Connected Home EXPRESS
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April 30, 2003--In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Sync It, Sync It Good
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Victories, Defeats in the File-Swapping Wars
- Apple Unveils Online Music Store, New iPods
- Movie Studios Explore New Technology to Stop Piracy
- Microsoft Offers Easy Audio CD Protection
- Microsoft Lowers European Xbox Price; Video Game Battle Rages On
- New Convergence Powerhouse Formed Through Acquisitions
- Microsoft TechEd 2003, June 1-6, Dallas, TX
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Home Movie DVDs
- New Poll: Data Synchronization
- Tip: Turn It Off for Better Battery Life
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Receiverless Home Theater System
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
* SYNC IT, SYNC IT GOOD
As more and more households acquire two or more PCs, an interesting new problem that was once solely the province of companies is cropping up in homes. That problem is data synchronization: How do you synchronize email, personal information manager (PIM) data, and other information between two or more PCs, Apple Computer Macintoshes, and other devices, such as Palm OS and Pocket PC handhelds?
For many people, the answer is simple: Set up a home network. You can quickly move data over wired or wireless connections, although this process is often a manual affair and you have to know where your data is stored (in applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, this information is often hidden). Others, however, need a third-party application or service. Let's look at a few solutions I've tried during the past few months.
The Freebie Approach
If you have a Pocket PC or Palm OS device, you already have software (ActiveSync and Palm Desktop, respectively) that lets you synchronize email and PIM data between your PC and the handheld device. You can also install this software on a second PC and use the second PC to synchronize data, effectively moving that data to the new computer. This backup approach isn't perfect for many reasons--Palm devices, especially, feature small amounts of RAM, and many scheduled meetings I've synced this way have been truncated--but it's free and it works. Users who don't own handheld devices must understand where applications store their data or find some other way to move the data. For example, Outlook stores its data files (.pst files) in a hidden folder (Windows XP systems store Outlook data in C:\documents and settings\
I could say a lot more about using free synchronization tools, but much of the information is specific to certain applications and scenarios. Drop me a note at [email protected] if you'd like more specific instructions.
Microsoft MSN 8 (and the upcoming MSN 8.5) offers an interesting way to synchronize PIM data between PCs and portable devices. The company gives MSN subscribers a special version of Pumatech's Intellisync, Intellisync for MSN, that lets you move appointments, contacts, tasks, and notes between MSN, Outlook, and a Palm or Pocket PC device. You can determine how data is moved among the various applications and devices (one-way sync in either direction or two-way sync) with full conflict resolution. You can also use the service to move Outlook data from one machine to another: First, sync with MSN on the first PC, then sync with MSN on the second PC. Voila! Instant PIM backup. Intellisync for MSN is free, but you have to be an MSN subscriber (starting at $21 a month).
If you don't use MSN, Pumatech sells a full-featured package called Intellisync Desktop (about $70) that provides synchronization among PCs, Pocket PCs, and Palm OS devices. This version supports multiple PC applications, including Outlook, Outlook Express, and ACT!, and offers advanced functionality such as full-featured field mapping and custom filters. IntelliSync Desktop also supports a LiveUpdate feature that ensures the product is always up-to-date.
PC-to-PC Data Transfer
For moving data between Windows and the Mac, I recommend Detto Technologies' Move2Mac ($50), which I discussed in the December 12, 2002, issue of Connected Home EXPRESS ( http://www.connectedhomemag.com/homeoffice/articles/index.cfm?articleid=27565 ). However, Detto also makes an intriguing product for PC-to-PC data transfer called IntelliMover (also $50). IntelliMover helps you transfer an unbelievable amount of data, including all your My Documents files; helps you transfer data from numerous applications such as Microsoft Word, Outlook Express, Netscape Navigator, and Corel's WordPerfect; and includes various system personalization features such as desktop settings and background images. IntelliMover works on a home network, but it also comes with a USB cable to handle the data transfer if your PCs are flying solo.
