Tour of Home Network 2020


Hello, and welcome back to another episode
of The 8-Bit Guy. Now, back in 2013 I made this quick little video called “A tour of
my home network.” This was back when I was still going by the
name “The iBook Guy” and that was even before I had my own logo. And at the time,
I honestly didn’t think that many people would be interested. However, it was a surprisingly
popular video and it has now reached over 1.8 million views, which is more than I even
have subscribers. A lot of people have been asking if I would
do an update, since that video is now 7 years old. And so here it is. and I have some interesting
surprises for you. I’m going to start in my office room, which
a lot of people think is the same as my studio room, but it isn’t, it’s a totally different
room. And behind that door is my network closet. But, it didn’t always used to be here. In
fact, if we go back about 20 years ago, my network closet was in another part of the
house and it looked like this. Yes, I was really into Sun Sparcstations back then, as
you can tell. In fact, at one point I had a CD-ROM tower with 7 CDROM drives in it,
and one of those was a burner. And that’s primarily where I stored most of my files
at the time. But as you can imagine, with trying to store more and more digital video,
that system eventually no longer sufficed. In fact, as optical media continued to get
cheaper, I had also come to the conclusion that CD and especially DVD recordables were
totally unreliable. No matter how well I stored them, I found that many would quit reading
after a matter of months or years. But, I discovered that PD media, and it’s successor
DVD-RAM was actually very reliable. So I used these for years to backup all of my data,
and I would always make two copies and take a handful of them to work to store in my desk
drawer there in as an offsite backup. However, as you can imagine, even 5.2 Gigabytes per
disc eventually became a bit obsolete and the media became harder to find as well, so
I eventually had to give up on this too. I did briefly switch to the larger 9.4 GB DVD-RAM
cartridges, but even those eventually became impossible to find. Eventually, about 8 years ago, we added some
rooms onto our house. I actually did all of the electrical wiring myself, which our city
inspector not only approved but said I did it better than most electricians. But I also
took this opportunity to move the network closet and build a new one from scratch. And
that’s the one I’m going to show you now. Lets take a look at this photo I showed of
my network wall back in the 2013 video, and now let’s look at it today. As you can see,
I’ve added quite a few things over the years. Every room in the house has 2 or 3 network
jacks. The wires run through the attic like this and eventually converge into this one
monster bundle of wires. This is where all of the ethernet cables from all around the
house converge into one place. There’s actually about 40 wires here. Some people have asked
what it is they are going up into. Well, it’s actually just a pipe fitting I bought at the
hardware store that screws together like this. I just wanted something to protect the sheetrock
from all of these cables and give it a nice aesthetic appearance. This entire wall is actually a thin sheet
of plywood, which has been painted the same color as the rest of the walls. This makes
it possible to mount stuff wherever I want. I’ve also upgraded this switch to gigabit,
but these two here remain the slower 100 megabit, which really doesn’t matter because I put
all of the important stuff on the gigabit switch anyway. So, for example, it’s really
not going to matter if, you know, my Apple TV, or my printer, for example, is on the
100 megabit switch. In fact, I mean, my internet connection is only just slightly under 100
megabit anyway. So, for example, Netflix on my Apple TV isn’t going to run any faster
even if this was a gigabit switch. Down here, I have a new 5 port switch. This
one is a power over ethernet, so it is running my security cameras. Now, I used to have these
old analog cameras on my house like these, but they were not very good. So, I recently
replaced them with these Axis network cameras. Now, a lot of people ask me why I have done
my network like this instead of using rack mount equipment, especially being that I come
from an IT background. Well, to be honest, I hate rack mount stuff, especially in the
home. And I really hate patch panels. There are a few reasons why I prefer doing things
like this. For one thing, these switches are cheaper. Also, patch panels just add an extra
layer of unnecessary complexity and wiring mess. Doing it like this, I can label all
of the ports, so I can look at each port and know immediately what is connected to it.
