Connected Home EXPRESS, September 3, 2003

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1. Getting Connected
- Taking Stock of the Digital Lifestyle

2. News and Views
- RIAA Reveals Piracy-Tracking Methods
- Start Me Up: RHAPSODY Beats iTunes to the Rolling Stones
- Memory Card Gets Faster, More Capacity
- New Linux PDA on the Way
- CEDIA Preview
- Teenager Arrested in MSBlaster Case
- Microsoft's High-Speed Wireless Devices to Include Xbox Adapter

3. Announcements
- Find Your Next Job at Our IT Career Center
- Discover Better Ways to Support and Secure Your Clients

4. Quick Poll
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Linux on the Desktop
- New Poll: Home Technology

5. Resource
- Tip: Go 802.11g for Wireless

6. Event
- New--Mobile & Wireless Road Show!

7. New and Improved
- On-Wall Speakers to Complement Flat-Screen Display
- 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: Taking Stock of the Digital Lifestyle ====
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]


In January 2001, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced his company's plans to embrace what he called the "digital lifestyle," in which digital devices such as cameras, portable audio, computers, and PDAs will enhance our lives. Days later, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs announced a similar initiative dubbed the "digital hub," in which the company's Macintosh computers form the foundation of a connected existence that encompasses the same devices and technologies Microsoft had just embraced. Talk is talk, of course, and at the time, how the computer industry would react to these two industry leaders was unclear.

Call it what you like--the digital lifestyle, the digital hub, or the connected home--but in the 2-and-a-half years since Gates and Jobs made their announcements, one fact is clear: Consumers have openly embraced the notion of taking computing to the next level by adding a slew of connected devices to the mix. And the market has responded. Major PC makers such as Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, and Sony have reorganized their entire companies--or at the very least their consumer product lines--around a product mix that extends far beyond the standard beige box. Today, these companies offer a wealth of devices, software, and services that can help customers get the most out of their PCs. Naturally, we embraced this trend long ago at Connected Home EXPRESS.

As is so often the case with technology, changes and improvements happen quickly, and as I do every several months, I thought I'd briefly take a step back and evaluate where things stand. I'm interested in knowing what you're doing with your computers, as well as in what you're confused about and in which topics you're most interested. So this week, I'd like to highlight some of the topics I'm working on for future articles and, if possible, get your feedback. I want Connected Home EXPRESS to be both valuable and informative. Here are some of the areas I'm exploring.

Digital Photography
A new generation of high-quality, low-cost, easy-to-use digital cameras is quickly making traditional photography obsolete, especially for consumers. I'm looking at several products that fall into this category, including image-management software from Adobe Systems, Microsoft, and others; photo-editing packages; photo scanners that include the ability to quickly scan multiple 3" x 5" and 4" x 6" prints; and photo printers.

Digital Music
Thanks to the sudden arrival of several commercial digital-download services, digital music is hotter than ever. I'm evaluating various hard disk-based portable audio devices, including the Apple iPod and Creative Labs' exciting new NOMAD Jukebox Zen NX, and various analog-to-digital audio-recording technologies.

Digital Video
Digital Video (DV) remains one of the most difficult digital-media technologies to master, but thanks to new low-cost USB 2.0-based and proprietary solutions, you can now easily convert older analog video sources such as wedding videos and other home movies to digital formats that are easy to share and store. I'm evaluating these devices, various software-transcoding technologies, and modern DVD-creation utilities to see which of these products meets your needs for your most precious memories. In addition, I'm looking at ways you can teleconference for free over the Internet by using low-cost WebCams and Instant Messaging (IM) applications.

Digital TV Convergence
Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) is set to take off this fall with a new version that offers exciting new features that will be available from a range of PC makers in a variety of form factors. But XP MCE isn't the only game in town: Companies such as SnapStream Media continue to innovate digital video recording (DVR) for other PC users, and dedicated hardware such as TiVo devices and other networked set-top boxes promise to extend the reach of your PC into the living room, offering you access to music, photos, and movies.

PC Technologies
Wide-screen LCD monitors are just starting to become available, although most of them are still pretty expensive. But after you've experienced a wide screen, you'll never again be satisfied with an old-fashioned 4:3 monitor. PC speakers and sound technologies have also improved dramatically, negating the need for high-end stereo equipment. For many people, a PC can be an all-in-one device, while others might choose to purchase a variety of non-PC devices to meet their needs; I'm evaluating both approaches.

