This is part of my linux-laptop web site: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/laptop
Since 2001 we have had cable broadband (initially 0.5Mb/s, now 30Mb/s). The cable comes in through the outer wall of my study on the first floor, and goes into a cable modem (actually VirginMedia Superhub with most of its functionality disabled), which is connected to a router: DLink DIR-615 providing wireless and ethernet connections. In my study I have a desktop PC running Linux, connected by a short cable, and a laptop also running Linux, which is normally connected by wireless, and sometimes by cable. (Both machines are described here: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/laptop) My wife has a desktop PC on the ground floor at the back of the house running MS Windows XP: she needs windows so that she can run the excellent orienteering map-making package OCAD http://www.ocad.com/ Since we acquired the broadband connection her PC has been connected via a long ethernet cable (about 30m) winding out across the landing into the stairwell, through a hole in a wall, etc. and held in place by means of cable clips. We tried using a wireless connection but the wireless route goes diagonally through several walls and the connection did not work well. So when I recently heard about the possibility of using a powerline connection, based on the domestic electrical power circuit, I thought that might be a good solution, and asked for help/advice from members of our local linux user group: http://sb.lug.org.uk/, which provided some useful information, including reassurance that the technology works. (It is described in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_line_communication)
I found that the current crop of adapters (excluding older models) mostly offer 200Mbs or 500Mbs and I decided to go for the latter although they are faster than I now require. I also chose the more expensive 'pass through' configuration, including a power socket that can be used to power other devices, so as not to require an extra power socket for the adapter. A picture of the model I bought, showing the socket, can be found here: http://www.faculty-x.net/images/pl-500av-piggy-3.jpg After considering various makes I eventually chose The Solwise HomePlug 500AV (PL-500AV-PIGGY) on offer from Faculty-X http://www.faculty-x.net/NET-PL-500AV-piggy.htm It was cheaper than most of the alternatives with equivalent functionality except for Newlink 500mbps Homeplug AV Pass-through adapters, which cost a bit less, and for all I know works just as well: http://www.faculty-x.net/500mbps%20homeplug%20pt.htm However I found more references to Solwise, and very favourable reviews of their product along with evidence that they provide good service for customers, via their forum and by email http://www.solwiseforum.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?58-Powerline-Home-Plug-Devices It's a UK company, though the products appear to be made in China. It seems that the adaptors made by different companies all use the same chip-set (Atheros), so probably performance of different models with the same claimed speeds will be similar. Although most come with a windows tool for interacting with the devices there doesn't seem to be any need for that. By default they will just work without any setting up, but if you wish to change the security setting that can be done by means of buttons on the devices. Since our house is detached, I just left mine using the default encryption setting.
Powerline adapters are available from a variety of sources including Amazon, Ebay, ebuyer, Maplins, shops selling computers (e.g. Comet), and various specialist suppliers of electronic devices. I eventually decided to order from Faculty-X http://www.faculty-x.net/ (a) because their prices were slightly lower than others, (b) because their web site offers the adapters in packs of one, two, three or four, as a single order, and (c) they offered next day delivery with a one-hour time-slot for delivery for only £4.95+VAT, with detailed order-tracking. I would use them again. I ordered three -- one for my wife's PC so that she no longer needs the 30m cable previously used, one to connect to the router and another for use in other parts of the house.
The three devices arrived about 25 hours after ordering, and just worked, without any setting up. Using http://www.speedtest.bbmax.co.uk/ I found that a laptop connected to one of the adapters achieved the maximum download speed Virginmedia offers us, just over 31Mb/s. (For some reason it's about 20% slower on my wife's PC running windows XP -- whether using the ethernet cable or the homeplug connection, but my linux laptop using the same connection gets the full speed). I also did a crude file transfer test by using rsync to copy a Fedora LXDE live iso file between two linux machines: 543MB. It seems that my router (Dlink DIR-615) can handle up to about 80Mb/s between two linux machines directly connected by ethernet, or between one connected by ethernet and one using wifi in the same room. When one device is connected via the Homeplug at the far end of the house the speed drops to about 60Mb/s, presumably in part because the transfer has to go through two more devices including encryption and decryption? But my test was very rough and ready. One of the responders to my original enquiry had warned me about power consumption. It seems that the current 500Mb/s devices claim to use about 4.5 Watts, but when not in use they reduce power by about 80%, and in my case the device was no longer warm to the touch in that state, even though two of the lights were still on. However, the low power mode does not start just because a connected PC is shut down: it seems to be necessary also to turn off the mains power switch at the back of the PC in order to turn off the motherboard. The PC can then be switched on again without restarting the homeplug device: its third light does not come back on until the PC is rebooted. So far I am very pleased with the Solwise adapters, though it may be that the Newlink NL-HP555PT model is a better buy. The CD that came with one of the Solwise adapters had a radial crack making the CD unreadable. But since I had two other CDs that were fine, and since in any case all the documentation and the software (for windows/mac only) can be downloaded anyway, I was not bothered. I reported it anyway, both to Solwise and to Faculty-X. I suspect the problem is inadequate quality control by the CD manufacturers, as there was no sign that the packaging had been damaged, and the CD could not not have received such a crack in transit without the packaging being damaged.
Last updated: 20 Apr 2012