able for the home user.
Chapter 13: Networking Your Entertainment Center
The simplefi and HomeRF
The current version of the simplefi uses a If youâ€™re shopping for a simplefi, make sure that
system called HomeRF, which was a competitor you get one of these newer versions, which
to 802.11. HomeRF is now defunct, and Motorola should be on the market by mid-2003.
will be soon converting the simplefi to 802.11.
If the source content resides in the personal computing center:
Buy a wireless media player. Some A/V gear is complemented by a
media player whose main goal is to coordinate the flow of audio, video,
and other data between the PC/Internet environment and the entertain-
ment system. A good example of this is the $249 PRISMIQ MediaPlayer
(www.prismiq.com), which sits atop any television, stereo, or entertain-
ment center and links to any computer via a wireless home network (or
other Ethernet connection). It eliminates the requirement to be physi-
cally present at the PC in order to experience digital movies, MP3 audio,
and digital pictures stored on the PC. The PRISMIQ MediaPlayer also
connects to the Internet through the home network for relaxed, TV-
based Web surfing, instant messaging, personalized TV-displayed news,
and easy access to emerging next-generation broadband services. We
introduce you to some of the leading media players on the market in a
Buy a home theater PC. A high-powered PC designed to interact with
the entertainment center is a perfect complement to your home. Instead
of spending money on a new DVD player, why not use that CD/DVD
player in your PC? In place of a bunch of home-created CDs, why not just
leave them on a high-capacity hard drive on your PC and let the songs
play through your stereo whenever you want? We talk about the home
theater PC shortly.
Wireless Home Entertainment Gear
The ideal would be if all your stereo equipment came with 802.11 chips
inboard so that they could just hop onto your wireless backbone (a techno-
geek way of talking about your wireless signal footprint in your home) and
get to work. Although we think thatâ€™s not all that unlikely as technology
moves forward, itâ€™s not the case today.
Instead, what you find today is that a lot of home entertainment accessories
are going wireless, like your MP3 players and portable speakers. One of the
most major pieces of your home entertainment system going wireless is your
250 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
TVâ€™s set top box. Typically, to distribute video around the house, you had to
wire a home with coaxial cable. The cable companies know that they donâ€™t
make much (if any) money on that part of the equation, so they would just as
soon run a cable into the home gateway set top box and then use wireless
signals from there. Want to watch TV by the pool? No problem â€” your wire-
less TV signal can help you out. We expect that satellite, cable, and telephone
company video set top boxes will all sport wireless options fairly soon.
Instead of being hard-wired to your cable box, you can just pick up your TV
(outfitted with a compatible wireless adapter) and carry it to the pool. And
with your wireless remote control controlling the set top box back inside the
house, youâ€™ll think you were in heaven. (Just keep the TV out of the hot tub,
or you might really be in heaven.)
In Chapter 14, we introduce you to the next wave of remote controls â€”
802.11b-based remotes that control signals in other rooms. Right now, these
signals actually go to infrared (IR) devices that mimic an IR remote control in
that room. In the near term, youâ€™ll see onboard wireless interfaces in the set
top boxes themselves, which will again allow remote control and access to
But alas, for now, only a few pieces of audio and video gear have standards-
based wireless interfaces. Youâ€™re starting to see video projectors sport
802.11b interfaces; for example, NEC Solutions (America), Inc. is shipping the
first MT Series generation of portable projectors to offer the NEC
ImageXpress networking technology option. With NEC ImageXpress, the
MT60 Series of projectors can communicate continuously and in real time
from a PC to the projector through a wireless system via 802.11b. The wire-
less option makes it easy to connect to the video projector from anywhere
nearby, without the hassles of cables to trip over. Although this particular
projector can double for home or office use, a lot of home theater projectors
are moving towards wireless connectivity, too.
SONICblue (which at the time of this writing was unfortunately going through
bankruptcy proceedings and was divesting the subsidiary that makes this
product) has a wireless-enabled Go-Video D2730 DVD player (www.sonic
blue.com; $299) and is the first player of its kind to be able to stream video
files through a wireless network to a consumer electronics component. It sup-
ports Ethernet 10/100 through an RJ-45 wired interface as well as 802.11
through a Personal Computer Memory Card International Association
(PCMCIA) Card/bus card slot where you can plug in 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g,
and a Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HPNA) card. The D2730 can play
MP3 and WMA audio files, JPEG image files, and MPEG1 and MPEG2 video
Yamaha has an 802.11b-enabled audio server called the MusicCAST (see
Figure 13-1). This system consists of a couple of pieces. The server is the cen-
terpiece of the system and uses a large computer hard drive and a built-in CD
Chapter 13: Networking Your Entertainment Center
drive to rip (convert to MP3) all your CDs and store the music. The server
then uses 802.11b to send streaming music files to separate receivers
throughout your home. The receivers contain built-in audio amplifiers, so
you can plug a set of standard stereo speakers into them. Or if you have an
existing stereo system in the room where the receiver is located, you can
plug the receiver directly into that unit and use the speakers that youâ€™ve
already got. The MusicCAST system isnâ€™t cheap â€” the price of a server and a
single receiver is about $2,800, and additional receivers (for other rooms in
the house) go for about $800.
