Well, it’s been a while since I have written anything on my blog – the reason being I have been in a state of chaos and living out of my bedroom whilst the flat has been redecorated and walls knocked out. The usual stuff… 😉
What started off as a quick coat of paint in the kitchen and lounge turned into a complete house-wide refresh. A 2 week project turned into a 2 month project.
As a result I haven’t been in a position to do anything in the evenings apart from things flat related such as trips to B&Q. 🙁
Anyway, all the work is now finished and I now have time to start my ramblings on the blog once again. Happy Days!
After the flat refurb I have now relocated my study/office/man cave to another room in the house. Unfortunately this room doesn’t have a phone extension point so my ADSL router needs to remain where it is. Doh!
Now, I have 4 options open to me, either:
1. Run new Cat5 cable to the new study. This would be way too much hassle now as everything is nicely painted and the cable would have to be routed externally along the skirting boards and around door frames, etc. I did think of running Ethernet at the time of doing the DIY though moving rooms was a last minute decision.
2. Have my servers and desktop run PCI wireless adapters. Although one of the easier options I’m not sold on this idea due to the cost (I would need to buy about 4 of these cards at about £40’ish each) and more importantly I just personally don’t like the idea of running my servers over wireless. Not from a security perspective, as I would ensure WPA with a nice long random key is used but more from the angle of not being keen on having too many things running wireless – performance and an unfounded paranoia of a future medical revelation that discovers that wireless has all this time in fact been frying our brains….. along with everything else fun in this world no doubt. 🙂
3. Pay a small fortune for BT (British Telecom for anyone reading this from overseas) to come and install a phone extension – which would involve running surface cables, as per the CAT5 solution, around my nice new wire free white walls. They would also charge a small fortune.
4. Take a punt and purchase a pair of Powerline Ethernet adapters. Here is a good description from Digital Home Magazine of what and how the home Powerline Ethernet products work:
Powerline networking is a technology that’s capable of transforming an in-house mains power circuit into a home networking infrastructure. The mains wiring in the average home can support a variety of frequencies. As electricity uses 50/60Hz signals, extra data can be transported along the same wiring at a higher frequency, without causing any interference.
Until recently I knew very little about this technology – all I knew was that a friend in the USA tried them a few years ago with little success. The performance he found was terrible and gave up on using them. Since then however there have a been a couple of revisions and increases to the speeds obtained from Powerline adapters.
I decided on option 4 because if these devices do what they say on the side of the box then they’d be ideal.
After doing a little research it is apparent that Powerline Ethernet adapters currently come in 3 speeds:
As with wireless connections these speeds are maximum theoretical speeds and are generally never obtainable. People on the various forums I read all reported various speeds of anywhere from 15% of the quoted maximum speed right through to 80%. A good rule of thumb however seemed to be assume that you will only obtain around 50% of the quoted speeds.
This is not because the adapters are faulty but due to the condition and how the power cabling is distributed within your house/flat, interference from other electrical appliances and lets face it apart from a wired/fibre network when do you ever get the maximum throughput?
I shopped around a few reviews and various forums to find what the general consensus was on the best make/model. I had seen the Netgear adapters in local computer retail stores though if my past experiences with Netgear were anything to go by it’d either be a really good product or a complete waste of money… Hmmm, sounds like Belkin whom I gave up on years ago (though they do good network cables – but that’s about it in my opinion).
Unfortunately it from the feedback on the forums it seems like the Netgear Powerline adapters are something of a disappointment with poor reported speeds.
The search continued… A number of people were speaking highly of the range of Powerline adapters from a company called Devolo. I have never heard of Devolo before though from the positive comments about their speed and ease of install I thought it worth a punt.
Devolo offer 3 ranges of adapters, each for the speeds mentioned above. Rather conveniently Devolo Powerline adapter starter kits were on offer which contained 2 adapters to start your new Powerline Ethernet network. The Start Packs were a few pounds cheaper than buying 2 individual adapters.
I chose to go with the 85 Mbps model as my internet connection from my ISP BeThere is 17Mbps (down). Worse case scenario if I only achieved half the advertised maximum throughput I’d still have more than enough bandwidth to cover the required 17Mbps.
The Starter Pack I bought contained:
2 Powerline adapters
2 Ethernet cables
Quick start guide
CD containing the relevant utils etc.
I followed the very simple ‘Quick Start Guide’ poster and plugged an adapter into the room containing my phone line and ADSL modem/router and the other in my new study containing all my PC’s/Servers. I then connected the adapters to both my PC (study) and ADSL modem (old room) using the supplied Ethernet cables.
The lights on the front of both were flashing… it looked positive. I logged into my PC with much anticipation, started Firefox and…..
I checked to see if I’d obtained an IP address from my ADSL modem (which was temporarily acting as my DHCP server whilst the flat renovations were going on). This was a big fat negative. I connected my laptop straight into the built in switch on the ADSL modem and it picked up an IP straight away and was able to access the Internet without any problems.
I installed the supplied utilities and ran the ‘dLAN Con
figuration Wizard’ – which is used to configure the AES encryption that the adapters use to encrypt data between themselves. This ran smoothly and I reset the encryption key just to make sure.
I then ran the ‘Devolo Informer’ utility which provides a status of the adapters and can confirm that connectivity has in fact been established (see below).
Everything appeared to be working just fine – so why no connectivity to the ADSL modem, even after trying a number of other problem diagnosis solutions?
To cut a long story short it turns out for some reason or another the Thompson Speedtouch ADSL modem’s built in switch just doesn’t like communicating via the Powerline adapters. I don’t know if this is an issue peculiar to the Devolo’s or all Powerline adapters.
Luckily I’d bought a replacement (though hadn’t yet installed it due to the DIY work) ADSL modem/router/firewall the previous week in the form of a Draytek Vigor 2820 to replace the Thomson which was prone to dropping it’s connections and offering sketchy performance.
I’ve now been running the Powerline adapters for about 4 days and can confirm that they are brilliant! The comments in the forums regarding the Devolo’s are proven to be correct. I get connection rates between 67 Mbps and 78 Mbps which is more than fine for Internet connectivity and small file transfers. Faster speeds could be obtained with the 200Mbps models.
So, if you want a good alternative to wireless or CAT5/6 (but who runs CAT6 at home?) cable connectivity then I can definitely recommend the Devolo High Speed Ethernet Powerline Adapters.
*** UPDATE *** September 2008: I have been using the Devolo Powerline Adapters for over 3 months now and they have been great! I haven’t had a single problem with them and they are on 24 x 7. I have bought another one for my XBox 360 in the lounge.
Below are some other interesting related links: