Connected Home EXPRESS
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March 19, 2003--In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Your Next Computer: A Notebook?
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Apple to Launch Online Music Service
- Media2Go Gets Creative
- Wireless, Wireless Everywhere
- Intel Unleashes New Mobile Processor and Chipset
- HDTV Is the Future ... Still
- College Student Charged with Attacking School Computers
- Join The HP & Microsoft Network Storage Solutions Road Show!
- Get a Sample Issue of Exchange & Outlook Administrator
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Digital Cameras
- New Poll: Notebook Computers
- Tip: Update Your Digital-Media Applications
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Recover Lost Images
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]
* YOUR NEXT COMPUTER: A NOTEBOOK?
As part of my weekly commentary for Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE, an email newsletter aimed at IT professionals, I review a different notebook computer each month. I've been writing these notebook reviews for almost 2.5 years, and one of the interesting side effects of this work is that I've seen the notebook market mature dramatically to the point at which desktop computing seems almost passe. Increasingly, notebook computers have grown to equal and, in some cases, even surpass their desktop brethren's functionality. Should your next PC be a notebook computer? Consider the following.
Historically, choosing a notebook computer was an exercise in compromise because notebooks generally featured less-powerful processors, system buses, and video cards than desktop systems. Today, thanks to a surplus of computing power, any performance differences between high-end notebooks and desktops is negligible. You can even buy portable gaming systems from companies such as Alienware. But even mainstream portable computers now feature fast Pentium M or Pentium 4 Processor - M processors, powerful ATI or NVIDIA video cards, and speedy 40GB to 80GB hard disks. And recent systems I've tested, such as IBM's new ThinkPad T40 and Best Buy's vpr Matrix, handle graphically rich games such as "Quake III Arena" and "Unreal Tournament 2003" with as much aplomb as my decked-out Pentium 4 desktop. Desktops still maintain a slight performance edge over notebooks, but for 99 percent of the population, that performance difference isn't a concern.
The biggest problem with desktop PCs is that they're immobile: If you want to move a desktop system into the den and compute while you watch TV, forget it. Notebook computers can go with you anywhere in the house; to a local coffee shop, bookstore, or other gathering place; or on a plane to anywhere in the world. If you have wireless networking, all the better: You can browse the Web or answer email anywhere.
Storage and Expansion
One of the nice things about desktop PCs, however, is that they're almost infinitely expandable. A typical desktop PC can contain as many as four hard disks or CD-type drives internally, and you can add another drive controller to add four more, assuming you have the space. Desktop PCs also include several internal PCI slots, so you can add expansion cards. These features free up a lot of room for future expansion, making it easy to add DVD recorders, new sound or video cards, additional external expansion ports, TV or video recorders, and other hardware. Laptop computers are pretty much limited to external expansion through USB, USB 2.0, or, perhaps, FireWire peripherals. These expansion options are desirable, but not perfect: External peripherals, which often take the form of scanners, printers, input devices, and external hard disks, include a mass of wires, which is antithetical to the freedom of a portable device with wireless networking, but it's better than nothing. Some notebooks do have optional docking stations, which help with cable management.
Overall, desktop computers beat notebook computers for expansion, but notebooks will satisfy the needs of most users out of the box, assuming they configure their systems ahead of time with all the features they need. Modern notebooks ship with beefy hard disks, recordable CD and even DVD drives, multiple USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, and possibly a slot for the types of memory popular digital cameras use.
To get all these features in a notebook computer, however, you'll pay a premium compared with a typical desktop computer. However, when you compare the price difference, keep in mind the new computing scenarios and freedom that notebook computers offer. Using a notebook computer around the house has made home-based work less stressful for me because I can be more readily available to my family or get work done between other activities.
In addition, notebook prices have come down dramatically in recent years. You can get an excellent notebook for a lot less than $1000, and even Apple Computer sells an iBook model in this price range. In fact, my iBook remains the only new notebook I've ever purchased, although I've bought a few used PC notebooks. In short, notebooks exist for virtually every budget and need.
Time to Reconsider the Desktop PC?
If you haven't considered buying a notebook computer for various reasons, now might be the time to reconsider, especially if you're looking at a PC purchase in the coming months. Any of today's notebooks will outperform your old PC, and most include enough functionality and expandability to keep even the most finicky user happy.
If you're considering a notebook, drop me a note. I'm interested to hear why you might--or might not--opt to go this route.
(An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
* APPLE TO LAUNCH ONLINE MUSIC SERVICE
Apple Computer will soon put its toe into the online music-subscription-services waters, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. Although details are still scarce, Apple will apparently offer Macintosh- and Windows-based iPod users access to the service, which will rely on the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies in the new Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) music format, which is also called MPEG-4. Like Windows Media Audio (WMA) 9 format, AAC offers smaller file sizes and better sound than the popular MP3 format, which doesn't have DRM functionality. The fact that none of the existing services currently support the Mac no doubt made Apple's decision necessary. We'll provide more details about this service when they become available.
* MEDIA2GO GETS CREATIVE
Microsoft recently announced that consumer electronics giant Creative Technologies will create a Media2Go device this fall, joining other hardware partners such as iRiver, Samsung Electronics, SANYO, and ViewSonic. Media2Go devices are based on an Intel XScale hardware platform and run Windows CE .NET (formerly code-named Talisker); the devices will let users play back movies, recorded TV shows, songs, and photo slide shows in a portable format similar to Apple's iPod. However, Media2Go devices feature large color screens and roomy hard disks that can store more than 8000 music files, 175 hours of Digital Video (DV), or as many as 30,000 photographs. Microsoft says the players will provide continuous video playback for up to 6 hours and continuous music playback for up to 12 hours. We can't wait.
