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May 22, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Digital Strategies, Part 1: Digital Photography
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Apple Bumps Up iBook
- GameCube Spanking Xbox
- Nintendo Lowers GameCube Price
- Microsoft Hopes to Bolster Xbox with Online Gaming
- SONICblue Doesn't Have to Spy on Customers ... For Now
- Win a Free $200 Gift Certificate to RoadWired.com!
- SQL Server Magazine—Get Your Free Preview Issue
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Xbox's Future
- New Poll: Digital Photography
- Tip: For Video Recording, Balance Compression and Quality
- Featured Thread: Remote Control Devices
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Capture Video Images with Your Camera
- Distribute IP-Based Interactive TV
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
I spend each day surrounded by computers and computing devices, a result of my work-from-home lifestyle. And although friends and family often express amazement at what home computers can do these days, I also need to remind myself occasionally that some of the technologies I take for granted are just way outside the norm for many people. With this observation in mind, I'm beginning a 3-week overview of the three main digital-media experiences—digital photography, digital music, and digital video—and I'll examine why and how you might want to upgrade your life to this digital "nerdvana."
I'm covering digital photography first because so many people love to take pictures and share them with others. Also, photographs serve an important role in documenting our memories and histories, and nothing can bring a smile to your face more quickly than seeing, once again, that perfect photo.
Digital photography has two aspects you need to consider. The first is the wealth of photos you might have already taken on film, and the second is a strategy for future photo-taking.
Moving Your Photo Collection Forward
Sadly, moving an existing collection of traditional photos to a digital format will be time-intensive and possibly expensive. For example, you could scan each photo manually, but that process could occupy the rest of your life if you have many photos. The process also might yield unsatisfactory results because most photos are in 3" x 5" or 4" x 6" formats, and scanners don't have adequate resolution to produce high-quality digital images from small prints. You could have a photo service convert the negatives to a photo CD or other digital format, but this option could be very expensive.
My advice is to choose only your most important photos for conversion to digital format by using either a scanner or a photo service. If you intend to create large prints of your photos at a later date, the photo-service is your better option. But if you just want to post photos on the Web, scanning them is inexpensive and effective. Whichever method you select, the conversion process will likely convince you that you eventually need to walk away from traditional photography and embrace digital photography (unless of course you're a professional photographer, in which case a different strategy might apply).
Migrating to Digital Photography
Digital photography's benefits are enormous; for a thorough discussion of those benefits, visit the URLs at the end of this article. After you decide to switch to digital, you need to create a migration strategy. Your first step is to convert important parts of your existing photo library to digital form. Then, you need to consider the following factors:
Digital camera. These days, you'll want a camera that's capable of 3 megapixels or better resolution, which gives you the capability to print photos up to 11" x 17". In-camera storage is crucial, and storage is also cheaper than it ever was. Look for a SmartMediaor SecureDigital-compatible camera, and think about purchasing at least two memory cards with capacities of 128MB or more to ensure that you have enough storage space when you take photos during vacations or road trips.
Storage and backup space. Digital pictures don't take up as much storage space as digital video or music, but they still require a considerable amount of storage and a backup plan. I recommend dedicating a hard disk to digital media and backing up regularly to a recordable CD or DVD. Don't begin working with digital photography until you have a backup plan: If the hard disk crashes, your photos are gone forever. Implicit in this step is an understanding that because digital photos exist on your hard disk, you need to manage them in some way. You need to know where your photos are, how much space they occupy, and how frequently you must back them up.
PC vs. Macintosh. Because of its digital hub strategy, Apple makes a compelling case for choosing a Mac these days, and the company's free iPhoto software is excellent. However, I caution against picking a Mac unless you're positive that you'll be well served by its more limited availability, software selection, expansion capabilities, and performance when compared with new PCs. Windows XP, the latest Microsoft OS, also includes excellent free photo software, and a future add-on, code-named Freestyle, makes the digital photo experience on PCs even better. No matter which computer you choose, be sure that you're using the latest OS if you want to get into digital media; the latest OSs are Mac OS X on the Mac and Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional Edition on the PC.
Print solution. Both methods of printing digital photos—local printing and online printing—offer various benefits and trade-offs. For local printing, you can purchase a fairly inexpensive (i.e., $100 to $300) ink jet printer that prints photographic-quality prints in a variety of sizes; this option might be viable if you don't plan to print too many photos. If you print a lot of photos, the materials—ink and paper—can get expensive. I think most people are better served by online photo printing services such as Ofoto, which let you upload images to their servers. These services then mail back true photographs, often on Kodak paper, and the print quality will astound you.
Online sharing. You can share digital images with friends and family through email or a Web site. You probably already have an email account or personal Web site available to you through your ISP. (For information about how to host your own Web site, see Tony Northrup, "Hosting a Web Site from Your Home," http://www.connectedhomemag.com/homeoffice/articles/index.cfm?articleid=24756 .) And online photo services (such as Ofoto) let you give friends and family password-protected access to online photo albums.
