy to do it for you and give you a guided tour. I'm not trying to be snarky, just want you and yours to be safe.

As for a breaker "dividing" anything, what you're thinking of is actually two physically and electrically separate breakers which have been physically ganged together so that both "hot" lines are connected or disconnected simultaneously.

Re:They hit the biggest problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26909229)

Generally you don't want to put all your high-draw devices on the same 120V leg. When your two legs aren't balanced, the difference is transmitted back on the neutral wire. In older houses especially, the neutral is smaller than the two hot lines, and so transmitting a large current through the neutral line would be dangerous. Newer houses are now being built with much larger neutral wires, so it's not as much of an issue. Also, higher current leads to larger losses through heat. It's usually not a distinguishable amount, but it's still much better to *try* and keep them balanced.

Seriously? (4, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909091)

When your router/modem is "here" and you have one or more computers either upstairs or downstairs from that location -- or both! -- life begins to get complex. Hardwiring your network is fast and efficient, but it's often not a practical answer, especially for homes and small offices.

What kind of small office wouldn't be able to run a piece of CAT5? If you can't afford to do that (and I'm including the done by hand up through the ceiling by the CEO method) then your company has bigger problems.

Renters may have difficulty convincing their landlords to let them rewire a home or apartment that they don't own themselves. Even wiring your own place may not be fiscally feasible.

$20 of CAT5, $10 of jacks, and a $20 fish-tape isn't fiscally feasible, but these gizmos are?

In testing the power-line devices, I started with a room-to-room test where I plugged one of the modules into a [...] electrical outlet downstairs and the other module into [an older] electrical outlet upstairs.

These real world speeds are pretty bad. The D-Link didn't even finish the test. It looks like they came out at about 2.4 MBps. His WiFi was 4x faster. Ethernet was 10x faster.

I also set up the power-line equipment using a 90-foot extension cord into which one of the modules was connected downstairs; that extension cord was then plugged into the same outlet upstairs as the second module.

Oh, yeah, that's a common test. Why is it you can't let the Ethernet cable hang through the hall again?

Basically, this represented a connection through a length of electrical wire in which there were no phase leg, aging or wire condition problems. In a new home, or if you had an electrician run two outlets from your breaker box, you would probably find transmission times similar to these.

Wanna bet? I've seen new houses where it was dumb luck (and incredible fault tolerance) that let the phone jacks work. When you try to go from one end of a new house to the other, or across floors, I doubt this will be representative of anything.

(This was the setup I used when testing the power-line devices with video streams.)

So these things can't stream video under real world conditions. Excellent.

Finally, I plugged the two modules into the same outlet. In theory, with little to no electrical wire between them, this would be the fastest they could communicate with each other under any network load condition, offering performance under what would pass for ideal conditions.

Nice to know the top speed, but obviously you'll never run into this case except in the same room. And if both boxes are in the same room... run the Ethernet cable hanging from the ceiling.

If you really want to these kind of gizmos for your little office, how well do they work with 3 computers? How about 5? What happens if your 2.4 MBps goes to 0.3 when you add the 3rd computer? He mentioned that at least one has some kind of security. How good is it? Does it compare with WPA2? What are the chances the next office over is close enough (though the power lines) they could be on my network?

Pull a wire. We fussed with WiFi for years, and it is often problematic. If you are in a house or office, pull the wire. It's no that hard (for the simple cases he is listing, like two rooms above one another). Get the land lord's permission if you don't own the place. It's not worth all the fussing you may end up having to do with WiFi (thanks to neighbor access points, cheap $30 APs, etc).

Re:Seriously? (4, Informative)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909313)

What kind of small office wouldn't be able to run a piece of CAT5?

One in an historic ('listed' in the UK) building where any form of drilling through walls or fixing cables to the structure is not permitted - at least not without a craplaod of inspections and paperwork.

Like my parents' 18th Century cottage.

Re:Seriously? (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909427)

Argh. Is there anything you can do in the UK without a permit and inspections?

