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Using HomePlug PowerLine Adapters for Home Networking? 31

Posted by Cliff
from the overloading-the-"3-prong-outlet" dept.
dbaman asks: "I have previously used a router with my broadband connection and run cables thru my house to have a home network. Now I'm in a new house, and I don't want to drill holes in the wall and run cable thru the attic again. I have considered 802.11 wireless, but am more interested in the HomePlug Powerline standard, which lets you use the electrical outlets in the house as the network. Powerline uses 56 bit DES encryption rather than WEP like wireless, and is apparently a bit faster than wireless. LinkSys, GigaFast, and NetGear have adapters out, and a Powerline-based router from LinkSys will soon be available. Does anyone have any experience or advice with this new HomePlug PowerLine networking standard?"
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Using HomePlug PowerLine Adapters for Home Networking?

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  • security concerns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by honold (152273) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @11:49PM (#4656605)
    i've never liked the idea of phone line or power networking, simply because power lines and phone lines don't stop outside my house - they're connected to everyone.

    'the signal will get weak' isn't good enough :(
    • Fair enough call. (Score:2, Informative)

      by The Fink (300855)
      Fortunately, there's usually enough power-altering equipment between you and your utility's lines - e.g. power meters and transformers - to limit the propagation to merely one or two houses.

      It's the same as wireless from the point of view that you should always assume that you can be sniffed, and take suitable precautions for the kind of data going across the link.

    • You know what, if they're willing to brute-force 56-bit DES encryption to read my data, they can have it. I'll be flattered.
    • i've never liked the idea of phone line or power networking, simply because power lines and phone lines don't stop outside my house - they're connected to everyone.

      Most phone line networks run over the second line, which isn't connected to everyone.

  • Works well. (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Fink (300855) <slashdot@diffidence.org> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @11:51PM (#4656612) Homepage
    In my experience, they're adequate for most home networks, as long as you're not addicted to 100Mb/sec networks, as am I. :-)

    Only major problem is that you're exposed to the line, and serious surges (read: lightning strikes on powerlines, or transformer breakdowns) will get through. Mind, the kind of surge I'm talking about there is likely to pop most surge guards - and a fair few cheaper UPSen - as well. Something else to consider, I guess.

    The Queensland Electricity Commission, back in the early `90's, toyed with doing something like this - at a whole 2400 baud - to get some level of signals from one power station to another. By the time they finally got around to doing it, they got broken up - and had fibre networks anyway.

  • by ninthbit (623926) on Wednesday November 13, 2002 @12:02AM (#4656703)
    If this is your house... a pernament home, I would vote to just run the cable. Its just a one time thing and you get better speed, plus if you do ever sell its an added feature to the home.
    • not everyone wants outlets in every room for aesthetic reasons, no matter how nice you could make it look. if you went to resell it, there's always going to be some who would consider all that extra cable in the walls a reason for you to lower the price..
  • 56-bit DES is weak (Score:4, Informative)

    by photon317 (208409) on Wednesday November 13, 2002 @12:36AM (#4656887)

    56-bit DES is very weak these days. While it might keep a non-technical neighbor at bay, the very idea of sniffing your traffic off the power circuit would probably have kept them at bay anyways. If you do anything at home that's the least bit sensitive, I wouldn't entrust it to 56-bit DES.

    Facts from when the EFF machine broke the DES challenge (it was 56-bit DES like you're about to use):

    Time to crack key: 56 hours
    Total cost of machine, including R&D: US$250K

    The R&D was extensive, and would probably cost less now that people have an example to follow. Also, this was done in 1998, so there's been four intervening years to make it faster and cheaper.
    • So his neighboor is going to discover he has a 56-bit DES encrypted network and purchase a quarter-of-a-million dollar computer and spend 56 hours to crack the key for his network? Very unlikely. And I don't see why the EFF would set up in his neighbours house to crack his LAN encryption either.

      Besides, doesn't the key change occasionally? This means another 56-hour cracking session to break in to the network.

      What is to be afraid of, neigbours viewing his pr0n?

