Welcome to Reviews OnLine: DigitalHome Experience
DigitalHome Experience
by Rick Smith (June 14, 2000)


This event took place the evening before PC Expo began in New York as part of the Digital Focus and Mobile Focus events. This is the first time this event has been held. See some of the cutting edge products for the 21st century home. See Reviews OnLine coverage of the Housewares Show, held earlier in the year where unique appliances like Internet microwaves were displayed.

Here is a list of sponsors that attended.

Ceiva Logic
Coactive Networks
Home Director
HomePlug Alliance
Virtual Ink

Compaq Presario 1400 Series Notebooks
Colorful, Affordable, Portable
Compaq unveiled the new Presario 1400 series of notebooks that sport a sculpted, translucent design in your choice of swappable color overlays: Emerald Green, Ruby Red, Amber Orange, Sapphire Blue and Amethyst Purple.

Another nifty feature (also aimed squarely at the back-to-school crowd) is one-touch digital audio playback that lets you jam to a groove even when the notebook is closed.

- Intel Celeron cpu
- 566 MHz to 600 MHz
- 64MB
- 6GB hard drive
- 13" DSTN or 13.3" TFT
- MP3 Player
- Color Kit options: choice of 4 colors
- Starts at $1499 


HomePlug Alliance
Setting standard for smarter wall sockets
The DigitalHome event at PCExpo gave the HomePlug Powerline Alliance (HPA) a chance to promote its vision of the future: Imagine multiple network connections accessible to every appliance in every room of your house.

You're thinking, "Right, this sounds like a remodeling project only Bill Gates could afford." But, the HPA is banking on new technology that turns every existing, unmodified AC wall socket into a potential 10 mbps (or better) data port.

Now, if this sounds like one of those "100 miles-per-gallon carborator" Internet myths you might consider how many of the founding members of the HPA or household names of high-tech (listed below).

Already, engineers from the orginization's 41 member companies have agreed on the technical specs for a powerline network standard (see Intellon story) that has shown its reliability in extensive field trials.

With such big names pushing to make it a reality, you might just find that the home network you always wanted is as close as your nearest wall outlet.

Original HPA members:

3Com, AMD, Cisco Systems, Compaq, Conexant, Enikia, Intel, Intellon, Motorola, Panasonic, S3's Diamond Multimedia, Tandy/RadioShack and Texas Instruments 


Intel DotStation
Turnkey Web appliance
Intel is promoting its new, turnkey Web appliance for service providers called the DotStation. It is basically an iMac-like device that e-commerce institutions or ISPs can give away, sell or lease to their customers.

In true, thin-client tradition, the DotStation won't include a CD-ROM drive or removable storage of any kind but can be remotely updated via the Web. But, otherwise, the DotStation is hardly crippled since it includes a 300 or 500 MHz Celeron and a 4.3 GB hard drive.

Another interesting feature is that the DotStation includes not just a 56Kbps modem but a built-in telephone. This suggests some interesting possible markets for the device. For example, your broker might give you a "free" DotStation that just happens to boot up showing your fluctuating portfolio. The built-in phone then becomes your instant hotline to the broker for conducting vocal trades.

Whatever its application, the DotStation is an interesting development showing that Intel is waking up to a whole Web-centric, non-Windows world.


- Availability: Fall 2000
- Price: Unannounced
- Software: custom version of Red Hat Linux
- CPU: Intel Celeron (300 MHz to 400 MHz),
- RAM: 32MB
- Storage: 4.3GB hard disk
- 56-kbps modem
- Keyboard w/ integrated track pad
- 14" CRT 1024x768 (800x600 for web browsing)
- Built-in telephone
- Remote updates and trouble-shooting 


Intellon PowerPacket Technology
10 Mbps network using existing wiring
If the potential installed base is any indicator, Intellon's PowerPacket technology has a chance to go from obscurity to celebrity overnight. You see, Intellon has come up with a way to reliably package data so that it survives the undulating waves and spikes of the ride through your unmodifed home power wiring. This could mean that every home or office building is a sleeping local area network waiting to be woken up.

