Renovating? Don't forget to network

Been doing a bit of renovating? Before you install the plasterboard and start painting, consider spending an afternoon to run a local area network (LAN) through your house.

Network Your Home

Been doing a bit of renovating? Before you install the plasterboard and start painting, consider spending an afternoon to run a local area network (LAN) through your house.

LANs are becoming increasingly useful as people amass larger and larger collections of music and video on a single network-attached storage (NAS) device. Pull video from the NAS using a device like the Apple TV or DViCO TVIX 5130 PVR and you've got an easy way to watch those videos on your big-screen TV — as long as you have a network port near it.

Wired LANs offer more certainty than a wireless LAN, which will give you serviceable 54Mbps speeds or several times that using newer 802.11n technology. But wireless slows down as more people use it at once, and it suffers horribly through walls and in buildings with steel. Try streaming HD video over wireless, and you'll be crying out for the speed that only a wired network offers. Wired networks also offer lower latency, which is crucial if you're planning to do VoIP or networked games.

Facing a large number of open walls during some recent renovation work, I decided it was worth a try. I had never installed a network before but wasn't keen to pay the electrician hundreds of dollars to do the honours (the going rate, I'm told, is around AU$150 per network port). With a bit of internet research and a whole lot of trial and error, I managed to do the whole thing. The following pages explain how.

DISCLAIMER | These instructions assume you have some basic DIY knowledge, and common sense. Make sure you turn off your electricity at the switchboard before messing around in the walls that have power points. Be careful when cutting, drilling, climbing ladders, and feeding crocodiles. Never stick a knife in the toaster. Wear appropriate safety gear, including clean underpants and sunscreen. Call your mother. And, of course, make sure you keep an ample supply of cold drinks handy. I think I've thought of everything. Basically, the following steps worked fine for me, but CNET and I accept no responsibility if you totally cock it up. Not that that's going to happen, since you're going to be very careful, pay good attention, and be very careful. Did I mention, be careful?

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