Category Archives: Networking


Home Networking Upgrades

Home Networking Upgrades

This has been a lot of years coming.   I’m certainly no home networking guru or sys admin, but I’ve always been a step or three ahead of the common home network setup.  I have about 65 Internet of Things (IoT) devices and home automation.  In my mind “automation” is the operative word.  Push my doorbell, I get a text.  Garage door opens, I get a text.  Motion happens in an empty house, I get a text.  Lights come on at sunset.  .

You need a fairly robust network backing all this hardware up and MOST IMPORTANTLY you need to segregate all those IoT devices from the computers that hold your precious, personal, private data.   I bought a cheap outlet to tie into my home automation.  The person that did the initial hack claimed the device was transmitting data back to some server in China.  Just for fun before I hacked the outlet I put it on the network and began watching the data packets flow to and from the device.  Sure enough, it was communicating with a computer somewhere in China.  I’m sorry, but no device in my home should be communicating with a computer offshore, unless I tell it to.

Your cameras, your IoT devices, and your other internet enabled toys should not be on the same network as your personal data.
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Anker USB C to 2.5 Gbps Ethernet Adapter Review

Anker USB C to 2.5 Gbps Ethernet Adapter Review

I recently upgraded a segment of my home network to 2.5 GB ethernet.  I keep a huge folder on my laptop called “Archive” that has basically every manual for everything I own in it.  Also there’s other junk in there too.  It’s huge, and it takes forever to back up.  In the interest of backing everything up quicker once every week or so I decided to get a 2.5GB ethernet dongle to move those files to my snazzy 2.5GB NAS.  After a bit of research I settled on the Anker USB C to 2.5 Gbps Ethernet Adapter.

Anchor Arms

Sorry.  Every time I see the word “Anker” my mind wanders to the SpongeBob episode where he bought inflatable Anchor Arms.  The goal was to get ripped like Larry Lobster.

And such as it is with me and my network.  I’m trying to get ripped backing up that huge folder quickly somehow or another.

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Netgear MS108EUP Review & VLAN Setup

Netgear MS108EUP Review

And Simple VLAN Setup

Netgear MS108EUP

2.5GB Netgear MS108EUP Router

I just built a new firewall appliance that has four 2.5GB speed ports.  I attached it to a Mikrotek hap ax³ router which also has a 2.5GB port on it.  Then I added in a QNAP NAS which also has a 2.5GB port on it.  To hook them all up together I needed a fast switch and I settled on the Netgear MS108EUP.

You can find hardware with 2.5GP ports on it pretty easy.  But you know what is hard to find?  A 2.5GB network switch that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  Somehow or another hardware vendors are making devices with 2.5GB speeds.  Sadly there really aren’t that many switches out there to support the speed..  They went right from 1GB to 10 GB and skipped right over the middle ground.

And while you might be able to find some $100 switches, finding one that is Managed (Smart) is quite a bit trickier.  A managed switch is one that can do other tasks such as Virtual LAN’s (VLAN) among a lot of other tricks.   A VLAN can be used to segregate certain aspects of a network such as the establishment of a Guest Network that can’t communicate with the primary network.   Or keeping HR away from the Operations Department.   You get the drift.
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Mikrotik Router hap ax3 Mini Review

Mikrotik Router hap ax3 Mini Review

Mikrotek router

Mikrotek hap ax3

I’m a sucker for a challenge.  I spent the last week or so shifting from a pfSense firewall to an OPNsense firewall appliance.  Since I was on a networking kick I decided to try my hand with a new Mikrotik Router.  The Mikrotik hap ax3.

Mikrotik has a reputation for making highly configurable routers but they also have a higher degree of difficultly in that configuration.   Setting a router up for the first time can be a bit intimidating if you have never seen anything like this before.

One of the best things about this router is the price.  Go to BestBuy or Walmart and the so called Top Of The Line gear costs 3x’s as much as this router.  I’m not kidding either.  So called “Fast” or “Gaming” routers cost from $300 up to the moon.  These routers are probably not as good or as fast and for sure not as secure as the hap axat $139.

The average home networking user has NOT ever seen anything like this before.  The reason I call this a Mini-Review is because there is just too many steps to document in setting one of these things up.  In fact I won’t talk much about configuration at all.

Rather I will point you to the resources I used to get where I got.   I should also mention that my router is configured as a wifi access point and is located behind an OPNsense firewall on a VLAN port.  My whole point was to make a guest network that cannot communicate with my primary network.   And I have succeeded in that endeavor.

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pfSense vs OPNsense Hardware Firewall

pfSense vs OPNsense

I don’t think most people give home network security much thought.  Essentially you buy internet from a provider who gives you a modem of some sort.  Then you attach a wifi router to it that you bought from Walmart or Target or even worse, one that the internet provider gives you.  There is only one real way to have any semblance of home network security, and that is to have a hardware firewall.  In this blog I’ll be discussing pfSense vs OPNsense.  Both are free operating systems based on FreeBSD Unix.  Don’t let that scare you though.

