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Microsoft Upgrades Technology

Microsoft's Home Of Tomorrow Has No Bathroom 505

Starman9x writes "Over at the The Toronto Star reporter Rachel Ross got a tour of Microsoft's home of the future. She writes with an appropriate amount of humor, given all the easy targets Microsoft has set up. While the writeup is light and witty, there is an unspoken Orwellian undertone to it -- after all, do we really want Microsoft to have that much control over things?"
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Microsoft's Home Of Tomorrow Has No Bathroom

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  • by Motherfucking Shit ( 636021 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:06AM (#5220913) Journal
    From the article:
    Based on the biometric scan performed earlier, the house already knows who is there. So a list of Heath's favourite programs is displayed on screen. The show will pick up where she left off the last time she sat down to watch TV. The TV also has a message about grandma. According to the television, she is having a "normal day." Heath explains that the message is part of a larger system envisioned for senior care. Sensors in a retirement home, she explains, would monitor her activities to make sure everything's okay.
    Not only is this a bit over the top in my opinion, I also think it's downright scary. One company - gee, I wonder which company - with access to information about when you come in the door, how long you're at home, what time you leave, who stopped by while you were out and left you messages on your "doorbell notepad" (and perhaps the text of those messages)... And not only do they know all of this about you, they know all of this about grandma and are able to report it to you on your TV set. If they can send it to you, who else can they send it to? considering the security track record of certain companies, who else might have access the info without anyone even realizing it?

    Some of the tech outlined in the article would be convenient, I'll admit to that, but I just can't get comfortable with the idea of such an obvious and intrusive data-mining capability. My home is my sanctuary. It's one of few places - OK, these days it's the only place - where I feel I have any privacy. I wouldn't give that up, not even for convenience. Reading over the article, my primary reaction was "just because we can, doesn't mean we need to."

    I mean, seriously. If I want to know how grandma is doing at any given moment, I make a phone call; and if something happens to her, the nursing home calls me. The most anyone else can discern from this is that I'm calling a nursing home, or vice versa. With this "home of the future," I have an awful vision that as soon as the TV tells me that grandma has passed away, I'd suddenly start getting bombarded with commercials for casket makers and funeral homes.

    Aside from the privacy issue, I'm not so sure that the "smartness" of the system wouldn't get annoying. The article mentions that when the lady of the house comes home (identifying herself by a retinal scan), the lights come on and music starts playing because the house "knows" that's what she likes. What if she's in a bad mood and she doesn't want all this mojo going on? The TV supposedly knows what program listings to display when she turns on the TV, because it knows she's the one home. What if I'm home, too?

    I dunno. I can imagine a lot of possible snags with this and I've only been thinking about it for two or three minutes...
    • Man, chill out. The demo described is just a proof of concept. It's designed to show all the various technologies that are, or will be, available. I don't think anybody expects that every house will have every feature.

      Biometrics for entry? Pff. I have no problem whatsoever with the current key-and-garage-door-opener system.

      Taking messages at the door? Nobody comes to my house unannounced anyway.

      Barcode reader in the microwave... maybe. I'm not much of a TV-dinner kind of guy, myself, but that might almost be useful. Maybe. If you're in college, and your dorm room is so equipped. Maybe.
      • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:46AM (#5221128) Homepage
        Say! That might be a useful feature if you're living with room-mates and the system could tell who swiped your food.
      • by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @05:48AM (#5221616) Homepage Journal
        The scary part isn't all of the technology- it's the fact that it's all supposed to be controlled by one system. One central co-ordinator. Your door telles the rest of the house that it's you, and your house could tell the rest of the world where you are. And it's all run by Microsoft, since no one else can interface with their wonky protocols.

        I'm more shocked by the whole "ivory tower"-ness of the house. The kitchen isn't designed to match real-life cooking habits. How much free counter surface do you have? The microwave actually encourages abusive use (why unpack the dinner or lift the lid when the microwave is supposedly so smart? I see a lot of aluminium foil-indused sparks by harried/inattentive owners). And the lighting during the storybook reading would be distracting, as any parent would tell you. And I don't even want to think about how much more electricity this house requires.

        Another thing that bothers me is that knowing Microsoft, this system would be accessible by the Internet. After all, reasons MS, you could then set your playlist for when you get home, or see who's at your front door, or check your refrigerator contents since the supermarket's along your route...

        ...and that scares me. Any system like this will be open to malicious code. Burglars could add their biometrics to your front door. Script kiddies could mangle your music collection (or the RIAA would snoop around to see how many bootlegs you have). A bug (or weak password) could leave your message box wide open. And whoever cracks one component of your house has access to the whole shebang.

        We should be concerned, because Microsoft is quite adept at convincing people that they have no other choice. Developers and customers didn't choose Microsoft because it was the better solution for their needs, but because they felt it was the only option.
    • Reality TV! (Score:3, Funny)

      by litui ( 231192 )
      Forget Big Brother or Survivor! Now we have Grandma TV 24/7! Watch Grandma gum her oatmeal! Listen in on Grandma's steamy phone calls! Find out who's really stealing the pennies at those poker games!

      All this and more, brought to you by Microsoft.

    • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:14AM (#5220985)
      Not only is this a bit over the top in my opinion, I also think it's downright scary. One company - gee, I wonder which company - with access to information about when you come in the door, how long you're at home, what time you leave, who stopped by while you were out and left you messages on your "doorbell notepad" (and perhaps the text of those messages)... And not only do they know all of this about you, they know all of this about grandma and are able to report it to you on your TV set. If they can send it to you, who else can they send it to? considering the security track record of certain companies, who else might have access the info without anyone even realizing it?

      Unless the PATRIOT Act is repealed before these homes are built, "who else" means the federal government. Commercial entities are obligated to respond to subpoenas and are forbidden to even disclose the fact that they snitched on you.

      Once terrorism surrenders, we'll be back to normal.

  • uhhhh (Score:2, Funny)

    by majestynine ( 605494 )
    New comment creation has been disabled on this discussion.

    Looks like slashdot have found the solution for getting rid of all these trolls.

    Disable comments.

    Way to go chrisd.