      • 1 - the $250K and 56 hours was four years ago. I can't give a good estimate for 2002, but I bet it's closer now to $100K and 20 hours.

        2 - I specifically said it would keep the neighbor out, so why are you using the neighbor as an argument.

        3 - It's likely that some organizations already have the ~100K equipment and amortize it's use over time.

        4 - It's likely that a lot more people are being surveilled by the government for less probable cause than in the past.

        5 - If he works for any sort of major company, and works from home, then his data might mean something to corporate spies as well.

        My advice is well placed given the unknowns.
        • 1) It's still more than any sane person would spend to break into someone's pr0n collection. 2) Why? Because it's what matters in this context; We're not talking about securing a corporate network here, we're talking about a LAN. You know, the kind one uses to share the internet and send AVI files back and forth and the like. 3) Why, why oh why, would an "organization" EVER bother to break into someone's personal LAN? Company internet bills too high so they decide they must spend a few dozen grand to steal internet from some unsuspecting joe? 4) If the government wants to spy on me, there are much easier ways to do it than break my encryption every few days. Phone taps come to mind, as well as all the other neat security measures like planting listening devices and using that to record keystrokes. Or pointing a camera at my monitor (Or studying the radiation it gives off). Those would not likely have 20 hour downtime every few days. 5) You have a good point. However, if one is handling sensative data, you'd do well to encrypt it regardless. You're not limited to only the encryption provided by the physical transport layer.

          • The problem is that we don't know the content. If it's just his pr0n collection he's worried about, then he wouldn't even mention or ask about the crypto. Lots of people use their home network to run small businesses, or to remotely work at large business. In both cases, their can be corporate secrets at stake, and therefore both corporations and individuals determined to get them.

            Consider also that he will presumably use this for some years if he deploys it. If he uses it for 2-4 years, that adds up (from back to 1998 when it took $250k and 56 hours) to 3-4 Moore's Law cycles. That means assuming that hardware/R&D costs don't drop (and they do), for $250k it will now break in 3.5-7 hours near the end of his use of it. Since it was a scaled solution, that also means (again assuming no drop in hardware/R&D cost drop) for $15-30k it can be broken in the original 56 hours. Or if the attacker is on a real budget and the data isn't all that time sensitive, they could spend a month cracking it for $300 or so.
    • My Quicken data isn't worth that much...
  • by maunleon (172815) on Wednesday November 13, 2002 @12:47AM (#4656941)
    This has been touched on previously in this thread from last month:

    http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/10/17/10 27208&mode=thread&tid=137 [slashdot.org]

    • Doesn't sound like a lot of people have any experience with this or have too many mental requirements. I use the homeplug to network my house. My cellar office is all decked out with standard linux boxes, routers, firewalls and such, but I let the rest of the house get connected through home plug. It is easy, works, and didn't have to punch any holes. I'm lazy, I recommend it. This tech will become standard in a LOT of homes....
      • Doubt it will become standard in any homes. Anyone building a new home is going to run some extra cat 5.

        • OK, I need to qualify. There are many, many dwellings in this great country that already exist and this will become a std for them because of the simplicity of it.
  • --do these vendors offer a warranty for damage, and is there a return policy for "dissatisfaction"?

    If you can get both of those, try it out! Don't like it, take it back, if their stuff fries your stuff next storm comes by, get new stuff.

    I can't get to the page, so I'll ass-ume that this runs on the neutral leg. Only thing like that I ever tried before was using the neutral as an antenna, it works so-so, tried it both on TV and for shortwave.