Mac OS X: iSync and .Mac
Finally, Mac users have a nice (and free) data synchronization solution called Apple iSync, although the application works better if they subscribe to .Mac, Apple Computer's $100-a-year online service. iSync lets you synchronize email, contact, and Apple iCal calendar data among your Mac, Apple iPod, most Palm OS-based devices, certain Bluetooth-capable cell phones, and the .Mac service. If you don't subscribe to .Mac, you're limited to syncing between the Mac and the devices. If you do use .Mac, you can also add multiple Macs to the equation. I use iSync and .Mac to sync my Apple iMac with my Apple iBook, so I'm always up-to-date on the road. The application works well, but its Palm support is iffy and manual, not automatic like the other services. I hope Apple will improve the Palm OS support over time.
I'm curious about how you move data between PCs and devices and whether you have any questions about this process. Please let me know.
(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
* VICTORIES, DEFEATS IN THE FILE-SWAPPING WARS
Two court rulings last week shook the entertainment industry, mostly because the rulings seemed somewhat contradictory. First, a federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed most of the lawsuit filed against file-sharing services Grokster and StreamCast Networks (the latter developed Morpheus) by the movie and record industries, which claimed that the file-sharing services were illegal. Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the companies weren't liable for copyright infringements on the part of their users and compared the file-sharing technologies to copy machines and home-video recorders, which people can also use to infringe on copyrights. The decision was a major victory for the file-sharing services, but expect the movie and music industries to appeal. Meanwhile, a US District Court judge ruled that telecommunications giant Verizon Communications must reveal the identities of two subscribers the music industry accused of illegally trading music online. Verizon had argued that turning over the subscribers' names would violate their constitutional right to privacy. The company plans to appeal the decision. Both rulings are expected to be important to future cases, and planned appeals will be important for both industries. Stay tuned.
* APPLE UNVEILS ONLINE MUSIC STORE, NEW iPODs
With the introduction this week of Apple Computer's new iTunes Music Store music service, the company hopes that its users will no longer have to worry about the ongoing file-sharing litigation. Apple promises that users of the service, which is integrated into the new iTunes 4 application, will get good karma from not stealing music and will get high-quality versions of songs (128Kbps Advanced Audio Coding--AAC) and album art for just 99 cents per song. Unlike other music services, the iTunes Music Store service doesn't require any subscription fees, and users will be able to transfer the music to an unlimited number of CDs, unlimited Apple iPod music devices, and as many as three Macintoshes. Another unique feature of the service is its ability to use the tracks in Apple applications such as iMovie. Through agreements with the five largest music companies, the service offers more than 200,000 songs, with many more to come, including exclusive tracks from artists such as Bob Dylan and U2. Although the service supports only Macs today, Apple promises support for Windows by the end of the year. The company also announced new iPods, which will ship Friday in 10GB, 15GB, and 30GB flavors. The updated portable music devices are smaller, include a base, and now also offer USB 2.0 support in addition to FireWire (IEEE 1394) support; USB 2.0 support is available only for Windows users, the company says.
* MOVIE STUDIOS EXPLORE NEW TECHNOLOGY TO STOP PIRACY
The movie studios aren't sitting by hoping that litigation will solve their technology problems. Instead, the movie industry, which has often seen its blockbuster films released illegally on the Internet before they hit the theaters, is looking at many new technologies to fight piracy. The companies have had limited success using night-vision goggles in movie theaters to find people with camcorders and putting metal detectors outside advance-screening rooms. But they're now developing a system that will create a flicker or other pattern that recording devices in theaters will pick up, making the resulting recordings unwatchable. The flicker would affect only recording devices and would be undetectable by moviegoers in theaters. As anyone who's seen the quality of most of these pirated films can tell you, however, downloading the films online usually isn't worth the time and effort. Hollywood knows that as technology gets better and broadband Internet gets more pervasive, however, movie piracy will get better, so the studios are trying to stay ahead of the curve. Don't feel too bad to for the studios, though. Unlike the record industry, the movie industry has seen revenues steadily increase over the past few years.
