Ideas and plans

Ideas and plans, boy oh boy have I got ideas and plans in my head. If you’d been to this page before you’d notice it was something slightly different. Something about joining, yep I will but this is only part of the overall strategy as such..

So whats the strategy? well its a mix of ideas and plans (wouldn’t you know) If things get very busy on this page I will start breaking the ideas down into multiple weblogs. And I hope to at some point draw up a map of how things should be, and what I need to buy and fit to complete it.

Ok so the idea is to use digital technology to make changes to me and my partner’s lifestyle. Ok sounds easy enough. At the moment we watch films through a computer rather than a dvd player. Because of course you can not watch divx or xvid films on a standard dvd player. Now I know thats changing due to the kiss dvd player and others like it but standard dvd players only have support for mpeg 1 and 2, not mpeg4. Anyhow I’m looking to solve that problem by using a modded (preferred chipped) xbox. So thats part of the plan at least. more later

I already own a home cinema system, which is a 32 inch widescreen tv, Sherwood prologic cinema reciever, Technics ac3 decoder which supports all 6 channel formats including dolby digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. And if you include 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer you got the picture. To add the picture I have a freeview digital television box which was originally ondigital’s own box. More about that at some point maybe.

On the computer side of things, got 1 workstation with stacks of memory, beefy Ati all in wonder 8500 dv graphics card, multiple hard drives and a cd bruner and dvd drive. That is then connected via 100megabit ethernet to a server which is where your reading this weblog now. That server has stacks of memory, hard drive space and also has a cd burner and region free dvd drive. The Network I’m using is all 10/100 and has a wireless hub using dhcp to allow the tabletpc and my partner’s laptop to roam anywhere in the house. there is also a 400megabit firewire link between the server and workstation to stop tieing up the network during heavy transfers. But doesnt work because Microsoft didnt put in the driver for firewire networking on windows 2000 professional, such a shame too. In the kitchen there is an old 21 inch toshiba television which use to be my main television, its mainly used by my partner while cooking for watching analogue stations. And I think that basicly covers everything for now.

Ok so plans and ideas. First thing the wireless hub, its an 802.11b hub and supports 11megabits, its based in the living room and covers the whole house but signal drops alot when it hits the bathroom at the far end of the house. You can get a signal, but not a very good one if your on a laptop. If your on a pocketpc with wireless, it drops the connection at the bathroom door. So no streaming music while in the bath at this moment. I could either move the current wireless access point to the middle of the house and get a even spread of wireless or buy another one and stick it down pass the kitchen and very near the bathroom. See that option sounds good because I can then cover the garden which is also on the far end of the house, past the bathroom. that will also give me a chance to swap the hubs around and put a 802.11g hub in the living room and the older 802.11b hub near the garden instead. I was thinking of using the bridging mode, but i think a long ethernet cable to the far hub will do the trick.

Next up, the xbox media player. I have been following the xbox scene of the sly and have been quietly surprised by the amount of development going on. The best development effort has to be the xbox mediaplayer, which will play divx 3 – 5, xvid, vcd, supervcd’s and dvd’s. Aka every kind of film I own. So what i’m thinking is that if I buy a xbox then get it chipped or modded I could use that as digital media jukebox (sorry yes it plays ogg, asf and mpg3s as well). But rather than use the cd drive or small local hard drive all the time I can use the network sharing option to access shared drives on my server or workstation as well. There is also a ftp option if all else fails. Ok so that means I can access all my films without unlocking a computer, which will make my partner very happy. If all goes well then maybe I’ll buy another one for the kitchen television.

Ah i love digital television, its clear bright and cheap. We in the uk have had 3 main ways of recieving digital tv, sky (expensive and requires a dish, but has tons of interactivinty and channels), Cable (just as expensive and lacks serious interactivity) and Free to air (use to be called OnDigital before ITVdigital took it over and that was before the BBC pumped millions in to it and called it freeview). Freeview is just that, free to view. Basicly its partly funded by the tv licence (yes we have to pay to watch tv here) and all you need is a set top box and a ariel nothing more. You get about 30 channels on freeview at the moment with more in the pipeline soon. Anyway, I’m thinking of buying one for the kitchen and or one for the workstation so I can watch one thing and record another.At this moment i can only record what i’m watching, unless its on analogue tv and i can watch that and record the digital feed. there is a freeview box by pace which has pvr (tivo) fuctionality and has two digital decoders, so you can watch one and record another on to its local 20gig hard drive. Its good but not at 300 uk pounds its not. Specially now you can buy freeview boxes al low as 70 pounds brand new.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.