Technology in the Shop – Updated Wireless

Published on by Mike  (Leave a comment)

main_routerA discussion on home network infrastructure on a woodworking blog?  Why not?  🙂  I am tying this back to the Technology in the Shop series of articles that I wrote last year, and I believe this post could be beneficial to those who are wanting to do a similar setup that I have done.

Before I had the dedicated computer in the shop, I would carry my laptop out for the webcam, drawings, and such.  The router and access point for the house was on the extreme opposite end of the house, and I wouldn’t always get a good signal.  I ended up buying a WiFi extender.  While this would benefit me out in the shop, it would also benefit everyone else in the house by, in theory, decreasing some of the dead zones we had.  The result was a slight improvement.

wifi_extenderWhen I setup the permanent computer, which was an older machine, it seemed to experience more connectivity issues.  I added a newer 802.11N USB card on the laptop which helped some.  However, I still got frequent drops, which was especially annoying when I was trying to stream.  So much so that I don’t do it very often anymore.

The final straw was we got a Chromecast for Christmas.  It actually worked great, but what I found was that it would overwhelm the extender, and other devices on it would suffer.

new_routerI decided it was time to add a second access point on our network, and do away with the extender.  I was putting serious thought in running an ethernet cable through the walls and ceilings, which would be a pretty serious under taking.  Someone then recommended that I try ethernet over power first.  I had looked into this a few years ago, but it was an expensive solution that had varying degrees of success.  Based on the recommendation, I looked at it again, and the cost of these had come way down, and by reading the reviews, it seemed like they were very stable.

EoP_adapterSo I found an EoP option that was on sale, and bought a second wireless router.  A note on the router, while I couldn’t buy the exact model we have for our primary router, I bought one that had very similar specs.  In theory any two WiFi APs should work together, but it is a wise to get  the same brand and model when possible.  Once the EoP arrived, I hooked them up and configured the new router.  The first thing I did with the new router was turn off of the routing and DHCP functions on it.  After that I set the IP address and name of the router (not the SSID) to something different than first router.  I then setup the security and the SSID identical to that of the primary router, so that all of our devices would connect to it seamlessly.  I then disconnected the extender, plugged in the first end of the EoP to the primary router, and the receiving end to the new router.  I then ran a few tests to verify that the new connections were working.

For the devices  we have inside the house, we noticed the improvements almost immediately.  Even my wife and kids noticed improvements in the quality of their connections.  So much so that I suspect that the extender was causing a lot of unneeded network traffic that has now been eliminated.  Due to the extreme cold, I have not had a chance to test the shop computer with the new setup, but I am very optimistic that I will also see a significant improvement with that as well.

Technology in the Shop – Part 4 – Entertainment and Conclusion

Published on by Mike  (2 Comments)

2013-03-05 22.08.29Entertainment?  Isn’t just being in the shop entertaining enough?  Well of course it is!  However, sometimes it is nice to have a little background noise while hand cutting a dovetail, or setting up a power tool for the next operation.  Sometimes having a little music  on can provide a little rhythm when using the mallet on a chisel.  True, a radio or CD player can accomplish this too, but many of us have our music now in a digital format on our MP3 players, phones, tablets, and computers.  With internet enabled devices not only do we have to choose from our music we own, but also streaming music options like Pandora and iHeart Radio give a wide range of variety.   With all the benefits already covered, the music is an added bonus.  Before I left for college many years ago, I bought some decent speakers for my dorm room for my computer so that I could listen to my music in the dorm.  When I setup the computer to be permanently in the shop, I dug these speakers up and put them out in the shop.  Amazingly enough these speakers still sound just as good as they did back in the 90s, and do well to fill the shop with music.

As for other modes of entertainment from having technology in the shop, the options are endless, from watching videos, TV shows, and Movies , to having shop time with friends on line.

From discussions I have had with others, there is a wide ranging of opinions to having technology in the shop.  As it is obvious, I am a proponent of having a dedicated shop computer.  I have spoken with others who have a compelling reason to keep the technology out of the shop.  Lets face it, our shops are sometimes our own sanctuaries away from reality, and some may feel it be intrusive to have this technology.  To be honest, there are times I don’t want it either.  The nice thing with technology…… It has an off button!

I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles on Technology in the Shop.  If you have enjoyed it let me know!

