By Guy Clapperton
So, what sort of office set-up do you have where you’re based? Mine is a home office. I have the computer — a Mac as it happens — a printer, an external disk for back-up and another for media files, an iPod, a camera and some speakers. I also have a laptop and a USB hub, and a connection to the Internet.
And it’s like spaghetti junction under my desk. There are wires simply everywhere. I take this as my own risk, but in a more formal workplace cabling can become quite an issue. I’ve therefore done everything I can to eliminate cables — although I’m aware there are more things that could be achieved.
Wireless mice and keyboards have been established for a long time now, but you do need to watch out. A while ago I had a problem with my hard disk, basically the power cable had worked its way loose in the middle of an operating system update. Not pretty. But it’s OK, my mate who knows this stuff said, with a Mac you just put the system CD in, start the system up holding one of the keys down and it boots up from the CD drive.
Except it needs to boot up before it recognises the wireless keyboard. So you need a wired keyboard as a backup. And guess who’d ordered wireless when specifying the initial system.
When it’s working, though, wireless can be a blessing although if you have a wireless mouse then be careful — it can run out of battery power when you have no means of refuelling it all too easily. Kensington has just issued a new one with a USB cable tucked into the body, so you can use it as a wired model if it conks out when the shops are closed and you find your spare battery is dead.
Wireless technology truly comes into its own, though, when you’re looking at making your entire network work wirelessly. It’s easy to do badly; get broadband, which most businesses will have by now anyway, get a wireless router and some wi-fi adapters or computers with wireless technology built in and suddenly you can wander around with your computer, you can reorganise the office without taking the floorboards up and searching for network connections and if you don’t switch the security functions on you can allow all of your neighbours unlimited access to your confidential data. Always ensure that the WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) setting, which you’ll find on screen on your router’s menu, is switched to ‘on’ (it might not be by default) or if you’re considering working from home look into one of the wireless set-ups offered by Internet providers as a package — they’ll secure it for you, as distinct from buying the router alone from a store and having to configure it manually.
If all of that is confusing it can be worth investigating the alternative — powerline networking. An adapter from the likes of ZyXEL will convert your power cables into data cables as well, allowing you to use your plugs (with suitable adapters on the other end) to act as your network. My guess is that immediately someone prints a successful scare story about WiFi it’ll be all the rage.