Hard drive powerhouse Western Digital is getting into the home networking business with a new line of high-speed wireless routers, some with built-in storage, that the company says are optimized for streaming media around the house. I’ll be taking a deeper look at the products and the state of home networking when I get back from a couple of weeks away.
But something struck me when I opened the box of the sample My Net N900 that WD sent me. The package contained te router, the usual butt-ugly wall wart power supply–and a yellow ethernet cable and an installation CD. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I suddenly realized what an anachronism this was.
The CD does a nice job of leading you through the Windows setup using a direct ethernet connection. But even WD seems to realize that is is living in the past because the instructions for “Mac/Tablet/Browser” tell you to start the router, connect to it over Wi-Fi, and point your browser to 192.168.1.1, a follow the routine on-screen. (That IP address can be problematic if you are using the My Net to replace an existing wireless router that uses the 192.168.1.x address space. It should instruct you to shut off any existing Wi-Fi first.)
Disk-based setup is still common, but it is time for it to go away. Apple has made it clear that it considers the both the optical disk and the RJ-45 Ethernet port dead in laptops, and where Apple leads, everyone else eventually follows. WD properly anticipates that some people may be setting up a router in a home that has no traditional PCs with optical drives, Ethernet ports, or even the ability to install a setup program other than through an app store.
Fortunately, there are two simple alternatives available. Manufacturers can rely entirely on online setup. Or if they don’t want to rely on connectivity, a web server embedded in the device itself will do the job. Everyone should ditch the disk.