Switch for home networking

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Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:37 am

I am tasked with networking the new addition to our house, it is over 2000 square feet and almost each room (save closets and bathrooms) have one or multiple Ethernet cables which are being run directly to the attic. Some of the cables are Cat6 and most of them are Cat5e. I am glad that this is the case because the Cat5e cables are much easier to crimp as they do not have the + shaped separator in the middle of the cable.

We are in the process of getting settled in and so i need to find an appropriate switch to link up the house. The intention was that the Ethernet cables are compatible with phone lines and it will be possible to connect phones (RJ11?) to certain designated "RJ45" Ethernet jacks. I am aware that at least 100mbit ethernet does not make use of four of the cables and this may be helpful in splicing in the phone through some of the lines, but I suspect Gigabit does make use of all 8 lines, so I think we will simply single out the "for phone only" cat5e cables and wire them up to the phone separately. If I decide to bother with it I can of course add them to the network via 100mbit concurrently with the phone connection (phone only uses up 2 lines and 100mbit leaves 4 lines unused).

Please do correct me if I have misunderstood anything...

So I am looking to find a good 8+port Gigabit ethernet switch. I'd like to keep costs as low as possible but I also would like to get good speeds, so that network transfer can be a convenient alternative for data transfer. On 100mbit if I want to move anything over a GB I'm looking at using USB2 and flash. I would like to get significantly higher speed than 100mbit, if it is possible. The cable lengths of Cat5e are no longer than 100 feet. I haven't double checked but it seems like they are short enough to handle at least some speed increase.

We have Verizon fios service for internet here so I imagine that I can connect the switch I'm going to get to the router, and it will be a little subnet which can communicate internally at gigabit speeds (for instance from the living room to the upstairs bedroom) and have access to the internet. I wonder if I need to worry about things like NAT. Will the internet router be able to assign DHCP to all of the switch's clients?

Edit: I'm browsing newegg now and I find the 200+ dollar switches and then there are switches like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 33-122-111

Is the netgear "desktop switch" going to get the job done or will it be limiting the network speed? I'm looking to get something that will be able to provide a reasonably good amount of speed for current and future gigabit ethernet supporting computers.

Another issue is the fact that there are likely more connections than 8, though not quite as many as 16. Some of them will be used for the phone, after all, and I think allocating 8 of them for network use will be fairly sufficient. So I don't see the need for me to spring for a 16 port switch, though maybe a 10 port one (if such things exist) would be a good idea.

So I am now looking at this unit: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6833156293 It seems like it would work admirably to network the house. I suppose I'll look up some reviews before I pull the trigger...
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:39 am

You're seem to have a good grasp of what's going on. Yes your router will assign a DHCP address to all clients. That desktop switch will do the trick, unless you want to fork out the dollar bills for business/enterprise gear. Keep on truckin'
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 8:26 am

Sweet. I should have gotten one of these things ages ago, would have made our lan parties go a hell of a lot more smoothly.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:10 am

What you want to do is get a patch panel from here:
http://www.monoprice.com/products/subde ... p_id=10514
and some jumpers here:
http://www.monoprice.com/products/subde ... p_id=10208
Terminate all your wiring there and label all the port numbers somewhat logically on both the panel and the wallplates. Then you can get some nice short patch cords to go between the ports you want to be active and your switch. If you want to use some ports for phone instead of networking, just plug an RJ11 cord into that port from your phone line - you could also use some of the ports on the patch panel to wire in the phone lines as well and then just patch between them. You'll get much more reliable connections using a patch panel and factory made jumpers vs. trying to put male ends on the cables themselves. A bit more time and money up front, but it will save you a ton of headaches and heartaches down the road.
I've got a picture of a network rebuild that we did at my last job where short jumpers made a huge difference in managing the system. I'll see if I can dig it up.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:27 am

The thing that will differentiate cheap consumer switches and expensive enterprise stuff is the device's "switch fabric", or the logic circuits that handle switching between the ports. Lets say we have an 8-port gigabit switch with two hosts connected to it transferring data (for the sake of example we're going to assume they're saturating their ports at the full theoretical 125MB/s available for data+TCPoverhead). Then we add two more hosts transferring data between each other. A cheap switch at this point (or later, when we add a further two hosts) may reduce throughput for all current transfers as the internal switch fabric won't have the bandwidth or cache required to fully service all of them.

Unfortunately when it comes to figuring out what hardware gives us the best bang for our buck, there isn't a lot we can do beyond looking for detailed benchmarks which isn't very easy because switches aren't as flashy or fast-moving a market as video cards and processors.

