One of the good characteristics of human beings is to be able to understand other people’s pains. To impersonate them, feel what they feel and know how bad/good to them was something you did. But this post has nothing to do with it, it’s just about the pains I had, and why I abandoned having a wireless connection on my desktop.
The first benefit of having wireless is freedom to move around. Not a particular strong one with desktops, though, but still appealing if you like to move furniture (as we do). To the desktop, the best benefit is not laying cables around the house, which for a family with kids is a big deal.
Nevertheless, you still have other cables, like USB, video, sound and especially electric cables all around, probably the same length as a network cable would be. And the benefits stop right there…
Wireless configuration is not as easy as it should be. Most boards require driver installation on Linux and Windows (although Linux has been particular strong in wireless drivers, just not to my board). That alone makes your installation of the OS a pain, as you have to install it locally, install the drivers and then update it.
Another problem is that you have to set up passwords and keys, which nowadays is more a user configuration. You can’t just start up all stuff (like sshd or web servers) before you actually log in. It means, before you say it’s a geek thing, that you can’t turn on your computer and log in remotely without logging in locally, if you don’t fiddle with the wireless/network configuration of your “easy-to-use” desktop.
Not to mention that, if you have a home server and want to mount the filesystem over the network, you can’t. Once you fiddle with the configuration and manage to allow it, it still disconnects on log-off and blocks your mount points to unmount themselves cleanly. All in all, the wireless network was designed specifically to laptops on-the-go and not to any other kind of device.
It is true that this issues are being resolved in Linux (drivers, global configuration) but it’s still a good source of problems for the day to day use.
Wired networks have a very stable communication channel. If no one is cutting your cables or laying it around NMRs you’re very likely safe from interferences. Once the connection is established, the likelihood of it falling down is very, very low and if something do happen, it’s probably server related (i.e. it crashed) than any cable/card issue.
On the other hand, wireless connections are completely unreliable, prone to errors in transmissions, channel overuse (especially problematic on overcrowded areas like most cities) and walls. Most programs are not ready to accept huge delays on transmission.
I’ve put my router on top of the printer and bought an antenna booster, changed to a channel far away from all others in the area. The speed has increased a bit, but the reliability is still bad. It often lags, slow down and the latency is just not the same with cables.
Obvious as it is, wireless desktops are not rare. Many of my tech savvy friends (and me), have opted for wireless connection on their desktops in favour of a safer bet, mostly because of cabling issues. I’ve been using wireless for all my needs (desktops, laptops, mobile phones) for over three years now and I can say that I’m more dissatisfied than happy about it. This is why I’ve decided to have a long white cable around my sofas and TV set. Luckily, my power cable is also white, and as I can’t get rid of it (yet), it blends nicely.
Even my boot efficiency (boot and login) increased a lot (about 2/3 of the time), I have no more mount issues, using the server’s shared drives is easy and fast, gaming issues are over and browsing has lost a source of problems.
It’s not all roses, though. When I had the drive mounted via USB, things were a bit faster (my router is 100mbps, unfortunately), but still way better than wireless. Besides, I now have a printer and scanner server!