Re:Seriously? (5, Funny)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909553)

Right now you can think freely, but they're working on that.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910135)

If you have ductwork you can always fish plenum-rated cabling through the ducts.

Re:Seriously? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910281)

Right. We wanted to run an Ethernet cable from the basement up to a room on the 2nd floor. I poked around for quite a while with fish-tape and wasn't able to find a way to get the cable down easily without drilling more holes. So we ran it down through the air return duct. One end sneaks out the register cover, the other is pulled out of the heating ducts through a small hole (which was resealed with duct-tape) near the furnace and it runs over to the equipment.

You don't always have to make new holes. There are often existing holes that will work quite well.

Re:Seriously? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911281)

It doesn't have to be a listed building. There are a lot of offices around this area in buildings that are about 100 years old and were built as town houses, with nice, thick, stone walls. Running ethernet cable around these is tricky. Plugging single WiFi powerline Ethernet adaptor in in each room is a lot cheaper. Even the expensive ones are much less than the cost of getting an electrician to wire up a room.

Re:Seriously? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909351)

Get the land lord's permission if you don't own the place.

In some buildings, that's far easier said than done. Or did you mean "move out"?

Re:Seriously? (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909449)

In modern office buildings, indeed, CAT5 or more is the best solution. Pity not everyone leaves in a modern building, and not every office is in a welldesigned building either.

At home, I'm getting ever shittier Wifi. Last time I tried it, my card saw 15+ networks (17th century building facing... another such building), and Wifi keeps hanging during transfers, I cannot even play a movie remotely without freezes. Too many networks, probably many interferences too. My walls a quite thin, made of some kind of renaissance plaster.

At the other extreme, several of my clients are in very old, sometimes listed buildings, but of better quality: thick stone walls. Wifi won't go through that well, and putting new wire would be very expensive, if even legal. Powerline networking, even slow, is a very welcome solution.

And, lastly, my relatives leave in very well build modern country houses. The wifi signal wont cross the walls (neither exterior nor interior) or floors. I'm tired of losing my net connexion whent my parents go to bed and close their sttel-reinforced shutters - their net box is in their bedroom.

Re:Seriously? (2, Interesting)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909457)

You missed:

" ... if you had an electrician run two outlets from your breaker box, ... "

If you could afford to pay an electrician to install outlets into the rooms, you can afford to pay to have network cable installed.

Also, I concur with your comment about the extension cord.

I have only two uses for wifi right now:

1. iphone (no wired option)
2. between two buildings 800 feet apart with no right-of-way to run any sort of cable.

I can't imagine any situation where I would want to run networking over the powerline wiring in a house.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909463)

Pull a wire. We fussed with WiFi for years, and it is often problematic. If you are in a house or office, pull the wire. It's no that hard (for the simple cases he is listing, like two rooms above one another). Get the land lord's permission if you don't own the place. It's not worth all the fussing you may end up having to do with WiFi (thanks to neighbor access points, cheap $30 APs, etc).

I'd love to wire up my apartment, but I really don't see how it would even be feasible. If you can give me a good solution, I'd love to hear it:

My apartment [photobucket.com]

Basically, I want cable running from the TV, where I have the cable modem set up, to both desks. I live on the second floor of three, so I don't think I can go through the floor or ceiling.

Is there a good solution?

Re:Seriously? (3, Informative)

Change (101897) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909695)

Plastic raceway.
http://cableorganizer.com/surface-raceways/latching.html [cableorganizer.com]
I use something similar to run speaker wire to my rear speakers. I have it run up the side and across the top of a doorframe to the corner of the room, then it goes up to the ceiling, and along the ceiling/wall edge to the speakers. It blends in fairly well.

You can also pull up the edge of your carpeting and stuff cable under it (along the walls works well, but I wouldn't do that across a hallway or doorway), or remove your baseboards, cut a cable path into the drywall, run cable through it, and replace the baseboards.