  • by red_gnom ( 545555 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:07AM (#5220918)

    Come on guys, the windows is all you will ever need.

    It is not like Slashdot without "Reply" button.

    • They're just waiting for the:


      Model 9000, keeps freshness in and those nasty guests who stink up your place out.

      "I'm sorry, I can't let you poop that Dave..."

  • Attention (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:07AM (#5220919)
    Who needs a bathroom when you can shit all over Microsoft's latest and greatest?
  • by skermit ( 451840 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:07AM (#5220920) Homepage
    I'll go ahead and be the first to make a potty joke...

    Where do you want to "go" today?


    and just in case you're against the Wintel water closet, here's the oldschool iToilet: []

    Or another funny by John McPherson: mputer.jpg []

    Fellow /.'er Dragon213 posted this last December: 4874656 []

    and last but not least, Philips has a home of the future design speculation website: .html []

  • No bathroom (Score:5, Funny)

    by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:08AM (#5220929) Homepage Journal
    I guess that's for leaves all kinds of shit all over your system, so why not your house as well?
  • by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:08AM (#5220931)
    "A large number of people think (the solution to) productivity has been solved," explains Thomas Gruver, group manager for the Center for Information Work.

    Man, those Microsofters really do live in a different world. On what planet do they find people who think that they've got that productivity problem taken care of?
  • by skydude_20 ( 307538 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:08AM (#5220935) Journal
    its not a bathroom, but a recycle bin. it can go for awhile without emptying, just until you fill up a certain percentage of the house that you allow. actually, each partition of the house has one, though reliability can be flakey at times, oddly sucking away at all the other resources of the house (electrical, water, etc..). though for the most part works, but keeps you forever wondering why they call it a recycle bin
  • by l810c ( 551591 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:09AM (#5220938)
    They're givin us an hour to think up dump jokes.




    I guess we'll be takin the crash dumps in da kitchen.

    Be honest, how many times have you hit refresh since the article was posted?

  • by drmofe ( 523606 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:09AM (#5220940)

    No shit!

  • Oh great... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Arctic Dragon ( 647151 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:09AM (#5220943)
    Now where am I gonna put all my bathroom reading material?
  • by fuzdout ( 585374 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:10AM (#5220946) Journal
    All cool till you have several generations of people who grew up with this stuff and know no other way of life and all of a sudden a big wind storm and the power is *OUT*.

    Generators would be even more necessary than now :)

  • It's a demo house. Would you want people trying out your toliet? And what about the customized toliet "reading material" hmmm, I think not.

    Oh, and why was comment creation disabled for half an hour? New slashcode feature.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The TV also has a message about grandma. According to the television, she is having a "normal day." Heath explains that the message is part of a larger system envisioned for senior care. Sensors in a retirement home, she explains, would monitor her activities to make sure everything's okay.

    Oh yeah, I would love to sit down to watch CSI, and be greeted with Mom fell and broke her hip, has bed sores, and vomited during bingo.

    ugh..I think I'll pass on something like that.
  • by cscx ( 541332 )
    Wouldn't the bathroom of tomorrow have the three shells? []
  • by heytal ( 173090 )
    This is nothing but a hidden attempt by microsoft to create Weapons of Mass Disruption !!

    Imagine a virus which can bring down your house and your microwave and your toilet :-)
    Would the United States take unilateral action on corporations propagating technology which can be used as WMD ?
  • Only microsoft.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by havardi ( 122062 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:12AM (#5220972)
    Can you imagine trying to read a recipe overlaid upon the ingredients you are trying to cook with? Maybe display it on the wall or something, but to imagine your worksurface limited in such a fashion and call it convienience is simply absurd.
  • Microsoft dont need toilets because they already shit on the users.
  • by carlmenezes ( 204187 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:15AM (#5220992) Homepage
    Conversation between 2 burglars :

    "Which house shall we pick?"
    "I've already chosen one. It's running Windows Home Edition"
    "But those have biometric scanning"
    "Yeah. A buffer overflow will take care of that"
    "I don't think so." (busy trying to hack into the wireless LAN)..."seems they've patched it"
    "Rats! I didn't want to do this. The home owners don't deserve it, but here goes...send in Slammer..."
  • with microchips."

    Yo! Microchip. Go get me a beer and don't give me none o yo back talk.

    You know, I've been trying for years, but I still just can't figure out what's so hard about twisting that little rod thingy to adjust my miniblinds. It's simple, easy, quick, effective, mechanically simple and dosn't raise my electric bill.

    I don't *feel* like a Luddite.

  • by hmccabe ( 465882 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:17AM (#5221003)
    Some have already been tested in senior centers. It's still in the early stages of development, but such a system isn't entirely a fantasy

    Speak for yourself, lady, but my fantasy isn't monitoring seniors all day.
  • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:20AM (#5221019)
    Ugh. Microsoft house. Other than the obvious "Security comments" and pissNshit
    jokes, lets get down to some seriousness. And by the way, what's with ChrisD NOT allowing comments on creation??

    ---Visitors to the house can leave a message via the touch-screen monitor built
    into the exterior wall or record a message if no one's home.

    What?? We already have voice intercomms, and some have a rudimentary X-10-like
    cam in there. Other than being a node on a network, what's soo special? Hell,
    I've even speced up a security network using Linux and such tools. ...demonstrates how a resident might enter using a retinal scanner instead of a
    key. Any such biometric screening device could be used...

    Retinal, yeah, but what about "Any biometric device"? If it's a hand print,
    gelatin (thanks to the japanese guy who 'found' it out). And to beat ANY
    biometric crap, all you need is the following:
    Eyes : Spoons
    Hands : Saw, axe...
    Face shape: Axe and cutting block... (eww)

    Point is that biometric doesnt matter. A key would probably stop that unnessary

    ---All of the home's basic functionality is available in a pocket

    Yeah, and we can trust the wireless protocols? We cant even trust the 802.11
    encryption people, let alone MS for security. Who's to know that you could walk
    near and hijack a house computer system?

