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Networking is hard
Hi, everyone. I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. I had a friend ask me, just yesterday, actually, how to transfer data from her Mac to her PC. The Macintosh is old, and it has some problems, and she’s moving to a PC, and the original idea, what she wanted to do was take the backup drive that she’d been using with her Mac using Macintosh’s own Time Machine and just plug that into the PC and have it work.
Of course, things are never that simple. Apple’s Time Machine is their backup program, and it is Mac only; it works on a Mac and the files that it creates, the backup that it creates actually only work on a Mac. So, the issue then is well what do you do instead?
The short answer, the pragmatic answer is get an external hard drive; copy things from the Mac to the external hard drive, and then move the external hard drive to the PC and copy things back off. It sounds like a pain, because it is a bit of a pain.
And things should be easier. Now there are a couple of other solutions that help work down this path. One I suggested was potentially using something like Dropbox or One Drive; installing that on both machines and then simply using that to replicate the files from one machine to the other, depending on how many files you have and how much storage you have in the online services That’s one approach especially if you’re not in a hurry, because of course, it’s probably going to be limited somewhat by your internet connection’s upload speed and download speed.
The real solution, the solution that I strive for here at home because I’ve got multiple platforms. I’ve got Macs, I’ve got PCs, I’ve Linux boxes, what I strive for is to have them all networked together, so that I can simply copy from one machine to another over my network. It’s a gigabit network, for the most part, so things work pretty quickly, as long as those machines can see one another.
That’s where this whole networking is frustrating thing comes in, because on Windows PCs, especially with the various versions of Windows, networking is hard. It just is. It’s not always easy to have machines be visible to each other, especially if you’ve got different versions of Windows.
Home Group – kind of sort of made that easier in some ways; it also made things a little bit more confusing, and as it turns out, networking is just very sensitive to a number of different settings in Windows. If you get all the stars lined up right, Windows actually works quite well. It’s very easy; it’s nice when you can just, you know, copy from one machine to another without much of a problem at all.
Like I said, I do it all the time. Where things get interesting, and things get really frustrating is if in a mixed household; you have multiple different kinds of platforms. Mine being, you know, the canonical example of having all three major platforms. I have Linux, I have Mac and I have PCs and the issue, of course, is that they all do networking a little differently.
They all like have different defaults and they all look at the network ever so slightly differently. It is possible to have them all see each other and have you be able to copy files from one machine to another. But it’s even more fragile; it’s even more frustrating. There’s a lot of stars that have to align just right to make everything work properly.
There are a couple of low-hanging fruit type stars, you know, you do this, and you do this basically, have a common login name and login password across all your machines and have the same work group across all your machines, and that solves like 80 to 90 percent of the issue.
Unfortunately, that other 10% can be really frustrating and really difficult to try and figure out, and that’s the situation I find myself in for example, today. For example, I have a brand new Dell laptop. It arrived earlier this week and I’m in the process of setting up for a trip that I’m about to take and it’s great. I mean I’m copying files over.
Here’s the thing: My Dell laptop can’t “see” my primary Macintosh computer. In fact it can’t see either of my Macintosh computers. I have both a laptop and a desktop machine. It can’t see them. Now, what I’m doing instead, instead of trying to figure out exactly why the heck that is and going through all the machinations of figuring out what I need to do, it turns out that my Macs can see my Linux box and my PC can see my Linux box, and I can use that as an intermediary so what I find myself doing when I need to copy things is I’ll copy things to the Linux box and then copy from there to the PC or in the other direction as needs warrant.
The reason I say it’s frustrating is because this isn’t the only PC I have. I have at least two others. They’ve been around for a long time. They’re also running Windows 10 and they can see the Macs just fine. Why is it this way? I don’t know. I can probably figure it out at some point, and at some point I probably will. I’m not going to take the time to do it today.
The frustrating part is from my perspective is it shouldn’t be this hard. And if it’s this problematic for someone in my position who kind of sort of has a sense for what’s going on, how are the average computer users supposed to figure this stuff out.
When I spoke to my friend who wanted to copy files from her Mac to her PC, I didn’t even bring up networking. It’s just not worth the effort; it could work. If it works it would be great, but the fact is getting it to work; getting it to actually make that connection, there’s too many potholes in that road. It’s just too rough a ride and as a result, it’s just not something that I end up recommending to people.
Networking is very frustrating. So, that’s where we are with networking today. Even in 2016, networking is really that hard across all the platforms, and like I said earlier, within Windows itself, at times. So that’s where I’m at, and I present this more, not to solve any problems because obviously the problems are difficult to solve and they vary a lot.
What I want to do is give you some reassurance that the problems that you may be having with networking are not in the least bit uncommon. They shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. It’s not you; it’s the technology. The technology is not as easy to use as it should be.
So, what do you think? What networking problems do you have? How are you solving them if you’re solving them at all? Let me know in the comments below. As always here’s a link to this video out on askleo.com where all the comments are read and moderated. That’s where all the action happens. I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know. Until next time, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. Remember, have fun, stay safe, and don’t forget to back up. Take care.
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- Networking Sucks – I express my despair for the state of networking for “average” computer users these days. (Podcast, 2005)
- How should I set up my home network? – A home network allows you to both share a single internet connection as well as share data and devices between multiple devices. I’ll review the basics components of a home network and some steps to take as your network grows.