Ming Chen is a pioneer in podcasting, in addition to being a member of Kevin Smith’s ViewAskewniverse. Star of the AMC series Comic Book Men, Ming has been a positive face on comic fandom and geek culture over the past decade. In this episode, he and I sit down and discuss the business podcaster-to-podcaster, as well as reflect on his love of video games and our affinity for bootleg DVDs.
If you want the best performance out of your home network, and the best possible streaming for your TV shows, movies, and games, then you really should bypass your wireless access and connect everything with ethernet cables. But why, WHY would you use those yucky wires, when WiFi is just so easy and cool?
Because, even in the best of circumstances, there’s just more that can go wrong with wireless connections. Interference, signal drops and even the walls themselves will try to get in the way of your wireless connections, whereas a wired connection works consistently every time. This is particularly important if your internet connection isn’t that great, or you’re trying to make the most of an inexpensive bandwidth plan. If you can’t get a better internet connection, get everything you can out of the one you have!
In a previous blog entry, I gave some tips on how to set up your router to keep it out of the way. Now I’ll give you some tips on how to connect to it via ethernet. Actually, compared to Wireless, setting up a wired connection is very easy… you just snap a Cat-6 cable into your device, and then into your router, and you’re done. The only real problem is in making sure you don’t get ripped off buying the cables.
Don’t buy ethernet cables at places like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or Target. These things are sold at huge markups there.
Instead, do your shopping online. What you need depends on how far your device is from your router, and remember to err on the side of length, so you can snake the cable around things if need be. 5-Foot cables are good for connecting devices nearby, 6-inch cables are good for connecting devices sitting on top of each other (great for connecting a modem to a router, for example), and 25-foot cables will do the job if the device is on the other end of the room.
Suppose you’re sold on the need to hard-wire everything, but still don’t want to deal with the cable mess, or your router is in a completely different part of the house? Well, then what you’d want to do is actually install an ethernet wall jack. Run the cable from Point A to Point B, fish it through the wall (or ceiling or floor) and slap a plate on it. It looks really pretty when it’s all done, and then you just plug your device into the wall the way you used to connect a landline phone.
Things You’ll Need:
- Cat-6 cable by the bundle or box. (be sure to get pure copper, not copper-clad aluminum)
- Wall plates
- Network jacks (RJ-45 connector)
- Razor blade
…notice that you can get everything on that list for well under $200. If it’s a small project, you can probably score all this for under $150. This does NOT have to be an expensive project!
Really, all you’re doing here is cutting open the cable, pushing the strands into the appropriately-colored pins, and then trimming them with the razor blade. If you need some extra guidance, try this tutorial, or for the visual people, try the following video:
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Like a lot of people, I’m in remote control overload. One remote for the TV, one for the audio, one for the BluRay player, one for the streaming box, and yet another for an HDMI switch to tie it all together. And not only is this setup convoluted, but it’s not even that unusual. Everything comes with a remote these days, and too often you only need one or two buttons on each for your daily life.
Lots of solutions have been posed for this problem, but so far, I’ve not been satisfied with any of them. Cheap Universal Remotes tend to not support peripherals like switches, and they can’t be truly programmed– they only choose from existing sets of codes. Smartphone remote apps are cumbersome, have no physical buttons, and expect you to dedicate your phone to TV use while you watch. And programmable Harmony remotes might be the ideal solution, but there’s no way I’m paying $300 for a remote control.
All I need is a set of buttons to which I can map the InfraRed pulses of my choice. Why can’t someone make this, and make it cheaply?
Well, someone has. A Kickstarter project has resulted in a new remote control concept called Sideclick. Rather than be an over-engineered monstrosity, Sideclick is genius in its simplicity. Sideclick takes the remote for your streaming device of choice and wraps it in a new shell with buttons that can be programmed for your TV controls, or whatever else you’d like.
Now, that last part is worth saying again. You can program the remote with whatever signals you want. So, if you want it to emit the “Power On” signal for your TV, but use the “Volume Up/Down” signals from your amp, and still use the “Channel Up/Down” signals from your tuner box, you can do that. You’re not picking from a list of pre-programmed settings, you point your old remote at the Sideclick, give it the learn command (three buttons) and Sideclick learns and mimics whatever commands you want, from as many remotes as you want.
And on top of all that, there are three additional buttons for you to program in whatever you’d like. Setup is a breeze– I opened the box, assembled my Sideclick, and had all eight buttons programmed within ten minutes. And although it looks kind of bulky, the end result is no bigger or heavier than a cased iPhone.
When you’re done, you have the buttons you’ll need most often all in one remote, and without even needing to switch between “modes”, and it’ll all be next to your streaming media player remote, which is probably the device you use most often anyway. Sideclick offers different shells for AppleTV, Roku, Nexus, and FireTV.
Are there missed opportunities? Perhaps one. It’s a shame that a remote that offers this level of customization doesn’t offer the ability to program in Macros, as in, setting a button to emit a series of different signals. Perhaps that was a bit much to ask, but that’s literally the only thing missing.
Verdict: I’d strongly recommend Sideclick remotes.