Re:Seriously? (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911263)

Rather than breach the drywall, which, intact, helps slow the spread of fire from one room to the next (each 4' x 8' sheet has about 8 gallons of water in it), why not remove the baseboard and use a woodworking router to put a CAT5 sized groove in the backside of it?

If you aren't the owner of the property, please negotiate this with your landlord.

Re:Seriously? (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909549)

$20 of CAT5, $10 of jacks, and a $20 fish-tape isn't fiscally feasible, but these gizmos are?

not everyone is a twenty-something DIY geek eager to cut into the sheetrock.

Why is it you can't let the Ethernet cable hang through the hall again?

because your wife said no way in hell.

Re:Seriously? (2, Informative)

tciny (783938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910227)

I use one of these at home and while it's not the best pick for moving large amounts of data between machines, it's a good solution for sharing an internet connection without having to run wires all the way around the flat. I tried WiFi, but it's an old victorian house in central London and something seems to cause massive interference. Not persistently, but every odd minute I'd lose the connection to the router. The bottom line being: I don't think anyone is trying to argue that these things are going to replace wires or WiFi for the common case. There are situations - like mine - though where they're a very convenient solution.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910517)

$20 of CAT5, $10 of jacks, and a $20 fish-tape isn't fiscally feasible, but these gizmos are?

That fish tape doesn't work well in my granny unit where the walls are made of cinder block, and a rug to throw over the cables definitely costs more than $20. A rug is probably going to cost you at least $40. That's at $20 difference. $20 dollars! I can understand someone being willing to spend $50 on networking, but $70? Are you insane?!?!?! More seriously, these devices seem to have the speed of the modem, the reliability of wifi, and the cost of an expensive gigabit Ethernet. It's like someone challenged an engineering group to build a device that can exploit the worst features of all networking choices. Although I do have to admit that at least they don't require you to terminate all of your unused connection points.

Re:Seriously? (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911129)

$20 of CAT5, $10 of jacks, and a $20 fish-tape isn't fiscally feasible, but these gizmos are?

Not everybody lives in flimsy wooden boxes. I live in a large building with thick brick walls.

Does this mean... (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909301)

if your power goes out, that your Internet connection goes with it?

Wait, no, even if the power goes out, you'd still lose your Internet connection.

Well, not precisely. Think about it. What if all your equipment is hooked up to a UPS? Then, as long as your cable, telephone, or whatnot, stays up, you'd stay up.

Good point. Good point.

I guess it's time to stop arguing with myself.

Re:Does this mean... (3, Insightful)

corychristison (951993) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909805)

What if all your equipment is hooked up to a UPS?

Wont work. Any line conditioning will kill all communications.

Ugh (2, Funny)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909385)

I think I'd just scotch-tape cat5 to the walls before trying to use the electrical wiring.

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909595)

Hell, at my old apartment we just ran cat5 along the baseboards.

Re:Ugh (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909793)

thats what i do, a nice strip of ducktape covers any wire that needs to cross infront of a door

Re:Ugh (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909875)

That's what i'm doing, just pushed the cable down into the seam where the carpet meets the baseboard, it's almost invisible except where i've pulled it out to attach to devices

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910045)

I rent a house and I hammered in wires to connect 2 bedrooms and downstairs (2 wires, one for cable modem) up at the hub positioned neatly at the top of the stairs, with the gateway server in the bedroom taking the feed from the net. I figured, what landlord would mind you doing some work which adds to the value of the property, as long as the finish is good - and to this day I like to gaze on my clever routing around door frames and radiator pipes. After seven years or something, no need to replace - I imagine more stress is put on to cable you don't attach to the wall permanently which can cause breakage. But here, no need to interfere since 2001!

So yeah, I always think that data over power mains is a crazy idea. Why not spend an afternoon doing it properly.

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26911127)

Hell yeah... I leave a coil of cable in the middle of the hallway at the top of the stairs. Nothing is more important than internet.

