Category Archives: Residential

Communication carrier changes

What to do!

We are aware that the major communications carriers, i.e. Verizon, Comcast, etc. are raising rates and also requiring fully digital services. Please read this article in its entirety before calling your existing carrier or a competitor.
We wrote an article several months ago titled “Cancel Your Cable?” This article addresses deciding between having or not having cable. We will address some other issues below that have consumers questioning their cable services.

The first thing to do when you receive information that you will need something else or an additional charge has been added to your service is to call your carrier. No one likes to call the comm. companies & getting a human being can take a while, but you have the right to review your services with them, find out if there are any options to keep your costs where they are, or even lower them, i.e. bundling, removing channels, etc. When you buy a cell phone, you probably spend hours in the store not selecting the phone, but selecting the service that fits your lifestyle. Why not do the same with your communications carrier.

Then, if you are not happy with the end result from your existing carrier, you need to call another communications carrier that services your area. Be sure to have a grocery list of services so you can compare Apples to Apples. If the other carrier doesn’t offer wireless services and this was bundled into the plan offered by your existing carrier, then you need to remove that cost and be sure you have the “non-bundled cost” to compare. So, before calling, review the carriers’ websites to see what services they offer.

Note: Communications carriers provide these services: landlines, cell phone (not all), cable, Internet and even security. But, they don’t all offer the same services, i.e. Comcast doesn’t offer cell phone service like Verizon does.

After you have figured out what your communications services will cost, you then can compare them to the cost of changing services. But, there is one more factor to consider before you decide to change carriers; how will it impact your technology infrastructure and what is the cost to make those needed changes. These charges can more than offset the savings gained from switching providers.

Here are things that would have to be modified when you change systems and are not included in the cost to change services.

1) Remote programming: if you have a universal remote, you will have to have it reprogrammed to use (with the new equipment required for) the service. Communication carriers can set up their remote, i.e. the one that comes with a new cable box, but they will not touch a universal remote. Other (components) remotes may also need to be reprogrammed (if they interacted with things like the cable box) such as a smart TV or audio system.

2) Network infrastructure: if you have set up a network infrastructure tied to your cable’s existing service, the network infrastructure will have to be re-engineered to accommodate how the new carrier functions. For example; if you switch to Comcast and have your network set up for Verizon, there could be additional cables and or equipment required for the existing network to operate correctly. The extent of the re-engineering depends on the service that you get and the equipment that they provide.

3) Stability of the new service:
You might want to check with neighbors who have the competitive service to see what they think it. How often do they lose their cable? If you are considering changing Internet too, what speed do they have and is it reliable.

The big question is what do the numbers work out to? If you are saving $25 per month by choosing another carrier, that totals $600 over a 2 year period. If it costs $500 to make the necessary remote or network adjustments the net savings is only $100. That begs the question… Is $100 worth the pain of the change to another carrier?

What to do when something isn’t 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.

2016 Consumer Electronic Show

The Consumer Electronics Show is over and the word around town is that it wasn’t a whole lot different from the 2015 show when it comes to AV electronics. Not surprising to us as we generally get wind of anything really HUGE hitting the market, at least in our industry.
Lew & I attended CES back in 2010, shortly after I joined the business. It was the year the super thin LEDs TVs were launched. Now that was exciting. An entire convention hall filled to the brim with thousands of flat screen TVs set up in every possible contortion by the big name manufacturers; Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Sony. Truthfully, it was overwhelming, but very cool to see.

It was also the year of 3D TV and yes there were quite a few people that looked rather green after trying out the new glasses. There was still some work to be done and perhaps still is to this day.

What is interesting is that some of the futuristic products back then are now making their “go to market” debut this year, and they are even more impressive, such as smart appliances. If you want a refrigerator that can tell you via an app what the inside of your refrigerator looks like, then it is here now. With an infrared camera inside, you see the contents via an app and then can stop by the store rather than call your kid to ask if you are out of milk.

Wearables are very big this year. From smart bracelets, to belts to ski vests, electronic manufacturers are counting on consumers expanding beyond the smart phone for information.

