By Harry McCracken | Friday, October 2, 2009 at 11:22 am
“It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkies instead of the other way around.” America’s sweetheart, Mary Pickford, said that. I’m not completely sure I understand what she meant–but I think of the quote often. And lately, I’ve been thinking that it would have more logical if wired connections had grown out of wireless.
A few weeks ago, I bought a gadget I’d been contemplating for awhile: an Eye-Fi wireless SD card, designed to transfer photos from camera to computer over a home network. Its slogan: “No wires. No hassles. No kidding.” Every once in awhile, it works as advertised. But mostly, I’ve spent more time unsuccessfully troubleshooting it than shooting pictures with it.
Which means I’ve spent a lot of time in the Eye-Fi support pages, reading items like this:
The wireless range of your Eye-Fi Card for photo and video uploads is listed as 45 feet indoors and 90 feet outdoors. These values are under ideal conditions, camera bodies, walls, building materials and other electronic devices can contribute to reducing your card’s wireless range. When encountering wireless upload failures from within your camera, move your camera closer to your wireless router. Generally if you are within 15-20 feet in line of sight of the router you should be fine. Take several pics and wait for a minute or two to see if the card uploads. If it still fails, remove the card from the camera and insert it into your computer via the supplied card reader. This will allow for maximum range since the card’s antenna will not be constrained by a camera body.
In other words: You might need to make sure there are no walls in between your camera and your router, and if that doesn’t work, you might need to put the card into the computer, as you might have done if you’d used a plain old SD card. Doesn’t sound hassle-free to me!
I know that I’ve been the victim of bad luck, possibly stemming from my network rather than the card–folks who use the Eye-Fi tend to rhapsodize over it. But for the moment, I’ve gone back to transferring photos via a nice, boring, reliable wired connection. And it works. Every time.
Then there was the TechCrunch50 conference, which I attended a couple of weeks ago. Last year’s edition of the show was bedeviled by dreadful Wi-Fi connectivity. (I wasn’t there, but I’ve probably attended more industry events with crummy Wi-Fi than ones with decent service–which is one reason why I broke down and sprang for a Verizon EVDO adapter.) At this year’s TechCrunch, however, the Internet access was as robust as you could want–and it was apparently so good in part because it was provided in part via cables. As far as I could tell, the setup involved Wi-Fi access points, but each one had a bunch of old-fashioned Ethernet cables plugged into it, so most of the folks in attendance could get online by plugging in a cable rather than attempting to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
I won’t even discuss wired headsets vs. wireless ones, in part because I already have, repeatedly. And also because I’m currently experimenting with using a Bluetooth hands-free device in my car. It’s not bad. On the other hand, it’s not truly wireless, since I need to remember to plug it into its charger. And it has a tendency to inexplicably get de-paired from my iPhone. Like almost all wireless devices, it requires a degree of babysitting that most wired devices don’t.
And maybe I’m just an old fogy, but I’ve never warmed up to the idea of wireless keyboards and mice. Why force yourself to futz with batteries when USB not only establishes a reliable data connection between input device and PC but also delivers power, for less money?
I don’t wanna come off as a hater. I use multiple forms of wireless technology every day–Wi-Fi, EVDO, and my iPhone’s 3G. I’d kind of be lost without them, or at least a lot less productive. But whenever I undertake tech tasks that involve wired connections, I’m not left thinking “Gee, this is embarrassingly archaic and I can’t wait until I can do this wirelessly.” Actually, it usually reduces my blood pressure a tad, since I’m generally confident that whatever I’m trying to accomplish will, in fact, occur.
Like I said–if we’d all been using wireless connectivity for the past few decades and someone came up with Cables(tm), we might consider them to be a dazzling breakthrough. That said, I’m reasonably confident that I’ll live to see the day when almost nothing relating to computing involves wires of any sort. I just hope it’s an improvement on the current situation…