I’m horrible at blogging.  I started this with a few ideas in mind and it ended up being ~2100 words.  If you’ve got ADHD you’ll never get through this.  I barely got through it.

I definitely live and love the digital lifestyle.   99% of the time I think it’s a tremendous benefit.  It’s still a lot harder to set up than it should be but it’s been good for me.  Whenever I do something with the computers of my family or friends I’m quickly reminded of how the real world lives.  I’ll blog on those experiences at some point in the future.  Some are painfully revealing.  The only thing that disrupts the free flow of digital information to me is those companies who I get services from (as a consumer) and our friends who give you the pertinent information over the phone (and on the answering machine) or who mail invitations.

The integration between most everything in this lifestyle is very good.  That is because I use only our software.  I have friends (OK, coworkers) that have jobs that require them to focus on our competition and they run a lot of competitive software.  They’re always giving me grief about not testing and using the competition to see how they’re doing.  I used to when I wasn’t a master of all domains (need to know lots about our stuff and everyone else’s but more from an academic standpoint—via reading).  I simply don’t have the time.  I want to keep my network up 7x20 (I don’t care about the four hours when we’re all asleep) and not tweaking it makes it very easy to do that.  It took me a lot longer to install Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) beta software than I’d like but that’s because it wasn’t intended to support an in-place upgrade since you buy a MCE PC, not the software.

Here’s a list why I love the lifestyle:

  • BroadbandConnectivity – Always on Internet.  I don’t know how people can live with dial-up.  Broadband insures my PCs have the latest anti-virus signature, the latest patches and the coolest add-ons.
  • Both Wired and Wireless Networks – Everything except for my Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) are connected to each other and the ‘net in some way.
  • I have three computers running Windows XP Professional all running in Workgroup mode. Why Pro versus Home Edition?  Because I can Remote Desktop into any of them.
  • Ultimate TV – I have two and am convinced if we stayed in the business, and had more people experience them, we’d have them as customers for life. PVRs rule and may possibly be one of the greatest inventions after radio and TV.  PVRs aren’t perfect.  I had a HDD failure and lost a couple of programs that had queued up while I was out of town.  The upside?  I upgraded from the failed 40Gb HDD to a 120Gb HDD.  3x more programming.  Other downside: no HDTV.  However, I’d give up high def for on-demand viewing any day of the week.
  • Digital Music – I stream my entire WMA and MP3 music collection through the stereo in our house.   I also have speakers on our patio which means while I’m flipping burgers I’ve got my music close at hand.  No more changing CDs.  3000+ songs all at my fingertips. 
  • Digital Photos – We bought our first digital camera in 1998 (want to buy a 1.2 Megapixel camera, slightly used, for 75% of what I paid for it--$750? ).   We bought another one a few years to get away from the shutter lag (its actually a memory cache to media issue).  We’ve taken ~7500 photos.  I use the My Pictures Slideshow in Windows XP to display them on the various monitors.  One quirk: The My Pictures Slideshow doesn’t work well across a network (via a shared UNC).  We bought the Music Mixer add-on for XBox which enables us to transfer the pictures to it.  It could be a lot easier to use.  I don’t want to copy them.  I’d like to be able to point it to the source and have it buffer the pictures in memory or on the disk.  I’ll never copy all of the photos down to my XBox—I have too many and it’s too time consuming.
  • Digital Video – I take all of the mini-DVs and pull them into Movie Maker.  I haven’t taken the time to really do anything other than plus my camera into the IEEE 1394 connection (did you know Apple trademarked “Firewire” so it shouldn’t be used generically) and have MM create snippets of movies.  I’ve played with some of the “Ken Burns” effects (his name is used every time a journalist describes what you can do which either means his style is pretty darn distinct or they’re just taking the copy of our press releases) but never to actually create a final production.  Perhaps when burning a DVD is drop-dead easy I’ll make the effort.  I also don’t rip them in a high resolution even with a 180Gb HDD so I still keep all of the old tapes for someday when 1Tb is the norm.  Jeez, that’s pathetic. 
  • Outlook – why does Outlook matter?  It is the primary repository for all of my (our) personal and business contacts and calendar entries.  My Pocket PCs and Smartphone have all of this information.  Today, there is a separation between Outlook on our home computers and Outlook on my work computers (including my Smartphone, Pocket PCs, Tablet PCs). Someday (below) that’ll be history.
  • Auto PC – I can take my Pocket PC contacts (usually created in Outlook) and “squirt” them to my AutoPC.  That makes it easy to use them with the GPS software to have it tell me how to get from here to there.
  • Tablet PC – Its wireless and it works as well on the couch as it does in the kitchen.  I have OneNote on it so with a “shared note section” that is shared on every other PC. That allows us to add a typewritten or inked note in one place and have access to it from any other computer.
  • Smartphone, Pocket PC Phone Edition, Pocket PC and Handheld PCs – I am a switcher.  I move the SIM back and forth between my Smartphone and Pocket PC Phone Edition at least once a week.   I take a train (as opposed to driving) to work so I usually have both hands available.  I like the 240x320 screen and the applications I can access.  If I’m driving to our other office I’ll move the SIM to my Smartphone because there’s a pretty good chance I’ll have to call someone while I’m in the car.  The Smartphone is a one handed device meaning that I can unlock it, find a contact, dial them or a number, all with one hand. 
  • XBox and XBox Live – Gaming will never be the same again.  It enables a forty year old guy to have the same sort of friend’s relationship that you did when you were ten—buddies come over on any day of the week, hang out, and then go home at bedtime.  I love the fact that I play an XBL-enabled game, can say goodnight, and then walk upstairs and go to bed. 

