Connected Home EXPRESS--November 12, 2003

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1. Getting Connected

- Organizing Photos for Non-Dummies, Part 1

2. News and Views - TiVo Hits 1 Million Milestone

- FCC Adopts Copyright Protection for HDTV

- Media2Go Named and Delayed

- IBM to Power Next Xbox

- Nintendo GameCube Isn't Dead Yet

- Digital-Music Service Growth Continues

3. Announcements

- We've Added 3 New Web Seminars

- Have You Seen Connected Home Media Online Lately?

4. Quick Poll

- Results of Previous Poll: Home Theater Location

- New Poll: How Many DVDs Do You Own?

5. Resource

- Tip: Use Computer Power

6. Event

- Check Out 4 New Upcoming Web Seminars

7. New and Improved

- User-Friendly Movie Editing

- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

8. 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]

Organizing Photos for Non-Dummies, Part 1

Two years ago, Microsoft shipped Windows XP with an enhanced and more integrated My Pictures folder, the aim of which was to make organizing digital photos and other images easier than ever before. Microsoft's excellent new Scanner and Camera Wizard--which appears whenever you attach a scanner, digital camera, or image-filled storage device to your PC--uses the My Pictures by default, giving users of that system a central location for their photos and other digital images. Also, XP's Image Preview application simplifies viewing images and making minor edits.

However, XP isn't perfect, and the My Pictures folder, as part of the file system, can be a bit abstract and technical for many users--especially beginners. Recognizing the growing number of digital-camera users, many third-party application developers have recently begun working on ways for users to easily manage and edit their digital photos. Photo-editing applications such as Adobe Systems' Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Picture It! have been around for years, but a more recent development is a new generation of photo-management applications that often work in concert with their editing siblings. This time, I start a two-part look at three recently updated products and see how they compare to one another.

First, note that Mac OS X users already have an excellent photo-management application on their systems. In many ways, Apple Computer's iPhoto--which comes free with every new Macintosh--is the prototypical photo-management software. iPhoto offers management functionality and basic editing (e.g., red-eye removal, brightness and contrast adjustment), along with printing and Internet-based photo-book creation. It's an attractive application, although it doesn't perform well with large image libraries.

Until recently, we haven't had a decent iPhoto equivalent on the PC. However, the situation improved with the release of Adobe Photoshop Album earlier this year. Since Adobe first released this application, the company has upgraded it significantly in version 2.0, which is now available. Like any good photo-management application, PhotoShop Album 2.0 lets you use standard folder views to organize your photos. But Adobe also introduces a unique "tagging" system that lets you apply topic tags such as people, places, and events. By tagging your photos, you can organize them in various ways. For example, if you want to view only photos of your family's vacations, you might create tags called Family and Vacations, then choose to view just those photos. The feature works well, but of course it requires that you actually tag the photos as you import them into your photo library. And, yes, you can apply multiple tags to each photo, if necessary.

Photoshop Album also offers a cool Calendar View that lets you use a monthly calendar to search for photos by date. On each day of the month for which you have pictures, a thumbnail of one of the photos appears. The effect is fun and visually stimulating, and this view lets you easily find photos for particular events. Complementing the Calendar View is a time line that runs across the top of the Photoshop Album window, divided horizontally into years and months. Each month that contains photos displays a small bar graph, the height of which depends on the number of photos you've taken for that month. These views make Photoshop Album a versatile tool for quickly finding pictures.

For editing purposes, Photoshop Album features a Fix Photo tool that lets you fix lighting, adjust color, sharpen, crop, reduce red eye, and apply filters such as black-and-white and sepia. The graphically challenged can use the handy Auto Fix tool. For more complicated needs, Adobe integrates Photoshop Album with Photoshop Elements 2.0, which is excellent, if overpowered, for most consumers. (You can purchase both products together in the creatively titled bundle Photoshop Elements 2.0 Plus Photoshop Album 2.0 at a special low price.)

I highly recommend Photoshop Album. The only missing feature I'd like to see included is image batching. Photoshop Album doesn't, for example, offer a way to easily resize a folder full of photos. For this functionality, I still use Photoshop Elements 2.0.

