Quick little ethernet splitter?
August 24, 2007 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Seeking recommendations for small ethernet switch - a "splitter for travellers", maybe?

I've got someone who's going to be bouncing around to pair up with existing workers at their desks over the next two months.

For security reasons, our entire network is wired and will be staying that way.

But he'll need to share the network connection at each cube he visits.

I'm thinking the easiest is just to give him a plain ol' 5-port ethernet switch I have around and have him use it as a splitter. But with the cables, power supply, etc. they're kinda bulky, require some crawling around under the desk, etc.

Does there exist a mini ethernet switch just for travellers? Just two ports, possibly powered by USB?

Anyone know of something like this?
Or some other hack for this situation?

NB: If it doesn't exist, go ye forth and make them, and thy profit shall be bountiful. But sell me one first.
posted by bartleby to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Haven't done this myself, but it seems like you could set his computer up with a second NIC, then plug the co-worker's machine into his and let his do routing duty.
posted by contraption at 2:46 PM on August 24, 2007

Poor bartleby. Don't worry, I read your question.

You have no choice but to have some sort of switch/hub - you can't just "split" an ethernet cable.

If the problem is lugging crap around then you may be out of luck; your person will have to carry the hub, net cables, and transformer-thing.

To just address the climbing around under the table, however, you might be able to use some sort of power over ethernet rig.

Unlike most usages you'll want to provide the power not from the hub outwards but from one endpoint back to the hub. Odds are you'll need some sort of home grown solution for that but it's not terribly complicated. You just need to make sure whatever portable hub you send them with sucks down less than the 13W max for PoE.
posted by phearlez at 2:46 PM on August 24, 2007

The search "travel router" turns up quite a few small routers that would probably do the trick. This one would be perfect, except I don't see it with more than one ethernet port.

Also remember that even if you want to stay wired, most wireless routers have the option to turn off the wireless broadcast.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2007

k8t:For security reasons, our entire network is wired and will be staying that way.

Otherwise this would be perfect.
posted by contraption at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2007

oops, shoulda previewed.
posted by contraption at 2:49 PM on August 24, 2007

Best answer: Perhaps this? Sure, it's got 3 extra ports, but it's tiny and USB powered. On sale here.

This seems just about perfect, but I can't find existing stock anywhere.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:17 PM on August 24, 2007

Does your office not have extra network ports you can enable for this purpose?

Regardless, here's a mini network hub that's usb powered. And one more.
posted by O9scar at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2007

Best answer: If you're running XP, there's a better approach. Add an Ethernet port on a PC Card. Then build a 'bridge' between the two connections. It's very straightforward.

A bridge simply repeats everything that comes in one one port out the other. So he plugs the laptop into the wall, and the co-worker's machine into his (probably with a crossover cable), and voila! Networking for both, completely transparent to the coworker.

Downside: if he takes the laptop home each night, they'll have to redo the cables each time. But if you're bringing a USB switch, they'll have to do that anyway. (or else leave it, and plug it into the cubicle's computer for power.)

If you truly don't want to go wireless, then he will have to do a small cable scramble every time he switches cubes. If you do a PC Card with a bridge, it's just one cable swap, swapping the Ethernet cable on the back of the co-worker's computer for his crossover. He then plugs the wall cable into the other port on his laptop: done. When he leaves, he swaps back, done. No USB anything, completely self-contained. Net cost: $25ish for the card, $7.50 or so for a crossover cable.

In regard to this comment:

Also remember that even if you want to stay wired, most wireless routers have the option to turn off the wireless broadcast.

That just means it doesn't show up in vendor-supplied browse lists. That's ALL it means. It's cosmetic security only. WPA2 is, apparently, quite good security-wise, but nothing is as secure as physical wires.
posted by Malor at 4:24 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Decent modernish NICs and switches should auto-sense cable type, so crossover/patch cables may not be an issue.

A pair of NICs and a bridge would probably be the best option provided the bridging system is always on whenever the other link needs to be used. The easiest option from a digging-behind-the-desk perspective may be to plug a USB ethernet adaptor into the system at the desk and have that do the bridging.
posted by Freaky at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2007

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