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Old 2008-04-13, 11:07   Link #1
WanderingKnight
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Router choices

My family wants to split the internet access I've been paying for myself to the whole house, so we've been talking about setting up a router--not wireless, though, since we'd have to buy three wireless cards plus a wireless router, which is too much for what we're willing to spend. My question is, what's the recommendation on router brands or models? The average price I see is of about 20-25 USD. Is that too small an investment?
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Old 2008-04-13, 11:11   Link #2
SeijiSensei
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Sounds about right to me. Your other alternative is to use Linux with two network cards. Connect one card to the ISP, the other to an Ethernet hub or switch. Then use the NAT features of iptables to route internal traffic out on the net. There are many howto docs on the subject of building NAT routers with Linux.
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Old 2008-04-13, 11:12   Link #3
WanderingKnight
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Quote:
Connect one card to the ISP, the other to an Ethernet hub or switch.
I apologize for my ignorance in network-related matters, but isn't an Ethernet hub a router in itself?
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Old 2008-04-13, 12:21   Link #4
chris
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o.0 20-25 USD for a router, i hope you don't intend to use bit torrent on that router if you pay only that much lol, if you want a real router
then get the dgl-4500(from d-link), anything you get for $20-25 wont hold up to bit torrent and not only that but will have a low thoughput. Also a hub is very different then a router a hub does not contain nat and can not assign ip addresses all it can do is split a connection really so you would still need a router to do nat and manage the ip tables. Also hubs are old technology most people use switches now for networking in conjunction with a router
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Old 2008-04-13, 13:41   Link #5
kayos
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Originally Posted by chris View Post
dgl-4500(from d-link)
I think that's way over their budget ($160 - $200). Imo dlink's are nice and fast but they tend to drop their signal, but that was from my personal experience with it. After that I switched to Belkin, haven't had a drop signal since.

I guess it all depends on how fast and reliable you want your router to be. But if you're planing to stay within 20-25, you can easily find a good "used" G router on amazon. There's nothing wrong with used items (sometimes), as long as it gets the job done.

I can't specifically recommend you which brand or model to get, I've only owned two routers in my lifetime (-Dlink, +Belkin) and they are both over $100. The best way to choose which one is reliable is just to read the comments and reviews by other buyers of that product. Research before you buy.
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Old 2008-04-13, 14:03   Link #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
My question is, what's the recommendation on router brands or models? The average price I see is of about 20-25 USD. Is that too small an investment?
I would recommend a wireless router. You will still have the choice of using it as a wireline router, but, in case one of you changes his/her mind and decides to buy a wireless card, then the wireless access will still be there, no need to buy another router for that.

I am currently using a cheap D-link wireless router, DI-524. Over the last year, I have abused it quite a lot, using both access methods, and using torrent and other file-sharing stuff, but I haven't had a single problem. I also bought a WRT54G for my parents, which is a bit more expensive, and they are happy with it. But, they do not abuse the router as much as I do, so, I cannot say much about its durability if you abuse it a lot.
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Old 2008-04-13, 14:24   Link #7
Ledgem
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Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
I apologize for my ignorance in network-related matters, but isn't an Ethernet hub a router in itself?
Seiji's solution is pretty neat. Basically, your computer will be acting as the router, but the hub/switch will be acting as a port expander (because adding a secondary NIC will only give you one added ethernet port).

The reason why you need the second NIC rather than linking directly to hub or a switch is because the hub is a "dumb" device, and the switch is only a half a level above it. A hub sends out information to all connected devices, and the device who should be receiving it accepts it while all others ignore it. A switch gives the information only to the intended device. The problem with the hub is bandwidth loss, but this only matters if you're going to be maxing out your internal network's bandwidth for extended periods of time.

If you connect your modem to the hub and then connect all of your computers to that, you'll need to specify gateway and IP information on the computers. The hub/switch just relays information transparently - the computers don't see that there is a hub/switch, they think that they're connected directly to what ever other devices are connected to the same hub/switch (hubs/switches can be daisy-chained and the devices still won't know the difference). I did this with my DSL modem (which was a modem only, not a modem/router) but we had static IPs for the computers so that there wasn't a network collision.

