Monday, December 24, 2007

the personal PC in a multi-media role

In my last blog I took a poke at what was coming in the PC world. There are some psychological battles that have been at the front of all this change. The computer has been for some time a one user at a time kind of machine since the beginning. Even though gamers have managed two players on a machine still it is a one user at a time kind of thing. To put the computer as the center of your entertainment system puts it in a multi-user environment. This crosses the line of the idea of a personal computer as much of the software written for the computer is for one user at a time. If this computer is your only household computer, then the battle for usage time is on. Have computers really gotten so cheap that any household can afford more than one? This usually means that if a computer is to be the media center it must be a dedicated machine, unless you are not sharing with others. But what the heck, even poor me has more than one computer, so I could turn one into a glorified TV/radio/HiFi. Why would you do this anyway?
I think it is the thrill of doing it yourself with things you are familiar with and making all the parts work together. The idea of having one machine handle all of your media also calls into play the possibility of putting it all on a network and being able to access all your files on any computer in the house. And to top it all off, you would probably find that costs for computer parts are comparable to stand alone entertainment system components. You have to think a circuit board, enclosure and power supply vs a circuit board that plugs into a slot on the computer you already own. You might see a cost savings or better quality. Why explore this stuff? I myself like many people are on the cusp of buying a new TV anyway because of the analog to digital changeover coming in 2009. Looking at all the little boxes that set next to my old TV, the VCR, CD player and all the attachments and cords, I have a great desire to integrate it all into one easily changeable system. I am just talking about the basics here but if you have cable TV or satellite then you can guess at the possibilities in front of you. Many are so enthralled by the prospects of a home theater and buy the big screen and surround sound system but it doesn't exclude folks of modest means and smaller egos from enjoying the current technology. Yes, I still enjoy my 19 inch analog TV which still works and will have to buy a new one or buy a conversion box, but I am looking into a digital video tuner card to plug into a computer to see what the costs is like. My computer also has DVD/CD and other media connections that are handy and economical compared to stand alone components. There is one question to be concerned with. Will the computer be reliable enough and maintenance free compared to stand alone components? Should I buy or build a Microsoft, Apple or Linux system? This is up to your preference because each system has its strengths and shortcomings and also tries to lock you into their product lines. What are you willing to deal with when you need support? A great product with a slacker support system makes for a very unhappy customer no matter what the cost of your system. In any event a computer offers a chance to blend the technologies to your needs and a central point of access, less power cords, etc.
Yeah, this is not cutting edge stuff but still, style makers and trend setters can't have all the fun. Eventually an idea becomes practical for the rest of us. Do-it-yourselfers jump on it then before you know it out comes a better consumer product for the masses.

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