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Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

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Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:37 am

With this posting, I'm hoping that the rest of you will help me develop a basic wireless network; I know next to nothing about this. I've read and searched topics on the Internet, and either the info is considered too basic ("everyone knows that") to answer my fundamental questions, or way too sophisticated for me at this point in time.

This begins with my desire to have Netflix on my old cathode ray tube TV. You'd think that, after seeing a TV commersial from Netflix, that you could go to their website and see not only what's available, but exactly what you need in the way of hardware and how to assemble it. Well, you'd think wrong. If you go to Netflix and check their "how it works" links, you only get a list of basic equipment (TVs and gaming machines):
https://signup.netflix.com/HowItWorks
and https://signup.netflix.com/Watch?lnkce= ... id=1256502
Really, until I started investigating this, I thought you just had to connect your cable directly into the box or specially equiped TV to get this. I think Netflix and their marketing dept are really dropping the ball here; a bunch of knuckleheads. Let's say that some guy and his wife see that Netflix commercial, go to the Netflix site (Isn't this the logical first step?), but still can't make sense of what is truly needed to see Netflix. Nowhere is there any mention that you need a wireless router or a direct ethernet connection from your cable modem. Those drop-down info windows on that first Netflix page should include, or have links to, line drawing schematic examples of ways to set up for receiving Netflix; they are nearly useless as is. With the components labled and a short narrative for each example, all would be clear. It wouldn't take very much effort for Netflix to provide this, but it would pay off well for them. This would make the difference of uninitiated people (like me) going ahead and getting the necessary equipment and a Netflix subscription, or just forgeting it... like I've been doing for the past couple of years. (I'm resentful of companies who are not consumer-friendly or who do little to enable potential customers use their products; it's bad business for everyone. I'm only doing this because my wife has been bugging me to get Netflix for a few months now. If there were an equivalent alternative to Netflix--one who actually provided useful consumer information on how to get started--I'd consider them.... Well, the wife wants Netflix....)

OK, so the first item I need is a Roku or similar wireless receiver to connect to my TV. Having a CRT TV, I cannot use the new Roku 3 and suspect the Roku 2 XD would be my best choice within this line of Roku products.
http://www.roku.com/roku-products
They claim that this will work on any TV, and I take that to include CRT TVs, although there is no specific mention of this. So, after searching the internet, I still don't know what a Netflix movie will look like on my CRT TV. Will it have upper and lower horizontal bands of black cropping like you see on most DVD movies? Will the movie show as a "full screen" version (somehow) that you see on early DVD movies and double-sided DVDs offering both formats? I really don't know. I suppose this aspect doesn't really matter, but I'd sure like confirmation that my CRT TV will display Netflix movies.

Of course, there's at least one alternative option to the Roku, and that is the one posted here a short while ago:
http://www.cdrlabs.com/News/western-dig ... layer.html
I don't know about all the online feature that can be received on this and the Roku; all I've heard about is Netflix, and at the moment, that's all I care about. But I am interested in ease of set-up and bullet-proof performance. I'm inclined to go with the Roku, since it probably has the greater support, having been around for so long. Opinions?

I'll stop here and begin again regarding a good wireless router selection after finalizing this purchase decision. Thanks.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Ian on Sat Apr 27, 2013 2:24 pm

The way I see it, Netflix provides the service and it's up to the manufacturer of the box to describe how its hooked up accesses the internet.

I'm not really sure what a widescreen Netflix movie will look like on a normal TV. This too probably depends on the box you buy. Does it support 480i? Is it smart enough to adjust the aspect ratio? More than likely though, widescreen movies will have the black bands. That's just the way it is with non-widescreen TV's unless you zoom in and cut off the sides.