Anyway, your Walmart router sits on the shelf near the TV and never gets updated.  Not that it would matter anyway because its security is roughly as porous as Swiss Cheese.  If you don’t believe me take a few minutes to peruse  If you dig around that site a bit you might even see my name there in a place or two!

Full Disclosure

Some years ago I discovered hardware firewalls and have not looked back since.  Before i get started here I need to make some clarifying statements.  Firewalls are not bulletproof.  And the success of them depends a lot on them being configured correctly.   Configuring both pfSense or OPNsense requires some level of geekiness and a bit of research to give yourself some modest amount of security.  Even if you are a network security specialist, there are people out there or nation states capable of getting inside your network.
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Windows 11 Networking Not All Computers Showing

I was having an issue where only a 3 of my networked computers were showing in the Windows Network Neighborhood (or at least they used to call it Network Neighborhood).

All computers on the network were visible from all my Mac and Linux computers and running software such as LanScan showed everything proudly announcing itself on the network.  So the problem pretty clearly was with Windows 11.

This is a blog where I wish I specified a FIX to the problem but the truth is, I’m not sure what fixed the problem, but this blog may not be a total waste to anyone else with this problem. 

First of all, I’m not new to the geek stuff, but I am newly returned to Windows.  I bought an Acer Aspire 5 laptop specifically to run a program called Vectric VCarve Desktop for my CNC machine.  Also my CNC machine firmware can only be updated from a Windows computer. Also since I design my SVG files on a Mac and store them on a couple of servers  I HAVE TO HAVE NETWORK ACCESS WITH MY WINDOWS LAPTOP WHILE I’M IN MY WORKSHOP TRYING TO CNC SOMETHING.

Let’s dig in.
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ProtonMail – Not Just Webmail

I had a fit when I found out that the Justice Department was “threat tagging” American citizens who dared to speak out at school board meetings.  It was at that point I knew I needed to go dark on my personal communications.

Now, don’t think I went into full Prepper or Patriot mode.  I still have a few regular email accounts and I’ll still use them for various things.  I use gmail for a spam trap.  And getting emails from Amazon and all the other marketing crap can still come in through good ol’ dot Mac.

But if you are a human carrying out conversation with me, especially any kind of business or family business or especially communications with lawyers………….our email is going to be encrypted.   I even changed the email address on my “Contact Me” tab of this page.

So lets talk about the service I’m using………….ProtonMail.  I’ve had a ProtonMail account for years, but I almost never used it.  I got it because I was going to hire a lawyer for something once and the first thing he did was direct me to get a ProtonMail account so our communications would be private.
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Protonmail Bridge on Unraid

Now more than ever in this Social Media day and age I think it is important to encrypt your private communications.  Most people think they are boring but as the current news feeds amplify, if you dare speak out on a subject you may be a target.  I won’t get into details beyond that but …….why not encrypt your on-line conversations?   No one needs to know what you like and don’t like, and what you stand for or don’t stand for.  Or what your vaccination status is.

If you think Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo are not spying on you there is no hope for you.  You need to move on from here.  Email encryption is nothing new and in fact I remember the first consumer grade stuff ………Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) in the mid 90’s.   It was super cool but people just would not take the extra steps to do this.   I suspect they still won’t.  But they should.

There are several secure email services and in this blog I will focus on ProtonMail   They use end to end encryption and if you have a ProtonMail account and you email someone that doesn’t…….you can still create an encrypted environment.

ProtonMail is web based, and for most of you that isn’t an issue.  You are used to logging into your Gmail or Yahoo account on a web browser, so don’t let this scare you.  You’re simply using another service except this one is more secure.

Let’s move on with this discussion.

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Synching Folders Easy and Cheap

This is something that is OLD, and something I once knew and did and forgot about.

My digital life is HUGE …….. huge in the amount gigabytes of data I have archived over the years.   If I buy something……..I download and save the manual for it.  Stuff like that.

I built a SuperServer™ and have just copied all the data over to that device.  Trouble is when I put some new data on my laptop I want it to upload to the server, at least on a weekly basis.

There is NO SHORTAGE of programs to accomplish this and most of them COST MONEY.  Or they have a free one that doesn’t quite do what you want but the Pro Version that COSTS MONEY does.

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Raspberry Pi NAS……kind of

UPDATE Jan 31 2021:  I updated from Pi OS Buster to Bullseye which broke the Geekworm fan control.  The only way to get it going again was to do a fresh installation.

This was a fun albeit unnecessary project that costs a few bucks. I wanted to build a small portable NAS around a Raspberry Pi 4.

I ended up buying parts to create a polished, professional looking solution that utilizes a SATA 2.5″ SSD.  Here are the parts I bought:

Geekworm Stuff

This is a good looking case and I obviously have the front panel off of it for this picture.

There are a few things you need to know about this set up though.  It may or may not be the solution for you.

First the case fit and finish is beyond exceptional. The SATA board is excellent for mounting the SSD on the bottom side and pogo pins make the appropriate connections to the Pi.

Make no mistake though.  The SSD is connected via the USB 3.0 bus. And herein lies the rub.

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