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.
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September 4, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- A-Blogging We Will Go
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Convergence Fever Hits Consumer Electronics Market
- RIAA Goes Offline
- RIAA Blames Downloads for CD Sales Decline; We Blame Lack of Quality Music
- Europe Console Price Wars Erupt
- Palm Sued for Understating the Colors of Life
- Mark Minasi and Paul Thurrott Are Bringing Their Security Expertise to You!
- Are You Running Windows & UNIX?
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Digital Audio Books
- New Poll: Using Blogs
- Tip: Bluetooth Is for Devices, Not Networking
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Outdoor Loudspeakers
- Thumb-Board for Samsung Phone
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. GETTING CONNECTED
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
When Netscape first popularized the Web in the mid-1990s, the Web offered people a way to self-publish information of any kind in an unprecedented way. Web users responded accordingly by creating an amazing array of Web sites dedicated to everything from their love lives to far more technical topics.
The problem, however, is that Web self-publishing still requires a needless amount of technical sophistication and proficiency in HTML coding. To counter this difficulty, companies including Microsoft have developed friendly Web-page-creation tools—such as Microsoft FrontPage—that largely shield users from coding HTML.
But even if you've mastered HTML, you'll face other hurdles when you attempt to publish information on the Web. You must learn about and understand server operations, such as the type of server you're accessing, which services it offers, and how to access it. Depending on your Internet provider, you might get a free Web site or you might not. You might be forced to pay for Web site hosting, too, which can be expensive. If you're simply interested in self-publishing (especially in a noncommercial sense), the Web has largely been an empty promise—interesting, but still untenable even after several years of refinements.
Enter the Web log or "blog," as it's more affectionately known. Designed to be the online equivalent of a journal or diary, blogs are all the rage on the Web these days, thanks to companies such as Pyra that offer free hosting, attractive design templates, and no HTML learning curve (although people who are familiar with HTML can edit their sites' designs—a nice feature). Blogs can be anything—a daily diary of events in your life; a dated set of information about technical topics; or even a family Web site, complete with pictures of your latest vacation. When it comes to self-publishing on the Web, nothing is as inexpensive, easy to use, and full of promise as blogging (the activity of editing a blog).
Many bloggers—people who blog—engage in an activity called blogrolling, which involves linking to interesting blurbs in other people's blogs. This blogrolling often evolves into a series of interconnected cross-links; you can start reading one person's blog, jump to a link elsewhere, and be off, racing across the Web, going from blog to blog and topic to topic. Blogrolling has created a sense of community for bloggers and an engaging way to spend time, reading about other people's personal experiences and interests.
Blogs can also take different forms. The most popular type of blog consists of short blurbs about a particular topic, generally with a link to another site. For example, a blog author might make comments about the latest news, then link to an article on a major news Web site. These blogs are generally updated quite often, sometimes several times a day. Other blogs consist of long essays and are updated less often, usually once a week or every few days. Many blogs stick to a particular topic. For example, some of the people who develop the open-source Mozilla Web browser contribute to blogs that describe bugs and UI concerns. On the other side of the interest chart, amateur photography blogs are also quite popular. And, naturally, blogs can mix and match styles. That's the point: It's your blog, so do what you want.
After months of testing various blog interfaces, I recommend Pyra's Blogger. A free version is available in addition to a paid service, which has more features (other blog resources are listed below). Blogger will host your blog for free, which is the easiest route, or you can have Blogger redirect people to your own Web site if you're a more advanced user. Blogger's interface is entirely Web-based and easy to use; most people simply write their blogs directly into the company's Web forms, hit a publish button, and watch their creations instantaneously appear online by using a premade template. This type of self-publishing, with a real community of people and a way to reach readers with similar interests, wasn't possible before. If you've ever considered Web publishing but were put off by cost or technical concerns, or you're simply interested in maintaining an online journal, blogging is a great way to go.
Other Blog Resources
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Consumer-electronics product makers DENON Electronics and Marantz want to enter the nascent consumer-electronics and PC convergence market. The companies recently signed a deal with Mediabolic, a software company that develops programs to link devices such as TVs and stereos to PCs so that consumers can share digital music and video content. The companies plan to include the software in future high-end stereo products. Marantz and DENON aren't alone in the convergence market: Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Philips have licensed Mediabolic software, and Microsoft plans to release software later this year called Windows XP Media Center Edition, which will help PC manufacturers build PCs with consumer electronics and PC features.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) doesn't seem to have many friends these days. For the third time in a month, someone attacked RIAA's Web site and modified it to display content that the association would never approve of. Intruders changed the RIAA site so that it displayed messages in support of Internet file sharing and links to downloadable music. Earlier, the RIAA site went offline for almost 4 days after it experienced a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. Maybe the RIAA needs to wake up to the fact that its attempts to strip people's personal freedoms clearly aren't appreciated.
