Home Improvements

Last weekend I found some time to make some tech improvements to our house which are probably only mildly interesting to most people but hey, that’s why I have this blog.

The headline item was probably replacing our generic thermostat with a Nest thermostat. The physical installation was easy, but I was surprised by some bugs getting the Nest thermostat to successfully connect to our AirPort wi-fi network.

I routinely connect new devices without a problem, but the Nest just couldn’t make it happen on its own. Ultimately, some combination of removing the AirPort’s guest network (which we never really made use of at our home), creating a DHCP reservation for the Nest’s MAC address, turning off the security protocols (and later turning them back on), and entering the router’s lengthy WPA2 password repeatedly via the Nest’s elegantly designed but less than optimal password entry interface worked.

Now the device is running quite smoothly and I’m very happy with it. Lots of nerds have already made the switch to Nest thermostats and so I have nothing really interesting to add — but coming late to the game, I found the novelty of a genuinely well-designed, technologically advanced appliance to be a revelation. I’m eager now to see what new products Nest will roll out; I’d be more than happy with a house that’s fully outfitted with automated systems courtesy of this brand.

Improvement number two was taking out a couple of hours to conceal a good deal of the wires snaking around our living room with Wiremold — plastic cable raceways that seamlessly attach to the mouldings at the base of your wall. I discovered Wiremold at my local Home Depot and was surprised that I had never heard of it before. It installs fairly easily, though cutting it is a bit of a pain unless you have a good saw or cutting setup, and it’s visually indistinguishable from the details of our real wall moulding. Wiremold isn’t a complete remedy to the deathly rat’s nest of cables that have collected around our house, but it does improve the picture significantly.

Finally, I bought a pair of D-Link Powerline adapters to see if I could get them working with my AirPort network. Powerline, in case you’re not familiar with it, plugs into standard wall sockets to make what is essentially a network out of your house’s electrical wiring. I’d been aware of it for years, but was always skeptical about whether it really worked or not — it sounded like hokum to me.

I finally decided to see if it could supplement our wireless network and reach some of the areas of the house that weren’t getting good, strong wi-fi signals, and after some light research, decided to give D-Link’s hardware a shot. By god, they worked, and really well, too. Setup was easy and the extension to the network was seamless. This coming weekend I will probably hook up one of the Powerline adapters to an AirPort Express to get a signal broadcast to our back yard, just in time for warm weather.


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