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Solving the Bottleneck
A story about a networking fumble, and how I resolved it.networking
This post is rather diagram-focused, and I apologise for what turns out to be a sub-optimal reading experience.

Let’s start at the beginning.

A few months ago, I moved into a new house. The previous owners had lived here for 26 years!! This, combined with the fact they operated a home business, meant they had an elaborate network setup. I am unsure quite how they used it, but this crude diagram demonstrates how they left it for us when we arrived:

Diagram of original network

Not much to work with, is there?

Our additions

Obviously, we had our own stuff to put in here, so let’s skip forward in time to… around two hours ago. After many purchases of electronic devices, we landed on this setup. Here is a similarly crude graph:

Diagram of our network, prior to fixing it

Can you spot the issue? No? Take a look at the long, Frankenstein’s monster of an ethernet cable leading down from the router into the computer. Then, look at how we were delivering Wi-Fi to the basement - a home plug (or powerline adapter, in freedom terms), connected to a router that acted as a Wi-Fi signal booster. This was very, very suboptimal, yet it stayed like this for some time! I began to notice the issue when using Virtual Desktop for wireless virtual reality, or Steam Link for game streaming. What we had effectively done was split our network into two “rings”. Communication between devices in each ring was fine, running at around 1Gbps speeds. It was only when a device in ring A, for example, my computer, attempted to communicate with a device wirelessly connected to ring B, such as my VR headset, that the bottleneck reared it’s ugly head. Communication speeds were a mere 11Mbps, which is completely unacceptable for most content, especially VR.

The (obvious) solution

After getting particularly annoyed at my Steam Link session being a slideshow tonight when trying to use my fancy new Razer Kishi, I did a little bit of thinking. I realised that the home plug was entirely redundant, and felt particularly stupid for never acting upon this before. This revelation was followed by a mad sprint upstairs, where I proposed the idea to my stepfather - who agreed, and my solution was implemented:

Diagram of our network, prior to fixing it

The secondary router, as well as delivering Wi-Fi, is now connected to the computer via Ethernet… which removes the “ring” issue entirely! The results were immediately apparent when trying both Virtual Desktop and Steam Link, which now ran flawlessly - Virtual Desktop doesn’t even attempt to automatically adjust the bitrate! I also noted minor improvements in Wi-Fi quality, and a more consistent outgoing connection speed, too. Overall, a great success!