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The November 16, 2003 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Your Voice -- Reader Stories on Home Networking Realities

Last month's article on Dave's experience installing a simple network in his brother's house -- see Digital Dreams Meet Reality -- Creating a Simple Home Network -- triggered a lot of email from our readers confirming that we aren't the only supposed experts who have run into trouble with home networking. Here are summaries of two of these; see Reader Stories on Home Networking Realities for more details.

Bill Rose's "Trials and Tribulations"

Bill Rose wrote to tell us about his experiences installing a network in his own home and for one of his neighbors. Bill is one of the leading experts on home networking--he chairs the Consumer Electronics Associationís Home Networking Committee and its Technology and Standards Council and is a board member of the Home Networking and IT (HNIT) Division. We published Bill's guest article on wireless video networking in our December 17, 2002 issue.

Bill wrote: "So, you too have had the pleasure of helping out a friend or family member and spending hours on what should be a quick job for "pros" like us.

You have heard of some of my trials and tribulations before and I have a couple more. Several are not even home networking related but help to point out a disturbing trend in consumer electronics.

To summarize my prior HN experiences, I have installed two HomePNA networks, an 802.11b and an 802.11g network, a cable Modem, a DSL modem, and of course several Ethernet connections to connect the desktop to the above networks. In the course of these installs I have spent approximately 40 hours of my own time including contacting various vendors who mean well but usually conclude it is someone else's problem."

He went on to describe his experiences with "one bad cable modem, one bad DSL modem, one bad 802.11b card, a telephone repair person" who "put his foot through our bedroom ceiling," an "incompatible cable modem" and much more. He also reported "the good news. My 802.11b/g (mixed devices) has been working flawlessly for months. Windows XP (Pro) is far easier than 98 or 2000 to network. In fact, the last 2 installs of 802.11 I have done were on XP machines and they were effortless."

He "volunteered to set up a friend's A/V rack - a simple task you say? Wrong again! She had a new TV (analog), a dual DVD/VCR deck, a DVD burner, a PlayStation 2, a stereo receiver she wanted to use for better audio than the TV provided, and a cable set-top-box. Without going into details, it took 5 hours and 2 trips to Radio Shack to get the system working in a manner that she could use without referring to a state diagram of inputs, outputs, switches, etc. to use all of her devices."

In his own home, he encountered serious problems trying to get "an ATSC broadcast tuner connected to my HDTV so I can get Monday Night Football." After three tries, it still isn't working: "I now have intermittent NBC and WB, no CBS, and almost perfect ABC. Monday Night Football is awesome in HD" and "worth the effort though I might have a different view if I fell 2 stories into the rhododendron" while installing the rooftop antenna.

He described the complexity HDTV poses for consumers trying to choose between 16:9 or 4:3, and between 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i: "This is only disturbing if you don't know why it is happening. Unfortunately that includes 98% of the population. I can easily see ... an emperor's new clothes situation where the owner invites everyone over to see his new TV. He sees it as a great picture since after spending hours getting it set up and several thousand dollars, he can fool himself."

He concludes "The moral of all of this is industry has a lot more to do to make all of this stuff 'consumer friendly' and to ensure their return rates, satisfaction rates, and customer irates are kept at a manageable level. Technology is great but it is far better when hidden from view."

We couldn't agree more. See Bill's full email at Reader Stories on Home Networking Realities.

Tony Aiuto says "DSL providers could save a lot of support calls"

Tony is a software developer and full-time telecommuter. He said our article "struck a chord with me, having done similar setups for several friends and family."

He observed that "the DSL providers could save themselves a lot of support calls if they really embraced the idea of home networks, even if they are a single computer. In this era of worms, it is imprudent to connect a machine to a broadband connection without a hardware firewall. ... The easy way to do that is to ship a router/firewall with every DSL modem."

He said that he had "not seen the DSL/PPPoE problem" on his "Covad-based DSL line" but that might be because he's using "Covad's TeleCommute+ service."

He suggested that ISPs leverage the fact that the user's "MAC address ... is associated with a customer" so that "getting mail set up and running could be made much simpler" and suggests a procedure for doing so.

See Tony's full email at Reader Stories on Home Networking Realities.