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Modding Adding dual LAN to old Alienware

Discussion in 'Modding' started by Warrior_Rocker, 8 Sep 2007.

  1. Warrior_Rocker

    Warrior_Rocker Holder of the sacred iron

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    View the updated project log on my personal site, XodusTech.com

    Hi all!

    Been a while since I have done any note worthy mods and here is one fresh off the press, err... soldering iron.

    This is the first phase to a much more in depth and useful network apliance for me, but first things first. Lets introduce why any of this matters... I am utilizing an Alienware area 51m 766 series laptop, painted conspiracy blue. It features in Intel Pentium 4 3.0ghz northwood processor, 512mb PC3200 DDR, 40gb 7200rpm hdd. The rest is useless or broken. That includes the graphics card, which is all but shot on this particular machine. It can be run in software rendering mode w/o drivers but the drivers cannot be installed. Alienware refuses to provide a replacement graphics card, they often go for 300+ on ebay which is just unacceptable to me. So there is the reasoning on using an Alienware in a project like this.

    The aim is to create a network appliance of sorts, looking into running it as a router and firewall. But the Alienware has only 1 NIC which is a huge problem. So the goal was to add one. Using a PCMCIA one was not an option because the PCMCIA socket on the Alienware proves to be iffy at best and not reliable, further more having all the cords in the back of the laptop is a huge plus for this project.

    SO here were go....!


    Pictures:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    First up is my secondary NIC of choice. An Intel PRO/100 with a modem as well, the modem wont be used. This is a good choice because the Alienware has a free mini-pci socket intended for a wireless card, which we will utilize for the secondary NIC. Notice the weird ribbon it comes with, that has to be replaced.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    First things first, I had to pin-out the connector on the card itself to determine which pins were used for Ethernet lines and led control... etc. I then removed the black plastic header used to mate with the white connector on the card itself, its good to reuse the parts that worked.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Upon further examination I found out that with a little dremeling I could open it up a little and solder some wires to those pins, excellent luck so far.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Once I had the connector pin-out I decided to solder up the Ethernet lines, oddly enough the connector took advantage of the blue pair, though normal 100mbit connections to not use this pair I soldered it up anyway. You only get one good chance to do this kind of mod so I decided why not. On a side node this was some really difficult soldering. Even project iPod HDD adapter was not quite this tricky. Either that or I am out of practice.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I then soldered on the Ethernet jack I desoldered from the original setup, again its good to reuse the original parts.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    It was the moment of truth as the laptop powered back on, would my hacked up connections work? What a relief when everything works without a hitch, again great luck so far. Obligatory bit-tech home page as well.

    Intermission.......


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Glad you stuck with me here. Back on with the mod. While disassembling the Alienware I located an ancient communications device. Googling revealed it was a modem, at one time in history used to connect to the internet, though I couldn't get any cables I owned to fit the jack on the back. So it was useless to me. First I had to remove the old RJ-11 jack from the back of the Alienware, turns out it was molded to the RJ-45 jack. So some dremeling was in order.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Once I had the RJ-11 jack dremeled off and desoldered I went ahead and removed the support componets for the modem, they would be useless and got in the way of the new RJ-45 jack.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    After half an hour of dremeling on both the original RJ-45 and the new one I finally got it glued in place. Here I am just waiting for the glue to dry.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I then cut the new wires to length and routed them along the motherboard so the metal plates would fit back over it. Routed them through some holes near the s-video jack and soldered them to the new RJ-45 jack on the bottom. I booted up the laptop just to make sure all the connections were sound, again everything is perfect.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I then had to cut a little extra room on the back to allow for the bigger RJ-45 jack and cable to plug in, no issues here just dremel, file, sand a little and presto

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Another action shot of the new jack all soldered in place

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Just putting the whole thing back together, and finally putting the mini-pci cover back in place.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Finally the action shots of both RJ-45 jacks on the back of the laptop. Thats right both fully functional. The onboard is a 1000mbit and the new one is 100mbit. Perfect for what I needed.



    Thanks for taking a look. Hope it inspires someone to go nuts with some otherwise spare junk they have laying around. In the end this project took about 6 hours to complete. Well worth every second. Leave a comment!
     
    Last edited: 20 May 2012
  2. zachjowi

    zachjowi New Member

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    looks good but what is the purpose of dual LAN? twice the speed?
     
  3. identikit

    identikit Active Member

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    It's not twice the speed (the new jack is 100mbit versus gigE) but it adds more connectivity for firewall purposes.

    Awesome mod, great work.
     
  4. Warrior_Rocker

    Warrior_Rocker Holder of the sacred iron

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    Hi all,

    The project is for the most part completed now as I have the Alienware all setup and running as my router and firewall. It has been online and functional for about 36 hours now with no interruption in service or issue so I can somewhat safely say that this project ends in completion.

