[What an Exciting Year this has Been!]
In 2011 we’ve seen a number of technological advances, here are just four worth mentioning:
1) Televisions - A study released this Tuesday announced: “The average U.S. prices for a 47-inch flat-panel TV have fallen below $1,000 for the first time.” We’ve also seen improvements with streaming content & energy consumption.
Currently - LG Electronics announced yesterday that it will be selling a 55” TV that is just 3/16” thin, and weighs just 16.5 pounds. Samsung is expected to have a similar TV on display at the Consumer Electronics show in La Vegas next Month. There’s also wind of a new type of internet-connected TV being released by Apple in 2012.
2) On-Line Storage – The iCloud (see below article from June) was released. Google even brought us a new kind of Laptop, the Chromebook. With hardly any internal storage, the Chromebook relies entirely on the cloud.
3) Cell Phones – Android has caught up to Apple’s iPhone operating system this past year. Samsung has had great success with it’s Android-based Galexy devices & a new version (4.0) called “Ice Cream Sandwich”.
I finally decided to get the iPhone 4s (released in October) and was going to write about the wonderful features of Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled artificial intelligence but, my order got fouled up with At&t & I’m still a few days from receiving it. Siri has had some great reviews (as has other voice-controlled devices such as the Xbox Kinect).
4) On a more personal level, Wave Connects has had great success with it’s growing Security Installation Division. We are also proud to have (for the fifth consecutive year), a steady ~140% growth in sales.
[Universal or Underwater?]
URC (Universal Remote Controls) has a new remote in their professional lineup. The remote is very similar to their already successful MX900 model except it’s water-resistant. This remote is the best-priced outdoor remote I know of (that I can recommend). We can’t advertise our price on these remotes but please pay no attention to $499 MSRP.
Another new product: Genetec’s AutoVu License Plate Recognition System with on-board processing. This camera will capture the plates of vehicles in a contained area, tollbooth, parking lot, etc. This system can be used to trigger a countless many events, among the obvious… gate opening for pre-registered vehicles.
And some food for thought –
I’m excited on the future of surveillance (and security). Since 9/11/2001, there’s been an overwhelming demand for security & surveillance systems. These systems have been installed so quickly that most of us don’t have a grasp on the capabilities & usefulness of what’s already out there. All those cameras silently working around the clock, they must have a greater purpose than filming the red-handed.
Every second, millions of cameras & devices around the world are recording countless images of actions & events that go unwatched & unused. These event-triggered recordings have so much useful potential for business, safety, security & home-controlled events, it’s overwhelming. I’m waiting the day when this open resource is fully tapped & converted to tangible knowledge to improve an already technology-based world.
Cameras with thermal imaging capabilities can generate heat maps to pinpoint high traffic areas for optimal signage. Measuring customer traffic in stores will dictate product placement as well as staff allocation. On a more personal level, most of the basic systems we install everyday are not being used to their full potential. Sending a text or email alert when the wine cellar is below operating temperature or the kids arrive home from school or when the garage door is left open will all soon be a standard everyday technology, it’s already current.
I’ve been dedicated to Apple products since 1999 when, I decided to switch to the “new” Apple Computers in the dark, back-room, downstairs, computer lab of my college (USD). These computers were so much simpler & user friendly than the other PCs. It was pleasing to notice that small, Mac-only computer lab steadily grow and expand.
What a great idea! The two-way road theory; make something user friendly and users will be friendly back hence, Apple continued to thrive. From my first Mac3 to present, It’s been mind-blowing how much faster processing speeds, larger hard-drives, and smaller devices evolved. The idea behind these products was embodied in none other than Steve Jobs.
Steve has been a background mentor and inspiration to me through the years. His ideas and spirit speaks through the products Apple has developed as well as the many u-tube videos of presentations of innovations arising from his genius genuinality. Steve lives here, in Apple and, I anticipate Apple will live with his spirit forever (or at least past my lifetime). May Steve rest in peace, he will be missed.
