October 15th, 2005


Cabling + Wires

What cables does every geek need?

For the first time since we moved, I'm not totally broke. All the little things I've been putting off purchasing -- the wireless antenna for signal boosting, USB connectors, stuff like that -- are going to be purchased relatively soon.

But I'm sure there's some esoteric things that would come in handy if I knew about them, or that I haven't thought of. Stereo to Mini-stereo headphone adapters, female to emale RCA extender dealies, and the like.

I'm not a quality-phile in this respect: I've never bought Monster cables, and I'm not ever likely to, but I'd like to create a system that's relatively decent and without dragging wires all over the place.

So, what do you think I would need to solve some or all of the following problems:

* Computer in living room. Has power, but not wireless receiver of any kind. How do I get it online? Current router is 2 floors up in opposite corner of house, so running cat5 to the location is not an option
* Computer in living room is in corner. Would like to use as media-ish device (can swap cables if needed), but don't want to have it right next to the TV: Wireless transmission of audio+video possible? suggested? Non-LOS pretty much neccesary given its location.
* Stereo in bedroom. Would like to be able to transmit tunes (when playing music) or other system audio (ie watching movies) to bed or desk. Max Distance is about 15-20 feet. Possible? Suggested?

I'm msure there's a few things I'm not mentioning - the fact that I lost my DVI->Video cable for the mac mini, for example, so I'll be buying a new one of those, but this gives you a general idea of the kind of things that I'm looking for. So, if you can think of something that I need but probably don't have, or that I might need someday that I could play with then forget about, I'd love to hear about it.


* WRT54G -- which will be going back.
* 2 4-port Audio-video switches: one for the stereo, upstairs, and one for the video games, downstairs.
* 2 20 foot Audio-only cables and a set of female-to-female connectors
* Replacement DVI->S-Video/RCA cable for the mac mini
* Replacement Mini-DVI to VGA cable -- which turned out to be the wrong one somehow? This'll be going back too. The mini-dvi plug does not match the one on my powerbook at all.
* 2 12 foot Video+Audio cables with 2 female-to-female connectors.
* 1 6 foot Gold Plated Component video cable (this was my real splurge)

Component video installation went seamlessly -- although I did break the DVD player slightly, but in the process learned that it's ridiculously easy to fix. That $20 charge for fixing it whenever julie broke it was definitely overpriced: It's a three-screw job to take the cover off and the DVDs are right there. (I may use it as a lesson for the kids on how these things work: looking at a spinning DVD might be cool.) Not only that, but the video quality is significantly better than with the composite video cable, something I never really expected to happen - it was mostly just a goal I've had since I first got a DVD player to be able to hook up component and see if there was a difference. (And it was confirmed by everyone who saw it that the colors were brighter, so it's not just a biased viewpoint because I spent $30 on it.)

Set up cables for the mac mini. No problem -- now hooked up to video 1 on the TV so we can watch movies from zeus without much effort, which is great.

Set up cables to desk and next to bed, plugged in turntable, got that all set up so we can just hit a button to choose. Need to move speakers around stuff into better positions.

Then I spent a lot of hours doing something really useless. The WRT54G is known as being a Linux-powered router, one that's easy to hack with an alternate firmware.

Yeah, right.

That used to be the case with the last one I bought, so I figured another one would work well. Little did I know that recently, the WRT54G firmware hsa been built to prevent the uploading of new versions to the router unless they're Linksys firmware, so you can no longer extend the capabilities of your router (for example, to support connecting to another Wireless Router for internet as a client, rather than acting as an AP.) After dicking with it and following every trick on the net to try and get it to work (and failing), I tried just installing a firmware on the old router, and succeeded.

However, once I did this, and brought the router downstairs (where it was to act as a wireless bridge), it still wasn't working. Connections failing, only talking to other machines when there was already an incoming connection, etc. I'm sure that some work could be done on it, but after spending 4 hours on it tonight, I'm done. I'm taking it back tomorrow, getting something small and designed to just connect to a wireless AP and be done. I'll also pick up a higher gain wireless antenna, the one thing I meant to get today but failed. I'll also pick up some connectors to go from the 4-way splits to the devices they're connecting to, which I also didn't think about. Overall cost should be about the same -- I'm really frustrated with Linksys for this crap though. I expected better of them.

Jess and I had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen: I had the Jambalaya, which was absolutely incredible. I also had my first ever drink-in-a-restaurant: Several times before I've thought about it, but never had my license or was taking public transportation, so it's simply never happened.