    With that said, if you already have the wired gear and router, cable, etc, just go ahead and run the cables, do a neat job.Usually just prying the base molding off carefully will eliminate a lot of holes. Use a nailset, find the finish nails, smack em in below the wood, then a careful prybar and peeling action, use a razor knife on the paint bead first if needed. Tuck the cable down there, you might have to trim the drywall a little,but this is no big deal, the cut part is under the molding,then replace molding, touch up the paint. Add in nice neat wall outlets. done, looks fine now, you'll have your hard wired network.

    alt--just take up the wall to wall carpet if you have it. It'll just pull out from the wall-maybe, just depends on the molding if present and how tight the fit is, and etc. They'll be a space near the nailer strips, where there isn't any foam padding, or you can cut it a smidgen to clear the cable, replace the carpet then. You can rent a carpet kicker for around 6$ a day from most U B rentinit places, and that's easy to do as well.
  • I used a phonenet solution for two years (a townhouse and then when we purchased a house). It worked well, but I felt that there was some latency at the beginning of transfers that could have simply been Windows networking. I replaced it with 802.11, though, and haven't looked back.

    It never interfered with anything regarding the phone, and I even had it going through the surge bar's phone protection, but I don't know how much good that will do. The biggest problem was getting phone cables to all the places I would sit with the laptop.

  • I had the opportunity to get some beta products for powerline networking 18 months ago and have been using it to connect the 2nd floor and the basement. The performance has been rock solid -- about 1.6 Mbps for TCP transfers, minimal variation in that, doesn't seem to be affected at all by major appliances turning on or off, etc. It was a noticable improvement over the wireless rig I was using before that, but wireless performance and prices have changed a lot in 18 months.

    My understanding of the technology is that the signal is completely blocked by power company transformers, so the maximum "sniffing" range that I have to worry about are the other three houses on the same transformer that I'm on. If my neighbors are sniffing my traffic, they haven't bothered to tell me about it.

    No problems with power surges damaging anything, and front-range Colorado is one of the lightning capitals of the world.

    • "If my neighbors are sniffing my traffic, they haven't bothered to tell me about it."

      Sorry. I've been meaning to tell you about it, but figured that when you go the credit card bill for stuff you never purchased, you'd figure it out yourself.
  • Has anyone out there tried both home networking over power lines and home networking over existing phone lines? I am trying to decide between the two technologies. My parents would like to share an Internet connection in their house. Performance is not a major issue. A reliable 1 megabit LAN would be good enough. Minor side-note: one computer is a mac so anything that I can't get working with a mac is out.
  • by wa4osh (624434) on Wednesday November 13, 2002 @12:50PM (#4660438)
    My house is fed from a pole-peg transformer which is split into two 110v feeds. You get 220V by tapping across the two 110v circuits for the dryer, the oven and stove. If you connect the HomePlug device to one of the two 110v sides of the pole peg transformer, does it work on the other 110v circuit?
  • I've never used phone or power line networking equipment. At this phase of my life, I have absolutely no interest in using it. Therefore, I am more than qualified to comment on it. :-P

    A couple of posts here have questioned the security of phone and power line networking. It's a valid concern -- what goes on the lines in your house goes on the lines out of your house, too.

    With power line networking, the signal will (most likely) be blocked by the transformer (on the pole or by the curb). If your neighbors are on the same transformer, they could potentially tap in.

    As far as phone line networking, I can see two ways to make it more secure. The first is DSL filters. These are used in ADSL, put in the line between the DMARC and the telephone set (but not between the DMARC and the DSL modem). You could put one of these at the DMARC where the lines come off, and maybe it will block the signal from going out to who-knows-where. I say "maybe", because I haven't researched it.

    A more secure solution is rather than using your primary line, use an unused pair in the phone cabling for the networking. I don't think it has to be hooked to a working phone line; it just uses a different band than POTS service. Note that some buildings are wired with substandard 2-pair wire which isn't even twisted pair. In this case, you risk crosstalk to and from adjacent pairs, and increased EMF interference which can reduce your data rates. You might not even have an extra pair to play with.

    If you are lucky enough to have a home where the phones are wired with CAT5 in a star configuration, you can use two of the pairs for ethernet and scrap the phone-line networking altogether. This isn't spec, but in most cases it works. Splices in ethernet are bad, bad, bad.
  • Reporting from the better-late-than-never dept., there's an article [pbs.org] on the "I, Cringley" site that was gushing on HomePlug.

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