The rest of these that don’t have a label are actually connected to unused live jacks
in the house. And I have a system here, so this is switch A, and then B, and C. So if
I look at a network port on the wall, like this one which are labelled A14 and A15, I
can come right in here and immediately see where those are connected to my switch. And
the last reason I don’t like rack mount stuff is because they tend to have fans in
them, which can be loud and annoying, and worse the fans go out after a few years and
then you have to replace the fans or replace the equipment. These switches are all passively
cooled and work just fine. In fact, these two switches have been running non stop for
at least 10 years, plus I bought them used. So, I’d say they’re pretty reliable. And yes, I do have a wifi in my house, but
I still absolutely hate wifi for anything other than portable devices. Speaking of wifi,
a lot of people have asked what happened to my vintage airport I had on the wall of my
studio room. Well, I had not been using it in ages and somebody gave me one of those
more modern Airport Extremes, so I thought I’d hang that in its place, which I did. However, not 10 minutes after I had the thing
hung up, I had to take it back down because I didn’t realize those things had fans in
the bottom of them. And so, after a few minutes it got hot and then the fan started going
roooo, and my studio microphone up above my head was actually picking that up. And I was
just like, no I can’t have that in here making that kind of noise. So, I had to take
it down. Of course, I still have a regular airport
unit in my living room, right next to the Apple TV, which provides coverage to the whole
house. So, now I want to show you something I didn’t
show you in the last video. Take a look at this. This is a fiber converter, and it’s
located at the opposite end of the house. So, what is this fiber optic cable connected
to? I might have mentioned this before, but my
parents live in the house next door. Well, it’s just my mom now because my father passed
away last year. But, we’ve actually lived in these two houses since the 1990s, when
they were built. And during construction, we buried a conduit between the houses that
originally carried a standard ethernet cable. Now, the reason I didn’t mention this back
in the 2013 video is because I was afraid I might have been breaking some sort of ordinance
or regulation or something like that. But, I’ve researched it a lot since then and
the best I can tell I’m not breaking any sort of law. It’s really no different than
sharing your WiFi password with your neighbor. Of course, back when we put the cable in,
we didn’t even have WiFi. That wasn’t even a thing. The buried ethernet cable worked fine for
several years, but something unfortunate happened. There was this tree between the houses. Not
exactly between, as it was really in the back yard. But anyway, one day in the early 2000s,
lightening struck this tree. In fact, here’s a picture I took of the tree the next day.
And a few weeks later, most of the tree fell down. You can see a black mark down the center
of this piece. Then, we chopped it up and you can actually see a black mark down the
inside of every piece. The lightening strike destroyed many electronic
devices in both houses, including microwaves, and televisions, and alarm clocks, and things
like that. But, that actually wasn’t the worst of it. Somehow the lightening traveled from this
tree, through the ground, and jumped into this ethernet cable. I admit, I lack the understanding
to explain exactly how this works. Nevertheless, it fried every device that was connected to
ethernet including hubs at both houses, computers, and anything else. And fortunately, I have
some photos from the event. You’ll have to forgive the quality since digital cameras
back then weren’t all that great. First of all, I was not able to get the wires out
of the hub. They were melted in place. So, at first I just cut them all off like this.
However, using some pliers I was eventually able to get some of the wires out and they
were very charred looking. This one here was the one that was connected to the house next
door and it’s charred the worst. I also disassembled the hub and had a look inside.
You can see some of these chips here have actually popped as well. I had to go around and replace every RJ45
jack in every wall of both houses. I also had to replace a lot of computer equipment.
