This past April I took the plunge that so many young people anticipate, dread and dream about all at the same time. I bought a house. It's a 3 story town house with a single car garage. Not the Taj Mahal by any stretch but my car and bike fit in the garage, I have a place to sit while I eat my meals and I'm totally in love with my next door neighbor (yes she knows and the feelings are mutual). And, the house came pre-wired with CAT5E. Most rooms have two ports, while the others only have one. In total, there are 11 ports throughout the house.
When I first moved in and saw a patch panel in the closest in one of the master bedrooms, the computer geek in my instantly though, "I need a wiring closet!". Unfortunately when you buy a house, you also have to furnish a house. When I moved in I had a bed and dresser to my name (I moved all my worldly possession in under 3 hours and most of that was driving). But the idea never wandered far from my mind and a few weeks ago I finally got all the necessary hardware together.
For handling all the network connections I chose the Netgear GS116 desktop gigabit switch. It was fairly inexpensive after rebates from Netgear and Paypal, had enough ports to handle the job and had the mounting holes I needed to secure it to the metal plate that covers the patch panel. The router, a D-Link DIR-625, I have had for almost a year. I bought this router after my Linksys died and my friend Greg gave it a fairly glowing review and I must say I'm 100% satisfied with it.
Up till I finished the install, my wiring closet would probably garner a top ten spot in a worst installation contest. I had the cover of the patch panel off and power cords and CAT5 running up to a shelf where my wireless router sat routing my packets, blissfully unaware of the squalor conditions in which it lived. Every time I walked into my office, I saw the eye sore that was my network installation which motivated me all the more to finish the installation.
Now being an engineer, I couldn't just throw everything together with chewing gum and bailing wire, I needed a plan or a template rather. My plan was to mount the switch and router to the metal plate that covers the patch panel and run the CAT5 wires through the plate to the patch panel. The next major hurdle was how could I layout where everything would be mounted and where the wires would be run in a fashion so that everything would look great and I would drill 50 holes unnecessarily trying to get everything lined up. Back in high school, I took a class on drafting using AutoCAD and thinking back, that seemed like the best option for creating my template as it would allow me to draw with the precision I needed when laying out where all the holes would be drilled.
After about a month of tweaking the templates so that everything lined up just how I wanted it I was ready to drill the holes and mount the hardware. To make sure that all the CAT5 cable lined up in an aesthetically pleasing way, I used zip ties to secure the wires, which meant I had a lot of holes to drill. After drilling, I used a metal file to ground down the rough spots and got the plate ready to install the grommets that will protect all the wiring from sharp edges.
As I suspected, the hardware mounted right up with a minimal amount of coercion. The next time consuming chore was crimping all the CAT5. I had the 11 ports from the switch to the patch panel, a cable connecting the switch to the router and then a final cable connecting the router to the world. Amazingly enough, I only had to re-do one cable. With all the wires run and the hardware mounted, I re-attached the plate to the patch panel and proceeded to surf. I have yet to run any bandwidth tests as I only have one gigabit enabled computer.
So there you have it. I have gigabit running through my home which will come in very handy when I build my home theater PC or buy an Xbox 360, which ever I decide to do. And as an added bonus, since I run a home based business, I can write the switch off as a business expense.