DSL - Broad Band Internet Connection


Introduction

The DSL connection provides unprecedented flexibility and functionality for the automated home.  Prior to taking the leap, we had a single phone line and a 28.8kbit modem.  Not only was surfing a drag, but we realized that the phone line was tied up while on-line.  Now, the connection is really fast (20 times better than before), we do not have to worry about missing calls, and we can control and communicate with the home from anywhere on the Internet!  As a side note, cable modems are not yet available in my neighborhood.
The major features are:
  • By using the Home Computer Network, we can share resources such as files and printers.
  • By replacing the hub with a Netgear RT314 Router/Switch, we can :
    • share the DSL connection among the computers in the home.
    • have a NAT server that provides protection against hacker intrusion.
    • reduce congestion in the home network.
    • run the PPPoE software in the router and not in the PCs for greater robustness.
  • By registering a domain name I can use any web browser in the world to find my home on the Internet by name.
    • The dynamic IP is automatically updated by the RT314 with DYNDNS.
  • By using VNC, we can control and view the home automation PC from any computer in the home and the Internet
    • This allows remote control and monitoring of my Home Automation system
    • I can take over control of the PC in case I need to show an occupant how to navigate the PC
    • In the future, if I add a tuner card to my PC, I will be able to see camera views around the house from the Internet.

Configuration/Setup

The DSL connection is via Verizon.  As of this writing, I have the 1.5Mbits/sec downlink, and 128kbit/sec uplink.  This costs $30/month total (equipment and the first month were free).  Unfortunately, this service is dynamic IP and PPPoE.  However by using the Netgear RT314 I am able to overcome both of these with little trouble.  First, the RT314 handles PPPoE on board.  Thus the computers in the home do not have to 'log in' to Verizon, or run any buggy PPPoE software (such as WinPoET), and it is thus an always "on" connection.  I am also not limited to just three PCs connected to the Internet at a time.  Next, I registered with DYNDNS to register my dynamic, always changing IP, so that I can still access the home with a URL such as: "http://cheung.????.com".  The RT314 handles this registration of new IP addresses automatically, so I do not have to run an updater client on any PCs in the home.  The upshot of all this is that I can walk up to any browser anywhere, and type "http://cheung.???.com", type in a password, and then have remote control and view the desktop of my home automation PC.

The Netgear router is nice because it is not just a hub, but a switch.  This reduces the network traffic that a connected PC sees to the minimum, and congestion is reduced considerably.  Also, since the router does Network Address Translation (NAT), it serves as the firewall for my network so that I can reduce the likelihood of a hacker intrusion.  I can therefore get away with not running firewall software on every PC (such as ZoneAlarm), further saving processing power.

Remote control is provided by VNC.  This free and awesome software allows the same thing that 'PCAnywhere' allows, but it is cross platform capable, very stable, and very small.  I can view and control the home control PC from anywhere in the home or over the internet.  In the latter case, functionality is handicapped by the upload speed of 90kbits/second.  This is still much faster than dialup, but if I were to upgrade, it would be to increase this speed.  Nevertheless, I can interactively communicate with the PC from outside the home, and it is very useable.

Since I installed a phone system with modular jacks, I can place a filter on the phone line as it enters the home.  This prevents having to route the high frequency DSL signal around the home to every phone, and should lead to the cleanest signal quality.

Links

I would have liked to demonstrate the capability of remote controlling and connecting to my home with a link on this page, but the security risk is of course just too great.  Instead, to investigate getting DSL yourself, follow these links:

Long Term Update

  • 8/27/00 - DSL installed today.  One day before the promised date despite the strike that just passed.  After applying the tweaks that are recommended on the Navas' site, I consistently get 504kbits download and 83kbits upload.  According to the web site these are as good as can be expected.
  • 9/24/00 - Over the past two weeks, connections drop after 2-6 hours.  This shows as packets no longer routing to the home.  Pings from the outside show 'Node unreachable' (instead of a timed out problem, which would indicate a problem inside the home).  I write and use a program that connects regularly with outside web servers and that resets the Netgear to renew the IP connection if needed.  It will be available here soon.
  • 11/7/00 - Since the end of October, the connection has been reasonable.  At one point, I had to end a session that lasted consecutive 240 hours due to some reconfiguration, and most sessions are lasting several days.
  • 06/04/03 - Saw a special promotion on TV, and decided to switch to it.  The end result is a doubling in speed for $5 less (!).  Tested on this day on www.broadbandreports.com to have a downlink speed of 1.478 Mbps and an upload speed of 135 kbps.
  • 7/30/17 - It has been years since an update and since then we have switched to FIOS and then Comcast cable.  Many more choices for high speed home internet available now.
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