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IOGEAR Homeplug Networking Reviewed 99

Chris Allen writes "Wired or wireless? This is always just about the first thing anyone thinks of when planning their new home/soho office. It always comes down to price/performance/practicality, in whichever order you feel is more important. Sometimes it just isn't possible to run CAT5, for a variety of reasons. The only options available for the average consumer is wireless, HomePNA, which uses your existing telephone network in your house, and HomePlug, using your existing power grid. HomePNA has been around for around 3 years or so, and has matured some, starting out transmitting at dismal speeds and lackluster reliability in regards to interference. HomePlug is short for HomePlug® Powerline Alliance."
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IOGEAR Homeplug Networking Reviewed

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  • First Plug! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:05AM (#5024391) Homepage Journal
    Gee first comment, and it wont be off or on topic, just an interesting side note...

    Anyways there's an interesting side note to the history of the ricochet modem. It's parent company developed and deployed a network over powerline technology for some LA based power company years ago. Too bad they went bankrupt otherwise i'd have a link.
  • by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:08AM (#5024398)
    On an ongoing basis you can expect maybe 5-8Mbps from HomePlug. The newer HomePNA hardware is faster (steady 10Mbps) and works well. If you're basically using it to share an Internet connection, both are fine of course.

    Also, make sure to set the password on your HomePlug hardware or everone on your street up to the transformer is on your LAN.
    • by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:54AM (#5024796) Journal

      Interesting suggestion though, add a couple of file and game servers on it, get some decent neighbohrs and you can have your own cheap and bloody fast LAN for some heavy duty trading and file swapping. Every puts down 100 bucks for equipment and a bunch of computers to act as servers... Sounds nice and definetely cheaper and more reliable then wireless, because radio transmissions are always susceptable to atmospheric distortions and shitty security. I don't think anyone is stupid enough to tap into my power mains just to sniff my packets.

    • > newer HomePNA hardware is faster (steady 10Mbps) and works well

      I'll second that. Throughput of HomePNA 2.0 is identical to 10baseT. Plus you can pick up the cards so bloody cheap, a lot of places sell the Diamond and 3Com cards for under $10. Plus, for quick'n-dirty hookups, it's particularly nice that you can simply daisy chain a bunch of computers together using cheap phone cable without needing a hub.

      When every power supply has HomePlug built in with just another wire going to the motherboard, I will revisit it. Until then, it's just too damn expensive and bulky.
      • sounds a lot like 10b2 but faster.
        • > sounds a lot like 10b2 but faster.

          Plus you don't need terminators, and the cable is a lot thinner and more flexible.
          • researched the product and read the docs.
            Why am I limited to two devices as bridges but as many as I want as nodes?

            What is the underlying design flaw that is in the way here?

            I want to get one for each of my kids iMacs and one at the switch. (total 3)
            it is easier than running cables and wireless sucks in my folks old house due to horse hair plaster lath walls.
            • > Why am I limited to two devices as
              > bridges but as many as I want as nodes?

              I wasn't aware of any such limitation (which doesn't mean that it doesn't exist), but it sounds kind of fishy. OTOH, those bridges are way overpriced anyway, I'm going to set up Linux boxes as bridges instead running LRP. Boxes might be exagerated; I have stacks of old 486 boards sitting around that operate fanlessly, I'm going to add a small fanless PS and boot the board off a 4MB CF card, so it's all nice and solid state, mounted in some sort of flat project enclosure (or an old VCR/CD/DVD player case).

              Are there no HomePNA 2.0 Mac drivers for PCI cards? Are you on 9 or X? It would be handy if you could get drivers, because in that case you could get away without any bridges at all--just plug the iMacs into the phone outlets and use a machine by your router as the bridge.
              • alas, imacs have no pci slots. and the rooms do not have phone lines.
                I may just have to go wall fishing.
                Yummmm. 300yr old horse hair and rat droppings.
                • > alas, imacs have no pci slots. and the rooms do not have phone lines.