Mobile Technologies
Inexpensive wide-screen notebook computers, Intel Centrino chipsets, USB memory fobs, and a slew of modern ports and technologies have made portable computers more useful than ever at home, at the dorm, and on the road. But notebooks aren't the only mobile devices worth considering. PDAs based on the Palm OS and Pocket PC 2003 are less expensive and easier to use than ever, and modern cell phones often offer features such as integrated cameras, IM-like chatting, and music playback. In today's world, you don't have to be disconnected just because you're not physically connected.

Home Networking
Powerline-based networking devices promise to offer fast networking speeds in places in which wireless capability is problematic, and newer wireless technologies such as 802.11g offer better security and much better performance than today's more common 802.11b-based products. I'm evaluating several 802.11g-based Access Points (APs) and wireless cards, various Powerline-based networking products, and Bluetooth to see which of these technologies should have a place in the connected home of the near future.

This list contains a lot of information, and I'm sure you're also interested in other topics. Let me know which topics you'd like me to discuss, and together we'll make the next several months of Connected Home EXPRESS the most exciting yet. Thanks for reading.

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

RIAA Reveals Piracy-Tracking Methods
In court filings this week, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) revealed how it tracks online music piracy. Primarily, the RIAA uses a library of digital fingerprints, which it calls hashes, to uniquely identify MP3 music files that people have traded on the Napster file-sharing service. The RIAA says that by examining files on users' computers, it can use these hashes to identify any songs that have been illegally traded on Napster. If the RIAA identifies any such songs, the individual who owns the computer they reside on is guilty of pirating music because the owner couldn't have legitimately recorded the songs. The RIAA also examines MP3 "metadata" tags, which are included with each song file; these tags often identify the person who originally recorded--or "ripped"--the song, and that person often isn't the same person on whose computer the RIAA found the files. And if you already thought the RIAA was evil, consider this: The group currently has filed more than 1300 subpoenas that require ISPs to turn over the names of people the RIAA believes are pirating music. And the RIAA is interested in finding a lot more: According to the group, each suit it brings against an individual could net $750 to $150,000 for each pirated song. And you thought CDs were expensive.

Start Me Up: RHAPSODY Beats iTunes to the Rolling Stones
Recently, members of the digital-download holdout group the Rolling Stones announced that for the first time they'll begin to offer their wide catalog of music for digital download. But that music won't be exclusive to Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store, as you might expect; instead, the music is first heading to RealNetworks' RealOne RHAPSODY service. The Rolling Stones name is one of the two biggest to be missing from the digital-download scene; the other, of course, is The Beatles. The Beatles were associated with Apple Music, which, not coincidentally, is mulling a lawsuit over Apple Computer's use of music naming and imagery associated with its iTunes Music Store. Apple Computer has had problems with Apple Music before: After agreeing in 1981 to never enter the music business, Apple Computer was forced to pay Apple Music more than $26 million in the late 1980s after the computer company started producing multimedia software. One can only imagine how nervous the iTunes Music Store is making Apple Music today.

Memory Card Gets Faster, More Capacity
The tiny memory cards that cell phones, digital cameras, portable audio devices, PDAs, and other devices use are getting smaller in size, larger in capacity, and faster in performance. This week, Sony revealed that its Memory Stick Duo card will support capacities as high as 512MB of data, up from 128MB on the previous Memory Stick card. Perhaps as important, the cards will also support transfer speeds fast enough for high-quality video. Naturally, Sony isn't alone in offering high-capacity cards. Cards based on the Secure Digital (SD) format, for example, are also now available in sizes as large as 512MB. Other popular portable-media formats include CompactFlash (CF), the MultiMediaCard, the Picture Card, SmartMedia, and the xD Picture Card.

New Linux PDA on the Way
The first Linux PDA did so well that Softfield Technology thought it would make another one. But who will the company sell this thing to? The six people who want a Linux PDA already own one. Anyway, this month, Softfield will follow up the lackluster release of the original Agenda VR3 with a new Linux PDA enticingly named the MX-7. (Just how lackluster was the Agenda VR3, you ask? The company that originally made the device, went out of business; Softfield picked up the product afterward.) The MX-7 will feature a 200MHz Motorola CPU, a 3.5" 320 x 240 TFT LCD screen, 32MB of flash ROM memory and 64MB of RAM memory, and a CompactFlash (CF) module, and will run on a version of Linux based on the 2.4.18 kernel, if you're into the geeky stuff. So why bother with Linux on a PDA? Honestly, we have no idea. PDAs based on the Palm OS are full-featured, work well, and cost next to nothing. No one needs a Linux PDA device.