I am looking forward to:

  • Getting all of my bills electronically in Microsoft Money (or Quicken—its XML baby!).  I don’t want the useless reminder that my gas company used to send me until I cancelled it.  They used an outside company so the DNS address wasn’t useful, you didn’t see how much you owed and they didn’t even provide a URL to get more detail.  I want a full color, detailed report that Money can store for me and I can pay by clicking a button. 
  • Having access to.NET My Services or some other cloud-based service like it for files (OneNote is the most important one for me), contacts, appointments, tasks and other settings that I use on every one of my computers. I expect that either between Longhorn or a pay service will enable all of the data to be synched between each other.  I like what Plaxo does with Outlook contacts but I've stopped using it for a couple of reasons.  
  • Being able to play my digital music on any of my devices, computers, and things that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.  DRM still seems to me to be too restrictive.  I will and do not steal music.  How do I prove it to the companies who make music and hold the rights to those songs?
  • Peer-to-peer networking works a lot better and is much much easier.  Because my Tablet is registered as a machine in the Microsoft corporate domain when I plug them into my home network (which is in workgroup mode) between ICS, being in a domain, etc. I can’t just communicate between the machines.  I can’t map a drive via NetBIOS names—I have to use IP addresses.  I’m hoping that Longhorn fixes that in someway.  I need a way for me as an end user to do a key exchange with myself for all of my PCs.  I want them all to trust each other so I don’t have to cheat and say “remember/save password” (bad security) in order to fake it. I'd really like to see us (or a value add partner but I think it'd have to be us) provide a way to have each of the computers in a customer's house treat each other PC as a RAID 5 drive.  The OS would “stripe” the data across all of the PCs but they'd really have a full copy of each other.  There are some serious implications around applications but just think how cool it'd be if one of your PCs died and you either got a new one (I've known friends that bought a new computer because they thought they had a virus!) or popped in a new drive and it “discovered” all of your other computers and rebuilt it for you!  Does Longhorn's WinFS make that doable?  I think it does but that's just a theory.  It'd sure be cool.  
  • Backing up your data.  Most people do not and that’s frightening they join the lifestyle.  The frustration they’ll feel when they loose their once in a lifetime photographs is scary.  In the 80s and early 90s I’d buy a Colorado Memory Systems tape backup drive.  At the beginning I used 10Mb tapes and buy the end I was using 40Mb tapes.  I bought a DAT drive from a friend which I think used 1Gb tapes.  That started to fail and the drives quickly eclipsed a gig.  Now drives are 40-180 gigabytes!  I bought an external HDD that's a 180 Gb to back up both my work and home stuff.  If the house burns down I'll be the guy in my underwear with a Maxtor drive.  That's a good look.   What I really want is good XCopy/Backup software combo.  I don't want one 120 Gb file.  Since compression isn't available going drive to drive I want each file but I was to be able to skip my temporary internet files directory, temp, etc.  I've got a mother of a script that I keep appending but it still falls way short.
  • Not having my home theater completely isolated from my network with the exception of my XBox (via Live).  I think MCE could eventually have a place in my component rack.  This will happen when my Ultimate TVs either die (they’re no longer made so there’s quite an EBay market for them), HDTV programming is pervasive and the MCE gets 1) two tuners (record two programs at once) and 2) it can record HDTV.  Some of the simple things MCE would enable me to do is to watch our digital photographs on the TV.  Music Mixer doesn’t cut it.  I don’t think I’m breaching any confidentiality by saying this (Bill Gates demoed it at Comdex or CES a few years ago) but we had some remote record technology for the Ultimate TV that meant via a browser connected to the ‘net you could nearly instantaneously set a program on the unit).  I want to be able to do this on MCE and ultimately via a Smartphone, Pocket PC or other PDA.
  • Having all of my data at my fingertips.  SPOT Technology looks promising.  I think it is a pretty good start.  We’ll see.  It better take off or it may share an apartment with BOB, Team Manager, Ultimate TV, MS Phone and the rest of the misfit toys. 

·        Getting closer to single sign on outside of work.  For most people SSO is a goal inside of work but our operations and technology group has built a world-class directory using Active Directory.  I love Passport but there are far too few non-Microsoft web sites that use it.  The Liberty Alliance group was supposed to challenge Passport and they had lots of members.  I'm still not able to log into those member's web sites with the same ID and password.  Please get in the game or talk to the Microsoft Passport people.