                  In that case wireless might still be your best option. Find some USB wireless adapters, preferably some with an optional external antenna, and try playing around with positioning until you hopefully get a signal. If you can't reach all the way to the router room, you could position an intermediary wireless bridge in some closer room in-between. One advantage of having separate access point and router (rather than the popular all-in-one devices at the moment) is that the optimal positions for the two devices rarely coincide. An AP should reside somewhere centrally in the house, or in the attic, with a single run of cable to the router. Of course, 802.11b often does have problems reaching all rooms anyway. That's one of the main reasons I went with the Proxim Symphony HRF setup instead--only 1.6 Mbps, but the reach is incredible: my AP is in the basement, half buried underground in a brick house, and my notebook still gets 100% link quality at the edge of the property down by the creek, some 100 feet through earth, brick and framework. I believe their cards have a much higher power output than the 802.11b standard (this is only for the older HRF 1.6 Mbps standard though, I don't know how the new HomeRF 10 Mbps stuff holds up). They also have a USB adapter, and they do mention Mac support for their PC Card adapter, so maybe you can get drivers for the USB adapter. It's something work checking out anyway.
    • Cringely would be screaming "HomePlug HomePlug"
      He really seems to like that.

      Kind of off topic but not really....Anyone else have their local power company doing trial runs with powerline broadband? I remember reading about this on /. a while back but it seems that some companies are actually getting their poop in a group. Which amazes me, have any of you actually been to a board meeting for a utility company? My grandparents went to one last month, they are in their 70's and they said they felt young! Most of those companies are really really conservative.
    • If everybody else on your street bought HomePlug data-over-electricity, you'd not only have the security issues, but also the issue of bandwidth. Is this the kind of thing that gets you 5-14Mbps if you're the only home on your block using it, but shares those same 5-14Mbps with everybody on your block, so get much lower effective bandwidth if the system becomes popular? What's the distance at which it communicates, or interferes with communication? Is this something that could wire an entire apartment building? A "typical" city block? Everybody behind a given power transformer?

      I looked at some of the [] web sites and member sites like Asoka [].
      Homeplug runs natively at 14Mbps (USB devices are limited to USB's 12 Mbps speed), though effective speeds are often lower, depending on how noisy your environment is (one site said 80% of their tests got 5Mbps or better), and it's good for up to 1km, as long as there aren't power transformers in the way. You can only put 16 devices on the network; I assume that's 16 devices per 56-bit-DES security key, but I could be wrong. That does mean that you're not going to wire everybody in your neighborhood together in the same LAN. Nothing I saw talked about the throughput effects of having your neighbors sharing the network, only the security effects.

  • by Drakonite ( 523948 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:14AM (#5024414) Homepage
    I used to have one of those home intecom sets that works by transferring over the electrical wires... It sounded terrible and barely worked.

    Will this work as good? ;)

    How about power spikes? I live in a neighborhood that is on the top end of what voltages are tolerable, so the quick, small, and frequent power spikes are more noticable and damaging and burn up lightbulbs frequently. If I were using this wouldn't I have to worry about it burning up the modem every couple of months?

    I assume putting it behind some sort of surge supressor to protect it from the spikes would ruin it's ability to communite on the power lines.

    • IIRC they come with builtin surge protectors
  • Wired... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:20AM (#5024423) Homepage

    Most people are going to go for Wireless, its simpler to install, you can move around, don't need new sockets for new devices, and every network should have a wireless element in it.

    BUT if you are connecting key elements together, like a primary desktop, a server or even just the major working at home point (in front of the TV with the laptop on my lap) then wired rules the world. Why ? Well apart from being able to transfer things around the network quicker, no drop in quality if the next door neighbour sets up their own wireless LAN with the packet clash party that can grow into. There is one bigger advantage to wires (no not security as you do need wireless to work in the garden).

    Wires are maintainance free, they won't require upgrading as broadband gets broader. Legacy kit comes with the connections built in.

    Wires for infrastructure and key sections. Wireless for roaming.
    • What about when you get GBit to the door over fiber.

      You'll have to upgrade the wires at sometime in the next 50 years I expect, though it shouldn't be too much hastle and should always be quicker than anything else (unless you're using wormholes)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "every network should have a wireless element in it"

      It depends on what you're trying to do. Desktop machines don't tend to move around and wireless tends to be slow. And there are more security risks associated with it too.
  • Which the two "home" brand solutions do stop you needing wires all through the building, it's worth noting that you do have to have another wire going to a power socket or a local phone socket.