    ---It's like Web TV and a personal video recorder combined (add~~ read email

    Why would you want a tether like a PDA to haul around the house to control basic stuff? The last thing is to be harassed by email for this and that when my girlfriends over. Hell, I WANT CONTROL OVER EMAIL only when I'm sitting at my computer. I could give a shit less. And if it's really important, they'll call.

    And about that TV setup... Soo it's like MythTV?

    ---would monitor her activities to make sure everything's okay.

    And how would we prevent that those same sensors wouldnt be in a non-invalid
    house? Any audio/video sensor (read nearly everything) is that kind of sensor.
    If I'd have that kind of hardware, it'd be on a NON-INTERNET'ED network, with no physical connections to any network, with exception to the phone line. And that would be only for emergency phone calls (like fire sensors in roof have been set off...).

    Another thing is this auto-cooking shit. I wouldnt expect any computer can give
    reasonable instructions on how to cook. Cooking's an art, mastered by those with
    experience. How can some 2 bit computer deal with recipe substitutions cause you dont have that one good it demands? Or will it DEMAND KRAFT CHEESE when you
    bought that slab of american for 1.4$ per pound? Computers should follow MY
    rules, not the other way around.

    ---All of the computer displays in the future house will be hooked up to a
    central computer that coordinates their activities. This is critical for
    broad-based features such as homework lock-down, which parents can use to
    disable TV, music and other home entertainment until the schoolwork is done.

    Uhhh, cant that already be done with X-Windows and cron jobs?

    And of course, you gotta have that SoHo stuff for those never-off-the-clock
    business users. That's a slashdot article in all its own. Still, all this GPS
    here, Voice analysis there and add yet more buzzwords.

    Point: There's tons of stuff in any house that you dont want ANYTHING taking
    control of, with the exception of the person there. I sure dont want some
    windows security system that goes in lock-down mode whenever the cat jumps
    around knocking some book down, or have it call the fire department on a bad
    computer cooking stint. And what about errors? There's tons of bugs in this
    kind, no, ANY kind of system on this magnitude. I wouldnt trust ANY OS, even
    Linux to take care and log every little transaction in and out of my house. And
    the last thing I want is a transaction log that some law enforcement agency can
    download if they have the certain e-signature allowing such search and seizure.
    The supreme court has shown that they dont care for our rights.

    Oh well, this has turned from a objection by point to a obnoxious rant. This is
    just stuff that I worry about when "shit from the future" happens to be
    partially true. It makes me think that there's actually a way to stop it.
  • by TheLoneCabbage ( 323135 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:26AM (#5221044) Homepage

    Imagine walking home... it's been a long day.

    As you enter, you are greeted by a warm Muzac entry sound. "Welcome Home" It chimes in an even, an unoffensive voice.

    As you walk in, you are followed by wall mounted screens delivering custome tailored advertising. Who knew I could grow another 6" safely and without any effort?

    You hang up your coat and you are chimed by a tone, that says "Thankyou for using MS coat rack" Ding!

    You go to the kitchen to put away groceries, but before you get there a 6 foot holographic paper clip stops you. "Your grand mother is not eating her food. Do you wish to feed her"

    "No it's ok, I'll talk to her later Mr. Clippy"

    "Are you SURE you dont' want me to feed her. It's not healthy for her not to eat"

    "She's made it 80 years on her own Sir, she knows when to eat"

    "Older peopler need to eat, human, or they could starve!"

    "Fine, what ever. Give her some food"

    You can hear sounds of mechanical arms wurring in the distance, and an old woman screaming... ugh just another bug.

    You go to put away the food, but as you insert some fruit and turn around, you see it spit out of the fridge. "What now?!"

    "This fruit is not compatible with this refridgerator"

    "It's a banana you talking box of ice, just take it"

    "MS Fridge 3.1 does not recognize this typen of fruit. Are you sure you want to store it in MS Fridge?"

    "YES!! I want to store it in MS Fridge!!"

    "Open the door manualy to continue."

    You put away the rest of the food, with only a few more discussions regarding the unlicensed eggs, which aparently were not grown at McMSoft Farms, and therefor do not have the correct nutritional value. And the fit the cubbard through over you buying flower... It insists that MS Breads are a more efficient use of your leasiur time.

    As you go to the TV, you realize that you won't be watching TV tonight since all that's on is the BSD show.

    Sudenly out of nowhere a lazer shoots you inthe pocket and burns a hole, destroying a tape you had in your pocket. "Hey!! what was that?"

    "You were carrying ilegaly coppied music. I have corrected the issue for you."

    "It was a mix tape from a friend!!"

    "All copyrighted materials must have digitial copy right signitures, or they may be stolen. You don't want to steal do you?"

    "It's from his band you nit! Never mind, I'l just go take a shower"

    You dissrobe (hoping the computer isn't watching this time) and turn on the shower.... ICE cold.

    "Computer turn up the heat, please"

    "The heat is on"

    "No it's not, it's freezing"

    "The watter is hot at 37 degreees"

    "In Celcius!!"

    "Error: Unknown variable.... Reporting bug.... Bug fix will be available when you upgrade to MS House XP: The Next Generation"

    You scream into the night as you run naked into the woods, trying to escape the MS Tree 3000's (better greener foilage). You find your self a nice cave and grow hemp in the field. Not because you like hemp, but because you heard it causes memmory loss, and you want to forget.

    • Not to mention being bombarded with:

      (in the shower): "At Last-- You can flush away excess Pounds and Inches BEFORE they attach to your body! Lose up to 22.5lbs in the next 3 weeks!"

      (as you walk out to the garage): "Save 40% on insurance! Compare insurance quotes from some of the most trusted names in insurance. A fast and easy way to shop for individual or family quotes.
      The original online Insurance Service. Ten years Online! GUARANTEED!"

      (as your wife leaves to go shopping): "Is she really going where she says? Brand-New VERSION 8.2 Just Released: Astounding New Software Lets You Find Out Almost ANYTHING about ANYONE..."

      (and, after she finds out you've been snooping, and filed with MSDivorce version 1.0): "Hello, I started a new website for women like me - Married & Lonely. We're looking for guys like you ! PUSH THIS NOW TO SEE US !"

