We use our home as a testbed for new technologies, and are now testing several more. We report here on our first impressions of an innovative system for multi-room video, and a new mobile Internet terminal.
For five years, we have been looking for a good way to distribute video around our house. We have TVs in five rooms, cable boxes in three rooms, and DVRs in two rooms; we also have several PCs we've long planned to use as video servers. We often find that we have video sitting on a hard drive in one room when we'd like to watch it on a screen in another room. We've looked at many potential solutions and hadn't found one we wanted to install in our house.
Several years ago, we met with DigitalDeck, a Silicon Valley startup. In DigitalDeck -- Another Piece of the "Whole Home Networking" Puzzle ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0312_7.html ) (BBHR 12/14/2003), we reported the company's promise "to bridge the gap between your PC and TV, and allow your household DVDs, VCRs, PVRs and computers to share and play video on any television anywhere in the home."
The DigitalDeck product is very ambitious. It takes analog video from any source--cable or satellite box, PVR, DVD, VCR--combines it with digital video from the PC, and distributes it over a home network to any TV in the house. With a single remote control on any TV in any room, you can view and control any video source in the house.
It has taken DigitalDeck a while to get their product to market. But a few weeks ago we finally received three of their boxes and the necessary PC software. We now have it all hooked up and running--with software installed on one of our PCs, and Media Connector boxes connected to TVs in our kitchen, master bedroom and family room. The system is controlling three cable boxes, two PVRs and a DVD player.
We encountered a few problems getting it set up--nothing that a few phone calls and emails couldn't resolve. Last Tuesday night, we enjoyed being able to eat dinner in our kitchen while watching the Sopranos episode recorded Sunday night on the TiVo in our bedroom. That's what we've wanted for many years.
DigitalDeck has been accepting "pre-orders" and we understand they will start shipping product very soon. We received a software upgrade to the release version, and production remote controls, so we will base our report on these.
We'll put the system through its paces and provide an extensive review in a future issue of this report.
Nokia 770 Internet Tablet
We have always liked the concept of Internet tablets or "webpads"--small portable devices you can use anywhere in the house to surf the web and more. Several years ago, we tested "Smart Displays," Microsoft's clever but unsuccessful entry into this space, and wrote several articles ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/guide_apps_webpads.html ) about them. Although it took some time to integrate a Smart Display into our lifestyle, we were disappointed when we had to send it back, and even more so when Microsoft discontinued the development effort.
Now Nokia, the long-time leader in mobile phones, has introduced its own device in this category. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is much smaller and lighter (8 ounces) than the smaller of the two Smart Displays we tested three years ago. It could easily fit in Sandy's handbag. It is a free-standing device rather than an auxiliary display for a Windows PC.
The 770 has a 4" touch screen with impressive resolution (800x480) and has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. Applications include a built-in Web browser, email, newsreader, and audio and video players. It can connect to the Internet two ways: in the home through a broadband modem using the home Wi-Fi network; and outside the home through a cellular network using a Bluetooth connection to a compatible Nokia cellphone.
We have been playing with the 770 for about a week, learning its applications and how to use it around our home. We'll tell you more about it in the next issue of this report.