    There's only phone sockets downstairs at my place, so HomePNA might as well be a slow CAT5. HomePlug would be more useful but how well does that work when plugged into a couple of extension cables and a 10-way multiplug? Would this affect speed or stop it entirely?

    Incidentally in my case it is just for internet connection sharing so I use as cheap an 802.11 as worked.
  • by altgrr ( 593057 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:51AM (#5024499)
    ...just use the old TV aerial wiring.

    We got cable a couple of years ago, which left all our old TV aerial wiring totally unused. This was great, because we needed a network cable running from a room downstairs with a TV aerial socket to a room upstairs. I found the other end of the aerial cable, poked a hole through the loft, and brought the cable down. Then it was just a matter of putting a BNC end on that cable, and changing the wall socket downstairs to a BNC socket. Hey presto - a nice, simple solution using existing wiring and technology! Who'd have thought it?
    • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:19AM (#5024624) Homepage Journal
      The characteristic impedance of TV co-ax is 75 ohms. Thinnet Ethernet cable is 50 ohms, as is the impedance of an Ethernet card. This will cause a VSWR mismatch.

      You are getting a reflected signal off each network card in the system. As you describe it, you have a simple point-to-point link, so your reflections are "only" bouncing from one card to another. This will cause errors in the system.

      I would suggest that you get REAL network cable (preferably CAT-5), tie it onto the existing cable, and pull it through. You will then be able to run 100Mbit, you won't have the reflection problem, and I think you will be much happier overall.

      (actually, I would suggest that you go to the local hardware store, and while you are picking up the CAT5, pick up a spool of nylon cordage. Strip the end of the coax, and securely tie the cordage to the shield of the coax. Then smoothly tape it over with electrician's tape, starting on the coax jacket and with a 1/3 overlap moving to the cordage. When you reach the cordage, wind one extra pass, then cut the tape and UNWIND and REWIND that last wrap with no tension on the tape. Then pull the cordage through. Once it is through, then tie the CAT5 to the cordage and tape as you did the coax. Then pull BOTH the CAT5 and a new run of cordage. Leave the cordage in place - it will save you grief later if you need to pull an additional cable.)
      • by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:54AM (#5024794) Homepage
        A balun (small inline impedance matching transformer) will take care of the problem. We used to use them all the time when we were running 3270 terminals over twisted pair.

        You can use prebuilt units, like these [], or build your own [].

        Over short distances, the signal loss wont be significant -- heck, it's working with the mismatch! :-)

      • Guess who's run cable for a living before :-) Next thing you'll be telling him that the best way to run cable thought the loft is to attach it to some conduit and throw it like a javelin.
        • Not for a living, but I did extensively rewire my house and those of 2 friends, AND I have friends in the telephony industry.

          But no, if you want to get a cable from hither to yonder, you either use a gopher pole (a long, extensible PVC pole) or you use a slingshot.
    • I tried that once and fried a network card. It worked momentarily, but not long enough to gauge its performance. Seems to be working for you, however. Maybe your equipment is a little more durable than mine.
      • Heck.. until a month ago the house was run off a mix of 75-ohm rg-59, 50-ohm 10b2 wire, and a unused pair of cat-3 in the telephone bundle.. Toss in some t-connectors, terminators, and cheap net cards (an old 3com and wd card, and a couple of cheap d-links). Standard 10b2, originally started in '97, just now replaced. Phone wire was using to go from upper floor to lower floor. Replaced for faster (100mbps switched) and more reliable (one node can't kill the whole net), as well as fixing signal strength (couldn't add another node 10 feet away :) )

        Considering low-grade hubs started at 50-75 when it started, it worked well price/performance wide :)
  • by NynexNinja ( 379583 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:53AM (#5024506)
    On one of the foldout diagrams that comes with the HomePlug hardware, it makes the following claim: "By offering 56-bit DES encryption, HomePlug is also much more secure than other home networking technologies such as wireless ethernet." Yeah, right.
  • by farrellj ( 563 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:01AM (#5024539) Homepage Journal
    What do you mean, are you actually using felines for networking? What do you do, duct tape a floppy or CD (For higher bandwith) to the cat, then throw catnip on the destination station?!?!?!