      (and finally, ALONE in the bedroom) "Bob, #1 DOCTOR RECOMMENDED PENIS ENLARGEMENT FORMULA. In just a few short weeks, you'll watch with amazement as your penis grows into the biggest, thickest, hardest tool imaginable - the one you've always fantasized about having! No penis enlargement system is faster, easier to use, or more effective than MAG-RX+.

      That's all I want. LifeSpam.

      [sampled quotes not meant to advocate any product, just a tiny snippet of the email CRAP that I get that Outlook's junkmail 'filter' leaves untouched in my inbox.]
  • I love the new feature! While waiting to post "In Soviet Russia Your House of Tommorow Has No Toliet Paper" or some bit of fall-out-of-your-chair, LOL!!OLO!MFG! hilarity, I actually *read* the story.

    I read the whole thing.

    A whole new world has opened up to me! I can make intellegent comments that are ontopic! I can rationally discuss the issues! I can send a Fax from the Beach!

    And the people that will bring it to me? A&chrisd!

  • ... because it isn't there? Does everything Microsoft have to be Big Brother?
  • by Tsali ( 594389 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:32AM (#5221074)
    Microsoft couldn't improve the bathroom of tomorrow? Come on! Where's the innovation?

    My ideas....

    - Auto-sensor for build up of noxious odors.
    - Wireless connect in bathroom, naturally.
    - A scale that keeps track of who is on it so it knows when to lie.
    - A soap container that doesn't leave a white-yellow wax pond.
    - An XBox to hold my toothbrush (doubles as a hair dryer).
    - A medicine cabinet mirror that Photoshop touches up your appearance before you go out. Even better, a mirror that dims to match the ambience of a bar you are going to so that you can see exactly how pretty you are before your true looks are discovered.
    - Temperature sensing based on biometrics.
    - Flat panel for pornographic - er - custom content viewing.
    - Any old style RIAA literature to shit on.
    - A toilet that doubles as a bidette (sp?) - with override.

    I would take the trip to Redmond to see that one.

    As it is, I hope they have newspaper on the ground.

  • Not that someone would think that any Microsoft products could have bugs, but... well shit happens [ttp].... maybe is for that that the house has no bathroom
  • Of course there's no toilet. That's what "Microsoft Bob" was designed for. You simply excrete your waste while performing standard household tasks, without interruption - and Bob cleans it up! Amazing!

  • All of Microsoft's crap goes into your PC... you don't need a bathroom!

  • by thomasj ( 36355 )
    It seems like Bill Gates has problems [] with bathrooms. :-)
  • stupid house (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cebe ( 34322 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:43AM (#5221111) Journal
    These digital homes of the future will only be as smart as the owner. People will yell and scream and curse at their house just like they do to their printer. The main server that runs the whole party will require pretty good knowledge of computers. Unless of course, you are rich and have a 24 hour geek squad a phone call away. Technical difficulties will arise, upgrades will need to be done, and to do it yourself (economically) will require *wanting* to know the guts of the system. Not to mention, a bit of knowledge about whatever language is making everything tick. The interesting thing about these "future" homes is that they are just a concept right now. They will become widely built and used only if simplicity is pursued by the people designing and building them. Whoever comes up with a very simple GUI for some "master controls" that doesn't require every single appliance, light, alarm, and garage door opener to be compliant to only one protocol, or worse, MADE BY MS, will be a very rich person. Of course, the average /.'er could handle the 'super house' (and most likely would not let any other person put their muckers on the design and implementation of it), but the average 'i have 40 gigabytes of ram!' person won't be able to.

    More importantly, Microsoft doesn't have a single view of the future. The tours present possible scenarios, not a blueprint for product development.

    This is the most important part of the article. Not everyone will want *everything* that MS's digital home showscases... but customizability (is that a word?) of these future homes will be the key. Opting for the econopackage presented by your home builder would be a bad idea. A home owner would end up without enough features that they could make good use of, and too many things that they don't need, or worse, don't know how to work.

    It will be interesting to see how these become mainstream.
  • They omitted the bathroom in the demo, because engineers haven't been able to unlink the toilet flushing sound from this wav file []. (Seems an irate employee hid the code deep in the OS, and the ones who are left haven't been able to locate it yet...)
  • by jdbo ( 35629 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:56AM (#5221161)
    I would absolutely _love_ to go through the future-office part of the tour:

    Gruver leads us down a darkened hallway of the office of the future while he sets the scene for the tour. I'm now an employee of Contoso, widget maker extraordinaire. To reinforce the point, Gruver motions to a computer display with several names listed on it, including my own. It's kind of scary. I have no idea how much a widget maker earns and I've got a family to support.

    As we watch a video message from a fellow employee, dramatic lighting and sound effects punctuate a high-speed storyline of corporate intrigue.

    Another ficticious firm, Fabricam, has announced the Widget Plus. It's better than the widget we have on the market and it could crush or financial dreams if we don't act fast.

    I feel my hatred for Fabricam bubbling up. I must defeat them!


    I get a message from another co-worker that Contoso's big cheese is slated to go on TV in two hours. He'd like to announce a new line of widgets too, one that's faster and cheaper than silly Fabricam's. We have such a widget in development but I'll have to find out if we have the facilities to speed up production so we can beat Fabricam to market.


    Just when we've solved the problem, a helpful employee chimes in with a video message telling us they don't have the right robots to get the job done on time.

    But wait, we've got enough time to sign contracts with other production facilities, with a few seconds left over to relay this info to our boss. A video window appears on the big screen. It's our boss on TV telling the world about our new line of better, cheaper widgets.

    Whew! We sure showed those guys at Fabricam!

    While the reporter certainly played up this aspect of the tour, the impression I get is that there's no aspect of MS's corporate culture that isn't touched by a hyper-competitive worldview. The fact that this shows up in the marketing of their "office of the future" would indicate that they feel this is something that anyone might identify with... which feels like a corporate-level unconscious manifestation, similar to automatic writing / free association.

    (smile already, I'm only part-serious.)

    What I can't decide whether this section of the tour is an amazing instance of idealized projection by MS's marketing staff, or an example of how a good marketing team can identify with situations completely unfamiliar to them (i.e. being genuinely threatened by a competitor).

