Sunday, 12 December 2010

Extra copper

Wallplate with two network jacks and F-type connectorI had one regret when we did our house extension a few years ago. I'd neglected to install network points next to the TV antenna outlet that I'd put in our family room (what was I thinking!). This meant that the Media Centre has been operating on wireless for the last few months since we relocated it from another room. Not ideal, even though it's very close to the access point, and I also suspect the wireless drivers are responsible for the Media Centre machine constantly waking up from sleep-mode even though nothing was scheduled to record.

Replacing a skirting board provided an opportunity to hide some cables and remedy the situation. I was initially just going to put one cable in, but then figured that if I'm going to put in one, I might as well put in two. Plus, there's that special family Christmas present that might appreciate a network connection pretty soon (It rhymes with "Textbox Elect", and we're exercising great restraint in not opening the box until December 25th! We ended up getting the 250GB bundle from Harvey Norman – though don't let them try and sell you a more expensive bundle with a ripoff $50 HDMI cable)

I'd pulled the cables up into the ceiling in the family room a few weeks ago (along with replacing the skirting board), but only yesterday got time to finish the job and run them into our storeroom (where the modem and switches are).

I managed to pull one of the existing cables back up into the ceiling, tie the new cables onto it, then pull them all back down through the wall cavity into the storeroom (if that hadn't worked, I'd have had to resort to drilling a hole in the ceiling cornice and running some conduit down the wall).

I'd bought a new wallplate and fittings from Jaycar, so I connected those up and hooked in the existing F-type connector. I did discover that the wallplate was probably intended to be mounted vertically (as the network points would only mount sideways), but I can live with that. It's all hidden behind a sidetable/cabinet anyway.

I then plugged the cables into my 1GBit switch and tested them out in the Media Center. Even though the cable and fittings are only CAT 5e, so far I've managed to the existing cables to run at 1Gbit. Not this time, both were only connecting at 100Mb Sad smile. I didn't have a lot of spare cable to play with at the wallplate end, but I wondered if I had untwisted the copper pairs too much when I'd hooked them up to the wallplate jacks. I re-did one, taking extra care to keep the pairs twisted until right up to where the wires got punched in. Bingo, 1Gbit! I tried the same with the second, but unfortunately it was still at 100Mbit. Oh well – one out of two isn't too bad.

Now just to wait patiently for two more weeks until we can play with our XBox 360 and the Kinect controller. Should be a great way to work off Christmas lunch!

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