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Networking 101 (VERY LONG POST)


GoGo Delicious

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Hi All,

First off sorry for the L O O O N G post. I wanted to make sure this was a good foundation for information on home networking.

This is just a post for those who do not know much about home networking or are new to it. It's not an end all, be all in networking but more of an informative post that may or may not help others.

I posted this because there are a few posts about people having networking issues and I thought this might educate/inform.

This will cover the options, setup and addressing of an INTERNAL network. A internal network is not accessible from the outside (internet) unless you have a public IP address mapped to your private network. I will not go into that here.

Network Types.

There are basically 3 types of network speeds 10Mbit, 100Mbit and Gigabit (1000Mbit). There is also 10Gbit network but most on here will not be running a 10Gbit network.

The most common network is 100/1000 (100Mbit/Gigabit). If you have a C4 system or are planning to install a C4 system you should take a look at your network and make sure it’s up to par. Meaning you have enough ports on your router/switch, enough network plug-in’s the various rooms of the house (we have 2 ports per wall per room.) since you never know where you might want to move your furniture/desk/equipment/etc, all cabling should be CAT5e or better. You can run fiber but that is an entirely different subject and again I will not go into that here.

Equipment

If you have purchased or thinking of purchasing a C4 system that’s doing more then just controlling your TV, cable box, receiver then you more then likely have spent or will spend, upwards of $2,500.00. In this case you should invest in more of a enterprise router/switches instead of D-Link/Linksys systems. There is nothing wrong with these brands BUT you want rotuers and switches that can really perform.

Gigabit Equipment

If you are planning a Gigabit network MAKE SURE your switches AND Ethernet cards support Jumbo Frames. To many people install Gigabit switches that do not support Jumbo Frames (A bit about Jumbo Frames later). I would also suggest that your switches support Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) especially if you are running Apple systems. More about LACP later.

As far as equipment brands goes I HIGHLY recommend ProCurve Switches by HP, http://www.procurve.com. The entry level switch 1800G switch,

http://www.hp.com/rnd/products/switches/ProCurve_Switch_1800_Series/overview.htm, starts at about $150.00 and is web manageable, supports Jumbo frames and LACP. Also, all HP ProCurve switches have a lifetime warranty and telephone support. Remember the network is the foundation/backbone of any HA system. DO NOT GO CHEAP on the back bone. As far as “Web” manageable or a “manageable” switch you definitely want a switch/router that has this capability. A “manageable” switch will allow you to log into to and not only configure it but read the log files. The log files will tell you what errors your switch is encountering, where on the network/port they are occurring and what type of error it is, i.e. network collision, etc.

Personally, I currently use a wide variety of HP switches/routers throughout our house and guesthouse. These include a 5406zl (1) Running Gig Ethernet and 10GB fiber and used as our Core, a 2900 Series (1), and 8 1800 Series. Note, in NO WAY do I have a financial interest in HP. I just really love their networking gear. For the price you cannot beat performance, reliability and you get a lifetime warranty.

Jumbo Frames

A quick lesson in Jumbo frames. Standard 10/100/Gigabit networks send information in 1500byte frames. So no matter what the speed of the network your packet size is the same 1500bytes. Jumbo frames enable you to send data in 9000byte frames. Thus sending more data per packet.

Think of it this way you have a 3-lane road, 10Mph, 100Mph and 1000Mph and each lane has an 8-passenger van. No matter how fast you can go you can only carry the same amount of passengers 8. Yes, lane 2 gets there faster then lane 1 and lane 3 gets there faster then either lane 1 or lane 2 but you are still making the same amount of trips to get 100 passengers from point “A” to point “B”.

If you have your Gigabit network setup for Jumbo Frames you can now move data in 9000byte frames, a 600% increase in the amount of data moved per packet. Now lets take a look at the above example, this time using Jumbo frames.

You have a 3-lane road, 10Mph, 100Mph and 1000Mph. Lanes 1 and 2 still have an 8-passenger van but lane 3 now has a 48-passenger van (A 600% increase). No matter how fast you can go lanes 1 and 2 can only carry the same amount of passengers 8. But lane 3 can now carry 48 passengers at a time. It takes lane 1 and 2, 12.5 trips to carry 100 passengers from point “A” to point “B”. Where as, by using Jumbo Frames, it takes Lane 3, 2.1 trips to take 100 passengers from point “A” to point “B”.

