The Ideal Home Network

Web/Tech

Too many cables
Creative Commons License photo credit: KIUI staff

I have been thinking a bit lately about what my ideal home network would look like. What kind of toys and tech would it take to fill all of my needs at home in the most efficient/coolest way possible? I got the idea from a recent video tour of Mark Pendergrast’s, who is a Microsoft employee and product manager, home where he showed off a lot of his toys. And though it was neat to see how a Microsoft employee would do things, it was a bit underwhelming. I have embedded the video below. Pretty neat to see, but nothing really that awe inspiring.


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So here are my thoughts on the matter and the list of rooms that the device would typically be used or placed in. This is going to sound more like my wish list than anything just because in an ideal world, everyone would have all of these tools at their disposal so that they would be as wired as they wanted.

Home Office – I want to start here because this is where most people tend to think that all computer stuff should go. That isn’t really the case anymore as the home computer, especially the laptop, has really come out into the rest of the home. The items that you really need here are more of your back-end stuff that you don’t really care if people see or not.  So, the items you would put here are your

  • Internet Connection and Wireless Router – This is where your internet connection should come in. It is accessible if you need a wired internet line, and can be serviced easily if something breaks and you need your ISP to come out and help you.  I would suggest any router that can run the DD-WRT software as it allows your router to do a lot more, a lot more efficiently. It is also useful for our next item on the list.
  • Windows Home Server – I know I just wrote about this a few days ago, but I am in love with this little beast. It does everything on a home network that your corporate IT guys have to do manually. If it was available on a larger scale, I would be in love with this thing for business. It backs up all of your computers, holds all of your files so you can share with family and friends, and with all of the additional software you can load, it becomes even more powerful. It will even serve up a web site so that you can share media with family outside of your home network if you have family pictures or documents that you want to share. There are a few different pre-built servers that are great. Low priced entry-level ones and high priced, fully featured ones. One of the best parts is that these things are tiny. No bigger than a couple of books.
  • Wireless Multifunction Printer – Everyone should have some sort of printer at home, and really should have a scanner at home as well. But not everyone has the time, patience, and knowledge to be able to setup that printer for printing from a laptop in another room through a desktop. But you don’t necessarily want your printer in a main area of the house taking up space and being a general eye-sore.  So, these Wireless Multifunction printers are wonderful for making it easy and not having to have an extra computer running all of the time just so it can be a print server. Some even allow printing directly from iPhones or iPod touches.
  • HD Home Run – This is probably one of the cooler items on the list just by sheer usage. This little device sits wherever your over the air high definition signal comes in and broadcasts it over your wireless internet throughout your home so that you can watch TV from any machine in your home, and even record it with the Windows Media Center software built into our kitchen computer.

Kitchen – This is probably one of the cooler places for tech and it would be used so much that you would wonder how you ever did without it.

  • HP Touchsmart computer – There are a couple of hurdles you have to get past when you introduce a computer into the kitchen. The first is the stigma of computers still being for word processing alone, but also the input has changed many times so a keyboard and mouse are not the only way to use a computer. The new HP Touchsmart PC’s have an amazing interface for kitchen computing. It allows you to touch the screen and browse through whatever you are interested in without having to touch the keys of a keyboard or buttons of a mouse. They are especially setup for kitchens because they have a recipe application that will allow you to browse websites like food.com and if you find a recipe you like, it will add it to your recipe book where it is formatted for the touchsmart so you can find and use the recipe quickly and easily. There is a lower priced model and a higher priced model. Take your pick.

Living Room – This is where most people actually see your technology. This is your entertainment hub, as well as the place you spend the most time, so this is the area where you need to be comfortable and have all of the tools you available to you that are needed on a daily usage basis.

  • Xbox 360 – This little device is getting more and more usable in the main entertainment areas. With the promise of Project Natal and the recent additions, including Last.fm, Netflix, Facebook, and Twitter, it is a really nice device. Not to mention that it is a Windows Media Center Extender where you can play all of the movies, music, and photos on the TV over the network from your home server, and with the HD Home Run, you can record TV shows to watch later.  Plus, it is a great gaming device and nice DVD player.
  • HDTV – Whatever size, whatever brand, you have to have a nice HDTV in your living room for viewing all of your content from the comfort of your couch. 1080p is a standard these days, so in order to get the most out of your TV, make sure it has all of the features you want so you don’t feel like you settled.
  • Receiver – Whatever receiver you get, you need to make sure that it has all of the connections you could possibly need for your home theater experience to be all it can be.
  • Wii – I highly recommend adding a Wii to your living room. It is by far the best party console to date. With the movement controller, and the games that cater to groups, it really makes things a lot more fun when people come over. Plus it is easier to just pickup and play than any other console.
  • Tivo – This one may not be needed according to whether  you want to use Windows Media Center for everything or if you just want to use it for a few of the entertainment pieces it can offer. I know a lot of people who just can’t live without Tivo, and I can’t blame them. It is the de facto DVR for recording shows and streaming content.
  • Harmony Remote Control – There is nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out how to watch something when you have too many things hooked up to the TV and can’t figure out which input the receiver should be on and which the TV should be on. The Harmony remotes are made to rectify this exact issue. I have an older Harmony, but it works just as well as any of the new ones. You figure out what input has what device attached one time, set it up on the computer and plugin the remote. Then everything configures itself and you are a single button push away from doing whatever you want on your home theater. So easy your kids could do it.
  • Laptop – Most households are going the way of the laptop as it is more versatile and portable than the desktop. Plus, who doesn’t love being able to sit in front of the TV and surf instead of being in a far away room trying to find something on the internet. No matter the make or model, this is an extremely nice addition to any couch surfer. Plus it can be used for more strenuous tasks like word processing, media editing, and downloading media.
  • Internet Tablet – This is one that most families don’t have, or at least don’t think about having. The best current example of an internet tablet is the iPod touch. It is a simple, single functioning device that can be used for surfing the web easily without thinking about maintenance to the device or how often you reboot it. It is always on and easy to use for reference.  No other good shipping examples are really out there right now, though real life examples are the Archos and Nokia tablets, but many are in development and will be available in the next year like the Camangi WebStation, the rumored Apple iTablet, and JooJoo, previously known as the Crunchpad. The Netbook could be posited here, but it is a bit more on the laptop side than you need for a tablet and would require more backups and maintenance than is needed for an internet tablet.

Bedroom – You could say that you don’t want tech in your bedroom, which would be fine, but there are some definite enhancements that can be made to the bedroom if you allow the right tech in.

  • Smaller HDTV – TV’s are so cheap these days that you can get a 19″ HDTV for under $200. So, if you want to watch TV, movies, or anything else in the bedroom, these are readily available.
  • Windows Media Center Extender – This will allow you to watch all of the content from your media center computer in the kitchen easily. That means recorded TV, live TV, music, movies, plus most of the extenders are DVD players as well.
  • Roku – Since Windows Media Center Extenders don’t yet support Netflix, this is a nice device to have that is small and allows you to stream your internet content from Netflix, Amazon, and lots of other fun channels directly to your bedroom.
  • Chumby – The Chumby is one of those devices that you aren’t sure how you’d use it until you get it. Then when you get it, you can’t live without it. It is small, portable, and does so many cool things besides just being your bedside alarm clock. Plus since the price of the Chumby One is only $99 bucks now, it is a really nice addition to the bedroom.

So, here is my question. Did I miss something? Is there anything that I should have added to the list that I didn’t? Does anyone out there actually have all of these toys to play with? If so, when can I come over and check it out? Let me know in the comments.

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