Sunday 14 February 2010

200 Mbps Powerline Ethernet Plugs

This week I bought a pair of 200 Mbps powerline ethernet plugs from Faculty-X to add some extra home network connectivity. Up until now I've been happy with the speed of my 80211g Wifi network, but I really wanted to get a faster connection between two parts of my house and I didn't want to run any Ethernet cabling through my walls.

I purchased some budget powerline plugs which did state on the box they worked for Windows, Mac and Linux, but on receiving them found that one needed to run a Windows based configuration tool to configure a password protected private LAN connection between the two plugs. However, by default, one can just plug these devices into the electrical wall sockets and they work, but the network is public.

So I gritted my teeth and tried to run the configuration software from Wine, but I could not connect to the plugs. Then I tried from a virtual Windows Vista inside KVM and also failed to connect and configure the devices. Finally, I installed Vista on a sacrificial laptop, ran the configuration software and configured the two plugs to run as a private network. Amusingly I was able to scan and find some other powerline plugs with very week signals, so somebody else down my street is using similar kit.

The private network is protected using 128 bit AES encryption on the link, plus I only connect to machines using ssh, so hopefully it reduces the snooping risk.

My gripe is that a box should not be labelled "compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux" when in fact the configuration software in Windows based. This is totally misleading and disingenuous. To have to run a OS-centric app to get the full functionality of networking kit is very lame.

The pragmatic side of my personality chose to go the path of least resistance and configure the powerline plugs using Windows (with much gnashing of teeth). The hacker side of my personality wanted to capture the packet activity between the the configuration application and the powerline plug to help me write a open source configuration tool. When I get a spare 10 minutes I will write to the manufacturer and see if they will open up the configuration protocol...

As for speed - well, I'm fairly pleased. With the two devices plugged into a 4 way power socket I was able to get about 150Mbs+ and between two floors in my house across two ring mains (with fairly old wiring) I was able to get about 100Mbs which isn't bad considering all the noisy kit such as fridges that cause interference.

My upstairs network has been mainly wifi based - even my server runs off a Ralink wifi card. I mainly ssh into my server, so network performance has not really been an issue. However, as of this weekend, my server is now connected to the network via one of these powerline plugs I can now send a Wake-on-LAN (WoL) packet to the server to switch it on remotely. I just installed the wakeonlan package and then run the wakeonlan command specifying the MAC address of the server's Ethernet card - easy!

The next few months will see how reliable these devices are. The technical blurb with the plugs states that they only use 6W - when I get a spare half hour I will measure the power consumption of an idle and busy network to get an idea of the true yearly running cost.


  1. I've been using powerline (although slower ones than yours) for a couple of years now and have not had to do anything to them since initially setting them up so I've been happy with mine.


  2. You might want to check out powerline adapters from Plaster Networks ( The configuration software for the adapters is built right into the units, accessible through any standard browser (including Windows, Mac, and Linux).