I own an older WD box and I like it. I don't have a Netflix subscription but stream a lot of movies and TV shows over my home network. The Roku doesn't have this capability but it does have support for Amazon Prime Video... which I do subscribe too. Sigh.. I wish one did it all.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Dartman on Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:29 pm

Unless that TV is new enough to be a HD CRT set your going to get the black bars top and bottom I think. I have one of the Last Toshiba CRT HDTV's made in the USA and it could do up to 1080i and had all the stretch and full picture modes. If your set isn't HD at all best it can do is 480i I think.
As long as you box and set have similar outputs and inputs you should be able to get the Netflix stream to play on it one way or the other.
I loved my Toshiba but the family all kicked in for Christmas and got us a LED 42" Sony for a good price that looks way better then I thought a set with it's mediocre specs would suggest so I retired the tube set and use it now.
Some of the better quality LED and plasma sets are now about good enough overall to make you forget about your old tube set and some are great bang for buck too now.
Good luck with it, I use media players now too and pretty sure I could get netflix or something similar into them if I wanted, but I use a wired network, faster and more secure. I do have wi fi but I only use that for my tablets for now.
Last edited by Dartman on Sun May 05, 2013 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:13 pm

While Netflix can continue to do almost nothing to introduce their potential customers to setting up a simple network that will allow them (assure them!) to view Netflix movies, expending a minimal amount of effort to provide basic information would go a long way to making sales. Just a few schematics with short narraatives are required. Yes, setting up the specific enabling connection box will be done by the respective "box" or Smart TV manufacturer, but something that convinces the first-time visitor to Netflix that this is something that they can really do--that anyone can do--will entice that consumer to investigate further and purchase a subsciption. If nothing is found to provide a minimal amount of education for basic decision making, then, like me, they just mutter, "WTF" and leave the web site. Let's say your car needs some repairs that will take two days to complete. Do you go to the shop that simply gives you a ride home (at best), or do you go to the shop that gives you a loner car to use? Check out the Crutchfield web site and see what they offer to potential customers to entice them to buy from them. Netflix should entice me to buy from them. It takes more than providing a service fee. The guys at Netflix are like the guys who wrote the early software manuals -- these were programers who left out a lot of info thinking that there was no sense in writing/adding "common knowledge" stuff. It drove a lot of first-time users of computers crazy.

I guess I'll go with the Roku. They seem to be very consumer friendly. I see that the Roku website has some Q & A stuff, as well as a "chat now" facility. I checked the user manual for my TV, which is a Panasonic PV-DF2035, but the specs listed are minimal and do not mention screen resolution(s) at all. I'll have to go online and search this out. AV inputs are limited to the typical three RCA jacks, so I'm expecting low res, which is OK, like I watch everyday anyway. Thanks.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:40 am

I got on line with a Roku support guy via a Chat session last night. It was pretty cool. He said any Roku 2 model would work. A few questions later I pressed him to make a specific model recommendation, and he suggested the LH model, since I have a CRT TV; this Roku model provides only 720p HD. Makes sense. I also asked him if some manufacturers of wireless routers worker better with Roku than ohters, and he said Roku has not had a problem with any routers, although he suggested Lynksys routers. The router just has to be able to deliver 2.4 GHz. (I think that's what he said. I was supposed to receive a copy of the chat session in my email, but I did not receive it.... I could have easily copied & pasted it to a Word doc. :-? )

SELECTING A WIRELESS ROUTER

Now things get even more complicated, as I must also look forward to my network as it expands. I did a lot of research about this, and concluded that I should get the most advanced and capable wireless router I can, while choosing one that is relatively trouble-free. It came down to: Linksys EA-6500 vs. Asus RT-AC66U. These both provide the pending new standard of draft IEEE 802.11ac as well as the forthcoming ISP protocol IPv6. I'm leaning towards the Asus. It seems to have a better info display to see operating status and three detachable external antennae (better range and some directional capabiltiy, I think). The biggest drawback to both of these routers is that they only have an USB 2.0 port. You'd think they would have 3.0.

I may have to upgrade my TWC-provided modem router; I don't know if I'm now missing something in the way of performance and reliability. It seems to work OK, but as I searched the TWC web site for various info, I discovered that my cable modem is not even listed as an available optiion any longer! They do have integrated modem/wireless routers, but just about all of their offerings (on any device) were still at the IEEE 802.11b level, and there is no mention of IPv4 or IPv6. So, if I upgrade, I'll buy my own and try to turn in my old cable modem for a reduction on my monthly TWC bill. (I hope. These TWC reps want to choke you when you start mentioning things that reduce your monthly bill; they get almost nasty, as if it were a personal afront to them.)