As you can see if you are running a server in your house that serves Audio/Video you will definitely want to use Jumbo frames as it reduces traffic on your network. Depending on how many “Zones” you have on your house this can have a positive impact on your network throughout your house.

Remember in order to run/enable Jumbo frames you need to have the following.

1) 10/100/1000 Router/Switch that supports Jumbo Frames

2) 10/100/1000 Ethernet Card that supports Jumbo Frames

3) Your OS supports Jumbo Frames.

Mac users. If you are using OS X 10.4.X Jumbo frames support is built-in. I also believe Jumbo frames is supported in OS X 10.3, I cannot remember if it is. All G5 and Intel Macs support Jumbo frames. As far G4 Mac’s SOME do it depends. If you have a G5 or Intel Mac and are running 10.4 and have a switch that supports Jumbo frames I can help you if you like in setting your network settings to support Jumbo frames.

LACP

LACP stands for Link Aggregation Control Protocol. What this does is provide failover if a port on your switch or a Ethernet card on your computer goes down. In order to take advantage you need a switch that handles LACP, 2 Ethernet cards, single port is fine. (Side Note: You can use one, 2-port Ethernet card but that defeats the purpose. If the actual card goes bad then you lose both ports on one card). You will also need software that supports LACP. Mac users, all G4 and G5 Towers/Xserve’s and Intel MacPro’s and Xserve’s have Dual 100/1000 Ethernet interfaces. Also, OS X 10.4.x has LACP support built-in.

Once you have LACP setup you will have 2 Ethernet cables coming from your computer/server going to 2 separate ports on your switch. Besides providing redundancy and failover there is another benefit. The system you are running LACP on is now running at 2Gbits instead of 1Gigabit and if you are running Jumbo frames you are now sending information at 18000bytes per frame. If you are running a 100Mbit network then you are now running at 200Mbits and sending information at 3000bytes per frame.

Where would I want to use LACP? First off, I use LACP on all our servers. Video and Audio streaming take up a lot of bandwidth (I’m a musician and all of my files are AIFF and all my recordings are recorded in the AIFF format.). Running a server with LACP means you do not have any bottlenecks at the server and all requests for data can be sent quicker and in larger chunks. Second, any desktop/tower machine should be running LACP. If you are recording files, uploading audio and video files from your desktop to you audio server then using LACP on a Gig network with Jumbo Frames enabled will GREATLY reduce your TX time. For example from my studio machine (Xserve) and office (MacPro) machine it takes < 1sec to TX a 30GB file to my audio server.

Internal Addressing

There are 2 ways to address your network. DHCP and Manual IP addressing (Static IP).

DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. This is what almost all retail routers such as D-Link, Linksys, etc are set to. DHCP sets the IP address, Subnet, Gateway and Name Servers. The problem with this is that every time a system is rebooted, looses power, etc the router may assign a new IP to the attached network device. If you have a mapped network drive, a shared library, etc, that point to a certain IP address you will not be able to connect to it once a device reboots until you find out what IP address has been assigned to the device by the router and reattach the device you are trying to connect to. This creates a network that is not ADDRESS reliable, meaning you cannot assume the IP address will always be the same on every device. This is not a proper way to setup a network especially for home automation. If a component is looking for a certain device with a certain IP address and that IP address has been changed by the router then the device will fail.

Manual IP Addressing (Static IP)

Manual IP Addressing, aka Static IP or Static Network, means you manually give the device an IP address, along with the Subnet, Gateway and Name Servers. Using this type of addressing scheme makes sure that NAS devices, Servers, or HTCs will ALWAYS have the same IP address no matter what. Your HTC will ALWAYS know where on the network your NAS or AV server is located. Thus ensuring a more reliable network connection and more enjoyable experience.

How to set Manual/Static IP addressing.

That’s too much to go in to. Every router is a different. You will want to refer to your routers instruction manual for details on how to set up a Static Network.

How About Wireless Networks

Adding a wireless network to a Ethernet based network is not difficult. The MOST important thing to remember is that the Wireless AP (access point) should be setup as a EXTENSION of your network. Meaning your WAP SHOULD NOT be setup using DHCP. You should manually setup your WAP with a Static IP just like you would a computer or HTC on your network. Once that is done make sure you WAP is set up as RELAY POINT. Thus, if you have a notebook with a Static IP that IP will always be the same and the WAP will not try to assign an IP to it.

I will not go into details on how to do this since every vendor is different. I suggest contacting your manufacture or reading the manual. Mac users, if you need I can assist you on this.

