Problems sharing on home network

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by BillandArlene, Feb 19, 2016.

  1. BillandArlene macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #1
    Searching the many helpful threads on this topic didn't answer my particular question, on something that should be pretty simple.

    What I'm trying to do: Set up a home network system so that a MacBook Pro (late 2012) can do things like read/write to the main computer in the house (iMac, 2013), use the external hard drive attached to the iMac for Time Machine backup, print, etc.

    Probably more context than needed, but you never know: Our ISP (great company, quality products) provides a combined modem/router/wifi transmitter (which I'll call the modem here), which is at one corner of our (small) house. Because the house has lath and plaster walls, which are great radio-wave barriers, we have an extender, ethernet cabled to the modem, at the opposite corner, which also puts out wifi signal. The iMac is connected by ethernet cable to the extender; out the back of the iMac is a cable connecting to what I will call a splitter (because I don't know its proper name) from which cables run to the external hard drive and other hardware. Both the iMac and the MacBook Pro use the current version of Yosemite.

    The iMac happily uses the external hard drive for backup, prints to the printer, connects to the interweb - all that stuff. The MacBook, using either of the two wifi connections, happily connects to the interweb.

    What I've done so far: I've read all kinds of helpful hints on the net about how to share a drive, printer, etc. on a home network. I've then checked that the external hard drive is formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) - yes. I've gone into System Preferences on the iMac for sharing and turned on sharing for the external hard drive, the main computer's hard drive, and the printer. I've gone into System Preferences on the MacBook for sharing and turned on file sharing and printer sharing. I've called the ISP's helpful staff and confirmed that the network seems to be working; I've reset the modem by unplugging it and watching all the lights perk on again when I plug it in again after a minute or two.

    Results: I can't see the iMac, external hard drive, or printer from the MacBook; I can't see the MacBook from the iMac. I can see the dark clouds out the window on this rainy day and recognize what a great metaphor they are for how I'm feeling right now.

    What steps have I left out?
     
  2. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #2
    http://www.iwaxx.com/lanscan/

    I'm wondering if the other device being run off that extender is preventing it from being seen across the network? Install the free version of Lanscan and run it on both devices to see what both machines can pickup over the internal network.

    Like you can see in my screenshot it will show all devices visible on the network from the machine where the app was run. If you cannot see the other machine, no amount of configuration on the Mac will fix this.

    Screen_Shot_2016-02-19_at_12_31_16_PM.png
     
  3. LiveM macrumors 6502a

    LiveM

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    #3
    Sounds like the drive is connected to a hub. Is that a problem for sharing?
     
  4. DJLC macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

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    #4
    Definitely see what you get with @Weaselboy's suggestion. It sounds like mDNS / Bonjour traffic isn't making it from the extender back to your main router.

    It sounds likely that the extender is set up as a router itself, thus causing any devices connected to the extender to be on a different network. While they would access the Internet fine in that scenario, they wouldn't be able to contact devices connected to the main router.

    If that's the case, you want to disable NAT and DHCP on the extender. Make the SSID and security settings match the wireless settings on your main router. If the line from the main router is plugged in to a WAN or Modem port on the extender, move it to one of the client ports (typically labeled 1-4).
     
  5. BillandArlene thread starter macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #5
    Well, now, this is intriguing! I downloaded Lanscan (thanks for the recommendation!), and it's telling me that the only device on my network is the iMac itself - not the printer, which is cabled from the back of the iMac; nor the external hard drive I use for backup and the scanner, which are cabled from a hub (which I called a splitter in my original post - harking back to the cable TV days) that's itself cabled to the iMac. And, yes, I confirmed that these three items were all turned on, and restarted Lanscan (since one of the criticisms of it is that it can't see things turned on while it's loaded). At no point do these items go through the extender, so it's not an element in this problem. But I regularly use the printer and scanner from the iMac, and Time Machine tells me it backed up to the hard drive 20 minutes ago, so I know these items are somehow visible to the iMac.

    What in [bad word] can be going on here?
     
  6. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #6
    That app will only show IP devices on the network, not USB devices like your printer and drives. But the fact it does not show the MacBook indicates the issue may as I thought, that the extender is somehow isolating the iMac from the other IP devices on the network.
     
  7. BillandArlene, Feb 21, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016

    BillandArlene thread starter macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #7
    Thanks. This stuff is way over my brain grade, and I appreciate the time you're taking here.

