Is this stupid overkill or grudgingly-acceptable overkill?
February 8, 2024 6:43 AM   Subscribe

What's the long-term-best network cable to stuff under baseboards?

Our family room (old realtor pic) is an addition with no access under the floor and no attic.

TV + shieldtv live there, "server" (another set of questions soon) lives in a spare bedroom but eventually in the basement. Right now, depending on what else is going on over wireless, streaming a 4k/hdr bluray remux might work or might stutter. An endgame goal here is to have at least our most favorite movies stored as 4k/hdr bluray rips.

Sometime soonish after the next litter of puppies, we're going to swap out the carpet for LVP, at which point we'll have space under the baseboards briefly exposed. So, stuff some network cabling in there and route it to the basement before we glue new quarter-round to the baseboards to cover the expansion gap.

Actual question: I think about doing this and I keep sort of wanting to say FUCK IT and run a length of armored OM4 or OM5 fiber with partially-10g switches on each end instead of cat6 with gigabit switches on each end. And just never have to worry about that bit of networking again. 20 meters of armored OM4 is $40, partial-10g switches are available for $50-100, so... fuck it, why not?

Obviously this would be overkill. My question is, is this stupid-asshole overkill? Or not entirely stupid, at least I never need to rip up the baseboards again overkill, even if 10g gets common and I almost sorta want a 25g/40g backbone back to the rest of the house?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It is overkill for today, and underpowered within 15 years. I’d say go for it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:48 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

(just to give an example, one of the apps that has tested well with the Apple headset is front row seats at Wimbledon or at other sports events. A full live VR feed is going to eat bandwidth like you wouldn’t believe. That particular scenario may not work out, but you can count on something else popping up.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:54 AM on February 8

Having been living in a house where the previous owner (who had it built) made all sorts of decisions to half-ass things that we are now having to fix or upgrade... overkill is preferable.
posted by eekernohan at 7:10 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Yeah, just do it--there's literally zero reason not to.
posted by rhymedirective at 7:33 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

I ran Cat6 through my attic, in a far more difficult to access situation than yours for the past 10 years - it's been fine. I'd just run CAT6. it'll last longer than you think. If you already have the fancier materials then go for it, but IMO it's pointless overkill. LVP on the other hand will last less long than you think, IMO. I've already torn a bunch out, but I still recommend it for the price and ease of installation. And maybe it's gotten better in the past few years.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:36 AM on February 8

No need to lock yourself into one or the other. Run some conduit now, that way you can pull whatever cables are needed in the future.
posted by zinon at 7:53 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]

I'd go with zinon and lay conduit if you can.

...also, they make "LVP" now that uses rock dust instead of wood fiber. Durable enough to drive cars on (original use was for fancy garages, so waterproof, scratch-resistant, etc. etc.). Worth considering, since you mentioned overkill.
posted by aramaic at 8:31 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd just run Cat 8, which can support 40GBASE-T at those lengths. When you sell the house, few are going to be able to figure out what you were doing with OM4 or OM5, whereas virtually everyone is going to be able to use a standard RJ45 Ethernet link even if it's not at the highest possible speed your Cat 8 run would allow. (Agreed on installing conduit with pullstrings as the most versatile solution.)
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 9:35 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

I am normally all for future-proofing but the highest bitrate of an UHD Blu-Ray is less than .1 GBps (i.e., 10 megabytes/second). You can run 10 Gbps Ethernet over Cat 6 / 6e cable runs less than 50 meters (164 feet). That would be a nominal headroom of 100x. Even taking into account collisions, switching, and less than ideal cable bending, 6e leaves considerable headroom for future applications, in my opinion. Fiber can be very fiddly. Whatever you do, run some synthetic twine, knotted at the ends, alongside your lines, to allow you to fish much more easily, just in case.
posted by wnissen at 9:44 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

To be clear, whatever I install is going to get stuffed under a baseboard, in the about quarter-inch gap behind the new quarter-round to hide the expansion gap from the new floor. I really doubt I'll have room for conduit under there, and I wouldn't expect to be able to pull cable through that space very well.

You should expect that whatever I install, changing it will mean chiseling off the quarter-round I glued to the baseboard (because nails verboten, because cable). We're both in our 50s and will only move out of this house when we are dead or are so debilitated that we can't live on our own in a one-story house. If I ever have to change this cable, I will be really pissed at myself.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:12 AM on February 8

I'd just run Cat 8, which can support 40GBASE-T

terminating CAT 8 is an unbelievable pain in the ass. even uning the fancy hand terminatable ends. my vote is for OM5.
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:16 AM on February 8

Definitely go with the quality fiber. Appropriate switches to connect your copper devices and SFP/QSFP modules are getting cheap to reasonably priced. If you can get some of the bend insensitive stuff, all the better.

Plus 10Gbase-T is a power hungry shit show and it's only going to get worse. Plus terminating even Cat6a is obnoxious, even more so if you're trying to do it in a way that actually meets the standard rather than just "good enough to work for now."
posted by wierdo at 2:00 PM on February 8

Best answer: Why not just run single-mode fiber? It never gets outdated and single-mode optics are now in the same price range as multi-mode optics.
posted by mdrosen at 2:23 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone!

Whatever I put in will be bought preterminated. Multimode, singlemode, whatever as long as it's armored in a way that advertises rodent resistance -- I'm in a country village where the occasional critter is hard to avoid. Edit: and in the old house, a mouse once tried to eat our dishwasher, so I have the fear and respect for the li'l guys.

I have a feeling I'm going to end up ordering 15 or 20 meters of preterminated whichever of rodent-resistant cat8 / om4 / os2 has the skinniest cable excluding terminators so I can be more sure I'll actually be able to stuff it under the baseboards.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:09 PM on February 8

Response by poster: I'm expecting this is winding down. Thanks to everyone who replied! Everyone was really helpful but I marked two as best-answers because they asked questions / possibilities I hadn't thought of, for the benefit of Future People. I'll reply back when it's eventually done and hooked up to however the "server" rebuild goes.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:28 PM on February 8

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