Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The $83 machine gets networked ...

Having built a linux machine for $83 I thought it would be worthwhile putting it on the internet. Since for aesthetic reasons the ppc imac is the linux machine in the study this meant getting an internet connection out to the garage.

I could have run a bit of duct out there and run a 10m patch lead through it but that had the disadvantage that I'm committed to keeping the machine in the garage, which if we ever get round to building the shed cum studio will not the the case, and I have the hop of eventually getting the machine inside.

So I bought a linksys wireless bridge. Initially I tried ebay, but in fact the cost of a new unit from a discount box shifter was about what they went for on ebay give or take a couple of bucks so I just bought a new one and I was pretty glad I did.

From the manual installation sounds a cinch - you just plug and go.

You don't. The instructions imply that you plug it into your network, run the configuration tool, which magically finds it, you configure it and away you go.

Well there are a couple of problems with this.

Firstly you need a windows pc to configure it. Well fortunately the old windows laptop has not yet ended up running xubuntu - perhaps this is a reason for it not to - and the default address of the box is in the 192.n.n.n address space and guess what our home network is in the space. Fortunately the work around is fairly simple - unplug the windows pc from the network, set a static address of 192.n.n.n-2 with a subnet mask of ff.ff.ff.0 and connect it directly, configure it, revert the windows box to dhcp, power cycle the linksys box and hey presto, you have network!

Moved it to the linux box out in the garage, and yes we have a signal. It works - most of the time. The only problem is that the linksys box tries to keep an open wireless channel, which means that if our Telstra wireless gateway restarts - which it does every two or three days - it gets confused and needs to be power cycled, as it thinks it has an open channel and the Telstra supplied box just ignores it

So we have network, and another problem. The version of ubuntu I'd built the pc with had fallen off long term support, so that meant an upgrade to get the latest version. Downloading the cd was a challenge, basically it wouldn't - too slow too many timeouts - until I got into work on Monday and managed to download it manually with a wget command.

Rebuilt the pc - fortunately I'd had the wit to put /home on a separate filesystem so I didn't lose any data, and there we were. Ubuntu 7.10 on a box running in my garage. Total cost of the project $187.

We'll ignore the hard question as to whether it was worth it. I had some fun and learned a few things along the way :-)

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