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Old September 23rd, 2004, 08:30 AM
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This article provides an overview description of setting up your HomeSeer web server for access via the Internet, and your WebCam plug-in streams for access via the Internet.

There are many different network setups and thus this article cannot account for differences that are out there – please use it as a guideline and remember, “your mileage may vary”.

Background Information:

This article is written with several assumptions or example values. First, the network in the home is usually the Class C network starting with 192.168. Many of the routers used in the home today create 192.168.0.xxx networks, and the others use 192.168.1.xxx – this example assumes a home network that has addresses in the 192.168.1.xxx range with the router itself being 192.168.1.1. If you go to a command prompt on Windows NT or greater operating systems and type IPCONFIG /ALL it will show you the computer’s network configuration information. On Windows 98 computers, you can click Start… Run… and type WINIPCFG and hit enter and get this information using a Windows application from Microsoft.

Port numbers referenced in this example are 92 for the WebCam video streams and 84 for the HomeSeer web server. Briefly, a “port” is like an apartment number on a building. The HomeSeer computer is the apartment, and different services (people) reside at different apartments – the port number tells the network where to send the request. When you point your browser to a website such as http://HomeSeer.com, it defaults to port 80 for the HTTP protocol, so you never see the port number specified. Since most residential Internet providers do not want you to run a web server in your home, they block port 80 from allowing traffic in to your home. Thus, you may have to experiment to find a port that works, but this example uses port 84 which works for many people. As is explained below, the way to specify a different port from port 80 means typing a different form of URL in your web browser or Windows Media Player.

The term “inside the firewall” refers to the home network created by your home router. When you are outside of that, you are on the public Internet.

A Dynamic IP address is one that could change; a static IP address is one that does not. If your PC uses DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) to obtain an IP address, then the IP address can change the next time you boot your PC or sooner. Your broadband router may also change IP addresses on a regular basis. The information in the article below helps explain how to deal with that.

DNS (Domain Name Service) is an Internet technology that associates names to their IP address. On the Internet, there is no such thing as the HomeSeer.com computer – there is a computer at 64.246.26.133, and DNS is what allows us to give it a hostname in the HomeSeer.com domain. Your HomeSeer computer at your house can be reached using a friendly name as well, but since your home computer’s IP address changes (See Dynamic IP above), you have to use a variant on DNS called DDNS or Dynamic Domain Name Service. DDNS allows for rapid updating of the IP address associated with a name so that machines with dynamic IP addresses can still be accessed.

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To access your HomeSeer built-in web server pages or your WebCam streaming videos, it does not matter when you are on the HomeSeer computer which format you use, but when you are on another computer but inside the firewall, only the 192.168.xxx.xxx:92 will work.

Localhost means 'this computer' and so if you do that from a PC that is not the HomeSeer computer, you get nothing.

When you are outside your firewall, the IP address is that of your entire house, and it will not be the 192.168.x.x address. When you go to that IP address, it is the address of your broadband router. The port forwarding feature of your router is what tells the router where to send an incoming connection. Thus, if you set up your HomeSeer web server for port 84 and your WebCam streaming for port 92, then both ports 84 and 92 have to be set up in your router to forward to the HomeSeer computer.

In setting up port forwarding, you provide the IP address of the machine you are forwarding to. Since by default the PCs in your house are using DHCP and getting a dynamic IP address, this makes it difficult. Even if you get the IP address and set up port forwarding, the IP address of the machine in the home could change thus breaking your port forwarding.

For this reason, it is advised that you set the HomeSeer computer to a fixed IP address so that it will never change. To do this, you will need a couple of pieces of information... First, you need to know the IP addresses of your DNS servers because when you turn off DHCP for the IP address, it assumes a static DNS server as well. Go to your PC, start a command prompt (DOS-like prompt window) and type IPCONFIG /ALL and hit enter. Look at the bottom and where it lists the DNS Servers, write down those number(s).

Now, look at your router configuration and see where it starts vending IP addresses. Normally, for LinkSys routers this is at the address starting at 100. (192.168.1.100) This means that with the router itself using 192.168.1.1, you have from 192.168.1.2 through 192.168.1.99 to use as static IP addresses. (192.168.0.2 through 192.168.0.99 for some other routers.) Pick one of these addresses, let's say 192.168.1.10 for sake of argument, and set that as the STATIC IP address of your HomeSeer computer. Enter the IP addresses of your DNS servers that you wrote down earlier for the DNS servers in the static IP address configuration as well.

Now that your HomeSeer PC has a static IP address on your local subnet, enter that under the port forwarding "forward to" address for your port 84 and 92 (or whatever port(s) you are using) on your router. (Consult your router manual for how to set up port forwarding.)

The last piece of the puzzle is putting a friendly name on your external IP address so you do not have to memorize it, and so you can call it up by name even if the IP address changes. This is where Dynamic DNS services like DynDNS.org and No-IP.com come in. There you can create an account for free, add a hostname of your choosing to it (e.g. LoveHomeSeer.no-ip.com) and tie that hostname to your HomeSeer computer. You tie it to your HomeSeer computer by downloading and running whatever software they provide that allows your HomeSeer PC to notify their system as to your current IP address. What happens is that the HomeSeer computer talks to their server, but since the HomeSeer PC's IP address is translated, it appears at their server using the external IP address. Now the DNS service will associate LoveHomeSeer.no-ip.com with your external IP address.

When you surf to LoveHomeSeer.no-ip.com, remember that by default it will use port 80. Thus, you have to put the http in front and the port number in the back such as http://LoveHomeSeer.no-ip.com:84 (for HomeSeer's web interface in this example) and http://LoveHomeSeer.no-ip.com:92 (for the WebCam streaming, providing of course you have a stream running on it.)

A couple of final notes:
1. All of these technologies work for dial-up Internet access as well, although you will need to set up HomeSeer to periodically connect to the Internet, or if you have HomeSeer Phone a voice command issued by telephone to tell it to connect to the Internet, as you can only access the systems when there is an active connection. You will not have a local network except when the Internet is disconnected – your PC, when connected to the Internet, will have the direct Internet IP address like what the router has with the broadband Internet connection.
2. Remember to establish a password for ALL of your configured web server users in HomeSeer before opening up access to the Internet. In the HomeSeer web server configuration, you can decide to not require a password if the user is on the local (home) network, but you should have all users password protected for external access. Disable Guest access if you do not wish to have anybody but yourself access your HomeSeer system.
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Regards,

Rick Tinker (a.k.a. "Tink")
HomeSeer Technologies

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