NINE MONTHS AGO, I put out
a call-for-tally amongst
my Facebook pals: Count
the things in your place
that have (and use) an
IP (Internet Protocol)
connection, either wired
or wireless. The high at
press time, back in October
2010, was Steve R.,
Since then, I took on a summer intern,
Kirsten, to build out an over-the-top video
lab of sorts. This means we tricked out
a back room of the office with the following:
Comcast box, Xbox, Boxee box, Roku,
Apple TV, GoogleTV. Panasonic connected
TV, Samsung connected Blu-ray player,
TiVo Premiere box, iPad.
Prior to this exercise, my tally of things
that needed an IP address at work was
six. Post-lab? Sixteen.
Granted, this is a corner case. Everything
in the lab will be used to simulate
recreational use, to see why it is that consumers
will go to the “connected” side of
the connected TV.
One thing is clear so far: Some things
just work better with a wire. Big screens
(HDTVs), certain “connected” things —
the best in the digital garden.
Case in point: In getting this set up,
we moved the combo cable modem/VoIP
box from my desk to the lab, to get at the
extra Ethernet connectors on its back
We lugged the Wi-Fi router in there,
too, so we could still have a signal on our
laptops; it all worked in the new location.
Thrilling! Not so thrilling: Dust bunnies
the size of small dogs, hiding behind the
heavy objects that needed to be moved,
to get to the wires that needed to be
Then I went back to the desk to
make a call. (Yes, I still use a wired desk
phone.) No signal. No fax. Scoff if you will
that these are archaic devices — most of
us still use them.
This began an investigation of whether
we needed a second cable modem, and
how that would work, or whether the
structured wiring in the building is sufficient
to connect up the phones and fax
without additional gear.
If you like puzzles, home networking is
kind of fun. In a dusty, sneezy, geez-I-hopethis-
The point is this: As everyday consumers
knowingly or unknowingly increase the
number of things in their lives that need
an IP connection, it’s probably good to be
ready to solve the many use cases that
will invariably pop up. Headless gateways
that can plunk onto a shelf in the garage
are great, in some ways, but … the wire is
still best, here in the summer of 2011.
Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at