Of course, powerline transmission of data has been promised for years, but Intellon claims to show practical results of field tests across both North America and Europe.

And those trials have been successful enough to make Intellon's technology the basis for the HomePlug Powerline Alliance's network specification (see HPA story). So, at least 40 other companies (many household names) think PowerPacket technology is the Next Big Thing in personal networking.

And why not? PowerPacket technology has demonstrated 11 Mbps throughput over a wide variety of wiring conditions and Intellon's latest recommendation is to increase that to 14 mbps (faster than traditional Ethernet). Intellon claims that data rates up to 100 Million bits per second (Mbps) may be possible.

Another nice feature is that PowerPackets use a different frequency from X-10, CEBus, and Lonworks devices, so interference is no problem. Likewise, surge protectors and UPS power units won't garble your data. In addtion, the protocol uses 56-bit DES encryption to keep your private data from being broadcast all over the local power grid.

The applications for ubiquitous data access are immense. For instance, S3's Rio Audio Group is already talking about building digital audio players that grab tunes off your music serving PC from any available wall outlet.

Pervasive, simple-to-use technology tends to have profound effects on our daily lives. We'll have to wait and see if Intellon's PowerPacket technology becomes the next digital dial tone we come to depend on. 


Virtual Ink's Killer App: The Whiteboard
New add-ons: mimio boardCast and directPrint
Virtual Ink's mimio boosts meeting productivity with new products and software features for its whiteboard peripheral.

The folks behind mimio, the nifty $500 gadget that turns any whiteboard into a electronic drawing surface and teleconference device, have expanded its uses dramatically with new software and instant print capability. All these features build on Virtual Ink's philosophy of working with your existing software and hardware to leverage the value of collaboration.

Imagine being able to broadcast presentations and brainstorming sessions to dispersed clients and work groups. mimio™ boardCast™ is Virtual Ink's new $249 software add-on that allows whiteboard sessions and presentations with voiceover to be streamed, live over the Web via RealNetworks® RealSystem™ G2 to anyone equipped with RealPlayer® 7. No more talking heads obscuring blurry diagrams in video. You'll now see (and hear) the clear, unobstructed thought process in action.

Another way Virtual Ink is making their whiteboard peripheral even more useful is by adding a PC-less print feature. Connected between any mimeo-equipped whiteboard and a standard, PCL3-capable printer, the new $199 directPrint device can deliver instant color hard copy of your whiteboard sessions.

In addition, Virtual Ink has improved mimio's mouse emulation so that you can operate just about any Windows application on a virtual, whiteboard-sized screen. Similarly, they've also implemented the standard WinTab interface that turns mimio into a wall-sized graphics tablet, something very useful for large, engineering or creative design group meetings.

Both these features work best when you use a digital projector to overlay a virtual desktop onto the mimio-eqiupped whiteboard. You then use mimio to point-and-click or draw as you would with a mouse or graphics tablet, only at a larger-than-life scale. Now that's full-body computing.

Even without a digital projector, though, mimio remains a terrific tool for recording and broadcasting those whiteboard brainstorms that seem to come only when you are thinking on your feet with your colleagues egging you on. The innovative new video streaming and printing features, however, just keep adding to the mimeo's value.

mimio includes:

- 2.5 lb. 24" capture bar
- four marker jackets (infrared and ultrasonic transmitters)
- 4" and 1" diameter eraser pads
- calculator decal (for mimio controlled voice calculator)

mimio features:

- $499
- works with whiteboards from 2' x 3' to 4' x 8'
- markers can be used to click, drag, and double-click
- serial interface
- export whiteboards as WMF, BMP, JPEG, or HTML
- stroke recording allows rewind, fast-forward and playback
- compact vector-based whiteboard graphics can be scaled large or small
- one touch e-mail, fax, print and HTML output 


Want to see all this page in a more compact form? View the linked version of this article. It's a smaller download than this page, and each product's information is only a link away.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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