* WIRELESS, WIRELESS EVERYWHERE
Last week saw some interesting developments in pervasive wireless access with such unlikely companies as McDonalds and the Hilton hotel chain making announcements. Fast-food giant McDonalds says that it will soon begin offering 1 hour of free wireless Internet access to customers who purchase a value meal; other customers will pay just $3 an hour for the service. McDonalds will roll out the service to Manhattan restaurants first, then to restaurants nationwide. Hilton Hotels & Resorts, meanwhile, said that it will soon offer free wireless Internet access in the public areas of more than 50 Hilton hotels in major metropolitan areas; the service will eventually reach all of its 230 US locations. With the proliferation of free or inexpensive wireless hot spots nationwide, it's only a matter of time before the always-connected dream becomes a reality. Of course, by that time, we'll have to wrestle with other concerns, such as seamless network roaming and battery life.
* INTEL UNLEASHES NEW MOBILE PROCESSOR AND CHIPSET
Last week, Intel rolled out its new Pentium M processor and Centrino chipset, a one-two punch for new mobile computers that combines speedy performance, excellent battery life, and integrated wireless support. Systems based on the Centrino platform are now available from a variety of major PC makers, including Dell, IBM, and Toshiba, giving users Pentium 4-level performance and better battery life than any previous notebooks. More interesting, however, is that Pentium M chips run at lower clock frequencies than Intel's previous mobile-performance champ, the Pentium 4 Processor - M, leading to questions about megahertz myths. The Pentium M is available at speeds of 900MHz to 1.6GHz; the Pentium 4 Processor - M designs now run as fast as 2.4GHz.
* HDTV IS THE FUTURE ... STILL
The future of TV is High-Definition Television (HDTV), but most people won't be convinced until they see the quality of an HDTV broadcast. If you're still on the fence, we recommend a sporting event, such as the HDTV broadcasts the ESPN sports network is now showing. HDTV broadcasts are wide screen and high resolution, and they blow away anything available on your pathetic little NTSC set. HDTV's problems, however, are legion. HDTV broadcasts are still few and far between, they require expensive new TV sets or tuner boxes, and typical TV shows don't occupy the full screen when shown on an HDTV set. Still, we recommend taking a look. If you're making a TV purchase this year, you should definitely consider HDTV.
* COLLEGE STUDENT CHARGED WITH ATTACKING SCHOOL COMPUTERS
This week, authorities filed charges against a University of Texas student for attacking the school's computer network and stealing Social Security numbers and other personal information from about 55,000 fellow students, staff members, and faculty. Christopher Andrew Phillips, who is (predictably) a computer science major at the school, turned himself in to authorities Friday and is allegedly cooperating with police. He said that he didn't use any of the stolen data to harm anyone. Sadly for Phillips, however, people take computer crime pretty seriously these days: He faces up to 8 years in prison if convicted.
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)
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* GET A SAMPLE ISSUE OF EXCHANGE & OUTLOOK ADMINISTRATOR
Exchange & Outlook Administrator, the monthly print newsletter from Windows & .NET Magazine, gives you the in-depth articles you need to secure, maintain, and troubleshoot your messaging environment. Try an issue of Exchange & Outlook Administrator, and discover for yourself what our expert authors know that you don't. Click here!
* RESULTS OF LAST WEEK'S POLL: DIGITAL CAMERAS The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Do you own a digital camera?" Here are the results from the 340 votes:
- 81% Yes
- 19% No
* NEW POLL: NOTEBOOK COMPUTERS
The next Quick Poll question is, "Do you own a notebook computer?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, b) No, but I'm planning to buy one, or c) No, and I'm not planning to buy one.
* TIP: UPDATE YOUR DIGITAL-MEDIA APPLICATIONS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Both Microsoft and Apple Computer recently shipped free, must-have upgrades to their most recent digital-media applications. For Windows XP users, Microsoft provided free updates to Plus! Digital Media Edition (Plus! DME), including new skins for Plus! Party Mode for Windows Media Player (WMP), new Plus! Dancers, and new templates for Plus! CD Label Maker. In addition, new content from Comedy Central, Indy Racing, and OverDrive is now available for Plus! Sync & Go for the Pocket PC, and Microsoft has released a new PowerToy that lets you manage certain portable audio devices from WMP 9.
On the Mac OS X side, Apple recently released a much-needed 3.0.2 update to iMovie that fixes some of the original 3.0.1 release's performance and stability problems. Apple iMovie 3.0.2 is available as a free download from Software Update in Mac OS X System Preferences, but you can also opt to download the massive 81.8MB standalone download version. Apple fans who are interested in Plus! Photo Story-type functionality might want to check out a new application called Still Life that goes well beyond the built-in Ken Burns effect in iMovie 3.x and offers advanced features such as Bezier curve and rotation movement paths. Usually $25, Still Life is available for just $15 until April 12.
Plus! Digital Media Edition
Plus! Sync & Go for Pocket PC
Plus! Portable Audio Devices Power Toy
Apple iMovie 3.0.2
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])
* RECOVER LOST IMAGES
LC Technology released PHOTORECOVERY, data-recovery software that lets you recover images, movies, MP3 files, and sound files from all types of digital media. The software is compatible with memory sticks, SmartMedia, CompactFlash (CF), micro drives, multimedia chips, floppy disks, and most forms of digital film. PHOTORECOVERY costs $39.95. For more information, contact LC Technology at 727-449-0891 or on the Web.
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Copyright 2003, Penton Media, Inc.