Wireless All The Things!

Neither Tom Nardi nor I are exactly young anymore, and we can both remember a time when joysticks were actually connected with wires to the computer or console, for instance. Back then, even though wireless options were on the market, you’d still want the wired version if it was a reaction-speed game, because wireless links just used to be too slow.

Somehow, in the intervening years, and although we never even really noticed the transition as such, everything has become wireless. And that includes our own hacker projects. Sure, the ESP8266 and other WiFi-capable chips made a big difference, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the nRF24 chipset, which made at least point-to-point wireless affordable and easy. Others will feel the same about ZigBee, but the point stands: nothing has wires anymore, except to charge back up.

The reason? As this experiment comparing the latency of many different wireless connections bears out, wireless data links have just gotten that good, to the point that the latency in the radio is on par with what you’d get over USB. And the relevant software ecosystems have made it easier to go wireless as well. Except for the extra power requirement, and for cases where you need to move a lot of data, there’s almost no reason that any of your devices need wires anymore.

Are you with us? Will you throw down your chains and go wireless?

48 thoughts on “Wireless All The Things!

    1. I am perfectly happy with Bluetooth latency when it comes to keyboards and mice; been using Bluetooth mice for years now. Bluetooth audio, at least with Windows PC, on the other hand…ugh, the audio quality is terrible and the latency is so bad it’s just unuseable — especially so for gaming and such.

          1. No, I can confirm that bluetooth keyboards are a Bad Idea for gaming, independent of user age. It’s not necessarily the degree of input lag, it’s the _inconsistency_. Last time I tried, platforming was an exercise in futility, almost as if the keyboard _knew_ what I was trying to do and selectively lagged my jump inputs, and _only_ my jump inputs. In multiple games in different engines.

            When consistency in “arrival time” of input (button presses) or output (audio/video sync) is mission critical, wired USB all the way. Strangely, consoles (including using a gamepad on a PC) are proof that bluetooth gaming _can_ be as lag-free as wired, it just seems to specifically be wireless _keyboards and mice_ (regardless of hardware brand, of game, of operating system, and of environmental noisiness) that suck for gaming, still.

    1. Agreed. Wireless is for those times and places a wire is impossible, or excessively inconvenient. For everything else pick a wire, and ideally don’t pick a stupid standard with really fragile and expensive wires or connectors…

    2. Agree on the tool batteries. Battery drills are convenient, but when I spend real money on a tool, I expect it to last a long time. Replacing tool batteries costs as much a s the tool did and the battery configurations change often enough that you may not be able to find replacement batteries after a few years. Been burned twice on this. No mas.

      1. So far Ryobi have kept the one plus range compatible for a long time – think it is about 20 years now… Though if they will keep at that forever who can tell. So if you want cordless that actually has a good chance of being used to death Ship of Theseus style it seems to me the best line to buy into. I certainly haven’t been disappointed yet.

        That said I generally prefer airtools, less efficient than mains powered but the tool is cheap, simple, usually easy to repair and reliable – So keep the compressor inside away from the elements and oil the tools and you can keep working outside when it rains no trouble. Something that isn’t advisable with mains or battery tools. Plus the tools tend to get colder as you use them longer which I find much more pleasant then burning hot..

        1. Yea I’ve never understood this argument. Makita’s current 18V line has been around for nearly 20 years as well

          When dewalt changed over to 20v lithium ion from 18v nicad a little later in the game, they released an adapter kit so you could keep using your old tools until eventually cycling them out.

          I don’t know where the root of the ‘they change the battery every few years’ line came from, but it’s certainly not from any of the major players. Maybe store brand stuff or discount lines like B&D?

          I personally hardly ever use my air tools anymore. For automotive body work I still use my compressor but nearly everything else I use battery powered tools. Good point about them being self cooling though!

          1. Yeah for me Airtools are the tools I’d prefer to have and use mostly because I live in a nation famed for rain and damp and have a workshop too small to do many of the projects I do indoors. They are just a great fit for my needs compared to electric when you might get rained on part way through, and having already bought a suitable compressor any new tool tends to be very cheap. I have however ended up with many more battery tools of late – when your cordless drill can match or even out torque your old mains powered one, and you can get a strimmer that really works but can’t cut its power cord and they all run off the same battery, which seems to contain a very good BMS.

