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262 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network

The wireless-enablement of consumer goods is spreading faster than a wildfire. As we write, products are coming out daily. A lot of the products that we mention in this chapter represent some of the early forms of addressing the wireless enablement of some area of your home. If you’re interested in seeing what else has popped up since we wrote the book, try searching Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), as well as our book update site at www.dummies.com/ extras, for the products that we mention in the book. The press likes to compare different items in articles, and you’re likely to find other new products along with those referenced in this book.

Making a Connection to Your Car

For many people, their car is something more than a mechanism to get them from Point A to Point B. Some folks spend a considerable amount of time each day commuting — we know people who spend 1.5 hours in the car each way in a commute. For others, like those with RVs, their vehicle represents almost an entire vacation home.

If you think about the things you do in your car — listen to some music, talk on the phone, let your kids watch a movie — they’re not all that different from things that you do around the house. Because your home’s wireless connection can reach outside your walls and into your driveway or garage, your car can go online with your home network and access data ranging from your address book on your PC to your latest MP3s in your stereo. You can download these to your car, thus simplifying your life and making the car truly a second home. (No more calls home, “Honey, can you look on my computer for the number for . . .?”)

Your car’s path to wireless enlightenment

Although you might think that wireless is a new topic for your car, in fact, your car has been wirelessly enabled for years. Your car stereo gets wireless AM/FM signals from afar, and with the advent of satellite radio, now even farther than ever before. (See the nearby sidebar, “Satellite radio.”) Wireless phone options — cellular and Bluetooth-based technologies — are quickly filtering into the car. (We discuss Bluetooth and cars more in Chapter 15.) And then there’s the new wave of electronic toll systems that also predominantly use short range wireless technology to extract from your bank account that quarter (or dollar) every time that you cross a toll bridge. So wireless is all over your car . . . but just not centralized on any sort of wireless backbone, like we talk about for your home.

Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network 263

Satellite radio

Your wireless home is not always just about 802.11 technologies . . . other forms of wireless will enhance your home, and satellite radio is one of them, particularly for your car. If you’re like us, you live somewhere where there isn’t a whole lot of programming that you really want to listen to. Check out satellite radio, which offers a huge number of stations (over 100 each) beamed to your house or car from a handful of geostationary satellites hovering above the equator. We find a ton more diverse and just plain interesting stuff coming across these space-based airwaves than we find on our local radio today. Satellite radio services, from startups such as XM Radio or SIRIUS, require you to — gasp — pay for your radio (about $10 to $12 a month).

Check out the Web sites of the two providers (XM Radio, www.xmradio.com; and SIRIUS,

www.sirius.com) to find the programming that you prefer. Then get your hands on a satellite radio tuner. (You can find a bunch of different models listed on each company’s Web page.) The majority of these satellite tuners are designed for in-car use (because people tend to listen to the radio most while they’re driving), but XM Radio offers some really cool tuners (from Sony and Delco) that can do double duty: You can put these tuners in your car, and when you get home, pull them out and plug them into your A/V receiver. As of this writing, SIRIUS doesn’t yet offer a receiver for in-home use, but we expect that it will shortly.

Remember: These satellites are down by the equator, so no matter where you live in the United States, put your antenna in a south-facing window to pick up a good signal in your home.

Your car is also becoming more outfitted for computing and entertainment devices and functionality as manufacturers add as standard and optional features things such as DVD and VHS tape playback systems, Global Positioning Systems (GPSes), and even computers to operate your car.

All this spells “opportunity” for wireless. Bluetooth and 802.11 technologies are infiltrating the car, creating the same wireless backbone as in your home — a universal wireless network that any device or function can access to talk to other parts of the car, like your stereo, and to points outside the car. In fact, your wireless home network is going to play an important part in helping consolidate and integrate your car’s wireless network within the car and with your home as these two areas converge towards each other.

The response has been a flurry of activity by the auto manufacturers and others to network-enable cars with wireless phone, data, video, audio, and control mechanisms that resemble (in a lot of ways) the same efforts that are going on inside your house by the other consumer goods manufacturers. In fact, you’re starting to see whole product lines that include home and car wireless network products.

264 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network

Linksys, for instance, has teamed with Zandiant Technologies (www. zandiant.com) to extend its digital home media products to wireless MP3 players in the car and other products that enable vehicles to connect with home, office, and hot spot networks. Very cool. A version capable of doing video is expected by the end of 2003, probably based on 802.11g. Other familiar home wireless product companies, like Kenwood, have similar efforts.

Synching your car stereo with home

The major area where 802.11 has initially started to take hold is in third-party add-ons to the car — a typical precursor to manufacturers directly bundling these add-ons into the car (in-car VCRs started the same way). One example is in the A/V arena. We show in Chapter 13 how simple it is to synchronize your audio and video server across the house and over the Internet — why not with your car, too? (See Figure 14-1.)

Figure 14-1:

Auto-synchronization of audio files via wireless

Linking your

 

car with

 

your home

 

wireless

 

network is

 

a matter of

Synchronization

having your

 

car’s access

 

point or

 

wireless

 

client log

 

onto and

 

sync with

 

the home

 

wireless

 

network.

 

Rockford Fosgate (www.omnifimedia.com), for instance, has an 802.11bbased car product Omnifi ($599 plus the $99 wireless option) that enables you to wirelessly transfer tunes from your home PC to the car, where they can be played on your in-dash stereo. The in-dash device can store up to 20GB of files; the home component is a standalone receiver capable of streaming media dispatched from the PC. (See Figure 14-2.)

Chapter 14: Other Cool Things You Can Network 265

Figure 14-2:

The Omnifi

system in

your car!

Omnifi eliminates the legwork (the need to burn CDs) to listen to digital music in the car. It gives consumers the ability to download and transfer music and programs from the Internet to the PC hard drive to the consumer’s car and home stereo/theater systems — using wireless technologies. The Omnifi comes with an Internet services package ($49.95 annually) that includes thousands of radio stations, news and information, and a host of additional content from providers, such as Live365, Yahoo!, Virgin Radio, AOL Shoutcast, Pinnacor, Gracenote, Tower.com, and Muze. Way cool.

Omnifi is a family of connected devices based on its SimpleWare software suite. You can manage your media files in one simple media player application, SimpleCenter, and then wirelessly deliver the content to your stereo or car-installed Omnifi devices. What’s more, you can schedule delivery of information. The Omnifi scheduler gives users the ability to set information and music preferences in the SimpleCenter application and schedule the delivery of media automatically and wirelessly to devices in the car and at the stereo. This feature works with both local files and Internet-based files that a user can access through SimpleCenter’s Internet services offerings. For example, a commuter might choose to schedule an information update of local weather and traffic, stock quotes, breaking news, and his daily horoscope to be automatically transferred to the Omnifi device in the car at 6:30 a.m. every day in time for his daily commute.