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Wired vs. Wi-Fi?

When people call us for help in improving their Wi-Fi in their home, sometimes there is a Wi-Fi solution and sometimes the best solution is hard wiring. In most cases, a combination of both hard wiring and Wi-Fi is the best choice. Here are six things we discuss and look at within the home to determine what will work best for the customer.

1. Mobility: The number one reason to choose Wi-Fi over a wired set up is mobility. If you are going to move your device around the house, then you need the flexibility of the Wi-Fi. Laptop computers, iPads and cell phones need a strong wireless set up. Devices that stay put should be hardwired. They include PCs, Televisions and sometimes the audio (in-wall and in-ceiling should be hardwired). When it comes to audio, you can combine wired & wireless by expanding a wired audio set up with products such as Sonos, that permit you to go wireless, therefore expanding your music coverage within the home.

2. Aesthetics: If you have a fully decorated room and now want to have it wired, cuts will need to be made into the drywall to route the cabling from one point to the next. Most residential walls have wood studs 16” apart, so to move horizontally around a room, studs are in the way and wiring has to go through the stud (thus the need to cut the drywall at the stud). If you don’t want your walls cut open, then the best time to hard wire a room is either during a remodeling or just before you decide to redecorate, i.e. so the drywall repair can be covered with spackle & paint.

3. Security: If a client works from home or runs a business from home we generally recommend hard wiring for the company computer. A lot of companies will not allow employees to Telework when using a Wi-Fi connection at home due to the inherent security risk.

4. Airtime: This is a term that is rarely heard but is the most important part of Wi-Fi performance. All devices share the radio transmission of a Wi-Fi network that they are connected to with the other connected devices. Airtime is the amount of time a device uses the radio for sending and receiving data. The more devices there are on a Wi-Fi network, the more contention there is for Airtime. If a device is an Airtime hog, (i.ee a smart TV streaming Netflix, gaming system playing a multiplayer game, etc.) then the performance of all other connected devices will suffer. There is a common misconception that Bandwidth from your internet provider is the problem. Nine out of ten times the problem is with Airtime contention, not Bandwidth.

5. Bandwidth: Naturally the more devices you have on your network, the more bandwidth is used. If you have a house full of kids gaming and using Wi-Fi for the phones, homework and music, you may find when you sit down to use your own device that the speed is very slow. The solution can be either wiring some devices or additional Wi-Fi access points to increase the bandwidth capabilities. You may be surprised at what bandwidth you actually need to operate your household network. Typically you can operate on a lot less than you think, when the infrastructure is designed correctly.

6. Structure of home: Some homes just don’t make it easy to use Wi-Fi. The construction of the walls, the # of levels and the layout of the home can make it nearly impossible for your single router to handle all the signals that are attempting to access it. Wiring upper level rooms and adding Access Points can help. (Access Point is the correct term for the radio transmitter/receiver for Wi-Fi)

A good network infrastructure adds immediate value to your home and adds value when you are ready to sell. Millennials are very tech savvy and will be looking at how well they can access their electronic devices. Most likely they will not care as much about the cable outlet as they will not use traditional cable services but they will be VERY interested in a house with a robust network infrastructure.

Comparing Amazon Echo, Google Home and the new Apple HomePod

Consumers now have 3 strong choices for voice-controlled devices in their home, so we will give you a taste of each and where their strengths lie. Essentially these devices perform functions that include Voice assistant, i.e. answering questions, instructing smart home devices such as lighting, HVAC, security and controlling music. We will discuss each of those, avoiding the way each device looks as that is a personal preference.

Voice assistant

Amazon Echo has Alexa as the assistant. It is capable of understanding simple commands, or even a series of commands, but they’re less conversational in that you’ll have to engage the full question each time (there’s no follow-on pronoun understanding at present). Alexa updates through the cloud automatically and learns all the time. The more you use the Echo, the more Alexa will adapt to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

Google Home will let you ask Google anything, thanks to its Google Assistant AI and can converse (recognize pronouns) and answer complex questions as well. It can also read the relevant part of webpages back to you. Google Assistant on Google Home is the same as Assistant on Android phones.

