Network Musings

Recently I decided to play around with my home network a little bit.

 

Origional configuration:

Origionally we had a DocSys 2.0 cable modem (rented from comcast) with 20mbit/4mbit and telephone service via the cable modem. This was linked to an SMC Wireless N router, which provided wifi to those using the internet. 

Internet

 

UPLINK

Motorola SB 6120 Modem

Stopped paying comcast $10/month (or whatever) to rent their crappy modem and upgraded to a DocSys3.0 Modem, the Motorola SB6120 SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0 eXtreme Broadband Cable Modem (My Review :: Amazon). The SB6120 does work with Comcast and is capable of speeds upto around 150mbps (according to their website). Also upgraded the internet to 50mbit/10mbit (around $100/month).

Update 1: Comcast is going to be introducing new faster internet packages, as such they are upgrading customers on 50meg to 105meg. So now for $100/month we have 105mbit/20mbit – Which actually pushes 130mbit/25mbit.

Update 2: The Motorola SB6120 seems to handle the 105mbit Comcast Line just fine, I saturate it all the time without issue. No problems whatsoever with this modem.

Ooma Telo

Stopped paying Comcast for the POTS telephone service and plugged in an Ooma Hub Instead (Amazon). The Ooma device plugs into my network via ethernet and gives to analog (normal) phone jacks for normal phones. From here one can call anywhere in the USA for free and receive unlimited free calls. Also includes voicemail on the unit itself (no dialing numbers to get your voicemail).

ROUTING

pfsense - logo

Instead of using the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station as a Router and WAP, instead I took an old Dell I had kicking around, added an Intel Dual Gigabit Network Card to it (Amazon) and installed pfSense on it. pfSense is an open source, FreeBSD based router with an easy to use, built-in web interface for configuration  It supports multiple WAN uplinks, load balancing, packet filtering, etc.

pfSense is used to do the following.:

  • DHCP server. This machine serves local, private IP addresses to all the clients on my lan.
  • Local DNS. The pfSense router also takes care of local DNS. This way if a client on my network is named ‘DarleneiMac’ and its local LAN address is 192.168.1.5, on every other machine on the local network, I can just type in DarleneiMac instead of 192.168.1.5. This is a lifesaver, I don’t know how I lived for years without it. 
  • Snort.
  • Squid Proxy. I use squid as a transparent, caching proxy to speed up all HTTP traffic on my network.
  • Bandwidthd.  Bandwidthd reports traffic consumption on a hourly/daily/weekly/monthly basis for each individual IP address within your network. This way you can tell exactly who is using what.
  • VPN. Both IPsec and PPTP VPN will be supported (primarily for mobile devices).

 

Switching

Cisco SG-300-10

Both the Synology 1812+ NAS unit and the VMWare ESXi server that I run support NIC Teaming  which requires a Managed Switch. I picked up a Cisco SG 300 10-Port Gigabit Managed Switch (Amazon). This switch supports teaming of switch ports, jumbo frames, as well as a slew of other features, all of which are configurable via the web interface or via SSH (for advanced users). This is replacing the built-in switch in the Airport Extreme Base Station. The SG 300 services all the most important machines, including the internet uplink, file servers, ESXi Virtual Machine servers, etc.

Netgear ProSafe 8-Port Unmanaged Switch

For additional switching capacity, I also am using a NetGear ProSafe 8-Port Gigabit Unmanaged Switch (Amazon). This switch actually works extremely well, in the past I’ve used them alot, and have seen transfer speeds of 800mbit+ on a single port.

 

Wireless

AEBS - overview

The Apple Airport Extreme Base Station (Amazon) is now being used in Bridged, non-routing, access point only mode. Disabling routing/DHCP/etc has actually made the wifi bridge alot faster. I am able to upload/download at 10MB/sec on my iMac (late 2009) via Wifi.

The range of the Apple Airport Extreme is not that great, in fact its horrible, it doesn’t nearly cover my entire (small) house. So I added a second wireless access point (an old SMC one). I connect it via ethernet, and have it setup to only do B/G (not N), and to do it on the same SSID as the Airport Extreme. It is recommended to separate your B/G and N clients on two separate access points anyways.

Scanning

All of the clients on this network are unix or OSX based. As such, the scanner primarily needs to function with OS X machines. This provided a bit of a puzzle. I chose the SnapScan S1500M (Amazon).

SnapScan - Overview

 

The SnapScan S1500M is fast, duplex, and best of all – Apple OSX friendly.

Connecting the SnapScan directly to the network is not possible. Connecting it to the Apple Airport Extreme base station via USB is unsupported at this time. In addition, connecting the SnapScan S1500M to the Synology 1812+ diskstation is also not possible. As such the only option is to connect it to a MacMini Server running the SnapScan software. It is setup so that a document is inserted, the button on the scanner is pushed, the item is scanned an added to a folder on the server (which is network shared; in PDF format). So nobody ever actually has to touch the SnapScan software nor the OS X Server.

 

Printing

Originally I was using a wifi enabled HP deskjet. The problem was the ink cartridges, they were always running out, usually at extremely inconvenient times. After a little research and decided to go with the Canon Laser Image Class D530 (Amazon). It gets thousands of pages per toner cartridge refill, and with its flatbed scanner is an excellent addition to the Automatic Document Feeder SnapScan. I also liked that it wasn’t too large, some of these all-in-one printers are getting huge.

Canon D530 Printer - Overview

The printer works great. I haven’t used the scanner yet. The paper tray holds an entire reem of paper. I’ve had it a couple months now, and still haven’t run out of toner.

The problem with the Canon ImageClass D530 is that it requires drivers to work with OS X. So this means that for every machine that I want to print from, a small driver must first be installed. To make things easy, I’ve shared this on a network share, but still its a major inconvenience compared to the older wifi printer where one just went to print, then selected it as a “nearby printer.”

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