    We re-configured things when we got fiber optic a couple of months back: the modem (with wifi) that had been at the front corner of the house was replaced by a modem/router/fancy fiber optic thing at the back corner of the house; and the extender (which, it turns out, is a router) that was at the back corner moved up to the front corner. My wife was finding the wifi from the extender a little wimpy, and we considered buying a Linksys wifi access point, although it appeared that, to get the cabled extender that I wanted for the iMac (operating on the principle that cabled connections are superior for anything that spends its life sitting still), we'd have to get both an extender and a wifi access box, two boxes. This might be worth it, though, if the "extender" is going to be difficult to configure as a true extender.

    Later edit: as I roam around, looking at choices, I'm finding ethernet "switches," differing from extenders physically in being small and simple looking - something like the hub that we've been using for the printer and so on. Our house is only 1500 square feet; it's not like signal is having to travel great distances. Might it work to put in a switch, bring the Ethernet from the main modem/router where signal enters the house, come out of that switch with a cable to the computer and another to the wifi access point, and live happily ever after?
     
  8. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #8
    Given who you want to share things over the network, the ideal setup would be to get rid of the extender and and either run things off wifi from the original router, then attach an ethernet hub to the router and run hard wired ethernet to the distant devices.
     
  9. BillandArlene thread starter macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #9
    Thanks. I'm leaning toward the latter solution. You said "hub;" there appear to be hubs and switches that perform similar functions, with the switches being cheaper. Is there some benefit to a hub vs. a switch?

    As I'm looking at this, I'm thinking to locate an Ethernet hub/switch at the corner of the house away from the modem/router, cabled off one of the #1-4 ports from the router, and run ethernet to the iMac and to a wifi access point.

    If I do that, I'll then have some devices running off a USB hub (separate from the proposed Ethernet hub) that's cabled to the back of the computer. Adapters from Ethernet to USB seem to be pricey; will this assembly of hubs create issues?
     
  10. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #10
    It's important to distinguish between "switch" and "hub." These days "hub" usually means "USB hub," and "switch" usually means "ethnernet switch." In the oldish days, there were "ethernet hubs," but I think they are mostly gone now.

    A USB hub allows you to plug in a handful of USB devices, and access them from the computer they're plugged into.

    On my desk I have a USB hub that's connects my iMac to a disk drive dock, my iPhone, has a cable for my DSLR, and powers my audio interface.

    An ethernet switch allows you to make of ethernet-enabled devices available to the entire network, and they can be accessed by any computer on the network (if it's configured properly).

    Under my desk I have a 5-port ethernet switch. My iMac is connected to one port, my networked printer is connected to another, my Macbook is occasionally connected to it, and one ethernet cable runs from the switch back to the wiring closet where it's connected to the router (actually it's connected to the router via another switch, but it could go directly into the router if the router had enough ports).

    All the computers in the house can see my iMac, the Macbook Pro if it's plugged in, and the printer.

    The other computer can only see the devices connected to my iMac via the USB hub if the other computer can log onto my iMac. All our computers are open to each other, so if for example my partner wants something on a drive that's inserted into the USB dock connected to my iMac, she would simply accesses my iMac and there it is.

    So what I think you want to do is to buy a 5 port or 8 port ethernet switch (there are several good manufacturers; I use Netgear). Put it in the remote room and cable it to your router. Plug the devices in the remote room into the switch and you should be fine. However, remember that, as in my case, the USB devices won't be accessible unless the remote person logs into your computer over the network.
     
  11. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #11
    I was just using the generic term ethernet hub, buy you really want a switch. Like monokakata explained, they both router ethernet traffic, but a switch does a better job of it. A hub is just a dumb device that routes ethernet packets to every device on the network, where a switch has some smarts in it and only routes the ethernet traffic to the device that requested it. It used to be people would buy hubs because the were cheaper, but ethernet switches are really cheap now so there is no good reason to use a hub instead of a switch.
     
  12. BillandArlene thread starter macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #12
    Dang, this place is full of good people!

    The USB hub I have running from the iMac is a necessary connection point, because we need to plug in the digital camera cables there to download photos (yes, I know there are wireless ways to download from digital cameras; no, I don't want to spend that money). It looks like I'll put in an Ethernet switch, for starters. The incoming cable (computer to hub) uses a mini-USB connection. If I get an Ethernet-to-mini-USB cable, can I connect this hub to the Ethernet switch, and thus have everything plugged into the USB hub visible throughout the network? Or do they use different protocols? Another alternative seems to be buying an "adapter" that has USB ports on it, so I can go directly from Ethernet switch through short cable to USB cables for the "fixed" cables that never move.
     
  13. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #13
    You don't need the ethernet-to-mini-USB cable, unless I'm completely misunderstanding what you're trying to do.

    You cannot plug a USB device or a USB hub into an ethernet switch. A USB device or hub does not have an IP address and thus cannot be made visible on a network.

