Monday, December 14, 2009

Kitchen of the Future: Computerized - or Not?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 9, #102 - Dec 15, 2009 - Issue #410

 Kitchen of the Future: Computerized - or Not?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Kitchen of the Future: Computerized - or Not?
    • Follow-up: The Online Shopping Season
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Planning ahead: XP SP2 support to end in July 2010
    • Another new scareware scam with fake Microsoft endorsement
    • Biggest month in Xbox history
    • Analyst predicts "game over" for Microsoft in Consumer Market
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to prevent blue screen when installing new motherboard in XP computer
  5. XP Security News
    • Indeo video codec blocked by Microsoft for security reasons
  6. XP Question Corner
    • How do I change where XP downloads files?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Everything you always wanted to know about the Windows Registry
    • Screensaver timeout is not restored after you use Remote Desktop
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • The Easiest Way to Move to Windows 7!

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 Editor's Corner

Kitchen of the Future: Computerized - or Not?

I feel pretty high tech with my little 25.5 inch touch screen kitchen computer, on which my husband and I watch TV, check our email in the middle of a cooking session, and leave each other notes or voice recordings. But that's nothing compared to what some innovative designers have envisioned for kitchens of the future.

If you've visited Best Buy or Fry's in the last few years, you probably saw one of several models of refrigerators with a computer monitor built into the door. My favorite was this Samsung model that comes with a detachable tablet PC that contains "food management software" as well as calendaring and memo functions similar to my TouchSmart. This one also included digital wireless TV and radio:

However, you might notice that this article is dated 2007. If you go to the Samsung site, you'll get a message informing you that this product is no longer available, and they don't seem to have come out with a new model to replace it. Why is that? Sure, the $3500 price tag was a bit high, but folks pay as much or more for high end refrigerators that don't even connect to the Internet. Apparently the idea just didn't catch on. Come to think of it, although I saw them at several stores, I never knew anyone who actually bought one.

Samsung isn't the only company that marketed - or tried to market - this type of high tech appliance. LG not only had an Internet fridge; it also came out with web-enabled microwave ovens and washing machines. The idea was that all of your appliances would be connected through a home network so they could communicate with each other, and you could interact with them even when you weren't home, over the Internet. They even developed a new protocol called LnCP, which allowed the appliances to communicate over the power lines in your home so you wouldn't have to wire your kitchen and laundry room with Ethernet.

Again, though, these are old stories. There is still a web page on LG's site touting the Internet Refrigerator at

However, a perusal of LG's current product pages shows no such animal:

I'm a "house junkie" - I love keeping up with architectural and design trends. I like to go on home tours and attend real estate open houses even though I have no intention of moving any time soon. HGTV is one of my favorite television channels. I've seen some awesome kitchens, both on the screen and in person. Some of those kitchens cost as much as we paid for our whole house. They have commercial grade Wolf cooktops and gargantuan Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezers, hand carved moldings and built-in espresso machines and multiple sinks and imported tiles everywhere. What the vast majority of them don't have: computerization. Oh, there might be a gorgeous cherry wood, granite topped kitchen desk where you can put your TouchSmart or a laptop, but that's about it.

Price is obviously not the problem. The people who build kitchens like these can afford to pay double or triple for the ability to start up the dishwasher or turn on the oven over the Internet - but mostly, they don't. The appliances in these high-end kitchens are pretty traditional when it comes to connectivity.

A couple of years ago, though, the appliance and home design industries had big ambitions for our kitchens. This article predicted that the whole kitchen would be one giant, interactive computer with walls that display weather maps and recipes, voice-controlled appliances that clean themselves, even countertops that weigh your cooking ingredients when you set them down there.

What happened? Where is my futuristic kitchen? Not that I expected I'd be able to afford it, but I thought I could at least see it and touch it in the model homes in expensive developments. In 2007, they were even promising us "food robots" that would prepare our meals for us when we didn't feel like cooking:

Try this: Do a search for "futuristic kitchen" and specify articles within the last month, and you don't find much. It seems that we've given up on the idea of high tech, connected kitchens. Maybe it's because of the economy. Maybe it has something to do with the "surveillance society" in which we live. Maybe people don't trust kitchen appliances that could be hacked into or used by the authorities to spy on them. That can't be the whole story, though. The majority of the populace seems to have no qualms whatsoever about carrying around a cell phone by which their every movement could be tracked, or driving cars with technology built in that can be used to locate us, monitor our driving activities and even disable the vehicle remotely.

