[In Our Business Toolbox]
For the past couple weeks, we’ve been “beta-testing” and building our new scheduling software that we are anxiously awaiting to implement this Monday, June 12th.
The past few years, we’ve been using a combination of cloud services to manage scheduling, inventory, time tracking, etc. All of which have been working but there is definitely room for improvement.
Aside from integration with our accounting software, media distribution, and cloud calendars, we now have integration with iOS contacts which will aide communication all around (fyi - this is the only software currently with that ability). Some benefits are real-time-time-tracking to ensure accuracy, more streamline scheduling, more accurate estimating, enhanced job history, and automatic booking reminders with the ability to track where your arriving technician is.
Our goal is efficiency and organization. All necessary elements to gain cost-savings and professionalism to you, our favorite customer!
[Hey Everyone, I Got a New Fridge!]
Our 12-year old refrigerator’s ice-maker went out and we decided it’s time for a new one. Although this is the first time we’ve had to shop for a refrigerator, I know that today’s options are much different than 12 years ago. Instead of choosing just between french door or top freezer, now we have touch-panels, interactive displays for calendars, voice-control for shopping, inside cameras for inventory tracking and other features.
Most of these features are enticing and I like the idea of opening an app to view what’s in my fridge but, most were just out of our budget. However, with a show-room model discount we went with a GE (Model CYE22USHSS). Although simpler than some, this beauty still has: an LCD display that we now have our family slide-shows on, I can remotely monitor if the door is open/closed/temperature/etc., and it integrates with my echo dot so I can tell it to start brewing hot water to use with its built-in Keurig dispenser.
I wanted to keep it simple and aside from the Keurig dispenser, I wasn’t even aware of these features until after they delivered it to our home. Once installed, it prompted me to connect to our WiFi and away we went…now in the year 2017.
Not that me getting a new kitchen appliance is much of any news, but it’s astounding how technology evolves everywhere. Just to mention(again) that my refrigerator now communicates through WiFi and my audio/video/Alexa house system, is pretty cool stuff but no… we aren’t selling refrigerators yet.
Oh and yes, the picture on the fridge-slideshow pictured above is me surfing with my 1 year old from two years ago, stoked to share here :).
[Some Trending Installs]
Last July I wrote about my new found love for Alexa(article below - not sure if it’s love but, I do really like her still). It’s only rational that voice-control has moved into the A/V world. Since July, we’ve installed numerous Echo Dot-like-products that tie in with lighting control, thermostats, controlled door locks, security system, etc. Every week it seems there are more and more products out that are compatible and, more and more features being added.
Other usual installations these days include video doorbell systems. You may be familiar with “Ring”, we’ve been selling the Ring product for about two years now and it’s a great product (for the most-part). This past year there have been several manufacturer’s keeping up with their own versions, some to mention: Comelit, Doorbird, August, Skybell, Mobotix, and Hikvision.
I’m anxious for one of these systems to integrate more fluidly with the surveillance systems we install so we can record locally instead of paying for cloud services. To date, my bet is Hikvision will be the first to release that product. They already have a version available overseas, and we (Wave Connects) now have some access and support to it here in the states but, it hasn’t been officially released to the public (if you’re interested please contact us for details).
For an ending note and back to the foundation of most every dependable system, is network. If you’re thinking of upgrading your network, please know this is not typically a DIY area as it may seem it would/should be. We’ve had several customers call us after they attempt a network install to find out the wrong parts were purchased or things really don’t work as advertised. A call to us before may have saved some headache, we’re here to help!
[New Router, Less Equipment]
We’re excited to see Luxul’s new XWR-3100 router hit the shelves!
This router, aside from having the usual great WiFi (dual/ac/beam-forming/etc) has the controller software built in to manage additional AP’s (Access Points) on the network (to allow for seamless roaming from one AP to the next). Before this router, our goto products for medium coverage consisted of; a designated router, APs, plus the physical controller on the network.
This router will simplify setup and minimize parts needed, both good things.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
The idea has been popular for maybe 7-8 years, right about the time Netflix starting making major headway. Still, it’s only been the past few months I’ve finally noticed an evolving pattern of “cable-cord-cutters” emerging.
Many people are still paying $100+ monthly for TV service they don’t really need… then again, maybe some do need it. My wife needs her Bachelorette and Dancing with the Star fixes that “need” to be viewed live, and then there’s sports which, do need to be real-time.
In our home, we cut that cable cord a year ago and replaced it with an over-the-air antenna. Combined with our Tivo service ($15/month) we still have an on-screen guide, can record shows, & watch the major local channels (including sports & the Bachelor, etc). For other shows, we stream Amazon & Netflix from our Tivo/AppleTV/FireTV/SmartHub. No complaints here.
