In Praise of Wires

Hardware and Accessories

There is a lot of vogue nowadays for Bluetooth and wireless. There is no doubt that when they work the connection appears almost magical and neat with no trailing wires or bulk. The operative word though is when they work.

It may be that I am unlucky but I have a chequered history with both wireless and Bluetooth devices and they have never enjoyed long term success with me.

For example when I bought my iMac in 2011 it had, initially both a pre paired wireless Track-pad and Keyboard, which apparently looked very neat and played lovely with the Mac side of my machine. The problem was however that it was a horrendous nightmare to set up with the Windows Boot Camp side of things. I will not bore you with the labyrinthine steps which would have been necessary to make the Bluetooth devices work on both platforms but suffice to say it was far simpler to plug in a USB keyboard and mouse every time I wanted to use Windows. Eventually I bought an apple wired extended keyboard which could work fine with both Mac and Windows which avoided this clunkiness.

Similarly internet Wi-Fi worked, sort of, on my iMac but kept on dropping out during long downloads. I abandoned the neatness of cable less Wi-fi for an unsightly Ethernet cable extension trailing across my desk to my router. It may not look so neat but ever since then I have enjoyed rock solid fast internet connection on my iMac.

Peculiarly I forgot all these lessons last year. What I want to do was control my iMac from my armchair. As the Mac is on a desk behind me at the other end of the room I thought Bluetooth was the obvious answer. I hit upon getting a Logitech 810 Bluetooth keyboard, a Bluetooth separate numpad keypad , , and use blue tooth to send the audio straight into my hearing aids. Basically the logitech worked for about 3 weeks and then completely died. The bluetooth numpad keypad never ever connected and I could never get that to make any communication. An old alternative Apple Wireless keyboard would only come on for seconds before disconnecting also. Even a computer engineer I called in could not get these devices to behave. Bluetooth on the Mac was working fine with other devices so it was device led unpredictability. It was about that time that the bluetooth connection on my comp pilot stopped sending sound from my TV to my hearing aids so I decided not to even go there with trying to pair that with my Mac.

So I had spent over a £120 getting absolutely nothing except varying levels of frustration and hassle. I am a reasonably competent computer user, but as I say even an engineer could not wrestle functionality out of these devices. It was during this time he made two confessions to me. The first one is that he loved bluetooth and wireless because their notorious unpredictability and flakiness kept him in a constant supply of work. He received quite a good supply of work from frustrated customers who could not cudgel acceptable performance out of their devices. He also confessed that because of this almost daily experience he never used the technology himself when he could instead use a wire. If you put a wire in there is no need for pairing, no need for passwords, no need for any protocols just plug the blinking wire in and it will work.

Finally I remembered my lessons. I went on E bay and bought a 5 metre USB repeater extension cabled for £3.45. I also bought a 5 meter headphone extension cable for £4. Both devices arrived the next day.

I stretched both cables to my armchair by tucking them under the carpet alongside the skirting board. I plugged my normal keyboard into the USB extension, and my normal headphones into the headphone extension. From less than 5 minutes of starting the whole project off I had perfect control of , and sound from my iMac in my armchair. This has worked for months now without the glimpse of a hitch. It was so simple and easy I felt like kicking myself, not only for the money I had needlessly wasted but most especially for all the hassle I had caused myself in the foolish and needless pursuit of the vogue for bluetooth and wireless.

I am sure that there are many of you who delight in your bluetooth headsets and keyboards. I do note however that there is a constant stream of complaints of connectivity problems on the mailing lists, especially with Braille devices. I have no intention of ever even trying to pair my Focus 40 Braille display with bluetooth, it has a perfectly good wire and all I have to do is plug it in. Similarly with a printer all I have to do is plug it in. I hear all of sorts of issues with people struggling with wireless drives. I just bought a 4 TB USB drive and plugged it in. I love wires nowadays as they just make life easier.

I just offer this peon of praise for wires as an an alternative route for those who may want a simpler life.

David Griffith