THE OVERALL GOAL (PICTURE) OF MY DESIRED NETWORK CAPABILITY

With the wireless router as a hub (central point of explanation) I am trying to have these components work harmoniously:

Computer - prefer to hard-wire this via ethernet cable (more assurance of privacy?; better communication)

TV - only one for now. May provide a second Roku for a second TV if the first one works well.

NAS - to backup my computer (on the fly) as well as act as a server to store & play my library of music wirelessly. This is why I want a USB 3.0 connection of the wireless router, although I seem have read/understood that an ethernet connection is faster than USB 2.0 (?) (or even 3.0 ?) The type(s) of HDDs to install also complicate the setup.

Apple iPad - (waiting for v2 of the iPad Mini) to play music stored on the NAS through the iPad (via earbuds)

Stereo system/speakers - will have to get a very good wireless receiver for this (high end DAC); I've looked at these and have a good model tagged in my Favorites folder. Will need to see my entire iTunes library/playlist on the iPad and make selections on the iPad. This may be the trickiest feat of all, although I know that the Sonos system has proprietary software that acts like iTunes on a pad.... Later....

Satelite speakers - play these in some other room, away from the stereo system (this option would be way down the road)


Any thoughts on a wireless router? I read that user experiences are so varied that you can't use user ratings as a guide for selecting the "best" wireless router. This pretty much reflects my research of user feedback, e.g., at NewEgg. I tend to be a guy who buy products with the most features ("advanced") to stave off obsolescence as long as possible. No manufacuturer seems to have great customer support. (After I get Netflix working, then I'll select the NAS.)

Thanks.

PS - I occured to me that some brands of wireless routers work better with some brands of NAS units. I guess I'll have select these two items simultaneously for an expected optimal result.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Ian on Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:33 am

I have not looked at routers for awhile. My Netgear N300 works fine with all the tablets and laptops in the house. Everything else is hardwired over gigabit.

A guy I work with just bought an Asus RT-AC66U. He's says its the best and I tend to believe him. A good place to research wireless routers is smallnetbuilder.com
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:15 pm

I've been to that web site, and find that it is generally too sophisticated for my level of knowledge. The only negative I've read about the Asus RT-AC66U is that is runs hot, noticablly hotter than other wireless routers. My concern would be if I came home from work and found my house to be a pile of ashes. Would you please ask him if he has any conern about the heat produced by this router? (The immediate predecessor to this Asus model (don't know the model number offhand) gets good reviews, too.)

Are there any misstatements or misconceptions in my overall plan as I've outlined above? Am I being naive about something? Flawed planning?
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Ian on Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:37 pm

The only change I would make is to not connect the NAS to the router via USB. Get a router with Gigabit. That will be good enough. Not to mention, most NAS units use their USB ports to expand storage, for printers, etc. Not to connect to the network.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:46 pm

Unless thiis is the connection to the network via your house's electrical system, then I don't know what Gigabit is. I'll look it up and study it. Thanks.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Dartman on Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:15 pm

It's just 1 gig network speed, gigabit-gig. It really helps move files faster and is great for shoving HD video down the pipe though as far as video goes the WDTV live only has the 100 meg connection and is plenty fast enough for HD video but file transfers are slower.
Do get a router with gigabit even if you don't use it at full speed right now you'll be able to upgrade later and have everything able to keep up.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:45 pm

I had to look that up - gigabit ethernet. The best article by far was this by Tom's Hardware:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gig ... 321-2.html
I checked the specs of my computer, and its ethernet connection is gigabit. So, I'll try to get a gigabit capable wireless router and NAS.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:00 pm

The Asus RT-AC66U looks pretty good: http://www.asus.com/Networking/RTAC66U/ It's got Gigabit ethernet ports.

