What's your summer tech project?
What will you get up to in your downtime?
The summer holidays are a great chance to kick back and relax, but they also present the perfect opportunity to catch up on those high-tech projects that you've been contemplating. Your summer project might be as simple as installing a few software updates, doing a fresh install of your PC's operating system or perhaps upgrading to Windows 8. Or you might have something a little more ambitious in mind, such as updating your digital entertainment options with Catch Up TV access, online movie rentals, a home media server and maybe surround sound along with multi-room audio.
Be wary of sales staff, not to mention overly-enthusiastic friends and fanboys, who try to tell you what to buy without assessing your needs and considering what you already own.
As tempting as it is to simply throw money at a shiny new gadget, I think the planning phase is the most important part of any home tech project. There's usually more than one way to solve a problem, and more than one gadget which can do the job at hand. You need to think about the big picture and how this new project will fit with your existing devices, infrastructure, services and subscriptions. To be honest I tend to overthink these things, but only because I know when I buy tech on an impulse I usually regret it later. It also pays to think about your long-term goals to ensure you're not sinking money into something you'll later abandon.
These days the most complicated tech projects tend to revolve around the digital lounge room. After spending years looking for the one home entertainment device to rule them all, I've come to the conclusion that most homes are better served by a best-of-breed approach which relies on several devices. A jack-of-all-trades device such as a Windows Media Centre PC or PlayStation 3 might completely meet some people's needs, but putting all your eggs in one basket can lead to frustration if that basket is supporting a household of viewers rather than a single user.
When planning your entertainment system it's best to start with a list of requirements rather than getting your heart set on a list of gadgets. Be wary of sales staff, not to mention overly-enthusiastic friends and fanboys, who try to tell you what to buy without assessing your needs and considering what you already own.
The key requirements for most lounge rooms include watching and recording digital television and playing optical discs. To this you might add playing files you've downloaded, streaming audio/video around your home and streaming content from the internet. You need to decide which of these activities are the most important in your home and choose your gadgets accordingly. You should also take into account your choice of services providers as well as your Internet Service Provider's range of unmetered content.
Don't worry too much about upgrading to a new television just for the extra bells and whistles. When buying a television I'd say mostly focus on picture quality and let your various set-top boxes do the heavy lifting. This approach makes it easier to upgrade one component, such as your Blu-ray player, in the pursuit of new features. Alternatively you might find the ability to stream from a smartphone, tablet or PC satisfies your need to access new services. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, so it's worth taking the time to weigh up your options.
Which tech projects have you been putting off until the summer break? Is your digital lounge room due for an overhaul?