Comprehensive Digital Lifestyle Goes Mainstream

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While we (the writers and readers of blogs like ZNF) tend to think the universe of consumer electronics revolves around us, the truth is big brands are after a much larger and more lucrative market: the soccer mom and her family. Hence the new trend toward lifestyle marketing. Apple stores sell a “digital experience;” Comcast has created an “electronics spa” in a retail experiment with Circuit City; Sony Style stores have popped up all over the US.

This is a real shift in approach: the idea of architecting a digital home instead of selling gadgets. And at a Sony Style store over the weekend, I was somewhat amazed at how many dads, moms and tots were being drawn in by the lifestyle lure.

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Squeezebox Review: On My X’mas List

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I admit to feeling some trepidation when my Slim Devices Squeezebox review unit arrived. Since buying a house a year and a half ago, my stereo from early high school has sat unused in our basement. (Note the cheesy, Space-Invaders-like display on the screen and the layers of dust.)

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I popped open one of the tape decks and look what I found:

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So imagine my nervousness at trying to combine the archaic technology of my high school years with something as beautiful as the Squeezebox.

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I’ve contemplated upgrading my music options for quite a while now, but frankly I’ve been pretty happy with my iPod and the kitchen radio for listening to NPR. Satellite radio has a monthly fee, which I’m not willing to pay, and my music collection isn’t stellar enough to warrant buying an iPod dock with speakers.

Looking at the Squeezebox, I wondered not only if I could make it work with my stereo, but if it would even be worthwhile given my decidedly low-key approach to music.

Here’s the answer: Yes, yes, unequivocally yes. Can I have it for Christmas, please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

Every new thing I tried with the Squeezebox just made it better — Starting with streaming my own music, then accessing the SqueezeNetwork and finally going full out with Pandora. If you want to skip set-up and some of the more gory details, scroll to the end for a list of pros and (very few) cons.

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CE Under the Tree (or Hanukkah Bush)

In the midst of today’s gadget-opia, you’d think it would be easy to pick out CE gifts for the holiday season. But the NPD Group suggests that consumers will be shunning electronics this year in favor of more �traditional� gifts like clothing and toys. And I’m not surprised. While there are plenty of new and … Read more

YouTube Goes for (More) Mass Distribution

Notice how indie and mass commercial distribution networks are merging? Well here’s one more example: Reuters and The Wall Street Journal report that YouTube (apparently we still call it that if even after Google’s buyout) and Verizon are in talks to distribute YouTube videos over cell phones and the FiOS TV network. I’m very curious … Read more

Happiness is a DVR in Election Season

I’m not the only one who’s noticed how nice it is to have a DVR during election season. Pennsylvania and neighboring New Jersey are battleground states for several Congressional seats, and I’ve never been happier to be able to skip through a series of ad campaigns. Personally, I know where my votes are going, and … Read more

Crazy Batcave Home Theater

So what’s a retired naturalist with plenty of disposable income to do? Have a custom cave theater built in her cellar, of course! Just don’t stand up too quickly. (photo by Jack Bingham, via CEPro)

Sony Preps Wireless AV System

What’s a bored, snowed-in geek to do on a Sunday AM? Troll the FCC website for new products, of course!

Sony’s got a home wireless AV transmission system (HWS-AV10) in the works. It uses the 2.4 GHz frequency to relay audio, video, and IR remote signals from a component in one room to a TV in another… while likely interfering with your cordless phones and WiFi. The base station includes an IR blaster allowing you to change channels or choose TiVo recordings at a distance. The receiver smartly bundles an external antenna to fine-tune reception.

In the past, I’ve used a few variations of this device with mediocre results. I’ve had better luck using media extenders/servers over WiFi… though they require a larger investment of both time and money. If cash is no object, go whole-hog with Sony’s LocationFree TV and take your screen with you around the house. For basic video, I’d advise just fishing the coax.

Sorry, HD Beat… this puppy’s standard def only.

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Anthro’s eNook For All Your Gadgets

Normally I mock all new i- and e- named products… However, I’m willing to make an exception for Anthro’s clever eNook. It looks to be a handy wall accessory for charging and storing all manner of gadgets – and let me tell you, I have more than my fair share. My only experience with Anthro has been positive — from purchase to shipping to typing up this blog entry on a 5 year old indestructible and still pristine computer cart. The eNook’s not cheap at $399, but given the solid construction and durability of my cart it’s probably a safe investment.

Anthro says: It charges, it stores and it fits where you don’t have a lot of room. eNook has channels for you to plug in and charge all of your electronic gadgetry, like your laptop, cell phones, PDAs and digital cameras. Flip it up to store your laptop and lock it out of sight. Or flip it down and you have a handy desk. eNook’s fabric covered back panel even serves as a bulletin board. Choose from different color and fabric combinations to match any decor.

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