My experience setting up a MOCA network at home

ING Direct put up a short manifesto titled “We, The Savers“. Its a good read,
and we could all do better by it.

Number 3 struck me especially:

We will take care of our money. It’s not enough to have money in a bank. We will put it where it will grow. We’ll keep track of it. And we’ll check every account we have every year to protect ourselves against fraud or escheatment.

“We will put it where it will grow” – well where will it grow. It seems the first tool brought to bear on any stock market bump is to lower interest rates,
which in effect punishes those of us who do actually have money in a savings account. We lament the low savings rate in America, but then we go make it more appealing to borrow and less appealing to save.

Another item is this – not everyone has the internet access or savvy to move their money to a place like ING Direct. Those people have their money stuck in a savings account that probably pays well under one-percent interest. I think its high time this country had a better program to get more people online so people can get away from their no-interest paying bank.
I bought a couple of coax-ethernet bridges in the hopes of speeding media transfers to and from my Tivo HD. The devices work great, but it turns out my Tivo itself is the bottleneck – it just doesn’t serve media very fast even over ethernet. I recommend a “Moca”:http://www.mocalliance.org based ethernet over coax network if you’re in need of more speed than wireless will give you, but don’t expect miracles on the Tivo front.

Why go back to wires?

Sure wireless is nice and easy and fast enough for many applications, but you can’t beat the bandwidth of a wire for guaranteed bandwidth. I live in a densely populated area in which I can see about 40 wireless networks, and about a third of those overlap my wireless band to one degree or another. I get just a fraction of the theoretical 54mbps of a g-based wifi network. Compare that to 100 mbps point to point for coax (actually around 240mbps total band width if you’ve got a mesh network set up).

Taking the plunge

First you’ve got to get yourself a couple of coax bridges. The problem here is that no one sells them at retail right now. Fortunately Verizon’s FIOS service made heavy use of the Motorola NIM-100 bridge but is now phasing them out, so you can get them cheap on ebay. I got a pair for $75, shipped.

Each bridge has an ethernet port, and two coax ports, one labeled “in”, the other labeled “out”. If you have cable internet you’ll likely put one of these next to your cable modem. In that case, connect a wire from the wall to the coax in port, and another from the out port to the cable modem. An ethernet wire to your router, and now you’ve got an ethernet network running over your coaxial cable wires. Plug another one in somewhere else in your house, wall to the in port, and ethernet to some device and you’re in business. I got north of 80mbps between two laptops over the coax bridge.

This should work out of the box if your bridges came reset to their factory configuration. Unfortunately that means you can’t administer them and they’re using a default encryption key (traffic over the coax is encrypted because it probably leaks a bit out of your house)

Taking control

I’d recommend spending a bit of time to make your new bridges configurable- they have web interfaces, its just a matter of getting to them that’s tricky. I pieced together this information from several sources on the web.
The first problem is getting into the web interface. The default settings are for the bridge to auto assign itself an IP address in the range 169.254.1.x , and it won’t accept admin connections from devices that aren’t on the same ip range so here’s what you do:

  1. Take a computer and set your ethernet interface to have a static IP address of 169.254.1.100
  2. Connect the computer directly to the bridge over ethernet
  3. Goto http://169.254.1.1 . If that doesn’t work, increment the last digit until it does
  4. When you see the web interface, the default password is “entropic” – they’re apparently the only people who make the chips for these devices

Once you’re in the configuration works much like any other network device. You should definitely set a new password under “coax security” – you’ll have to repeat this for all your devices. Also, I’d recommend setting the device to use DHCP or a fixed IP in your usual IP range if you’d like to change anything in the future.

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