Microsoft doesn't sell a standalone photo-management tool, but the company does sell Digital Image Suite 9.0, which bundles a new product called Digital Image Library 9.0 with a new image-editing application, Digital Image Pro 9.0. You can buy Digital Image Pro 9.0 separately, but the only way to get Digital Image Library is in the bundle.

The bundle is worth your consideration, particularly if you're comfortable with the folder-based approach Microsoft started with My Pictures. By default, Digital Image Library uses Folder View navigation, although you can also sort by date or keyword--the latter of which is similar to, if less graphical than, Adobe's tagging feature. Microsoft's product seems more powerful, however, and as a result is more technical in nature. Within any view style, for example, you can sort photos by a number of criteria, such as Date Taken, Event, and File Size, giving the application a database-like feel. The software also lets you rate pictures, much like Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 Series lets you rate songs, another database-like feature.

I'm out of space. Next time, I'll finish my photo-management software roundup and declare a winner.

==== 2. News and Views ====

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

TiVo Hits 1 Million Milestone

After 5 years, digital video recording (DVR) company TiVo has finally reached 1 million subscribers. TiVo was one of the first companies to release DVR devices, which permit seamless hard disk-based TV recording and the ability to pause live TV. Over the past few years, the technology has seen improvements (e.g., the addition of multimedia features such as photo viewing), but high prices and poor marketing have led to slow growth. TiVo faces competition throughout the industry, from software giant Microsoft to individual cable companies. The company hopes the milestone will help it survive. TiVo isn't alone at the 1 million subscriber mark for DVR devices; satellite provider EchoStar Communications, owner of DISH Network, announced earlier this year that it hit the same subscriber mark, thanks to its promotion of free DVR devices to new subscribers.

FCC Adopts Copyright Protection for HDTV

Next-generation DVRs will have a new FCC-adopted antipiracy technology to worry about. To protect High-Definition Television (HDTV) content, the FCC has approved new copyright protection that Hollywood studios have proposed. The new copyright protection will be mandatory by July 1, 2006. This so-called "broadcast flag" protection will require all digital TVs to recognize and respect the setting. The "broadcast flag" will let content providers prevent users from copying TV content in ways that the provider doesn't approve. The FCC will have to endorse any new digital TV recorders before they go to market. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is one of many groups that oppose the new ruling. The group warned that the new technology will stymie innovation, fair use, and competition, as well as increase the cost of digital TV products. Hollywood proposed the copyright protection to prevent the sharing of high-quality HDTV recordings on the Internet. If content providers don't abuse the technology to prevent fair use, the protection could be helpful for consumers: Studios might release content that, because of piracy fears, they might not have otherwise made available. However, we're not fans of increased costs and limits to our freedoms. We hope Hollywood doesn't abuse this new technology.

Media2Go Named and Delayed

Would you like to take all your digital media with you? If you were looking forward to new devices that use the Microsoft Media2Go platform, which the company announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, you'll have to wait. Microsoft expected its hardware partners to ship devices based on the technology this year, but now the company won't release it until the second half of 2004. Microsoft has announced that it will call the platform Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers. The platform is based on Windows CE .NET and is essentially a portable version of Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE). Consumers will be able to display digital video, digital music, digital photos, and recorded TV shows on portable devices that run the software. Think of Portal Media Centers as "video iPods." Portable Media Centers will be available from companies such as Creative Technology, iRiver, Samsung, SANYO, and ViewSonic.

IBM to Power Next Xbox

IBM will be the brains behind not only the next Sony PlayStation video game console but also Microsoft's next Xbox. IBM and Microsoft have signed an agreement that lets Microsoft use IBM semiconductor-processor technology in future Xbox products and services. Few details are available about this development, except that Xbox's CPU will be based on IBM's "family of state-of-the-art processors." Similar to Microsoft's agreement with ATI for graphics technology in the next Xbox, the new agreement doesn't include manufacturing. Microsoft will need to find other companies to build the components that make up the next video game console. Microsoft will probably be actively involved in designing chip technology that integrates ATI and IBM's technology. Whether and how Microsoft will offer support for first-generation Xbox games on its next console remains unclear. The current Xbox uses an Intel x86 processor and graphics technology from ATI's competitor, NVIDIA.

