It's a wired world

Written by Chris Caines

March 25, 2005 | 00:00

Under the mentality that I need to make the leap from being an enthused amateur, with a room full of computer junk older than myself into the sleek and efficient technology professional who only has a single computer with a plasma ball and Newton's Cradle; I’ve just finished redecorating my computer room and it’s now become my 'office'

Anyone who doesn't have the luxury of working out of custom built premises on Canary Wharf with full flood wiring and as many power and network points as you can possibly connect, will know that wiring is a problem. It's all very well having the design for your office laid out in your head, however you do have the very real issue that most houses are already built around you and you're without any kind of network cabling, plus they do have the tendency to have already installed only one or two power sockets for your (in)convenience.

Home cablers aside, most people opt to live with the situation they have and try to make things as neat as possible. Whilst proper home cabling is a consideration, it is not without issues and say you do something exciting, like completely flood wire your house for CAT5, Cable and Audio, then realise you want to put your TV in a different corner and you have to run cables anyway. It's all very well if you never intend to redecorate or rearrange, but if you're like me you can't sit in the same configuration for very long before you become bored.

"I don't think I'd fancy getting too close to a 240V AC Access Point"

So you have a couple of options open to you, one is cables, cables, cables. You can just buy into the concept that if you have to have cables anyway, you might as well just go for it and run them wherever you need then. Yes, you can try tying them up or using 'cable management' but at the end of the day, you still need to move and unplug things. Anyone who's worked in a proper live computer patching cabinet knows that the one cable you need is always buried under a pile more. You will get frustrated with your own neatness because it holds you back when the time comes to have to replace that failed cable, move your monitor or hook in a new network cable. Best bet is to tie up the cables you know you'll not likely move in a long time, and then just let the others hang as neatly as possible, sure it's not great and spoils the effect somewhat but at least it's practical. Why do they never look like they do in the movies or in those office furniture catalogues??

Of course, what's the buzzword at the moment? Wireless. You don't NEED cables anymore because we have the wonderful world of wireless to remove all your cabling worries.

CAT5? Thing of the past. Don't you know it's Wi-Fi?
USB? Bluetooth these days Grandad.
Landline? DECT baby, it's where it's been at for years.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm an absolute sucker for this kind of thing and when we moved into our house originally I fully bought into the 'no wires' mentality as much as possible. Our TV is piped around the house by our 'Digisender' wireless transmitter, the laptops obviously are running from an 802.11G access point in the Compu.. I mean 'Office' and our phone is a DECT cordless with the base station neatly tucked away in the Lounge. I use a Bluetooth dongle to talk to my Nokia Phone and Printer, add on top of that I have a Blackberry so we're in a great little world of wireless communications. Sure, we haven't sussed out wireless power yet but I can live with the odd extension cable (and to be fair, I don't think I'd fancy getting too close to a 240V AC Access Point, plus how would you tell I wasn't simply break dancing in the middle of the room?).
So smug in my over-the-air comfort I tided up what little cables I needed and sat down to work. Then the noise came.. BA-DA-D'DA, DA-D'DA, DA-D'DA, DA-D'DA! Now it wasn't the first words uttered by my new baby (I knew that, given it's still two months until it's due to make an appearance, so if it's learnt to speak we're off to Ripley's Believe It Or Not) but the sound of an incoming SMS on my mobile as replayed lovingly by my speakers. I'm sure that's a sound many of you are used to hearing, however couple that with the incoming holler every few minutes of my Blackberry communicating over GPRS and it gets tiring very quickly. The worst part is that this is due to the shielding on the speaker cable and not the speakers themselves so the irony is that one of the few things I have to have cabled is affected by something I don't.

That's ok, I'll just move the devices away a bit… I can live with that. Time's getting on so I thought I'd go and watch TV in the bedroom with the laptop and relax a little. My wife already being in there shouldn't be an issue, I'll just sit here quietly and *bzzzzzzzzzzzzz* as the wireless from my laptop and the Digisender fight each other for control of the airwaves. I get the look of daggers after interrupting Charmed, so I mope off to the office to change my Wireless channel to one which won't interfere too much. I manage to get something reasonable, however there is still the tell-tale 'blip' every couple of seconds on the screen as I surf the net.

The next evening I decide to take the Laptop down to the kitchen to work, where we also have a TV and a Digisender. Luckily my channel altering has at least made working in this room a little more bearable and you can only *just* notice the effect the wireless is having on the TV (at least little enough so I'm not being glared at). We're doing well until it's time to fire up the Mircrowave for four minutes on full power, then all hell breaks loose. The TV picture looks like someone is putting the aerial across a 9v battery and my wireless signal drops to something you'd get if you put my access point in a lead box, in a lead room built under a hundred feet of lead, at the bottom of the Atlantic. Dismayed, I return back upstairs to the office and continue this article on my fully wired and absolutely not wireless PC.

"It's so tempting to simply avoid cables altogether and take the choice of mobility, even for devices which are within a couple of feet of the other peripheral they need to connect to!"

Ah, technology for technology's sake yet again. Everyone is wireless crazy yet because all these devices have to share the same very small band of public airspace, you have to be almost as selective and careful about how you plan your wireless infrastructure as you do at just keeping your cables neat and tidy. It's so tempting to simply avoid cables altogether and take the choice of mobility, even for devices which are within a couple of feet of the other peripheral they need to connect to! However there's a very good reason we use them, because they're easy, practical and most of all they don't care where or what else you're doing.

Anyway, I must dash, the toaster is alerting me to the fact that I've got an SMS and the wife can't watch TV until I've replied.
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