Technology in the Shop – Part 3 – Giving and Receiving Help

Published on by Mike  (Leave a comment)

2013-03-04 20.52.28I spend more time then I probably should be online in various chat rooms and forums.  However, the knowledge I have gained from participating in these online venues has been considerable.  It has also has prompted me to push myself to explore options I have never thought about trying.  Lets face it, when you watch woodworking shows on TV, you see a lot of brad nails and pocket screws out there.  Up until a couple years ago I honestly though that was the way to go about doing it.  Then I would never have dreamed of cutting dovetails with a handsaw and chisels!

So a lot of the text only options could be printed out and taken to the shop with paper.  However, in a chatroom often times having the live interaction is very beneficial.  Even with forums, keep up with current posts can be beneficial in real time.

I briefly talked about helping each other out with the streaming videos in Part 2.  And that is a great way to do it.  Setting up a stream isn’t for everyone though.  However, with options like Skype, Facetime, instant messengers, and other video chat options that are available, there are a lot of very easy ways to get one on one video help in the shop.

This can really go both ways.  When I am having trouble on my lathe, I will often bring up a video conversation with someone far more knowledgeable then I am on turning.  They can watch what I am doing, look at what I am doing wrong, and give me advice on what I am doing wrong.  (Thank you Roger!)  Also getting watch others work, and being able to interact with them in real time is a great way to learn new techniques.

One thing I will say.  Whenever I receive help, I always try to pay it forward.   As much as I can using the video streaming techniques as discussed above.  If I had a questions on it at one time, there are likely others who have the same question as well.

Technology in the Shop – Part 2 – Streaming Video

Published on by Mike  (Leave a comment)

2012-09-10 18.34.04So one of the most popular functions of the Internet is to stream video. With having a computer in the shop there are several ways we can take advantage of this function.  First, streaming how-to videos while learning techniques can be very beneficial.  It is one thing to watch a video sitting in a La-Z-Boy, where you can learn the basic concepts.  However, with having the ability to view a video in the shop, you can work along side the video.  The advantage of this is that it is much more likely small details of the technique are caught that may have otherwise been lost.

One of the online communities I am active in is the one at  There is a live video and chat room on this site.  The live video is primarily for the live events that is often put on by Marc.  However, something else he has setup is the ability for anyone to add their own streams.  All that is needed is a free account with

I typically stream when I am in the shop.  You can see it on the live page here.  I do try to send out a tweet when I am streaming.

Part 1

Technology in the Shop – Part 1 – Intro and Project Plans

Published on by Mike  (5 Comments)

So I recently wrote about setting up a dedicated computer in the shop, but I really glanced over why I set one up.  Why is there a need for a weekend warrior hobbyist to have a dedicated computer in his shop?  There isn’t any one answer.

I would imagine in many pro shops, especially larger ones, there is already a large presence of computers and technology in the shops.  From running CNC machines, to looking up project specs, to logging into the company’s ERP system, there are countless needs for computers in the pro shops.  However, in a hobbyist shop, most of the needs are simply not there.  So why a computer in the shop?

My day job is working in IT.  While on the surface, woodworking and IT may be an odd combination.  However, the number of IT workers who pick up some element of woodworking as a hobby is surprisingly big.  So, with having a computer in the shop, when there is already multiple computers running in the house doesn’t seem like a big deal, just another computer geek move.  🙂  That said, I do believe their are non-geek (arguably) legitimate reasons to have a computer  in the shop.

The first use for having a computer in the shop is for digital project plans.  I personally use SketchUp, because it is both free and very easy to use.  I know there are many who have access to other CAD software such as AutoCad or even Solidworks.  Sometimes it could be just as simple as viewing a scanned in project plan in a PDF file.  The benefits over having a paper plan are numerous.  All formats allow you to zoom in to look at a detail closer.  The  3D and CAD software also allow you to rotate the project from just about any angle you can think of.  It also gives you the ability to hide parts, or even a highlight a single complex part.  Also if a measurement is displayed, using the software getting that measurement is a snap.  I will admit, there are times that a paper copy of something is beneficial, especially when standing at the table saw.  This is why my shop computer is also tied to the house network printer. 🙂

In the next week or so, I will post the second part of this article, so keep your eye out for it!

 Part 2