[Custom Programming For Your iPad]
A few days ago, RTI (Remote Technologies Inc.) released their “highly anticipated RTiPanel App for the iPhone, iPod touch, & iPad”, now available!
This App is programmed with the same Integration Designer programming software used for the rest of RTI’s remote lineup. Now your iPhone can control virtually ANYTHING! And since it’s all network based, we can control this anything from ANYWHERE!
Of course there are other products for us to control & view our security, lighting, audio, and so on while away from home however, now it’s easy to use your customized iPad to control your TV & everything else… all in one application.
As a professional RTI dealer & programmer, I’m excited.
[Clouds, Locks, Big TVs, & BBQs]
Summer crept in last week in full bloom. Besides the beach, BBQs, fireworks, clouds, and everything else summer brings… wait, yes I said clouds… or the Apple iCloud that is. Summer also brings in a couple new items worth mentioning.
If you haven’t heard, the iCloud will be rolling out soon with some thunder! The iCloud is a revolutionary type of internet storage that all of us will eventually find ourselves using. I’ll keep it brief with three features. To learn the full details, you should watch the Apple Keynote Speaker video clip, CLICK HERE (the last 39 minutes cover the iCloud).
1) Pictures, Music, Contacts, Mail, iTunes purchases, and other information that you store on your PC or mobile device will now sync with all (up to 10) of your other devices automatically… and for free.
2) 5GB free storage for: mail, documents, & backup (purchased music, apps, and books don’t cut into the 5GB).
3) For $24.99 a year, you can store all the music you’ve ripped outside of iTunes on the iCloud servers (CDs, other downloads, etc).
- I’ll keep you posted when the next iOS5* is available for the iPhone ***required for iCloud.
Bigger is better! Coming this month, Sharp will be releasing their 70” LED/LCD line. Surprisingly or not, these models are less expensive than any 65” set out currently. Well, our prices are less… online & other places may be a different story. If you’re looking for a large TV, maybe you could go larger?
2GIG Technologies; A company that's steadily gaining momentum in the industry. 2GIG offers security and home management systems designed for the smaller to moderate sized home at a great price. 2GIG easily integrates security, lighting control, thermostats, and now Kwikset automated locks (standard door locks can be easily changed out with an automated keypad lock, see picture below).
Besides lightening your keychain, the doors can automatically lock every time you arm the security &, when you type the code to unlock your door, no more security alarm to disarm. No more juggling groceries and trying to disarm your alarm after you’re already in the house. And of course, if you’re at the beach, you can still access these things away from the home.
AND… the Beach Boys are playing tonight at the Fairgrounds Racetrack in Del Mar. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Until two days ago, the WHO (World Health Organization) has said cell phones were safe to use. An updated statement places cell-phones in the “same category as the pesticide DDT and gasoline exhaust”, now classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Although this isn't necessarily good news, it probably isn’t of much surprise to the estimated five billion users out there. I’ve had some foreknowledge of this coming since four years ago when I spent $40 on a Gauss-EMF (Electro-Magnetic Field) reader. This device detects EMF readings from power-lines & other electronics which, had studies linked to health issues already.
When I first got my EMF meter, I tested the wall by the headboard of my bed. There must have been a refrigerator or the like against the adjacent wall because the signal was in the “danger zone”. I immediately moved the bed to the other side of the room & my wife (girlfriend at the time) thought I was just being a nerdy kook. Next I tested my cell phone… when it rings, it’s amazing how much of a reading the meter puts out. As obnoxious as it may be, I’ve been a speakerphone advocate since.
Maybe it’s time to invest in some Bluetooth? Who knows, this news should re-enforce the hands-free driving laws, save some lives, & evolve new communication solutions.
[Something for Droid]
Lutron just announced its “Droid App”. Now you can control, view and adjust your light AND shade levels throughout your home with your Android phone (or iPhone). RadioRA2 or HomeWorks QS lighting control system required.
Today we’re headed to Las Vegas for the ISC (Security Systems) trade show, happening right now. What happens in Vegas, will NOT be staying in Vegas. I'll report back soon (see below).
