Proposed Home Network and rebuilding the home network

I recently bought a 500GB Apple Time Capsule. The Time Capsule is a wireless access point (WAP) with an embedded hard drive. The Time Capsule replaced my aging Linksys WRT54G WAP. The WRT has worked flawlessly over the last 3 to 4 years but I wanted something for the future ( 802.11n ) and since I plan to completely switch my home over to Macs in the near ( or not ) future I figured I might as well start with the infrastructure.

However, the install and setup did not go as easy as I expect. I ran the Airport Utility and entered all the questions the wizard requested. One thing I did not expect was that the Time Capsule could import the configuration of my current router ( a Linksys WRT54G ). That would make things a lot easier to setup.

I fully expected the setup to take about 15 minutes. Three hours later I was still screwing with the thing. I had disconnected the WRT54G and connected the WAN port of Time Machine to the cable modem. But Time Machine kept coming up with a private IP. When I plugged it into the Linksys it worked fine as a secondary gateway behind the WRT54G. It was not until the second day ( after going to bed around 1 AM ) that I realised that the problem was the cable modem. I do not know what the issue was but after resetting the cable modem Time Machine was able to get a proper IP and I was able to surf the web. And oh ... install the latest Airport update from Apple.

I then configured Time Machine to use Time Capsule as it's backup drive. That was extremely easy as shown here.

I then forced my first Time Machine backup and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I am not quite sure how long it took. I went to bed and in the morning both my Mac mini and MacBook had been backedup to Time Capsule. Using OS X 10.5 ( Leopard ) with Time Machine, the macs on my network are backed up ( differentials ) each and every hour. Very cool.

The WRT still works so I decided to repurpose it. My friend Mike, suggested I re-image the device with DD-WRT. DD-WRT was originally a project to create a modified and enhanced firmware for the Linksys line of WAPs. The project has grown overtime to support other WAP and router brands but the main focus is still the WRT.

I have version 5 of the WRT54G, so I downloaded the micro version of the binary from the DD-WRT web site and followed the instructions from this site. Why? Well... they seemed to be more detailed and provided a back-out plan in case of trouble; something the instructions on the main site did not. Following the instructions I had a new router in less than 15 minutes. I won't go into the features and benefits of the DD-WRT software; there is just too much there. Perhaps another post later this month when I have poked at all the button.

I did notice that DD-WRT supports Wireless Distribution System (WDS). WDS allows for connecting WAP to extend the range of wireless networks. The Time Capsule also supports WDS. I do not really understand how it all works but I am looking to use WDS between Time Capsule and DD-WRT. The Time Capsule is in the basement where the cable company placed the box that provides my internet connection and my telephone service. The wireless signal does not make it to some parts of the house. I can get about 30-40% in my family room; which hosts my mac mini, TiVo, and Nintendo Wii which all happen to be wireless. If I can get WDS working between WAPs then I may be able to provide a more robust signal in the other parts of the house.

Home Network Design 1    

Proposed Home Network, originally uploaded by Khürt on 3rd April, 2008.

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Time Capsule, Apple TV and MacBook Air

I was in the Computing in the Cloud Workshop at Princeton University yesterday, but there was quite a bit of buzz at MacWorld as well. The highlights:

Time Capsule

Apple takes the concept of a hard drive plugged into the AirPort Extreme base station one more step further and combines the two and call is Time Capsule. These new Airport Extreme base stations are the same form factor and features as the previous model (802.11n, 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports ) but now includes either a 500GB ($299) or 1TB ($499) hard drive. Users will be able to wireless backup any Mac over the network. This easy backup feature is undoubtedly an answer to the prayers of many MacBook users who hated connecting external drives.

Apple TV remix

Apple TV did not do as well as Apple had hoped and did not live up to the expectations of users. This time Apple hopes to get it right. Jobs announced Movie Rentals through the iTunes store as well as revamped Apple TV that will allow users to download standard-def and HD quality TV without the need for a computer. Users can also synchronised content back to any iTunes enabled computer. Of course, content from Mac, Flickr and YouTube can also be provided through the device.

MacBook as thin as Air

The feature story of MacWorld, however, had to be the new MacBook Air. This is a new interpretation of the wildly popular notebook line from Apple. This is a notebook computer that is truly as thin as a notebook. The MacBook Air weighs less than 3 lbs and is just under an inch thick at its thickest point. Apple dropped the width and weight by kicking the optical drive to the curb and even more weight savings are to be had if the user opts for an optional 64GB flash drive instead of the standard 80GB magnetic hard drive. Steve Jobs apparently hates ports because now USB, FireWire and video ports are hidden inside a drop down panel on the side of the machine. The MacBook Air also inherits the aluminum casing of the MacBook Pros. For me those were the major changes that stand out. EDITED: The MacBook Air does not have FireWire, Ethernet, or audio input/output.