Tech For Home and Work

The urge to converge is upping the entertainment value of home offices everywhere.

Entrepreneurs aren't nine-to-five types of people. When you run a business, work shows up at all hours. Work life and home life blur together. And now work technology and home technology are teaming up to make business owners' lives more functional, conven-ient and enriching. It's the long-awaited conver-gence of computer and entertainment networks.

Imagine your computer talking to your TV and stereo, beaming your MP3 collection into the home office and recording your favorite news program for you to watch later. Putting all that technology together can seem a little daunting, but recent innovations make setup simpler than ever. We caught up with an entrepreneur who dived right in to computer/entertainment convergence. Let's check out his home system to see what sort of technology you might find useful.

Nerve Center
Ephraim Cohen founded his New York City PR firm, The Fortex Group , in 2003, and he's been plenty busy ever since. His business extends from his office to his house--and so does his entertainment.

"At the center, there's a PC with a fast processor, a 250GB hard drive and the newest version of Microsoft Media Center. It's the nerve center of everything I do," says Cohen, 35. He also fitted his PC with a TV tuner and a 19-inch flat-panel monitor so he can watch his favorite shows in comfort.

"Having one strong desktop PC to act as the central server for everything makes life easier because it's easier to back up and coordinate everything you have at home," says Cohen, whose company had $1.2 million in 2005 sales. The media center concept lets Cohen control everything from home movies to audio to photos with a remote control. He even admits to watching recorded news programs while he works. TiVo is a popular way to digitally record TV programs, and now multipurpose computers with digital video recorders are catching up to the trend.

Over at Intel , the longstanding PC media center concept is evolving into a more capable feature set called ViiV. ViiV (rhymes with five) is a combination of hardware and software in one easy-to-use PC setup. "It can run your business," says Michael Taylor, marketing man-ager for Intel Digital Home, "and you can use it for all [forms of] entertainment--music, video, pictures or accessing unique content on the internet."

ViiV is a sign of the simplification of the computing and entertainment convergence process. "Everything will be customized to work at a 10-foot user interface," says Taylor. The aim is to make managing your digital media as straightforward as changing the channel on your TV.

Every nerve center needs a network. Co-hen went with a high-speed, MIMO-fortified 802.11g router that turns his whole house into an extension of his media center PC. MIMO beams data farther and faster than 802.11g, enabling the new convergence technologies without the hassle of stringing wires between rooms.

Cohen's technology system includes VoIP. He uses his laptop, wireless network and cable internet connection to place business phone calls to Europe and Asia without racking up huge charges.

Among the other snazzy extras you can add to your network is the Netgear Storage Central SC101. This stand-alone connects to your network wirelessly, but shows up in Windows as an attached hard drive. It can handle your photos, videos, games and music, as well as your business documents and records. It also lets you make certain files private so your family can share the device. An alternative is Iomega's StorCenter Network Hard Drive, which is touted as a multimedia hub and offers a tera-byte of space. A host of other servers and storage solutions are hitting the market, so keep an eye out for the latest options.

And don't forget backup. "My files from work get backed up to the PC, and that PC gets backed up to another drive," says Cohen. He uses a Mirra backup device, as well as a program called FolderShare to sync between his home PC and laptop so he can work on either with ease. As entrepre-neurs pile up memory-hungry media files, attaching storage to your network will be a must.

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