Metcalfe in Full Effect

AirPortA colleague and I, while on a long day trip to Washington, D.C. via train today, found ourselves in need of connectivity en route. We had work to do and files to exchange, but with the Eastern seaboard still unwired for the tens of thousands of commuters crawling between D.C. and Boston daily, we were stuck.

Then I remembered the long-standing but frequently ignored feature of the 802.11x wireless standard that allows the creation of ad hoc networks. Mac OS X makes this feature exceedingly easy to enable: just select “Create Network…” from the AirPort status menu, enter a name for the network and you’re done. We were instantly able to exchange files via iChat’s Bonjour messaging protocol, and my colleague was able to use his browser to effortlessly view PHP-enabled work on my hard drive, thanks to Personal Web Sharing (I never thought I’d get so much use out of Mac OS X’s built in Apache Web server, but it’s fast becoming my favorite feature ever, especially in conjunction with Marc Liyanage’s dead simple PHP installers.) On the way back this evening, we were even sharing music libraries across the aisle via iTunes’ built-in music sharing feature. The twenty-first century is here.

The Long Arm of the Law

This was probably the most demonstrative and practical experience I’ve ever had with Metcalfe’s Law: when we climbed aboard the train, bleary-eyed and sleepy at 6:30a this morning, we had just two laptops — modern and completely capable in and of themselves, but still just an isolated pair of machines. As soon as we enabled the ad hoc feature we had instead a real network; admittedly it was small, but its exponentially greater value to both of us was clear and apparent. Computers are awesome.

  1. I wonder how long it will be until the major IM services realise how useful the ad-hoc networks really are. To the best of my knowledge, it’s only the meta services (such as iChat and Trillian) that have a feature for this.

    It’s things like this that win the heart of users.

  2. I know the feeling of these computers (Macs especially), being “right on time” when it comes to moving life towards the “be easy” format, bruh. On a similar type hustle, the .Mac syncing has become a crucial element for me. My powerbook at home syncs everything to .Mac (including the ever changing mail preferences, smart folders, etc). When I jack into my 20″ iMac in the office and sync up to pull down changes, it “just works”. Work is home and home is work…or is it all just life? 🙂 It’s a big league feature for me and i’m definitely a fan.

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