Friday, April 12, 2013

My Pretty Awesome uVerse Setup

WARNING: technical content - may not be suitable for non-nerds.

So, I just moved to a new house and brought my AT&T uVerse service with me. I decided at the same time to upgrade my in-home network to gigabit ethernet and 802.11n wireless.  Both are up to 10 times faster than what I previously had.  There were a few issues, though:

1. The uVerse RG, or "residential gateway," is not compatible with gigabit ethernet or 802.11n wireless. Instead, AT&T seems to be stuck in the dark ages of 100-base-t and 802.11g.

2. The service typically doesn't jive well with setting up your own router behind the RG. It can be done, but you kind of have to know what you're doing.  Since I do .. well .. challenge accepted.

3. The tech who did my install was a pretty awesome guy. When I told him I wanted to have Gig-E in the house, he made sure to run all the connections for the TV and stuff so that they would be compatible with Gig-E. If you decide to duplicate this setup at some point, make sure your technician does this, too, or you'll be out of luck. Anyway .. the problem here is that the TV signal takes up a LOT of bandwidth, and all that stuff was getting re-broadcast back onto my LAN and strangling it. Even the wifi was constantly transmitting, and it was stuff that's useless to the rest of the devices on the network.

So, the first step was to buy a gigabit router with 802.11n. I chose the D-Link DIR-825 for this, and got a refurbished one from Newegg for about $50. This is a dual-band router with quite a few bells and whistles, and it ended up being the key component in this installation - in fact, I ended up using 2 of them.

My original plan was to run the DIR-825 (known as "the router" henceforth) as an access point in the living room and have the TV hooked into it on the wired interface. This resulted in problem #3, so no-go there. I eventually do want to have a wifi access point in the living room, though, so the way I got around this is important.

First thing I did was to flash the latest version of OpenWRT onto both DIR-825 routers. For those who don't know, OpenWRT is an open-source firmware that runs on a lot of commercially available wireless routers and access points. It's usually far more feature-complete than the "stock" firmware that comes on these devices, and lets you do a lot more with them.  You can find out about openwrt at http://openwrt.org.

The end result
Red = internet
Yellow = tv
Orange = vlan trunk line
After that, it was a matter of configuring each one to give me what I wanted.  The one in my office, next to the uVerse RG, became the actual router, and the one in the living room became a dumb access point without any routing features.  I actually have 3 separate networks (called VLANs) running over the single wire between the office and the living room:  1 for the TV, 1 for my local network with internet access and access locally to my server, and 1 for guests who want to use my WiFi to get on the internet.  Each network is isolated from the others, and the guest network is even isolated from itself (meaning guest devices can't see each other, only the internet).  The TV signal stays out of the other networks, and everything runs really well.

Just for references sake, here are a couple of links that I found very helpful when configuring my routers:

For configuring VLANs with uVerse: http://forums.att.com/t5/Setup-and-Self-Install/UDP-Traffic-flooding-with-Airport-Express-behind-switch/m-p/2761815#M159

For using my own router with uVerse: http://forums.att.com/t5/Residential-Gateway/U-verse-for-BUSINESS-2Wire-3600HGV-bridge-mode-or-another-AT-amp/m-p/2707755#M182

For OpenWRT stuff:  http://wiki.openwrt.org/

For testing your firewall: https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2