Connected Home EXPRESS, February 19, 2003

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Connected Home EXPRESS
Brought to you by Connected Home Magazine Online, the unique resource to help you tackle home networking, home automation, and much more.
http://www.connectedhomemag.com

********************

~~~~ THIS ISSUE SPONSORED BY ~~~~

HomeTech Solutions
http://www.hometech.com

Windows & .NET Magazine Network Web Seminars
http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars
(below GETTING CONNECTED)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~ SPONSOR: HOMETECH SOLUTIONS ~~~~
HomeTech.com today offers an even wider selection of home automation products. They have doubled the size of their showroom and warehouse in Cupertino, CA allowing for an expanded inventory, and more helpful demonstration displays. Those of you in or near Silicon Valley might like to visit the newly expanded facility and meet the highly qualified staff ready to help you solve your in-home automation problems. The address is at 10600 South De Anza Boulevard--across from Home Depot in Cupertino. Call (888) 257-4406 for more information. Their website also features a complete catalog and helpful tutorials. Visit
http://www.hometech.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

February 19, 2003--In this issue:

1. GETTING CONNECTED
- More Mobile Media and a Look at iMovie 3

2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Xbox and Nintendo Cut Software Prices
- Don't Tread on Us: Here Comes the Online Sales Tax
- Digital Cameras Thrive
- Death to Floppies?
- Irony? Master Hacker's Web Site Is Attacked

3. ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Join The HP & Microsoft Network Storage Solutions Road Show!
- Windows & .NET Magazine Connections: Real-World Technical Tips Here for You

4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: On-the-Road Activities
- New Poll: Digital Media Players

5. RESOURCES
- Product Review: Polycom's ViaVideo
- Tip: Keep Your iLife Applications Up-To-Date

6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Create CD/DVD AutoPlay Shells
- 38mm-105mm Zoom Film Camera

7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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1.

GETTING CONNECTED


By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

* MORE MOBILE MEDIA AND A LOOK AT iMOVIE 3

Greetings,

In the last issue of Connected Home EXPRESS, I discussed some of the pitfalls of taking multimedia on the road. Several readers wrote me about their experiences, and I received some good feedback, as usual. Regarding my problems with downloadable movie rentals, several readers suggested Movielink ( http://www.movielink.com ), which dispenses with the biggest problem with rival service CinemaNow: You don't have to be online to view movies, so you can download a movie from Movielink and view it offline when you're on a plane or train, which is a huge benefit.

For the most part, Movielink's movies appear to be similar to the movies CinemaNow offers. Rentals cost about $3 to $5 each (depending on the movie), come in decent-quality 700Kbps Windows Media Video (WMV) 9 format, and require a broadband connection to the Internet because of the whopping 600MB to 700MB each movie occupies. However, Movielink movies come with one hidden gotcha: After your 24-hour viewing period is over, Movielink's software--which must be running on the system you use to download and view the movie--deletes the movie. This practice, although not usually a problem, makes it hard to re-rent a movie. With CinemaNow, the movie stays on your hard disk until you delete it manually, which gives you the opportunity to watch it again and again (albeit with another charge each time).

That particular trade-off, however, is in Movielink's favor. I'd rather be able to watch a movie offline--which was the real reason behind this experiment in the first place--than save it on my hard disk indefinitely and not be able to watch it offline. However, I experienced a few glitches when I ordered movies from Movielink, requiring repeated email messages to customer service to resolve them. In two cases, the service accepted payment for movies but didn't let me download them. When I contacted a customer service representative as requested, she told me to keep trying. A week later, I still couldn't access some of the movies I paid for, and after some complaining, I finally got a refund.

Apple iMovie 3
At last month's Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iLife suite, which includes updated versions of iDVD, iPhoto, and iTunes, as well as the iMovie 3 release that debuted this past summer. I'll evaluate all these applications in the weeks ahead; today, I take a look at iMovie 3.

