Elgan: Simplify your life via gadget consolidation

Save time, money and headaches by reducing the number of devices you use

Giant corporate IT departments do it. And so can you.

Server consolidation, which is the process of reducing the number of physical servers used at a company without reducing the total number of theoretical servers (through virtualization), can boost efficiency.

Companies do consolidation because new projects tend to get new, dedicated hardware. Only later does the total waste become apparent.

We all do the same thing in our personal lives. Each new "project" -- TV upgrade, new cell phone, new music system -- involves dedicated hardware. Only later do you realize that you've got cables everywhere, five remote controls, too many devices to be charged, and clutter and complexity everywhere.

By consolidating gadgets, you can free up space in your home, save money and make your life easier.

If you read my blog yesterday, you'll know that I've recently become semi-nomadic, living in a smaller house but traveling abroad most of the time. This project got me thinking about all the efficiencies of gadget consolidation.

Here are all the things I consolidated, or plan to consolidate, and how:

PC and laptop: Until recently, I used my three-year-old desktop PC (which had dual 20-inch screens) while at home, and a laptop while traveling. But this week I sold the PC with one of the monitors and now use my laptop full time. This works nicely because my laptop has an 18-inch screen. While at home, I plug into the 20-inch LCD display I didn't sell, which gives me the same two-screen experience I used to enjoy on my desktop.

TV and laptop: OK, the truth is I still have a big flat-screen TV. But because I'll be away from home much of the time, I made sure my laptop has Blu-ray support and even a TV tuner so I can watch high-def movies and local TV wherever I go. I can also watch clips or entire TV shows on Hulu and other Web sites.

Cell phone and remote control: A remote control unit is just a battery-operated device that throws infrared light around the room. Any device designed to work with a remote will be controlled by anything that produces the right series of infrared flashes.

There are a gazillion ways to set this up, depending on what kind of phone and home entertainment system you have. Simply search Google for your brand of phone plus "TV remote," and you'll get links to several options. The goal is to use the gadget you're already carrying, rather than one or more dedicated remotes that clutter the room or get easily lost.

Land-line phone and cell phone: Over the next few days or weeks, Google plans to launch Google Voice, which is a single phone number you can give to people. The trick is that you can choose online which of your phones the call goes to. It can go to your land-line phone at work during the day, then to your cell phone -- or any of your cell phones -- at night and on weekends. The service unifies voice mail and transcribes messages for viewing online or via e-mail. Google Voice will simplify life for you, because it gives you more control over incoming voice calls, but also for anyone who calls.

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