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.
THIS ISSUE SPONSORED BY
Windows Scripting Solutions Web Site
SPONSOR: WINDOWS SCRIPTING SOLUTIONS WEB SITE
WINDOWS SCRIPTING SOLUTIONS FOR THE SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATOR
So, you're not a programmer, but that doesn't mean you can't learn to create and deploy timesaving, problem-solving scripts. Discover Windows Scripting Solutions online, the Web site that can help you tackle common problems and automate everyday tasks with simple tools, tricks, and scripts. While you're there, check out this article on WMI scripting for beginners!
June 26, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Lack of Storage Limits Digital Video's Potential
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Toshiba Tries to Out-Cool iPod
- New Standard to Make Net Photos Easier
- VHS Tape Makes Way for DVD Video
- Next Hot Technology: DVD-Audio?
- Web Radio Decision Reached
- July Is Hot! Our Free Webinars Are Cool!
- Win a Free Digital Video Recorder from SONICblue!
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Mobile Devices
- New Poll: Digital Video
- Tip: Synchronize a Pocket PC with the Mac
- Featured Thread: Audio/Video Jukebox
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Cable Multiple Applications Throughout Your House
- Capture Stills, Video, and Voice
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
Here's a common scenario: Joe Consumer, lured by Apple Computer's digital-hub commercials, takes a Saturday afternoon drive over to the local Apple retail store and is blown away by demonstrations of iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, and iTunes. Excited about the possibilities, Joe Consumer plunks down $1900 for a new flat-panel iMac, complete with recordable DVD drive, a fast 60GB hard disk, and 256MB of RAM; he has acquired an ample system for digital media. Joe Consumer has a simple plan: Record some audio CDs to the hard disk, scan some photos for a personal Web site, and start encoding home movies, which he can edit in iMovie and copy to standard DVDs that anyone with a DVD player can watch. Joe Consumer is on the road to digital "nerdvana," right?
Not exactly. Unfortunately, our fictitious Joe Consumer is in for a surprise. The preceding paragraph conveniently glosses over the details and cost of several other items Joe will need to reach oneness with his digital self. And the most problematic of these items is storage.
I don't mean to pick on Apple, but the company's products make digital media look deceptively easy. As I've said before, Apple's iMovie and iDVD software packages are second-to-none, and the fact that the products come free with modern Macintoshes makes such systems viable PCs for anyone interested in digital video. But during a recent month-long test of the iMac system I described earlier, I bumped into The Storage Problem; the 60GB hard disk that Apple includes in its highest-end iMac simply isn't enough space to do more than dabble with digital video. And solving The Storage Problem—which applies to all PCs, not just Macs—won't be easy.
Here's the problem in a nutshell. As part of my review process for the iMac, I wanted to copy all my home movies from 2001 to the machine, use iMovie to edit them, and create a new DVD movie with the results. (I already had made DVDs in a similar manner on the PC and wanted to see how the process and end results differed on a Mac.) Like many people, I don't take many home movies; my total output from 2001 amounts to about 60 minutes of usable video, perfect for one DVD movie. After I copy the movies to the iMac, the raw video takes up about 15GB on the system.
After editing, the final movies occupy another 12GB to 13GB on the hard disk. Then, I created an iDVD project (4GB) and started the long process of writing the DVD movie. The end results were fantastic, but let's do a bit of math. In the process of creating a simple 60-minute DVD movie, I used up more than 30GB of the 60GB hard disk. And the OS, applications, and other digital media files occupy a generous portion of the remaining hard disk space. No more DVDs for you, Joe Consumer.
The Storage Problem also affects PCs, although PC users are blessed by much cheaper expandability than iMac users are. For example, I recently bought two internal 120GB hard disks specifically for digital video storage and added them directly to my main PC. On the iMac, this type of storage expansion would require an external storage solution because the iMac is a sealed system with no internal expandability. The end result is a stack of ugly, loud boxes; you know, everything the iMac isn't.
You might think that the presence of a recordable DVD disk in the iMac and some PCs would be a viable alternative to adding hard disk space. With 4.7GB of space, a recordable DVD could serve as a backup storage solution, right? Not exactly. The video files that make up my 2001 DVD occupy 1.5GB to 3GB each, which means that some raw video files would take up an entire DVD. I would require several DVDs to back up my video files. And would anyone care to guess how long that process would take?
