Network Jack: first attic project

Three home improvement posts in a row – been thinking about the house and designing our lifestyle quite a bit lately. For a while we’d been living with a network cable strung over the ceiling, but it ¬†was unsightly and a horrid cable management failure, so this week was the time to fix it and add a new network jack next to the built-in desk there.

Here’s the setup in its most visible state – not shown is the difficulty of actually climbing up into the attic and drilling the hole in the cross-brace beam so that I would have a spot to pull the network cable up. Somehow I had the impression that this beam would be a 2×4, but there was a second beam underneath it – this took a good 30 minutes of drilling and moving sawdust to punch a 1-inch diameter hole through the entire width. To make matters worse, my first attempt was in the wrong spot and I had to move over 18 inches and do it all over again after we realized that.

The mounting box is a nifty contraption that uses plastic flaps which catch the drywall when you screw them in, so that you don’t have to nail it sideways into a stud. Much easier install when you have an existing finished piece of drywall to work with. If you look closely you can see that I chickened out and used the easy male-to-male RJ45 connectors on the back of the plate, instead of splicing out the copper wires and punching them down. I’ve done that once before (similar project in the old house), and that was enough for me.

The connection on the other side is to one of the cool things about the house – a mini network cabinet in the upstairs closet. We aren’t using the breadboard thing, but it’s a perfect spot for a router that previously connected to four different ethernet outlets around the upstairs, and now hooks up to five. I tried to use the side-mounted tube to pull in my new cables, but could not find any possible access without completely taking out the drywall in the room opposite it. Not worth it for a closet that no one ever sees – I’ll have to put some adhesive to block up the tiny amount of vertical hole that’s free around the cables.

Success – 1Gbps link! As for whether this is worth it compared to wireless – while WiFi covers most use cases, this is our machine where we do all the photo importing and manipulation, and our photos live in a mounted directory on the NAS instead of local storage. Very tough on the bandwidth to do all the photo copying, rotating, and sorting over WiFi; this has worked out much better. Plus, excuses to tackle a home improvement project are always welcome. The sense of accomplishment alone is worth it!

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