Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Update Rollup 2 – What is away mode?

It’s something that probably doesn’t apply to you – yet.

Away mode and Intel’s Instant-On technology are very similar and supported in very much the same way with Media Center PCs.  If you have hardware that supports it, Away Mode allows you to do some interesting new things with the power button that weren’t possible before.  For example, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to press the power button while you’re listening to a CD and it instantly shuts off?  And wouldn’t it be even cooler if when you pressed the power button again it turned back on and resumed playing that CD?  It’s the interaction with application(s) as well as unique power management states that makes Always On a cool addition to Media Center.

Away mode allows you to put the PC into a standby mode where the audio and video are turned off, the fans turn down, but the PC otherwise stays awake to service the recordings, your USB peripherals, and extenders.  It’s an ideal power state for Media Center PCs that was previously not available.  Seems simple, but if it were I guess someone would have done it by now.

iPod dock on new HP MCE system is reporting about an iPod dock in the newest HP Media Center platform.  Reading a bit deeper, it’s simply a molded piece of plastic in the case so that the Apple dock sits nicely there but still an interesting combination.  It brings up the question of interoperability. 

The iPod is the undisputed king of music players, so it makes sense for HP to hitch their wagon there (for the record, I’ve never used an iPod).  However cobranding the Media Center PC with the iPod is an interesting tactic, especially since MCE can’t natively play iTunes AAC files.  HP has created an MCE app called HP Tunes that allows you to play iTunes music using the MCE interface, but it’s a shame that they’re not all integrated into one interface.

One can only hope that the portable media center concept catches on (which I believe it will once the devices slim down a bit) and OEMs start shipping MCE with a dock for a PMC.

WalMart as a demographics engine?

I was reading my local biweekly newspaper and they had a kitchy article talking to retailers about the Christmas shopping season.  The local toy store is doing a booming business but the bookstore is seeing reduced sales due to construction at the mall, in case you were wondering.

However, there was a quote from the local WalMart manager that got me thinking about the amazing amount of information that you can get from WalMart’s sales and inventory data.  The quote was benign enough – it seems that the Milton WalMart is selling more than its fair share of “Baby’s First Christmas” sleepers.  The power of that information is however potentially extraordinary.  Think about it – this little town is booming and has grown by about 100% over the last 2 years and I happen to know from observation that most of that growth came in the form of young couples who are getting ready to start a family.  I know that, but who else knows that?  Surely Statistics Canada (our Census Bureau) doesn’t have that information yet and I doubt if any other “official” source of data can show the massive boom in the young family demographic here.

Enter WalMart into the mix – widely lauded for their reliance on technology and vast amounts of information on hand about every transaction at every store in the world.  By mining the correct data, WalMart can paint a day-by-day picture of the shopping patterns of the entire continent.  Smart businesses could leverage that information to get a leg up on the competition and set up shop before the next guy to take advantage of new markets. (For example, a sharp rise in Baby’s First Christmas sleepers might prompt someone to build a chain of daycare centers in the area).

I just find it interesting that WalMart probably has better information on “us” than we do.