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What's Next for Your High-Tech Home? 82

koreth asks: "You have the remote-controlled lighting. Your kitchen has speakers in the ceiling and a control panel to play your MP3s, your bedroom is wired for gigabit Ethernet, and you already record HDTV on your computer and watch it on a front-projection screen. You even have a robot to do your vacuuming. So now what? Is has all the nifty stuff been done already, or are there still some nifty homebrew projects out there? What's next on your list of high-tech home improvements? What have you had to cobble together yourself, because nobody sells it in a package yet? What gizmos and conveniences do you expect your home will have in a year or two?"

"A few years ago, there was a rush of innovation in household high-tech items for early adopter types. Hobbyists tinkered to get their PCs to act as DVD players, put their baby-cams on their private Web sites, and pieced together low-cost audio servers. But that rush seems to have largely evaporated, perhaps a victim of the .com bubble bursting. There are still lots of products coming out, but they're aimed squarely at late adopters who have yet to catch up with the latest stuff -- witness the huge number of PC media convergence products announced in the last six months, all of them with functionality that's been available in some form for years."

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What's Next for Your High-Tech Home?

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  • by stefanlasiewski ( 63134 ) * <> on Saturday January 10, 2004 @08:32PM (#7941245) Homepage Journal
    What gizmos and conveniences do you expect your home will have in a year or two?"

    Broken gizmos. Lots of them. Warrantee expired.
    • Funny, but still true... Those of us renting have to ask the landlord before we even put up new shelves, and daren't install broadband because it has a one year lock-in but the landlord could end our tenancy with two months' notice. Not much scope for funky gadgets here. :-(

      But hey, keep the ideas coming. We can dream... :-)

      • Where do you have a one-year lock-in for broadband service? Are you out of the US perhaps? Putting that issue aside, it is quite doable to wire up one's apartment for a LAN.

        My cable modem is in the central hallway broom closet where the cable comes in. From there, my Linksys NAT box spits out a line to the home office/dining room where another 100Mbit switch handles our little fileserver, my desk (I plug in my Dell laptop when I get home), and my fiance's G3 Mac & Dell workstation. The Linksys box
        • Where do you have a one-year lock-in for broadband service? Are you out of the US perhaps?

          Yep, I'm in the UK. Here it's pretty standard for all of the big broadband ISPs offering ADSL to make you sign up for a "minimum one year" contract, to offset their expenses from connecting up a property and make up for all the upgrade work that's been performed on telephone exchanges to support ADSL. We have a weird, and often criticised, system where the infrastructure providers and ISPs are all tied up in one ta

      • Perhpas what the poster meant was that he or she rents their TV, stereo, etc.
      • hmmm a set of shelves is nothing a little spackle and a touch of paint can't fix...

        That said, I've never had many landlords who really cared about minor things like shelves as long as you don't trash the wall (and if you do, fix it!)

        But for those oppressive landlords (I had one for a couple years in college) the key is blackmail.

        I had a landlord (those of you who've lived in Isla Vista near UCSB no doubt have heard of Ron Wolfe - what a prick). He tried to stiff us on 2 years security deposits. He runs
        • Yep, s'funny that. I had rotting stairs outside my place, too. Warned them about them for nearly 18 months. Then one day, one gave way under me. Seriously injured my back, several days off work, pain and no physical hobbies for weeks, you know the drill. Contacted my landlord's agents shortly after that, pointed out the injury, and said pretty bluntly that if they didn't fix it within a couple of weeks, I'd make arrangements to do it myself and send them a bill of unspecified size to cover everything. Stran

  • Brrrrrrrrr..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eyeball ( 17206 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @08:40PM (#7941295) Journal
    I don't know about the rest of the /. world, but it's really cold today in the US Northeast, and all I can think about is getting a new super home heating system.

    • Funny you should mention that -- my office which only has a couple of desktops and a laptop running in it, still manages to be several degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Too cold in your house? The obvious solution is a Beowulf cluster, of course!
    • Re:Brrrrrrrrr..... (Score:3, Interesting)

      all I can think about is getting a new super home heating system

      Speaking of which, being the incessent hacker, I'd like to optimize the heck out of my energy systems' costs.