The first thing I noticed was the tweaked UI. Whereas earlier iMovie releases used nonsizable, nonstandard windows, iMovie 3 uses a standard, resizable brushed metal window. The upgrade means that iMovie now interacts better with the system, although you'll need copious amounts of screen real estate to take advantage of iMovie's new sizing options. But iMovie's basic layout is identical to earlier releases--a complicated mishmash of controls, wells, and subwindows that offers little in the way of an obvious starting point. People who are familiar with iMovie 2 will feel right at home with the new release, but iMovie 3 is still the most complicated and unintuitive of the iLife applications.

Workflow in iMovie 3 is also unchanged from the earlier release and is just as confusing. Rather than support the standard Open and Save terminology other applications use, iMovie's minimalist menu system uses Import and Export. You can acquire video from a digital source such as a Digital Video (DV) camera or import one or more media files, assuming you have compatible file types--iMovie 3 is compatible with Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) and MP3 audio; .jpeg and .gif still images; and DV, MPEG-4, and Apple's QuickTime video formats. When you're finished editing a movie, you don't "save" it to the hard disk; you "export" it in a variety of ways. iMovie 3 supports export to DV camera, iDVD (which is new to this version and quite convenient), and DV or QuickTime format. But iMovie 3 also adds a new MPEG-4 export option (assuming you have QuickTime Player installed) that's difficult to find and, sadly, limited only to 320 x 240 resolution. So MPEG-4 remains, at least for iMovie users, no real competition to the powerful WMV 9 format that Windows Movie Maker 2 offers on Windows XP. If you want full-screen, full-quality video, you're still forced to use the disk-hungry DV formats. And any Macintosh video user will tell you that means a lot of writing back to tape for archival purposes, which is a bummer.

iMovie 3 does offer new integration features with iPhoto and iTunes and can create chapter markers that are compatible with iDVD; all these features make the product much easier to use. If you want to add photos to your movie, for example, you simply select the new Photos button, which displays the contents of your iPhoto photo library right in the iMovie interface; this feature is definitely a time-saver. Likewise, if you want to add background music, select the new Audio button, which displays the contents of your iTunes music library. Unfortunately, the iTunes integration doesn't extend to fine-grained control over the songs in the library. You can play or pause tracks, but you can't skip through them until you import them into a project.

iMovie 3 also suffers from performance problems, especially on the G3-based iBook with 384MB of RAM that I typically use. The slowdowns are miserable and everywhere: Every photo you import is modified with the so-called Ken Burns Effect, which creates a zooming, panning animation out of a still image whether you want it or not. You therefore need to render each image--in agonizing slowness--to create the effect that Microsoft Plus! Photo Story renders instantaneously, albeit at a cost of $20 for the full Plus! Digital Media Edition (Plus! DME) package, on any XP-based PC. (If you don't want the Ken Burns Effect, you must import photos the old way, using the Import function, which negates the benefits of iPhoto integration because importing uses a standard dialog box.) But panning photos isn't the only thing that renders slowly in iMovie; transitions, titles, and video effects are all slowly rendered as you add them to your movie, adding to the time it takes before you can start viewing your partially edited film or continue working. It's frustrating and unfortunate, and one of the problems I had hoped Apple would resolve in this release. In Windows Movie Maker 2 on XP, all these tasks occur immediately, with no rendering delay. That's a huge time-saver.

iMovie 3 offers excellent audio-editing capabilities, however. When you switch to iMovie's timeline view, you can choose to edit the sound level of any video or a discrete audio track in the movie by using a new, liquid volume-level bar. You can perform this action per clip or per track, and it's almost infinitely configurable and far more powerful than anything available in Windows Movie Maker 2. For example, you might want to fade in audio from the beginning of a track by using a smooth, curving line or adjust the volume of the entire background music track to a certain level. This feature is powerful and well designed.

iMovie 3 includes new transitions and effects, and although these functions are the same professional quality of previous transitions and effects, none of them are particularly notable. Overall, iMovie 3 is a minor upgrade to iMovie 2 that has disappointing performance and MPEG-4 support but top-notch audio editing capabilities and good iLife application integration. Although iMovie 3 still doesn't present a challeng to Windows Movie Maker 2, the product is nonetheless an excellent video-editing package for Mac users, although I recommend that you have a powerful G4 machine.

