New network board

The home network. If you use the internet on a regular basis, this can be a crucial component of your home. Some people only use mobile internet, but this does come with drawbacks – most notably, for most people, a data limit. Nome internet at times has data limits as well, but they are significantly higher. For example, I pay for 15GB of data on our cell plan, but I get 1TB on my home plan. Overages are significantly more manageable at home as well, with $10 for 50GB vs about $15 for 1GB on mobile.

In our house, the internet is basically a utility in line with power or HVAC – it’s that necessary. I work from home, so it is a requirement (but sadly not a write-off). I have videos or music streaming for a large part of the day while I work, and my kids stream quite a bit as well. We ditched DirecTV a few years ago and went with streaming solutions. So, yeah, having a healthy home network contributes to our health and happiness.

When I moved my desk into our bedroom a few years ago (our master is bigger than we really need, and there’s no better place for it), I made my first network board. Basically, this is a simple board that you can mount on a wall to keep all your stuff neat and managed. Back in 2013 I recognized the need for one after a nearby lightning strike ruined my modem and router. Why? They were attached to drywall with double-sided tape.

Yeah. It was time to get a bit more organized and prepared if I needed to add or change things. So, I got a cheap melamine/chipboard shelf and mounted it to the wall via a French cleat. I mounted the modem, router, and a battery backup on it.

Really simple, because my needs at the time were really simple. As we rolled into 2016, my needs hadn’t changed any. Then I started getting more into home automation and technology. I added a Phillips Hue system. Upgraded my thermostat to a smart one. I needed a spot to put my Ooma Telo, a VOIP system. And the cordless phone we kept on this side of the house. I had moved my desk over to near this corner, and needed more capability. So, I made a new board that could handle this.

Really, it’s just a pine board sanded and marked for mounting holes and cable management. It’s something that anyone can do, and only takes a minimal amount of know-how. Here you can see the modem, router, Hue bridge, and UPS backup mounted, and awaiting hole placement for cable management. I ended up simply putting a shelf on top for the Ooma and phone, and it worked well.

For a couple weeks.

There wasn’t an issue with how I made it, but my needs evolved. The wifi signal out to the shop, and in certain parts of the house, became extremely lacking. So, I found a couple good deals around Black Friday and bought not one, but two new routers. I paid about the normal price of the main one for both, so it turned out to be a good deal. One, I turned into an access point only for better coverage in the house. The other replaces the router you see on the board. The old Netgear WNDR3700 is a fine router, and still works well. It does use, however, the wireless standard N, which is a bit outdated at this point. Wireless AC gives better range and better speeds, if the devices support it. It also has external antennae, which will help the coverage. Indeed, I can get a strong signal out in the shop without having to use the repeater.

So the new router (access point) in the living room is an Google OnHub, and the main router is a Netgear R6700. The Netgear has done so well I went with them again for the new one. As I said, the routers can now broadcast a good signal to the shop, so I’ll be disconnecting the extender. Because I have four gaming consoles, plus my computer, Ooma, Hue bridge and I’ll be running ethernet to the other locations soon enough, I also added an 8-port gigabit switch to handle the extra connections. All told, this is what it looks like up on the wall last night.

There is a little bit of room to add something small, especially if it is more home automation things. Very happy with how this turned out. Could I have done something fancy like tenons or a sliding dovetail? Sure, but a butt joint and screws is all that was really needed.

When I get around to getting custom length patch cable (or make my own) and get the wiring cleaned up, I’ll post an update.

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