In part one of this series, I outlined LinuxMCE and how amazing it was providing Home Cinema, VoIP Telephony, CCTV and home automation in one system for the price of a download and a few hours work.  This article will help those who, like me, live in rented accomodation or cannot ask their local electrician to come and channel cabling ducts into the walls for some other reason, yet need to have a solid network cable running throughout the house.

It boils down to the following:

  1. Ask your landlord/leaseholder/parents (!) if they would be happy for you to pay to have the work done
  2. Nail the cable to the skirting boards or run it under the carpet/lino/wooden flooring
  3. Use Ethernet Over Powerline

If you choose to go down the path of option 1, I suggest that you sell the idea to them of adding value to the house – imagine how good it would be when they come to sell the house on if the entire house is already wired for home cinema!

Option 2 should really be a last resort and it definately doesn’t work well with either young children, pets or if you have wooden flooring – I don’t think that your landlord would be very impressed to find you had removed floorboards just to get a decent video stream in your kitchen!  It also has the added issue of colour – in the UK (and certainly in most of the houses I’ve lived in or rented) skirting boards tend to be white.  If you can find a stockist of white Cat-5e/6 cable, please let me know as a bright blue line of cable running about an inch above the carpet is not an attractive design feature! This option also leaves tiny little holes in the skirting boards every one or two feet that may be deducted from any deposit you have on the property if you’re renting.

This leaves us with Option 3 – Ethernet Over Powerline or “Homeplug” as it is rapidly becoming known.

These devices convert a standard mains power socket into a network port.  The system started off running at 14Mbps, upgraded to 85Mbps and is now available at 200Mbps.  I have a number of the Linksys 14Mbps devices as sold on eBay and these work fine as the backbone between my broadband router (situated by the front door as that’s the only phone-socket on the ground floor) and my server (situated in the garage because it’s noisy!).

I tried to netboot a LinuxMCE MD (see previous post for definitions of the LinuxMCE devices) and it was unusable, so I’m trying to get my hands on some of the 200Mbps kit to see if that’s any better (anyone want to send me some for testing???). The only issues I’ve discovered with the Homeplug kit are that the signal quality varies from house to house and that if you have a powersurge (and we get them frequently!) it can (and this has only happened to one unit) knock out the unit completely.

Coming up next, designing the network for the LinuxMCE-powered Home Entertainment Network…