Expanding Your Home Entertainment
Center with Wireless Adapters
Nothing is worse than having a great piece of entertainment gear that you
want to get onto your home network, but the nearest outlet is yards away,
and you donâ€™t have a cable long enough to plug it in. So you can forgive
Danny when he had his brand new, networking-capable ReQuest, Inc.
252 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
AudioReQuest system (www.request.com) with no Ethernet connection near
it to plug it into. The AudioReQuest â€” a digital music server; see Figure 13-2
to see how the server sends music throughout the house â€” is a great exam-
ple of the type of network-enabled audio gear coming down the pike. Capable
of storing as many CDs as you have (you can add additional storage by their
swappable hard drives or getting higher capacity units), this is the ultimate
in CD listening pleasure.
The server: Stores and broadcasts music
wirelessly throughout the home.
house with The client: Retrieves music stored on server,
Audio- enables access to music from anyone
within the home.
Chapter 13: Networking Your Entertainment Center
And with a device like the AudioReQuest TV Navigator Interface, you can use
your TV screen as the interface to your music collection. A bright, TV screen-
based user interface enables you to select and play your music, create
playlists from albums and artists stored in the system, and enjoy pulsating
music-driven graphics on the TV setâ€™s display. Thatâ€™s a lot better than a two-
line liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. And itâ€™s easy to use â€” loading (rip-
ping) a new CD into the system is as easy as opening the CD tray and closing
it. The AudioReQuest determines whether the CD is already loaded in your
system and then looks up the name of the album and artist in its internal
database of 650,000 albums; if the system canâ€™t find the CD, it checks a
master database on the Internet.
The AudioReQuest has an onboard internal Web server that allows access to
this music from wherever you want, be it in the house or over the Internet.
You can also add other units to the system and network them. Danny has one
unit in his house in Maine and another in his house in Connecticut, and they
stay synchronized. Whatâ€™s more, multiple units enable you to have a backup
of your collection in case your hard drive crashes.
Higher-end ReQuest units also support WAV and FLAK (lossless compression â€”
meaning youâ€™ll get higher fidelity audio quality) protocols for those who want
audio fidelity. (These protocols take up more space on the hard drive but pre-
serve the nuances of the music.)
Itâ€™s truly the future of music in the entertainment center. An entry-level Audio-
ReQuest Nitro system costs about $2,500 and scales up from there depending
on storage capacity and extra features. This is the box that you put in your
home if youâ€™re serious about music!
The AudioReQuest also has onboard networking installed, just like your PC,
with an Ethernet outlet for interconnecting with your home network. The
only problem? No wireless connectivity, as we mention above. But because
the AudioReQuest has an Ethernet outlet, itâ€™s easy to use a wireless bridge
(which we discuss in Chapter 12) to bring it onboard to your wireless home
network. Dannyâ€™s using a D-Link (www.d-link.com) DWL-810 Wireless
Ethernet Bridge (802.11b) to link it into his wireless network.
(As soon as he finishes this book, Dannyâ€™s going to extend his AudioReQuest
to syncing with his car stereos, too â€” over wireless computer network
Entertainment devices such as the Microsoft Xbox (www.xbox.com) and
ReplayTV (www.replaytv.com) can also connect to a network with the D-
Link Wireless Ethernet Bridge via their built-in Ethernet ports. The Ethernet
bridge works because Danny has an Ethernet port on his audio server. But
what about situations where there is no networking outlet option at all (no
USB, no Ethernet, no onboard wireless)?
254 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
Not a problem. A new slew of wireless networking gear sports RCA jacks â€”
the same jacks used to connect your sources into your receiver. These make
it easy to connect non-audio gear into the home entertainment network.
These wireless audio transmitters will transmit audio from your PC to your
stereo without the use of cables.
Right now, most of this gear is using proprietary signaling â€” not Bluetooth or
802.11 â€” to transmit their signals. As a result, the signals are mostly point-to-
point, linking a PC, say, with your entertainment center. As we write, 802.11b
products are coming on the market that enable any compatible device in
range to pick up the signals, making your entertainment center more accessi-
ble by lots of devices, from your PC to your audio server in your car. Get an
802.11-based product if you have the choice.
For instance, the RCA Model RD 900W Lyra Wireless (www.rca.com; $99)
device sends crystal-clear digital audio from your PC to your stereo, as
depicted in Figure 13-3. Just plug it into your PCâ€™s USB jack on the one end
and the entertainment centerâ€™s RCA jacks on the other, and youâ€™re ready to
go. Unfortunately, as of this printing, the Lyra uses 900 MHz technology, not
standardized 802.11 chips, to accomplish this. Jensenâ€™s Matrix Internet Audio
Transmitter (www.jensen.com) Model JW901 works the same way: a 900 MHz
connection between the PC and stereo. X10â€™s Entertainment Anywhere
(www.x10.com) uses a proprietary 2.4 MHz signal.
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