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DVDeep Throat: Entertainment Centers, Networks Now!

Convergence? Ifs, ands, and buts By Miles Weston

Danger Will Robinson !!!

Okay, so the Lost in Space TV series and movie left a lot to be desired.  The robot was certainly more benevolent than those in Will Smith's new I Robot and it really did try to protect the family.  But just like all of the robot's warnings, we realize this one will probably fall on deaf ears. But like the hapless robot, we tried!

Despite the fact that more than 14 million households have implemented wireless networks,  we still have a half-hearted home network wires strung along baseboards connecting everything.  Our rationale was that we would wait for wireless to really be PnP.  We've toyed with the idea of using our PC to time-shift TV shows for the family but we weren't quite ready to move the system into the living room.  But a small news item prompted us to action.

The news? 

Jack Valenti, the almost-retired head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), had won another battle to protect us from ourselves.  Valenti's (sorry -- FCC's) mandated broadcast flag would be embedded into your HDTV programs starting the first of the year.  However, anything you had in place by the end of the year would continue to work allowing you to archive and copy TV programs just as you did with the aging VCR boxes (www.eff.org).

While you've always been able to capture, time-shift TV programs when the new HDTV ready screens ship next year they will have an added "feature."  The new sets will look for Valenti's little "flag" that says you can't burn the program to a DVD, save it to your hard drive or send it across your existing home network to another system or set.   

Anything you have in your home before the first of the year will continue to work "as advertised."

So we felt it was time to act before the FCC and MPAA put the padlock on our content enjoyment.  The problem is we were like most families.  We had islands of content and data that were "sort of" working together (See Figure A below).  What we wanted was the wireless and seamless dream that Intel/Cisco's Digital Home Working Group (DHWG) was weaving for us. 

Figure A

We believe in the long-term goal but it is still a "work in progress."

Where to Start?
We started out a little ahead on the wireless entertainment PC/CE solution.  Three of the four PCs in the house already had decent speed, decent power and more than adequate memory/storage.  The big screen TV we had was "HD ready" so all we had to add was a conversion box.  After that?it's open season.

Receiving HD and displaying HD it turns out are two different things but once you've seen the crisp, clean images it's tough to go back -- rather like going from DVD back to VHS.

There's one little problem the TV set sales person won't tell you: There isn't that much HD content!  Most is standard def.  All of the DVD movies you watch are standard def.  All of the videos you produce are standard def. 

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Related Keywords:Convergence, home entertainment center, DVD, MPAA, HDTV, broadcast flag, DRM, FCC, time-shift, home theater, Digital Home Working Group, DHWG

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