In going through the list of options for creating access to your music throughout the house, Linda Powell reminded me of an obvious one I overlooked: adding an FM transmitter to your portable player. Just connect an FM transmitter, like the Griffin iTrip or Belkin's TuneCast, and tune in via any radio within range. You can keep the portable player in your pocket, allowing you to instantly change the currently playing tracks. I'm not a huge fan of these tuners because they seem to have trouble with dead spots in transmission, but they represent one of the cheaper solutions available for streaming media in your home. Of course, this won't work for anyone in the UK, thanks to some stupid rules that are proposed to outlaw low-powered FM transmitters like the Griffin Technology iTrip.
For Windows Media Center Edition enthusiasts, another choice is a Media Center Extender. The most functional option is an Xbox console, which can easily connect to any Windows Media Center computer, as well as playing virtually anything in your Windows Media library. The extender feature lets you browse music, movies, and photos, watch live TV (assuming you've got an extra TV tuner card connected), and schedule recording of your favorite shows. There are standalone Media Center Extenders from Linksys and D-Link, but considering the other features you get with an Xbox, which go far beyond gaming, you might as well get a gaming console too.
And while we are on the subject of unopened boxes, what's on your Christmas wish list this year? In the Rob Fleming obsessed-with-categorization tradition of top five lists, here are the top five gadgets I'd like to see under the tree:
XM Radio with one year subscription. Preferably one that works both in the car and in the house (although the XM subscription for XP Media Center may render the indoor subscription unnecessary).
Beyerdynamic DT 290 headset microphone. I want hands free voice recording with a quality microphone. Several radio pros suggested the DT 290 is the best headset on the market.
Panasonic PV-GS400 3CCD Digital Video Camera. This may be the best consumer grade camera on the market. 1/4-inch CCDs and a reasonably lens make this DV cam perform well in low light and broad daylight. I did a comparison with last year's model of the PV-GS120, which has 1/6-inch CCDs and a much smaller lens. It still outperforms 1CCD cameras, but doesn't offer quite as much color in low light.
Edirol R-1 portable audio recorder. I've had one on pre-order, so here's hoping it makes it by Christmas.
40-46 inch HDTV. Sure, a bigger screen would be cool, but I'd need a bigger viewing space to go with it. Considering the rule of thumb that you need 2.5 inches of distance for every inch of diagonal size, a 40-inch screen puts the couch 8 feet 4 inches away, with 46-inch diagonal putting me 9-feet 7-inches back. The room is 12 feet wide. With the 24-inch thick TV on one wall and about 12 inches of couch thickness between the wall and your back, at most there's only 9 feet to work with, under ideal conditions.
Ultimately, I'd settle for a new couch to put in front of the old TV, but this is a wish list. Do you have a gadget or two you're longing to add to your personal collection?