Apple’s HomePod utilizes the Siri assistant, the very same as in its iPhones, iPads and Mac. In addition to answering your questions, the assistant learns your personal preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across tens of thousands of playlists from Apple Music. You can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, traffic, and weather. Apple’s SiriKit also enables third-party app support.

Smart home

Amazon Echo can respond to your voice commands and control any Alexa-enabled products, such as lights, switches, thermostats, and more. Some products work directly with Alexa and other smart home ecosystems require a compatible hub or “middle man” app, though the Echo Plus device gets rid of the hub or middle man app requirement.

Google Home can be a control centre for your entire home, because it has access to Google Assistant. Not only will this let you do the basics like set alarms and timers and manage to-do lists and shopping lists, but it will also connect to your smart home devices and it includes support for popular network systems. That means you will be able to control smart lights, switches, doors, and more.

Apple HomePod is the hub to control HomeKit-enabled devices, such as turning on Philips Hue lights, without the need for an iPad or Apple TV to act as the hub Still, being a HomeKit device means HomePod can fit into the same roles as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, controlling other devices.

Audio

Amazon Echo is a Bluetooth speaker, so it can play music and be controlled from any device that supports Bluetooth audio streaming. By default it will talk to Amazon Music, but other sources, such as Spotify, are controllable. Echo is a single speaker with one 0.6-inch tweeter and one 2.5-inch woofer so the sound is limited. It is possible to link Echo to a more powerful music system.

Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that can stream music directly from the cloud. Google Home doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so you’ll need to use apps and services with it that support Google Cast. Home features dual side-facing passive radiators in its compact form so sounds plenty loud with fair sound quality.

Apple’s HomePod, which offers AirPlay 2 from your devices, or the ability to stream from cloud music services like Apple Music (Spotify and others are available, just as they are on iPhone). Unfortunately, there is no Bluetooth, but that’s of no issue with AirPlay 2. HomePod is a far larger speaker with a lot more going on inside, including seven tweeters for 360-degree sound output, and a 4-inch woofer to handle bass, therefore producing a much better sound than Echo and Home.

Source: Pocketlint. Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo: What’s the difference?
Elyse Betters and Dan Grabham | 6 February 2018. https://www.pocket-lint.com/speakers/buyers-guides/139063-apple-homepod-vs-google-home-vs-amazon-echo-what-s-the-difference.

What to do when your Home Technology is not working

Try these at-home troubleshooting techniques

Before you schedule a service call, we encourage you to attempt to resolve the problem yourself. Here are some basic ways to troubleshoot your problem. If the problem cannot be resolved, please call our office to schedule an appointment for a service call.

1) Check that the power plug is plugged in. Yes, this sounds common sense, but if you know you didn’t unplug the electronic device, you may assume it is plugged in, when in fact a cleaning person, child or other member of the family may have unplugged it. A lot of components have power cords with multiple connection points. It starts with a power cord that is plugged into the wall outlet. That cord plugs into an external power supply. A separate cord from the power supply plugs into the device. Check the entire connection chain.

2) Check that the cables are tightly secured. Reseating (unplugging and plugging back in) the cables can resolve the problem. If components were moved even slightly, a cable could have come loose, especially HDMI video cables. Obviously, if a cable is lying on the floor, it most likely came fully out and needs to be re-attached. Otherwise, just push each cable gently into the component to ensure it is secure.

3) Reset electronics. To reset any electronic device, you need to turn it off completely, i.e. power it down either by unplugging it or turning off your surge protector, not just hitting the power button of the remote or on the device. Wait 30-45 seconds & turn on or plug back in. This can resolve problems caused by power sags/ surges & updates that did not restart the device properly.
4) Reset your router. If your communications carrier had even a short blip in their service, your router may have been impacted. Go to the router, find the power source and turn it off. Wait 30-45 seconds & turn it back on.

5) Testing to see if your TV is broken. If it doesn’t come on at all and is plugged in, it is dead. If it comes on but the picture is not normal, it is may be broken. It could be a loose cable or a problem with your cable/satellite service. Check to be sure you have cable/satellite service at other TVs, as you don’t want to consider it broken if cable is down or your cable box is broken. If you can’t get your channels to change with the remote, use the buttons on the front of the cable/satellite box. The problem may be with the remote.