~~~~ SPONSOR: WINDOWS & .NET MAGAZINE NETWORK WEB SEMINARS ~~~~
DON'T MISS OUR WEB SEMINARS IN MARCH!
Windows & .NET Magazine has 3 new Web seminars to help you address your security and storage concerns. There is no fee to attend "Selling the Importance of Security: 5 Ways to Get Your Manager's Attention", "Building an Ultra Secure Extranet on a Shoe String", or "An Introduction to Windows Powered NAS," but space is limited, so register for all 3 events today!
http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2.

NEWS AND VIEWS


(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)

* XBOX AND NINTENDO CUT SOFTWARE PRICES
Microsoft and Nintendo announced this week that they will offer so-called classic game titles for the Xbox and GameCube systems, respectively, at a steep discount. Microsoft's Platinum Hits program will sell games such as "Amped Freestyle Snowboarding" and "Project Gotham Racing" for just $20--less than half the price of those titles last year. Nintendo, meanwhile, is offering a similar deal on titles the company published inhouse, including "Luigi's Mansion" and "Super Smash Bros. Melee," which will now retail for just $30. In addition, Nintendo is offering other incentives to potential customers, including free games with console purchases and a price reduction on a popular bundle that includes the GameCube, a memory card, and "Super Mario Sunshine," a recent hit game title. Do these moves smack of desperation in the face of the Sony onslaught? Sure. But if you've been waiting to get a current-generation system, this is a better time than ever to buy. And it opens up an interesting possibility for consumers who are considering owning two or more game-console systems.

* DON'T TREAD ON US: HERE COMES THE ONLINE SALES TAX
For years, US legislators have argued that keeping state sales taxes off the Internet was the key to growing the economy and propelling a new generation of Web-based e-commerce giants. But now several major US retailers have voluntarily agreed to start charging sales tax for online purchases. Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart have all started charging sales tax to customers in 37 US states and the District of Columbia, and other retailers are expected to follow suit soon. Why the sudden turnaround? Various US states think that they're losing out on tax revenues and are getting ready to challenge the laws that have so far protected consumers from these charges. Are the good old days over? We think so.

* DIGITAL CAMERAS THRIVE
According to an IDC report, sales of digital cameras exploded in 2002, thanks largely to much lower pricing. Digital cameras with LCD screens--the type that let you view the action without having to hold the device to your face--saw the biggest gains, with 10 million units sold in 2002 compared with 6.5 million units in 2001. In fourth quarter 2002 alone, camera makers sold more than 4 million digital cameras. And now that you can buy quality cameras for $200 to $400, far more people are jumping onboard. Lower pricing and the pervasive way newer OSs such as Windows XP and Mac OS X work with these devices are leading to higher customer satisfaction, too. Death to film? Yes, it's happening.

* DEATH TO FLOPPIES?
Apple Computer jumped the gun prematurely when the company abandoned the floppy disk drive on the iMac computer in 1998, but Dell's recent decision to drop the devices is well timed, thanks to a new generation of more sophisticated and powerful technologies that can easily and inexpensively replace the floppy disk. Dell is immediately dropping the floppy as standard equipment in a few of its desktop and laptop models and will phase out the drives across the board throughout 2003. The company says that exploding sales of USB memory key devices has finally made the switch possible. Sometimes it's better to be right than to be first.

* IRONY? MASTER HACKER'S WEB SITE IS ATTACKED
Master hacker Kevin Mitnick, jailed for 5 years for stealing software and altering computer information, saw his Web site attacked twice last week. Describing the attacks as "quite amusing," Mitnick said that they weren't malicious, and one of the intruders was actually looking for a job. Despite the thrill the attacks might have given him, Mitnick didn't report either attack to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because neither involved any financial loss. Maybe next time, Kevin.

3.

ANNOUNCEMENTS


(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

* JOIN THE HP & MICROSOFT NETWORK STORAGE SOLUTIONS ROAD SHOW!
Now is the time to start thinking of storage as a strategic weapon in your IT arsenal. Come to our 10-city Network Storage Solutions Road Show, and learn how existing and future storage solutions can save your company money--and make your job easier! There is no fee for this event, but space is limited. Register today!
http://www.winnetmag.com/roadshows/nas

* WINDOWS & .NET MAGAZINE CONNECTIONS: REAL-WORLD TECHNICAL TIPS HERE FOR YOU
Don't miss this exclusive opportunity to interact first hand with Windows & .NET Magazine writers you trust: Minasi, Russinovich, Hill, Wells, Deuby, and Moskowitz. Plus, Microsoft is sending its "Scripting Guys"--members of the TechNet Script Center. This event runs May 18-21, 2003. Register today and save $300!
http://www.winconnections.com

4.