The router works by holding your IP from the ISP (what the internet sees), and then assigning all of the computers behind it their own internal IPs. It then passes requests appropriately. Seiji's solution will give your dual-NIC computer the role of passing requests and assigning internal IPs, while holding the internet-facing IP. It will put a bit of added load on your system and depending on the activities of your family members may make your system the target of more internet attacks (by virtue of being the IP holder). The benefit is that you'll still have a direct link to the net. As others have mentioned, cheap routers don't hold up well to BitTorrent traffic (I went through three cheaper ones before using the D-Link DGL 4300, which was more expensive (got it for $75) and much faster). They can do it, but you'll probably have to reboot them after a torrent session or two. For regular web usage and sharing they're fine, though.
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Old 2008-04-13, 14:50   Link #8
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Suggest going Gigabit Ethernet, like the D-Link DGL-4100 @~$95.00, if it's a wired solution as indicated in your post. The Gigabit cards aren't that much more expensive or even cost the same, so the gigabit router is the major expense. The speed difference is substantial from the 10/100 routers. Invest in gigabit now and you won't need to upgrade later. Just setup your DHCP, turn on the firewall, open whatever port if you bitorrent, and you are ready to go.
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Old 2008-04-13, 14:54   Link #9
Ledgem
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For regular net transmissions I think gigabit is a bit of a waste. If his family is going to be doing massive file transfers within their network then it might be worth considering, but it doesn't sound like that's the plan. I agree that the difference between 100 mbit and gigabit is rather substantial, but it isn't appropriate if they won't be able to utilize it
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Old 2008-04-13, 14:57   Link #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fipskuul View Post
But, they do not abuse the router as much as I do, so, I cannot say much about its durability if you abuse it a lot.
I'd say from my experience that it is pretty durable. I haven't had to restart for months now and I often overload my home network with transfers between the systems and to the outside, P2P for example. Also has the option to load a third-party firmware (DD-WRT for example) on it. Not like it will matter to most people, but it can offer very nice and useful extensions to the default features.

P.S. As a note, I have one of the very first models which from what I know are actually supposed to be the more stable ones.
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Old 2008-04-13, 17:12   Link #11
WanderingKnight
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Quote:
I would recommend a wireless router. You will still have the choice of using it as a wireline router, but, in case one of you changes his/her mind and decides to buy a wireless card, then the wireless access will still be there, no need to buy another router for that.
Wireless networking implies buying three wireless cards and a wireless router. Way, way past our budget for this.

Okay, after reading Ledgem's post I'm interested in setting up what Seiji suggested, especially since I'm the only one making a real use out of the bandwith (my family mainly wants it to surf and check email), and I'm kind of worried that the stability I've been getting with BT goes down when the router is connected. So basically, I need to look for a network switch and another NIC for my PC, right?

The other thing I'm worried about is how to handle the connectivity with the other Windows box in the house (the third one is a Debian box I built for my mom, so I guess there'll be no problem there). You see, that's the one my sister uses, and my parents want to limit her access, mainly by connecting and disconnecting depending on when she's allowed to use it. Now, if there's something I remember from my Windows days, is that networking tools on XP are a royal pain in the ass. Coupled with my limited understanding of networking itself, I'm afraid some issue might arise as to the automatic recognition of the connection whenever it's plugged in. It's a minor issue, but I'd like to make sure how to do it, because since I've started to use Linux, the Windows world has become stranger and stranger to me.
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Old 2008-04-13, 17:50   Link #12
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How far apart are these computers? If they are very far apart, running cable through the entire house can get very expensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
Wireless networking implies buying three wireless cards and a wireless router. Way, way past our budget for this.
There are many tricks that don't involve that. If for instance you have two computers on the third floor and two on the first, you can buy a) 1 wireless router and 1 wireless access point with wired connections or b) one wireless router and one cheaper wireless router which supports a wireless bridge* or c) two wireless cards, and two switches/hubs and form an ad-hoc wireless network between the two cards. (This one is a real pain to do. You will need to set up two systems as routers/connection sharing here.)

Just some other variations to think about.
(*Not all firmware/router combinations support a wireless bridge. Some routers support them with custom firmware.)
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Old 2008-04-13, 17:50   Link #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
Wireless networking implies buying three wireless cards and a wireless router. Way, way past our budget for this.
Most wireless router have 4 ethernet ports build in. Some newer router do have configurable QoS, alternatively look for a router that support Third-party firmware, such as HyperWRT, that support assigning bandwith to ports, mac or ip addresses. A gateway computer might sound great, but it is only recommended if you are planning to leave it on almost all the time, save the enviroment so build a box with low energy consumption.
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Old 2008-04-13, 18:12   Link #14
Ledgem
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I'd recommend against any wireless stuff unless you're doing a wireless router. Ad-hoc networking sucks big time in Windows. The only time I was able to make nice use of a real ad-hoc network was when I put my Macbook Pro into Access Point mode (via internet sharing) - Windows PCs thought they were connecting to a regular network. Otherwise, I've only ever been able to have two Windows XP systems join an ad-hoc network and see each other successfully once out of about four attempts.

