View Full Version : Home networking question (Curtis/Jimsiff)

05-15-2005, 08:26 AM
I noticed at least two of you guys, Curtis and Jimsiff, work in IT so I'm hoping you might be able to answer a fairly basic home networking question. I currently have four computers networked at home: my wife's laptop, my office pc, and my iMac are all wired through the lan ports on a 802.11g d-link wireless router. My HTPC is networked wirelessly from the living room through the same router. Now, I'm thinking about using an old P3 500 box collecting dust in the basement as extra stora for the HTPC.

I could put the new box in my office (I have one LAN port left) but then every time I wanted to play a song or movie that lived on it through the HTPC I'd be relying on the wireless connection. Probably be fine, but prone to occasional hiccups (all my media currently lives on the HTPC). What I'm wondering is whether the new box would show up on the network at all if I just connected it directly to the HTPC with a crossover cable run through the floor to my basement, which is by far the simplest wired option.

(Believe it or not, each of these computers have specific duties, less anyone think I'm just a total computer whore).

05-15-2005, 07:12 PM
Well.....I always look for the simple answer first.

Does the new/old box need to be on the network? Can you just move the data that you want to use on it to the HTPC?

05-16-2005, 04:38 AM
The HTPC is chock full now (300gb and counting) and adding any more hard drives to it (assuming I could even fit them) would push the noise/heat issue beyond my comfort level. The idea is to set up a dedicated media server, but 99% of the time only the HTPC will be drawing from it so I though I might be able to get away with a direct connection rather than going through my router.

Hmmm... after reading your reponse, maybe that's what you meant? That it doesn't need to be on the network. Can a computer be wirelessly networked and directed connected to another machine via crossover at the same time? (I would simply test this, but I have yet to restore the old machine and some part decisions rest on how I'm going to connect it).

Lee Bailey
05-16-2005, 07:11 AM
Personally, any computer in the network that has to handle large transfers of data should be hard wired to the router/switch. And yes, the wireless computers will be able to see the hard wired computer just fine. All the computers in my house are hard-wired. We play FPS games on the local LAN, where the faster the connection the better. Everything is running at 100Mbps, full duplex mode.

05-16-2005, 08:03 AM
I think the wireless streaming performance should be OK when there isn't a lot of traffic, but i'm not sold on wireless either. i was thinking about purchasing an apple airport express. i'd hook it up via cat cable for two reasons. 1 - because i know i won't have to worry about it again and 2 - because i don't have a wireless router. ;)

my mother was complaining of slow network performance shortly after she moved into her new apartment. i went over there to check it out and they were connected to another apartment owner's wireless router. that was kinda' neat/funny. i bet that happens A LOT in apartments.

a solid cat connection is the way to go for large transfers. i've always just been unimpressed with wireless connections. there was a fellow on xboxlive (halo 2) who used wireless and he had lag here and there. he switched to wired and has no problems. it's absolutely necessary for gaming.

what games do you guys play? ;)

05-16-2005, 11:02 AM
I agree with Curtis, keep it as simple as possible. Putting the data on the HTPC would be easiest.

Using a USB G wireless adapter would be an easy solution if you can't keep the data on the HTPC. There are potential issues with wireless, but I would go ahead and try it out to see if it works. You're not dealing with high risk data so there's no harm in trying.

That said, the effectiveness of the wireless solution depends on your environment. Wireless is a shared media. The wireless access point is analogous to a hub, where all associated wireless PCs share the available bandwidth. If your other PCs are very active on the network, you're more likely to see issues with large data transfers between your HTPCs. Also, B and G wireless operate in the 2.4G band, which is susceptible to cordless phone and microwave interference. If you have interference problems, your PCs will intermittently drop their wireless connections. Also, signal strength can be an issue if either PC is a long way from the access point. Hard walls reduce signal strength, and depending on the TX power of your access point, floorplan, etc, you may have pockets of poor reception.

I'm not going to say much about the security issues with wireless, but if I were you, I'd refrain from broadcasting my SSID, and turn on WPA or WEP encryption. WPA is preferred, but WEP is better than nothing.

