Home networking is becoming more popular, but adding connections to a home can be difficult. New construction often has Cat5 Ethernet cable strung everywhere, but in old homes — such as our old mill with stone-filled outside walls — it can be difficult and expensive to run wires. WiFi eliminates the wires, but there can be bandwidth or performance issues; a friend has a home with plaster walls on expanded steel lathe that effectively makes each room a Faraday cage that blocks radio transmissions.
Until recently, home networks were primarily used to share Internet connections for access to the Web and email. As a result, it was the more techie users who put them in, willing to struggle with the wiring and connection issues. Home network use is expanding, however, as a means to distribute digital audio and video content throughout the home. People want to access all the music they’ve purchased from iTunes or ripped into MP3s from their CD collection. And they want to see the video that they have stored on their digital video recorders.
This has revived interest in an idea that has been around for a long time, but that is beginning to gain new traction: using the electrical wiring in your home for a digital data network. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance was founded in 2000, and the HomePlug standard was released in 2001. It lets you plug network interfaces into power outlets in your home to create Ethernet connections.
HomePlug got a big boost this week when SlingMedia — makers of the SlingBox — announced two new SlingLink network adapters. You plug one adapter in an AC outlet near your network router, and the plug the other one in the room with the networkable AV device, such as a SlingBox, XBox, or TiVo. This means that you no longer have to run a wire from your computer or Internet connectio to your home entertainment center. Two different models offer one or four Ethernet connections, and list for $99.99 and $149.99, and are available from the SlingMedia Web site, or many major retailers.
The cool thing is that these devices don’t just work with the SlingBox, though they do make it much easier to install and use one. You can now add a network connection anywhere in your home just by plugging these into your power outlets. I expect that the SlingLink adapters will be successful products.