QUICK POLL

* RESULTS OF LAST WEEK'S POLL: ON-THE-ROAD ACTIVITIES
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Which of the following activities do you participate in when you travel?" Here are the results from the 79 votes:
- 38% Listen to digital music
- 34% Watch DVD movies
- 8% Read eBooks and eMagazines
- 4% Listen to Internet radio
- 16% Other

* NEW POLL: DIGITAL MEDIA PLAYERS
The next Quick Poll question is, "What digital media player do you use most often?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Apple Computer's QuickTime, b) RealNetworks' RealOne, c) Windows Media Player (WMP), d) MUSICMATCH Jukebox, or e) Sonique.
http://www.connectedhomemag.com

5.

RESOURCES

* PRODUCT REVIEW: POLYCOM'S VIAVIDEO
(contributed by Ed Roth, [email protected])

Polycom's ViaVideo video communication appliance provides business-quality video communications. The appliance uses an internal Philips Semiconductor TriMedia-1300 microprocessor to offload the multimedia burden of videoconferencing and provide better-quality sound and video than solutions such as WebCams. The camera housing contains a built-in microphone and video engine that support as many as 30 frames per second. Because ViaVideo is intended to be a business solution, it supports a wide range of audio- and videoconferencing standards and addresses corporate deployment and manageability concerns.

I tested a pair of ViaVideo appliances and found that although they performed well, my expectations for videoconferencing might still be too high. I installed one appliance on a system running Windows XP and another on a Windows Me system. The process was simple; I downloaded and installed the most current version of the software (3.0) from Polycom's Web site, then connected the camera's USB and audio cables to the PCs. The UI was moderately intuitive; I was making video calls within 10 minutes of unpacking the system. Although ViaVideo was better than most of my Web cam experiences, the internal processor can't make up for slow connection symptoms such as choppy video and long delays. Calls using the maximum throughput setting on a dedicated network switch still suffered some of these symptoms.

ViaVideo's whiz-bang features and functionality come at a price, so you might want to be sure this business-targeted videoconferencing solution will provide all the functionality you need before laying out your hard-earned cash. The list price is $599, and you'll need a Pentium 350 or better PC with 64MB of RAM and a 2MB SVGA card, external speakers, and an IP network. For more information, visit the Polycom Web site at http://www.polycom.com or call 1-800-765-9266.

* TIP: KEEP YOUR iLIFE APPLICATIONS UP-TO-DATE
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])

Apple Computer has released free public downloads of two of the iLife applications the company announced at last month's Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, so be sure to visit the Apple Web site to get the updates. New versions of iMovie and iPhoto are available, as well as a new version of the company's intriguing new Web browser, Safari.

Apple iMovie 3
http://www.apple.com/imovie
Apple iPhoto 2
http://www.apple.com/iphoto
Apple Safari public beta
http://www.apple.com/safari

Got a question or tip? Email [email protected] Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.

6.

NEW AND IMPROVED


(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])

* CREATE CD/DVD AUTOPLAY SHELLS
KL Soft announced AutoPlay Express 2.0, WYSIWYG shells-creation software. AutoPlay Express creates various menus, presentations, and shells that appear automatically when you insert a disc into a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. AutoPlay Express features AutoPlay with built-in Web-browser capabilities that let you access a Web site or read HTML pages directly from a CD shell. AutoPlay Express runs under Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Me, and Windows 9x, and costs $49. For more information, contact KL Soft on the Web.
http://www.kl-soft.com

* 38MM-105MM ZOOM FILM CAMERA
Olympus America announced the Stylus Select 105, an all-metal, all-weather 35mm camera that can take close-up and distance photographs and is compact enough to fit in your shirt pocket. The Stylus Select 105 offers fully automatic auto exposure, auto film loading and rewinding, and a 105mm zoom lens. The camera's Auto Color-Balancing variable-power flash uses only as much flash as it needs to light the subject. The Stylus Select 105 costs $299. For more information, contact Olympus America on the Web.
http://www.olympus.com

7.

CONTACT US


Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:

* ABOUT GETTING CONNECTED -- [email protected]
* ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL - [email protected] (please mention the name of the newsletter in the subject line)
* TECHNICAL QUESTIONS -- [email protected]
* PRODUCT NEWS -- [email protected]
* QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR CONNECTED HOME EXPRESS SUBSCRIPTION? -- Customer Support at [email protected]
* WANT TO SPONSOR CONNECTED HOME EXPRESS? -- [email protected]

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http://www.winnetmag.com/email

|-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-|

Thank you for reading Connected Home EXPRESS.