(Anyone more knowledgeable than I, you are invited to nitpick this post if this is not entirely correct!)
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:38 am

Your cable lengths won't be a problem at all. Maximum specified Gb Ethernet cable length is about 325ft., and I have a 75ft monoprice cable at home that I gives me full throughput whenever I'm not disk-limited. If you go cheap, you can get a 16-port Netgear GS116 for USD $128 after MIR from NewEgg.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:42 am

CasbahBoy, money is definitely a concern with this. I did order the trendnet switch already so perhaps the point is moot... but I really highly doubt that the switch will ever be used for a real enterprise type workload, I just want a device for making networking in the home easy and reliable, so I think I made the right decision.

I guess if you are a big company maintaining servers, the right way to find out which product to use is to actually obtain it and use it and see if it is up to snuff. It's a shame that there are no easy ways to benchmark this type of hardware but I think it's reasonable considering you will need as many machines as there are ports in order to do any real testing.

I'll be happy if I can get just 30MB/s transfer of total throughput from any point to any other point. At that point I can already skip using a flash drive, and it should be fast enough to stream some serious video.

I was taking a bath the other night and trying to stream a 720p over wifi (the router is still in the old house) and the skipping was terrible. It could barely handle 400KB/s even though it said the link was 54mbps. 100Mbit would have been more than enough there.

I do have multiple machines with solid state drives so I'll be able to do some speed tests once I get the switch and see how far I can push it. :lol:

Frumper, I think I'll look into the patch plate and jumpers a bit later. That sort of thing is definitely really nice but at present I don't even know which lines are going to be used for phone. I don't imagine it would be more than one line because the phones are going to be wireless and the hub just needs a single line, and the whole setup will likely not be tampered with for years once it's been set up. I think I will be able to get by with some heat-shrink tubing and ingenuity.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:52 am

that netgear router u posted is good...i have it hooked up on my network, and i have 2 xboxes, 2 pcs, 2 uverse boxes routing all through it with no issues.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:52 am

Either of those will work for what you want to do. I'd be inclined to go with the 16 port, but I like lots of ports.

I have a TEG-S80Dg on my desk at work, and I've used Netgear stuff in the past. Both brands have worked fine. I've had problems with DLink desktop switches in the past, so i can't recommend them. The TEG actually replaced a DLink switch which would kill all of my connections -- RDP, NX, etc. -- when my PC would back itself up to our network.

TEG-S80Dg
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... =teg-s80dg
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:05 am

Okay, I'll post back if I get around to testing the TEG-S16DG that I ordered. I don't doubt it will do just fine.
Thanks everyone!
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:09 am

CasbahBoy wrote:The thing that will differentiate cheap consumer switches and expensive enterprise stuff is the device's "switch fabric"...


That's pretty much it. Switches are hardware limited. Cisco does a good job of posting their specs, but the consumer stuff is a black box.

Switches are also harder to test. I think SmallNetBuilder once stated it's hard to really load up a switch without some really expensive equipment which specializes in that sort of thing. There is software like iperf, and others which I can't remember at the moment, which will test TCP/UPD performance, so that's at least something.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:14 am

We've been using consumer-grade D-Link 8 port switches at work lately whenever we need more jacks in an office/cubicle, with good results. Newegg seems to have sales on them semi-regularly.

If you need more than 8 ports down the road, you can just daisy-chain another 8-port switch off of the existing 8-port one. From a logical perspective it'll look like one big 14 port switch (8 + 8 minus the 2 ports used to interconnect them). The only caveat with daisy-chaining switches like this is that the total bandwidth between systems connected to *different* switches will be limited to 1 Gb; so if you've got multiple file servers on the network, you'd want to try to arrange things such that the servers are on the same switch as the system(s) which tend to use them the most. But for a home network -- especially one where some of the nodes are only 100 Mb -- having a 1 Gb "bottleneck" between two halves of the network is likely a complete non-issue...
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:32 am

I've had pretty good luck with the D-Link Green series switches at home - I easily get full gigabit speeds between two machines and haven't noticed any real degradation when loading the switch down with concurrent transfers between two pairs of machines (I don't have more machines than that to test).

Specifically, I have a couple of these: http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=495
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:39 am

TheWacoKid wrote:I've had pretty good luck with the D-Link Green series switches at home - I easily get full gigabit speeds between two machines and haven't noticed any real degradation when loading the switch down with concurrent transfers between two pairs of machines (I don't have more machines than that to test).