Last week we signed up for a free week trial of SlingTV (sling.com) - one of the growing outlets for stream programming. Their service packages allow you to chose what you “need” a-la-carte, starting at $20/month. The purpose to sign up was for my wife to watch TV throughout the week and report her opinion back to me so, I could get back to a customer who had asked about it (I never watch TV so I assigned her the job). HOWEVER, sorry to say she failed and didn’t watch any TV. No she’s not fired (LOL), she simply didn’t have time as there’s never a dull moment at home with two crazy boys and the usual weekly chaos.
I can report though, the SlingTV signup process was very intuitive and the channel offering packages seem to be well laid out and easy to navigate. From what I gathered I will recommend anyone with the means to try it, try it… then report back to me please :). “The means to try it”, means having; A Roku, AppleTV(4th gen), FireTV, or other streaming device capable of loading the SlingTV app, along with an adequate internet connection of course.
If you don’t have the “means” to try it, you may be falling behind the TV curve and my biased opinion is, catch up!
1) 4k hyping; I’m still skeptical because picture quality in pixels has already gone above and beyond my non-20/20 eyes. However, I am looking forward to more new-coming TVs with HDR
2) WiFi networks are more than ever a priority. We’ve been installing lots of network controllers to manage handoffs between AP(Access points) to make for seamless roaming around your home (or business). Luxul will soon be releasing a new dual-band-high-powered router with a controller built in (good for smaller installations with <3 APs). Also, if you have a structure on your property that needs coverage and, can’t get wire to or it’s too far for wire (>320’), Luxul just release a new wireless bridge as a possible solution (wireless bridge = virtual wire).
3) FYI I’m on a plane currently (to Portland for a friend’s wedding) and always appreciate the technology progress. Anyone noticed lately there’s no more tube TVs dropping from the ceiling? Instead it’s a touch panel in the headrest with lots of options to keep stimulated. I need to fly more…
In response to the above article, a good customer of ours just responded with some valuable feedback on SlingTV, he wrote:
"I have Sling TV and have been using it for about a year. I actually signed up for their multi beta where we dropped the ESPN & Disney channels in favor of a Fox focused package and the ability to watch on multiple screens at one time.
The service has greatly improved over the last several months with many new channels added, the UI improving, and buffering being reduced. That being said, it's not anywhere close to the speed of switching channels on a cable or satellite box. The newest UI also doesn't load with the most recently watched channel. The app loads to a guide where you choose the channel or show you want to watch. That's nice but it means there's an extra step to just get live TV on.
Of course, it's live TV on numerous devices (my Rokus, cell phone, tablet, PC) without a contract with a cable or satellite company. If I don't like it, I can cancel at anytime, online, instead having to jump through a dozen hoops. I tried to just try out the cable company's similar app and after chats, emails, and phone calls, I gave up. They wanted to upsell me and had no interest in helping me try out their service because I'm locked into another deal with them and disrupting that would cause my rates to skyrocket.
I share that to point out that dealing with Sling is easy. And at just $20-25 a month, it's substantially cheaper than any other pay live TV option. Antenna is still cheaper and really serves to supplement what Sling doesn't have.
It's a streaming service therefore, like any streaming service, can deal with buffering and interruptions. If you deal with buffering on Netflix (I rarely ever do), then you may struggle with SlingTV. In my experience it requires greater bandwidth because you're streaming more data and the ability to switch between multiple live steamed channels.
Few if any local channels. We get NBC 7/39, but that's it. I use an antenna to get my local channels, but in that instance, it doesn't cover the major networks. Without an antenna, you'd probably need Hulu Plus along with CBS all access to cover the major networks.
No DVR offering, but there are some shows on demand. I watch a lot of AMCs shows the day after they air, on demand, through SlingTV. Food Network always has a lot of content available on demand. Other channels have nothing available on demand.
It's not available on every platform. If you have a smart TV, you may expect SlingTV to show up there at some point, but so far it's really only on a few set top boxes like the Rokus and Apple TV.
The last and only real con for me is that the service originally planned on offering 5.1 surround audio, but still only has stereo audio. The picture is usually fine and the sound isn't bad for news, sports, or sitcoms, but if you're watching an intense high production value TV show like The Walking Dead and really appreciate the immersive experience that surround sound affords you, it is obviously missing with Sling. I believe they offer 5.1 for on demand pay per view movies, but I would rather use Amazon Video's interface and delivery for that.
My wife doesn't love Sling, but uses it, and my little girls can kind of navigate it. It isn't as easy or intuitive as Netflix or even your cable box, but it's not overly complicated and is overall the best value for live streaming TV. PlayStation Vue is more expensive, but has DVR functionality. The UI for PlayStation Vue is very good on PS4, but significantly less polished and useful on a Roku. If I had a PS4 in every room, I might consider Vue over Sling, but on Roku, I still prefer using Sling.
