Connected Home EXPRESS, May 29, 2002

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May 29, 2002—In this issue:

1. GETTING CONNECTED

  • Digital Strategies, Part 2: Digital Music

2. NEWS AND VIEWS

  • Music Singles for a Dollar?
  • More Music Fun for Less Than a Dollar
  • E3 Wrap-Up: The Future Is Online
  • Guess He Finally Succumbed to "Nintendo Thumb"

3. ANNOUNCEMENT

  • Win a Free $200 Gift Certificate to RoadWired.com!

4. QUICK POLL

  • Results of Last Week's Poll: Digital Photography
  • New Poll: Pocket PC or Palm?

5. RESOURCES

  • Product Review: Hughes DIRECWAY Satellite Internet Access
  • Tip: Keep Video Editing Simple
  • Featured Thread: Connecting Win2K and Win98 Machines

6. NEW AND IMPROVED

  • Capture, Edit, and Store Video
  • Watch a DVD and Check Security Cameras

7. CONTACT US

  • See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

  • DIGITAL STRATEGIES, PART 2: DIGITAL MUSIC

  • As with digital photography, moving to digital music is best done in steps, especially if you have a large music collection. Transferring music from CDs to your PC is fairly straightforward, if monotonous. But copying music from older audio formats, such as cassette tapes, is more complicated.

    In either case, the goal is to move your existing audio collection from its current media—such as CDs or cassette tapes—to your PC hard disk so that you can manipulate the music files in any way you want. You can, for example, organize and back up the music, transfer it to portable devices, and create custom CDs. The beauty of acquiring digital music is that after you transfer the music to your hard disk, you can easily use the music elsewhere, such as in your car, in your living room, or on a portable device.

    But first things first. If you want to move an audio CD collection to the computer, you need to plan: The software and media formats you choose matter.

    For Macintosh users, I strongly recommend Apple iTunes, which is free for all Mac users, works in Mac OS X, and offers tremendous integration with iPod, Apple's stellar hard disk based, portable audio player. iTunes can copy (or "rip") audio CDs to the hard disk and offers excellent media management, including a simple music library, playlist support, per-song equalizer customization, and a cool between-song fading feature. iTunes also lets you create custom-mix CDs on systems with recordable CD or DVD drives.

    Windows users will want to use Windows Media Player (WMP) 7.1 (for Windows Me, Windows 2000, or Windows 9x), Windows Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP—for XP), or RealNetworks' RealOne. Each product is free and falls into the all-in-one player category; each plays various audio and video formats, can rip audio CDs, play Internet radio stations, manage media libraries, and access online content. All of these players offer every feature you'd ever want for audio and video playback. If you're interested in a more traditional media player with audio CD-ripping capabilities, investigate MUSICMATCH's MUSICMATCH Jukebox (for information about the MUSICMATCH Jukebox, see the Resources section following this commentary).

    You also need to choose a media format to use when you rip audio files to your computer. On the Mac, iTunes supports only the MP3 format, not the technically superior Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. However, MP3 format is more popular and more cross-platform friendly than WMA, meaning that MP3 applications exist for UNIX, Mac, and Linux as well as Windows. But WMA files take up less space and offer identical or better quality than MP3 files do. After a year of working with WMA format, I've returned to MP3 because of its compatibility with Apple's excellent iPod, which is my favorite portable player. But dozens of devices are available that work just fine with the WMA format, and you can easily copy WMA songs to a standard audio CD that will play in any home, portable, or car-based CD player. In short, if you're a Windows user you should seriously consider using the WMA format, but first ensure that it's compatible with any portable players you might want to use.

    If you do choose the MP3 format, I recommend copying audio files at 128Kbps or better (I use 160Kbps) for the best-sounding results. WMA files copied at 128Kbps are roughly equivalent in quality to 160Kbps MP3 files, but take up less space.

    After you've settled on the software and format, you can begin the copying process. To copy music from audio CDs, simply load your software, insert your CDs one at a time, select the songs you want to copy, and transfer that music to your hard disk. As a time-saver, you might consider copying only the songs you'll listen to. There's no reason to copy an entire CD unless you think you'll listen to all the music.

    To copy music from sources other than CDs, you will probably need to invest in a hardware interface. Most PCs and some Macs include audio-in ports, usually on a sound card, but these built-in interfaces are often low quality and prone to interference. Instead, I recommend a USB-based product such as the excellent Belkin Components' Belkin USB VideoBus II, which features standard RCA-style audio connectors (as well as S-video and composite video connectors) that will interface with virtually any stereo component, including turntables, cassette players, and, of course, stereo receivers. You can buy the Belkin device online for about $50.

