Hetherington: My personal favorite is the home audio server, which stores thousands of hours of music on a hard disk. New versions of these are available with several output zones so that when used in a multiroom system each room can be playing a different tune, all from the same central audio server. Many of these can also be plugged into the Internet as well, so that when you go to burn your CD onto the server it goes to an Internet database of CD information [CDDB] and gets all the track and album information to display on your system automatically. Cool!

American Way: OK, I'm ready to go with my new house. But how do I find a contractor who's qualified to install these high-tech systems?

A systems integrator is key to a successful installation. As with any other contractor or consultant, it's best to ask for references. Find out from others if they are happy and whether their system works. Also, do some research into what equipment brands you want to use and go to the manufacturers for a list of local integrators who handle the products.

American Way: What if I'm not building a new house, but I'd like to add some technology to my existing home or apartment. Am I out of luck?

If possible, it's best to install the wiring that you need for the project behind the walls or in the attic. But this can be expensive and is always messy in an existing home. For computers, there are other solutions such as wireless, powerline [existing electric wires and outlets], and existing telephone wire networks. Home lighting and appliance control over the powerline is also an option that works well in most applications.

5 great wired resources
extensive online library and e-magazine devoted to home technology