10 PM - We Arrived in Vegas -
1 AM - wife got sick.
2 AM - we drove back.
6 AM - we're back home with nothing to report...
[Padres Opening Game]
Right now the San Diego Padres are in the eighth inning of their first home game of the season. The score is Padres 3, Giants 1.
In support, we made refrigerator magnets with their 2011 game schedule. With about 40 magnets left and the season already started, please take these off our hands & spread some SD spirit!
Simply email me (email@example.com) and we’ll send you one (or two) free of charge (while supplies last).
[At&t Gets Larger]
At&t just bought out Team Mobile for $39 Billion. The purchase is still pending regulatory approval and expected to last another 12-months before we see any changes.
Next year, this transaction should have both good and bad affects. The good may be a better coverage area, improved mobile broadband service, and iPhones available for those now with Team Mobile. On the bad side, now that At&t is the largest wireless network in the US (ahead of Verison), some speculate that prices may not be so inclined to decline.
I’m currently with At&t & looking forward to better coverage & fewer dropped calls. I’m also awaiting the next-best thing to replace my iPhone with… please make it: faster, lighter, unbreakable, waterproof, have a Carl Zeiss camera lens with fisheye, a programmable IR output, and a better flashlight.
[Plasmas & Turntables]
I’ve always been a fan of the plasma display. Their stunning black levels, motion display, and everything else that makes a picture easy on the eyes has always been there for me.
In their earlier years, “plasma” gained a reputation for: having “burn-in” issues, using an excessive amount of energy, and being extremely heavy. These factors have led to a downfall in plasma sales and an increase in the alternative LCD & LED displays.
Recently I’m relieved to get wind of a potential plasma comeback in the market. Because of their bad reputation, their prices are still low however, compared to a few years ago, recent models are much better on energy efficiency, weight, size (depth), and the “burn-in” factor isn’t much an issue.
For me, I’d rather watch a name-brand 720p plasma at 60Hz than a 1080p LCD at 240Hz (and I’d have money to put towards a popcorn machine).
Another subject I’m also getting excited about… record players are on the comeback!
Happy New Year, Happy New Company! Around the hustle & bustle of the holiday season, we’ve been working on extending our services into what only seems right, security monitoring. It’s a good feeling to be the all-in-one stop to shop and we take as much pride doing security work as everything else we do.
For monitoring, we activate our accounts with C.O.P.S. Monitoring. C.O.P.S. is currently the second largest independently owned monitoring company in the US. They have three monitoring stations throughout the country & an average response time of 16.9 seconds (ADT's response time is "30-60 seconds").
We’ve been doing home automation & other complex installations for years. These installations have usually involved security, & it’s about time we’ve taken that next step. For a boost of experience, we’ve hired on Eric Dempsey from Dempsey Alarms as our Qualified Manager & Security Specialist. Eric has an impressive background in security, & we are proud to have him aboard.
I’d also like to thank my friend & creative genie, Mike McCarley, for designing the decals & signs. If you’re looking for an up-and-coming talented architect, link here to Mike's "blog-site" & contact - firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS – Crime is on the rise. I thought I saw a burglar in your neighborhood yesterday. You should get a security system!
[Netflix Deal, Apple Beware!]
I would have written this article last week but, fortunately for me I was on my Honeymoon! For the first time in ten years I convinced myself to turn my phone off & separate myself from my second love. My first love of course being my wife, & secondly, my love for electronics! For anyone interested, there’s a couple pictures below this article from Rarotonga Island where we went.
- In the week I was gone:
NETFLIX DEAL –
Netflix decided to start offering a strictly online subscription package at a better price than their previous package. The previous entry package still included the DVD-delivery service, now you can opt to just stream.
The video streaming package is now at a bargain price of $7.99 monthly. By saving the costs of distributing DVDs including the approximated $600 million dollars paid to the US Postal service in 2010, Netflix reports “these savings will be diverted into paying for content rights for online streaming.” This means their instant viewing selection will be improving & I guess the other major “flaws” to their online services may soon disappear (flaws = not streaming surround sound & video compression quality).