So what's the solution when your video files are larger than 4.7GB? Realistically, the following personal storage options are available today:
- Internal hard disk expansion. PC and Apple PowerMac (not iMac) users can add one or more internal hard disks to the system, which is cheap but difficult, especially if you don't have a technical bent. If installing hard disks is too intimidating, your local Best Buy or CompUSA will install the disk for a small fee. However, note that most PCs are limited to four internal drives, including hard disks and CD-type drives.
- External hard disk expansion. Mac and PC users whose systems use FireWire or USB 2.0 (not USB 1.x) expansion can purchase external hard disk kits, which are basically just internal hard disks in a case that includes new interface hardware. These disks are easy to attach and use but expensive: A Maxtor 80GB FireWire hard disk costs about $280, but you can purchase the same disk for internal use for only $100. One nice aspect of FireWire and USB 2.0 solutions, however, is expandability: You can stack and daisy-chain these devices as your needs increase.
Those are your options, limited as they are. Many more storage solutions are available in the business world, including Network Attached Storage (NAS), storage appliances, and servers with massive amounts of hard disk space. I recently—only somewhat jokingly—looked into adding 1TB (yes, terabyte) of storage to my home because we're planning a $100,000 addition. The storage would have cost $20,000, a comparatively negligible cost because we already planned to spend so much money. My wife instantly nixed that idea, but it still lingers in the back of my mind. Is enterprise-class storage ready to come home? How would a closet full of cooled, expandable storage change the way we view in-home computing? I'll be examining these topics in the coming months and speaking with storage experts to see whether digital video enthusiasts can expect any relief for The Storage Problem soon. But I don't see an easy—or cheap—solution on the horizon.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We need your help to make this and other email newsletters from Windows & .NET Magazine as useful to you as they can be. To help us with our editorial planning, please answer the Windows & .NET Magazine Network Email Newsletter & Web Site Survey, available at the following URL. If you provide your email address at the end of the survey, we'll put your name in a drawing for a Windows & .NET Magazine T-shirt. Thank you! We appreciate your help.
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's news stories, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Toshiba, which manufactures the hard disk in Apple's iPod music player, has decided to make its own portable audio device. The company this week launched its new Gigabeat, which is now available in Japan and will soon come to Europe and the United States. Like the iPod, the device comes with a 5GB hard disk, but the Gigabeat's hard disk is removable, so users will be able to swap in new PC card-sized drives and dramatically increase the device's storage potential. Even with one disk, however, the Gigabeat can hold as many as 1000 audio files, which is sweet. Another iPod differentiator: The Gigabeat supports MP3 and Windows Media Audio (WMA) files and uses USB 2.0; iPod supports only FireWire and MP3.
Fujifilm, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Kodak are among the industry giants that announced last week that they're developing a new Common Picture Exchange Environment (CPXe) standard for distributing photos on the Internet. CPXe will let consumers easily get their digital pictures printed at any photo processing store, including local drugstores, and designate where they want to physically pick up the pictures. For example, a family traveling on vacation might download the contents of their digital camera's memory card in a kiosk in Hawaii, then have printed photos waiting for them at their local drugstore when they return home. CPXe will be one of the first customer services to take advantage of much-hyped Web services technology, and it sounds like a great idea.
Retailer Circuit City has decided to clear out some shelf space by announcing that it will no longer stock movies on VHS tape. Instead, Circuit City plans to increase its collection of movies on DVD. The move is just the latest win for DVD, with rental chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video devoting an increasing amount of space to the format. Also, Netflix, an online DVD rental operation, just launched a large expansion of its service, with the opening of 10 distribution centers around the country. Don't throw out your VCR just yet; recordable DVD players are still pricey, but the usefulness of tape is fading. Repeat after us: Tape, bad. DVD, good.
