Jan. 10th, 2017

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Grace is a mess of incomplete projects. I mostly blame the contractor who did the renovation before us for laziness (ha), though I guess I should also be better about seeing all of these as opportunities.

The recent success is finally fixing the Wi-Fi coverage in the library. The contractor didn't deign to put in conduit in the walls... or any kind of reasonable cabling, either. There is, at least, a wallplate in every room with a phone jack and coax, but all of the cabling is cat3, stapled to various beams along the way. Most of it is only connected at one end, too, with the other end dangling loosely in the attic or wall cavity, so getting any kind of aesthetically appealing wired connection between rooms has been challenging.

The DSL link is terminated downstairs, at a wall socket with two other cat3 cables present. I'd earlier worked out that one of those went up to the attic, and I repurposed a ceiling mounted smoke alarm's remodeling box to connect a Unifi AP. That mostly covers the top floor, and another AP directly connected near the DSL model handles the basement, but the signal at the main floor at the other end of the house is too weak to be able to video-conference from the couches in the library, which is something of a pity, given how beautiful that room is and my love for showing it off.

There's an enclosed crawlspace below the library which I've long had in mind as a machine room (despite an unhealthy amount of dust left over from construction), but I hadn't found a cabled path to it, despite one clearly visible cat3 cable. Two cable tracers and one unattractive patch cable later, it's finally wired up, with a third Unifi perched on a beam below the library (there is a wall plate in the library, presumably with a cat3 connection, but I have no idea where it connects to, and we bolted bookcases onto that wall anyway).

Together with a Unifi PoE switch and a Unifi Security Gateway, Grace is now an all-Unifi network which I manage by clicking around a UI on a controller that I don't even host and I just don't recognize myself any more. Somewhat to my surprise, all of the links are running cleanly at 1GbE. Modern ethernet hardware is pretty amazing.

After some prompting, we bought into the whole Sonos thing for sound. Even the Play:1s have great audio quality, but after investing in a bunch of them and a Playbar, we discovered that they don't work as simple wireless speakers. In particular, Eden wants to play audiobooks and movie soundtracks through them, and... can't. They just don't work that way. Which is amazing, but there you go. As a last ditch effort before investing in yet another piece of Sonos kit that was sufficiently expensive to offer external input to a standalone Bluetooth audio receiver (I can't even), I tried airsonos, which fakes up a bridge between AirPlay and Sonos hardware, and it sort of works. It only really solves half the problem, though, since it adds close to 10 seconds of audio latency, which means audiobooks are fine, but movies are not. I have some small hopes of this being solved for me, but since I also lack a host to run airsonos permanently, it's moot for the moment.

There's yet more ecosystems to kvetch about, but I'm realizing that about 90% of my complaints are about the wiring in the house. I was always politely bemused by all the earnest threads about choice of conduit when renovating or building. Now I finally understand. Argh.

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Miki Habryn

April 2017

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