And, to further steer customers away from the “old-school” DVDs, they have slightly increased the DVD/Bluray subscriptions by about $1.
Apple released some new software updates. “The best software update yet”, is their “Airplay” release. (Read the end of last months article below if you aren’t sure what that is).
“Beware” for us with 3G phones or other outdated Apple products. If you have a 3G phone (opposed to the 3Gs/4G), you may have noticed there being major performance issues. These issues will continue with each software update installed (and eventually render the phone useless). The software/firmware requires faster memory chips and hardware that isn’t quite there with the older equipment.
- 11/30 – (correction?)
I’m contradicting what I just wrote last night(above). After pressing the issue further it seems that the newer 4.2 IOS firmware for the phone (released last week) has fixed some of the issues I mentioned. Last I looked into this issue, just over a month ago, I would have had you continue with the below (previous) suggestion. For now, and because Apple supports it, I will try out the new 4.2 firmware and see how it works.
(FYI – To get 4.2IOS, you need iTunes 10.2, & to get iTunes 10.2, you need >OS 10.5)
- Previous fix suggestion, please ignore:
If you want your phone back to how you had it, you can download & install the older firmware to your old device. This firmware downgrade is not available from Apple… here are links that easily explains the process for those frustrated, it takes about 30 minutes if you're savvy:
- If you have OS 10.5 or current PC, Click HERE
& try this link if their RecBoot download link is broken.
- If you have OS 10.4 click HERE
Honeymoon pictures below (click to enlarge):
[New Apple TV!]
The New Apple TV is out & shipping at a very reasonable $99. This new model is much different than the last model: With the obvious 80% reduction in size (& price), Apple TV is strictly designed to stream content (there is no built-in DVR). Now the unit runs cooler, uses less energy, requires less space, and is more affordable from its previous $250.
Apple was struggling to get the last model out to the public, it didn’t take off as quickly as anticipated & seemed more of a side-project than anything else. Now that Apple has teamed with Netflix, in addition to new-release rentals through the iTunes store, I can’t think of why not to spend $99 on this (unless you’re not into watching a huge variety of movies).
Yes, no DVR. For those of us who would like to use this as our media storage drive for music & stored movies, they say we’re SOL. You can anyhow, still stream content from an awake computer on the network, or you can get a Mac Mini instead of the Apple TV (the new Mac minis do have HDMI out).
With the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, next month another feature of this product will be released… Airplay.
Imagine your out taking pictures on your iPhone, you return home, walk in the door and press a button on your Apple TV remote, those pictures already appear on your big-screen TV. For music, streaming music from your iPod will be another audio source with a great remote you may already own (the iPod). This great product is something I’m looking forward to getting better.
Right now, I'm flying Continental Airlines. As I reflect on previous years flights & entertainment conditions, I recall big-box CRT-TVs hung from the ceiling playing VHS movies. Today I'm more impressed: Each seat has a built-in, miniature LCD screen on the seat in front of us. The TV comes with Direct TV service (& a credit-card swiper). Here, I “have access to 95 channels of sports and other live events, news, & more,” right at my seat. It also includes access to "three movie & up to eight stored television channels." I can play any show I choose using the simple remote built to the armrest. The headsets were free & my time has passed quickly on this flight.
While watching an in-flight Science-show, I "coincidentally" learned about Continental's green-energy programs. To comfort my ride, I was informed that Continental was recently rated "Top 10 Green Giants" by Fortune magazine for all their energy efficient efforts, plane design, fuel management, and recycling standards.
Your viewing experience may vary depending on which plane you are on & which airline you fly. American, Delta, & other airlines all have their rendition of in-flight entertainment: Movie & television on-demand, touch-screen operated games, etc, are all becoming part of a regular flying experience. And no, they are not passing out 3D glasses yet…
To solidify our beat on the scene, we’ve been offering the same 3D package deals you can find at some big-box stores: Buy the 3D TV & get the 3D Blu-ray player, 3D Blu-ray, & 2-pair 3D glasses… free. The main up-sell to this package is that Wave Connects does the installation.