In Summary

The above are networking BASICS that any network installer should know. To the average Joe or Suzie Homeowner the above may or may not be over your head. But EVERY network installer should know the above. If they don’t DO NOT HIRE THEM.

The above is to inform the average Joe or Suzie Homeowner on home networking and what a home network consists of. It will also give you something to ask you C4 installer about. If they know nothing about the above how do they know your network is adequate and has the necessary capacity for your install?

Again this is a F.Y.I. NOT a end all be all of networking. It's ment to arm the average home owner with some information on home network in order to ask the proper questions. I hope this helps a bit. If it dosen't oh well, no need to let me know as I don't care.

Also, I have this in PDF format. If I get enough requests I will post the PDF for download.

GoGo Delicious

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Nice post.

Without getting back to the whole debate about how you can sell a Crestron system for a bit more than a C4 system, I think you should consider selling C4 with your new company for the following reasons :

1. Most people have never even heard of Crestron.(C4 has been heavily advertised)

2. Those that have heard of Crestron feel that it's too expensive for them to afford.

3. Apparently the C4 dealers in your area suck at installing the product.

4 It may wind up having a higher profit margin for you because it's easier to install.

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Very informative post GoGo.

I have been reading this forum for several weeks now and see that many times it seems the network is the "unwanted stepchild" of the entire HA install. It is one of the last considerations of the install, but is one of the most important, as it is the foundation.

First, I have a few questions:

1. Do C4 devices support 1 Gig Ethernet? My guess is no they do not.

2. Can you hard code (i.e. manually set) the speed and duplex of the Ethernet on C4 devices?

Some suggestions from a seasoned network technician with over 15 years experience in the IT industry. I am sure many of the pros on this list know these things but many people are new to home automation and many not realize the importance of a solid network in any HA system.

1. Goes without saying that hard wired Ethernet is always better than wireless. Go with a cable if you can. Remember wireless (802.11 a/b/g) is a shared bus technology. All the devices share the bandwidth and it is only half-duplex.

2. It is better to hard code speed and duplex settings for devices like servers, HTC and anything that is not a PC. The idea here is that things like servers, HTC, MTs and such do not change much from the network perspective (the network configuration stays very static). Auto negotiation does not always work well and there is always the possibility of speed and duplex mismatch during the auto-negotiation process. Speed and duplex mismatch will cause network problems and you are likely to experience packet loss and a slow network. Leave auto speed and duplex negotiation for PC.

3. Hard code Static IP addresses on servers, HTCs, MTs etc. Don't forget to remove the static IP addresses from the DHCP scope on your router. I have seen people that assigned static IP addresses to devices and not remove the static addresses from DHCP. The result is that two different devices are assigned the same IP address. This is of course VERY bad for an IP network.

4. More on wireless. The wireless spectrum can be very crowded. Although there are 14 channels in 802.11 b/g 2.45 GHz ISM band (1 - 14), there are only 3 unique wireless channels for 802.11 b/g (channel 1, and 11) all other channels overlap. Here is a link to some additional info on ISM URL:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISM_band. Microwave ovens and many cordless phones also use the 2.45 GHz band. ZigBee (if I recall) uses channel 14 of the 2.45 GHz band. Since there are only 3 unique channels it is likely that your neighbor could be using the same channel that you are using. I find 5 additional access points in the near vicinity of my house, add to that any cordless phones in the neighborhood and BAM!!! major congestion, A.K.A. slow network access.

I hope I have added to this discussion.

Thanks

Alan

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Very informative post GoGo.

I have been reading this forum for several weeks now and see that many times it seems the network is the "unwanted stepchild" of the entire HA install. It is one of the last considerations of the install, but is one of the most important, as it is the foundation.

First, I have a few questions:

1. Do C4 devices support 1 Gig Ethernet? My guess is no they do not.

No. They are 10/100.

2. Can you hard code (i.e. manually set) the speed and duplex of the Ethernet on C4 devices?

I do not believe you can. In all reality, you would actually do this on the router/switch side. In order to do this though you MUST have a manageable switch.

Hope this helps.

GoGo Delicious.

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Nice post.