Begin Your Photo Conversion
After you map out your digital photography strategy, start reading comparisons of digital cameras, memory cards, scanners, hard disks, PCs, and other components you might need in "Consumer Reports" or on Web sites such as Shopper.com to make sure you're getting high-quality equipment at the right price. Experiment with a digital camera, if possible, comparing the quality of its prints with those obtained with a traditional point-and-click camera. But most important, have fun. Digital photography is a blast, and the ability to immediately share photos online with friends and family makes this digital media task an obvious place to start your conversion to a digital lifestyle.
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's news stories, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Apple bumped up its popular iBook consumer notebook products this week with faster processors, larger hard disks, and better video capabilities. Apple is now shipping two 12" models and two 14" models; the lower-end versions include a 600MHz processor and CD-ROM drive, and the higher-end units get a 700MHz processor and DVD/CD-RW combination drive. Apple's iMac gets all the press, but the iBook is the cool Macintosh right now, even though it's the only Mac product to still use the old G3 processor instead of the newer G4 that other Apple machines use. Apple iBook prices range from about $1200 to $1800 for a high-end model.
Nintendo announced this week that it has sold more than 4.5 million GameCube video-game consoles since November, which means that GameCube has overtaken the Microsoft Xbox as the second most popular video-game platform behind Sony's PlayStation 2. Nintendo has also sold more than 2.5 million copies of Super Smash Bros., the best-selling GameCube title. You know, maybe Nintendo is on to something: The company targets children, rather than adults, and uses lower-end hardware than its Microsoft rival.
Speaking of the GameCube, Nintendo also decided to match recent Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2 price cuts by lowering the price of its system to $150. This move makes Nintendo's offering $50 cheaper than either Xbox or PlayStation 2, which recently dropped in price from $300 to $200. Where will the madness end? Probably in our living rooms: At these prices, how can we resist?
Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are racing to launch online gaming services for their GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox consoles, respectively, but only Microsoft built in online gaming capability to its product from the start. Xbox Live, the company's online gaming service, will launch this fall, the company says, offering Xbox users an "online Disneyland" complete with willing competitors, more networking capacity than Microsoft's Web site (one of the most heavily trafficked sites on the Web), and a $10 monthly fee. And someone said the software subscription model would never work.
From the News of the Weird files: SONICblue, the maker of the Replay line of digital video recording (DVR) devices, was granted a stay in its request to reverse a court order that would have required the company to monitor its users' TV viewing habits. The order came about because a group of entertainment super-companies—including AOL Time Warner, MGM, Disney, ABC, CBS, and NBC—sued SONICblue for copyright infringement over a ReplayTV feature that lets SONICblue customers exchange recorded shows. SONICblue says the order amounts to privacy invasion, and the company has until June 3 to work up an argument for reversing the order. Unbelievable.
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)
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4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "What do you think the status of the Microsoft Xbox gaming console will be a year from now?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 224 votes:
19% Xbox will be dead 13% Xbox will be a gateway to residential entertainment devices 45% Xbox will be one of several viable gaming options 23% Don't know or don't care
The next Quick Poll question is, "Have you embraced digital photography?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes—I use only a digital camera, b) Yes, but I use both digital and film cameras, c) No, but I'm interested in getting a digital camera, or d) No—I'll never give up my film camera for a digital camera.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
If you try to record your old home movies or new digital camcorder movies onto your PC, you'll immediately run into a disk-space problem. At so-called DVD-quality—720 x 480 full-frame rate—video takes up a lot of space. Your options are few: You could purchase hard disks in bulk—an expensive proposition at best—or look into compressed video formats that sacrifice a little video quality in order to save copious amounts of disk space. On the Macintosh (Mac OS 9 or OS X), you can choose Sorenson Media's Sorenson Video 3 compression when exporting Apple's QuickTime movies. Windows XP users can use Windows Media Video (WMV) 8.0, which offers excellent-quality video with high compression. On either platform, you need to experiment with the built-in video export tools a bit before committing your video library to the hard disk.
Got a question or tip? Email [email protected]. Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
Phil has a VCR, a DVD player, two TVs, and a stereo system, and he's considering a full home theater system. He's looking for a remote control device that will work for all of his equipment, and he wonders whether anyone has suggestions. To see responses or to lend a helping hand, 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
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
Nikon released the Coolpix 5000, a digital camera that features a 5.24 megapixel charge-coupled device (CCD), 3x Optical Zoom-Nikkor lens, a top shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second, and shooting speed of as much as 3 frames per second (fps) at full resolution. The camera also features a 1.8" LCD monitor, a Macro shooting mode to capture images as close as 3/4", and a movie mode that shoots as much as 40 seconds of video with audio. The Coolpix 5000 costs $1099.95. For more information, contact Nikon at 800-645-6687 or on the Web.
Pace Micro Technology introduced the IP500 IPTV digital home gateway, a series of products that enable multichannel video, video on demand, pay-per-view, and a range of interactive services. In addition to enabling the delivery of high-quality video and interactive TV services over existing IP networks, the IP500 supports new streaming protocols that address limited-bandwidth problems. The IP500's architecture supports IP-based interactive TV distribution systems regardless of medium (e.g., cable, satellite, fiber to the home). For information about pricing, contact Pace Micro Technology at (44) 1274-532000 or on the Web.
7. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
(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?
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