Category Archives: Residential

CNet.com’s 10 favorite products of the 2019 CES show

Best TV: LG OLED R rollable TV

Best car tech: Audi/Disney Holoride

Best smart home tech: KitchenAid Smart Display

Best AI/smart assistant: Google Assistant with extensive 2019 upgrades, including Interpreter Mode and Google Assistant Connect

Best beauty tech: P&G Opte Precision Skincare System

Best emerging tech: Matrix PowerWatch 2

Best health tech: Omron HeartGuide

Best Laptop: Acer Swift 7

Best gaming gear: Alienware Area 51m

Best AR/VR tech: HTC Vive Pro Eye

Source: CNet, KENT GERMAN, JANUARY 11, 2019 9:52 AM PST

Considering an Upgraded Router from your Carrier

Think twice…Or it may Cost you!

While H&ONS doesn’t mind performing service calls for its clients and even new clients, we get a little angry with the Internet carriers, ( i.e. Verizon, Comcast, etc.) for selling people on upgrading their router and then not telling them it will impact their existing system to the point of needing someone with expertise to come in and fix it.

Communications carriers bring bandwidth to your home. Don’t expect anything more than that, as that is what their business is and that is what they train their techs to do. They will pretty much set up their internal equipment the same for everyone, even where it is located within the home. What this translates to is that if you have anything slightly sophisticated, as most of our clients do, they will either a) disconnect it, b) not configure it correctly or c) not even install their router.

So, while they may tout better speed or promise a lower monthly fee for changing out your router, keep in mind that there is a very good chance that you will have an additional cost of anywhere from $200-$600+ depending on your system, to get things right again.

What really gets our goat is that sometimes the carrier will force their customer to upgrade due to changes within the carrier’s internal system infrastructure. When this happens, we suggest that you try to schedule a service call with us within a day or so of their set up. It may be advantageous to contact us first to ensure that we are available before you schedule the new equipment with the carrier.

Our hope is that your communications carrier brings you new equipment, sets it up and everything works great. Getting business because of their lack of communications and capabilities is not what H&ONS is about. We will, however, support our clients and do everything we can to assist you.

Networking your home is the gift that keeps on giving

In this day and age, no one should have to put up with slow streaming devices, drops and dead zones within their home. But, calling your Internet Provider and increasing your Internet speed isn’t going to resolve these issues, since the problems generally exist within the home due to the home’s physical structure and your service provider won’t help you. Fortunately using a combination of wired & wireless products, your problems can be resolved.

Once you’ve got your network running smoothly, upgrading your video and audio products inside the home is the next step. Many people put #2 before #1 mostly because it is easier to go out and buy a TV and sound system, then it is to get your network in order. Unfortunately, what happens is that you don’t get the quality out of those new products because all those Smart features are working at a snail’s pace. If you’ve just bought a gaming device, you will really feel the effects of a poor network infrastructure as today’s games require a strong bandwidth.
After you’ve got your home’s internal electronics system in order, you might consider venturing outside to look at outdoor WiFi, audio, video and even cameras. We spend more time in our homes than ever before. You deserve to have your electronic purchases working at peak performance.

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.