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Old 06-26-2009, 07:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
Psycho
 
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Home networking query

Hey TF-tech gurus,

I wanted to bounce some ideas around regarding some home networking. I'm fairly savvy when dealing with/troubleshooting network issues but I haven't set anything up personally and need some guidance.

So here's the situation, I have:

1x PC (with XP and W7)
1x laptop (XP and OS X)
Wireless N router

(and in the future might pick up a HTPC)

The goal: I would like to be able to share files amongst the computers at home. (If there was a way to access my files online from outside that would be super) Likely nothing major..just simple things like being able to share printers, stream or transfer movie files from one computer to another.

Solution? I'm not sure what's my best plan of action? For my simple usage I was considering simply getting a NAS external drive that I could format as MS-FAT for cross-platform sharing and that would probably be easy to access from all my computers no?

I appreciate any thoughts or comments.
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Old 06-26-2009, 07:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: Canada
For external filesharing, you're looking at setting up an FTP server. This may be more involved than you want to get into. It's not overly difficult, but the idea of configuring and maintaining a server is daunting to some. It will require, among other things, a DNS registration, although services like DynDNS do simplify this and eliminate the need for a static IP.

Sharing internally across the network is much simpler. A NAS server is the easiest option; had you mentioned the desire for this in the previous thread, I would've suggested something like the WRT160NL, which has NAS capability built in. As it is, you can add a network storage device for the function; a cursory glance indicates that they start around $80-$100.

If you want to do this on the cheap, it's possible to share files over a local network from a Windows machine using the Windows SMB implementation. The Windows SMB implementation is not generally very good, however, so it can get a bit messy. I'm certain that OSX has similar functionality (it's fairly trivial in BSD), but having virtually no experience with OSX it's hard for me to advise you any further on this.

EDIT - I should note also that sharing a printer is very different from sharing actual files. That is to say, both are done using a standard protocol (typically SMB, which is what Windows uses), but printers don't require all the mucking about with permissions that Windows seems to make so needlessly difficult. If you want a smart solution you can buy network-aware printers that have the capability themselves, but making a printer network accessible from a localhost is fairly straightforward as well.
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Last edited by Martian; 06-26-2009 at 07:59 PM..
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Old 06-29-2009, 07:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
Psycho
 
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Thanks Martian. It looks like I could use a NAS server/external drive..might be a good chance for me to set up a RAID too while I'm at it. Cheers!
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Old 06-29-2009, 04:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
tcp
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Your bottleneck is not going to be the drive speed so RAID would only benefit wired LAN computers. Even with a good wireless N signal, the speeds will not be very reliable. An external antenna will help if you have a larger house. Also dual-radio, dual-band routers can provide enough speed to stream video. Linux and OS X both support Windows Networking so there should be no problem there. Gigabit ethernet is available on most current PCs so it might be worthwhile to hard-wire all your computers in. I wouldn't bother with cat6 cables unless you are running lots of wire through your house.
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Old 06-29-2009, 05:15 PM   #5 (permalink)
Tone.
 
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you can also share files over a remote desktop connection as long as you enable that when you set it up. No dedicated FTP server required. Just log in from remote and grab whatever you need.

(I hope those are XP pro installs, because otherwise everything I just said doesn't apply to you )
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:59 PM   #6 (permalink)
Psycho
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shakran View Post
you can also share files over a remote desktop connection as long as you enable that when you set it up. No dedicated FTP server required. Just log in from remote and grab whatever you need.

(I hope those are XP pro installs, because otherwise everything I just said doesn't apply to you )
Unfortunately, it's home! Ugh. I'm thinking W7 will have some nice built-in sharing options though.

Well for remoting..would VNC work instead? I've used it a few times in the past, but again, never set it up myself.
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Old 06-30-2009, 05:44 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: Kramerica
Maybe I'm oversimplifying here, but can't you just share any folder or printer from any OS nowadays? I understand this doesn't get you that central shared storage device, but you can easily get files from one computer to another without buying extra equipment.

I just discovered that my new router (D-Link) has a USB SharePort, which lets you plug in any USB storage device and make it available to your whole network. Another simple solution even for less network-savvy folks like me.
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Old 06-30-2009, 04:56 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Wrexify is correct. All major operating systems supports Windows Networking so you can create a shared folder and every computer on your network can use it. Edit the permissions and you can either use a password to get write access to it or you can allow anyone to write to it without requiring a password. You can even create that shared folder on a Linux computer and it will be the same.
If you need to remote control your desktop than you should go ahead and use a VNC software package, but it you just want to access your home network remotely for shared files, printers, or private browsing; then use a VPN.
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Old 06-30-2009, 05:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
Young Crumudgeon
 
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Location: Canada
Despite the merits of Samba, I've never had anything but headaches trying to get Windows to recognize file permissions properly. Perhaps the fault is mine, but it's always seemed to me that Microsoft's SMB implementation shoots itself in the foot -- the 9x kernel OSes tried to oversimplify it and the NT ones needlessly obfuscate it.

In any case it looks like both boxen in this setup are dual booting, so a separate network device still seems like the better option to me.

VNC will work, but is overkill for what you want to do. If you must must have access to your files from the outside world and are completely adverse to setting an FTP server up for the purpose, VPN is probably the best choice. Although if you're going to go to the trouble of setting that up you may as well just set up an FTP server anyway, in my opinion.

Another Option:

Find yourself an old box somewhere. It's not hard to do; any friends or family who've upgraded recently may have one kicking around, or if you have any geek friends they can probably source one for you. Throw your Linux distro of choice on there and turn it into a headless fileserver for the network. For Added Nerdiness, return the router you bought and exchange it for a good high-quality switch, along with an 802.11b/g(/n) PCI card, and use IpCop or something similar to turn your new toy into a wired/wireless router with built-in fileserver. For Even More Added Nerdiness, you can mess around with BIND and maybe even set up a caching-only DNS server. That's pretty hardcore, though.
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I get through cryin' and I'm sadder than before I wept
I get through thinkin' now, and the thoughts have left my head
I get through speakin' and I can't remember, not a word that I said

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Old 07-01-2009, 07:37 AM   #10 (permalink)
tcp
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yes that is very nerdy, martian, but there is of course lots of help online. You can even get a distro thats already set up for this: List of router or firewall distributions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Also, don't forget that the gateway computer would need a second NIC to connect to your modem.
Personally, I just use a router with Linux custom firmware for the performance boost and features like bandwidth monitoring and configurable firewall rules.
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Old 07-11-2009, 01:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
Psycho
 
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Hey folks,

An update: I've set up a very simple home group via Windows XP which is good for printer sharing and some light file sharing. Unfortunately, I'm not getting good performance on video streaming..music files work fine, but I'm getting some major stuttering playing standard files (every few seconds) and high def video isn't even working at all. I even went with a cat5 cables from computer-router-computer to see if the wireless was the issue and it still isn't going great. Any ideas what the problem is?
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Old 07-12-2009, 04:53 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Well, there's no reason a wired LAN cannot stream the highest quality video. Check firewall settings on all computers, conflicts can slow down the entire network. Update the firmware on your router. Try copying a file and note your throughput, it should be at the very minimum 3MB/s. Even if you don't have a gigabit ethernet, all newer computers and routers support 100Mbps or up to 12.5MB/s. If you have an extremely long cable that will affect your speed but not much. Google for "LAN tool" or "slow LAN" for some diagnostics you can do. What brand router do you have?
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