    (yes, that was sarcasm...)

    Sure, I'm overstating the situation, and sure, their target audience for this tour is really high-level execs who - to some extent - are paid to view the world this way.

    Still, it's a pretty sad when even in the magical future the CEO schedules press conferences without having a clue as to what he's going to say; maybe MS should look into building futuristic, non-stupid executives.

    Oh well... here's hoping those fictional robots go on a fictional killing spree!
  • I want to call this a Metcalfe's Law problem or a Convergence problem only because it's almost 2am here and I can't think...

    But I can't get my doctor to send me paper mail about my next appointment or recent test results. School is lucky if it knows where my child is supposed to be, much less keeping me up to date beyond the static class schedule. What are 200 hundred radio frequency tags in my shopping cart going to do to my grocery bill? Reminds me a bit of the defunct WebVan: "OK everybody we have this great service, EVERYONE better adopt it QUICK or it's doomed. Hello? Hello? Where is everyone?"

    Also, the US population isn't growing that fast. How about helping us economically retrofit existing houses with current technology? Or should we just turn them into Low Income Projects and sprawl out even further to build our MS Homes?
  • by Thomas Wendell ( 98443 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:57AM (#5221168)
    My wife and I are nerds and have designed automation into our home. We have systems for security, lighting control, media equipment control and HVAC all talking to each other via serial and Ethernet. We are programming everything ourselves, because we can and because we think we'll do a better job than anyone we could hire.

    We've been in the house for six months and haven't finished the lighting controls. It takes a while to figure out how you want things to work. Everything works reasonably well and some things are really cool.

    However, anything more complex than having a button that turns out all of the lights when you're ready to shutdown for the evening gets surprisingly subtle.

    For example, we programmed the system to automatically turn on the hall lights when we get home. The rule is simple enough, if this door opens, and it's between sunset and sunrise, turn on this light. But then, we have a warm winter and get a lot of bugs on the entry and when I take out the garbage, I turn off the light so the bugs don't swarm into the house, then open the door and the light comes back on!

    We easily fixed this, but what happens to tomorrow's consumers who buy a mass-produced system that tries to be a LOT more clever than what I just described and it goes wrong? These are the people who couldn't figure out to set the time on their VCR, who don't know how to turn off Word's autoformatting "features" and instead have to learn how to work around them. How are they going to live in a home that is complex beyond their comprehension and that does things they don't want and can't fix?

    The answer is they won't. This high-tech home automation for the masses is a fantasy. Software is going to have to get orders of magnitude better before it's even thinkable.
  • by digitalcowboy ( 142658 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @03:10AM (#5221193)
    But that's to be expected. Speech recognition is one of the technology challenges currently facing software developers. If the system worked right now they'd move it to Microsoft's house of today, a nearby showroom officially known as the Consumer Experience Center where the company shows off current technology.

    Perhaps if the system worked right now, they'd call it Macintosh OS X.

    Seriously, Mac speech recognition has (quietly) gotten pretty good, just recently. For nearly ten years it's been one of those things that I play with occasionally and think, "When they get this right, it's gonna be cool."

    It's now very cool. With an hour or so of set up, a few nights ago, I can now surf the web (among many other tasks) completely hands free. I say, "Drudge" and Safari opens I say, "move page down" and it scrolls. I say, "Weather" and is loaded. I say, "Switch to..." and it switches to whatever app I want, already running or not.

    All while iTunes is playing.

    Any keyboard shortcut can be defined in one app or system-wide to be triggered by any spoken word or phrase you choose.

    Combine it with Applescript and.... shell scripts and... this is VERY cool.

    Mac users, if you haven't tried Speech stuff on your Mac recently, try it again with 10.2.

    I recently demonstrated it to a neighbor who only knows Windows and his response was, "So how much would it cost me to get a Mac that can do that?"

    Microsoft, once again, is WAY behind the curve.
    • It's true (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @11:09AM (#5222793)
      I have no idea to what extent they've adjusted the Speech Recognition in OS X. It may in fact be the same engine, simply running better on a multitasking system.

      More to the point of the topic... I remember reading an article by Andy Ihnatko [] a while back, wherein he described a home-automation project using X10, AppleScript, a Mac and a series of cheap microphones scattered throughout the house.

      See, the big problem with most speech recognition systems is the problem of speaking within earshot. A mic up close to you will do a pretty good job of pickup obviously, and make the computer's job much faster and more accurate. But if you're already sitting in front of the computer, the speech recognition isn't much good for things other than the supplemental ("Insert Time and Date"). You already have the keyboard and mouse in front of you, which are much faster than many speech commands.

      If you want to walk around your house and issue spoken commands, it's much more feasible to just buy a bunch of cheap PZM and omni microphones from Radio Scrap and put them everywhere. You don't even need that many; just think of the places you tend to 'park' (couch, standing by sink in kitchen, front hall, etc.) and aim appropriately. Doesn't take a lot of bleeding-edge stuff, but the design of how it works is much, much tricker, as one other poster pointed out.

  • Clippy (Score:4, Funny)

    by lateralus_1024 ( 583730 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @03:11AM (#5221197)
    I thought Microsoft's animated *assistant* appears after you drop a hot load on the sofa.

    "It appears that you have moved your bowels in a most inappropriate way. Would you like to add the turd to the clipboard for later use?"

  • This all would have seemed quite incredible and cool to me fifteen years ago, but having experienced several "incredible" things one after the other, and how the "gee-whiz" factor quickly becomes annoying, I think I could do without The Jetsons lifestyle described in the article.

    I think I'd much rather just select my music after I walk in the door - not have "the house" automatically crank up what it thinks I want to hear.

    Easy access to information like recipes is possible now; all that's needed is a couple strategically-placed flat-panels here and there. Nothing that any number of slash-dotters haven't done already with a linux server in the basement and a few i-openers.

    I don't need or want recipes to project on the counter; nor do i want "the house" to detect the number of people in it and automatically adjust my recipe for me (how stupid can you get?). I'd want to enter the number of servings myself, and then let the computer (gasp!) ""multiply"" for me. Wow.