Maybe we just don't like the way all that technical gadgetry looks and feels in the room where our family gathers to create and consume food. The kitchen is, as they say, the "heart of the home." For most of us, our memories of mom chopping and slicing and boiling and baking don't include a Star Trek-like disembodied voice responding to her commands.

Tell us what you think. Is the kitchen of the future, as envisioned in 2007, something that you would want for yourself if price were no object? Why do you think the whole idea flopped, even among those who could afford it? Are there certain elements of those futuristic kitchens that you like more than others? Would it be cool - or creepy - to have your appliances connected and available to you over the Internet? We invite you to weigh in on this discussion in our forum at

Follow-up: The Online Shopping Season

In last week's editorial, I tackled a subject that comes up every year: the surge in online shopping. Each year, though, the e-commerce scene evolves and changes. A few years ago, most of the people I knew were still a little afraid of engaging in any kind of financial transaction over the Internet. Now it seems almost everybody is doing it. What struck me most was that the last time I wrote about this subject, I got dozens of responses from people who said they would never shop online. This time, almost all who responded had positive things to say about online shopping. Forum participants also added their own thoughts on the subject, some of which addressed points I missed in the original article.

Randal Oulton noted that whereas you usually pay less when buying online from a private company, compared to going in to a store, the opposite seems to be true for many government agencies. He said, "The city of Toronto now charges you $1.50 EXTRA to pay your parking tickets online, as opposed to going in person." The same is true in my neck of the woods. I pay most of my bills online, but I refuse to do so with my water bill, because the city tacks on an extra two dollars for online payments - even though processing should cost less. As Barc wrote further along in the discussion, I think it's because many of these government agencies contract that processing out to a private agency that charges them a ridiculous amount to handle it, and they're just passing the charges on to the customers. Meanwhile, I'll continue to write a check for that particular bill and spend 42 cents on a stamp instead of $2 for the online service charge.

VickyS pointed out another benefit of doing your Christmas shopping online: she has the gifts delivered to her at work so she can wrap them before she takes them home, to thwart snooping. Zezzty, though, mentioned a possible drawback of shopping online: "I find it so easy and convenient that I sometimes buy items I don't need." That's one reason I have never turned on 1-click ordering on Amazon. I don't want it to be quite that easy. And Stacie noted that, "I still like going to the store if for no other reason than it gets me off my duff" and I have to agree with that. "Real world" shopping does give you a little exercise - especially at this time of the year, when you may find yourself walking (seemingly) miles from the back end of the parking lot. In fact, I was reminded last weekend that going to the store on a Saturday in December can be more exhausting than a workout at the gym.

I want to address some of the things DavidW said: "My wife is now on a direct debit kick, instead of using credit cards when possible. To me, that's just as much work as going to a store, but she doesn't see it that way. At least it saves us the charges from using credit cards." David is in Australia and I don't know whether it works the same way there, but in the U.S., at least with the cards I have, there are no charges for using a credit card as long as you pay off the entire balance before the end of the billing cycle. Like David, I believe that if I can't pay cash for something, I can't afford it - but by putting it all on a credit card that gives cash rewards and paying it off in full every month, I not only avoid finance charges but even make a little money on the transactions. I also agree with Scott that it's generally safer to use a credit card than a debit card, and I never use debit cards myself, but it's my understanding that the new ones that are issued through Visa or Mastercard have protections that are similar to credit cards.

