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Is there a cabled equivalent of a wireless repeater?

I have an 80 ft. Ethernet cable going from my router through the attic to another room, where I wired an RJ45 wall outlet.  If I plug a computer in, I have flawless Internet and network performance.  However, when plug in an XBox 360 instead, chances are less than 50% that it will work without playing with configuration.  I tried plugging in a switch so that I could leave both of them plugged into the switch all of the time, but neither will work.

However, putting the switch between my router and my main computer (which is on the same desk, so 10 ft. of cable) exhibits no problem.  A friend tested the switch at work (on short cables) and could see multiple IP addresses through the switch.

As background, my network is configured like this:
Linksys WRT54G 100 MBps router
cat 5e cabling
livingroom computer 192.168.1.51
gameroom computer 192.168.1.52
XBox 192.168.1.5
work notebook computer DHCP (192.168.1.100-192.168.1.105)

All of this works fine without the switch.  With that being the case, and the switch working in 2 out of 3 tests, is my 80 ft. cable the problem?  I can't see how it could be miswired if I can use the Internet and my LAN reliably, so is the distance somehow a problem?  If so, how can I improve the speed/performance over this length without upgrading to a Wireless N broadband router and cat 6 cable?
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Alan Varga
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Alan Varga
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nstrongCommented:
I would say something is wrong with your 80 foot stretch of cable. Ethernet should be able to go 100 meters without a repeater (around 328 feet). If you're getting a flaky response, then the problem could be in the jack, where one of the 8 conductors in the cable is not making full contact, or in the cable stretch. You could temporarily pull the wires out of the back of the jack and put an RJ-45 connector on it (you would need a tool and extra RJ-45 end to do that) and plug that in to a computer directly, and see if everything is working ok.

I've had something similar before - where it only works some of the time, and it was bad connectors.
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Alan VargaAuthor Commented:
nstrong,

Thanks for the tip.  I need to move a bit of furniture to get to the jack, but I will try your suggestion.

It's strange, though, that my Internet and LAN never have any issues plugged into that jack, the XBox is sporadic, and the switch never works.  Do TCP and UDP use different wires (of the 8 available)?  The switch is made by Trendnet and only cost me $10 on sale.  (Here's a link to the product sheet:

http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0257750

However, if it works in 2 of 3 cases, just not on the cable/jack with the XBox problem, what else could it be?  It would make more sense if the Internet or LAN worked sporadically, but they don't.

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nstrongCommented:
When your PC is connected and working fine, what speed do you see it connecting with? Is it connecting at 10Mbps, or 100Mpbs?

If it's 10mbps, then it could be that the XBOX doesn't negotiate 10mbps very well, and tries 100 and with the connection being just a little bit flaky, it's not successful. Also, the switch may not auto-negotiate too well either.

Another possibility is that you have some pairs reversed in the jack (some PCs can deal with that just fine, some need a cross-over cable - although the switch spec sheet says it's auto-mdix, which means it should figure that out automatically, unless not all of the pairs are reversed.

TCP and UDP are just different packet types - they all travel over the same physical medium.

if you have more cable, you always run a separate length down the hallway and make sure there isn't something strange going on with the output drive circuitry of your WRT54G -- have you tried putting the 80 foot cable into a different output jack of the router? It could be that one of the physical line drivers on the router is going bad and can't quite push the signal that far.
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Alan VargaAuthor Commented:
Last week was a busy week, sorry I couldn't reply sooner.  I'm getting 100Mbps when I look at either of my PC's.  I saw something about buffering of 256KB per device in the switch specs.  Would that affect my speed when I insert the switch between the computer and the wall outlet?

I'll have to forego testing with another cable, since cat 5e is still running $40-$50 for a 100 ft. length.  I have, however, moved the router end of the long cable to ports 3 and 4, and they work as well as port 2 without the switch in the network.  I even inserted the switch between my main computer and the router, and all ports worked fine.  I could transfer files back and forth to the gameroom computer while sitting at my living room computer, so I am assuming the jacks and plugs are wired correctly.  When I had a friend at work look at the switch, he found the Internet connection HAD to be plugged into port 5, and the other 4 ports were for other device connections.

I was also able to borrow another WRT54G from the same friend, but I could never get to the setup page from my browser, so I could not configure it as either a router or gateway.  We were hoping to see if a more robust "switch" would work better.

Any other ideas?  If not, I guess I can live with swapping cables in the wall outlet.
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nstrongCommented:
The 256k buffering in the switch shouldn't have any effect. This is definitely a strange one!

When you plug your XBOX straight into one of the ports on your router, without going on the 80 foot stretch of cable, does it work fine?
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Alan VargaAuthor Commented:
I tried moving the Xbox into the other room next to my router, but without a monitor the red ring is solid around the power button, and I don't have a convenient way to connect it.

I guess my last alternative is to move some furniture , take the jack apart and rewire it.  When Xbox live works, it works.  The computer always works.  However, if I introduce the switch between the wall jack and either (or both) devices, I get nothing.  Thanks for your ideas, but I think I'm going to have to give up on this question.

I'll report back with the results of rewiring the wall jack.
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Alan VargaAuthor Commented:
OK, here's the report, and I've doubled the point value because I'm REALLY curious.

The jack in the gameroom is just as solid as when I wired it a year ago, no loose wires or insulation caught in the connector.

I plugged an extra cable (known to be good) into the gameroom wall jack, then into switch port 5.  I rebooted the computer, then plugged it into switch port 1.  Ping was getting variable results, between 0% and 50% success, but inconsistent.  I tried pinging the livingroom computer, the router and the modem.  I also swapped the cables in the switch between ports 1 and 5.  There was no difference in the results.

The setup for the last tests was to take the switch into the livingroom.  I unplugged the existing cable from router port 2 (which feeds the gameroom) and used it to supply a signal to the switch via port 5.  With router port 2 now open, I plugged the extra cable into the router and alternatively into switch ports 1, 2 and 3.  100% SUCCESS pinging any other network device.  I changed to using router port 3 with switch ports 1, 2 and 3, and again 100% SUCCESS.

So in summary, the switch works like gangbusters on the router side of my long cable, but with a randomly low success rate on the walljack side of my long cable.

Is there perhaps a shielding problem?  If I set the switch on top of a PS/2 that's on standby, these are the results.  If I put a thick dictionary between the PS/2 and the switch, I can sometimes get 100% success, depending on the angle and position toward/away from the back wall.
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Alan VargaAuthor Commented:
Without further feedback, I will proceed on the assumption that my problem is due to shielding rather than being a hardware or software issue.
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