            Case in point I’ve been waiting over a week now for a day that is supposed to be dry enough to get the tablesaw set up outside, and it looks like I’ve got another week to wait for a long enough break in the weather…

          2. The Bosch 12V NiCad drill that I bought might still have battery packs available, but the first round of replacements cost as much as the drill did.

            The Porter Cable 18V NiCad drill that I replaced it with does not have replacement packs available and I never saw any mention of an adapter to use a newer pack.

            My Hitachi plug in drill has way more torque than either of the battery drills and is an excellent piece of hardware. It has been doing it’s job for 20 years or so with no additional expenses.

            I use pneumatic die grinders a lot, but never got to liking the pneumatic drills. An air hose is less flexible than an electric cord. Dragging an air line through the house doesn’t appeal to me.

          3. Porter Cable also changed formats when they went from 18v to later versions. I have a handful of porter cable tools running Milwaukee batteries now thanks to the cheap battery socket adapters available on eBay and Amazon. Cut the old battery socket out, join a couple wires, and glue/screw the new socket on. It’s not pretty, but it keeps my perfectly good old tools running.

      1. Indeed, enquiring minds want to know!
        I hope it is something electronic interference related and not just because its wireless you put it down in the wrong place… But I’m sure it would be a good cautionary tale either way.

    1. Been using one for three years now. And a wireless mouse with it. Your CNC machine is obviously electrically noisy, and is probably affecting numerous other things in the vicinity.

      Or maybe you just bought a poor quality wireless keyboard. I bought the cheapest I could find, and it worked. I was going to buy the next-cheapest if it hadn’t.

  1. Everyone wants wireless vitals monitors in the hospital and OR but it’s a terrible idea. Imagine if things are going south and you have connectivity issues. Trying to troubleshoot that while taking care of critical situations sounds like a nightmare. Cables do fail but the fix is simple and definitive.
    Touchscreens are the same problem. All the transport monitors with real buttons from like the 80’s in a chonky heavy cast aluminum enclosure are still going sting and when they do break are easy to repair. Modern ones are basically single use till they break then right into the bin.
    Nope. For me in those uses, keep the wires.

    1. They had wireless IV pumps in the 90s. I don’t think they used the 900Mhz/ 2.4/5Ghz spectrum, they might have been lower frequency or on a licensed band.

      I think the limitation was that they were just reporting information. If the nurses station lost reception, they would still know it was done when it started beeping. I’ve even seen wireless EKG used recently.

  2. Security is a big reason to use wires. Funny, I was banking recently and had to create a password, the bank assistant handed me a wireless key to type it in… insert: this-is-fine-meme.jpg

    (I changed the password immediately once I was on a secure connection again.)

  3. Use wires where-ever I can. And any wireless projects for home are on my ‘local’ network. Never on the web. Even my printers are all wired into the ‘local’ network. If anyone cares about security at all, wires and local networking is the way to go.

  4. I admit the argument for wired is getting weaker, since with proper encryption things can be reasonably secure, with modern protocols and infrastructure things can be reasonably reliable, with modern batteries things can run a reasonable amount of time… still I admit that I always favor the wired alternative if it’s within reach. If only for the perceived advantages and the compelling aesthetic of proper wiring.

  5. I remember the first Wireless controller I was aware of that was actually usable for gaming: The Nintendo Wavebird. I wonder if it was because of the Super Smash Brothers franchise, that they worked so hard on getting the latency right.

  6. Wireless has zero security and in most cases each device needs a battery which in turn needs constant recharging – and is a small risk itself, all of which gets annoying as the number of devices expands.

    And to be honest there is a very tiny small bit of me that still quietly wonders if it is really completely 100% healthy, and most of the time I feel silly about it, most of the time, not all of the time. I mean we used leaded fuel for so long and DDT and asbestos and teflon and roundup and chlorinated water andsoforth and eveybody agreed it was completely safe.