    Oh...sorry, that was CAT5...

  • "not possible" (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    to run cable? I would think that in most cases if it is "not possible to run cable" then that is either A) due to a lazy person who doesn't want to pull cable or have it running in the ceilings or B) the house and thus wiring is old and has many physical stopgaps to overcome. If the latter, then that probably means old, dirty electrical lines and if the former then we are just talking about someone willing to pay more for less. Run the damn CAT-5 along your ceiling and be done with it!
    • Running the cable along the baseboards is the only solution that I have in my present home. It was built in 1912, and the entire construction is plaster over brick. Aside from the ancient electrical wiring that the house was designed with, there's no way to make any nice, neat, internal cabling runs. Even the phone lines are tacked to the top edge of the baseboarding and have external box jacks.
      Normally, I'd have no problem with making the long runs in the house up in the ceiling (attic, in my case,) but I don't want to have to go climbing around in the attic every time a raccoon or squirrel decides to gnaw through one of my cable runs.
      Ah, the joys of low-income living...
    • Nothing is "impossible;" perhaps "inconvenient" would be a better choice of words. The Product Marketing folks love to say stuff like "that's impossible, unless you buy MY product!"

      I lived in NY for four years in a house originally built in 1892 - lotsa plaster over brick. We found knob-and-tube wiring [] buried under renovations done in the 1950's. Still, we managed to add LAN wiring to the house by installing drop ceilings, or by using the space behind crown molding as a low-voltage conduit. Vertical drops were accomplished with battens and wainscoting. [] Made the room look nicer too.

      Wall panel systems are available commercially. Many include integrated wire ducts for just such an application. Wiremold [] has been making stuff like this for years (though some of the utilitarian stuff is butt-ugly.)
    • One problem with running cable in some places is when the building is old and Heritage listed (or covered by some protection scheme). When you aren't allowed to put holes in the walls, dig up the floors, cut through the ceilings, or even as much as scratch the paint, you have to look at using things like HomePlug, HomePNA or Wireless.

      I know a number of Catholic (and other) schools that have deployed HomePNA and/or Wireless so they can use computers in such buildings. Some of the buildings don't even have normal phone lines in them, and instead they use VoIP phones hanging off a Wireless Ethernet Bridge.
  • Phase current (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've looked at the website but cannot find anything about the following:

    Here in the Netherlands we have two kinds of power you can have where the cable comes into your house: 220V or 220V times three (380V or 'power' current which is three times 220V but slightly phase shifted). Then these different phases are used for different groups in the house.

    When I connect two of these HomePlug devices to two different phases, I guess it will not work will it?

    The only thing the HomePlug website mentions is that "... it should support multiple logical networks on a single physical medium and be applicable to markets in North America, Europe and Asia."

    Any comments?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    For laptops, I find 802.11 to be the most convienant option. Not only do I get to move around the house or sit in front of the TV, but it makes it easier for work also. Assuming your work allows 802.11. I find there's nothing more cool than coding and watching Iron chef at the same time.
    • Furthermore, I would guess that laptops specifically cannot directly use PowerLine signalling because they run off a low voltage power supply via a transformer and rectifier (or even worse, from a signal point of view, a triac voltage chopper), and are thus not connected to the mains in any way. If you're using it for any length of time, you'd need two power connections - one for the supply and one for the network, which kinda defeats the object. Wireless wins for me too!
      • Huh? The signal doesn't come over the laptop's power cord. There's a box that plugs into the wall that has an ethernet or USB jack on it. You connect the laptop to that jack. It doesn't matter how the laptop is getting it's power.
  • by hussar ( 87373 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @10:00AM (#5024830) Homepage
    Last year I talked to a couple of powerline networking and bluetooth manufacturing firms at CeBIT 2002 in Hannover, Germany. I was trying to get an idea of what future products they were working on, because I think both technologies would work well with each other.

    What I would like to see is a bluetooth adapter that plugs into the wall socket to provide powerline network access to my home server to any bluetooth enabled device in the room. I should provide a straight through plug so I could still plug, say, a lamp into the socket. PDAs and TabletPCs could access the server through this bluetooth/powerline network, so for example, my PDA could automatically sync with my server when I walked into the house or into my home office. This set up might even be more secure due to the shorter range of bluetooth devices as compared to 802.11 wireless.