Without getting back to the whole debate about how you can sell a Crestron system for a bit more than a C4 system, I think you should consider selling C4 with your new company for the following reasons :

1. Most people have never even heard of Crestron.(C4 has been heavily advertised)

2. Those that have heard of Crestron feel that it's too expensive for them to afford.

3. Apparently the C4 dealers in your area suck at installing the product.

4 It may wind up having a higher profit margin for you because it's easier to install.

To be honest I actually thought about adding the C4 product to our dealership. Crestrons dealer agreement is non-exclusive but I do not know about C4's. At any rate, I own the Crestron dealership BUT I do not work there or manage the day to day operations. As I said in the original post I was not changing anything about how the company is ran, all the managers and employees are still there store policies are the same, etc. With that said, introducing C4 after a week of owning would not be a good idea at this time.

In October I am leaving on tour until the end of Jan, a short one, and when I get back I will be off until June, when I will be back out on the road. During my time off, between Feb and Jun, I plan to be at the store everyday working with the store manager and employees. At this time I will look at adding C4 to our product mix. I do feel being a deler of both, we can show each systems abilities, features, etc. They can see what C4 gives them at a certain price point and what Crestron can give them. If I have a serious customer and I am a dealer in both systems we will get the sale either way. BUT before I make any descion I will listen to what the store managers (sales, installation, tech support) have to say about adding C4 and if we can really compete as a C4 dealer. I will also have to take into consideration employee traning, advertising, etc. I dont know the financials of owning a C4 dealership but all classes and training for Crestron dealers and their employees are free. So I would have to see about it. Again it will not be something I consider until after the new year but I am definetly going to consider it.

GoGo Delicious.

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WOW ! ! Very Good.

OK . . If you got a chance to view the link then some of you got to see who I am. I did take it down for a few reasons. 1) It was old. The information on there was VERY out of date about 2 years old 2) Privacy. Being in the entertainment business one thing I relish is my privacy. As I am sure you know GoGo Delicious is not my real name it's a name I use when I don't want to be recognized (Hotels, resturants, etc). Yes I am, a professional drummer as some of you may have found out read. I am a studio/session/touring musician. I have written quite a few songs that you might have heard from time to time but I have played on a lot more albums that you have more then likely heard. If you're over 50 then you might not have heard me play, but your kids have definetly heard me play.

In all my posts I have never mentioned my installer by name or company name, I never mentioned any of the business/companies I own by name and sticking with that tradition I will not say what albums/artitsts I have played/recorded/toured as I don't feel it's appropriate.

With that said I am like everyone else who has a job.

Good job Mr. Dorman. I wish I had a prize to give ya.

GoGo Delicious.

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  • 6 months later...

I'd like to comment on a bit of what gogo said. First my background. I dont know a hell of a lot about control4. I'm just starting to look into it. But I DO know a whole heck of a lot about networking, tcp/ip, and ethernet.

Some points.

gogo mentions 10, 100 and 1000 mbit ethernet as different systems. While they are different, they are completely interoperable. A switch that supports the highest speed, will also support the slowest speed. i.e. a 1000 mb/s switch will support 100 and 10 also. It will autonegotiate the speed on each port to match the speed of the device connected to it. Conversely, if you plug a 1000 mb device into a 100 mb switch, the device will autonegotiate down to the speed of the switch. Botom line, if both items are ethernet, it will work.

Gogo says not to use netgear, to use an enterprise class device. I disagree with this. For the cost of a 24port gigabit cisto switch you could get an equivalent Netgear switch and 2 spares.

The netgear is a totally non-blocking / linespeed device. So you arent going to do any better. Also, the netgears now have a LIFETIME warranty. The prosafe GS724TP will give you 24 ports of gigabit connectivity, a lifetime warranty and power over ethernet for your control4 devices. Its also manageable at a very basic level. If you need more than 24 ports, connect a 100 mb/s switch to the gigabit switch and put things like touchpanels, keypads, and other low bandwidth devices on that switch.

Wireless connectivity - its very simple when considering wired vs wireless. If you can do wired, do wired. Wireless should only be considered as a last resort. Why?

1) reliability - we've all had to troubleshoot wireless issues. wep? wpa? access control lists? Just wire it and be done.

2) performance - a 50 mb/s wireless network SHARES the 50mb among all the connected devices. A wired, switched network has a dedicated connection to EACH device. So you see, the differnence in total bandwidth is much greater than the 50 vs 100 mb number would indicate. What does this mean? Well, if you want to stick a keypad or touch panel on the wireless network, have at it. low bandwith needs there. However, I would be hesitant to stream via wireless unless it was the only way to do it. You may be fine up to a certain point. But at some point you will start having problem. I'm not sure where that is, but if you do wired, each device has DEDICATED bandwidth and you will neve rhave a problem.