If wireless doesn't work for you, you can wire the two PCs directly using a crossover cable. If you've got 2K or XP on both machines, you can leave them configured for DHCP and they will give themselves an address on the 169.254.x.x private network. If you don't have 2K or XP on both ends, you will need to configure both cards with static IP addresses from a different network than your main home LAN. If your home LAN uses as the network, you could use and as the addresses. Once both PCs have an address, they should be able to communicate with each other. Make sure you have the data shared and that the HTPC can connect fine.

Good luck

05-16-2005, 11:19 AM
yeah...what Jim said. :)

Another option....adding external storage to your HTPC.

05-16-2005, 11:48 AM
Thanks for the very detailed reply Jim. Just to clarify, if the HTPC and the HTPC server were connected via crossover, both running XP, and configured on this 169.254.x.x private network, could the HTPC remain connected to the LAN wirelessly at the same time, and if so, would the wired lan be able to see the HTPC server via the HTPC? Reason being: I might want to run the HTPC server "headless" (sans monitor) and log in to it via VNC from my office PC.

Here's an attempt to depict the theoretical setup:

office pc
(wired port)
wireless router
HTPC server

(p.s. I've considered external storage, but I'm trying to think long term and daisy-chaining multiple external HDs in my entertainment cabinet just isn't feasible)

05-16-2005, 01:34 PM
Have you already ruled out putting the new PC on your home LAN and accessing the data via your HTPC's wireless connection? That would be the easiest way to go assuming your wireless network is stable and it doesn't have high utilization.

To answer your two questions, yes the HTPC could be active on both your Home LAN and your secondary LAN. VNC would be a workable solution. You could run your HTPC headless, and control it via VNC. You could also access data on both HTPCs just fine when logged into the HTPC via VNC. The only limitation would be that you wouldn't be able to communicate directly between the office PC and the second HTPC.

My proposed wired solution gets a bit more complicated if you wanted to access the secondary HTPC directly from your office PC. You would need to use static IP addresses for both interfaces on your HTPC as well as the secondary HTPC. You'd also have to add a static route on your wireless router, and enable IP routing on your HTPC in the Windows Registry. In order to enable IP routing, your main HTPC needs to run XP Pro or possibly XP Home Media Edition. I don't believe you can enable IP routing on XP Home. These changes aren't too difficult, but it's a lot more steps than are necessary if wireless is adequate.

Here's a hopefully simple explanation for why each thing listed above needs to be done:

In order for your office PC to see the secondary HTPC, it's default route (the wireless router) needs to know how to get to the second network. A static route pointing to the HTPC's IP address will work, but the HTPC needs to use that same IP address all the time. That means that the wireless card on the HTPC needs a static IP address on your main home LAN. You need to make sure that the static address is NOT in the router's DHCP range, or it may hand out a duplicate IP to another PC.

Now, the wired interface on your HTPC needs a static address on the secondary network. Once this is done, your HTPC is "dual homed." This means that it has access to two different networks, one on each interface. However, by default it will not pass traffic going from Network A to Network B. You need to enable IP Routing on the HTPC so it will pass traffic from the Office PC to the second HTPC. This needs to be done in the registry. Instructions are at the bottom of the post.

The second HTPC needs a static IP address on the secondary network so it can communicate with the HTPC and your main Home LAN. Set the default gateway to be the secondary address on the main HTPC.

If you're interested in taking these steps to get your second HTPC online, here's the instructions for enabling IP routing on your main HTPC. Open regedit, and go to the key HKey_Local_Machine\System\CurrentControlSet\Servic es\TCPIP\Parameters." You will see a value in the right pane called "IPEnableRouter with a REG_DWORD value of 0. Right click on this value, choose modify. Change the value to 1. Close regedit and restart the PC.

05-16-2005, 03:32 PM
Thanks Jim!!!

That's exactly the type of guidance I needed. I haven't ruled out putting the server in the wired LAN, and serve up media wirelessly to the HTPC, but its good to know I have another option if that proves unreliable.

thanks again...