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ATPM 7.10
October 2001



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How to Become a Network Guru

by Matthew Glidden,

Faux Pas Ethernet: Home Phone Networking

Setup Options Overview

Although used fairly infrequently, it’s possible to set up a home network using the existing phone lines in the walls of your home. You won’t run as fast as Ethernet, but some people are happy to sacrifice the speed for the ease of setup.

Networks across home phone lines function at approximately 1 megabit (about 125K) per second, which is slower than 10BaseT Ethernet, but generally fast enough for home network use. The transmission band is higher than that used for voice calls, allowing you to use your network and talk on the phone at the same time.

Farallon’s HomeLine

Farallon makes HomeLINE, a PCI-based networking system that connects the jack on its expansion card to a phone jack. Connecting to the phone line doesn’t mean you have instant Internet access (you still need a modem), but HomeLINE also comes with trial versions of programs like Miramar Systems’s PC MacLAN and Vicom Tech’s SurfDoubler, allowing you to share files between Macs and PCs and share a single Internet connection across a network. For more info, check out the HomeLINE FAQ and product info pages.

Diamond Multimedia’s HomeFree

Diamond Multimedia makes HomeFree, which works via an external adapter that connects to your Mac’s USB port. You then connect the adapter to the nearest phone jack.

HomeFree works with both Macs and PCs, but requires additional software for actual file sharing (such as the software mentioned above). For more info on HomeFree, check out the HomeFree FAQ and product info pages.

Want to Wire the House Yourself?

Before the release of the aforementioned home phone line products, the only way to use your home phone lines for a network was to do it yourself. The process is (unfortunately) rather technical in nature and takes some tinkering, since things probably won’t work exactly right the first time.

To perform this setup, you need a 120-ohm resistor and extra RJ-11 phone jack for each phone jack in the house, a LocalTalk adapter for each computer you wish to connect, and a screwdriver.

Caution: The setup steps mentioned here are for the adventurous and I don’t guarantee the results. Suffice to say you’ve been warned.

Is your blood pumping faster now? Okay, here’s the basic process.

  1. Remove a phone jack cover. You should see four wires: red, green, yellow, and black. Think of the wires as two pairs, red/green and yellow/black. The red/green pair is being used for your phone line, so you need to leave it alone. If your yellow/black pair is also in use (for a second phone line), you won’t be able to perform this setup.

  2. Perform this step on jacks you’ll connect to LocalTalk adapters. Connect the yellow/black pair to the extra RJ-11 phone jack. Examine the red/green pair, which connects to two of the four wire slots in your voice line jack. You need to connect the yellow/black pair to the other pair of slots in the extra jack. It may help to closely examine the plug on the LocalTalk adapter, to determine exactly which wires need to make contact.

  3. Perform this step on jacks NOT connected to LocalTalk adapters. Connect the ends of the yellow/black pair using the 120-ohm resistor.

That’s it. You should now be able to connect your Macs to each other through the LocalTalk adapters and extra phone jacks.

If it doesn’t work right away, don’t panic. This isn’t super easy. Recheck your wire connections to make sure each wire is where it should be. The unhappy news is that this kind of setup is easier to plan for in advance. Sometimes, it just turns out that wiring your home for LocalTalk is impossible because of the home’s internal wiring structure.

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