* MICROSOFT OFFERS EASY AUDIO CD PROTECTION
Macrovision, a well-known copy-protection company, has announced plans to use Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology and the Microsoft Windows Media format to protect music CDs. Macrovision already has relationships with many large entertainment companies and hopes the new licensed technology will help record labels easily release protected audio CDs. The technology includes a second session on CDs that contains protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) 9 files. Users won't be able to rip the audio CD to MP3s, but they will be able to use the included WMA files to play the songs on their PCs and portable devices and copy them to mix CDs. Other companies have signed similar licensing deals with Microsoft to use its Windows Media technology. Like it or not, don't be too surprised when this new technology starts to show up on many new music releases.
* MICROSOFT LOWERS EUROPEAN XBOX PRICE; VIDEO GAME BATTLE RAGES ON
Microsoft has cut the cost of its Xbox gaming system in Europe by 20 percent. The move, which was unexpected, lowers the price of the console in Europe from 249 euros to 199 euros and in the UK from 159 pounds to 129 pounds. So far, none of Microsoft's competitors have matched the price cut, which is expected to affect only Nintendo. Nintendo recently released profit warnings because of disappointing sales of its GameCube console. Currently, Sony has a strong lead in video game market share, followed by Microsoft and Nintendo. Customers in the United States might see an Xbox price drop to $150 during next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) gaming trade show, sources tell us. In related news, speculation continued that either Microsoft or video game giants Namco or Electronic Arts might purchase Sega.
* NEW CONVERGENCE POWERHOUSE FORMED THROUGH ACQUISITIONS
A little-known company called D&M Holdings is setting itself up to be a huge player in the push toward home-entertainment convergence. The company, which the merger of high-end equipment makers DENON Electronics and Marantz formed, recently purchased SONICblue's ReplayTV and Rio assets and has now announced its acquisition of OpenGlobe and Escient Convergence from Escient Technologies. Technologies included in the acquisition include the FireBall digital music manager, which is an all-in-one digital audio jukebox that finds and plays both physical discs and digital music files. The company hopes the assets will help it create powerful entertainment-based digital home-networking solutions.
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* RESULTS OF LAST WEEK'S POLL: HOME MOVIE DVDs
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Do you make your own home-movie DVDs?" Here are the results from the 123 votes:
- 32% Yes
- 68% No
* NEW POLL: DATA SYNCHRONIZATION
The next Quick Poll question is, "Which method of data synchronization do you use most often in your home?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) PC to PC over a network, b) PC to PC manually (e.g., USB cable), c) Portable device to PC or Macintosh, or d) I don't do data synchronization.
* TIP: TURN IT OFF FOR BETTER BATTERY LIFE
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
To get better battery life from your portable computer or PDA when you're traveling around your house or around the world, be sure to turn off or detune nonessential services. Turn off wireless and wired networking and Bluetooth connections, dim the screen, and even ratchet down the processor speed (on Intel SpeedStep-compatible notebooks). All these actions will increase your battery life significantly, and you won't notice the loss. Newer technologies, such as the Pentium M processor in Intel Centrino-based notebooks, handle much of this process for you, but staying on top of what you do and don't need when dealing with any portable device is still a good idea.
Got a question or tip? Email [email protected] Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
(contributed by Jason Bovberg, [email protected])
* RECEIVERLESS HOME THEATER SYSTEM
Aspire Digital announced the AD-1100PLUS, a receiverless home-theater system that includes an AD-1100 DVD player, surround-sound tower speakers, and a powered subwoofer. The progressive-scan AD-1100 player delivers playback from a variety of media, including DVD, CD, CD-R/CD-RW, CD+G, JPEG, and MP3. It features Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital AC-3, and DTS digital audio output. The AD-1100 includes 4:3/16:9 display conversion, as well as both NTSC and PAL formats for worldwide compatibility. You also get a karaoke feature and two included microphones. The AD-100TR speaker set includes floor-standing front and rear tower speakers and a center speaker, totaling 650 watts (impedance 8 ohms, speaker frequency response 250Hz to 20kHz, subwoofer frequency response 20Hz to 250Hz). The AD-150PSC subwoofer powers the entire speaker system. The AD-1100PLUS costs $459.98. For more information, contact Aspire Digital at 310-856-0630 or on the Web.
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