Copyright 2003, Penton Media, Inc.

********************

Connected Home EXPRESS Brought to you by Connected Home Magazine Online, the unique resource to help you tackle home networking, home automation, and much more. http://www.connectedhomemag.com

********************

~~~~ THIS ISSUE SPONSORED BY ~~~~

HomeTech Solutions http://www.hometech.com

Windows & .NET Magazine Network Web Seminars http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars (below GETTING CONNECTED)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~ SPONSOR: HOMETECH SOLUTIONS ~~~~ HomeTech.com today offers an even wider selection of home automation products. They have doubled the size of their showroom and warehouse in Cupertino, CA allowing for an expanded inventory, and more helpful demonstration displays. Those of you in or near Silicon Valley might like to visit the newly expanded facility and meet the highly qualified staff ready to help you solve your in-home automation problems. The address is at 10600 South De Anza Boulevard--across from Home Depot in Cupertino. Call (888) 257-4406 for more information. Their website also features a complete catalog and helpful tutorials. Visit http://www.hometech.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

February 19, 2003--In this issue:

1. GETTING CONNECTED - More Mobile Media and a Look at iMovie 3

2. NEWS AND VIEWS - Xbox and Nintendo Cut Software Prices - Don't Tread on Us: Here Comes the Online Sales Tax - Digital Cameras Thrive - Death to Floppies? - Irony? Master Hacker's Web Site Is Attacked

3. ANNOUNCEMENTS - Join The HP & Microsoft Network Storage Solutions Road Show! - Windows & .NET Magazine Connections: Real-World Technical Tips Here for You

4. QUICK POLL - Results of Last Week's Poll: On-the-Road Activities - New Poll: Digital Media Players

5. RESOURCES - Product Review: Polycom's ViaVideo - Tip: Keep Your iLife Applications Up-To-Date

6. NEW AND IMPROVED - Create CD/DVD AutoPlay Shells - 38mm-105mm Zoom Film Camera

7. CONTACT US - See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1.

GETTING CONNECTED

By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

* MORE MOBILE MEDIA AND A LOOK AT iMOVIE 3

Greetings,

In the last issue of Connected Home EXPRESS, I discussed some of the pitfalls of taking multimedia on the road. Several readers wrote me about their experiences, and I received some good feedback, as usual. Regarding my problems with downloadable movie rentals, several readers suggested Movielink ( http://www.movielink.com ), which dispenses with the biggest problem with rival service CinemaNow: You don't have to be online to view movies, so you can download a movie from Movielink and view it offline when you're on a plane or train, which is a huge benefit.

For the most part, Movielink's movies appear to be similar to the movies CinemaNow offers. Rentals cost about $3 to $5 each (depending on the movie), come in decent-quality 700Kbps Windows Media Video (WMV) 9 format, and require a broadband connection to the Internet because of the whopping 600MB to 700MB each movie occupies. However, Movielink movies come with one hidden gotcha: After your 24-hour viewing period is over, Movielink's software--which must be running on the system you use to download and view the movie--deletes the movie. This practice, although not usually a problem, makes it hard to re-rent a movie. With CinemaNow, the movie stays on your hard disk until you delete it manually, which gives you the opportunity to watch it again and again (albeit with another charge each time).

That particular trade-off, however, is in Movielink's favor. I'd rather be able to watch a movie offline--which was the real reason behind this experiment in the first place--than save it on my hard disk indefinitely and not be able to watch it offline. However, I experienced a few glitches when I ordered movies from Movielink, requiring repeated email messages to customer service to resolve them. In two cases, the service accepted payment for movies but didn't let me download them. When I contacted a customer service representative as requested, she told me to keep trying. A week later, I still couldn't access some of the movies I paid for, and after some complaining, I finally got a refund.

Apple iMovie 3 At last month's Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iLife suite, which includes updated versions of iDVD, iPhoto, and iTunes, as well as the iMovie 3 release that debuted this past summer. I'll evaluate all these applications in the weeks ahead; today, I take a look at iMovie 3.