      For instance, it's 20 below zero outside, and my refrigerator is burning electricity to keep my food cold. It should be opening a vent instead.

      Currently I'm burning propane (and supplemental wood) to heat the house, when I have acres of warm earth to tap (need a ground-source heat pump ... has anyone heard of a water-source heat pum
      • Speaking of which, being the incessent hacker, I'd like to optimize the heck out of my energy systems' costs

        I think about this kind of stuff from time to time and I wonder about the cost/benefit ratio. Unless your energy source costs are really high, does the extra cost of time/equipment really pay for itself? I was introduced to the timer thermostat concept when I automated heating and air conditioning in my apartment years ago using an old Tandy Model 100 and some homebrew hardware. Same concept can be

    • Willing to bet dollars to donuts it's colder here in Minnesota (but probably wasn't when you wrote this. We had a warm weekend :-).
      Anyway, try improving your insulation before buying new heating. Our new house is 2x the size of the old one and the heating bill so far is running less than 1/2 what we're used to, just due to it being so much better insulated.
      And invest in a digital timer thermostat. They usually pay for themselves within one heating season!
  • You're not stupidly rich, and you have nothing so fancy!
  • Music is big! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mistert2 ( 672789 )
    I have been building MP3/OGG jukeboxes that have ethernet out of old 200-300mhz machines. As soon as I get one done, somebody buys it off of me. Some people want ethernet, old people want ways to rip 33s, 45s, 78s and tapes, everybody wants a CD burner on theirs. I pickup the beat up machines at a local computer store for $20, CD burner for $30-50, and I offload my old ethernet/sound cards/harddrives/video cards.

    I really want home automation for lights and heating. My wife actually put her foot down a

  • A wife... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DocSnyder ( 10755 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @08:58PM (#7941395)
    Unfortunately, wives compatible with hi-tech households are quite rare.
  • I wish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elemental23 ( 322479 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:00PM (#7941406) Homepage Journal
    What gizmos and conveniences do you expect your home will have in a year or two?

    My SO is going to be a year and a half into grad school two years from now. I'll be lucky if I can afford a coffee maker at that point.
  • Rather than getting calls while I'm communting back to my home, I'd rather people
    there have the ability to "track" me - either
    my (except, we're in Oz, where this
    isn't [yet] possible) or (available today) by

    A quick look at a computer screen will answer
    the questions like "Where are you?" & "How
    soon will you be home?" better than I can,
    at least while I'm driving... ;-)

    As a bonus, we can (either while I'm on the road
    or after I am home) check the weather at the
    place(s) we'd planned
  • Mini-ITX platform (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpinningAround ( 449335 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:09PM (#7941458)
    Arguably though, early adopters are the only ones with PC-based 'digital convergence' systems. They are based on expensive motherboards and fast, hot chips. As a result they are either noisy, or a lot of money was spent to make them quiet. The market is waiting for a small, quiet, powerful (in relative terms) platform.
    The Via Epia [] boards are almost there but are just a little short of processor horsepower to handle DivX decoding (and other processor intensive operations). The rumours [] are that there will be a 1.2Ghz Via C3 processor on a new core revision (C5P) out shortly. C3's provide roughly 50% of the horsepower of a similarly clocked P3 in the current core so at 1.2 Ghz (with some potential improvements in the new version core) you are almost at the level where you have a cool, quiet platform with enough horsepower to be a serious media-center PC.
    Of course, Via are rumoured to have some very cool stuff on the horizon, included a possible dual-cpu [] board and a new processor codenamed 'Esther' to be produced in IBM's fab.
    Maybe this [] is what I am waiting for? So perhaps this is the year when digital convergence becomes a reality for the masses?
    • Re:Mini-ITX platform (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Toxygen ( 738180 )
      Hey, if you want a quiet but powerful cpu solution for your media pc, I'm using one of the zalman cnps6000 units on an underclocked athlon xp. The heatsink is so efficient that you don't even need a fan so long as you have reasonable airflow in the case (I'm using one fan that runs at 21 dB), and underclocking it might sound a bit silly but it keeps it very cool and besides, you just don't need a 2100+ to play movies and music and such. It's clocked as a 1500+, and if the bios would let me lower it furthe
    • It's actually not very hard or expensive (I guess that's relative) to build a relatively quiet P4 or Athlon based system. Heatsink manufacturers are getting quite good at building thin-fin copper/aluminum heatsinks with big slow fans on them { 1 [] 2 [] 3 []}. Or even without any fan at all [].