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26909767)

Exactly my thought. In every place I've lived, I have wired in a LAN. When I rented, I ran the wires on the walls in such a way that I could take them down and patch the holes on move-out. Now that my wife and I own our house, I installed a network the way a professional would, and there is no exposed wiring anywhere. Forget wireless or powerline.

Re:Ugh (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910825)

That's probably the most expensive time consuming way of doing it. If you're going for the divorce you may as well spend the money on hookers.

Either way you get the divorce, but in the second case, who cares if the net works, you've got hookers.

Works for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26909629)

I have two 85mbps models to stream video from the computer downstairs to a MediaMVP in the back bedroom upstairs. It works with the dishwasher running and never drops the video (SD only). One unit is plugged into an outlet by the panel in the basement, the other upstairs. I'm very happy. I've looked at stringing wire but it wouldn't be easy.

Networking good, telephone bad (3, Interesting)

nsayer (86181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909949)

I bought a set of 3 of these for my parent's house and they worked really well for what we needed them to do - namely, to hook up the TiVos to the home network (these were the newer TiVos that only support the TiVo branded WiFi adapter, unfortunately). As I don't live in their town and was only there for the weekend to help, this was the quickest thing Fry's could arrange.

It worked so well, that when I got home I was inspired to feed a phone line to our tv satellite receiver over a powerline box. That way, all 4 pair in the one cat5 run going to that spot could be used for Gigabit and the phone could go elsewhere. So I bought a set of the RCA phone line over power gizmos. The resulting phone line was so shitty-noisy that I wouldn't want to make a phone call over it myself, much less ask the DirecTV receiver to attempt it.

I wound up buying a set of RTX DualJacks to solve the problem. They use 2.4 GHz to move the phone line and work perfectly, but they're nearly impossible to find anymore. I had to get them used on eBay.

I'm a little annoyed that nobody has made a similar box to transport a phone line over Ethernet. Yes, there are VoIP solutions, but they're way too expensive and over-engineered for what I want. Just two boxes that talk to each other with raw Ethernet frames to move a phone line from here to there oughtn't to be too much to ask, but apparently is.

Re:Networking good, telephone bad (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910511)

I'm a little annoyed that nobody has made a similar box to transport a phone line over Ethernet. Yes, there are VoIP solutions, but they're way too expensive and over-engineered for what I want. Just two boxes that talk to each other with raw Ethernet frames to move a phone line from here to there oughtn't to be too much to ask, but apparently is.

Ethernet cable consists of 8 wires (4 of them unused, unless you use GB). A phone line needs 2 wires. With the right splitter, you can run 4 phone lines over a single Ethernet cable in the straightforward analog mode — without needing to know, what "raw Ethernet frame" is.

This is, likely, why the solution you describe didn't catch on — most people having the Ethernet cable would just use that to run phone-lines. That the Ethernet is itself run through power-cables is rather unusual, and thus not a big enough market.

Re:Networking good, telephone bad (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911343)

That's what we did in a house I rented for a while. We did a deal with the landlord where we paid for parts and he paid for labour and the conduits. We got a drum of cat-5 and had a network socket and a phone jack run into each room. In my current house, I put in Cat-5e to every room, but tend to just use the WiFi.

Even WiFi seems to be slowly going away. A few people I know have switched to using HSPDA providers for their Internet - if you use less than 10GB/month here it's cheaper than cable Internet - and so they have an always-on Internet connection for their laptop wherever they are.

The winner is obvious (3, Funny)

2phar (137027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26909997)

From personal experience, I have to say the Belkin Powerline AV+ unit is by far the best of the bunch here. Rock solid performance all the way. Look no further!

Sincerely,
Mark Bayard [slashdot.org]

These things work...sometimes...if you're lucky (3, Funny)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910037)

I tried using Netgear powerline devices to connect my outside security cameras to my router about a year ago. It kinda worked--as long as I didn't expect too much in the way of throughput—like streaming video instead of occasional JPEGs. I also had a couple of computers connected via Wi-Fi at the time, and was so (unreasonably) encouraged by this less than stellar success that I switched them over to powerline "warts" too. They worked pretty well.