If you go the route of making your system a gateway you may not need to do any tinkering with your other systems. I'm not sure how to configure Linux this way, but if it'll act like a DHCP server (as a router would) then all you'd need to do would be to have the other systems in DHCP mode (which is generally the default option) and then connect them to your system. All configuration would be on your computer's end.

Sides brings up an interesting point, which is that your system will have to be on for the other computers to connect. If your system is on all the time anyway, or if it's on when your family would want to be connecting, then there's no issue. Electricity-wise, a router may be more effective. Rather than powering your computer and the hub/switch all the time, the router would be the only device that would need to be on all the time. That really depends on what your concerns are, though.

Since your system will be the gateway, you'll have full control over your family's connectivity. If your parents are worried about your sister's access times, I'd imagine you'll be able to draft rules about site limits, port limits, and access times to her computer's MAC address (among other methods). If she's really good with computers you may have to stay a step ahead of her, but I'm guessing that you're at the top of the technology chain in your house
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Old 2008-04-13, 19:03   Link #15
WanderingKnight
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Quote:
How far apart are these computers? If they are very far apart, running cable through the entire house can get very expensive.
They're quite far apart, but Ethernet cable seems quite cheap (I'm seeing 1 ARS per meter here, which is about 30 USD cents).

On the issue of my computer requiring to be always on, well, it is most of the time on, so that's not a very problematic issue. Though Ledgem brings up the interesting possibility of me doing the controlling for my sister... though I'd rather not be burdened with that responsibility.

(BTW, I'm sure she won't be able to figure anything dealing with networking out. She's quite good at learning, but I think it's a bit over her level).
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Old 2008-04-13, 20:02   Link #16
SeijiSensei
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Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
So basically, I need to look for a network switch and another NIC for my PC, right?
Yes, that's it.

You'll want to assign the internal network card (usually eth1) an address in some private network range like 192.168/16. I recommend making this address static using your distribution's network configuration tools. Let's say it's 192.168.1.1, with a netmask of 255.255.255.0.

Now let's configure the clients. With such a small number of hosts, static addressing again makes the most sense. Give the clients addresses like 192.168.1.10, 192.168.1.11, etc., and set the default gateway on each host to 192.168.1.1, the address of the Linux router. Now they should broadcast packets within the 192.168.1.0/24 network to each other and send any other packets to the Linux box for further routing.

I'll leave the NAT part of this to you; as I say there's plenty of documentation on how to set that up. Let me deal with the other issue, domain name resolution. There's a couple of ways to do this. You could manually configure the workstations to use your ISP's name server when you configure their TCP/IP stacks. Alternatively you can run a "caching-nameserver" on the Linux box and point the clients at 192.168.1.1. This approach runs a local DNS server on the Linux box that the clients use to resolve names. You query the Linux box, and it looks up the addresses on the net for you.

Quote:
The other thing I'm worried about is how to handle the connectivity with the other Windows box in the house (the third one is a Debian box I built for my mom, so I guess there'll be no problem there). You see, that's the one my sister uses, and my parents want to limit her access, mainly by connecting and disconnecting depending on when she's allowed to use it.
This is a more difficult problem, but not because it's Windows. Just use the Network configuration applet in the Control Panel to give her a static IP configuration as I described above.

The difficulty concerns limiting her access. You certainly don't want to be responsible for "turning on" her access to the Internet. I'd press for time-of-day limitations which are easier to implement (and perhaps some parental oversight ) .

One solution is to set up a "cron" job in /etc/crontab the changes the iptables rules to block your sister's access. If your sister is allowed to use the Internet between 3 and 6 pm, you could add a line in /etc/crontab like this:
Code:
0 15 * * * root /sbin/iptables -I INPUT -s your.sis.ip.addr -j ACCEPT
This grants access to the Internet from your sister's computer at 3 pm every day. "man 5 crontab" for more details on the syntax.

The rule
Code:
0 18 * * * root /sbin/iptables -D INPUT -s your.is.ip.addr -j ACCEPT
will delete ("-D") the permission at 6pm. Since good firewalls have "default deny" policies, deleting the rule blocks your sister's IP address after 6 pm.