      VIA now offers an EPIA board that takes a P4 or Celeron [] (only up to 533MHz frontside bus though). At $185 (mobo only), it's a lot pricier than their C3 based solutions (which are IIRC $100-150 with proc included), but throw a

    • Right on, dude.. I am waiting for the new C5P, which is about the size of a penny.. It has very low heat/power characteristics, and decent performance. If I could find a very small case that still allows a 3.5" HDD, it would be the perfect Linux server. Fanless operation, with a quiet Maxtor 250GB hard drive would make for a nice quiet system.

      The dual processor reference board also had two 100Mbps Ethernet ports, and a DVI video port.. I want one!
  • Well... how about... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <ieshan AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:13PM (#7941479) Homepage Journal
    What with the submitter's sense of beauty, perhaps the rather cynical suggestion of a case-modded real doll [] isn't out of the question? (smirk)
  • Low-tech (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SW6 ( 140530 ) <> on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:15PM (#7941490) Homepage
    My high-tech home could use a working hoover, a comfortable sofa, and some cats would be nice. Much more useful than another toy that breaks after six months, and definitely more conducive to a pleasant environment.
    • a working hoover, a comfortable sofa, and some cats
      Get a HEPA filter vacuum. It will help you clean all the cat dander off your sofa. I use a bagless (uses a dust cup) Eureka that also filters the motor exhaust. It's powerful enough to suck in an entire cat, so be sure you have a spare.
      • I use a bagless (uses a dust cup) Eureka that also filters the motor exhaust.

        These are poor imitations of the REAL bagless vacuum, the almighty Dyson. [] The first time I used mine, it pulled up two full bins of filth that my old Hoover had left in the carpet.

        It filters out dirt by centrifugal motion in "cyclone" tubes. Unlike all other bagless vacs, there are no filters to replace. It has seals of approval from various allergy associations for its excellence in cleaning dust and other allergens out of t

      • Re:Low-tech (Score:3, Funny)

        by unitron ( 5733 )
        "It's powerful enough to suck in an entire cat, so be sure you have a spare."

        Spare cat, or spare vac?

  • Nothing!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zulux ( 112259 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:23PM (#7941525) Homepage Journal

    I'm trying to get technology away from my life - it's not bringing me joy.

    For $3500 - I could buy a DLP Projector or Or I could go to France for a month - get fucking drunk on good wine, eat good food and attempt to have fun with the pretty french girls.

    Guess which one I'll be thinking about on my death bed?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Those french movies looked almost real on the DLP Projector I had"
    • /obvious/ (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You are posting to slashdot, so I'm guessing you mean your homemade DLP projector...
    • by Me303 ( 607100 )
      /get fucking drunk on good wine, eat good food and attempt to have fun with the pretty french girls. Guess which one I'll be thinking about on my death bed?\ Hah and why you are then registered user on slashdot ;) So that why i guess you get that DLP and after you maby thinking these girls (why i dont travel) on your death bed ;)
    • Don't get caught up in getting crap to achieve an identity. Your life will be much more rewarding if think about this.

      Instead of buying the latest DVD/whatever player for $400, get a cheap used accoustic guitar for $50 and learn how to play it - much more fun/rewarding in the long run - bring it to the beach (chicks LOVE this, join a band, etc.

      Don't let Madison avenue define who you are by what crap you own, you are much more than just that.