Whether you're shopping online, in the stores, or not at all, here's wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, and thanks to all those who joined in this discussion.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

"To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe." - Marilyn vos Savant

"There's a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker." - Charles M. Schulz

"I am certain there is too much certainty in the world." - Michael Crichton

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 Cool Tools

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 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Planning ahead: XP SP2 support to end in July 2010

If you're one of the many people I've heard from who are still running XP with SP2, be aware that Microsoft plans to cut off support for that iteration next summer. You'll need to upgrade to SP3 in order to continue to get extended support for your OS. Support for Windows 2000, should you still have any computers running that operating system, will also end at that time. Extended support with SP3 (assuming Microsoft doesn't issue an SP4, which is unlikely) will continue until April 2014. Find out more here:

Another new scareware scam with fake Microsoft endorsement

It wouldn't be the first time a scammer tried to use Microsoft to pull off a con job. Remember all those chain emails claiming that if you forwarded it to enough friends, Bill Gates would send you money? Now a new piece of malware tries to con you into buying bogus antivirus software by faking a Microsoft endorsement of the product. Find out more here:

Biggest month in Xbox history

According to a Microsoft representative, November 2009 was the biggest month in Xbox history. $838 million in sales for one product for one month is bound to make the company happy. And it sounds as if quite a few kids (and maybe some who are no longer kids) are going to be happy, too, when they find game consoles under their trees this year. Read more here:

Analyst predicts "game over" for Microsoft in Consumer Market

Huh? Well, one of the most interesting things about the end of any year is watching all the would-be clairvoyants come out of the woodwork to make predictions about what's going to happen in the upcoming year. These days, they call themselves "analysts" to lend more credence to their ... umm, educated guesses. Mark Anderson made headlines (which, after all, is the whole point of making dramatic predictions) with the prediction that Microsoft will be a big loser in the consumer market next year. Oh, except for games. Which I guess fits right in with the preceding news item. Not everyone agrees, though. Read more here:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to prevent blue screen when installing new motherboard in XP computer

A new motherboard is the most significant upgrade that you can make to a computer, since the motherboard also determines what processor(s) you can use, how much and what type of RAM you can install, and so forth. Sometimes installing a new motherboard can be tricky and some folks have reported getting a blue screen that says "inaccessible boot device" after the upgrade. Ouch. Here are some tips for preventing that:
  1. Before installing the new board, boot into XP.
  2. Right click My Computer, click Manager and click Device Manager in the left pane of the Computer Management console.
  3. Select the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controller.
  4. Select your current storage controller.
  5. Right click select Update Driver and click "Install from a list or specific location."
  6. Select "Don't search, I will choose the driver to install."
  7. Select the standard dual channel IDE controller.
  8. The first time you boot XP after installing the new motherboard, boot in Safe Mode. XP will install needed drivers. You can also install the motherboard drivers from the disc that comes with it.

 XP Security News

Indeo video codec blocked by Microsoft for security reasons

There are so many vulnerabilities in the old video codec Indeo that Microsoft has taken the unusual step of issuing a security update that completely blocks applications from loading it in XP. This means videos using that codec can no longer be viewed in Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player. The codec was already blocked in Vista and Windows 7; this update applies the same restriction to XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003. You can read more here:

 XP Question Corner

How do I change where XP downloads files?

I have an XP computer and a Vista computer. I still like XP best, in most ways. But there's one thing I like better in Vista. It saves files I download in a folder called Downloads. XP saves them on my desktop. Is there a way I can change that? Thanks. - Dave B.

You can change the default download target location for downloading files with IE in Windows XP by editing the registry. As always, be sure to back up the registry key first and be careful when making changes to the registry. Here are the steps:
  1. Open the registry editor.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Internet Explorer
  3. In the right pane, double click the Download Directory value
  4. In the Value Data field, type the full path to the folder where you want downloads to go by default (for example, C:\Downloads)
  5. Click OK
Note that this changes the download location only for the logged on user account.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Everything you always wanted to know about the Windows Registry

The registry can be a mysterious and even scary place if you don't understand how it works. If you're an advanced user and want to find out more about all the different registry hives and keys, the different data types, and the different ways of editing the registry, check out KB article 256986 at

Screensaver timeout is not restored after you use Remote Desktop

If you connect to your Windows XP Professional computer with Remote Desktop, you might discover that the timeout value you previously set for the screensaver isn't used when you log onto the computer locally. Here's what's happening: you logged on via RDC with a different user account and the timeout value from that user profile is now being used. To find out the workaround for this problem, see KB article 811329 at

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

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 About WXPnews

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