The first thing I noticed was the tweaked UI. Whereas earlier iMovie releases used nonsizable, nonstandard windows, iMovie 3 uses a standard, resizable brushed metal window. The upgrade means that iMovie now interacts better with the system, although you'll need copious amounts of screen real estate to take advantage of iMovie's new sizing options. But iMovie's basic layout is identical to earlier releases--a complicated mishmash of controls, wells, and subwindows that offers little in the way of an obvious starting point. People who are familiar with iMovie 2 will feel right at home with the new release, but iMovie 3 is still the most complicated and unintuitive of the iLife applications.

Workflow in iMovie 3 is also unchanged from the earlier release and is just as confusing. Rather than support the standard Open and Save terminology other applications use, iMovie's minimalist menu system uses Import and Export. You can acquire video from a digital source such as a Digital Video (DV) camera or import one or more media files, assuming you have compatible file types--iMovie 3 is compatible with Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) and MP3 audio; .jpeg and .gif still images; and DV, MPEG-4, and Apple's QuickTime video formats. When you're finished editing a movie, you don't "save" it to the hard disk; you "export" it in a variety of ways. iMovie 3 supports export to DV camera, iDVD (which is new to this version and quite convenient), and DV or QuickTime format. But iMovie 3 also adds a new MPEG-4 export option (assuming you have QuickTime Player installed) that's difficult to find and, sadly, limited only to 320 x 240 resolution. So MPEG-4 remains, at least for iMovie users, no real competition to the powerful WMV 9 format that Windows Movie Maker 2 offers on Windows XP. If you want full-screen, full-quality video, you're still forced to use the disk-hungry DV formats. And any Macintosh video user will tell you that means a lot of writing back to tape for archival purposes, which is a bummer.

iMovie 3 does offer new integration features with iPhoto and iTunes and can create chapter markers that are compatible with iDVD; all these features make the product much easier to use. If you want to add photos to your movie, for example, you simply select the new Photos button, which displays the contents of your iPhoto photo library right in the iMovie interface; this feature is definitely a time-saver. Likewise, if you want to add background music, select the new Audio button, which displays the contents of your iTunes music library. Unfortunately, the iTunes integration doesn't extend to fine-grained control over the songs in the library. You can play or pause tracks, but you can't skip through them until you import them into a project.

iMovie 3 also suffers from performance problems, especially on the G3-based iBook with 384MB of RAM that I typically use. The slowdowns are miserable and everywhere: Every photo you import is modified with the so-called Ken Burns Effect, which creates a zooming, panning animation out of a still image whether you want it or not. You therefore need to render each image--in agonizing slowness--to create the effect that Microsoft Plus! Photo Story renders instantaneously, albeit at a cost of $20 for the full Plus! Digital Media Edition (Plus! DME) package, on any XP-based PC. (If you don't want the Ken Burns Effect, you must import photos the old way, using the Import function, which negates the benefits of iPhoto integration because importing uses a standard dialog box.) But panning photos isn't the only thing that renders slowly in iMovie; transitions, titles, and video effects are all slowly rendered as you add them to your movie, adding to the time it takes before you can start viewing your partially edited film or continue working. It's frustrating and unfortunate, and one of the problems I had hoped Apple would resolve in this release. In Windows Movie Maker 2 on XP, all these tasks occur immediately, with no rendering delay. That's a huge time-saver.

iMovie 3 offers excellent audio-editing capabilities, however. When you switch to iMovie's timeline view, you can choose to edit the sound level of any video or a discrete audio track in the movie by using a new, liquid volume-level bar. You can perform this action per clip or per track, and it's almost infinitely configurable and far more powerful than anything available in Windows Movie Maker 2. For example, you might want to fade in audio from the beginning of a track by using a smooth, curving line or adjust the volume of the entire background music track to a certain level. This feature is powerful and well designed.

iMovie 3 includes new transitions and effects, and although these functions are the same professional quality of previous transitions and effects, none of them are particularly notable. Overall, iMovie 3 is a minor upgrade to iMovie 2 that has disappointing performance and MPEG-4 support but top-notch audio editing capabilities and good iLife application integration. Although iMovie 3 still doesn't present a challeng to Windows Movie Maker 2, the product is nonetheless an excellent video-editing package for Mac users, although I recommend that you have a powerful G4 machine.