If your parents' concern is solely to block your sister's access to the Web, as opposed to blocking all IP connectivity, you can take a different approach. Set up your sister's computer to use the Linux box as an HTTP proxy server and run "squid" on the Linux box. You'll find a discussion of squid proxying at http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=61075. I'm pretty sure squid has time-of-day access controls, so you could write rules that would restrict her Web access to particular periods.
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Old 2008-04-13, 20:57   Link #17
WanderingKnight
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Quote:
The difficulty concerns limiting her access.
Actually, my mom's idea was simply to physically disconnect her computer. There would only be one machine connected to my PC at the time, and that's the way they'd keep her controlled (my mom's PC is in a different room). I don't think it's an efficient way to do it, though, but that's only my opinion on the matter. If anything, I'd like to have the least responsibility I can over my sister's activity. I'll propose to my family the option of scheduling her activity on my end, but I don't know if they'll agree with it.
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Old 2008-04-13, 21:18   Link #18
Ledgem
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Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
I'll leave the NAT part of this to you; as I say there's plenty of documentation on how to set that up. Let me deal with the other issue, domain name resolution. There's a couple of ways to do this. You could manually configure the workstations to use your ISP's name server when you configure their TCP/IP stacks. Alternatively you can run a "caching-nameserver" on the Linux box and point the clients at 192.168.1.1. This approach runs a local DNS server on the Linux box that the clients use to resolve names. You query the Linux box, and it looks up the addresses on the net for you.
Actually, if he's going to be using static IPs (which makes a lot of sense, especially if there won't be random systems connecting to the network) then he could set up his network similar to how I did my systems at work with Squid. (That was this thread.)

For reference, I have one computer with two NICs acting as the Squid gateway. It's wired to a network switch, as are the other systems. All have static IPs for the internal network (1.1.1.1 through 1.1.1.8 at this point) and it works beautifully. I'm not sure how nice it'd be if I tried to run a torrent or use some exotic ports through one of the non-gateway systems but it was incredibly easy to set up... except for the one Windows XP system. For some reason it won't accept the proxy information.

But then, I'd imagine that the proxy is meant more for web browsing than for total web access. Either way it was pretty easy to set up (I had some issues but then I'm not very skilled at that network stuff - Epyon and Seiji helped me get it sorted) so consider it if it'll fit your family's needs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
Actually, my mom's idea was simply to physically disconnect her computer. There would only be one machine connected to my PC at the time, and that's the way they'd keep her controlled (my mom's PC is in a different room). I don't think it's an efficient way to do it, though, but that's only my opinion on the matter. If anything, I'd like to have the least responsibility I can over my sister's activity. I'll propose to my family the option of scheduling her activity on my end, but I don't know if they'll agree with it.
If you only plug one system in at a time then you won't even need to buy a hub or a switch. Saves you money (no need for the hub/router or for a third ethernet cable) and saves you the problem of setting up a net access solution. The only issue is, will you be able to find a cable long enough to connect the systems directly to each other, or would you need that hub/switch to bridge a gap?
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Old 2008-04-13, 21:51   Link #19
SeijiSensei
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Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
If you only plug one system in at a time then you won't even need to buy a hub or a switch.
I'm afraid it's not that easy. You'd need to use so-called "crossover" Ethernet cabling in this situation. Connecting a normal Ethernet cable from one machine's network card to another's won't create an electrical connection.

One pair of wires in the cable is designated for transmission (the "TX" pair) and a second pair ("RX") is assigned to receive. Regular cables will connect the TX pair on one machine to the TX pair on the other, and connect the RX pairs together as well. Then the machines don't "hear" any traffic on the RX pairs and are sending data between the TX pairs. A crossover cable connects the TX side of one machine to the RX side of the other, and vice versa.

Since crossover cables are a more specialized item, it would be a lot more costly to use them than to buy a cheapo switch. Plus if you were to swap the cables WK's mother couldn't use her computer when his sister is online. Just buy the switch; you'll get more flexibility in the long run, too.
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Old 2008-04-13, 22:05   Link #20
Fipskuul
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
Wireless networking implies buying three wireless cards and a wireless router. Way, way past our budget for this.
Probably mentioned already, but, it won't hurt to repeat. Buying a wireless router does not imply buying a wireless card.

The wireless router has multiple ethernet ports, so, you can connect with these available ethernet ports on the router, and you can operate it as a wireline router. You can disable the wireless access anytime you like, so that part will be your choice. But, buying a wireless router will prevent you to buy another router soon, if one of you changes your mind and decides to go wireless.

On another subject, if you want to use two ethernet cards on your machine and use internet connection sharing, you may not be very happy with the results (actually, not you since you will be using the main machine, but your family, who will be using the shared connection). It is not a stable approach. The effort and the results may not worth the money you will save by not going for the external router-based approach.
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