    Recording non-CD audio won't be as automated as the CD audio-ripping process, and you won't be able to use the software I recommended above. However, both the Mac and PC come with software that lets you copy audio files from other sources, including the Belkin device. On the PC, you can use Microsoft Windows Sound Recorder in XP Pro to copy audio files and perform simple editing tasks, although you might want to invest in a third-party editing application such as Syntrillium Software's Cool Edit Pro or Cool Edit 2000. On the Mac, you'll need a third-party application such as Black Cat Systems' Audiocorder: You can find a complete list of OS X-compatible audio applications on the Apple Web site ( http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/audio ). Note also that when you record from a non-CD source, you'll need to apply some audio-editing skills: You'll have to fade the sound in and out on each recording and manually edit so that individual songs are contained in individual files.

    After the music is on your PC, you can begin sharing it with other users on your home network, create your own audio mix CDs, play the music on a portable device such as a Pocket PC or MP3 player, or even pump music into another room in your house by using a device such as Voyetra Turtle Beach's AudioTron. But the first—and potentially lengthy—step is to get the music on your PC. Take your time to do it right, and you'll reap the benefits for years to come.

    Resources

    Apple iTunes
    http://www.apple.com/itunes

    Belkin Components' Belkin USB VideoBus II
    http://catalog.belkin.com/iwcatproductpage.process?merchant_id=1&product_id=88962

    Belkin Components' Belkin USB VideoBus II for Mac
    http://catalog.belkin.com/iwcatproductpage.process?merchant_id=1&product_id=105787

    Black Cat Systems' Audiocorder (Mac)
    http://www.blackcatsystems.com/software/audiocorder.html

    Microsoft Windows Media Player
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/players.asp

    RealNetworks' RealOne
    http://www.real.com

    MUSICMATCH's MUSICMATCH Jukebox
    http://www.musicmatch.com

    Syntrillium Software's Cool Edit Pro and Cool Edit 2000
    http://www.syntrillium.com

    Voyetra Turtle Beach's AudioTron
    http://www.turtlebeach.com/site/products/audiotron/producthome.asp

    2. NEWS AND VIEWS
    (contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])

  • Music Singles for a Dollar?

  • After years of trying, some record companies might have finally figured out how to take advantage of digital music on the Internet. In a joint project, Maverick Records and Vivendi Universal's online division are offering a music single from one of their artists on MP3 for 99 cents as a test. The single is a song called "Earth" by Meshell Ndegeocello and will be offered on Vivendi Universal sites such as MP3.com, RollingStone.com, GetMusic, and MP4.com. Customers will be able to do whatever they want with the unprotected MP3 file, including burning it to CD or transferring it to a portable music device. Maybe we'll see more music released online this way. We're certainly willing to pay 99 cents for an unrestricted digital copy of a song we just heard on the radio.

  • More Music Fun for Less Than a Dollar

  • Record companies are investing millions of dollars in developing and implementing copy protection for music CDs that would prevent users from listening to music CDs on their PCs and copying the music to digital music formats such as MP3 or Windows Media Audio (WMA). The copy protection is starting to appear in many new CDs released in stores. But people soon figured out a way around the protection: a simple felt-tipped marker. Just color in the edge of the disk with a cheap felt-tipped marker, and you can once again do what you please with the music you purchased. Condoning piracy? Absolutely not. Protecting your right to listen to the music you legally purchased, wherever and however you want? You bet.

  • E3 Wrap-Up: The Future is Online

  • Online gaming was the buzz at last week's E3 game trade show. All three console makers—Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo—announced plans to bring their consoles online. Microsoft will sell a $50 kit this fall that will give users 1 year of access to a multibillion-dollar online gaming network called Xbox Live. Sony PlayStation 2 users will be able to buy a network adapter for $40 this fall that will support both broadband and dial-up connections. Sony won't develop its own network but will give game publishers the freedom to create their own networks. Nintendo will release separate adapters for broadband and dial-up connections this fall for $35 dollars each. The company will also let game developers create their own gaming networks. Games with online support are expected to show up by this fall, including a "Star Wars" role-playing game (RPG), an online version of Electronic Arts' (EA's) popular "The Sims," and sports titles that let gamers play against opponents over the Internet.