This past week we’ve sold a few of these packages & I’m starting to wonder if my December prediction was off. My past article below (back to December 09’), predicted the "widespread domestic evolution for 3D TV" was about three years away.
Granted we’re sill in the infant stages but, this year’s 3D roll-out has taken on quicker than I had thought. Although there’s limited true 3D content available, the content that is available takes TV-viewing to another level, some say a 3rd dimension. And, the 3D glasses required might not look so good on me, but they definitely look good on you, our favorite customer.
[New Product that May END MY BUSINESS]
Yes new product. Not to worry, we’re not going anywhere.
Klipsch speaker manufacturer recently release the new LightSpeaker System. This system revolves around a speaker that simply screws into your existing light fixture, oh, and it’s also a light! This system wirelessly streams audio to your new “speaker-light” & claims to eliminate the need for a custom installer.
In fact, I should stop writing about this product.
[What’s Your Homes’ IQ?]
With home automation & “smart-home” technology, many of us sit in the “Allegory of the Cave” scenario. Some are here because of the obvious cost & others are simply unfamiliar with technology.
Crestron, the most trusted name (and notoriously expensive) home automation manufacturer recently released a new system called Prodigy. As the name may imply, this is a great way to dip yourself into that pool of smartness without spending all your savings.
The starting system might get you rolling with some lighting control, music, thermostat control, and even your home theater control. This all wrapped into a nice simple package that’s intuitive, reliable, and a whole lot of “bang for your buck”.
If you want more, this system can easily be expanded virtually limitless, one step at a time or whenever you’re ready.
I didn’t have home automation growing up, we didn’t even have cable TV. Now, my home automation is a convenience, time saver, money saver, and yes a luxury (& a tax deduction).
Each night I press one button on my nightstand that simultaneously turns all the lights (and music) off, sets the temperature, & arms the security; Conveniently saving time. Our gas and electric bills have diminished because of smart lighting and thermostat usage, and as modest as I like to think I am, it is fun to show off…
Another new product is the “Redeye” by “ThinkFlood” This product is designed to give your iPad (or iPhone) control of any IR controlled device (TV/stereo/Cable box, etc.). Essentially this can make your iPad your universal remote control. This product is a great idea but for the first run has many shortcomings for a professional installation.
Their next product, the “RedEye-Pro” is projected for release next month and will have what we need to make things more bulletproof. The iPad is and will be great however, there is still a definite need for a true universal remote: The iPad controls these devices via a network connection which requires a couple second delay to initially connect each time, universal remotes are much quicker. iPad is still a great addition to any home theater AND another item to “show-off” with friends.
Ever since 2007 when I wrote about Google bidding on the 700MHz air-wave auction (see past article below), I’ve had a notion that Google would be expanding their image and getting into the house-hold TV market.
Today, in San Francisco, with supported backing from Sony, Intel, Logitech, Best Buy, Adobe, & Dish Network, Google announced its “TV Project” in underway.
Logitech should be releasing their Google companion box later this year and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what doors this opens for the future of TV.
Check out this link to watch a short U-Tube video on the new Google release – Click HERE to link.
In other similar news:
Best Buy recently released its new “CinemaNow” on-demand internet video service.
[Raising the Bar]
There have been many movies out with spectacular effects and beautiful animation. Now, in 2010, I believe the newly released film “Avatar”, has raised the bar on what we will be seeing to come.
We watched this movie at home the other night. Although much of the hype has been on the 3-D version, we didn’t have the luxury of this. However, we did have the Blu-ray, 110” screen, 7.1, and seat shakers to keep us on our feet. Even without the 3D, the film, the effects, & most importantly the story, all were something to speak of.
The animation and effects were very impressive, yet trivial. When I say trivial, I mean they weren’t there just to awe people and showcase what technology can do, they were simply part of the story. From what I’ve read on the 3-D; Roger Ebert, a film historian and arguably the country's preeminent movie critic, wrote that the use of 3-D is the "best I've seen -- and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed. The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it."