Next is the NAS - maybe the hardest decision to make.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Dartman on Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:02 am

It better be for that kind of money, the one I'm using doesn't do 2 or 5 ghz but it has 4 gig ports and works fine with my tablets but I doubt it would be fast enough to stream HD. I think I paid less then 60 for mine and it's a Dlink 651 I think.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:22 pm

I've been doing some more reading up of customer feedback on these.
http://www.amazon.com/RT-AC66U-Dual-Ban ... sus+router
I'm having second thoughts, especially after reading the "one star" feedback. Even IT guys have problems with it. One guy thinks that these units fail quickly because of the the high heat they generate. More than once people in this one star group mention the Netgear R6300 as a pretty good one. I'll have to check this out.

I can't even begin to do all the things these feedback customers are trying to get their defective routers to work; I doubt that I could even upgrade the firmware! More research.... for the bullet-proof router.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby SithTracy on Wed May 01, 2013 11:36 am

I own the RT-AC66U and am one of the IT reviewers giving it a 2/5 for reliability. You are right to be leery of it. I am still using mine because, for me, I am able to troubleshoot it and keep it running, but I would prefer something more bullet proof. I am using a beta firmware in it now and it seems very solid, but I cannot recommend it to any casual user that wants/expects/deserves a product that is not going to be the cause of headaches. You spend this amount on a home router, it better be solid. There are other choices and it is good to research. Perhaps ASUS will get it right, but odds are it will not be with this model.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Wed May 01, 2013 9:23 pm

Thanks for your reply. I think I will pass on this one. I haven't really checked the feedback at Amazon or Newegg regarding the Netgear R6300 yet. Maybe something else will show up on the radar. I'd like to find one that comes with an installation CD that also includes a comprehensive diagnostic and repair capability, as automatic as possible. I'll be back.

Say, Ian, I'm sitting here and misspelling words and they are being auto-corrected. I've never seen this on a forum web site before. Something new? Pretty cool.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Ian on Thu May 02, 2013 9:03 am

NuGuy wrote:Say, Ian, I'm sitting here and misspelling words and they are being auto-corrected. I've never seen this on a forum web site before. Something new? Pretty cool.


I'm guessing that's your browser doing that. You using Chrome or something?
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Thu May 02, 2013 7:29 pm

My "computer" auto-updates installed programs periodically, and yesterday (or late the night before) "it" installed Internet Explorer 10.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sat May 04, 2013 9:23 pm

Just checking in.... While the Netgear R6300 looks good (I read that there is a v2 of this model...?), I just ran across this on one of the several "best gigabit wireless router" pages I've been chasing down across the Internet. It's the Trendnet AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (TEW-812DRU). It doesn't have nearly the same relatively great number of user feedback reports, but most are quite positive. I've pasted links to the Amazon offering and the NewEgg offering. It is really interesting to read the feedback from both retail sites; the difference between them, or should I say, the users, is dramatic. The users reporting at NewEgg are so much more sophisticated, so much so that I can't really follow what they're saying. Anyway, if you're just goofing around now and have a few minutes, read the feedback at both sites, even if you aren't in the market for a router. Very interesting.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-AC1750-W ... -812DRU%29

NewEgg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6833156436

What I thought I could do with any router with ethernet ports was to connect my computer via an Ethernet cable rather than using a wireless connection. This TrendNet router has a dedicated WAN port and this is THE way that it communicates with your computer. This is a "plus" for me.

Apparently, it seems, all these new "ac" routers produce a lot of heat. Netflix is not too far away. I hope I really didn't care to see any of the 2000 movies that Netflix is cutting from their viewing selection. :-?
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Dartman on Sun May 05, 2013 2:35 am

I have the Trendnet 1ghz 8 port switch here I got for 20 and it was the easiest one I've ever hooked up, truly just plug it in and it worked. If this one is as reliable and fast as mine I'd say go for it as it even has 4 1ghz wired ports too so again you have the best of both worlds, fast wired and very fast wireless. They have done a few updates on my D link 651 and this switch too but they both just work witth no fuss and the switch was the easiest router I've plugged in yet and never any issues that I can say were cuased by it. You could end up doing similar, get this guy to run everything and add a simple gig 4 or 8 port switch if you need more wired ports, otherwise your all set with one device.
I needed more high speed wired ports here with 2 media players, 2 pc's. a HD HomeRun Prime networked cable card 3 tuner cable box DVR and like that. I also setup my main PC as a media center PC that controls the prime and is on 24/7 with it sleeping after 1/2 hour of recording or me using it, then it only draws 1 watt and goes basicaly dead.
If I had fast enough wireless I could probably loose a few cables around here for my HD capture playback.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun May 05, 2013 8:48 am

Thanks for that. Yeah, the Trendnet is looking pretty good about now. I think I'll look just a little more, but I don't think there is a router on the market that hasn't been damned by 10% of its users; all have some sort of problem, and I suppose the user himself is sometimes one of them. I hope that Trendnet's customer support is better than Asus' and the other big shot's.