    The powerline network would also help other technologies get a foothold. For example, I can see synergies in my refrigerator and pantry being intelligent enough to sense intelligent packaging and to be able tell how well stocked they were. (I don't want an Internet-enabled refrigerator though. That is like begging for trouble.) Using powerline networking, I could connect the 'frig to my server (hey, it has to be plugged in anyway!) and software on my server could combine the data from both refrigerator and pantry inventories to develop a shopping list transmitted/updated to my PDA automatically.

    Personally, I think the Open Source community should jump on the home server bandwagon soon, and start providing a client/server API and applications that can be used by smart devices to connect via wireless/bluetooth/pwoerline networking to home servers. That is the future. Fighting the battle of the desktop is only of limited future use. The real battle, and the one that Linux and open source can win, is home servers that provide stable support to the intelligent devices finding their way into our homes and offices.
    • What I would like to see is a bluetooth adapter that plugs into the wall socket to provide powerline network access to my home server to any bluetooth enabled device in the room.

      Why go to the bother of conjuring up a powerline-to-Bluetooth adapter when you can plug a USB Bluetooth dongle into your server? Bluetooth should have sufficient range to cover a decent-sized home if you put the server in a central location. Read this [] for info on one way to get this kind of setup working under Linux. It's oriented at getting Internet access over Bluetooth to a Palm Tungsten T [], but it should be a good start for enabling other types of usage. After figuring out that bluefw needs leading zeroes on the bus and device numbers, I got this USB Bluetooth dongle [] set up yesterday so that I can check mail, browse the web, and log into VNC and SSH servers with my Palm.

      • Yes, I admit that a centrally located server with a bluetooth dongle would work for many people. I don't believe it would work in my case, because

        1) I have no place to put a server centrally in my house and still have access to my DSL line. Unless I lay a new line, and that is one of the things I am trying to avoid in the first place. In the German house I live in, we originally only had one phone plug in a three story (cellar, ground floor and upper story) house, and this is not unusual here.

        2) My server sits in the cellar. I have a wireless network set up, and on the ground floor in the living room I can get 11 Mbps. In the upper story, on the stairs, bandwidth drops to 2 Mbps. If I step into any of the upstairs rooms, the connection becomes pretty much unusable. The construction materials used in this house are not unusual at all for Germany, and it is built primarily out of concrete. Bad for wireless. The house isn't that large though, comparatively speaking. It has about 112 square meters of living area, including the small terrace outside (on which I get between 5 and 11 Mbps). I'm reasonably certain that bluetooth would fare even worse than wireless under these conditions. Unless of course, the data is carried part of the way by something else - such as powerline networking.

        So, why not move my acces point to somewhere central in the house and go with wireless? Because I have yet to see a cell phone/handy that incorporates wireless, but bluetooth enabled handies are sprouting up all over - as are bluetooth hands-free head sets. How about the idea of a bluetooth hands-free head set that knows when to connect to my handy and when to use my home phoneline to make/receive a connection?

        I think a powerline/bluetooth solution would work for a house like mine with its sturdy construction, a larger house where a "central server" is still a good bit away, or for a firm that is spread through a medium-sized building.
  • What security do these devices have to prevent the neighbor from eavesdropping on your powerline LAN? The power lines don't stop at the walls of your house?

    Is there some sort of device you can put in at your fuse box to block data going in/out? What are the practical restrictions on someone coming up and using an external outlet at your house (none that I can see)?

    This may be somewhat convenient for some applications, and perhaps more secure than wireless, but there are still some physical security issues that seem harder to address than with CAT5.

    Throw in the lower level of convenience than one gets with wireless as well as a much lower rate of throughput than with 802.11a, and I don't see much more than a niche market for this sort of product.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      With the powerline I've used, there are special filters built into power strips or the like that filter out the signal.
    • Linksys Powerline products use 56-bit encryption to protect communication. You set a passphrase on each device and you can (obviously) only talk with other devices that have the same passphrase.
  • Linux drivers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PoochieReds ( 4973 )
    Anyone know if Linux supports these devices? Does the USB variety just look like a regular old Communications Class USB device?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Okay, I've just gone with HomePNA, and I'm both awed and disgruntled.