Besides the film effects and story, it was a trip to see all the “future technology” being employed within the movie. My attention was focused on scenes at the doctor’s office and central command stations. Maybe not the “soul-transporter”, but all the other technology: touch-panels, 3-D map gridding, etc. seemed to be there or here, or not too far off. Maybe the same could be said for the guns and robots, but who cares about that stuff (haha).
Anyhow, 3-D or not it was a good movie.
On a side note: Certain Blu-ray players will not play this Blu-Ray disc without updated firmware, if not already, get that player connected to the internet! Ask us how.
[3-D Progress Report]
The 3-dimensional hype has hit the market and TV manufacturers are producing options for this new found niche. Below are five hard-hitting players on the scene:
This month is releasing their 3D capable C7000, C8000, and C9000 series LED. They will be available in 46” and 55”. Their larger 65” models are expected to arrive in July.
“March 21st” they project to be releasing their 3D bundle consisting of a 3D disc and two pairs of 3D shutter glasses, included with their 3D Blu-ray player.
And… Six of Samsungs’ eight plasma models are 3D enabled.
Aiming to sell the first 3D home theater system at BestBuy in New York March 10th. However… I just called to check and nobody from the Best Buy (I spoke to) really knows about this or if when it will happen. This system might consist of their 50” 3D Plasma, 3D capable Bluray player, and a pair of active shutter glasses
Said they will be waiting until June this year to release their 3D models in the US.
Releasing its second consumer 3D TV in the UK starting May. They should be releasing their 3D models to the US later this year.
3D TV in the making projected for release 4th quarter in the UK.
See my December article (below) for my thoughts when 3D will be a common household item.
[Anyone Know a Good Plumber?]
About two weeks before the Super Bowl & in spite of the down pouring rain, I was driving south on the 5 from a job in San Clemente. As my phone rang an unknown number and as I kept my eyes on the rain covered road to answer, I was surprised to find the caller in the vehicle next to me. David, from Computer Troubleshooters had seen the number on my van to call.
We chit-chatted some business talk for a minute before he evolved a different meaning of his call. He was in a network group that met every week and was interested in having me interview for an open seat at the table.Fortunately, just a few weeks prior I had been reading some insightful tips in a section of a home theater magazine, one tip was… “join a network group”. Still some skepticism, I decided to take a chance and check things out.
The group was filled with positive thinkers and hard-working ethics was about to burst at the seams, it was great. With the group, I’ve been meeting weekly to learn more about each others' offerings and abilities. The trust factors are high and business is taken seriously.
The winter games are on and they’re on your TV. Many of these sports are about speed. Skiing, the luge, ice-skating, how fast can we go with limited friction? How fast can the human eye detect? How fast can our television display?
The human eye can see far more than 30, 60, 120, or even 240 frames-per-second. However, with film and TV it’s a complicated question, the answer is different than that of - “how many frames per second make the movie stop flickering”. It’s even more complicated than - “how many mega pixels is my film camera?”.
Our HD standards crept from 60Hz to 120Hz, and now to 240Hz. This means the screen picture completely reconstructs itself 60 – 120 – 240 times every second respectively. I won’t go into details on how it’s done but there are different methods used by different manufacturers.
The two popular methods are:
1) Motion Compensation-Motion Estimation (MCME) (< this method is better)
2) Back Light Scanning. (< this method is not-so-better)
I’ve heard and read mixed reviews of the 240hz outcome:
- Most people are positively impressed. Watching sports & playing video games seem to be untouched for bad review.
- For a small some this new standard makes things look a bit kitschy. Watching movies and television programming, you might notice the backdrop to a set, rocks looking plastic & tricks of the movie producers unraveled.
Most 240hz TV manufacturers provide the option to switch the 240Hz feature off, and back to 120 or 60Hz. The Olympics definitely need no such switch. If you’re focused on the backdrops during a movie… maybe you need a better storyline?
Either way, picture quality progress is a good thing.
- Paul T. James