Nintendo GameCube Isn't Dead Yet

We're unsure what Nintendo will do with its next console, but a recent price drop for its GameCube video game console has breathed life into the dying system. The new $99 price has produced a dramatic increase in sales for the console. Last month, GameCube outsold Microsoft Xbox, grabbing 37 percent of all video game console sales, compared with just 21 percent for the Xbox. Sony PlayStation 2 still holds the top spot with 42 percent. Many game companies and analysts considered the video game console war a two-company battle, but the resurgent GameCube will require many game makers to reconsider their decision not to support the GameCube.

Digital-Music Service Growth Continues

Everyone wants to get into the suddenly popular pay-for-digital-music craze. Cable giant Comcast has announced plans to distribute RealNetworks' RHAPSODY music service. Comcast will promote the services with an aggressive marketing campaign that includes TV commercials. This distribution agreement joins an already crowded field of digital-music services. Other entries include the newly launched MusicNow online store, cobranded with retail giant Best Buy, that will sell song downloads for 99 cents per song and offer unlimited music streams for $9.95 per month. Recently relaunched Napster announced a deal with Pennsylvania State University to give students discounted access to the music service. Napster 2.0, which sells digital music, might not be off to the great start that owner Roxio hoped. Apple Computer announced that its iTunes Music Store outsold Napster 2.0 five to one during Napster 2.0's first week of operation. Apple reported sales of 1.5 million songs from its store, whereas Napster 2.0 posted sales of 300,000 songs. Clearly, the era of legal digital music is upon us. Let the best consumer offering win.

==== 3. Announcements ====

(from Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

We've Added 3 New Web Seminars

You won't want to miss our latest free Web seminars: Understanding the Identity Management Roadmap and How it Fits with Your Microsoft Infrastructure, Assessing IM Risks on Your Network, and Five Keys to Choosing the Right Patch Management Solution. Register today for these informative and timely Web events!

Have You Seen Connected Home Media Online Lately?

If you haven't visited the Connected Home Media Web site recently, you'll want to check out our new look today. Connected Home online features how-to articles to help you connect, install, and optimize all the equipment, gadgets, and components in your life. Check it out!

==== 4. Quick Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll: Home Theater Location

The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Do you have a home theater?" Here are the results from the 240 votes:

- 50% Yes, in my living room

- 3% Yes, in my bedroom

- 20% Yes, in a dedicated room

- 27% No

New Poll: How Many DVDs Do You Own?

The next Quick Poll question is, "How many DVDs do you own?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Fewer than 50, b) Between 50 and 100, c) Between 100 and 300, d) Between 300 and 500, or e) More than 500.

==== 5. Resource ====

Tip: Use Computer Power

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

With the proliferation of portable digital devices--including PDAs, Apple Computer iPods, cell phones, and rechargeable digital cameras--we're also seeing an uncomfortable upswing in the number of power cables to sort through. If plug space is a problem, consider PC-charging options. You can charge many digital devices through a PC's USB or FireWire port. For example, you can charge many Palm and Pocket PC devices, iPods, and cell phones through an available port on your PC. This functionality is particularly valuable for travelers, because USB- and FireWire-based charging cables often take up less space in your bag than the traditional power-supply bricks.

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

==== 6. Event ====

(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

Check Out 4 New Upcoming Web Seminars

Sign up today for these upcoming Web seminars: Access Control for the Web (NEW!), Assess IM Risks on Your Network, Five Keys to Choosing the Right Patch Management Solution, and The Secret Costs of Spam ... What You Don't Know Can Hurt You. Don't miss these free events!

==== 7. New and Improved ====

by Jason Bovberg, [email protected]

User-Friendly Movie Editing

MAGIX announced MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 2004, home-video editing software that lets you turn your home movies into professional-looking video presentations. MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 2004 provides 1400 special effects and templates, lets you create personalized soundtracks and perform multitrack editing, and provides the ability to burn movies onto DVDs and CDs. Targeted at the first-time user, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 2004 offers easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality alongside premium features such as automatic scene detection, multiscene overview, 16-track stereo time line edit modes, and real-time video and transition effects. MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 2004 costs $99.99 and includes a special rebate offer for users of competitive products. For more information, contact MAGIX at 888-866-2449 or on the Web.

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Tell us about the product, and we'll send you a Windows & .NET Magazine T-shirt if we write about the product in a future Windows & .NET Magazine What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions with information about how the product has helped you to [email protected]

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==== 8. Contact Us ====

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