Installation Networking – Part 1

It’s tough to operate in the current industry without your devices being network connected. On top of your day-to-day ability to join WiFi networks and connect to devices, interactive and immersive installations require an even deeper knowledge of networking to get things like OSC, UDP, and other networking protocols working! In this series of posts, we’ll give you a handful of techniques and bits of knowledge that should be on your Swiss Army Knife of networking so that you can follow be in control of your interactive & immersive environments!

What is my IP?

This is one of the most common troubleshooting questions I see. It’s basic, but it can definitely be something you maybe have never done before. Before actually diving in, there are a few key terms you need to know. There’s also a diagram at the end to help bring everything together:

  • IP address – the easiest way to think about IP addresses it to think of these as a kind of “mailing address” that people can use to send you packages. The whole internet is built on tons and tons of computers and devices all connected to each other in different ways and talking to each other using their IP addresses
  • Public IP – this is the IP address from the open internet to you. Usually “you” is a gateway device like your internet modem/router. It’s never the case where you’ll be connected to a WiFi router where everyone connected to it has a separate public IP address. You can think of the Public IP address like the address of your apartment building, but wouldn’t include which unit you live in.
  • Private IP – the private IP address is the addresses that our devices have within our own network (or behind our gateway device). So all the devices connected to your WiFi will have private IP addresses for talking to each other over the WiFi, but people outside the WiFi network can’t talk to you using those addresses. You can think of this like the unit numbers within an apartment building. If you wanted to send a package to someone in Unit 201, you wouldn’t really need to put their whole address on it and send it to the official post office and wait for it to come back in the post. You could simply walk over to unit 201 and drop it off there. Big pro-tip: if it looks like 192.168.0.101 or 192.168.10.150 it’s 100% your private IP. The 192.168. is a big giveaway that it’s a private IP address.
  • IPv4 – long story short, this is the common addressing method/format/protocol most things use to talk to each other.
  • IPv6 – unless you’re doing really fancy stuff, ignore this.
  • Network interface (or NIC) – the different hardware interfaces your device will have to connect to networks. This is important because most devices now have multiple NICs

So why are all those paragraphs important? The most common trip up people have when figuring out IP addresses is they don’t know WHICH IP address you need, because depending on where you look and how you look, you could find all kinds of combinations of IPv4/IPv6/private/public IP addresses. On top of that, depending on your computer and how many network interfaces it has, you’ll need to parse through which one is the one you need! So at the end of the day, when you’re checking your IP address, what you actually want is:

A private IPv4 address associated to the correct NIC

But that’s really long to say normally, so we always just say “what’s your IP?????” Here’s a quick diagram of what this looks like in practice:

My wonderful diagram made with draw.io’s fantastic networking template

How to check my IP

OK but now for real, all those words, how do I check my IP address? This will be different for the different kinds of systems. How you check it on Windows is different from macOS which is different from iOS, etc, etc. Instead of writing out every single way to check IP addresses, I found great external resources for the common systems you’ll work with and put them below. One note, if you look at these and want to do these via command line, all systems will have a way to do that, but for new user simplicity, I found UI-driven versions.

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Windows

These settings are great because the UI helps you navigate the multiple network interfaces:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/find-your-ip-address-in-windows-f21a9bbc-c582-55cd-35e0-73431160a1b9

macOS

Similar as above, the network settings UI does a great job of helping you navigate multiple NICs:

iOS

Same as above, but for iOS:

https://www.iphonelife.com/content/how-to-find-ip-address-iphone

Android

These instructions should work for most Android devices, but because of the variations from different vendors, you might need to follow slightly different instructions online that better match your model/OS version:

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/find-ip-address-mobile-smartphone/

Next steps?

In the next few posts, we’ll be looking at more specific terminologies you need to know but more importantly we’ll be diving into the specifics about how to troubleshoot common issues around protocols like OSC, NDI, UDP, TCP, and all the common protocols that connect our interactive and immersive systems together. Without knowing some basic networking architecture and terminology, all of these troubleshooting techniques become totally opaque and tough to use.

Part 2

Click here to dive into part 2 of the series where we look at ports, protocols, and firewalls.

Wrap up

I know… I know! You didn’t expect to click here and read a whole post about IP addresses… I didn’t expect to write one either, but once I started getting into any troubleshooting/tip/trick, it always came back to “but what if someone doesn’t know about IPs?” So this first step has given you a great groundwork of IP addresses and as we continue this series, we’ll dive into other troubleshooting techniques and things you need to know to make the most of working in connected environments.