    This smells an awful lot like Clippy For Your Life, always popping its fucking face into yours when you least need it or want it. I have a feeling it would suck just as bad - in fact, worse - than Clippy does now.

  • but acceptance of the new EULA lets them come in through the back door whenever they want to rearrange your furniture and raid the fridge.
  • After a hard day of decapitating my enemies with a bat'leth and eating their hearts, I feel the silly comfort of a bathroom matters little to a true warrior.

    That being said, the cloaking device comes in handy when those annoying people drop by my door handing out pamphlets about Kehless.
  • Feb. 3, 2003. 01:00 AM Microsoft cuts orders from Xbox suppliers Console's sales at low end of forecast []

    LOS ANGELES--Microsoft Corp. has asked suppliers of components for its Xbox video game console to make "applicable adjustments" to their shipments after sales of the console came in at the low end of forecasts, the company says.

    Must not have sold enough MS houses... :) Don't be surprised if one of these so-called demo homes comes equipped with a X-Toilet...the lid may be a bit small for some people, however. The spindle and laser could pose issues.

    (Mommy, why does the john look like Timmy's game console?)
  • for Microsoft to start running advertisements about invading our privacy to sell us products... oh wait...

    Microsoft kills me. What kind of back-water morons do they take us for?

    It seems to me that I already have the best Biometric system in the world.

    *Doorbell rings*

    Me : Who is it?

    Them : The (Man/big brother/the police/ cindy Lauper/Jenna Jameson/Hey-suess H. Chriiiiist).

    ME : *Gun cocks* Git offa my dirt farm. And I'll take them sacks of money, too.
  • Blah; we so far have the typical glut of groupthink responses which mindlessly drone on how "Microsoft sucks." Real freethinkers indeed.

    How about a more realistic assessment of Microsoft's technology? It's not over-the-top at all.

    A few of the things in the article ought to strike you as, "Duh, why don't we already have that." A device that projects a recipe onto the kitchen countertop while you're cooking. Simple. A microwave that scans a product barcode and automatically cooks it to the specified standards. Again, pretty nice idea; neatly falls into the "unnecessary, but handy" category. LED lights in kid's rooms that sets 'mood lighting' according to the story you're reading them - watch kids get into a book like never before.

    Then there's the digital entertainment arena. This was discussed to death in the earlier XBox thread, but if you follow Microsoft's financial position, then it's obvious that Microsoft will completely dominate this market. They have enough cash in the bank to wear Sony and Nintendo into the ground through a process of attrition.

    Where Microsoft is missing-the-point in its arguments is largely in the area of customizability. The article suggests that the "home of the future" will be able to identify you by your retinal pattern, unlock the door, and immediately turn on lights and your favorite music. The lights thing is nice, but few people are ever in the mood for the same type of music (or any at all) every time they go home. Ditto with anything else that customizes itself to the user in the same way every time. People like spontaneity; it's what makes life unique and fun. The technology of the future will not be customized to each user, and it will remain more flexible as a result.

    In the end, I'm disappointed (but not surprised) by the anti-Microsoft venom floating around. For once can we possibly give the devil his due? They have some decent ideas.
  • ...used to be a lot more fun?

    MIT Does []. Their "home of the future," contains a translucent, power-generating roof, evoluationary adaptation, thermal-fiber walls, Just-in-time persuasive user interfaces... Many of them are concepts in hard prototyping by MIT affiliates.

    Many of the ideas are revolutionay. Some are evolutionary. All are far more practical than scanning a can of soup on the theory that the microwave will know how long to cook that UPC. Or having a computer figure out what you are trying to cook through radio tags, and read you the meaningful portions of recipes found online.

    All of these ideas are extensions of existing technology, assuming they can solve the single most difficult task in computing: deriving meaning from natural circumstances (in 3 to 7 years, as MS optimistically says).

    This reminds me of a Wired (print) article from several years back. XML was going to save the PDA! No longer were you going to need to coordinate your schedule with your doctors: your Palmpilot could do such automatically for you through templating. MS suggests a similar solution, saying that all templated legal contracts could be fast-tracked for approval.

    I don't buy this at all. Templates have proven very adept at assisting humans in classifying external data into something a computer can be programmed to work with, but has proven far more tricky to allow computers to make real-world exchanges based upon templated data, or the classification of real-world circumstances into said templates. How would your computer know to call a "factory contact" for a "factory" whose robots can do the "quick caulking" necessary for the production of the "wigit plus"? Someone would have to painstakingly sit down and template all of that info in, along with the interrelationship between other data. How would your microwave know how long to cook your soup for? Because someone programmed it to.

    That's all the house of the future is, in this demo... an infinitely programmed extension of the regular house... so unnecessarily programmed that nobody is going to do it. Listen to what your friend is listening to in his / her house? If you ask them to stream it, it's no problem. But automatically? Why would someone program that? Why would someone build a perpetually out-of-date database of information on UPC labels for microwavable foods? How would someone attempt to program the interrelationships between suppliers and companies, so that any need on your part is automatically satisfied? How would Microsoft, champion of open standards, help create a situation where disparate databases could be merged to create reliable metadata? When was the last time Exchange or Word shook hands and played nicely with anything let alone everything?

    This is a really sad state, when the house of the future is identical to the house of the present except that it is programmed to take over the trivial tasks that never bothered people anyway. How about an Aibo with a broom for a head? Floors that automatically warm up in the morning? Little lazer guided waterguns autotargeting bad kitties on the furnature? Any of these significantly more useful and more interesting concepts would be vastly easier to create than a computer's context sensitive capability realizing that the moon-jumping cow is the crux of the story and significant enough to warrant a picture search-and-display. Assuming that we managed to handle the speech recognition enough to understand a person reading in a natural context, and embewed computers with a sense of narrative flow, the are-you-feeling-lucky google link for "the cow jumped over the moon" is for a 1999 documentary by Christopher Walker about the Fulani nomads of West Africa, perhaps not the image closest to the heart of children when reading Mother Goose.