Last week, the RIAA released statistics that show a drop of 7 percent in music CD sales for the first 6 months of this year, compared to a loss of 5.3 percent in the same period last year. This most recent loss represents a decrease from $5.93 billion in sales for the first half of 2001 to a paltry $5.53 billion in the first half of 2002. According to a survey (conducted on RIAA's behalf) of consumers between the ages of 12 and 54, customers are downloading more music and buying fewer CDs as a result. Although the RIAA blames the drop in sales on file-sharing programs such as StreamCast Networks' Morpheus, we're going to stick with what anyone who has recently turned on the radio can tell you: The quality of today's music is horrible. Maybe it's time to stop producing cookie-cutter teen bands.
Gamers in Europe will soon benefit from video-game price cuts from Microsoft and Sony. The companies both announced, almost simultaneously, that they're slashing the prices of their consoles from 299 Euros (about $294) to 249 Euros (about $245). In Britain, the Xbox will sell for 159.99 pounds (about $247), and the PlayStation 2 will sell for 169.99 pounds (about $263). Nintendo has no plans to reduce the price of its Nintendo GameCube console from its current price of 199 Euros (about $196), however. The three companies are battling for market share, although Sony is far ahead of the others with an estimated 33 million PlayStation 2 consoles sold worldwide. Microsoft has sold 3.9 million Xboxes worldwide, and Nintendo is expected to release sales figures soon.
In a follow-up to a story in last week's Connected Home EXPRESS News and Views, a California law firm has filed a consumer class-action lawsuit against Palm for "unfair competition, and fraudulent, unfair, deceptive, and false advertising." The lawsuit is in response to Palm admitting that its Palm m130 device supports only 58,621 color combinations, not the 65,000 colors the company previously advertised. Palm responded to the suit by disclosing that it's working on a plan to compensate customers but doesn't plan to replace the device, which the company says isn't defective. A similar mistake 2 years ago resulted in HP offering its HP Jornada customers refunds. With all the recent corporate accounting scandals, the Palm lawsuit might not seem to be a big deal, but deception is deception: You can't advertise that a product has certain capabilities if it really doesn't have those capabilities.
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)
Windows & .NET Magazine Network Road Show 2002 is coming this October to New York, Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco! Industry experts Mark Minasi and Paul Thurrott will show you how to shore up your system's security and what desktop security features are planned for Microsoft .NET and beyond. Sponsored by NetIQ, Microsoft, and Trend Micro. Registration is free, but space is limited so sign up now!
Catch our "UNIX and Windows: The Road to Integration" Web seminar and figure out how to make them work together—peacefully. Learn more about basic UNIX and Windows 2000 integration, including how to make multiple DNS structures coexist, how to run the applications you want on the platform you want, and much more. There's no charge for this online event, but space is limited, so register now at
4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Have you used audio books in digital format?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 85 votes:
- 38% Yes
- 40% No, but I'm interested
- 22% No, and I'm not interested
The next Quick Poll question is, "Have you used blogs (Web logs)?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, I use blogs regularly, b Yes, but only occasionally, c) No, but I'm interested, d) No, and I'm not interested, or e) What in the world is a blog?.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
You might have heard about an emerging wireless standard called Bluetooth, which is designed to wirelessly connect devices to your PC or Macintosh. Unlike Wi-Fi, the 802.11b wireless standard, and similar technologies, however, Bluetooth isn't about networking and PC-to-PC connectivity. Instead, Bluetooth lets you wirelessly work with an upcoming selection of mice, keyboards, PDAs, printers, and similar devices. Bluetooth devices must all be within several feet of a Bluetooth hub, which will someday be built into PC and Mac computers as standard equipment. Until then, hardware makers will offer Bluetooth adapters, most of which plug into a standard USB port. Microsoft will release Bluetooth keyboards and mice this fall, and other companies, such as D-Link Systems, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Palm, are also working to integrate Bluetooth technologies into their products.
Got a question or tip? Email [email protected]. Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.P>
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])
Custom Audio Manufacturing of Maine (CAMM) announced a new line of Terra All Climate Series loudspeakers. The AC Series includes four models: the AC.15, the AC.15XT, the AC.16, and the AC.16XT. The XT models feature a marine-grade watertight connector and a built-in transformer that facilitates installation in distributed audio systems. For information about pricing, contact CAMM at 207-375-4236 or on the Web.
TT Tech announced the T121 SnapNType thumb-board, the latest addition to the company's SnapNType thumb-board series for mobile computing. The T121 is designed for Samsung's SPH-I300 Palm Powered phone. The thumb-board snaps onto the bottom of the SPH-I300, replacing the Graffiti input with a convenient standard QWERTY keyboard. The T121 costs $59.95. For more information, contact TT Tech at 852-2947-7031 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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