Thursday, August 24, 2017

Diagramming the Home Network

I would like to write in detail about my home network in a future post. A network diagram will be useful when that time comes. So before documenting the full details, I'll use this post first to discuss how I went about getting the network diagram completed.



What software is available? At work I use Microsoft Visio. It works great and produces nice looking diagrams. But for home use I am not really interested in spending any money. There appear to be quite a few options as free alternatives to Visio. A quick search turns up these: LucidChart, yEd Graph Editor, Graphiz, LibreOffice Draw, Dia, Draw.io, and Pencil Project. Check out the article I found with short descriptions of them: 7 of the Best Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio.

A few of those are online solutions that are not as interesting to me. (I haven't got the hang of using online software and apps just yet!) Another thing I found was that not many included shapes useful for network or IT infrastructure diagramming. It could be that they really have them and I just missed them in my quick reviews. Quite a few years ago I had tried Dia. It worked from what I recall, but I don't remember liking it much. The one that caught my eye this time was LibreOffice Draw. In particular, it didn't take much searching to find an Extension to LibreOffice Draw that included a set of network equipment shapes.

Creating the Diagram

The first step I needed to begin creating the diagram was installing LibreOffice. I visited the LibreOffice web site, https://www.libreoffice.org/, and clicked on the easily found Download Now button.


The page you find next is like just about any other download page you've been to. I downloaded the latest "fresh" version for Windows and ran the installer.


To get the Network Equipment shapes installed I visited the LibreOffice Extensions & Templates site. The easiest way to find the Network Equipment extension, oddly enough, is to search for Network Equipment. The first and only result found for my search is what I needed.


Following the search result link allowed me to download the current version, VRT Network Equipment - 1.2.0, released on July 30th, 2014. The right-hand side of the same page provided installation instructions which are basically:

  • Download the extension
  • Open LibreOffice and go to Tools, then Extension Manager
  • In the dialog click Add and select the downloaded file

Now when you open up a new LibreOffice Draw file you have a pretty nice looking set of network equipment shapes in the Gallery to the right side of the screen.


Final Result

After getting setup with the new shapes I was able to create the diagram below to represent my home network. I did not include too much detail on individual IP addresses and virtualization. One surprise was how many wireless devices there are. Granted, they are not all on, all the time. However, I've never considered how many there were in total before.