The Ethernet Island

Let’s face facts: Being in a group living situation sucks. Though to be fair, it sure beats having to take out a mortgage on a house you can’t afford. One thing that has become a problem for me, being the digital control freak that I am and at the same time not living under my own roof, is the fact that I don’t control the network. I don’t control the networking policy, I don’t control the gateway, I don’t control the security policy. I’m a sitting duck, at the mercy of the IT guy’s whims. But I’ve found creative ways around this, ways in which I can actually wrest some control for myself and eventually be able to truly control what goes on in my network and who is allowed to enter.

This was a project I undertook in Fall of 2018, and this project has been incorporated into my rig (currently decommissioned as I wait for my new office chair to arrive). The object was to build my own Ethernet that would connect to the Internet through the house’s communal WiFi. Essentially I wanted to construct an island of Ethernet connectivity within a sea of wireless so that I could do various things I couldn’t do before. What things? Well, I’m glad you asked…

  1. An Ethernet island allows me to have a choke point through which all incoming and outgoing packets must pass in order to enter or leave my network. I could place a dedicated firewall at this choke point to give myself ultimate control over the security policy of the network.
  2. I can connect devices that don’t have WiFi capabilities. I’m talking mainly about vintage computers like the Commodore 64 I bought off Ebay that I would have to connect through some sort of acoustic modem interface. It would be far easier to interface this with Ethernet than with WiFi.
  3. It gives me an excuse to buy and set up my own Ethernet switch, with cool blinking LEDs that would be flashing irregularly as packets enter and leave my network.
  4. Also, I kinda just wanted to see if I could do it.

Setting up an Ethernet island is fairly simple. First, you will need one of these:

710WYZJxCwL._SL1500_

And you will also need one of these:

61qEr-TPuoL._SL1500_

The first picture is easily recognizable as an Ethernet switch. The second picture is a multipurpose wireless bridge that can function as either a wireless access point, a range extender, or a wireless client. It has an Ethernet port so it can connect to the switch, and it can either generate a WiFi signal from an Ethernet (if it’s in Access Point mode) or it can generate an Ethernet signal from a WiFi signal (Wireless Client mode). The second of these is what I want.

The physical setup is fairly easy. I just plug my switch and my bridge into a power strip, then connect the bridge to one of the switch’s ports via a CAT6 cable. Then I plug my computer into another one of the switch’s ports and log into the bridge’s setup page from a web browser. I will now walk through the setup.

lan-setup-1
The home screen

lan-setup-2
I selected Wireless Client mode (I think I forgot to screencap that part). Now I select the WiFi network I will be bridging to and the security parameters.

lan-setup-3
Here I’m selecting the IP parameters. I leave them as they are.

lan-setup-4
Review my settings.

lan-setup-5
System is rebooting.

And voila! Like that, I now have my own wired LAN that I can do whatever I want with. No more taking it in the ass from Mr. IT Guy who thinks he’s so very impressive because he’s root on our network.

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