Friday, 22 October 2010

HomeGroup and such

Today I set up a "HomeGroup" to share files and folders with other computers in my household. I have since realised that "HomeGroup" sharing is only available on Windows 7 systems - which automatically excludes at least one of my housemate's machines. The difference between "HomeGroup" and just the normal "network sharing" is that with HG one can actually copy over files from one user to another, whilst network sharing seems only to allow streaming from one user's media library to another.

(Well, that is my interpretation of it all anyway.)

The process did take a good three quarters of an hour or so, mainly because the way it's been designed to set up just doesn't seem very intuitive. We (myself and a pseudo-housemate) spent so much time trying to work out why our libraries weren't visible to one another, and the troubleshooting didn't really help much. Eventually, it appeared the problem was with his firewall, so once that was all sorted out (involving a fair bit of geekery on his part) he made himself right at home by copying over all 31GB of my brilliant (if I do say so myself) music library. The sad thing is, most of this wasn't actually my collection to begin with - that appears still to be on my old PC - and instead came from a friend of mine who's files were backed up on my machine prior to a system re-install... ANYWAY. There was a point to this, and it is the following -

I rarely download films or TV shows from the internet because 9 times out of 10 you can find and stream exactly what you want to watch. I find this to be much more practical as I don't have to worry about filling up my hard drive and I much prefer watching films in a group, with my friends, as opposed to under my duvet cover, alone, sobbing inconsolably [this does not happen], and unable to vent my frustrations about annoying characters or poor acting [e.g. Andie McDowell in Four Weddings - what the hell was wrong with her?!] . Anyway, I copied over a couple of films from my friend's videos, just for the hell of it really. And here is where the bafflement kicks in.

When you put a file on a USB stick and take it somewhere, or even (but perhaps to a lesser extent) when you send an email, there is, in the back of my mind at least, the interpretation that "something" is moving from one place to another. And although it is not a tangible "thing", my mind conceptualizes it by thinking of a tiny, tiny, little document travelling through my laptop circuits, onto the USB stick, being carried around, and transferring itself elsewhere. And same with an email attachment - the tiny, tiny, little document piggybacks a ride through the internet on my flying email and reaches its destination. Now, I know I only create these visualisations to use as an analogy because I don't really understand the inner workings of a computer, but I suspect most people use similar analogies to gain a certain level of comfort with many things they deem unfamiliar or have a limited understanding of. In fact, when you think about it, analogous understanding is very much a part of the human experience - thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans explained worldly phenomena through their religions, with stories of gods riding blazing chariots through the sky, etc etc etc, ... so it's nothing new.

Back to this filesharing business. So, I was copying over these films and I thought - how is this tiny, tiny, little document travelling to me?! Are the packets of data just travelling through the ether?! And I know it's something to do with our wireless router and it all goes through that, bla bla bla, but it's just baffling! My brain just can't compute! Then, to top it all off, my friend showed me this article and this video relating to Wireless Electricity - - my mind has just been blown to smithereens. I think I need to go lie down.