Robotic devices are also the rage. AI technology we once only saw in the movies is now becoming a consumer reality for security, information, cleaning, and even simply friendship, with limitations of course.

If you’ve never been to the Consumer Electronics Show and that inner geek has you curious, you won’t be disappointed. One…it’s in Vegas, Two…its dirt cheap, if not free and Three…you are more than welcomed by a hoard of manufacturer reps who want to sell you on their latest & greatest device that will…maybe…be available that year. Of course, I spent my time in 2011 learning about wall mounting brackets, cables, and other non-exciting but totally necessary products for an AV integrator. Yes…they do have pretty much everything at CES. Maybe, just maybe we’ll go to the 2017 show. It has been awhile and…it is in Vegas. Yippee!

Written by Bonnie Little

Adding Wi-Fi Extenders to your Network

Unfortunately, the consumer market has been duped by manufacturers that tout simply adding a Wi-Fi extender to a network is going to expand the network and clear up your slow internet problems. Well, why wouldn’t you believe them…they are called extenders. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe them too based on the name alone.

The thing is…extenders are not always the solution to the problem. Home networks these days can be as complicated as business office networks. There are so many different devices used to create a network: routers, access points, switches, hubs and yes, cables. You can waste a lot of money buying the wrong thing or worse yet, multiple devices that don’t know how to talk to each other.
A network requires a combination of proper cabling, electronic devices and the proper configuration to run smoothly. When your communications carrier sets up your router, it may be all you need for your home. There are many reasons that the router is not enough but these are the two prominent ones: 1) the structure of your home getting in the way of the wireless signal and 2) how rigorous you are using your router, i.e. streaming, gaming, computers.

A Wi-Fi extender used to go by a different name…a Wi-Fi repeater. The name “Repeater” is a better representation of how the device operates. It listens for a transmission signal from the router or wireless device (like a smart phone or PC), captures the transmission signal, then resends it out again thus “repeating” the transmission signal. Without getting into too much geek speak, there are many possible problems with this setup. An example, the signal may get corrupted and require retransmission and/or the turnaround of the signal in the “repeater” adds time to the transmission between devices. This additional time is called Latency. Many of today’s programs, especially video and IP telephone calls, cannot function well with long Latency or excessive errors.

So the next time you are having network issues, resist the urge to get an extender. And, if you do, be sure to keep the receipt & ensure it can be returned if it does not solve your network problem.

Electronics in 2020

Based on research pulled together by CEDIA, the consumer electronics industry’s trade association, they have created some interesting assumptions about what the consumer electronics experience will be 5 years from now. We thought it might be fun to share these with you.

Video: While you can find virtual reality devices now, the video is nowhere near what technology manufacturers want it to be. The best virtual reality products that are not even on the market still have some work to be done. The biggest problem is the better the image, the harder it takes for the brain to accept them. Viewing these prototypes cause most people to get physically ill from disorientation and it can take hours to recover. So, needless to say…not ready for prime time yet.

4K: We all know 4K is already here. However, there is still a large imbalance between the availability of the TVs and the availability of the content. A lot of movies over the past few years have been created in 4K (or better) video for theaters but not for the home market. It will take many years for content providers to catch up in producing and distributing 4K compatible content for consumers.

Rec2020: In the future, TVs will be able to produce 50% more color than they can today. That means more contrast which creates a much stronger, clearer image. Again, even when this happens, the content providers have to keep up, and based on today’s gap between technology & content, we will still experience a gap.

Audio: There will be more immersion into sound taking surround sound to another level, perhaps even the creation of speakers to be placed within the floor since we’ve already got audio in the walls & ceilings.

Broadband: It is anticipated that 80% of the country will be using gigabit speed by 2020. Some states, especially those in the Midwest, only have high speed broadband in major cities. We even have problems with rural areas, such as Western Loudoun county, receiving broadband. Communications companies will be finding ways to get coverage to the entire country.

Now don’t go asking us for a Rec2020 TV or floor installed speakers yet…remember we are talking 2020 here. Right now, enjoy what you have and we’ll all wait and see if CEDIA’s crystal ball is working.