Cheap Gigabit Ethernet Switch – Woohoo

I picked up an insanely cheap Gigabit Ethernet switch this weekend on a junkshop run with a new coworker and an old friend.

It’s a 3com 3C16486 Baseline Switch 2848-SFP Plus that features 48 1000Base-TX ports, four of which are split-personality with SFP module bays alongside the TX ports. It’s web-manageable, for some value of web-manageable, has cable diagnostics built in, and I bought it for far less than I spend on retail brewed coffee in the average month (somewhere between the cost of a Linksys 5 port and Linksys 8 port gigabit switch).

Yes, it’s discontinued, but so are most of my home computing items. I probably have a 3 foot stack of black-and-blue Linksys gear, some pre-Cisco and some post-Cisco. I just figured if I ever get around to building my home lab up, a switch that can do link aggregation and snmp would be good. And it will probably go in an enclosed rack anyway, maybe even in the patio closet.

Anyway, first thing I do when I get a piece of gear, after inspecting and resetting any configuration, is to find the latest firmware and flash it. This wasn’t the easiest thing to do; I found some update pages that offered me the Discovery utility and the firmware update if I just linked a support contract to my 3com web account.

Some creative googling found earlier links on 3com’s site, pointing toward their FTP site which had outdated versions that were older than my current version. A bit of further searching found an earlier version of the Updates page which gave me a newer version of the firmware, v1.0.3.3.

Turns out the default/post-reset IP address is on a sticker on the switch, according to the Users Guide, so I didn’t need the Discovery utility, which I had found at a similar link. Just as good, as it did not seem to run on Windows 7 even in “Windows 95” compatibility mode.

So I plugged my Windows 7 laptop (32-bit) into the switch, used a 169.254 address to hit the switch, and tried uploading the new firmware. It kept losing connectivity to the switch, then the http session would fail as if it timed out, then pings would come back and I could get back to the failsafe screen and start over.

I found a German page that told me to use IE. I had thought of that, but I rebooted Windows 7 (with new AV, which I had tried turning off along with the firewall), loaded IE, and got the same behavior.

I can’t really say why, but going back to Windows XP on an older laptop and running Internet Explorer to do the upload made the upgrade work. I’m now up and running with a nice 48-port switch that is overkill for anything I might want to do, and I have a good reason to keep that XP machine handy in the future.

Next step is to see if I can find another one or two of them for the same price… although I should also mess with the Cisco 1711 I got with analog module… why did I do that? Oh yeah, it might take the DSL module.

 

Afterthought (2/15/11): I went back and grabbed the other two that were available. One came with a 3com-blessed SX SFP module. Not too bad.

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