Connected Home EXPRESS, June 11, 2003

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Windows & .NET Magazine


1. Getting Connected
- Navigating the Data Avalanche

2. News and Views
- iTunes Music Store Sales Faltering
- The Sleeping Giant Casts Its Eye on Cable TV
- Pearl Jam Drops Record Company
- Sun Pushes Java ... for Games. Seriously.
- Court: Verizon Must Reveal Pirate Customers
- Palm Buys Handspring

3. Announcements
- Windows & .NET Magazine Connections: Fall Dates Announced
- Get Exclusive VIP Web Site Access!

4. Quick Poll
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Home Technology Hub
- New Poll: Digital Media Storage

5. Resource
- Tip: Get the Latest Sync Updates

6. Events
- Security 2003 Road Show

7. New and Improved
- Headphone Technology Goes Portable

8. Contact Us
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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==== 1. Getting Connected: Navigating the Data Avalanche ====
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]


Last weekend, I migrated my wife's PC from the aging Pentium III 866 processor she'd been using to my old Pentium 4 1.8GHz system, which I had recently abandoned for a newer 2.8GHz model. The job required some planning, and naturally I relied on some of the data synchronization and backup strategies we've been discussing in Connected Home EXPRESS the past several weeks. I'm happy to report that I got all my wife's applications and data successfully migrated with nary a hitch.

But before I start patting myself on the back, I should make an admission: My wife's computing needs are almost archaically simplistic. Her entire My Documents folder structure consumes less than 300MB and most of that is photos and music files I copied over to her system last year (files she probably never accesses). For applications, she uses only Microsoft Word, Outlook, Internet Explorer (IE), and Money, along with a few small utilities. Overall, the job was pretty simple.

For my system, the migration process was decidedly more painful. I can't even go on a road trip without making several DVD-based backups, and the My Documents folder structure on my system, which doesn't include any digital-media files, is larger than 19GB and growing daily. I also have literally hundreds of gigabytes of music, photo, and movie files on my system.

I suspect most people fall in a more typical medium between my wife and me when it comes to storage needs. But regardless of how many files you have to deal with or the total storage space allotted to those files, the process of finding the files you need is growing increasingly complex. With my particularly addled-brain system, I often know that I have a particular file somewhere but can't remember the name, let alone where I stored it--and that's just standard data files, such as text and Word documents. What happens when you throw digital-media files into the mix? On my Apple Computer iMac, Apple iTunes tells me I have more than 4560 songs that occupy more than 23GB of space; it would take 14.1 days to play through this entire collection, back to back, the program tells me. Add photos and video the mix, and my head starts spinning. How do I keep track of all this stuff?

That question is one that companies such as Apple and Microsoft are working on. Today, the current file-management system on Windows is almost untenable. On the Macintosh, it's a bit better. But if the approaches these companies are taking are any indication, finding information on our PCs is going to be a lot simpler in the future.

First, let's look at Windows. Today, Windows forces users to have a fairly intimate understanding of its dated, drive-letter-based file system. To make life a bit easier, Microsoft developed a My Documents-based file structure that includes special subfolders for photos and other digital images (My Pictures), digital audio and music (My Music), and digital movies (My Videos). If you want to stay organized, you work with documents and digital media files in these folders and only in these folders. But what happens when you save a file in IE or Word to a nonstandard location? You have to search, and this is where the Windows Search tool makes life just a bit bearable because it can search by content, not just filename. Nice.

On the Mac, Apple has worked to steer users away from the technical file-system approach and has created applications such as iTunes and Apple iPhoto that abstract the physical location in which files are stored. This approach is much simpler than Windows' approach. If you want to work with digital photos, just start iPhoto. Digital music? Run iTunes. But these applications don't just hide the file system. They also provide what I call a views-based interface to your digital media, and they both work the same way. Consider iTunes. In the default view, you see your entire music collection, sorted by some attribute (typically Artist, but you can choose others, such as Album, Genre, or My Rating). iTunes also supports something called playlists (called albums in iPhoto), which are filtered views of the wider library. For example, you can manually create playlists of your favorite songs, or iTunes can automatically create smart playlists populated by categories such as rating, artist name, or genre. iPhoto works in a similar manner.

This structure is important. Playlists and albums don't contain duplicates of the original source material; instead, they contain shortcuts to the originals, so no data duplication exists. What you're really doing is something database experts have been doing for years: You're working with one master list of information but filtering the list based on certain criteria. Furthermore, you can perform simple ad hoc queries on this data in iTunes by using the search box. So you might display a playlist of all Rock songs in iTunes, then type Van Halen in the search box to see only rock songs by Van Halen; this action doesn't permanently alter your playlists, any of your music, or the songs themselves. But you can now manage and listen to just those particular songs. Suddenly, the unmanageable is workable.

Going forward, Windows will adopt this views-based approach right in the OS and will drop drive letters, so files' physical locations won't matter. The next Windows release, code-named Longhorn and due in 2005, will include a new shell structure called a Library that will resemble a folder, but will instead automatically collect lists of particular file types from all over your system and give you a logical view of those files that abstracts their true locations. So the new Pictures & Videos Library will give you iTunes-like views of your multimedia data right in the file system, without forcing you to worry about physical file locations. And, yes, Longhorn will have a Filter box, right in the window, for performing ad hoc queries on the current view. So you'll be able to buy a new hard disk, start putting documents and digital media files on it, and Windows will find them no matter where they are, physically.

Of course, we're still 2 years out from Longhorn. In the meantime, people with large digital-media collections or massive amounts of documents have had to become experts in the Windows file system or risk losing data forever. One day we'll look back on this task with contempt, the same way that none of us could imagine going back to rotary telephones wired directly to the wall. I can't wait.