      • Don't get caught up in getting crap to achieve an identity

        Uh, everyone I know buys things because they will somehow improve their lives, not to show off. (Perhaps your friends are more shallow than mine, I don't know.)

        I don't think it will impress anyone that my basement lights turn on when I go down the stairs. That's not why the lights are on a motion sensor. They are on a motion sensor because when I go to the basement with a load of laundry or a big box, it's a pain in the butt to put down the box,

    • I give...which french girl will you be thinking of?

      I'm guessing the redhead. Am I right?

  • I got sick of cheap laserprinters and inkjets scattered around the house so I bought a used Laserjet 4000 on ebay and added 64meg of ram and a duplexer.

    I'm building a custom cart that will fit in the laundry room next to the dryer. I'll be pulling the old CAT5 tomorrow and mounting a printserver box next to it.

    No more putting off big print jobs til I can take them in to work.

  • Having a bar monkey is a cool home-brewn project, although creating a 'smarter' or more automated kitchen would be a very large and very High-tech :)
  • by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:27PM (#7941550) Homepage Journal
    I saw on WinCE device that would control your stove and other devices in your house and even your computer. I'm sorry but I'll be damned before I let MS anything controll my house in that manner. What happens to me when a virus hits my pc and turns everything on the stove on catching whatever may be on or in it on fire not to mention the danger to my kids if they didnt know the stove had been turned on.

  • I'm planning to move house to the ISS.
  • Install current sensors on your mains, major appliances, HVAC system, and computer outlets. Work on reducing your energy load so you can buy more toys. While your at it, get the HVAC and hot water systems on a web site so you can monitor and control them remotely.
  • Once we finish fixing up a room in the basement, my dual G5 and its Cinema 23HD are going to move in there, along with my (and my wife's) other high-tech toys. Then we'll get a futon couch, some artsy lighting, and a decent set of speakers (probably Logitech Z680's so I can go optical Toslink from the G5 to them) and a remote (either ATI or Keyspan) and the neighbors will feel 500 watts of remorse for all the times they annoyed us by cranking up the sound on their movies.

    Other than that... mini-DV camer

  • I'll be building a new house in the next year or so - have the lot, but no consensus with my bride on the house.

    Anyhow, the one thing I consistently regret in my current home is cabling a thing is a huge pain. I finally updated my home network with wireless, but no drivers when I'm running on the Linux side. I added a satellite dish, I had to do some nasty drilling / drywall patching. When I build, I'll be running a generous amount of empty low voltage conduit everywhere. You never know when you have
    • Re:Smurf tube... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rekkanoryo ( 676146 ) *
      I feel your pain with running wires. You should see my basement. It's a disaster from all my computer-related wiring. My parents aren't too thrilled, but they don't say much because they know if I don't have my network, I'll become a *very* unhappy camper.

      My "high-tech" home should include broadband internet as the first, most important thing. Next would be a KVM switch thad did something unusual--it would come with wireless adapters for the PCs that draw their transmitting power from the USB so that I

    • What about running the wires along the base of the walls and then clipping on some removable baseboards on top of the wires?

      Then when you need to re-wire something, just pop off the baseboards. Plus, if you want a jack to be in a particular spot, just pop off the baseboard, drill a hole, install a jack, wire it up, and pop it back on.

      For the doorways, you could have removable thresholds. (Or whatever that piece is called that goes on the floor directly under a doorway.)
      • I'm so done with anything else on my current house. When I build - within the next 18 months - I will install proper conduit. Already did some ugly wiring here... (grin)
  • Just ask this guy []. Mine, however, would include a linux based DashPC [] development area like this one [].

  • If you want to go overboard (like I did! ;-), then automate your Christmas lights ... and just for grins, add a webcam ... and then add the ability to control 'em via the web ... and then allow any surfer to do it ... and then get Slashdot'ed to test that it is all working properly! ;-) []

    Read all about the Christmas Lights [] which also includes an analysis of the Slashdot Effect on Christmas Lights. []

  • Lava lamps. Lots of them!