~~~~ SPONSOR: WINDOWS & .NET MAGAZINE NETWORK WEB SEMINARS ~~~~ DON'T MISS OUR WEB SEMINARS IN MARCH! Windows & .NET Magazine has 3 new Web seminars to help you address your security and storage concerns. There is no fee to attend "Selling the Importance of Security: 5 Ways to Get Your Manager's Attention", "Building an Ultra Secure Extranet on a Shoe String", or "An Introduction to Windows Powered NAS," but space is limited, so register for all 3 events today! http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2.

NEWS AND VIEWS

(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)

* XBOX AND NINTENDO CUT SOFTWARE PRICES Microsoft and Nintendo announced this week that they will offer so-called classic game titles for the Xbox and GameCube systems, respectively, at a steep discount. Microsoft's Platinum Hits program will sell games such as "Amped Freestyle Snowboarding" and "Project Gotham Racing" for just $20--less than half the price of those titles last year. Nintendo, meanwhile, is offering a similar deal on titles the company published inhouse, including "Luigi's Mansion" and "Super Smash Bros. Melee," which will now retail for just $30. In addition, Nintendo is offering other incentives to potential customers, including free games with console purchases and a price reduction on a popular bundle that includes the GameCube, a memory card, and "Super Mario Sunshine," a recent hit game title. Do these moves smack of desperation in the face of the Sony onslaught? Sure. But if you've been waiting to get a current-generation system, this is a better time than ever to buy. And it opens up an interesting possibility for consumers who are considering owning two or more game-console systems.

* DON'T TREAD ON US: HERE COMES THE ONLINE SALES TAX For years, US legislators have argued that keeping state sales taxes off the Internet was the key to growing the economy and propelling a new generation of Web-based e-commerce giants. But now several major US retailers have voluntarily agreed to start charging sales tax for online purchases. Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart have all started charging sales tax to customers in 37 US states and the District of Columbia, and other retailers are expected to follow suit soon. Why the sudden turnaround? Various US states think that they're losing out on tax revenues and are getting ready to challenge the laws that have so far protected consumers from these charges. Are the good old days over? We think so.

* DIGITAL CAMERAS THRIVE According to an IDC report, sales of digital cameras exploded in 2002, thanks largely to much lower pricing. Digital cameras with LCD screens--the type that let you view the action without having to hold the device to your face--saw the biggest gains, with 10 million units sold in 2002 compared with 6.5 million units in 2001. In fourth quarter 2002 alone, camera makers sold more than 4 million digital cameras. And now that you can buy quality cameras for $200 to $400, far more people are jumping onboard. Lower pricing and the pervasive way newer OSs such as Windows XP and Mac OS X work with these devices are leading to higher customer satisfaction, too. Death to film? Yes, it's happening.

* DEATH TO FLOPPIES? Apple Computer jumped the gun prematurely when the company abandoned the floppy disk drive on the iMac computer in 1998, but Dell's recent decision to drop the devices is well timed, thanks to a new generation of more sophisticated and powerful technologies that can easily and inexpensively replace the floppy disk. Dell is immediately dropping the floppy as standard equipment in a few of its desktop and laptop models and will phase out the drives across the board throughout 2003. The company says that exploding sales of USB memory key devices has finally made the switch possible. Sometimes it's better to be right than to be first.

* IRONY? MASTER HACKER'S WEB SITE IS ATTACKED Master hacker Kevin Mitnick, jailed for 5 years for stealing software and altering computer information, saw his Web site attacked twice last week. Describing the attacks as "quite amusing," Mitnick said that they weren't malicious, and one of the intruders was actually looking for a job. Despite the thrill the attacks might have given him, Mitnick didn't report either attack to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because neither involved any financial loss. Maybe next time, Kevin.

3.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

* JOIN THE HP & MICROSOFT NETWORK STORAGE SOLUTIONS ROAD SHOW! Now is the time to start thinking of storage as a strategic weapon in your IT arsenal. Come to our 10-city Network Storage Solutions Road Show, and learn how existing and future storage solutions can save your company money--and make your job easier! There is no fee for this event, but space is limited. Register today! http://www.winnetmag.com/roadshows/nas

* WINDOWS & .NET MAGAZINE CONNECTIONS: REAL-WORLD TECHNICAL TIPS HERE FOR YOU Don't miss this exclusive opportunity to interact first hand with Windows & .NET Magazine writers you trust: Minasi, Russinovich, Hill, Wells, Deuby, and Moskowitz. Plus, Microsoft is sending its "Scripting Guys"--members of the TechNet Script Center. This event runs May 18-21, 2003. Register today and save $300! http://www.winconnections.com

4.