Specifically, I have a couple of these: http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=495

Yeah, those are the ones we've been using at the office.

Unfortunately they seem to be out of stock at all of the usual places right now. I don't know whether it is a supply chain problem (Japan earthquake?), or if they are being discontinued.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:07 am

CasbahBoy wrote:The thing that will differentiate cheap consumer switches and expensive enterprise stuff is the device's "switch fabric", or the logic circuits that handle switching between the ports. Lets say we have an 8-port gigabit switch with two hosts connected to it transferring data (for the sake of example we're going to assume they're saturating their ports at the full theoretical 125MB/s available for data+TCPoverhead). Then we add two more hosts transferring data between each other. A cheap switch at this point (or later, when we add a further two hosts) may reduce throughput for all current transfers as the internal switch fabric won't have the bandwidth or cache required to fully service all of them.

Unfortunately when it comes to figuring out what hardware gives us the best bang for our buck, there isn't a lot we can do beyond looking for detailed benchmarks which isn't very easy because switches aren't as flashy or fast-moving a market as video cards and processors.

(Anyone more knowledgeable than I, you are invited to nitpick this post if this is not entirely correct!)


I don't think this is the case any more with modern desktop switches, from what I have seen most (at least from prominent brands like Netgear, Trendnet, etc.) can handle full or near-full saturation on all ports concurrently. Mostly these days enterprise switches are expensive because of the extra enterprise features, like VLANs and rack mounting hardware, or from redundant hardware like dual power supplies.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:54 pm

I've got the old version (non-green) of the 8 port D-link throughout my house and it works well. I've tested with iPerf between Intel NICs and got something like 970MB/s. If you have decent NICs then your problem will be storage handling the speed rather than the network with any modern gigE switch.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:25 pm

APWNH wrote:Will the internet router be able to assign DHCP to all of the switch's clients?
Yes.

APWNH wrote:There are switches like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 33-122-111
That's the one that I'm using. :D
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:53 pm

There's still a couple kinks to work out in the wiring in the new part of the house. Some of the ethernet cables mysteriously do not connect, but most do. The good bit is that all the reasonable areas to connect computers (bedrooms, kitchen, living room, offices) do have at least one functioning gigabit connection to the switch which is in the attic. But the one in the dining room not working was cause for mild vexation as I had moved my heavy desktop there for testing (since it was the closest location to move it to). Here is a screenshot of a realistic workload.

Image

I had never seen this kind of speed through ethernet before, so I am definitely satisfied with what I have accomplished here. A few years ago whenever I saw reviews of gigabit equipment they were never able to achieve more than 70MB/s or so. when I first did a copy test the source was on a hard disk and I did end up at about 70MB/s. For that screenshot I was copying from SSD to SSD over the network.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:09 am

At my last house when I finished the basement I ran CAT5 to a bunch of outlets all back to the closet under the stairs which happened to be next to my office. I just poked the leads I wanted through the wall and put male RJ45 connectors and plugged directly into the switch. I kinda sorta worked, but I was constantly fighting random disconnects, poor transfer speed (Gig NICs only connecting at 100mbit), etc. I wanted to get a patch panel, but never got around to it. A compromise was some keystone RJ45 ports that I used to make my own patch panel of sorts (it was only 6 ports total) and after the wiring was punched down properly with factory made patch cables everything was better. The lesson I learned was that it is very tricky to make reliable male RJ45 connections (at least with the cheap tools that I had) compared to punching down keystones or patch panels with proper patch cords. I would guess that the connections you are having trouble with just aren't quite making a good connection at the male plug. With a place like Monoprice available for dirt-cheap decent-quality parts to make a more reliable network I know what I'll be doing at my new house.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:27 am

It is a possibility that I did not do a good enough job crimping the cables, it was my first time doing it after all.

My cat6 is stranded and the cat5e is solid and I have no idea if the plugs I crimped on them are for stranded, solid, or both.