6) Testing to see if your component is broken. Most components either work or they don’t. Try the power reset described above. If you are using a universal remote control try using the specific remote that came with the device to see if it functions correctly. For example; for a Blu-ray DVD player, use the Blu-ray/DVD remote, turn it on & off, open the disk tray.

7) Testing to see if your remote control is broken. The number one thing to check is that the batteries are fresh/charged and that they are seated properly in the remote. Remotes take a lot of abuse. If it gets dropped on the floor the batteries could have come loose or unseated just enough to cause the remote to act strangely. If the equipment is being operated behind closed cabinet doors then there is a secondary device that facilitates that function. It could be either a separate electronic device that talks specifically to the remote or a universal IR relay system. Both use little “emitters” that are attached to the devices that they are controlling like the cable box. These emitters sometimes get knocked off or the adhesive holding it on has failed. Just placing the emitter back on the unit may fix the problem. Additionally there is an IR sensor that is usually attached to the front of the TV. This also may fall off and needs to be reattached.

8) Reset network. If you have more than a single network device resetting your network when it isn’t operating correctly can take more than just resetting the router. All devices such as network switches, wireless network extenders, etc. need to be reset. As a general rule of thumb turn everything off first and leave it off. Start with the cable modem (router if you have Fios) and power it on. Wait 1-2 minutes then power on the router. (already done if you have Fios) Wait about 1-2 minutes then start powering on the network switches and wireless extenders. If you follow that sequence then all of the settings will be exchanged properly between devices and the network will have a clean start.

We highly suggest you print this article out and keep it somewhere handy so that you have it should you need to troubleshoot.

Wireless Internet Becoming Popular Outdoors

More people want better WiFi while lounging on their patio or enjoying the pool and are looking for solutions. Companies such as Ubiquiti have made outdoor wireless access points for years but mostly they were purchased by businesses such as country clubs, restaurants and such. Home & Office Network Solutions has seen a recent surge in HOAs installing wireless coverage at their pools as their homeowners demand more services for their community dues.

The cost for outdoor WiFi can vary because the size of coverage varies. A home with a very large yard and a pool extending deep into the yard would require several access points whereas a patio or porch would need just one. Most homeowners do find that their indoor WiFi just doesn’t carry well onto their porch. There is major lag time & drops, if they get coverage at all, so many consumers have to depend on cell coverage, which can get costly based on the plan purchased from the carrier.

As consumers depend more & more on using their cell phone & tablet wherever they go, including their own backyard, we may just see wireless internet move up the list of architectural trends.

JD Powers “2016 TV Satisfaction Report”

This annual report measures satisfaction with TVs among customers who purchased one in the past 12 months. The 1,000-point satisfaction score takes the following factors into account: performance/reliability, features, price, ease of operation, built-in online capabilities, customer service and warranty. Eligible brands included Samsung, LG, Hisense, Emerson, Sharp, Sony and Vizio.
Samsung once again ranked highest in the 50-inch or larger TV segment with a score of 859. Sony, meanwhile, displaced Samsung from its 2015 position as the highest ranking brand in the smaller than 50-inch TV segment, with a score of 843.

Among the findings:

Consumers with a TV 50 inches or larger were more satisfied than those with a smaller TV (845 points vs. 812).
Price was top of mind for all consumers. Sixty-seven percent of those with a TV smaller than 50 inches cited price as the primary reason for the selection, while 55 percent of those who purchased a larger one said the same.

Both sets of consumers said the in-store display was a primary source of information during the shopping process, with 22 percent saying they relied primarily on the in-store displays. Last year, about half of consumers said the same.

Smart TVs: 80 percent of TVs 50 inches or larger, and 59 percent of the smaller TVs, were smart.

Curved: 27 percent of those who purchased a TV 50 inches or larger chose one with a curved screen, while 17 percent did the same for a smaller TV.

4K Ultra HD: 52 percent for the larger TVs; 25 percent for smaller models.

Most common TV problems cited by consumers:
*Glare and/or reflection (25 percent)
*TV doesn’t connect to Wi-Fi (18 percent)
*Remote control doesn’t work properly (13 percent)
*Sound is distorted, low or missing (13 percent)

Source: Lisa Johnson, TWICE online magazine. http://www.twice.com/news/tv/jd-power-crowns-samsung-sony-winners-2016-tv-satisfaction-report/62325