Just from reading feedback, I think that the fewer wireless connections you have, the better. If I could easily run Ethernet cable to my stereo and TVs, I would do it. It sounds like you have a good (dependable, reliable) setup.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Ian on Sun May 05, 2013 6:36 pm

NuGuy wrote:What I thought I could do with any router with ethernet ports was to connect my computer via an Ethernet cable rather than using a wireless connection. This TrendNet router has a dedicated WAN port and this is THE way that it communicates with your computer. This is a "plus" for me.


The WAN port probably plugs into your cable or DSL modem. Not your computer. You can plug your computer into any of the other ports though.

You're going to find that there is always someone who isn't happy with a product. They're also about 100x louder than the people who are happy with it. Not to mention, people who like a product are less apt to go and post a review online.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Sun May 05, 2013 8:54 pm

You're correct about the WAN connection. I went to the Trendnet site and read the specs as well as the Quick Installation Guide. The connection to the computer can be either wired or wireless. Trendnet recommends a wired connection when setting up the router. The diagrams show that this connection to the computer is from one of the four Ethernet ports.

My intuition tells me that I might have more potential privacy being hard wired to my router, for the (nearly always) times that I'm on the Internet doing stuff, like I am at this moment. Nothing is being beamed to my neighbors. And while I have not established a network on my computer, I can see a half dozen wireless user names listed at a little window available from my task bar, along with their respective signal strengths. I'm not sure how much more I would be secure than if I've set up my router's security settings properly, but the router (& cable modem) will likely be near my computer, inside my junky man cave, where it won't distract from the décor of the rest of the house.

The Trendnet specs & info suggest that the USB 2.0 port can be used for a NAS connection. After reading about gigabit Ethernet transmissions, I think that the ethernet connection will be faster. (I'll have to look up and compare the two transmission speeds.) Again, my intuition tells me that listening to my uncompressed library of music will be smoother. I wonder how a DAC handles uncompressed vs. compressed (e.g., Apple's high end compression) as it delivers analog signals to my amplifier. Maybe the compressed data will result in greater aural fidelity??? Affected by the sampling rate of the DAC...?

Anyway, as much as I want a trouble-free router, I am getting tired of researching this. I think I'll order my Roku and Trendnet router sometime within this forthcoming week.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby NuGuy on Wed May 08, 2013 9:22 pm

Re: Trendnet TEW-812DRU AC1750.... Here's a paragraph from a review by CNET: "However, the router's USB storage performance didn't do anything to impress. Via a Gigabit Ethernet wired connection, I got only around 3MBps for both writing and reading. While this is fast enough for minor data sharing, you should think of getting a dedicated NAS server if you want to do more with network storage, such as media streaming and backups."

CNET was not impressed with the relatively slow USB 2.0. In this regard, the first sentence makes sense. The third sentence makes sense, assuming you would use a Gigabit Ethernet connection for the NAS. The second sentence does not make sense to me. I can't understand why the "Gigabit Ethernet wired connection" comment comes in. What's this have to do with the first sentence and USB performance? It seems to contradict, at least confuse, both the first and third sentences at the same time.
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Re: Building a Home Entertainment Wireless Network

Postby Ian on Thu May 09, 2013 1:27 am

The USB port is the bottle neck. It wouldn't matter if you were plugged into the router via Gigabit when the hard drive is connected to it via USB2. It's like going from a fire hose to a garden hose.. or in the case of USB2.. a straw.

Like the reviewer said, those USB ports on the router are only for basic file sharing. If you want performance, you need to buy a NAS.
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