Do these patch panels give us an easy way to reliably connect cables to it with some kinda tool? I guess that plus some jumpers would have let me skip all the plug crimping. Should have started this thread 8 months ago I guess.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:23 am

frumper15 wrote:What you want to do is get a patch panel from here:
http://www.monoprice.com/products/subde ... p_id=10514
and some jumpers here:
http://www.monoprice.com/products/subde ... p_id=10208
Terminate all your wiring there and label all the port numbers somewhat logically on both the panel and the wallplates. Then you can get some nice short patch cords to go between the ports you want to be active and your switch. If you want to use some ports for phone instead of networking, just plug an RJ11 cord into that port from your phone line - you could also use some of the ports on the patch panel to wire in the phone lines as well and then just patch between them. You'll get much more reliable connections using a patch panel and factory made jumpers vs. trying to put male ends on the cables themselves. A bit more time and money up front, but it will save you a ton of headaches and heartaches down the road.
I've got a picture of a network rebuild that we did at my last job where short jumpers made a huge difference in managing the system. I'll see if I can dig it up.

Something like this.

Image

It's messy and not a current picture anymore, but you get the idea. Punching down female jacks and using short patches cords is the way to go. Much simpler and the diagram for colours is actually on the jack itself. The jacks themselves can be anywhere from 1 to 10 bucks each, depending on brand etc. You'll thank yourself later. I also have access to a tone generator and cable testers through work. Since I didn't run the CAT6 through my whole house myself it made figuring out what went where very easy.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:36 am

@frumper15
It's not that patch cables are hard to make, it's that it takes practice to make them reliably. I still mess them up from time to time, and I've been doing it for years. A cheap connectivity tester is a really good investment, and they can be had for about $40. (http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/tools/8510/) It will save you lots of frustration.

You don't needs lots of expensive equipment. You can get expensive equipment, and it's really nice, but you don't need it.

@APWNH
It could be a lot of things, if this is your first time. Borrowing a connectivity tester and testing the cables would be the first thing I would do. This will save a lot of guessing. The second would be to check the ends and make sure you can see all of the wires. You should be able to see eight shiny pennies.

Patch panels and keystone jacks are easier to terminate. This is what the backs look like. (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_wU6LNisf6pI/R ... h/back.jpg) They have little instructions on them, and you just need a punch down tool.

I would replace the cat5e solid core with cat6 stranded, if possible. I believe stranded core is more common, so the plugs were probably for stranded.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:40 am

APWNH wrote:Do these patch panels give us an easy way to reliably connect cables to it with some kinda tool? I guess that plus some jumpers would have let me skip all the plug crimping. Should have started this thread 8 months ago I guess.


Patch panels are wonderful; just make sure you get CAT6 stuff, even cheap like through Monoprice. Terminate your wall runs there and at a wall plate in each room. For patch cables, probably best to buy cheap CAT6 from Monoprice, as it's a lot easier and your fingers will thank you. Plus, they have most lengths and colors, so it's almost like custom cables.

DON'T skimp on the tools. Buy a good punchdown tool and crimp tool (I prefer Paladin). A lot of poorly terminated cables are due to cheap tools. They're expensive, but will last forever (especially if you only use them once a year!) and you can often switch out the die/blade to accommodate newer technologies.

For production work environment, I really suggest using Panduit CAT6 patch cables. Not cheap, but sturdy, well terminated, and INDIVIDUALLY tested. I've installed hundreds (thousands???) and have *never* had a bad one. With Monoprice/other cheap cables you'll occasionally get a bad one, but they're few and far between. Perfectly fine for home use, and probably less than 10% of the cost!

Edit: Flatland_Spider beat me to it, and he also has a good point. A cheap network tester will be very helpful. At work we have a $3k+ Fluke tester, but that's a bit overkill for home. Only problem with the cheap testers (at least the ones I've used) is that they only show pin continuity (did you get the wires in the right order and connected), but they won't tell you the *quality* of the connections. So it might be connected, but won't reliably pass traffic.

If you buy all of the patch cables, you can skip the crimper and just buy a good punchdown tool to use for the jacks and the patch panel. Just make sure you get the right blade for the type of block you're using.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:45 pm

SuperSpy wrote:I don't think this is the case any more with modern desktop switches, from what I have seen most (at least from prominent brands like Netgear, Trendnet, etc.) can handle full or near-full saturation on all ports concurrently. Mostly these days enterprise switches are expensive because of the extra enterprise features, like VLANs and rack mounting hardware, or from redundant hardware like dual power supplies.


That has not been my observation. http://nl.hardware.info/productinfo/ben ... 9/switches

Flatland_Spider wrote:That's pretty much it. Switches are hardware limited. Cisco does a good job of posting their specs, but the consumer stuff is a black box.

Switches are also harder to test. I think SmallNetBuilder once stated it's hard to really load up a switch without some really expensive equipment which specializes in that sort of thing. There is software like iperf, and others which I can't remember at the moment, which will test TCP/UPD performance, so that's at least something.