  • Guess He Finally Succumbed to "Nintendo Thumb"

  • Citing the nagging "Nintendo thumb" injury that forced him to scale back his work hours 3 years ago, Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi, 74, announced this week that he would soon retire. While still in college, the legendary CEO succeeded his grandfather as Nintendo's president in 1949. Yamauchi has led Nintendo through a string of popular video-game releases, culminating with last year's GameCube. Yamauchi has a cult following in the company and in the gaming industry.

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

  • Win a Free $200 Gift Certificate to RoadWired.com!

  • Visit the Connected Home Virtual Tour and browse through the latest home entertainment, home networking, and home automation options. Sign up for prize drawings, too, and you might win a free gift certificate to RoadWired.com. Take the tour today!
    http://www.connectedhomemag.com/virtualtour

    4. QUICK POLL

  • RESULTS OF LAST WEEK'S POLL: DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

  • The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Have you embraced digital photography?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 229 votes:
    • 41% Yes—I use only a digital camera
    • 35% Yes, but I use both digital and film cameras
    • 22% No, but I'm interested in getting a digital camera
    • 2% No—I'll never give up my film camera for a digital camera

  • NEW POLL: POCKET PC OR PALM?

  • The next Quick Poll question is, "Do you use a Pocket PC or Palm PDA?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Pocket PC, b) Palm, c) Both, d) Neither—I use another platform, or e) Neither—I don't use a PDA.
    http://www.connectedhomemag.com

    5. RESOURCES

  • PRODUCT REVIEW: HUGHES DIRECWAY SATELLITE INTERNET ACCESS

  • After surveying available options in his area for fast Internet connectivity, author David Chernicoff installed a satellite system. In his review of Hughes's DIRECWAY system, he imparts lessons learned after months of experience with the product. Read the review at the following URL.
    http://www.connectedhomemag.com/networking/articles/index.cfm?articleid=25382

  • TIP: Keep Video Editing Simple

  • (contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])

    Because of the powerful set of capabilities you find in video editing packages—such as Apple's iMovie 2, Microsoft Producer, and others—you might be tempted to use a wide selection of special effects in your home movies, including fades, transitions, and titles. But effects are often distracting—especially in home movies, which often feature less-than-professional video quality. Keep it simple: Use nondistracting transitions such as the cross-fade wherever possible, and keep animated titles to a minimum. Your viewers—primarily friends and family—will thank you for your restraint.

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

  • FEATURED THREAD: CONNECTING WIN98 AND WIN2K MACHINES

  • JAChavez is having trouble connecting a Windows 2000 machine and a Windows 98 machine. He has successfully set up Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), but he can't make printer sharing work. To see other readers' responses or to lend a helping hand, visit the following URL:
    http://www.connectedhomemag.com/forums/thread.cfm?cfapp=80&thread_id=105728&mc=1

    Do you have a question about connecting the technology in your home? Do you have a tip for others? The Connected Home Online Forum is the right place to ask for help or share what you know.
    http://www.connectedhomemag.com/forums

    6. NEW AND IMPROVED

    (contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])

  • CAPTURE, EDIT, AND STORE VIDEO

  • MedioStream introduced neoDVDstandard, software that lets you capture, edit, compress, and store video through a simple UI. Developed specifically for the camcorder user, neoDVDstandard accepts input from AVI, Apple QuickTime, MPEG-1, and MPEG-2 formats and lets you transfer video to CD, Digital Video (DV), DVD, or Video CD (VCD). The software offers high-quality image and sound encoding, special-effects editing capabilities, and an animated tutorial. For information about pricing, contact MedioStream at 408-452-5500 or on the Web.
    http://www.mediostream.com

  • WATCH A DVD AND CHECK SECURITY CAMERAS

  • Crestron Electronics announced the Isys TPS-2000L and Isys TPS-3000L Compact Wall-Mounted Video Touchpanel displays for home control, lighting, and audio/video distribution. The TPS-2000L features a 5" high-resolution color screen, and the TPS-3000L features a 6" screen. The 180-degree viewing angle lets you watch TV, view DVDs, and check security cameras, no matter how you've mounted the panel. Both models feature Virtual Pan and Zoom functionality, which lets you pan across the video picture and zoom in for better views, even with stationary security cameras. For pricing information, contact Crestron Electronics at 888-273-7876 or on the Web.
    http://www.crestron.com

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