Allie Eberhardt Demystifies Home Tech, One House Call at a Time
There is a man out there who can make your life better. He makes house calls, but he's not a doctor. He kills bugs, but he's not an exterminator. He has a massive hard drive and knows how to push all the right buttons, but he's not…uh, where were we? Oh, yes: Allie Eberhardt, owner of Digital Habitat, in Westchester, New York, can repair any connection and set up any digi-ma-jig in the modern home.
O: Why did you decide to make house calls?
A: It's kind of retro, so it makes my business stand out. And some problems can't be easily described over the phone. Like when people think their disc tray is a coffee cup holder.
O: What other wrong assumptions do people make?
A: People assume they have to use all those discs that come with their digital camera. But most new Windows machines include a great program called Photo Gallery. Or you can download Picasa2, which is brilliant and free.
O: What is one of the biggest mistakes to avoid with home tech?
A: If you're saving large files—music, video, photos—you can't go without an external hard drive. You can get more than enough space for under $200. There's a hard drive in a closet in my basement that holds everything.
O: It's the brain of the household!
A: I can keep my photos on the hard drive and set up TiVo in the living room so I can play a slideshow of my daughter on TV during her birthday party. And all my music is on the hard drive, which plays through my Sonos.
O: What's that?
A: Sonos is a wireless digital music system. You set up a unit—about the size of an alarm clock—in one room, place additional "satellite" players throughout the house, and use a remote control that looks like an oversize iPod. You can play music in any room you want. You can also tune in to Internet radio stations like Pandora or Rhapsody.
O: What else gets saved on that magical hard drive in the basement?
A: Movies! We have a Vudu—that's movies on demand. The Nintendo Wii, for the kids. And of course, all the computers are hooked up to the hard drive.
O: How many computers do you have?
A: Three. No, four. Five. For now.
If you've got a tech dilemma and Allie doesn't live nearby, never fear. An army of digital handymen is available nationwide through Geek Squad (GeekSquad.com). But before calling a pro, you might want to check out PopGadget.net, a tech site geared toward women, or plug your questions into WikiHow.com, an ever-growing collection of user-generated instruction manuals.