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I need to reevaluate my Home Network topology due to new devices being added, I was wondering if anyone had any insight or input that could assist me.

General Environment

  • Multi-unit home (15+ residents) approximately another 5 multi-unit houses in range of signal.
  • Wifi is WPA2 but I do not own the router, nor have independent control over it’s settings.
  • Router’s ideal location for all residents is inconvenient for me to use wired connection.

My Environment

  • Desktop PC running Win7Pro (no Wifi Connection)
  • Old Laptop PC running WinXPpro
  • XBOX360 (no Wifi Connection)
  • Android Phone
  • Brand New MacBook Pro
  • Soon adding GoogleTV set-top box (or TV)

Prior to purchasing the MacBook, I had the following setup:

Old Laptop PC was connected to the house Wifi, and used it’s Ethernet to share the connection with the Desktop PC. I played around a few times with getting the XBOX to do the same, but never got it there (and pretty much never play games). Android connected to the house Wifi or 3G. Also the Old Laptop has Ubuntu on it, but I could never get it’s Internet Sharing to work with Windows, and since XPpros worked, I put that research off.

Now that I have introduced the Mac, and the headaches of networking not only a third system into the mix but specifically a Mac in the land of Windows... this solution is unbearable.

Ideally what I want to do is setup “My Environment” like this:

Initial Goal: An isolated network where I can have the same Username & Strong Password on all of my systems, and have easy filesharing between the OSX/Win7 world while having Android/XBOX able to also stream selected media from the fileshares.

Initial Thoughts: - Install a Linux Variant on the Old Laptop PC and have it essentially do the same thing that XPpro has done for me thus far: work as a network access point in what “I” consider, a public network. - Install a Wifi Router local to my environment (different channel, separate WPA2 keys, etc...) and then can serve wired data to the Desktop PC, XBOX360 and wireless to the Android Phone and MacBook.

One final consideration for future implementation would be how to configure this for allowing the Android/MacBook to control the Linux Old PC, Windows7Pro Desktop PC when on the network or remotely through a VPN. VNC/RDC clients are available for both, so it’s something that I would like to keep in mind for down the road.

What I need to figure out and evaluate is:

Am I going about this all wrong?

- if not -

Which Linux Variant will give me the most bang for the proverbial buck (simple, straight-forward, effective)?

Needs: Internet Sharing compatible with WAN input on a typical Wireless Router (Wifi -> Ethernet)

I’m familiar with *nix from a CLI point of view (TTY’ing to servers is nothing new to me), though I would like to simplify the operation and maintenance of this “server” to a pretty basic degree. The Old Laptop PC is slow and aged, it likes to overheat on heavy processing (forcing a hard shutdown) but it’s battery is still decent when the monitor is off so it’s a bit of a built-in UPS (meaning it will still be active and functioning after most power outages).

What considerations do I need to keep in mind, as a part of planning and setup/maintenance to ensure:

  • Firewall on Linux box is allowing applications on Windows/OSX/Android and the XBOX their necessary access to the net, while keeping access for those on the house network and world at large tightly locked out.
  • Everything allowed on the network can talk to each other securely, but seamlessly.
  • What am I leaving out?

Any help or discussion would be helpful.

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Assuming I am understanding everything correctly, I think you've got the right idea. The way to establish your own LAN environment is to grab a wireless router like the Linksys WRT54GL (I like that one because it supports 3rd party firmware) and configure it as a private wired/wireless Ethernet network, just as you would if you were plugging it into a cable modem. The only thing you have to do now is figure out how to get your LAN in touch with the Internet.

Unfortunately, even the best of situations I can visualize for the specifics of your building's network doesn't lend itself to complete seamlessness between your LAN and the rest of the Internet. At the very least, you're not going to be able to run any servers of your own, but hopefully your building's wireless router is robust enough that most Internet services will be unaffected. In any case, that router is your uplink.

The easiest way of getting to it would be to just run the hard line Ethernet from that router to the WAN port of your own router. If we only have access to the building wi-fi, we're still going to be going to the WAN port, but we need a wireless bridge in between.

Your idea of using a Linux or Windows box (to connect to the building wi-fi and share it via Ethernet) may well work for this, but likely will be acting as an additional router, which is just not necessary and will probably add more complications. A wireless bridge is a piece of hardware that will simply connect to a wireless network and bring that connectivity down to the wired level. Hardware bridges are typically artificially marked up—many routers can be configured to do the same thing, and I'm sure a Linux box could be configured to accomplish this.

Someone else is going to have to help you with the specifics of a Linux configuration to this extent, but know that "Internet Sharing" almost always refers to behaving as a router. If a box is configured to act as a bridge, you probably won't be able to access the Internet from that particular box, so the router option is typically the only useful way to do Internet Sharing on a PC.

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