The house that shagged me

More than three years and about $10 millions dollars in the making -- the highly automated digital home that Infoseek founder Steve Kirsch and his family recently moved in to, still feels like a beta site version.

The motion detector that controls the front door lets in friend and stranger alike. The one that controls lights in the library turns the lights back on after turning them off. The battery-operated electronic safe is guaranteed to fail when its 9-volt batteries die. And no one can remember which of the 26 unmarked buttons on the remote that operates the living room drapes will open the correct drapes to the right degree.

The television in Kirsch's family room is an example of what can happen when leading-edge technologies collide. The television signal is supplied by a digital satellite system and displayed on a $US12,000 plasma flat-panel display screen that does not provide continuous colour tones. Kirsch cannot operate this television using the infrared remote control unit because the plasma screen emits too much of its own IR. To make matters worse, the compression algorithms in the DSS happen to highlight the limited colour palette of the plasma display, he says. The result is very splotchy colour.

"The DSS does not provide great video compression," Kirsch says. "We can hear the fan that cools the plasma screen, and the picture quality we get is inferior to what we would get on a $100 television."

Kirsch's home theatre system, which includes a video projector and a line quadrupler to improve image definition, is controlled by a home automation system from the PHAST (Practical Home Automation Systems Technology) subsidiary of AMX. Although the home theatre operates with a highly integrated PHAST touch-screen remote control, the systems integration is not reliable because the individual components of the system were not designed to work together. As a result, the controller lacks awareness of which individual components on or off or on and whether or not they are performing correctly.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peggy King

PC World
Show Comments


Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >


Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >


Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >


Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?