All-in-one anxiety

Every time I read about some great, new all-in-one product, like a multi-service router, I get a little skeptical.

My stereo -- a dinosaur by tech standards -- is a black plastic behemoth from the early days of CDs. It includes a turntable, radio, cassette player with two decks, a detachable CD-player unit and a pair of speakers. The stereo isn't the greatest, but it has served me for over 10 years now. That is, until the cassette player stopped being able to record.

I've often considered the fact that I should probably upgrade to a newer, smaller stereo system (or scrap the whole thing for an iPod), but I can't bring myself to get rid of it as long as the majority of it still works. And I'd hate to think of it ending up in a landfill. However, I recently swapped out the CD player for a newer hand-me-down unit with a 5-CD changer, and that got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great if my behemoth stereo was somehow compatible with an iPod?

All this makes me wonder about the draw of all-in-one networking equipment. Recently, NetDevices introduced its SG-4 service gateway, a "branch-in-a-box" that features a multi-function router, a VoIP gateway and a firewall on one platform. Cisco and Juniper have similar offerings. On the one hand, you get a lower-cost, uncluttered approach with a simpler installation. On the other hand, with a modular approach, you have more flexibility and scalability -- and perhaps, a place to plug in an iPod.

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