    In favor of HPNA- 2.0's speed is excellent (~14mbps peak), and when it works, it's literally plug-and-play - the only security hole (unless you're worried about Van Eckers) can be cured with a cheap DSL microfilter between your home wiring and the telco.

    The problem with HPNA 2.0 is that Broadcom has a monopoly on the HPNA 2.0 chipsets. Apparently others are making PHYceivers (see Anandtech's review, in which Compex's poor performance is blamed on a Conexant chip), but the MAC is always going to be a BCM4210 or relative. Even that wouldn't be so bad, but the 2.0 spec is Not Ethernet, and includes some bandwidth-reservation (QoS) tech that's Broadcom's intellectual property.

    The end result is that, if you want to use a cheap $9 PNA2.0 card outside of Windows or Classic MacOS, you're stuck with some presumably flaky closed drivers for Linux (hidden on Linksys' site- props to Linksys for at least trying)... If you run a *BSD, OS X, QNX, or anything else, you're stuck buying a bridge.

    Now, this wouldn't be so bad- having a bridge means having an Instant Ethernet Drop anywhere you have a phoneline- but the average price for a single port version is in the $150 range. In fact, good luck finding one that even integrates a switch/hub; Linksys made a 1.0 (1mbit) device that did, but their HPB200 doesn't. In fact, the only halfway-affordable solution is to get an old Panasonic KX-HGW200 - that's a full router - closeout from CompUSA for $20, turn off its routing features and run it as a bridge.

    (You can mix 1.0 and 2.0 devices on a segment; it's just annoying, because everything on the segment flips back to 1.0 mode.)

    Now, okay, so that's where HomePNA lives on the sucks-rulesometer. How about HomePlug?

    Well, let's put it this way- nobody's going to make a PCI card with a 110v plug on the back. You only get bridges, and those bridges don't sound much cheaper than their HomePNA variants. By all rights, they have to be much more complex, since power lines are more hostile than phone lines.

    Meanwhile, you can turn around and run 802.11 for the same or less money (~$30/client)... but when you're trying to hook up your relatives, who wants to explain signal strengths, WEP holes, and wardrivers?

    Thus far, my bets are still with HomePNA - could all you Slashdotters *please* hammer Broadcom to improve the openness of documentation/support? - In theory, a 100mbit 3.0 is in the works, and that might give them a chance to recoup some cred (and even if you're stuck falling back to 14mbit, that's still quite usable vs. 1mbit)...
    • could all you Slashdotters *please* hammer Broadcom to improve the openness of documentation/support

      Dear Broadcom,

      Until such a time as you comply with our documentation/support demands, we will be linking slashdot articles to your primary servers on a daily basis.

      Something like that what you're asking for?
      • Well, along those lines is the driver at

        the only "working" (I use the term loosely) Linux driver for HPNA? It sucks, sucks, sucks. Not maintained and not fully opened. I get a tainted kernel that panics from time to time... I'd use CAT5 ether if I could (sigh)

        Apparently we only rate a half-assed token driver... )-;
  • HomePNA == Localtalk (Score:4, Informative)

    by lordpixel ( 22352 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @11:26AM (#5025384) Homepage
    Picture the scene, its the mid-80s. Apple engineers want a way to network their dinky 9" screen toaster macs. All they have is a serial port, and almost no one has heard of Ethernet.

    More importantly, the wife (landlord or whoever) is not going to stand for rewiring the house with some computer nonsense.

    Solution: AppleTalk networking over LocalTalk cabling. ie, use the existing phone sockets and cabling to send data. By modern standards it crawls, but it works well and is still in use today (by some unfortunate souls).

    Almost 20 years later you have HomePNA. There aren't many new ideas in this world.
    • Picture the scene, its the mid-80s. Apple engineers want a way to network their dinky 9" screen toaster macs. All they have is a serial port, and almost no one has heard of Ethernet.

      More importantly, the wife (landlord or whoever) is not going to stand for rewiring the house with some computer nonsense.

