Adventures in Computing: Home Networking

Avoid this network mess:

Now, Let’s talk speed

There is no substitute for network speed in computing.  All things equal: the faster the network connection, the better the computer experience.  Wired connections are generally faster than wireless connections.  Use a speed test tool to verify speeds via a browser.

At my house I use Spectrum (unbundled) to connect to the internet.  Their home package promises 100 Mbps (megabytes per second) download and 10 Mbps upload speeds.  In reality, depending on network conditions in the home, download speeds may be slightly to significantly lower; this is usually dependent on the network adapter used.

The wired network adapter I use in my desktop computer is capable of gigabyte (1,000 Mbps) speeds, so 100 Mbps should be easy.  Still, when I run by Ookla, I get 92.07 Mbps download and 11.09 upload speeds.  Upload speeds exceed expectations while download speeds are lower than promised.  When I turn off the wired adapter and switch to a 2.4 Ghz USB wireless adapter on the same computer, I receive a disappointing 8.73 download speed and 6.04 upload speed.  What a difference!

I use a refurbished Netgear R6400 router for my home network which is connected to a Cisco gigabyte switch for additional wired ports.  This router is capable of both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz channels for wireless connections.  I now switch to my ex-chomebook which I converted to a laptop (see my article:  Connecting at 5 Ghz, my network speed is 47.97 download and 11.97 upload.  So, my download speed is roughly half of my wired network speed on the desktop computer while the upload remains about the same.  When I switch to 2.4 Ghz on the laptop I get 42.62 download and 8.63 upload speeds.  The 2.4 Ghz results in lower speeds.

Looks like it is far better to use a wired connection, but, if wireless, use the 5 Ghz channel whenever possible.

A word about upload speeds

Most people concentrate on download speeds when talking about the internet, but upload speeds are important too.  The answer lies in packets: a small bit of information exchanged between computers.  Without being too complicated, a packet is sent by the server computer upon the request of the client computer, the client computer then uploads an acknowledgement that the packet was received.  This exchange is done millions of times for a computer to receive a full file.  Of course, upload speeds are important when backing up files to the cloud or when live streaming video files as well.

Wired Connections

The only way to get wired connections in the home is to run cable.  In my home which is a ranch, I have to make runs of over 50 feet.  Originally I purchased bulk Category 5 cable and a termination kit with twisted pair connectors. A picture here is worth a thousand words:

I found (the hard way) that these connections can be unreliable.  Using a tester, I found that the cable did not terminate properly – some wires did not connect end to end.  

It is much better to purchase a patch panel and punch down tool (again a picture):

The patch panel allows all 8 connections to terminate properly and the excess wires are cut off by the punch tool.  The bulk cable lengths can also be estimated better making for less excess cable hanging all over the wiring location.

From there I purchased 10 – 1 ft Category 6 cables to connect between the patch panel and my router switch combination.  This makes for much cleaner and reliable connections for my home network.

Sure, it is a lot of work to establish solid wired connections throughout the home, but the payback is less buffering when watching on a Smart TV, and better speed for all household computers.