QUICK POLL

* RESULTS OF LAST WEEK'S POLL: ON-THE-ROAD ACTIVITIES The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Which of the following activities do you participate in when you travel?" Here are the results from the 79 votes: - 38% Listen to digital music - 34% Watch DVD movies - 8% Read eBooks and eMagazines - 4% Listen to Internet radio - 16% Other

* NEW POLL: DIGITAL MEDIA PLAYERS The next Quick Poll question is, "What digital media player do you use most often?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Apple Computer's QuickTime, b) RealNetworks' RealOne, c) Windows Media Player (WMP), d) MUSICMATCH Jukebox, or e) Sonique. http://www.connectedhomemag.com

5.

RESOURCES

* PRODUCT REVIEW: POLYCOM'S VIAVIDEO (contributed by Ed Roth, [email protected])

Polycom's ViaVideo video communication appliance provides business-quality video communications. The appliance uses an internal Philips Semiconductor TriMedia-1300 microprocessor to offload the multimedia burden of videoconferencing and provide better-quality sound and video than solutions such as WebCams. The camera housing contains a built-in microphone and video engine that support as many as 30 frames per second. Because ViaVideo is intended to be a business solution, it supports a wide range of audio- and videoconferencing standards and addresses corporate deployment and manageability concerns.

I tested a pair of ViaVideo appliances and found that although they performed well, my expectations for videoconferencing might still be too high. I installed one appliance on a system running Windows XP and another on a Windows Me system. The process was simple; I downloaded and installed the most current version of the software (3.0) from Polycom's Web site, then connected the camera's USB and audio cables to the PCs. The UI was moderately intuitive; I was making video calls within 10 minutes of unpacking the system. Although ViaVideo was better than most of my Web cam experiences, the internal processor can't make up for slow connection symptoms such as choppy video and long delays. Calls using the maximum throughput setting on a dedicated network switch still suffered some of these symptoms.

ViaVideo's whiz-bang features and functionality come at a price, so you might want to be sure this business-targeted videoconferencing solution will provide all the functionality you need before laying out your hard-earned cash. The list price is $599, and you'll need a Pentium 350 or better PC with 64MB of RAM and a 2MB SVGA card, external speakers, and an IP network. For more information, visit the Polycom Web site at http://www.polycom.com or call 1-800-765-9266.

* TIP: KEEP YOUR iLIFE APPLICATIONS UP-TO-DATE (contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])

Apple Computer has released free public downloads of two of the iLife applications the company announced at last month's Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, so be sure to visit the Apple Web site to get the updates. New versions of iMovie and iPhoto are available, as well as a new version of the company's intriguing new Web browser, Safari.

Apple iMovie 3 http://www.apple.com/imovie

Apple iPhoto 2 http://www.apple.com/iphoto

Apple Safari public beta http://www.apple.com/safari

Got a question or tip? Email [email protected] Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.

6.

NEW AND IMPROVED

(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])

* CREATE CD/DVD AUTOPLAY SHELLS KL Soft announced AutoPlay Express 2.0, WYSIWYG shells-creation software. AutoPlay Express creates various menus, presentations, and shells that appear automatically when you insert a disc into a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. AutoPlay Express features AutoPlay with built-in Web-browser capabilities that let you access a Web site or read HTML pages directly from a CD shell. AutoPlay Express runs under Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Me, and Windows 9x, and costs $49. For more information, contact KL Soft on the Web. http://www.kl-soft.com

* 38MM-105MM ZOOM FILM CAMERA Olympus America announced the Stylus Select 105, an all-metal, all-weather 35mm camera that can take close-up and distance photographs and is compact enough to fit in your shirt pocket. The Stylus Select 105 offers fully automatic auto exposure, auto film loading and rewinding, and a 105mm zoom lens. The camera's Auto Color-Balancing variable-power flash uses only as much flash as it needs to light the subject. The Stylus Select 105 costs $299. For more information, contact Olympus America on the Web. http://www.olympus.com

7.

CONTACT US

Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:

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Thank you for reading Connected Home EXPRESS.

Copyright 2003, Penton Media, Inc.

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