AirPort Over Ethernet, Dustbath

The AirPort Express has worked as advertised — when it works. Trouble with our house is that the layout forces WiFi signal to pass through the fridge/stove and through a dense wall. The reception light on the AX has always blinked, indicating that it’s out of range even though it’s less than 50′ from my Mac. It worked, but picking up the cordless phone or using the microwave would cut the tunes. With a tot in the house, we use the microwave a lot. Finally decided to run ethernet cable under the house and hardwire the damn thing.

Drilled a hole between the baseboard and the wall similar to how the phone cord is wired, but hit a joist and didn’t have a long enough bit to go all the way down (hole’s okay, barely noticeable). Plan B: Remove cover plate from the adjacent wall socket, drill just next to the box, and put a hole in the cover plate to match. Pushed 50′ of CAT-5 into the hole, put on old clothes and knee pads, and ventured into the crawlspace. Here’s where it gets fun.

Our office was built after the rest of the house, and has its own foundation. Turns out the main crawlspace doesn’t offer access to the space under the office (hereafter referred to as “the crypt of shacker”). The only access is from a tiny opening under the deck. Shimmying Navy Seal-style on mildewy ground, rocks under belly, dark. A hole in the main foundation opened up to the crypt. Trouble is, we had central heat installed when we moved in, and the opening was mostly filled by a 12″ conduit, leaving a space just about large enough for a cat. I’m somewhat larger than a cat. Exhaled all my air, arms forward, and pushed forward with my toes, praying I wouldn’t get stuck. Came close to backing out, lungs squished, elbows munged, but got through, shimmied forward up to the wall… only to find that the cable wasn’t there waiting for me. Apparently bunched up against the same joist I had hit with the drill. Backed out to startling daylight.

Back in the office, went to pull the cable back out… and it was caught, apparently tangled inside. Tug, cajole, sweet-talk, nothing worked. Finally had to cut it off. Now there’s 50′ of CAT-5 permanently entombed in our office wall. It was then I came up with Plan C: use the heating duct itself! Pushed aside some flashing with a screwdriver, and bingo — I could see dirt. Spooled in more cable, then back into the crypt of shacker. Upside down, threading a tangle of wire wherever I could, no reasonable way to hold or position the flashlight, hair full of damp dust, sweating like a boar, finally through to the main crawlspace and finally up through a pre-existing hole in the floor behind the stereo.

Terminator crimping time — I never get it right the first time. Finally the router registered that it saw something on the other end. Went to reconfigure the AX… only to find that the Setup Assistant wouldn’t run without the now-removed Aiport card installed. The documentation only covers working with wireless networks. Later found the answer to using AX over Ethernet: Use the Aiport Admin utility, not the Express Setup. Go to the Airport tab, click Base Station Options, and check “Airport over Ethernet.” Joy to the world.

Another 30-minute project turned into half a day. All good projects are that way. Gorgeous day, too. Except for the view from the crypt.

Music: The Meters :: Ease Back

9 Replies to “AirPort Over Ethernet, Dustbath”

  1. My Parents old house had desks built into our bedrooms, and the columns of drawers had false floors. Someone who was small and flexible enough (like me, as a kid) could go under the house, climb up through this false floor, slide the drawers out, and shimmy up into column and then climb out over the drawers and scattered contents and be inside.

    I still have recurring nightmares about getting stuck and no-body knowing where I was.

  2. Running the ethernet through the house was one of my favorite projects. I don’t have the issue with the foundation that you do but damn is it nice not to have to worry if the wi-fi isn’t going to reach that particular room.

  3. Had my own adventures running surround sound speaker and ethernet cable around my place, but nothing like that! (although my attic during a Texas Summer has a challenging climate all its own). Buying my own steel “fish tape” was the smartest thing I did before starting that…

    BTW, I like the “Image from Nowhere” today ;)

  4. You did use cat5 rated for plenum use, right? Because the standard stuff burns and releases toxic gasses, or so our instructors at CCNA said.

    I was fortunate when I networked my house, I have a basement so the long run of cable is just stapled to the joists. Much vexatious labor, but no cat passages to crawl through.

    Hmm. Training a cat to pull cat5 cables. That could work! Except that the cable run would be all over the place the first time the cat found a bug to chase. :)


  5. Jim, the label on the spool says “Rate for in wall use, CMR 75 centrigrade, fire-retardant.” Doesn’t say anything about plenum use, but it sounds pretty resistant to heat issues to me.

  6. Ew. Crawlspaces – don’t envy you your experience Scot. Not in the least. Good on ya for getting it done (and by the, er, read of it, with a smile on your face)!

  7. I understand the dread of the crawlspace. Our crawlspace was a smelly dank spot. Mneptok had images of finding Gollum trolling around down there. We had drainage installed down there last summer and now it is a somewhat nice dry unsmelly spot down there. I still don’t like to go down there but it doesn’t scare me as much.

  8. ROFL ahhaha
    that was a funny story!

    Now just imagine having to do this pretty much everyday
    as part of your job.

    It’s nice to see ‘joe home owner’ taking action themselves… Now you’ll understand why your cable guy is hesitant to put that new tv outlet beside the stereo :)

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