You may be thinking of QoS. Switches are easy to test. The reason Tim doesn't include switch benchmarks (for routers, at least) is because they generally exhibit the same level of performance. Overriding concerns are cost and build quality.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:39 pm

I'm loving the wealth of good advice and knowledge being deposited into this thread. But to bring it back on topic a little bit, I'm having a bit of an issue with one of the cables going into my room right now. There's only two cables, and I'm trying to run two machines here. Only one of those cables seems to connect to the switch. I think I can get internet access to both machines by taking an old router and plugging it in to the wall and run it in hub mode but it's really a hack that would be ugly and slow.

I'm fairly sure I have crimped all the cables upstairs (using the unreliable male plug crimping method) and theyre plugged into the switch. At the other ends I have them connected to the female plugs (these dealies -- though theyre not all these, they are the toolless ones you gotta push down the cap real hard to get the wires in)

So i do know that I used the T568A pinout to connect all of the wall plugs, but there are two cat6-cable ends upstairs in the attic (the two ends of the original 300' cable that got cut up) which are T568B.

My first suspicion was that since this nonworking cable in my room is indeed one of these dark blue cat6 cables it's probably connected to the router with 4 of the pins in the wrong places. But then I wonder, would this cause the cable to show up as "No cable connected" when plugged in? I mean it has all of them, just rearranged, the computer really should be able to tell me that it is plugged in but just can't connect. I guess I'm expecting too much.

I also read that most modern systems will auto detect and account for the use of crossover cables when they are not connected properly, i.e. the hardware will be able to automatically cross and un-cross the cable connecting them. So I was at first thinking, hmm that means I must have screwed up the crimping cuz that means this should just work... then I realized that switching T568A to T568B is NOT the same as having a crossover cable.

So I think I'm going to re-do the plug on the wall now and cross my fingers. Next time I do this I'll definitely get a patch panel

Update: So I changed the wall plug pins and still no cable connected. I really still don't want to redo the entire job upstairs. I need some tools that will let me figure out which cable is which because I don't know which cable in the attic goes to which cable downstairs. In hindsight it would have been terrifically smart to just sharpie some markings on each end of cable before laying it out throughout the house...

I am thinking that I can maybe build a little device that attaches a battery so that the solid wires are connected to the positive end and the striped wires are connected to the other end of the battery. Then I can take a multimeter upstairs and as long as any two solid and striped pairs of wires on the cable go though I will be able to identify it. Other methods i've seen involve some kind of complicated loop which is designed to break if any of the wires fail. I fear if I did that, I'd just get a negative on all the cables and still won't even know which cable is the one needs fixing.

So.... I'm gonna go track down the soldering iron now.

I'm going to make a battery that has a RJ45 male plug, and an LED and resistor on a female RJ45 plug. Gonna use that to figure out which cable goes where in this house.

I found me a lithium ion RCR123A and a little mental math told me this 16ohm resistor would work okay with it considering the white LED drops about 3 volts and by battery is charged to 4V so I ought to get around 60mA through it.

So I found the cable, it is cable number 11... I've got one last crimpable male plug. It's hard for me to believe the factory-made plug is bad. But i've exhausted the other options. I hope this works.

More edit: Oops. the cable was connected when I connected the battery. I hope it didnt kill any circuitry on the switch. Turns out upon closer inspection the end that was there to begin with is covered with little plaster/primer droplets. I'm thinking if I go at it a bit with a knife it will just magically work. If not I can always snip and re-crimp though I think I'd want to switch the damn wall end back to T568A for consistency's sake.

Final edit:

Scraping some of the gunk off of the male tip of the cable did the trick. It doesn't seem like connecting half of the wires to +4v did any damage.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Sat Aug 27, 2011 1:22 pm

Ethernet ports will withstand a fair amount of stray voltage, the magnetics will soak up most of it just fine. If you are having problems with more ports, you really need a cable tester - a good one will tell you exactly which pins are connected to which pins at the other end. If you don't know which cable is which at the switch you can also put a tone on the cable and detect it to trace the cable.
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Sun Aug 28, 2011 11:49 am

notfred wrote:Ethernet ports will withstand a fair amount of stray voltage, the magnetics will soak up most of it just fine.

Yup... there's no direct connection between the port jack and the circuitry that implements the interface. Everything goes through a transformer, which does a pretty good job of isolating things. Unless, of course, you use one of these. :wink:
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Re: Switch for home networking

Postposted on Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:17 pm

Oh god that's frightening.
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