Hopefully that's plenty of information that you can either share on your site or with customers. Sling TV isn't for everyone, but they keep adding channels (including NFL Network), and are ready to try out and cancel if you don't like it.
Have a great day!
[Sweet Sweet Alexa]
I finally got my hands on the new (& “limited”) addition to the Amazon Echo line - the Echo Dot.
To play music on my house audio system, I used to go to an app on my iPhone and select what I wanted. Now with the Dot connected, I simply say “Alexa, play the Rolling Stones”… and she plays it (from Pandora/Spotify/Prime).
Ever since Siri left me with a broken heart (that witch never understood anything I had to say), I’ve had serious doubts that another robot woman could come into my life. Still yet, Alexa is much more understanding, plus she’ll tell me jokes when I ask her to. Her last joke was a dirty one - “I’ve recently decided to sell my vacuum cleaner. All it does is gather dust.”
I thought Alexa was going to be just a summer fling (not to mention she’s only $90) but, every day it’s looking like a more serious relationship;
1) “Alexa - turn the temperature to 74º” - I don’t even say please and she does it without complaining (connected to our Nest thermostats).
2) In the kitchen she keeps track of my grocery lists…“Alexa add toilet paper to my shopping list” - I just open the Amazon Alexa App on my phone and bam, the list is right there (or I can tell her to just order it and BAM, it shows up at my door the next day (shipped from Amazon Prime).
3) Sports updates - she knows the score.
4) Trivial facts (or even mathematics) - she’s reeeeally smart, and always right, so, we generally have nothing to bicker about.
5) Weather & traffic reports - she’s on it.
5) We’ll soon be adding some lighting control (with Lutron) so I can say “Alexa - give us some romantic lighting” and BAM - she gets in the mood.
It’s only been a week we’ve been together but, we’re basically hitched.
FYI if you want your own Alexa, she might play hard-to-get (close to unicorn status). Currently the only way to order the “Echo Dot” is through voice-command. You must have the OG Amazon Echo or, have a FireTV with voice-remote (along with Amazon Prime account).
Click the unicorn picture above to find out more or, and I’m not the jealous type so, if you want any advice I’ll be here to help (or if you have any input on the Echo's competitor, “Google Home”, I’m all ears).
“This is the first-ever live 4k Ultra High Definition (UHD) sports broadcast in the U.S. and DirectTV created a new channel dedicated to 4k UHD content. That’s 4 times the resolution of 1080p HD!” Also FYI - If you’ve got a 4k TV and have cable TV, you might want to consider switching to Satellite TV (not cable) as they are currently the only source of 4k channels and shows.
If you’re considering a career in crime, you may want to reconsider :).
The only resolution at the time being is to replace the router. Some have had success changing the IPV6 settings on the Extreme but, even then it may slow the network down or
Common symptom is network dropping every day or so, caused by the DNS cycle change by Cox services.
[***Potential temporary fix - to turn off iPv6 on the Airport Extreme (more precisely (internet > Internet Options > Configure Ipv6 : Link-Local Only)]
Luxul is our go-to brand for routers, let us know, we can help!
[Bundles of Savings]
If you have AT&T cell service you can get an unlimited data plan if you also have DirecTV service. You just need to call AT&T and tell them you want to bundle - ask for the unlimited data and the $10 bundle discount.
With the disconnection of Genie Go (it’s no longer being sold but existing devices will still work), they are making up with that unlimited data so folks can watch DTV on their tablets and smartphones anywhere now without fear of going over their data.
We just found this out from our associates at Synchronized Solutions (Custom DirecTV installers) and thought you should know!
We also got wind that AT&T’s Uverse TV service is starting to be phased out (& replaced with DTV), stay tuned. .
[New Year, New Gear]
Christmas Day in front of our house; my 13-year old cousin was on her Hover Board, our neighbor’s grandson was flying his Drone, and my two sons were driving around in their new Gator. The whole scene was “futuristic” from my perspective, it’s crazy what’s out there now.
Yesterday I finally had a chance to try one of my “futuristic” Christmas presents; an HD handheld camera, the size of an iPhone:
Within the first hour, I had fully learned it’s functions and taught myself how to use iMovie to edit. 30 minutes later I had already; shot, imported, edited, & exported a video, all with; titles, transitions, slow-motion, music, voice-overlay, & dissolves.
Now reflecting circa 2002 when I was a professional videographer and film editor (for my own company making skateboard videos). We used expensive cameras/lenses and spent many, many, many hours “rendering” video. We also spent many, many hours learning the software to edit (FCP & After Effects).
All the above nearly accomplished for under $100 and less than two hours is mind-boggling! So much progress with technology there I’m only touching the surface.
- Paul T. James