    The software package I chose for this comes in the form of a custom Linux distribution called Clark Connect. It comes in different levels one of which being the community edition. It is a completely free version of Clark Connect and installs in under 30 minutes for most cases. Clark Connect immediately detected both the on board and secondary Ethernet interfaces on my Alienware and immediately knew which one was for the internal network and which was for external. If you are afraid of not having the right drivers I would look no further. It also comes with a very powerful and intuitive web interface so there is hardly any need to ever touch a Linux console. Though I would recommend becoming familiar with it because one should never stop learning something new.

    Here are some action shots of my Alienware all setup with my core network equipment, don't laugh though I hardly have the most impressive setup.

    Pictures:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Pictures both with and without flash so you can see the laptop's display.

    The network topology in this case is quite simple it basically is:
    WORLD <--> Clark Connect Router <---> Network Switch <---> CLIENTS

    The little white box is my LaFonera router that I flashed to use the custom DD-WRT firmware, it is setup as an access point only so that my Clark Connect router can be the only DHCP server. The Larger blue box under my Alienware is my Sun Cobalt RaQ3i (flashed with RaQ550), it is a small network appliance currently setup to serve music to other computers in the house. The rest should be fairly self explanatory.

    I even made a custom MOTD for the shell login which adds a little personal flare to the project.


    Thanks for taking a look. Leave a comment!
     
  5. AFX

    AFX "Bling" Silver Mountain 2

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    woot your on hackaday.com!
     
  6. yakyb

    yakyb i hate the person above me

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    what would you say the main advantages were of clarc connect over a standard DD-WRT based router seeing as the power requirements are going to be a fair amount higher
    im tempted to turn my old P3 into something similar but dont really feal the need to bother at the moment. is there anything in particular that swayed you

    oh and way to go on the mod i love that Stuff
     
  7. h_2_o

    h_2_o New Member

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    how do you like the raq550 os? i have a few of the raq4's and was considering flashing them up but have not made my mind up yet to use the 550 or some other route.

    btw nice mod
     
  8. Mino

    Mino Ganzerli Mino

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    I love the raq look, maybe one day I'll buy one :)
    BTW, good mod , and being spotted by hackaday is the best compliments!
     
  9. jakenbake

    jakenbake full duplex

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    congrats on the hack-a-day front page
     
  10. Warrior_Rocker

    Warrior_Rocker Holder of the sacred iron

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    Hi all,

    First I would like to thank everyone for the kind comments. It makes everything worth while. Hopefully I have inspired someone to go nuts with their soldering iron.

    A big thanks goes out to hackaday as always. Huge fan of the site and the projects they feature.

    The main advantages I have noticed so far is just the extra speed and stability I am seeing from Clark Connect over a regular router flashed to the DD-WRT firmware. Everyones experience on that will differ but from what I have noticed when running Wireless wide open and you have lots of ethernet traffic the router tends to slow down a bit. I haven't had this problem yet with Clark Connect. Also a great advantage I have here is that the onboard NIC on my Alienware that I am using on the internal network is gigabit I plan on upgrading to a better switch soon to gain even more performance out of my network.

    Another great advantage is the active filtering, firewall, and intrusion prevention built into Clark Connect. I just checked and so far it has blocked about 20 intrusion attempts that probably would have made it right past my Linksys. Clark Connect also has optional built in web services. You could also run a website or host some local pages for your intranet. Since its a full copy of Linux your possiblities are endless.

    Can't argue with the power requirements though, my old Linksys generally consumed about 10~15 watt max, while the Alienware powersupply is rated at about 140 watt max. Haven't measured how much it consumes.


    Personally I though I would get more out of the raq550 os, the problem is that it is just so outdated no matter how you slice it. I ended up trashing most of the original config and installed newer versions of apache, php, and mysql. I hardly use the web interface at all. It is a bit easier to just interact with it via shell. You could also look into running some good management software like Webmin or DirectAdmin. I have another cool project lined up for my cobalt down the road.


    As always I encourage everyone to think out of the box and the wallet a little bit. Check out my sig for other projects I've done in the past.
     
  11. Cupboard

    Cupboard I'm not a modder.

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    I suppose it being a laptop mean you don't need a ups for it? which would reduce the strain on one that you might have had powering everything else. Although this is rather if you don't have a ups as everything else will die with a power out.
     
  12. Starbuck3733T

    Starbuck3733T Look out sugar, here it comes

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    Very clever and a nice clean job. Time for some m0n0wall or pfSense!
     
  13. DeLorean5000

    DeLorean5000 New Member

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    the battery is shot. doh!
     
  14. Warrior_Rocker

    Warrior_Rocker Holder of the sacred iron

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    The battery is only mostly shot. It can power the whole unit for about 30 minutes if the lid is closed which is about as long as the UPS could keep it alive anyway.
     
  15. C-Sniper

    C-Sniper Stop Trolling this space Ądmins!

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    hey this might come in handy someday. my NIC just died on my motherboard so i might try some of this.
    TLH Cheesecake!
     

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