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Topic: Home Multi-Media Networks

Description: In the last 30 years or so, there has been a push in multi-media storage to move from analog storage mediums (records, magnetic tapes, etc.) to digital storage mediums ( CDs, DVDs, Hard Disk Drives, etc). As digital media and home computers became more and more common, the connection between the two has grown exponentially. Now days, it is common place for people to have most, if not all, of their media (photos, music, movies, documents, etc) on a computer as opposed to spread out on myriad of disks and memory cards. As this movement towards centralized media management gathered momentum so did the search for new ways of displaying and accessing the data. Because of their low display resolutions, television set in the past did not prove to be very useful in displaying digital media being streamed from computers; but with the emergence of televisions boasting display resolutions higher then those of most common computer monitors(HDTV), the search for ways to effectively stream media from computers to tvs has really taken off. There are many way that this can be done, including building small home networks with small computers linked to every tv and a central server that stores the media library; but because there are just too many components to discuss in a true small home network, we have decide instead to focus the attention of this article on a couple of "all-in-one" devices: including the Apple TV, Gateway Media Center PC/TV , and options presented by the new gaming consoles( Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360).

The Apple TV (code named iTV) was announced by Steve Jobs in his keynote address at Macworld 2007. The intent of this device was to connect a television with media on a computer through clean and simplistic design. Using an 802.11n wireless connection, the Apple TV can synchronize with an ITunes collection to either stream content or download it to a 40GB or 160GB built-in hard drive. The device is connected to the television through HDMI or component connectors. It also includes an ethernet port, USB2 connectivity (for diagnostic purposes only), and has a built-in power supply. In addition to playing movies, music, and podcasts from an ITunes collection, the device can also stream content from YouTube and display photos stored locally. The device can be controlled with an Apple Remote through the built-in infrared receiver. Supported formats include .m4v, .mp4, .mov, .mp3, .aac, .aiff, .wav, .jpg, .bmp, .gif, .tiff, and .png. Apple TV Take 2 was announced at Macworld 2008. This software update is free to current customers and will include interface changes and movie rentals.

As gaming consoles become more and more powerful they also become more viable options as home entertainment systems for more and more people. Setting up multi-media networks through the use of video game consoles like Sony's Playstation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 is very simple. Both systems have software pre-installed which allows a user to establish a connection between their entertainment system and their computer so long as they're on the same network creating a home media network. This option provides the most cost effective option for most people.

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Web Resources:
http://www.apple.com/appletv/specs.html
http://www.macworld.com/article/52855/2006/09/showtime.html
http://gizmodo.com/345155/apple-tv-take-2-impressions
http://www.us.playstation.com/PS3/About/Multifunctionality
http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/beyondgames101.htm

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Graphics:
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Apple TV
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Apple TV - ports view

Sony's PS3
Sony's PS3
Microsoft's Xbox 360
Microsoft's Xbox 360