Many of us have wireless networks at home, but we’re just not pushing them hard enough. We should be using our Wi-Fi to its full potential – printing from anywhere in the world, streaming media on every device, and even keeping an eye out for intruders. After all, if you’re going to name a network ‘Drop it like it’s hotspot’, you have to pull out all the stops. And here’s how to do just that.
Most printers come with Wi-Fi inbuilt, which is the next best thing to a morning spent watching cat gifs. There’ll be no more fiddling around finding the cable or Ethernet port. No more finding space under your desk either. Now it has been cut free from wires, your printer can be used and enjoyed by the whole family. You can even email files to the latest printers, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re at home in Tulsa or on business in Timbuktu.
Network-attached storage works across multiple platforms, so your PC, Blackberry and iPad can all work in harmony. Putting all your files in one centralized location is very sensible, as it doesn’t lock down your media to specific devices. Being able to connect to music, videos, documents and more remotely and securely is nothing short of miraculous. A NAS drive can also be used as an iTunes server or to back up content. Plus, it consumes much less energy than a computer.
Hook up a wireless speaker – perhaps a Sonos or Airplay-compatible device – to a NAS, and your whole music collection can be streamed to every room in the house. Even better, log in to Spotify for access to over 17 million tracks. That way you can move from the kitchen to the hallway jamming to the Sex Pistols while you dust.
There are loads of ways to stream movies onto TVs wirelessly. XBMC and Windows Media Centre are two popular choices which work with HTPC-enabled sets as well as games consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3. Of course, the latest smart TVs have Netflix and catch-up widgets pre-installed – so you don’t have to stress if you missed Breaking Bad.
Virtual Network Computing lets you remotely control a networked computer. This can be handy if you need to use some PC-only software on a Mac or want to show your granny how to Skype, for example. RealVNC has a basic free version which will get you up and running in no time.
Removing a camera’s memory card and manually uploading each file to your computer can be a real hassle. The Eye-Fi wireless SD card makes things a whole lot easier. If you often take snaps at home, this nifty use of Wi-Fi provides an instantaneous feed for friends and family. The best bit? Because data is deleted as it uploads photos, the Eye-Fi never runs out of space.
For the slightly paranoid, wireless internet protocol cameras are indispensable. You can pan and tilt these remote webcams over Wi-Fi, and some even come with night vision. Combine one with Twine, a Kickstarter-funded project which senses changes in temperature, vibration and orientation, and you’ll also know if someone opens the front door or breaks into a safe.
Photo by Stephan Ridgway