    I really hope no people of significant influence buy into this hype. At MIT, they are working on a system of automated design tools for the mass customization of housing []. MS is promising that your notebook will automatically flip to "presentation mode" when you enter a meeting, without you having to go through the hassle of opening the right folder. And the MIT project is not only functionally significantly easier and financially less burdensome than the "presentation mode" context sensitive relevance cognizant GPS+ and calendering laptops, but it is also the sort of fun thing you want in a house of the future demonstration. "You can shut off Johnny's music without having to actually turn off the stereo," just doesn't have the same ring as "It's like the sims, but you keep the house."


  • What? ... you don't know how to use the shells?
  • Come on people, this kind of houses has been described for what ? 10 years ? more ?
    Just go watch Back to the Future II, it has much stuff like that already...
    So nothing new to tell...
  • i reckon the real gem of any voice recognition software would be to grep a wav for a "regular expression".

    it would be useful to have total recall of what was said when misunderstandings happen. and then have that played over & over again ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @03:41AM (#5221299)
    "Another ficticious firm, Fabricam, has announced the Widget Plus. It's better than the widget we have on the market and it could crush or financial dreams if we don't act fast."

    This is the business scenario that Microsoft came up with to demonstrate their office of the future niftiness. Most people would come up with "We have an innovative idea for a new product and we want to develop it, manufacture it, and bring it to market." Nope, these guys want to play off a script where someone else has something better and they need to crush them before they get crushed.
  • by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @03:44AM (#5221305)
    Did nobody else see this paragraph?

    If their friends are online, they can join in to their "music session" and listen to whatever tune is playing at their house. (The Recording Industry of America, a music industry trade group that got their knickers in a knot over file swapping software such as Napster, is going to love that feature.)

    I swear, I laughed out loud!

  • by omega9 ( 138280 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @03:57AM (#5221342)
    Microsoft does not need^H^H^H^Hdeserve this much control.

    It's bad enough the world has to deal with things like the SQL Slammer, but there's no way in hell I'm going to risk waking up one morning to the Toaster Twister and Coffee Cruncher, visit the bathroom to great the Rectal Reamer, and find out my mailbox says STOP ERROR 0x00000e24 - INACCESSABLE BOOT DEVICE.

    Only to be topped off by being yelled at by some /. troll becuase "Hotfix Q1873672 has been out for your microwave for 3 months!!1 It's your own fault you can't walk upright anymore!!". Hmm.. must be time to patch the house again.

    NO SIR.
  • tools that enable graphical data to be dragged and dropped from one chart to another; tools that Microsoft believes might be available in the future.

    wow, so it IS true. Mac is going x86 to kick the shit out of winblows.

    lemme see here. i've been dragging and dropping for how long on mac os???

    m$ jokers.

  • by sanermind ( 512885 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @04:03AM (#5221357) which the current dumb-user-centric model has ascended to the point that it begins to conquer volition and personal descision making. The computer tells you what ingrediants to pick in the kitchen, it worrys about how many guests you have, and then tells you a recipie apropos to them... perhaps, soon enough, an earpiece will tell you what to say to them...

    This level of automation is only apropriate to the mentally handicapped or infirm! Computers are wonderfull things, if you want to understand them and tell them to solve a problem... but if ms's ideal vision of the future is a world in which you are incapable of deciding on your own what to do, a world of insurgent 'user friendliness' to the point that the computers are directing our behavior [in a socially usefull and constructive way, no doubt] instead of using them as tools... it's ugly, and it's the ultimate fulfillment of user-friendliness. I just can't wait for the 'so I'm a women now' birds and the bees wizards to instruct parents and children on that special path of adolescance [only $99.95 for this special upgrade pack!]
  • by cOdEgUru ( 181536 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @04:18AM (#5221392) Homepage Journal
    Scenario One:

    Heath : Computer, why did you select the quantity for four. Its just me in here..

    Computer : Sweetheart, I thought I should cook for the three gentlemen hiding in the attic with guns too..

    Scenario Two:

    Heath : Please select quantity as two for myself and my boyfriend.

    Computer : Your boyfriend was here with the blonde from the coffeeshop. Believe me sweetie, he ate.. Oh how he ate!!
  • tech of the future (Score:5, Insightful)

    by t_parker16 ( 154804 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @04:28AM (#5221419) Journal
    methinks the computerized home of the future is more about technology "fading into the background", making things more convenient but in an unobtrusive way; not the technology being the centerpiece of a "gee whiz" kind of house that would appeal most to a 14-year-old.

    but maybe its just the dissonance between a "showcase house of the future", where tech is the centerpiece, and the tech we all really will want and/or need.
  • Not so Promising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KalenDarrie ( 320019 ) <jwatkins41.cox@net> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:34AM (#5222218)
    Chuckles aside, I don't really feel comfortable with the idea of an automated house. Concerns about Microsoft and having their software running my home aside(I would never buy a Microsoft house), the prospect of having thigns adjusted when someone enters is potentially annoying. What if lights turn on or off or adjust level of illumination while you're doing something. What if someone prefers to have metal blasting when they come in and you happen to be next to the speakers when they open the door.

    Sure, small problems but there is more. One of the common themes in science fiction is the one where human technology has risen in scope and scale, reducing the need of people to work or move. It should be obvious, by comparing the different strata of technology across the world, that the ease created by technology creates a general laziness within a population. As nice as conveniences could be, I can only see many of them creating more sloth and laziness amongst the population.

    Not to mention the prospect of a wired, net active house being co-opted by hackers. Don't be so naive as to think that security would be so seriously improved as to make hacking impossible. Technology increases on all fronts. I wouldn't relish the prospect of hackers gaining control of environmental functions and other parts of a wired in house. Imagine the water periodically going frosty as you shower. Chilling thought, eh?

