A Digital Home - Two paths

In our family, we want to share the internet connection, the printer, our growing collection of mp3 music and our digital pictures. Also, we want to record TV-content and watch it when we suits us.
Whatever we set-up must be user-friendly to children, babysitters and grandparents. Also, the parts of the equipment that is visible must fit into a living room and not be designed for an office.

As I see it, we have two main paths to choose from:

Path 1 – build a digital “home” system.

The overall plan would be to use a Wi-Fi network to connect the laptops, TV-sets etc. with the internet connection and the stationary PC. The “middleware” will be UPnP, Groove and Canon’s picture sharing site.
The stationary PC will be connected to the analogue cable operator with a TV-recording device.
The options for connecting the TV to the network is either with a cable to the PC or through a Streamium or similar device . A key here is that the device has the right “codecs” and the right digital rights management systems.

Path 2 – buy separate units – connect with existing devices.

E.g. a Philips HD recorder and a mobile Philips Streamium music box for listening to mp3 music from the PC (both have the same look & feel as the TV). Use the Canon Ixus camera and separate SD cards for viewing the pictures on the TV or - when a more advanced viewing mode is desired - connect one of the laptops to the TV. The internet connection is shared through a Wi-fi network. Last, buy a network printer and connect it to the Netgear router.

My gut feeling is that Path 2 is much easier to deploy (in terms of planning, integration and deployment time). Path 1 will require an extensive research to make sure that the components fit and if they fit today, the “war” among suppliers (Microsoft, Philips, Sony, HP, Intel etc.) also makes the future fit uncertain. Path 2 is also more scalable since when the children grow up, they can use their future PC:s as hubs for their own digitized world and if they want to share something it will be done on a “peer-to-peer” basis instead of through a shared server.

Path 2 - here we go!



Installing a new computer on a wire-less LAN

My father in law bought a new laptop a few weeks ago, an Acer Ferrari. This weekend I helped him with connecting the computer to his wireless network.

It took almost 2 ½ hours. The reason that it took so long – it took me no time at all to connect my own laptop (an IBM T42) - was that his AT&T Network client had taken over the configuration of the “Network connection” for wireless connections.

AT&T’s support claimed that their software shouldn’t interfere with the wireless “Network connection” but this was the only installed software on the otherwise brand new computer that had anything to do with networks.

The operation that made it work was to enable the “Wireless Zero Configuration” service. The guidance from Windows XP for this is only shown in the English version of the operating system, not the Swedish one.



Buying a GPS - regional pricing vs global search & buy

I am thinking about buying a more advanced GPS than my current Magellan Explorist 100.

How much money could available technologies for a "global search & buy" save me?

Magellan Explorist 600 is the most advanced device of the Magellan Explorist series and it can be bought from local Swedish dealers, general internet distributors (e.g. Amazon) or internet markets (e.g. Ebay).

Local dealers.
Using a price comparison search engine - pricerunner - I can find that the best buy in Sweden is at Addnature where the price for a Magellan Explorist 600 is 5995 SEK.

The price of a Magellan Explorist 600 is 360 USD (2600 SEK). However, when I try to check-out my shopping basket, Amazon tells me they can't ship to Sweden. Neither Amazon UK nor Amazon DE sells the Magellan Explorist 600.

At Ebay, I searched for dealers that ship to Sweden. The best price offered is 370 USD + 43 USD in shipping.

The difference between the local dealer and Ebay is almost 2800 SEK (or 360 USD), i.e. you could almost buy a second device as a backup.

I asked the Swedish agent about the difference in price. His arguments were:
- Volatility in USD to SEK exchange rate.
- Regional coding of maps "The local Swedish map will not be usable on the device". The local dealer will produce sell the local Swedish maps on Secure Digital (SD) cards and they might code the cards for use on European devices only.
- Internal pricing policy of Thales/Magellan.

The last one combined with less competition on the European GPS market is most likely to explain the almost doubled price. Volatility in exchange rates between USD and SEK has not been that high. Regional coding would lock out US visitors and isn't practised by when Magellan sells maps on the internet.



Lithium-Ion batteries

The cost of a laptop battery is a significant in relationship to the laptop's price. That is the reason why I through the years have been conscious about the charge/discharge cycles of batteries. For example, I have been thinking that it is good to discharge a laptop battery on a regular basis in order to prolong it's lifetime.

However, when I and my collegue started looking into the problem, we found that this is not the case for lithium-ion batteries, the type of battery most new laptops are shipped with today (e.g. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_ion) . A summary of the advice for lithium-ion batteries is:
and the battery will last longer.

Also, if your computer has special software for battery conditioning, be careful with the settings and the usage of "reconditioning" procedures. It is likely that the software assumes that you don't use lithium-ion batteries.

The manual of my father in law's new Acer computer also gave advice on the management of batteries that clearly was written for the old "NiCd" type of batteries.

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