Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I am meddlesome

While having a latte in my favourite bookstore cafe this afternoon, I was browsing M.J. Simpson's biography of the late Douglas Adams. When his daughter Polly was born in 1994, a room was redecorated for her, and Adams' wife Jane expressed the observation that the ethernet port in the room could perhaps be removed. However, Adams insisted that it stay, as he thought his daughter would need it soon enough. (Apparently, Polly's first computer (a mac) was indeed bought for her when she was three).

Reading this, though, I was struck by the fact that the wired house with ethernet ports seems kind of quaint now. I managed to avoid being in a position where I had a home that needed wiring in the 1990s, and I now know that I am never going to do this. I do now have a "home ethernet", but it just consists of a little box that is an all in one DSL modem, router, and wireless access point. If I ever want to connect more than one computer to the ethernet, I just buy a (trivially cheap) wireless card for the computer, and bingo. If I move house, I just take it all with me. No rewiring required. Soon I suspect that all kinds of devices: printers, speakers, scanners, set top boxes, televisions, you name it are all going to have inbuilt wireless. It is going to be an interesting time.

However, there are still complications. I was in PC World today, and a customer wanted wireless in his home for his laptop. He already had a cable internet connection, and the salesman was attempting to sell him a router/wireless access point. Or was he trying to sell him just an access point. The salesman had a puzzled look on his face. Because I sometimes can't help it, I interrupted, explaining that there were three things needed: a modem to connect to the internet, a router so that more than one computer coud use the same internet connection, and a wireless access point for wireless access, and that there were various combinations of these devices available in one unit. If he had a cable internet connection with a modem with an RJ-45 socket as supplied by his ISP (which I believe is standard) then he needed a router and a wireless access point, preferably in the same unit. I either may or may not have got the message across. (Talking about software routers was something that I think wisely I avoided).

But I can't help myself sometimes. Certainly the huge amount of similar but slightly different network hardware on the shelves of a place like that is complicated.

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