Last week I made a drastic announcement – I would be going one full week without Wifi at home, as challenged by the folks over at Linksys. For anyone who knows me personally, the fact that I would be without Internet or any kind of networking at home was enough for my friends to start betting on how long I would last. Suffice to say, it was a very interesting experiment to say the least.
And so it begins
Just before heading to bed on the night before it was to begin, I shut down and unplugged my wireless router. The disconnect I felt was almost immediate – my phone switched from Wifi to Mobile Data, the YouTube video I had paused on my iPad disappeared into oblivion, and my network drive flashed furiously at me to let me know that it had lost its network connection.
The next morning I woke up and went about my routine as normal, unlocking my iPad and loaded up Flipboard to get my dose of headlines and I went about prepping breakfast. I fired up TuneIn on my phone to tune in to my favorite UK radio station, and for a split second everything seemed normal. But it wasn’t until I saw that Flipboard was still showing yesterday’s headlines that I remembered I had disconnected my router the night before. My radio station was still playing on my phone however, but I quickly turned it off as I realized it was using my phone’s precious data package to stream the music. So I spent my morning sitting in my balcony just looking out as cars whizzed by on the roads, trying hard not to wonder what earth-shattering article I was missing out on BuzzFeed.
Drop your files at the door
Certainly one of the things I never realized about this experiment was how DropBox would become dead to me. I use DropBox on my work PC, my laptop at home, my iPad, and my phone, with files always being in sync no matter where I was. With my Wifi cut off at home, that meant my laptop and iPad were out of sync with my files, which was something I discovered unfortunately when working on a rather lengthy review. I had started a good chunk of it at home on my laptop and as usual, saved it to my DropBox folder so I could work on it when I reached the office. Of course, once I got to the office and couldn’t find the review, I realized that my laptop wasn’t able to sync my files, so I had to sit and retype everything from scratch. I just had a few more paragraphs to write about which I figured I could finish at home. But of course, when I reached home I was greeted by my out-of-sync DropBox on my laptop, and I refused to type out everything once again. So I did the only sane thing I could think of. I accessed DropBox on my phone and located the review I had been working on. I then downloaded the word document to my smartphone, plugged a USB cable into my laptop, and dragged the file from my phone to my laptop. I finished up the review, saved the file, and dragged it back to my phone. I then relaunched the DropBox app and uploaded the new version so that my PC at the office would have the latest file for publishing. It was probably the most archaic form of DropBox syncing, but it had to be done. And no, I couldn’t tether off my smartphone because that would be against the rules – silly rabbit.
No one can hear you stream
If I didn’t have Internet at home, I could probably live with that. I have tons of media on my network drive that I could watch to pass the time, so staying entertained wouldn’t be a hassle. But you see all that goes flying out the window when you disconnect your router. Your once prized network drive that once happily spoke to all the devices on your network is now nothing but a glowing brick. I mostly enjoy all my content on my TV via my PS3, which reads media content via DLNA from my drive. But with the network removed, there was no way to access my network drive or stream anything from it. I’d sometimes stream music or videos to my iPad when I was in bed, but again this became impossible with the absence of Wifi at home. I couldn’t even plug a USB cable into the drive and try to access the data that way, because this thing could only be interfaced via the Ethernet port. And since my drive had a static IP assigned to it, I couldn’t plug it into the network at work and download my data without first erasing the configuration on it. In the end I just ended up downloading things to a small USB thumb drive and plugging that into my PS3 from time to time.
Confessions of a cheater
There was one occasion in the week where I have to admit that I cheated. I was having friends over for a little get-together on Thursday, and I was getting ready to play some music in the background before they arrived. But sure enough, my PS3 couldn’t see my network drive without a working network, so I started to panic a bit. I remembered that I had synced my iTunes library with my drive, so surely that would have my music as well? I cranked up my laptop only to find out that yes, my iTunes had synced with my drive, but it was directly reading music from the drive itself, and not storing a copy on my laptop. And the few songs that I did find on my laptop were circa 2010. I had to do the unthinkable – I fired up my router (with the Internet cable unplugged). Almost instantly my network drive sprang to life and I could see all my music once again. I quickly dragged across a few folders that I knew contained a mix of music, and then shut down the router after the copy had completed. In those brief minutes of Wifi access I realized how easy it was for me to just drag and drop things across – no cables necessary.
Coming out of this little experiment, I observed a couple of things. For one, since I didn’t have Internet access at home, I spent less time sitting idly on YouTube or browsing through endless streams of reddit threads. In fact, the time at home that I would usually spend sitting in front of my iPad or laptop was replaced with time spent cooking in the kitchen, catching up on my reading, and even just strolling around my building for an early evening walk. Even now with Internet and Wifi back on at my apartment, I don’t spent as much time poring over my laptop, unless I’m working on something. So I’m grateful for going through this mini-challenge with Linksys – taking part in the #WifiFamine was certainly an eye-opener, and I encourage you to give it a shot for a few days to see just how much you can take your wireless network for granted.
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