Now, I got lucky and some of the computers only the ethernet card was fried, and I was
able to remove the card and just put a new one in. But, in many cases the motherboards
were fried too. So, I realized I needed one of these ethernet
grounding blocks on each side of that buried cable. So I did get some of these and install
them. However, it only helped some. A year later another lightening storm came through
and did a similar type of damage, but on a much smaller scale. As such, I decided to
replace the ethernet cable with this fiber optic instead. Since there is actually nothing
metal or conductive inside this cable, it is totally immune to lightening strikes. And
here’s what it looks like next door with the matching fiber converter. These things
have actually been in place at least 10 years, and they were bought used so no telling how
long they’ve really been working. Nevertheless they have had a 100% uptime. They are only
100 megabit, but that’s fine for our purposes. I would also mention people are often curious
how I terminated the ends of the fiber cable. Well, I didn’t. I actually just went on
ebay and bought a 100 foot patch cable that had ends on both sides. And fortunately the
conduit was just big enough to pull them through with the ends attached. You may also notice that I have another POE
switch here, and there are two more cameras attached. So, there are cameras on both houses. So, enough about the network itself. Let’s
talk about some of the things connected to it. First of all, if you go back to the 2013
video, I was using multiple external firewire drives connected to a Mac mini. But now, I
am using a Synology NAS. This is a self-contained system that connects to my network. It has
4 hard drives, each one is 4 terabytes, and it’s setup in a RAID-5 configuration, so
that gives me about 12 terabytes total, with a redundant drive in case of failure. But, I wanted to have another redundancy as
well. For example, what happens if my house is destroyed by a tornado, or a fire, or is
burglarized and my NAS is stolen. Well, it occurred to me to put another synology drive
next door. So next door I have a little two-bay unit, which is not using any sort of RAID
since it doesn’t really need extra redundancy since it’s whole function is to be a backup
in the first place. Anyway, the two units actually sync with each other and so I always
have a live backup next door. It doesn’t have a monitor or keyboard, but
you can connect to it with your web browser and it has it’s own little GUI operating
system, which is remarkably powerful. It can do surprising number of server related tasks. But the main thing I find interesting is that
it also supports being a DVR for IP security cameras. So this unit does double duty as
a file server and a security camera DVR. And you know what, the DVR actually works remarkably
well, and I’m saying this as somebody who used to work on commercial-grade security
systems at my last job. So, looking at these cameras, these 4 here are from my house, and
these two here are next door. These cameras record at 4K resolution, but I have them set
to 1080 because I can’t see much difference and it saves a lot of space. They also look
fantastic at night time. I’m also using a custom router running PFSense. And, also I used to have a Mac mini in here
acting as a server. But I don’t really need a server anymore, so I have this little Atari…
ok it’s not really an Atari, it’s actually an Intel NUC running Windows 10. I need to
keep a windows machine around the house for some software, so here it is. My main computer,
on the other hand is still a Mac mini, although it has been upgraded since the last video.
And yeah, this is where I do all of my video editing, emailing, and shipping. And the last thing I’ll mention. A lot of
people ask if this network equipment in here is functional or is it just a decoration?
And, the answer is actually both. So, it is functional because this switch here does uplink
and connect to the network closet on the opposite end of the house. And I actually have several
ethernet jacks up underneath my studio bench here, which I can use if I have like, you
know equipment out here that needs an ethernet connection, which admittedly isn’t all that
often. But, the thing is, yes, it’s functional. But, I would, for example, never separate
my wires on a wall like this. I mean, this is extremely inefficient. Normally, I would
just bundle them all together in one bundle. But keep in mind that when I originally designed
this studio it was actually meant for an entirely different channel where I was going to be
dressing up like a mad scientist. The theme to this show was mostly going to
be critiquing all of the bad science in movies and TV shows. And I had all kinds of crazy
stuff including a brain in a jar which was my sidekick voiced by my friend Matt Kendrick.
And this character was called Morby, which was based on Morbius from a classic episode
of Doctor Who. But that show was far too difficult to make,
so ended up abandoning it pretty early. But that hopefully does explain some of the design
cues you see around here. For example, even the front of this studio bench, you know with
all of the big metal screws and everything was, supposed to kind of have that mad scientist,
Frankenstein type look to it. But anyway, I guess that wraps it up for this episode
so as always, thanks for watching!

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