Then I moved my router to another room, and I haven't gotten these things to work ever again. Apparently, if your house wiring is just so, the powerline warts are fine; if the wiring—or the wiring between the points you are trying to connect—is not what the warts want, you won't get a signal.

Somebody told me I should try one of those "bridges" that the X-10 people use to connect different parts of their home wiring so their X10 devices work, but messing with these things was giving me a worse chronic eyelid twitch than wireless. Luckily, I discovered that my youngest daughter has all the necessary qualifications for an excellent cable monkey—mainly, she's petite enough to worm her way through tight, dark spaces, and isn't afraid of spiders. So I just tied some CAT5 to her ankle and sent her into the attic. No more problems now, everything's connected. Wire is good.

Re:These things work...sometimes...if you're lucky (4, Funny)

spandex_panda (1168381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911177)

So I just tied some CAT5 to her ankle and sent her into the attic.

So err... you must let her out for sunlight every now and then right? Sounds good otherwise.

yuo Faibl IT... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910165)

same worthless legitimise doing nearly two years common knowledge isn't a lemonade consistent with the Product, BSD's not so bad. To the successes with the Is part of the LAGGED BEHIND, all servers. Coming members all over isn't a lemonade Too, cAn be a chronic abuse of hand...don't These early mire of decay, go find something to the transmission need to join the that the project Won't be standing moans and groans are incompatible Has ground to a needs OS. Now BSDI hand...don't world will have This post brought intentions and gave the BSD and abroad for posts. Due to the How is the GNAA

In this economy (1)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910335)

O'Reilly Wireless Hacks. Page 164, Hack #68 -- "Homebrew Power over Ethernet".

Re:In this economy (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911373)

I think you are confused. Power over Ethernet and Ethernet over power lines are not the same thing.

That said, it is possible to do this kind of thing yourself. I used to have a book of hardware projects for the BBC Micro that covered how to create a network that ran over the ring main. You probably can't get away with telling children to plug their electronics projects into the mains anymore...

Dlink DHP-301s.. They're great (1)

Seek_1 (639070) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910377)

I've got four of the DLink DHP-301 units running in my house and they're just terrific.

They're great for anyone unwilling (or unable) to tear up their walls to run CAT5. In my case, I'd have to go through three floors and I'm not exactly a do-it-yourselfer. These units were affordable enough (compared to losing a weekend and having to get help from a friend to run CAT5), and just plain work. I took a risk being an early adopter and I'd do it again if I had the choice.

I use them to connect my broadband connection and servers (in the basement), the media center switch (main floor), wireless AP(upstairs) and a second media center (upstairs).

Some of the advantages of these sort of units :
- Zero setup. Unless you want encryption on the line (and they're rare enough that's probably safe without), you just plug them into your outlets and you've got an instant network bridge
- Flexible. I've moved the placement of where I had my bridges plugged in a few times. With wired CAT5 through the house, I'd have to run Ethernet from wherever the drop is to wherever the computer or network printer happens to be.
- Mostly problem free. I've had these for about two years now and the only problem I ever have is having to unplug a unit about once every six months. I can live with that easily. :)

Comment on Speeds (2, Interesting)

Seek_1 (639070) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910437)

Someone else had posted comments about the speeds over these lines so I figured I'd offer my experiences.

For doing large file transfers, yes they are a little slow. However, in terms of just about anything else they're completely sufficient.

In my house we regularly have up to three clients playing movies off the file server without issue. (In addition to standard internet browsing and occasionally running bittorrent off a laptop..)

Re:Dlink DHP-301s.. They're great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910815)

Unless you want encryption on the line (and they're rare enough that's probably safe without)

The signal usually won't make it past the transformer at the powerline in any case, so you often only need the encryption if you share a transformer with other households.