    Seriously, my next high tech move will be to build a RAID-5 array out of the 3 x 250 GB drives I got for Christmas. A few months ago I lost a 120 GB drive which had a bunch of stuff I didn't have backed up, so I'm making sure that this never happens again.

    I still won't be protected from fire or theft, but drives die all the time, and as long as more than one doesn't die at once I'll be okay.

    PS The fortune is currently "The most important thing is the thing most easily forgo

    • It'll happen again.

      I think backups to one single non real time drive are much better than a local raid 5. cause, when you accidently delete your media directory you'll run around quite livid wishing you had done a remote backup.

      find a friend who also has linux and help each other by rsyncing your data to each other's apartments. can't beat it!
  • by GrandCow ( 229565 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @02:46AM (#7943078)
    In my experience, the majority of people that have all these devices aside from the ludicrously wealthy are also sadly single.
  • by tsa ( 15680 )
    Yesterday I bought a DVD player that can play MPEG-4 and DivX. That very high-tech for me. It's a Philips DVD-737 [].
  • Some Serious Ideas (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ed Almos ( 584864 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @07:00AM (#7943774)
    OK, if you're into home automation as much as I am then here are some ideas. Please note that not all of them are realistic at this time but technology is always improving.

    1) Full climate management on a per-room basis. If it's too hot in a room the system turns up the AC, too cold it opens a radiator valve or turns on the underfloor heating, too bright it closes the blinds/drapes.

    2) Intruder detection, link individual room alarms to cameras and record the pictures digitally.

    3) Voice control of all functions. Imagine walking into a room and saying 'increase lights by fifty percent and it happens.

    4) A home phone system combined with an intercom.

    I started my tech career reading Circuit Cellar and that gave me lots of ideas (thanks Steve), if you ever find a collection of the Circuit Cellar books then snap them up because you will be prying mine from my cold dead fingers.

    Ed Almos
    Budapest, Hungary
    • Voice control of all functions. Imagine walking into a room and saying 'increase lights by fifty percent and it happens

      I agree with that. One of the big issues is with control - all these gadgets need to be controlled, which means loads of remotes and/or geeky interfaces which other family members aren't happy with.

      I want to have *controlled* access via the Web (so I can tell the heating to be on when I get home etc). But voice control would be great:
      "Computer - switch television to BBC1 please"

      • I was going to do voice control via lapel mic a couple years ago. Then 3Com's Audrey bombed and the units were getting blown out for chump change, so instead I bought a few of them to sprinkle around the house, and just use the web interface I was already constructing.

      • i hooked Realize Audio on my XP box into the linux box using macros, and the linux box has X10 connected to all the lights and fans. It took me about 3 hours to get it all working. You can get an omnidirectional microphone from radioshack for 39 bucks with OK-ish pickup, and I've demonstrated that you can indeed turn the window fans both on and off from 12 feet away by asking for it at a slightly louder voice than normal.
      • All of the above is possible using products from Home Automated Living (HAL) [].

        The only problem, currently, is discerning your voice in a noisy room. Gated mic systems are the best bet, but you have to be relatively close to one for it to turn on.
    • OT: My favorite Ciarcia article was the month he described trying to get back into the house, past all his intruder detection stuff, when he *locked himself out*. Sometimes a geek's worst enemy is him/herself.
    • 3) Voice control of all functions. Imagine walking into a room and saying 'increase lights by fifty percent and it happens.

      I don't think I'd like that. I've always had Macintosh computers, and for a really long time they've had voice recognition. I can tell my Mac to do just about anything (except be inexpensive :) .

      But I don't use it. It works fine, but I don't like talking to my computer. I don't know why.

      Instead of voice recognition in the house, I'd like to have good controls. All the control pane

  • It's illegal and all, but I want to have a movie server much like the music servers that people build.

    I'll rip all my DVDs (a lot)stick them on the server, and then be able to play them back from any PC, or the TV without getting up or moving.

    In addition, I'd like it to be able to easily serve other video such as Red versus Blue, etc easily.

    I started on this, and was making progress, but had to loan out the machine for a 'quick' work project that has taken much longer than it should. At the time, the tri

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