Cutting the Cords
Our correspondent's home office happily goes wireless
Joe Krysztoforski embraces technology, but this summer he had had it
with his equipment's cables, both at work and at home. "We have three PCs
and a network. My wife and I have tripped over cables, our son's
friends have tripped -- even the dog has tripped over them. I had
to get rid of all those cables."
So Krysztoforski, managing director of PDS Research Assoc., a management
advisory company in Phoenix, Md., installed wireless networks everywhere.
His home system is slower than it was. But he got a double dividend: He's rid of an ugly hazard and "now I use the network at home while I'm sitting next to the pool with my notebook," Krysztoforski laughs.
Krysztoforski inspired Business Week Online's correspondent
to remove the booby traps in his packed office. We tested an assortment of devices now available in computer stores. They all work using digital radio technology. However, they don't entirely cut the cords -- there are still links to the power system and phone network.
Here's what it took: We started with the No. 1 cable clutter
culprit -- the network. In our reporter's home, there's a local-area network, or LAN, that
links four computers. Wireless networks have long been available
to corporations, but until recently they were prohibitively expensive and
difficult to set up for home offices or small businesses. But several companies
have come out with new products, making the technology worth a try.
We tested Proxim's new Symphony wireless products (www.proxim.com),
which Krysztoforski and his company also use, because as of late September
they were the first of the new generation of products and easy enough for even technical
neophytes. We installed Symphony's network interface cards into a PC and a notebook, linking them up. That took about only five minutes per system.
Next, we booted both computers and installed the support software, prompted
by simple on-screen wizards. This process automatically connects each PC
to the network and enables them to share modems
and Internet connections, which can be a real money saver.
On the downside, a computer networked via Symphony or any other wireless
product is slower than a typical cable-based network. A short, unobtrusive wire connects a small antennae to the PC's wireless network adapter and the so-called "wireless modem" does have
cords to the phone system and electric outlet -- even though it connects remotely
to the computer. Still, this system enabled us to lose coaxial network
cabling and the serial cable between the PC and modem.
CLUTTER BUSTER. The printer cable was next on the hit list. We removed that 25-footer
after installing AeroComm's GoPrint/One (www.aerocomm.com) on a notebook
and a laser printer. It's among the best-known product of this
sort. Included in the package are two devices -- one that serves as a transmitter and the other a receiver
-- and each are roughly the size of a paperback book. There is no software
to install. Instead, you connect the GoPrint receiver to the printer and the transmitter to the computer using short cables, which are included. The entire process
took 10 minutes, and we were able to crank out documents with the computer
100 feet from the printer.
The clutter-killer patrol then went for the desktop. We installed Logitech's
Cordless Desktop (www.logitech.com), a bundle that consists of a wireless
mouse and keyboard. It's also a well-known product, widely available
in retail outlets, and easy to install. You simply plug a receiver, which is about the size of a deck of cards, into your PC's mouse and keyboard ports.
You then can use the mouse and keyboard without cables as long
as you are standing within six feet of the receiver.
Here's the scorecard for our cordless initiative. The Symphony PC adapter
costs $149 and the notebook adapter is $199 on the company's Web site. Each eliminated 15 feet of
cable. The Symphony wireless modem costs $299, and we kissed 10 feet of
serial cable goodbye. AeroComm's GoPrint/One costs $199 and 25 feet of unsightly
parallel cable disappeared. The Logitech Cordless Desktop costs $99 and
eliminated six feet of mouse cord and six feet of keyboard cable. Total
cost: $945. Total cable eliminated: 77 feet.
Hey, nobody said reducing cable clutter would be cheap, and we didn't
entirely eliminate wires. However, this exercise cleaned up one horrendously
cluttered home office and will conceivably increase productivity. After
all, like Krysztoforski, we can now connect to the Internet even
when we're poolside. If only we had a pool.
By David Haskin in Madison, Wisc.
Back to top of story