    The only way to make your USB devices visible on the network is via your Mac(s), which should already have ethernet ports. If one of them doesn't, then it ought to have Thunderbolt, and you should get a Thunderbolt--ethernet connector to plug that Mac into the switch. I have one for my retina MacBook Pro, and it works perfectly.

    Bottom line is that all your USB devices can only be visible if they are plugged into one of your Macs, and that Mac is connected to the network. No other way that I'm aware of.
     
  14. BillandArlene thread starter macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    #14
    Slooowwwwly, I'm learning, and thanks for your patience.

    My goals are that the backup drive and printer be accessible to the MacBook Pro and that my wife be able to load stuff - pictures, for instance - from the laptop to the iMac. Since Time Machine backs up on its own schedule, the backup would require that the backup drive be accessible at all times. If I can make the iMac visible to the laptop, can we/will we stay "logged in" to those items continuously?

    One complication is that we turn the iMac off at night (it's in a bedroom), while my wife leaves the laptop on; this would likely result in the MacBook's Time Machine attempting to back up when the iMac's off, but, I assume, it would catch up as soon as the iMac woke up in the morning.

    I've just realized that the modem in our system has a USB port. Our ISP's staff were unable to answer the question of whether plugging the backup hard drive into this port would make it visible, but suggest that trying it will not cause smoke to be emitted from anything; and that, if it's not visible, plugging an NAS adapter into an ethernet port on the modem and from there to the hard drive should make it visible.

    I so want computers to reach the point that they're like fridges: buy, plug in, use.
     
  15. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #15
    You don't mention a budget, but if your budget allows for it, a nice NAS unit would be a good addition.

    You speak of a "NAS adapter." I think what you mean by that is a device that puts a disk drive on the network. A device like that isn't really an "adapter." It's a complete unit, with internal disk drives, that's available on the network regardless of which Macs are or aren't up and running.

    There are several good vendors. I use a Synology unit.

    You might have a look at this site:

    http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/

    which does presume some basic knowledge.

    If you bought an empty NAS unit, you could put your drive into it. I don't recall seeing an empty NAS unit with fewer than 2 drive slots, though. Some disk manufacturers do offer a single drive with an IP connection and call it a NAS. I guess it is, but a typical NAS is more complicated (and, importantly, more versatile).

    A NAS will have at least two drives in it, and typically they are "mirrored," although they don't have to be. It would connect to the router or the switch (wherever you have spare ethernet ports), and be visible on the network and available to the Macs at all times.

    So if you set up a NAS to serve as the Macbook's Time Machine backup target, then it wouldn't matter whether the iMac was on, or not. The iMac could back up to it as well.

    You can also set up the NAS as a shared device (or a device with both shared and unshared partitions). On our network, the NAS has both kinds. We run a small publishing company and so our NAS has a shared portion and that's where we keep material we both need to access. In your case, you could use the NAS for the photos: your wife would upload the pictures to the NAS, and then whenever you wanted them, you would download them. This would be at gigabit speeds (after the NAS wakes up, presuming that you set it to go to sleep).

    Because you'll be buying the drives for the NAS (installing them is easy) you can size them as you wish -- for example, 4 or 6 TB, or less -- whatever suits.

    Bottom line is that the NAS will be Mac-independent -- it won't matter which Mac is on or off.

    The NAS will appear in Finder under "Shared," so you can just click and open it when you want it.

    My only NAS advice (learned the hard way) is to buy at least mid-range and from a first-tier manufacturer. In my experience, entry level or otherwise undistinguished NAS units don't work as seamlessly as one would want.
     
  16. BillandArlene thread starter macrumors newbie

    BillandArlene

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #16
    Thanks; starting to get into realms way, way beyond what makes sense in our setting. But, again, thanks for the detailed description of that particular road to happiness.
     
  17. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #17
    Well -- if your road to happiness involves simple, effective solutions, then looking at an NAS would be a good idea. I've had one or another for 10 years or so and it's hard to imagine life without one, most especially with multiple Macs, multiple users, and the need to share data as easily as possible.
     
  18. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #18
    No problem. It can be a lot to absorb. Some good advice from monokakata.

    If you want the Macbook to backup over the network to a USB drive attached to the iMac, you will need to install OS X Server ($19.99) onto the iMac for official, networked Time Machine support.

    You can just leave the iMac on all the time, or if you don't want to do that, Time Machine will pickup where it left off when the iMac is on and available again.

    Some higher end routers do support Time Machine over a USB plug like that, but I would be very surprised if a ISP supplied modem/router had this support. To work with Time Machine, the router needs to support the Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) and those ISP modem/routers normally do not. At least I have never seen one that did.
     

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