New technology around the house
1. Logitech Harmony Universal Remote (starting @ $99.00)
I don't know about you, but we've used three remotes to run our TV, DVD player, and receiver. And I'm sick of it. So, I went down to Best Buy with my $50 Christmas Gift Card.
Despite a poor setup experience, once Harmony gets going, it's really an amazing piece of hardware. It allows you to create basic tasks, like watching a DVD, watching TV, or playing Xbox(with an Xbox adapter) . The Harmony is able to combine all your other remotes because it downloads the remote "driver" information from the Internet with a USB cable. The thing that I didn't see advertised is that you can program your favorite TV channels and look at the listings on the remote. For someone who's always channel surfed without digital cable or satellite (with the guide info), this is a really cool concept.
Even though you'll pay well over $100 for the most basic version, I highly recommend the Harmony Universal Remote for anyone who has more than one remote to control their TV.
2. Roku Soundbridge Network Music Player ($200)
What if you could play all your music on your computer on another stereo in the house? What if you could actually control the computer playback from that stereo? That's what the Roku Soundbridge does. If you've got a wireless network running in your house, the Soundbridge will configure itself to run on it. No fuss. No muss.
All you need for Windows is Windows Media Connect server software to connect your computer files to the Soundbridge. The great thing about the Soundbridge is that it can also play Internet radio stations. You just program them in (I think you can have 20 of them).
Soundbridge also works with many different kinds of music software and music services, like iTunes and Rhapsody. I haven't tried this yet, but it looks promising.