      Solution: AppleTalk networking over LocalTalk cabling. ie, use the existing phone sockets and cabling to send data. By modern standards it crawls, but it works well and is still in use today (by some unfortunate souls).

      What you describe is PhoneNet, which was developed by Farallon as a cabling substitute. Real LocalTalk cabling was a round cable with mini-DIN-4 connectors on each end, and (like everything else from Apple) was expen$ive (another motivation for PhoneNet was the reduced cost). A box with a mini-DIN-8 plug and two mini-DIN-4 jacks plugged into a computer, printer, or whatever, and the LocalTalk cables plugged into those boxes. PhoneNet replaced the boxes with different boxes that worked with phone cord.

      My Mac (a Quadra 610) plugs directly into Ethernet, but I have a short PhoneNet run from my Apple IIGS (and occasionally an Apple IIe) into a Cayman GatorBox CS. Through the GatorBox, the GS can access files on the Mac or on the Linux server, and Marinetti [] adds Internet access (with clients for Telnet, FTP, and some other services available) over the same connection (the GatorBox acts as a MacIP gateway).

      • My Mac (a Quadra 610) plugs directly into Ethernet, but I have a short PhoneNet run from my Apple IIGS (and occasionally an Apple IIe) into a Cayman GatorBox CS. Through the GatorBox, the GS can access files on the Mac or on the Linux server, and Marinetti [] adds Internet access (with clients for Telnet, FTP, and some other services available) over the same connection (the GatorBox acts as a MacIP gateway).

        My god... that was all present tense. That's scary.
        • My god... that was all present tense. That's scary.

          It fits in well with the theme of this article [], don't you think? Besides, getting some equipment to do things it wasn't intended to do is part of the fun. (About ten years ago, I wrote a WAV player for the IIe...needed no additional hardware to do the job. I've been doing this kind of stuff for a while. :-) )

    • Actually, LocalTalk used regular serial-style cables. The phone line adapters were a third-party product (Farallon's if I remember correctly) and were not intended for using in-place phone wiring, as this was not terminated properly. Rather the goal was simply cost savings, as phone cables were a lot cheaper than Apple LocalTalk cables.

  • I've got two Linksys Powerline Etherfast 10/100 Bridges at my apartment which work great. They work to make a bridge between my cable modem, which sits in my living room, and my linux router, which is located in my bedroom. The specs say the devices are capable for transferring up to 14Mbps over the powerlines, although I have not had a chance to test this.

    Each unit was about $80 through Amazon and I couldn't be happier with them (except that the config utility must be run from a Win* box). Beats the hell out of wires running over the floor. Anyone who can't easily wire their domicile and doesn't want to roll out wireless should definitely have a look.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have the Linksys Powerline bridges, and I am *very* happy with them. Consistent 10Mbps+ speed at a distance of over 150ft -- wireless in the same home had lots of packet loss and downgraded bandwidth. If you're frustrated with dropped/slow wireless in your home, I encourage you to have a look at Powerline solutions -- way underrated, IMHO.
  • this interesting technical solution is too expensive to widespread imho. Each node will cost around 80$, plus a network adapter if not already included with the node. So, it's around 100$ per node. Wireless is about the same price or cheaper and it is a cleaner solution, no external box for each node. The phoneline equivalent is cheaper and cleaner. But still expensive, in particular the Ethernet-to-phoneline bridge or the Cable/DSL-to-phoneline bridge. Also, a phoneline adapter is required for each node, twice the price of an Ethernet adapter.
  • Some high-end home theater equipment is sensitive to power irregularities, and there's an entire market around line conditioners and the like. What effect will the noise this system MUST introduce have on my $6,000 HDTV and other equipment? I can't imagine it would be good for it - while electronics manufacturers design them for certain tolerances I doubt the high frequencies, etc., from this type of network were thought about and could pass through causing all manner of possible harm. Couldn't it? Or am I missing something? I would hope the networking equipment vendor thought about all of this!
  • (I hope nobody else posted this...)

    The post mentions a home/soho office. So let's expand the abbreviations out - we're looking at solutions for a home/[small office/home office] office, which means this is for either a home office, a small office office, or a home office office. Wouldn't "soho" have been enough? That's the point of abbreviations! don't surround an abbreviation with filler words! Aaah!

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