Sunday, September 07, 2008

Stuff gets hot!

Truthfully, I can never leave well enough alone. I'm sure there's a medical description for such behavior, but it's best described as, "If something's not broken, keep fixing it until it is broken".

Such is the case with my household communications rack. Upgrading the router to Tomato firmware was the first step in what would become a vicious circle. With the firmware allowing an increase in transmission wattage, I was getting all sorts of happy trying out my Dell Inspiron 6000 notebook's 802.11g connection further and further away from the router. The Linksys add-on 7dBi antennae made things even better.

Could I just let that sit? Hell, no! So I found one of the older Linksys WSB-24 signal boosters, originally intended for 802.11b routers and wireless access points. Since 802.11b and 802.11g both transmit at 2.4Ghz frequency, it was no big deal for me to move the big 7dBi antennae to the Wireless Signal Booster's output terminals, then feed the RF output of the Tomato-modded WRT54G v1.0 router into the RF inputs of the WSB-24. Egads! Linksys doesn't want you to do this, because the extra output power more than likely violates an FCC rule or two. Honestly, I'm far enough out into the sticks that nobody's going to know the difference, and unless they have the correct WPA code to sponge signal off of me, they'll never get to take advantage of the larger wireless cloud I created anyway.

And larger it is. I'll say it's considerably larger, with excellent signal strength and connectivity no matter where I am in the house and also most parts of the property. That's what I wanted, and that's what I got.

However, when you stack all sorts of electronic devices in close proximity to each other, with each widget sucking a bit of wattage and converting it to heat as a byproduct, you have to pay the piper eventually. It may look all nice and tidy, but when things start cutting out on a recurring basis, chances are you overlooked something. The comm rack got hot, in other words - way too hot.

The fix? Sometime around Halloween and Christmas, all sorts of cute, inflatable, lit-up lawn ornaments go on sale, looking like pumpkins and snowmen. Inevitably somebody buys one, runs it for a short while, and discovers they tear open and generally refuse to stay inflated. That's too bad for the original lawn ornament owner/sister, but in my case, the little squirrel cage blower with low-voltage power supply came in darned handy. These things are really small, fairly quiet, and move a goodly amount of air with a minimum of fuss. I positioned the little fan underneath the Vonage Motorola phone voice terminal on the far left, and it now blows air to the right through the Linksys router/booster/switch stack and on towards the SnapServer 1000 and cable modem/packet optimizer stack. There's a faint "whoosh", and I can keep my hand comfortably on any component without feeling excessive heat.

That's somewhat of a "ghetto" fix, I know, but it kept everything neat and tidy, and we're no longer experiencing drop-outs caused by widgets overheating. That's the important thing, and it allows me to continue fixing perfectly functional items until I break them once again!

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