Don

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I'd like to comment on a bit of what gogo said. First my background. I dont know a hell of a lot about control4. I'm just starting to look into it. But I DO know a whole heck of a lot about networking, tcp/ip, and ethernet.

Some points.

gogo mentions 10, 100 and 1000 mbit ethernet as different systems. While they are different, they are completely interoperable. A switch that supports the highest speed, will also support the slowest speed. i.e. a 1000 mb/s switch will support 100 and 10 also. It will autonegotiate the speed on each port to match the speed of the device connected to it. Conversely, if you plug a 1000 mb device into a 100 mb switch, the device will autonegotiate down to the speed of the switch. Botom line, if both items are ethernet, it will work.

Gogo says not to use netgear, to use an enterprise class device. I disagree with this. For the cost of a 24port gigabit cisto switch you could get an equivalent Netgear switch and 2 spares.

The netgear is a totally non-blocking / linespeed device. So you arent going to do any better. Also, the netgears now have a LIFETIME warranty. The prosafe GS724TP will give you 24 ports of gigabit connectivity, a lifetime warranty and power over ethernet for your control4 devices. Its also manageable at a very basic level. If you need more than 24 ports, connect a 100 mb/s switch to the gigabit switch and put things like touchpanels, keypads, and other low bandwidth devices on that switch.

Wireless connectivity - its very simple when considering wired vs wireless. If you can do wired, do wired. Wireless should only be considered as a last resort. Why?

1) reliability - we've all had to troubleshoot wireless issues. wep? wpa? access control lists? Just wire it and be done.

2) performance - a 50 mb/s wireless network SHARES the 50mb among all the connected devices. A wired, switched network has a dedicated connection to EACH device. So you see, the differnence in total bandwidth is much greater than the 50 vs 100 mb number would indicate. What does this mean? Well, if you want to stick a keypad or touch panel on the wireless network, have at it. low bandwith needs there. However, I would be hesitant to stream via wireless unless it was the only way to do it. You may be fine up to a certain point. But at some point you will start having problem. I'm not sure where that is, but if you do wired, each device has DEDICATED bandwidth and you will neve rhave a problem.

Don

Again I will repeat NETGEAR, D-Link, Linksys or ANY OTHER switch that you can buy at Best Buy should NEVER be used PERIOD. If the client is paying upwards of $10,000.00 for a HA systems it's our responsibility to make sure that the network, which is the back bone of ALL HA systems (C4, Crestron, AMX, etc) is rock solid. Using a consumer grade switch brings down the intrinsic value of any HA installation. Remember if the network goes down the client will blame the HA system and not the network.

Don states the following "gogo says not to use netgear, to use an enterprise class device. I disagree with this. For the cost of a 24port gigabit cisto switch you could get an equivalent Netgear switch and 2 spares."

First off I NEVER said to buy a Cisco. I said "As far as equipment brands goes I HIGHLY recommend ProCurve Switches by HP, http://www.procurve.com. The entry level switch 1800G switch, http://www.hp.com/rnd/products/switches/ProCurve_Switch_1800_Series/overview.htm , starts at about $150.00 and is web manageable, supports Jumbo frames and LACP."

He also states that "For the cost of a 24port gigabit cisto switch you could get an equivalent Netgear switch and 2 spares." Don't believe that AT ALL see below. All pricing as of 3/20/2008.

HP ProCurve Price - $419.99 - http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-Details.asp?EdpNo=3329118&sku=H24-J9028B

Cisco - $519.99 - http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3505617&body=MAIN#detailspecs

Netgear Price - $674.99 - http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-Details.asp?EdpNo=3142386&sku=N100-2142

As you can see the HP and Cisco are less the the Netgear. I do not think this persons knows much about networking. I would hate to have him advising me to by a $675.00 switch because he told me "For the cost of a 24port gigabit Cisco switch you could get an equivalent Netgear switch and 2 spares."

If you look up the pricing on buy.com you will see that over all the prices are even less than Tiger Direct BUT the Netgear is still more expensive then the HP and the Cisco.

Don states "But I DO know a whole heck of a lot about networking, tcp/ip, and ethernet. " Just because I can make a bowl of Cereal does not make me a chef and just because you can hook up 2 computers to a switch does not mean you know networking.

I say this because there are a lot of C4 end users and NON networking people on here. If we are going to post things or reply to a post and you are giving Unsolicited advice (As I did when I started this thread) make sure you post FACTS not opinions.

GoGo D.

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