Tech Tuesday: Sometimes You Need More Wires to Go Wireless

For the record, I just made up “Tech Tuesday” ’cause it sounded cool. It’s not going to be a regular post or anything because frankly, I have no business commenting on techie stuff. I’m going to do it anyway though, just for today.

SO. Backups. Backups are important. Keeping a regular backup schedule for your computer is a good idea for so many reasons, not the least of which being it’s good to have just in case your computer gets stolen while you’re on vacation. Ahem.

However, your backups are only helpful if you actually do them. Equally important is making sure the external hard drive you’re backing up to is actually working properly. I was running into trouble with my backups on both of these points.

The old external hard drive that I used with my old (now stolen) laptop needs to be plugged into a power supply and connected to the laptop via USB port in order to work. It lives at my desk, where plugs are readily available and it’s less likely to be knocked over by a cat. The problem is, I rarely use my laptop at my desk. I prefer to work in front of the TV on a comfy couch or recliner, so if I want to back up my laptop I have to leave my laptop open and awake at my desk for an extended period of time.

Why awake, you ask? Well, because whenever the computer goes to sleep so does the external hard drive. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to make it stop. It doesn’t seem to matter much anyway because even when the computer stays awake, the external hard drive has a tendency to fall asleep and interrupt the back up. I don’t think it’s ever fully completed a back up of my new laptop.

That made me very nervous, as it should. As soon as my tax return came in I decided to use it to buy a new external hard drive that would be more cooperative. I also decided that I should look for something that would perform wireless backups since I tend to roam around with my laptop so much. That Time Machine feature that saves a backup of your work every hour so you can retrieve stuff if you make a terrible mistake will only work if I’m actually connected to a back up drive while I work.

I went out and bought a LaCie CloudBox at the recommendation of the techie people at the techie store ($120). It was supposed to be easy to install, Mac-friendly, and wireless! Hooray!

Just hook this up and away we...wait a minute. Hook it up WHERE?

Just hook this up and away we…wait a minute. Hook it up WHERE?

As soon as I tried to install it though, I ran into a problem…the wireless external hard drive still needs to be wired to the wireless router…and the router was already full.

No vacancy.

Wireless router: No vacancy.

Every available plug was already in use. There was the cable going from the modem to the wireless router so that the router could connect to our internet.

If the modem had more than one plug we might be in business. But no. That would be too easy.

If the modem had more than one plug we might be in business. But no. That would be too easy.

Then there was the cable going from the wireless router to my sister’s ancient desktop computer which does not have wireless capabilities (shocking, I know). There was nowhere to plug in the wireless external hard drive.

Not having enough wires to use my wireless stuff is a maddening dilemma. I went back to the techie people at the techie store and told them of my plight. They told me I needed a “switch” ($35) and yet another cable ($22) in order to get everything to work together. So I bought a “switch” (which is seriously the most generically-named techie device I’ve ever encountered…that could describe so many things). For those of you counting along, this whole debacle cost me $177 (actually more like $193 after taxes, but other states may be more kind).

So many holes....

So many holes….

Once I got home I had a puzzle to put together. I had 4 cables to juggle and 5 devices that needed to be plugged in to things:

  • Sister’s desktop computer
  • modem
  • wireless router
  • external hard drive
  • “switch”

But what plugs into what? After studying the previous configuration and the manual for the “switch” extensively I took a stab at it and succeeded on the first try! If you’re ever in a similar position, let me try to explain what goes where…

Cable 1: goes from the computer to the switch

Cable 2: goes from the switch to the external hard drive

Cable 3: goes from the switch to the wireless router

Cable 4: goes from the wireless router to the modem

In summary, if you’re planning on going wireless, prepare to deal with a bunch of wires and have a sort of “base station” where you keep all of your wireless devices wired together. Maybe one day the techie people will figure out how to make things actually wireless and we can avoid all this crap.

Now back to your regularly scheduled knitting posts.