Whole Farm Wifi 2015
It has been quite a while since I wrote the original article about this topic. Much of the original equipment probably isn’t even on the market anymore. I had some good years out of that equipment, but have slowly been upgrading. Most of the computers I have purchased recently have had Gigabit bandwidth network ports and most of the portable devices have had speedier wireless N capabilities. At one point I found a sweet deal on a 16 port 10/100/1000 hub so I swapped out the 16 port 10/100 hub I was using in my office.
The non-technical crowd can view a hub as a powered network strip. You have all bought power strips which have 6 or more outlets on them. In concept a network hub (for home use) isn’t much different. You hook up its power then plug a cable in from your network/Internet router. After that you can plug as many network devices in as it has ports and they can all be on your network. The new hub gave network devices within my office the ability to communicate faster, but, bandwidth to the Internet and between buildings was still limited by the wireless capabilities of my router and range extender. It did have me thinking about finally installing a NAS and putting all of these external USB backup devices on a shelf.
About the only part of my original system which still is in service is the external antenna. You can still find those things for sale in many places. I am not certain my new router and range extender need the boost it gives, but, it was already there and the adapter cable I had allowed it to fit the new range extender.
What spurred this series of upgrades on was the failure of my existing range extender. It failed in the most annoying of ways. It said it was connected to my router but it refused to actually communicate with it. After spending most of a day trying to troubleshoot the problem I made a trip to Best Buy and picked up a Netgear AC1200 wifi Range Extender.
Configuring this range extender is simple. Plug a computer directly into it and boot the computer. Open a Web browser. If the setup page doesn’t load automatically type www.mywifiext.net into the broswer address bar and hit enter. Once you log in with the provided admin password you can easily connect to an existing router.
Note that in the original article I had to use a fixed channel number to make range extenders work well. It is the same for this range extender. You do not want your wireless router scanning various channels because that means your range extender only gets service part of the time. Well, it may not mean it, but given the horrible performance that appears to be what happens.
I continued on this way until I had more free time to devote to upgrading my entire network. Finally I had the time so I ordered some more toys. First I got the matching Netgear AC1200 wifi router. I got the version with antennas because I wanted the best possible range. When it arrived I noticed it had the added benefit of a USB port to attach a regular USB external drive and use it as shared network storage.
I also ordered a Western Digital 4TB MyCloud device.
Hooking up the router was a dream. Plug directly into it, boot the computer, open a browser. If the admin page doesn’t automatically load type www.routerlogin.net into the browser admin bar and hit enter. Respond to the login prompt with the provided admin password and you have a nice graphical configuration application.
I forgot my original advice about using fixed channels so I had maddeningly slow access from my office. After a bit of head scratching and looking at my older blog post I figured out what was wrong. I set the router to use channel 4 for the 2.4Ghz band and channel 149 for the 5Ghz band then reconfigured my range extender to use settings from the router. All was great.
Configuring MyCloud was even easier. I opted to plug it directly into my network because wired connections are always faster than wifi. Once again, you open a browser and type wdmycloud in the address bar. No need to actually download software like the instructions say.
There was a tiny bit of prep work getting the USB port to work on the wireless router. I had to freshly format my external DUO drive. I chose to put the DUO on there because it is a dual drive unit configured for RAID. Actually just mirroring. I have 2 identical 1TB drives in it. Anything written to it gets written to both drives so the drive “appears” to be only 1TB in size. The graphical admin pages for the router make configuration a snap.
A NAS device is completely different from the USB drive hung off the router. To start with you must create an account for each user of the NAS device. There is a Public repository on the NAS which one could use to share files, but I haven’t. The USB drive hung off the router is Public storage. Anyone able to access your network can access it.
If you are in a multi-building or whole farm situation you need to consider your storage options. Yes, either of these devices can be accessed from anywhere on the network. They can only be accessed “fast” from the local hardwired connections though. Communications between buildings is still limited by available wireless bandwidth. If your goal is to use these devices as communal backup devices then you need to think about that. My goal was just that. I wanted to cycle out the aging local USB drives and the hassle of having to go to each physical machine to delete old backups when the drives started getting full. Now, all of the machines I care to backup can automatically backup to the network devices. Whenever I think about it I can check available storage from whatever computer I happen to be using and free up any needed space.
On the Mint 17 KDE machine, setting up access required a bit of Web searching and thought. You have to figure out how to enable editing of the address bar (it is a clickable menu option, just not obvious) then you need to type addresses in. For the USB drive I forget if it was smb://readyshare/USB_Storage or \\readyshare\USB_Storage which worked. Both Ubuntu 15.10 and Windows 7 were able to easily find the devices on the network. I suspect the new release of Mint will have the same simple access given it will be based on the newer release of Ubuntu.