Less is More

As a tech, it’s not in my nature to choose form over function.  Sometimes, however, they can be the same thing, if you just think about it.  Home networking can be an example.  It’s possible, with very little effort, to set up a high-speed network in your house.  That doesn’t mean your home should look like a Borg ship.  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves that people forget the “Home” part of home networking.

So, you want to set up a basic home network?  You’re going to get a modem (probably) and then some form of wireless router.  Those are the most basic network components there are.  And you’ll probably string them together, along with anything else that connects to them.  Congratulations!  You’ve done it!  And your desk probably looks like this:

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Ugh, you weren’t planning on that, huh?  When you sat down to try and connect your PC, Roku, and digital blender to the internetz, it didn’t sink in just how many wires were going to be involved, did it?  Well, maybe you get a bit OCD, and clean it up, so it looks like this:

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Oh, now that IS better!  Nice job!  But I’m going to suggest it could be better.  Would you like to see my router?  here it is:

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No, I’m not being a smartass.  That’s actually my modem and router.  Or rather, if you walked into my house and asked where they were, that’s where I’d point.  What you’re looking at is the ceiling of my home, right above which (in the attic) I have my networking equipment set up.  The point is, there’s no real reason for those devices to be visible.  Nobody wants to see them, and believe me, they won’t get lonely.  If I have an actual problem with the modem or router that requires me to actually touch them, it’s just a quick trip up the stairs to see them.  In the past year, that’s happened exactly once.  It’s time to stop treating routers like they’re an art object, and start treating them like you treat your hot water heater or breaker box.

Setting Up a Hidden Home Network

  1. Start early, preferably before you sign up with an ISP.  Think about where you could put a modem/router that would keep it out of the way.  Stop thinking in terms of desks, floors, and bookshelves.  Start thinking about attics, basements, and closets.  Remember, the only time you need to look at your equipment is when there’s a problem, so an out-of the way spot is ideal.  When the tech arrives at the house to install your service, YOU tell THEM where you want the equipment.  It’s their job to make it happen.  But of course, please be polite… their job can be a crappy one.
  2. If you’ve already had your modem installed, and made the mistake of having the modem on your desk or some other unsightly place, it’s not too late.  Lots of times, it’s really easy to pull the cable to another part of the house.  Or, if you don’t want to do that, call your ISP back and ask to have a “Cable Relocation” done.  They’ll probably charge you about $100, but the desk space you get back will be more than worth it.
  3. Don’t assume that having the router in an out-of-the-way spot will mean an over-reliance on WiFi.  You can (and should) install network jacks throughout the home and tie them back to the attic or closet that hides your router.  We’ll explore just how to do this in another blog entry.
  4. Although you do want the equipment out of sight, NEVER set it somewhere where it can’t be reached again without breaking something.  Putting the modem in a cabinet is okay, sealing it inside a wall is not.  Yes, people have done that.  No, the results were not pretty.

Why I Am Not a Gamer

This upcoming weekend is going to be my first commitment-free weekend in a while, the perfect chance to just enjoy some quality time with the family.  With a super-hot weather forecast on the horizon, it looked like indoor activities were going to be the ticket.  My wife, Kendra, and I do like to play video games, so I wondered if there was a way to mix it up a bit.  I had this great idea, Why not hit up the local Redbox and grab some different games for the weekend?

Let it be known that every time I have a “great idea,” someone should just punch me in the face.  The net result would be the same and it’d save a lot of time.

First thing I notice is that even though the Redbox site has a very prominent “Wii” section, there are no Wii games listed.  No Wii-U games, either.  Now, Nintendo may not be the industry darling lately, but writing it off completely is kind of harsh.  There are still people like me out there who would rather play some Mario Kart than Need for Speed.  Regardless, it seems us Wii fans are out of luck.  Okay, says I, how about we check out the Xbox 360 games?  Surely there would be games for that I could rent.  And there were– Call of Duty, Fallout, and Battlefield.

You know, those really odd games you’ve never heard of, can’t find anywhere, and would certainly want to try out before buying.  Let it be known that, while I used to love shooter games when they were a new concept, today I can’t get into them unless the main character is James Bond or Samus Aran.  If I wanted realistic combat, I’d join the Armed Forces.

It’s not like this is a personal effort on Redbox’s part to insult me, they’re just following market demands.  And, it’s pretty clear, I’m just not the market.  This is just one more sign in a long, long series of events that I am not a “Gamer” in the context that popular culture wants to use the term.  Oh, I still play on a regular basis, but not in ways that matter to the industry.

Examples:

  • I actively resist buying the “hot” gaming consoles like PS4 and Xbox One.  I don’t do PC gaming, and don’t even own an PC worth gaming on.
  • If a game offers DLC, I just scratch it off my list of games to try.  This is especially true if it’s clear the DLC is material that could have been included in the game at launch.
  • I still spend a lot of time playing my Retro games.  In fact, in the past year, I’ve spent more money on SNES stuff than on my Xbox 360.
  • I’d rather play a game at home with my wife than against strangers on the internet.
  • I expect games purchased as downloads to be exceptionally cheap, to make up for the fact that you don’t get a physical copy as backup.
  • I’d rather have a game I truly enjoy and can return to again and again, than a disposable experience I can play for three months and then discard when the needless sequel gets released.  (Call of Duty, I’m looking in your direction…)

Add all that up, and I don’t at all resemble the people who call themselves “Gamers” today.  I’m a relic, like people who pine for Drive-In movies or buying a fast-food combo and “getting change back from the nickel.”  And this has been happening for a while.  The only thing new is, I’m now okay with it.