CEDIA Preview
This week, the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association's (CEDIA) annual CEDIA Expo will occur in Indianapolis. CEDIA is targeted at integrators who build digital-media and home-networking products directly in customers' homes, and the show gives these people a chance to catch up on audio, video, home-automation, home-theater, security, and home-control products. The show is expected to attract more than 20,000 attendees, which is pretty amazing given the event's focus and the city in which it's held (no offense). Anyway, we'll be there to take it all in, and we'll have a full report available soon.

Teenager Arrested in MSBlaster Case
Last week, the FBI arrested an 18-year-old teenager for propagating a version of the MSBlaster worm that infected computers around the world. Described as "just a kid" who liked to "just sit around and joke like other kids," suspect Jeffrey Lee Parson is responsible for millions of dollars in damages and lost work and is one of the most malicious computer criminals ever caught. However, Parson didn't create the MSBlaster worm; he just released a slightly modified, albeit more damaging, version, leading some security experts to brand him as almost an imbecile. "\[What he did\] wasn't complex," Vincent Weafer, senior director of Symantec Security Response, said. "It doesn't take a huge amount of knowledge." Further tainting Parson's image is, well, his image. The 320-pound suspect didn't exactly cut a dashing figure when arrested, thanks to his half-dyed hair, metal-studded lip, and "Big Daddy" T-shirt. He also left the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) clue after clue in his code by repeatedly referring to "teekid," his online persona. "I guess we should praise the Lord for stupid people, right?" Nick Fitzgerald, a New Zealand-based security expert, asked.

Microsoft's High-Speed Wireless Devices to Include Xbox Adapter
Microsoft is expected to soon update its Broadband Networking products with a line of high-speed devices based on the faster 802.11g standard. Among those products, according to the company, is an Xbox wireless adapter that will let Xbox users play games wirelessly on Xbox Live over the Internet. The Xbox wireless adapter sports the same black-and-neon-green color scheme as the Xbox and uses the term "54Mbps" on its front to denote its speed. The device is expected to retail for about $100, according to sources.

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

Find Your Next Job at Our IT Career Center
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Discover Better Ways to Support and Secure Your Clients
Get the tools and techniques that you need to successfully manage client computers throughout an organization. Windows Client UPDATE, a weekly email newsletter from Windows & .NET Magazine, provides tips for remote management, profile management, single sign-on (SSO), registry modifications, and other administration tasks that will keep your users' systems running smoothly. Sign up for a free subscription at

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

Results of Last Week's Poll: Linux on the Desktop
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Do you have a Linux desktop machine running in your home?" Here are the results from the 215 votes:
- 35% Yes
- 20% No, but I plan to install Linux on a desktop machine
- 45% No, and I have no plans to install Linux

New Poll: Home Technology
The next Quick Poll question is, "In your opinion, what should be the hub of home technology?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Computer, b) TV or set-top box, c) Home gateway, d) Separate devices for specific functions, or e) Some combination of the above.

==== 5. Resource ====

Tip: Go 802.11g for Wireless
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

If you're thinking about getting into wireless networking, consider buying an 801.11g-based Access Point (AP) or router instead of a unit based on the slower 802.11b technology. This move makes sense for several good reasons. First, 802.11g units are now attractively priced and are rarely more expensive than 802.11b equivalents. Second, 802.11g is compatible with 802.11b, so if you already own 802.11b hardware, the new devices will work (albeit more slowly) with an 802.11g AP or router. Third, 802.11g products will natively support a much more secure wireless networking standard than is possible with 802.11b, and some products are already shipping with the newer technology. Dubbed WPA (for Wi-Fi Protected Access), 802.11G technology constantly changes the encryption key it uses to securely transfer wireless data, making it next to impossible for unauthorized people to bypass your network security and log on. 802.11g hardware is available from a variety of vendors, including Belkin, D-Link Systems, Linksys, and NETGEAR. I'll look at 802.11g hardware in a future issue of Connected Home EXPRESS.

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)

New--Mobile & Wireless Road Show!
Learn more about the wireless and mobility solutions that are available today! Register now for this free event!

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

On-Wall Speakers to Complement Flat-Screen Display
Paradigm Electronics announced an on-wall version of its Monitor Series loudspeakers. The speakers are ideal for use with wall-mounted plasma and LCD TVs and in environments in which space is at a premium. The Controlled WaveGuide chassis design promotes wide dispersion and maximally flat response across a large listening window. The 1" pure-titanium dome tweeter maximizes the clarity of upper harmonics. The on-wall Monitor series comprises the OW-Mini Monitor (bookshelf), the OW-Monitor 5 (bookshelf), and the OW-CC-370 (center channel) and costs $379 per pair, $569 per pair, and $369 each, respectively. For more information, contact Paradigm Electronics at 905-632-0180 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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