==== 2. News and Views ====
An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman

iTunes Music Store Sales Faltering
After an impressive first couple of weeks, Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store has settled back to reality, selling just half the number of songs each week that it sold when the store debuted. According to independent music label executives who met with Apple recently, sales at the online store have fallen to 500,000 downloads a week, down from 1 million to 2 million a week. Even 500,000 downloads a week isn't shabby, but the service is doomed to niche status until it's available to the 99 percent of the computer-using public who don't use Apple's Mac OS X.

The Sleeping Giant Casts Its Eye on Cable TV
This week, in its most recent bid to enter a huge market it can't possibly dominate, software giant Microsoft released Microsoft TV Foundation, software aimed at cable TV providers that want to deliver digital services and on-demand programming to subscribers. To date, Microsoft has had as much trouble selling its wares to the cable TV industry as it has to, well, the cell phone industry, but the company says this new version of the software actually addresses providers' needs, a fairly unique strategy.

Pearl Jam Drops Record Company
Rock band Pearl Jam says it has dropped its record label, an interesting turn of events if true. The band says it left Sony's Epic Records and has no plans to sign with another label. Instead, Pearl Jam will deal directly with its fans, as it did in the late 1990s when it sold "bootleg" live CDs directly from its Web site. The only problem with this scheme is that Pearl Jam has experienced decidedly waning CD sales over the years and hasn't generated a hit single since 1993. Confronted with a similar problem, former 10,000 Maniacs lead singer Natalie Merchant chose a similar no-label course in 2002. That strategy has certainly worked for Merchant. After all, she had a huge single last year with ... with ... hmm.

Sun Pushes Java ... for Games. Seriously.
This week at its annual JavaOne conference in San Francisco, Sun Microsystems will once again push its Java programming language as the obvious environment for every conceivable software solution. But this year's show will add a new wrinkle; Sun is now touting Java for its game-making prowess. This strategy is interesting because Java, which is an interpreted rather than truly compiled language, hasn't exactly been a speed champ, making it particularly unsuitable for games. But Sun says Java is great for non-PC devices such as mobile phones, and the company just might have a point. After all, who knows games better than Sun?

Court: Verizon Must Reveal Pirate Customers
Telecommunications giant Verizon has lost a court battle in which it sought to protect the identities of broadband customers who downloaded massive amounts of pirated music and then distributed that music online by using KaZaA and similar sources. "The Court of Appeals decision confirms our long-held position that music pirates must be held accountable for their actions and not be allowed to hide behind the company that provides their Internet service," said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and thus possibly the most hated man on earth. Verizon said it will appeal the District Court's ruling.

Palm Buys Handspring
PDA giant (oxymoron?) Palm has agreed to purchase competitor and Palm OS licensee Handspring in a stock swap valued at about $170 million. The interesting part of this story is that two of Palm's founders, including Palm PDA inventor Jeff Hawkins, ran Handspring. Hawkins and former Palm CEO Donna Dubinsky left Palm in 1997 to form Handspring because they were unhappy about the strategic direction the company was taking. Handspring started off well with its Visor handheld line but stumbled making a transition to smart cell phones such as its Treo products. Palm says the combined product line of Palm and Handspring will be an unbeatable combination.

==== 3. Announcements ====
(from Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

Windows & .NET Magazine Connections: Fall Dates Announced
Jump-start your fall 2003 training plans by securing your seat for Windows & .NET Magazine Connections Fall, scheduled for November 2 through 6, 2003, in Orlando, Florida. Register now to receive the lowest possible registration fee. Call 800-505-1201 or 203-268-3204 for more information.

Get Exclusive VIP Web Site Access!
The Windows & .NET Magazine VIP Site is a subscription-based online technical resource that's chock-full of problem-solving articles from all our publications. For a limited time, you can access this banner-free site at which you'll find exclusive content usually reserved for VIP Site members only. Only VIP subscribers can access this site after June 13, so check it out today!

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

Results of Last Week's Poll: Home Technology Hub
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "In your opinion, what should be the hub of home technology?" Here are the results from the 160 votes:
- 38% Computer
- 4% TV or set-top box
- 22% Home gateway
- 10% Separate devices for specific functions
- 26% Some combination of the above

New Poll: Digital Media Storage
The next Quick Poll question is, "Do you regularly store large amounts of digital media data?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes or b No.

==== 5. Resource ====

Tip: Get the Latest Sync Updates
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

In keeping with the recent Connected Home EXPRESS articles about data synchronization, Microsoft and Apple Computer have recently released updates to some of the tools those articles discussed. Microsoft has updated MSN 8 to MSN 8.5, which includes a newly integrated version of IntelliSync for MSN that lets MSN subscribers synchronize data between MSN, Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and Palm and Pocket PC devices. Apple has also significantly updated its Apple iSync application in version 1.1 with support for new phones and devices and has released a new version of its iSync Conduit for Palm devices.

MSN 8.5

Apple iSync 1.1

Apple iSync 1.1 Palm Conduit

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

==== 6. Events ====
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

Security 2003 Road Show
Join Mark Minasi and Paul Thurrott as they deliver sound security advice at our popular Security 2003 Road Show event.

==== 7. New and Improved ====
by Jason Bovberg, [email protected]

Headphone Technology Goes Portable
Dolby Laboratories announced the portability of its Dolby Headphone technology, which lets you enjoy the surround effects of a 5.1-channel soundtrack through any set of headphones. You can now enjoy the technology on such gaming platforms as the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Xbox, as well as on laptop computers, PC-based software DVD player applications, home audio/visual components, and wireless headphone products. For more information, contact Dolby Laboratories on the Web.

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

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