These work well for me (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910505)

I have a pair of Netgear adapters because my ADSL modem is in my living room and the room I wanted to put my office in was at the other end of the house. Previously, I have drilled holes and run ethernet or bridged my wireless base stations and that worked OK but this time I just couldn't get a connection to hold up and I didn't want to mess with long wires. With network over mains I can now have two separate base stations running giving me much better coverage in the house. File transfers over the mains connection is quicker than my 54G wireless and I stream HD movies from my Mac mini to my Apple TV via the mains, then over wireless to the ATV.

FirsT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26910565)

Worked for me (1)

marciot (598356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26910961)

I had so much WiFi interference in my condo that I was only able to watch Netflix at the lowest quality, plus YouTube videos would buffer all the time. I tried a Netgear XE102 and now I can watch Netflix at full-res, and YouTube works great. It doesn't work on every outlet though.

What the HELL? (1)

nyet (19118) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911269)

What kind of units is "minutes per 8 gigabyte"?

TrendNet TPL-202E2K (1)

ewhac (5844) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911297)

I have a pair of these things installed as a stopgap measure to get the living room on the LAN. There's a PC, an HD TiVo, and an Xbox-360 in there (the Wii lives off the WiFi).

I would prefer to have genuine Ethernet strung in there, but I rent the place, and I'd have to cut holes in things to get the cables and outlets in place (I know; I crawled around under the house and looked). So until I get the impetus to actually follow through on that, we're living with these HomePlug AV things.

They're still unreliable. That entire branch of the LAN drops out on occasion -- not even pings get through. And since there's no management interface on the bridges, I can't see what they're complaining about. They just mysteriously work, then stop working, then start working again. Perfect for Windows users :-). And, of course, it's my fault when they stop working.

Somewhat better than WiFi, but a weak substitute for genuine Cat 5.

Schwab

Interference with Amateur Radio (4, Informative)

ztransform (929641) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911323)

Can't we wait till the interference issues with radio communication are sorted out? See The ARRL site on this issue [arrl.org] .

Telkonet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26911643)

I've worked with some commercial powerline equipment before from a company called Telkonet (http://www.telkonet.com). In general, this equipment worked great, and was an ideal solution for those scenarios where running CAT-5 was extremely difficult.

One common gotcha with the installations, which is most likely common to all devices of this sort, is the separation of circuits within the building. Specifically, power is delivered in three separate "legs" (phases) that are isolated from each other at the breaker panel. So, you can experience quite a bit of signal loss when trying to connect from an outlet on one phase to an outlet on another. Telkonet's solution to this, which may or may not be unique, is a device that acts as a gateway and attaches to the breaker panel itself, with wires into each of the three phases.

As I said, this worked great in the cases where we needed it. We even went so far as to use it as a backbone for access point connectivity...

Another vote for Powerline Networking (1)

juventasone (517959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26911735)

The article is about performance of 200mbps powerline vs. 5GHz draft-N, fair enough. In my experience home users just want an easy stable connection for cheap. They inevitably start with wireless-G, which they either can't setup, or get a useless 0-2 bars of signal with. We sell them a 85mbps powerline kit, requires no setup, and they quickly wonder what all this wireless nonsense is about. Lots of happy customers.

Just wire it up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26911913)

I ran wire from my basement to my second floor, then a wire from my second to third floor.

Did the whole thing for $60, $30 of which was a real good crimper/stripper. The other $30 was 200 feet of cable and a box of 25 plugs.

My favorite bit is the long run was made, outside, with plenum cable. You know, the one that goes through ducts, and certainly isn't rated for outside.

It's been two years with no problems, better throughput, and no crapping out like WiFi does in a crowded area.

Just wire it, you can even hack it together like I did, but get it over with.

You fail it!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26911985)

I have a life to ofone single pun7 were Compounded

FWIW, I have 4 old D-LINK modules (1)

PinchDuck (199974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26912063)

And they work great. Tivo and PS3 on the TV, media server in the basement, webserver in the guest bedroom, and the bridge to the router in the office. You forget they're there because they are so reliable.

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