Please Help Cure My Ignorance About Home Networks

I know from the email and blog comments I get that I have really smart readers. Many of them are people I've met at one time or another, many others are people I hope to meet someday. (By and large they seem more willing to email than to post comments; perhaps shyness comes with wisdom?) Certainly, every time I've asked for any sort of tech help here, the responses have been overwhelmingly useful. So I can't resist asking again.

We are embarked on an ambitious home remodeling project, which includes knocking down half the house and rebuilding it. (I will someday get around to posting dramatic before and after pictures of where half the house used to be.) As part of the project I intend to install a wired home network that would handle a LAN, the telephones, video, and probably the alarm system. I have quite a bit of information about the how-to and nuts and bolts of wiring, e.g. the religious wars between fans of Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables, and anyway I'm hiring a specialist contractor to do the actual crimping and installation. But there are two subjects I feel very under-informed about.

The first set of questions are just about basic home network architecture and hardware: does everything go to a central switch or are there alternative topologies? What sort of equipment do you put at the hub? A router & switch & firewall? A file server? Other things?

The second area of even greater ignorance has to do with video. We don't currently have a TV set, and aren't sure when exactly we might get one, but we figure we better wire for cable/satellite while we are at it. Meanwhile, given how big screen prices are tumbling, it is nice to imagine playing DVDs on a nice wide screen somewhere in the house. (And no doubt in the life of the house, people will be shipping tons of video around more routinely than today.) Can a home network be set up to ship video signals from a PC or DVD player (or Tivo-like device!) in one place to a (ethernet-equipped) TV or projection device elsewhere, and if so does this require any special provisions, or do they just have to be at the point of display? If you have cable or satellite, does that signal go to just one place or can it go multiple places simultaneously? If more than one, do the users at each location have to watch the same program or can they watch different ones simultaneously? If you are limited just one location at a time, can you switch which place it is at will, or is it fixed?

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One Response to Please Help Cure My Ignorance About Home Networks

  1. Ruidh says:

    Video: The options are Cable, Sattelite and OTA. Each of them generally has a point the wire(s) come in and get redistributed. Cable uses relatively cheap splitters and satellite uses more complicated and expensive multiswitches. Cable allows for the older, analog channels to be tuned in directly so that you don’t need tuner boxes and can watch different stuff in each room. Digital cable and sattelite requires a tuner for each point ehre you view or record. Eventually, there will be (maybe if the FCC gets its way) a standard for digital cable and some of that need will diminish. Distributing video to various locations is still in its infancy. TiVo with the HMO (Home Media Option) is one of the pioneers here.

    But I generally like the hub approach. One video and Catx pair to each room and you decide in the wiring closet which of these to wire up where and how. But your cable puller should be able to advice you on a flexible setup.

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