The DVD-Audio format isn't as popular as some backers had hoped, so Warner Music Group has announced a price cut for audio discs in that format, which it hopes will level the playing field. All DVD-Audio discs in Warner's catalog will now cost the same price as their CD counterparts, meaning that DVD-Audio discs, which previously retailed for more than $25 apiece, will now be available for $18 or less. DVD-Audio discs have superior audio quality, often with support for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Other recording companies are expected to follow Warner's lead in the near future.
The US Copyright Office (USCO) has reached a decision about controversial fees for Web broadcasts, and neither side of the debate is very happy with the outcome. The USCO has decided to charge Web broadcasters 70 cents per song per 1000 listens, half the fee a government panel originally proposed in February. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA, also known in some circles as "Satan") believes the fees don't properly compensate artists for the use of their music. Web broadcasters argue that radio stations don't pay to play artists' music and that the fees will drive them out of business. The fees, which take effect in November, will no doubt require the emerging Web broadcasting industry to actually develop profitable business models to survive.
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)
Check out our latest Web seminar offerings from Windows & .NET Magazine. "Storage, Availability, and You," sponsored by VERITAS, will help you bring your Windows storage under control. "Easing the Migration: 15 Tips for Your Windows 2000 Journey" will help you plan and implement a successful Win2K migration. Find out more and register today!
Visit the Connected Home Virtual Tour and check out our summer feature on networking your home. Sign up for prize drawings, too, and you might win a free digital video recorder from SONICblue. Take the tour today!
4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Which mobile device do you find most useful?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 164 votes:
- 27% A laptop computer
- 26% A PDA
- 39% A cell phone
- 2% A digital audio player
- 5% I don't use mobile devices.
The next Quick Poll question is, "Are you interested in digital video?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, I have all the equipment to create awesome productions, b) Yes, but I'm just experimenting right now, c) Yes, but I need to learn more before I take the leap, d) No, I'll stick with VHS or VHS-C analog tape, or e) No, I miss 8mm film.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Just as moving great Macintosh-only technology to the PC is getting easier, so is moving some great PC-only technology to the Mac. You can use the PocketMac program to synchronize Microsoft Entourage X, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Apple Computer's Address Book on Mac OS X with most Pocket PC devices, and a Mac OS 9 version is on the way. PocketMac even supports wireless synchronization if you have an 802.11b adapter card for the PocketPC. The product costs about $50 or $70 for PocketMac Professional Edition. For more information, check out the PocketMac Web site.
Got a question or tip? Email [email protected] Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
A reader is exploring the possibility of creating an audio/video jukebox at home. He doesn't know whether creating such a jukebox is possible or whether the task would be worth the effort, and he wonders about similar systems that other Connected Home readers might have assembled. To see responses or to respond, visit the following URL:
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.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])
The Siemon Company announced the HomeNet II bundled cable, the most recent addition to the Siemon Home Cabling System line of residential, commercial, and industrial cabling systems. HomeNetII combines two Category 5e four-pair UTP cables and two RG6 Quad Shield coaxial cables. This simple configuration lets installers meet the TIA 570-A Grade 2 standard without needing to install individual cables. In one cable, HomeNet II supports all popular home applications, such as voice, T1, High-Definition Television (HDTV), cable TV, LAN, and satellite. For information about pricing, contact The Siemon Company at 860-945-4380 or on the Web.
Sys-Tech announced the RANGER V-Cam 4130, a 1.3 megapixel multipurpose digital camera. You can use the camera as a digital still camera, a video recorder, a voice recorder, and a Web camera. The RANGER V-Cam 4130 offers 16MB of memory; provides auto-flash and white balance; and includes MGI PhotoSuite III, MGI VideoWave III, Media Show, Security Guard, and NetMeeting software. The camera costs $279. For more information, contact Sys-Tech at (65) 6299-2933 or on the Web.
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 newsletter name in the subject line)
- TECHNICAL QUESTIONS — [email protected]
- PRODUCT NEWS — [email protected]
- QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR Connected Home EXPRESS SUBSCRIPTION?
Customer Support — [email protected]
- WANT TO SPONSOR Connected Home EXPRESS?
This email newsletter is brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine, the leading publication for Windows professionals who want to learn more and perform better. Subscribe today.
Receive the latest information about the Windows and .NET topics of your choice. Subscribe to our other FREE email newsletters.