Moving into a condo has been an interesting experience. Apart from compressing a life of 40+ years into a much tinier space than I am used to, condo living has certain constraints that living in a house affords – particularly when the last house was one you built.
I am a geek. I admit it wholeheartedly, even if it isn’t one of my facets that is readily obvious to many. The immediate result of this is possession of an astonishingly stupid amount of technology. Between my wife and myself, we have at our disposal five servers, four laptops (two Windows and two Macintosh), two desktops, two iPads, two iPhones, various and sundry other iDevices and a laser printer, scanner and photo printer. All contained within the confines of a 1,000 square foot condo.
One might consider space the largest constraint here, but it isn’t. It’s the concrete walls. While the servers benefit from proximity to the internet connection, the rest of our technology is spread throughout the house. The laptops and iStuff can work over wireless, of course. And I could, if I really wanted, get WiFi cards for the desktops. But the printer, scanner and photo printer demand a real, physical network cable. And a condo full of concrete does not lend itself to the running of cables. And simply stringing cables along the floor would be a recipe for divorce. Another option would be required.
This led to much consideration and exploration. Powerline networking (turning your household AC outlets into network ports) initially appeared promising but was ultimately rejected. Apparently it only works if the AC sockets you plug the devices into are on the same breaker. Even in our condo, it doesn’t work that way. And, more interestingly, every manufacturer I looked at seemed to be pulling their powerline products from the marketplace. Not auspicious.
Actual running of wires was contemplated. But apparently that is difficult, painful, expensive and frought with risk. And there was a real risk that the condo board would become awfully cranky.
And then I came upon a solution in the most unlikely of places. Our stereo system. In our previous house, we had installed a system called Sonos. This is a fully digital, fully controllable sound system that operated throughout the house, with everything controllable through a single controller. In the house, all the Sonos devices were wired into our home network (the house had 32 network ports). But Sonos will also operate wirelessly, and creates its own mesh network between devices. The result is a surprisingly robust way of streaming digital music.
Digital music, of course is just data. It’s all ones and zeros, rearranged in an order that reproduces Bach with astonishing fidelity. And that is what led to our networking solution.
In the condo, we had no choice but to have Sonos communicate wirelessly. All the devices are happy to do so, provided at least one device is directly plugged in to a physical network connection. For networks that run completely wirelessly, Sonos sells a device they call their Bridge, which does nothing but co-ordinate communications between the internet and all of its brethren. Plug it into your router and it manages everything else. Every other device, however, comes with an Ethernet switch built into its back. If you were physically connecting the devices to a network, you would use one of these ports. The other ports are there to connect any other networked device you might choose.
If you run Sonos wirelessly, however, the ports on the switch still work. They behave like real, wired ports. Any devices connected to them get connected via Sonos’ mesh network directly back to the Bridge, and out into the real world. Plug in a computer, and it picks up a network address and carries on just as if it were physically wired directly to the router. With astonishingly fast performance.
The net result is that we have music throughout the condo. And we have network ports throughout the condo. And the desktops, the printers and the scanner have something to talk to. All without wires.
Beautiful music indeed.