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Work In Progress - Rewiring my home network

Posted <2021-08-22 Sun 18:09> by Aaron S. Jackson.

Last week I upgraded my switch from a 100Mbps Cisco Catalyst 2950 to a 1Gbps Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch 24 Lite. The Cisco was released back in 2003, making it around 18 years old now. Of course, I bought it secondhand off eBay about 5-6 years ago for around £30. The main problem with it was interference on the 2 metre ham band. It would make my radio very deaf. Speed wise, it was ok for most things - I don't do a huge amount of file transfers, but we recently got a backup 5G internet connection, and that can easily do 200-300Mbps, so the switch was starting to be a bottleneck. Also, within the next year or so, we should have 1Gbps fibre running along our street, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of that (even if the contention ratio is 32:1).

The EdgeSwitch 24 Lite seems to be a decent switch. My previous experiences of EdgeSwitches had been positive, looking after a couple of 10GbE 16 XG at Uni of Nottingham. The 24 Lite has two SFP ports, so really it's a 26 port switch. I had two 10G SFP+ 300m multimode transceivers knocking about at home, so I bought a 10m LC-LC fibre and a media converter (£30 in total, not bad!), just to have a play. Yep, fibre works! Obviously it's not any faster than copper in this scenario, but now I have fibre to the bed (FTTB) and it's neat.

I've put the switch in the loft, on the same rickety wooden shelf that the Cisco has lived on since moving in. There are a few cable drops from the loft, down to my housemate's bedroom and into mine. They aren't very long runs, maybe 10-20 metres or so, but I suspect I used CAT5 because they won't run any faster than 100Mbps. So foolish. I should have installed CAT6. In the loft I also have an EdgeMax ER-3-Lite router. This has a long run which goes all around the house to the modem by the front door, which just runs in PPPoE mode. This run has started to crack in a few places so should probably be replaced. It also looks a mess, pinned to the wall all around the house.

Looks like I've got some shopping to do.

Product Quantity Price Total
CAT6 UTP PVC Solid Cable (100M) 1 £49.36 £49.36
RackyRax 550x450 Wall Mounted Data Cabinets 1 £81.13 £81.13
Cat6 UTP RJ45 Modules with Faceplate (4 Socket) 4 £7.62 £30.48
24 Port Cat6 UTP Elite Patch Panel (w/Cable Management) 1 £33.12 £33.12
CAT6 Booted UTP RJ45 Patch Lead (Orange, 0.3m) 20 £1.14 £22.80
CAT6 Booted UTP RJ45 Patch Lead (Orange, 5m) 5 £3.07 £15.35
£232.24

So a bit expensive, but not too bad. I guess none of it is really essential, but it's fun and I like having a speedy network. I could probably get away with a smaller (depth wise) wall rack, or even an open frame, but I have a serial console server which is a bit deeper than the EdgeSwitch. Also, I have a Cisco 2600 router which I like to play with sometimes because it supports DECnet, and that is quite deep. Why orange? Orange is cool.

Looking up at the ceiling of the pantry. The red wire was just pushed up to see if I could see it from above.

The next thing to think about is the location. My switch and router have always been in the loft, but overtime I wondered if it would make more sense to be in the pantry above the door. This is a very central location in the house and there's already a very nice hole going up into the ceiling. It would make it easier to route cables into the lounge, and they'd be shorter runs. However, this is where it starts to get sort of complicated, taking me nearly half a day to figure out. I suppose I need to explain the layout of my house a bit… Upstairs has only two rooms - my bedroom and my housemate's bedroom. In between these two rooms is a hollow lath-and-plaster wall. Under these bedrooms is the lounge and kitchen, divided by a brick wall. For some reason, I'd always assumed that the dividing wall upstairs was directly above the dividing wall downstairs, but this turned out not to be the case. The upstairs wall is around 40cm in my favour (as in, my room gets to be slightly bigger than I thought, because of this).

My landing, which is above the pantry.

The hole in the ceiling of the pantry, shown in the figure to the right, actually comes up roughly in the middle of the door to my bedroom. I thought this might be convenient but it turns out there is a beam just to the left of that hole. Getting the cables through it would mean lifting up a lot of floorboards, which is something I'm not very interested in doing.

So, I guess the switch is staying in the loft. This means making some holes in the beam running between the bedrooms and dropping cables down. The problem is (and as I mentioned before), this wall is lath and plaster. While there is an air gap big enough for cable drops, the bottom of this wall is likely full of plaster which fell through the laths. This can make it very difficult to drill down into the room below.

So that's where I'm up to. Stuff to buy, and things to figure out. Updates to come, I hope.

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Comments and feedback are welcome by email (aaron@nospam-aaronsplace.co.uk).

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Copyright 2007-2021 Aaron S. Jackson (compiled: Sun 22 Aug 19:22:03 BST 2021)