Date: Thursday, August 25, 2005, 9:56am Pacific Standard time.

Location: At my desk.

Current Activity: Writing an article based on home entertainment driven by PC technology.

Current Surroundings: Working on my company-issued Windows® XP Acer® notebook, watching Texas Justice in the bottom right corner of my screen through my AVerMedia® AVerTVTM Cardbus PCMCIA TV tuner, listening to 107.7 FM radio through Internet Explorer on my Altec Lansing® 2.1 powered PC audio system.

AVToolBox Home Theater Components

So what am I? A tech writer for some national publication? A test engineer for a PC manufacturer? A lonely tech geek whose only outlet to the world is through his PC? Not exactly. In actuality, I consider myself to be a pretty average guy.

While I happen to work for a hi-tech company, I am by no means a tech guru. In fact, I tend to shy away from new technologies these days, not willing to spend the time trying to figure out how to program things like my new cell phone because of the one-inch thick manual (my wife ended up having to program it for me). So if I can’t even program a cell phone, how on earth did I figure out how to use all these functions and products on my PC? The answer is…because it was EASY!

The notebook just turns on. The AVerTV Cardbus slides right into the PCMCIA slot (I never knew what this slot was for until I got this tuner) on my notebook while the TV and PVR functions are used by simply clicking the on-screen buttons. The speakers plug into the audio jack of the notebook (no software) and FM radio is available by clicking on the “listen now” button on the webpage of whatever radio station offers it (which seems to be most these days).

The keyword here is “easy.” Computer, Audio and Multimedia manufacturers have focused on integrating the same functions as your TV, home theater system, DVR, DVD Player and VCR into an affordable, compact and simple home entertainment solution. In addition, users can also surf the Internet, check email, and even “work” as I am doing now while enjoying crystal clear TV and sound on my notebook. If I do need to concentrate on a particular task, I can simply turn off the audio and record whatever TV program I would be missing with the AVerTV’s PVR capabilities, even pre-scheduling program recording if I know ahead of time I will not be able to watch…all with no monthly fee, unlike some standard home DVR services.

Software developers such as Microsoft® have continued to make home PC entertainment even easier with operating systems such as Windows XP Media Center, which include built-in PVR, radio, recording, playback and scheduling functions. Multimedia manufacturers such as AVerMedia provide products that essentially process the incoming TV video and audio while Media Center or AVerMedia’s own application software provides the functions surrounding it.

These types multimedia products are not only easy to use, but they are affordable as well. Pertaining to my own little entertainment station, the AVerTV Cardbus retails for around $79. The Altec Lansing Speakers retail for about $120 and of course the Internet radio is free (aside from your regular ISP charges). While I am running these products on a pretty nice notebook, virtually any newer laptop will meet the minimum system requirements. For desktop users, AVerMedia offers internal PCI and external USB TV tuners which can be used with virtually all newer computers, even most of the inexpensive sub-$500 systems. The ease of use, low cost, low profile and downright “enjoyability” of a system such as this continues to win the hearts of the average Joe and Jane. The notion of a fully integrated PC home entertainment system is no longer an off-the-wall tech geek fantasy. It is here now, affordable, and accessible to anyone knows the basic functions of a modern computer.

By now, it is about time for lunch and I have been craving Chinese food all day. But don’t worry…even though Dr. Phil is about to begin, I have already pre-scheduled my AVerTV Cardbus to record it. Today’s topic will be one to watch AFTER I have already eaten anyway!