Physical connection

I think I’ve made clear here in previous writings about the arrangement of my work facilities. My office is a converted summer house that stands in the garden of our home – and, on a sunny day like this, with a view out of the window of the plants that are starting to do spring things, it isn’t a bad place to be.

I hook up to the Webternet via an 802.11b/g wireless connection. The router sits near┬áthe phone socket which is in the conservatory, roughly 25 feet from the Global Headquarters. As I’ve mentioned before, the signal sometimes degrades (we have evil cordless phones, microwave oven and wireless doorbell in the house – all of which could be causing interference) and occasionally drops completely, particularly during wet weather (the summer house is of timber construction and, in spite of a water-repellant coating, the boards do get wet). I’ve added an external antenna to the router so that it is in an elevated position (dangling attractively from a light fitting) which has helped but not solved the problem.

I’m getting a bit fed up with the signal dropping out or degrading – it only ever seems to happen at the most inconvenient moment (when I’m using Skype or printing a big document – such is life), so I’m considering a physical connection between the router and the Global Headquarters. I don’t think it would be too difficult to run a cable from there to here – I can take it through the cat flap housing to get into the conservatory, route it around the edges of the decking so that it isn’t a trip hazard and easily make a small hole in the wall of the HQ to get it into here without using the same duct as the power supply cable.

The question is this: what sort of cable should I use? I’m not an expert on this sort of thing. I’ve seen standard Cat5 cable and also cable rated for outdoor use. I’ve also seen fibre-optic cable. Will these cables resist being in an environment exposed to sun, wind and rain? Can these cables be easily routed (there may be a few 90┬░ turns)? How easy is it to put the connectors on the end of these cables?

Anybody got any experience of this sort of thing? Or should I just look at further uprating my wireless network?

5 Replies to “Physical connection”

  1. I wrote a longer answer, but it failed to post and was lost, so here’s the executive summary:

    Forget wireless and fibre. Go to Maplin and buy a few metres of CC26D flexible conduit, put within it standard cat-5 cable, and terminate each end in a box and a socket outlet. Maximum distance 100m (this figure includes any patch cables at either end.

    Have fun !

  2. I forgot to add – you’ll need no special tools other than what you’d use to put in a telephone extension . Just make sure that you get the colours of the cable right – there are 8 and they need keeping strictly in their pairs e.g. the wire colour coded orangewhite* on the patch cable goes to the same colour on the extension, and to the same colour on the patch cable at the other end. This page explains it quite well – http://www.ertyu.org/steven_nikkel/ethernetcables.html

    The rule of thumb for going round corners is that the radius of the bend shouldn’t be (much) less than ten times the radius of the cable being bent. This is a general rule, and works for most copper cable types.

    *the convention is that the background colour of the wire is named first, folowed by the colour of the stripe.

  3. My colleague has these installed between shed and house and after a firmware upgrade (as is always the case), it works very well. No digging, fiddling or general frustration. You’ll need to read the distructions carefully as i seem to remember both plugs need to be on the same circuit.

  4. hellooo Tark! (readers should note that Tark could probably have walked the 50 yards between our houses and told me this in person)

    I hadn’t seen that product before. My office and the home are on separate mains rings, so I’m wondering if these things would work for us as the signal would have to go back through the distribution board (or "consumer unit" to use modern parlance).

    I’m also wondering if they are legal. My father used to work for the electricity board before he retired (and still calls it "The Board" even though it’s been a plc for years) and remembers the in-house intercom thingies that were all the rage around 25 years ago that worked on a similar system of modulating the AC frequency. They were actually illegal at the time, so I’m not sure if they are ok now, although I know that Scottish Power were looking at introducing a broadband network in highland Scotland that used similar technology over the national grid, thereby giving high speed broadband to any crofter who had a power supply – so I guess the law may have changed.

    Anyway, I’ll ask him about the separate ring issue, although I’m sure that we had the intwercom devices on separate rings years and years ago (cue: wobbly screen hazy memory scenes of youthful japes with intercoms).

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