    1. Yes. I am not somebody who claims BS like 5G will kill your childrens or whatever, but i too wonder if all this high frequency crap is really healthy. I can use a mobile phone without any fear, but i would not put it under my pillow at night, just because it’s not useful and *maybe* not so healthy.
      Also all this HF crap is a big problem for electronics, sensitive measurements, HAM, … And i am not even talking about security or all these batteries that need to be produced, recharged, replaced, recycled, …
      I really prefer wires. Wireless is not a bad thing but it should be reserved for applications where it is *really* needed and useful.
      Speaking about power tools, i only buy those that are plugged into mains because no batteries that are dead if you need the tool and so on. For a professional working where there is no mains (yet) (like new buildings, …) and using the tool all day its a different story.
      So TL;DR: Wireless All The Things -> NO!

  7. Sorry, but with wireless (especially shared, license free bands), the user experience is non-deterministic.

    And then there’s the security issue. Sure, you can run WPA2 Enterprise with EAP-TLS and perhaps even a VPN overlay, but how much of the cheap “IoT” junk being promoted these days is going to support any of that? In the unlikely event that it does, what are you going to do when the binary blob radio firmware is inevitably found to have a major vulnerability that the vendor won’t patch? Perhaps it might have been wiser to buy the product with a wired interface!

    My home has a high end, controller-based WiFi installation. I still insist on hardwired connections for anything that remains stationary, and whenever we have had walls or ceilings open for renovations I have installed ENT conduit to accommodate future cabling requirements, such as the singlemode fiber that I am currently pulling.

  8. I cannot count the number of hours I have spent futzing with wireless controllers, wireless headphones, you name it. I groan when I have to pair my device with a car instead of being able to plug my phone in with an aux cord. Problems with wired connections are fewer and easier to diagnose because you do not need an extra layer of software to make the connection. It may be more convenient to develop but I believe you make that tradeoff with the quality of the finished product

  9. I have relative who wanted a wireless printer setup, So that they wouldn’t have to walk to where the printer is and plug in the USB cord, to send a print job.
    My response? Uhm, aren’t you still going to have to walk to the printer and get the paper? ;)
    And yes, for their usages, they would.
    Not to mention the damned thing almost never seemed to “remember” that it already had paper in the feed tray, thus needing a dose of, printer tray foreplay, every time any way.

    1. My compressor is reasonably quiet, in part because it is in a box that absorbs much of the sound, though it is also a quieter fairly modern piston compressor – far from the quietest you can get, but way better than most I’ve seen. But even without any mitigations as the compressor tends to be a very long way from the user compared to the tool you are holding…

      So the tool is normally massively louder at the users ears – so either you are wearing ear defenders and it doesn’t matter much the compressor isn’t silent, or you are deafening yourself with the tool in your hand anyway…

    2. If your made of money what you are looking for is a dual screw compressor. Like a roots blower.

      Costs less to run, more efficient etc. Just smallest is large and costs 3 or 4 times as much as a dual piston old school. Math doesn’t work for smaller than a large shop or industrial.

    3. For using an airbrush you can use a CO2 tank and it’s functionally silent and lasts forever for that purpose.
      Honestly after looking at air rifles, some people use a scuba tank at 3000-4500 PSI (not a typo) to fill the on board bottle on the air rifle. Part of me wants to know if running pneumatic tools with an appropriate step-down regulator off a scuba tank would be a viable option if for some reason you are super noise sensitive or else the job site is or some other constraint.

  10. Banana Pi M4 ZERO Ubuntu successfully installed using Rufus.

    Bpi M4 Zero uses Allwinner 618 4 core 64 bit ARM A53.

    And has 2.4G/5G WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2.

    Boots from either microsd card or eMMC. :)++


    Included in bpi download is:

    “This directory contains the source code for U-Boot, a boot loader for Embedded boards based on PowerPC, ARM, MIPS and several other processors, which can be installed in a boot ROM and used to initialize and test the hardware or to download and run application code. …”

    Boot directly into embedded app possible?

  11. Im still wanting for a usb hub that keeps latency super low and easily makes multiple input devices wireless. So i can plug up nearly any usb device. Why should each device be forced to be wireless? It can be nice for mice and might look nice,but at the end of the day why cant i roll my desk around without cleaning it off or spending thousands buying each device to be individually wireless and self powered? Why not just a hub?

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