Home Network Improvements + NetFlix

Despite being an IT guy and application developer in my day job, I don’t tinker much with things like networks. That’s because once I’ve got them working the way I want them to work, I find no need in making changes. Usually. That said, every once in a while, a compelling reason comes a long to make some changes. I recently made some changes to the home network. These changes were compelled by three things, in roughly the following order:

  1. I have plans to upgrade to the next higher Internet plan through my provider.
  2. I have been having WiFi issues with my new iMac.
  3. I am giving NetFlix streaming service a trial run.

For a long time, we had our cable providers best Internet plan. We had uncapped speeds of 25 Mbps. For non-technical folks, that’s the equivalent of downloading an HD movie in about 15 minutes. For standard stuff, it’s plenty fast. But the cable company introduce a new, faster service. They have to come out and replace the modem and I have yet to schedule that, but the faster service will give us speeds of 100 Mbps, four times faster than what we currently have. That means downloading an HD movie in less than 4 minutes.

These speeds do end up being important, especially when you through a streaming service like NetFlix into the mix. If we are streaming a movie, I also need to be sure that our cloud backups are still running and that we can still do other things.

The second reason for making changes was that I was experiencing problems with intermittent WiFi dropouts on my new iMac. This, apparently, is a very well known issue on these machines and there is no real solution. You could take the machine back and Apple would replace it, but it doesn’t guarantee the problem won’t exist on the replacement machine. Plus, I’d then have to spend the time to get the machine back in order, and that’s more effort than it’s worth. A quicker, simpler fix would be to switch the ethernet, which in the end would be faster than WiFi anyway.

Finally, we are giving the NetFlix streaming service a try, and as I mentioned, I want to be sure we have the bandwidth.

1. Our updated home network

Here is what our updated home network looks like:

Home Network v. 11:27:2012.png

The two major changes are the introduction of Ethernet over power via the NetGear PowerLine 500 devices and the addition of an Apple TV device. For those who aren’t familiar, these are devices that allow you to use your in-house power to transmit ethernet over the wires. You plug your router into one of these devices, and plug the device into the wall. You plug a second device into the wall somewhere else and from that device connect it, via ethernet, to another machine. The speed is generally faster than what you’d get over WiFi, but not faster than raw ethernet. In my case, it did two things:

  1. It increased the speed to my new iMac in my office.
  2. It eliminated the wireless dropout problem.

The second change was to add an Apple TV device. I put this device upstairs. Instead of connecting it to the wireless network, I used another NetGear PowerLine device and connected the Apple TV via ethernet to our home network. From the Apple TV to our TV upstairs, I used HDMI.

The rest of the devices still connect wirelessly.

2. NetFlix

Kelly had been a long-time subscriber to Blockbuster’s video service. It was pretty much like NetFlix, without the streaming. I noticed that NetFlix streaming service is half the price of what we pay for Blockbuster, so I signed up for the trial in order to test it out. So far, the results have been impressive.

We can instantly stream–in HD–anything Netflix offers to our TV upstairs. Kelly reminded me that you can use a Wii to access NetFlix as well, so I set that up on our Wii in the family room, and now we can also stream NetFlix to our big TV downstairs.

I’ve tested it out on my iMac and I can stream HD there as well.

Kelly has tried it on her iPhone and I’ve tried it on both my iPhone and iPad, and it works great.

Indeed, the only real issue we’ve seen is that no all of the new releases available on DVD are simultaneously available on the streaming service. But that doesn’t really matter all that much. It seems to fit our needs just fine and it saves us money. (Indeed, over the course of one years, it pays for the Apple TV.) I suspect after the trial month that we’ll continue the service and cancel Blockbuster.

2 thoughts on “Home Network Improvements + NetFlix

  1. Hey Jamie,

    I’ve been subscribed to your blog for some time and have yet to post a comment, so just a quick one I have loved reading what you’re up to (I originally came via the EN paperless route) so please keep going!!

    Just a quick question though, what software did you use to create the network map in this post?

    Thanks and keep up the great work,

    Jim

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