    I will admit that some things, such as biometric access and a little digital notepad on the door are interesting and much more useful than harmful. But everything has a point of excess, where too much of a good thing sours it. We should be careful about having too much tech.
  • by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @10:57AM (#5222734)
    Do you really want Steve Ballmer hunched over a monitor somewhere and sweating while watching you lather up in the shower?
  • Too Optimistic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @11:44AM (#5223000)

    Major innovations which will change the way we live... because people will be willing to pay for them incrementally:

    • Improved material science for hyperallergenic cleanliness, asthetics and fire prevention
    • Improved ventilation and environment control, no more dust bunnies crawling through central air units, ticking radiators, inefficient and inconvenient electric baseboard heaters... no more hotspots, coldspots and lower power bills.
    • Better, cheaper and faster food.
    • Smaller, quieter and more efficient appliances (combined washer/driers, conventional/convection and microwave ovens)
    • More material science and better medical science to develop better chairs, better beds (and better folding beds)
    • Better sound systems and personal entertainment systems.

    What the average schmoe will be absolutely unable to afford:

    • Real-estate within reach of urban employment

    The bigger better jobs will go to home offices, maybe... just maybe... as thoroughly extravegant and self-loving as the Microsoft vision.

    So where does that leave the average person?

    In a one-room apartment with artificial windows (not wonderful wrap-around ones, unless you splurge), a fold-out bed, a washer and drier quiet enough to sleep next to (because that's what you'll be doing), a minimal kitchen (because real-estate and time is more precious than the cost of the new and improved forms of fast food)

    All the while, you will dream of leaving the factory/fast food franchise/service industry to move towards some job you can perform from a home office outside the city.

    But that's just one vision.

  • Visitors to the house can leave a message via the touch-screen monitor built into the exterior wall or record a message if no one's home.

    No one comes to my door without calling my cell phone first to find out if I'm home. Any one who is coming to my door without calling is some sort of door-to-door marketer/religious person, and I don't want them to leave a message. This seems like an invitation for those cards you get on the windshield of your car when you park downtown, only on your front door.

    The important thing is that unlike a traditional key, a biometric system would identify each resident as they entered and prepare the house accordingly.
    For Heath, this means that as she enters the house, the shades go up, the lights go on and Elvis starts singing.

    I (shades down/lights at medium/soft jazz), my girlfriend (shades up/lights on/pop), my best friend (shades down/lights on full/metal), his girlfriend (shades up/lights on low/classical), and my parents (shades down/lights up full/NPR) all walk in at once... house explodes.

    More realistically, though - what music I want/how bright I want the lights/etc. depends on my mood, how I'm feeling, and how my day was. It's not always going to be the same, in fact it's rarely going to be the same from day to day. Therefore, I would need to specify every time I walked in - which is no different than I have now.

    And why check your e-mail in the front hall, when you can do it from the comfort of your living room on your TV? The television in this house is a whole lot smarter than the average boob tube. It's like Web TV and a personal video recorder combined.

    ... because I don't want my 8 year-old kid seeing "ENLARGE YOUR PENIS!" on my TV?

    So a list of Heath's favourite programs is displayed on screen.
    The show will pick up where she left off the last time she sat down to watch TV.

    Great... so, last night, I was watching pr0n - today I invite my girlfriend over to watch a movie and it pulls up... whoops.

    A text message comes up on screen from a friend - it's all part of the Disneyland-style demo designed to give a sense of how the house might work. She tells the friend she's busy right now, but quickly sends off directions to their next meeting together.

    A text messages comes up on screen from my mistress... while I'm watching TV with my wife. Whoops.
    Or, an obscene text message from my teenage daughter's boyfriend appears while I'm watching TV with her... causing me to ground her for a month. I can see obvious problems there.

    In essence, though computers are faster than I am, they really are not smarter than I am - they can't anticipate my moods/decisions nor can they cope with infinite possibilities and circumstances, including ones they have never encountered before. I want tools that do what I tell them to, not anticipate what they (or some anonymous programmer) thinks I might want.


    • I (shades down/lights at medium/soft jazz), my girlfriend (shades up/lights on/pop), my best friend (shades down/lights on full/metal), his girlfriend (shades up/lights on low/classical), and my parents (shades down/lights up full/NPR) all walk in at once... house explodes.

      So you call the warranty center to RMA your house, and are curtly informed that this sort of abuse isn't covered under the warranty.

      (And neither is the mess from when I laughed so hard at your comment that I spilled my breakfast. :)

  • the good news is.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @12:55PM (#5223657) Homepage Journal
    ..Microsoft will sell these at a loss, and the Linux Community will snatch them up and get Linux running on them.

    I do't think most peopel want a house like this. We have the technology to do much of this now, hell we have had the technology for keyless entry for years, but we still use keys. How many people have to(or can) conduct business from home? 1% of the population? In this community it is probably higher, but overall its pretty damn low.

    SOme of the stuff is cool, but I would only consider it if I controlled how the computers work.

  • by Cheese Cracker ( 615402 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @01:30PM (#5223995)
    you have to frequently reboot the oven... that would spoil the Thanksgiving dinner... :(
  • by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @01:31PM (#5224010) Homepage
    Linux's home of tomorrow does have a bathroom... you just need the permissions to use it.
  • by CONTROL_ALT_F4 ( 585063 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:28PM (#5224511)
    The last thing I want to hear when I get home from a hard days work....D000d! 3y3 h4xx0R3d Ur h0wS3!!
  • i've been there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cornjones ( 33009 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @06:41PM (#5226902) Homepage
    I've been there and it _was_ pretty cool.

    Two things that I didn't see in the article.

    One of the ideas is that every product sold will have an RF tag. supposedly in a couple of years the tags are going to be down to a penny or two. The tags id whatever you bring into your house and add it too the "house inventory". one thing that scared me was when she mentioned that the house could check your insurance policy and if you weren't covered by you current policy they could contact you to upsell. uhhh, obviously designed w/ the business rather than the customer in mind.

    another thing about the door. the door is magnetically locked. you bio scan in and it lets you in. there was no keyhole that I saw. what happens when the power goes out? either you are locked in or the door is open. neither is acceptable.

    the house was pretty cool though. it had a great digital art sculpture. some random piece of artfully bent plastic. when you get close it illuminates from inside with pictures and videos from your media library. if you see a picture you like, say your trip to greece, you touch the picture and then all the pictures are from that trip or media group. Tres chic. a great way to display all that digital media we have been collecting.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson