FiOS finale: getting the Airport Extreme online

Why is it that home networking stuff takes so long to resolve? Warning: highly technical and elliptical post ahead.

It took me a few days after my last networking adventure to get the last few items cleared off the checklist, namely getting my network attached storage (NAS) and TiVO into the network. To do it, I came darn near to voiding my warranty on the Verizon-supplied Actiontec MI424-WR before I pulled back from the brink and did something really… well, comparatively simple.

I tried some of the advice on the links I previously posted. Hint: don’t bother, at least if all you want is to put an additional wireless base station on the network. After attempting to put the Actiontec into bridge mode, then restoring factory defaults when my AirPort Extreme didn’t work as advertised, I ended up having to call Verizon to release my DHCP release remotely so the Actiontec would work again. 

Back to square one. This time, I set up the AirPort Extreme on a separate SSID from the Actiontec, and darned if it didn’t come up successfully. So now the FiOS internet signal is spread across two overlapping wireless networks, and because they’re all connected to the same base network and the Actiontec is serving all the IP addresses (the AirPort Extreme is in bridge mode), all devices on both networks can see each other. 

Okay. So the last step was getting the TiVO online. Under the old setup, I had an Ethernet USB adapter connected to it, running to the AirPort Extreme, which was connected to the cable modem. Only problem is, there’s no cable modem in the area any more, and there’s no Ethernet connection in the room. So how to get the TiVO back on the network? 

My original plan was to hook up the TiVO to the Ethernet port on the AirPort Express in the room, but the Ethernet port isn’t active unless the AirPort Express is in WDS mode, which it couldn’t be with the Actiontec. But: it could be with the AirPort Extreme. So I reconfigured the AirPort Extreme and the AirPort Express together as part of a WDS network. Which … well, I gotta say, typing in a hex address is not the most foolproof way to establish a network. Especially when the letter B on a label looks like an 8. But I eventually got it straightened out.

So. The final setup: 

  • Fiber to Verizon-provided ONT.
  • ONT: Coax to my Leviton coax splitter, whence it heads to both bedrooms, the kitchen, the library, and the living room, all from one split.
  • ONT: POTS to my Leviton phone distribution, whence it hits both bedrooms and the kitchen.
  • Leviton: Coax to the Actiontec router.
  • Actiontec: Wireless network #1, including the printer.
  • Actiontec: Ethernet to the Leviton, whence both bedroooms and the kitchen.
  • Actiontec: Ethernet to the AirPort Extreme, and thence to wireless network #2, including the living room and the TiVO.
  • AirPort Extreme: has the NAS containing all my music.

You know, all the people claiming that the computer folks ought to kick the crap out of the home theatre guys because of ease of setup? They’re talking out their asses.

Media wiring project: data cabling

For those that have not been following my structured wiring project (and hard to blame you: it’s been going on since late 2004), here are the highlights to date:

  1. Moved into a 1941 house with no inside telephone wiring and put a temporary fix in place.
  2. Installed a Leviton structured wiring box in our basement and mounted a telephone switching block, a cable T, and punchdowns for Cat 5 wiring.
  3. Ran Cat 5, phone, and coax into the first and second floor bedrooms while the walls were open for our air conditioning project.
  4. Ran all the phone and coax in the house into the structured wiring box
  5. Hook up the new outlets in the kitchen

The major step left incomplete after all this activity was the data wiring. I haven’t had to do a lot of data cabling in the house thanks to 802.11. But with three to four laptops, a TiVO, a Wii, speakers, and a printer all on the same hub, it’s occured to me that lighting up the data jacks that I installed in steps 3 and 5 might be a worthwhile endeavor.

So last weekend I got my wiring tools out, opened up the box, and took a look. I saw my punchdown block but couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to work. But I finally realized that the punchdown block simply provided physical termination for the wire alongside a jack into which the actual data service could be plugged. So I needed to do three things: terminate the two Cat-5 runs from the bedrooms into the punchdown block; buy and install a hub to light up the punchdown block; and extend the short run from the kitchen to the block so I could light it up as well.

It turned out to be really easy. The Cat-5 runs were color coded to the colors on the block, so I simply lined up the wires (blue & white, solid blue, orange & white, solid orange, green & white, solid green, brown & white, solid brown) and used the punchdown tool to knock them into the block. Then I used a crimping tool that I bought back in 2005 to make Ethernet patch cables from some spare Cat-5, and connected the block to the hub. I saved the short run for the weekend; I’ll probably move the long cable I had to the data block, and splice the short one and run it into the voice block.

That leaves one very important step: getting a data feed from the WAN (our ISP) into the hub. I have a plan for that, and it happens this weekend. And it involves a new contractor and a new drop to the house. And I’m very excited about it. Stay tuned!

Breaking: Technorati acquires Blogcritics

I was just wondering the other day: what happened to Technorati? Apparently they’ve been reinventing themselves as an advertising and media company. The latest step: the acquisition of Blogcritics, the open cultural criticism site for which I’ve written in the past and may do again in the future. Announcement on the Technorati Blog; coverage at TechCrunch, which estimates the deal size at around $1 million.

Congrats to Eric Olsen and the rest of the Blogcritics crew. Putting the site together was a lot of work and keeping it running has been even more, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.