Category Archives: Residential

The NEW Apple TV

Apple TV 4 Features

Compared to Apple TV 3, the new model adds (or omits):
• Dolby Digital 7.1 (vs. 5.1)
• 802.11ac Wi-Fi
• HDMI 1.4
• HDMI CEC control
• No optical audio output (not good in our opinion)
• Improved tvOS interface and navigation tools
• Gaming
• Universal search across platforms including iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime
• 4K potential … maybe (HDMI 1.4, 802.11ac)
• A remote control with Bluetooth, enabling screen navigation via touch surface, Siri voice (dual mics) and gesture (accelerometer and gyroscope). Like the original, the new remote has an IR transmitter, as well as dedicated volume up/down buttons.

Most reviews by AV integrators that have gotten to play with the new Apple TV 4 have been positive. However, there are many questions about integration into existing sophisticated home systems, and usage with Android devices (is it even possible?).

The Apple TV 4 is expected to arrive at the end of October. Our recommendation: If you buy one & switch it out with the new Apple TV 4, keep the old device in case you have problems. You may need to put the original Apple TV back until you can get an AV specialist out to solve any compatibility problems.

Confusion over Network products?

It only takes watching TV one night to see a communications carrier commercial touting their high speed cable access. So, of course, as consumers we all believe that when they connect their router up in our home, all our Internet connections and streaming will be as described.

To better understand why you have dead zones & slow Internet & streaming in your home, it is best to first understand what you are getting from your communications carrier. You are essentially receiving a router. A router actually comes with 4 devices inside it: a router, an access point, a network switch & a firewall.

A router is a device that forwards data packets along networks. A router is connected to at least two networks, commonly two LANs or WANs or a LAN and its ISP’s network. Routers are located at gateways, the places where two or more networks connect.

An access point is a device that allows wireless devices to connect to a network. It is the radio transmitter receiver of a Wi-Fi network. Most routers have built-in access points which must be connected to a router in order to provide network access. In either case, access points are typically hardwired to devices, such as network switches.
A switch is a device for the interconnection of hardwired devices. A switch is connected to a router port that will take the data toward its intended destination.

Firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet. All messages entering or leaving the internal (secured) network pass through the firewall, which examines each message and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria.

Now that you are thoroughly confused by the overlapping definitions, other than the firewall, let me make a point. Generally, when a homeowner is not receiving the signals needed in the home from the communication carrier’s router, the consumer purchases an additional router or an access point or a switch or a combination. Then, after spending all that money & time on these products, the network is no better than it was and sometimes even worse.

Without fully understanding “networking” it is very easy to buy the wrong product or to even degrade the existing system. Your communications carrier is selling you the router that does carry the speeds they talk about on TV. However, once that device is installed in your home, there are a number of factors that come into play to degrade those speeds; number of IP addresses, structural blockages, simultaneous usage, heavy need of broadband such as gaming and more. Upgrading to an even higher speed router from your carrier is not going to solve your problems either, since all the other internal factors have not changed. An experienced network specialist can determine how to get you optimum performance by setting up the correct network infrastructure within your home.

Back to School Electronic Essentials

We have read many different articles on what a high school or college student should have for school. So, we figure we might as well weigh in on this topic as well.

Laptop computer: Even if your child is not taking a laptop to class, this is the most needed electronics that a student should have in both HS & College. While in high school, we recommend going with something fairly inexpensive. Buying an expensive computer during high school can be a huge waste of money, as the laptop is only going to be used for writing papers, doing research, checking emails from teachers, and watching videos from teacher website.

Once your child is ready for college, the type of laptop is based on what the student is taking. You want to be sure that the laptop is a) lightweight – he will be carrying it to classes, and b) has the capabilities to handle the software that will be used in classes. While every college has software loaded on library computers for students to use for assignments, if the student is going to use the software a lot, it is most likely better to get a laptop that can handle it. For example, an engineering student or a graphic artist is going to need a laptop that accommodates the software that those fields use all the time.

Cell phone: Yes, your high school child needs a cell phone. The term “Cell Phone” is really an outdated term. What you are actually purchasing is a mini tablet computer that happens to run a telephone app. Save yourself some money and get one with a good digital camera. I purchased my last cell phone because I needed a camera, not a phone. But, it was cheaper to have both in a nice small package than to lug around a camera. Unless you are studying photography or it is a passion, no one needs a professional camera. But, everyone should have a cell phone by high school. Kids have so many activities they belong to and the easiest way to know where they are and when they need you is through a cell phone. As for college students, it is a given. Their teachers will text them, students will plan study groups and on & on. Plus, what a great way to stay in touch with your child. Just remember to text, not call. If you call a college student they will think someone has died. Text them that you will be calling them so as not to freak them out.

I do not believe a student needs a tablet as long as they have a smart phone & a laptop. I probably see more elementary age children with tablets than high school & college students. Unless your child can really give you a good reason for a tablet, I’d say no.
Extras: Besides tablets, other electronics items that teens & college students like to have include headphones, portable speakers, TVs and a good car radio. These are great Wish List items for the holidays but certainly not a “Back to School” necessity.

Wireless Internet Becoming Popular Outdoors

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects 2015 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey, amongst other things, wireless internet is becoming very popular now for homeowners to put outdoors.

It appears 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 mostly 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.

Cancel your Cable?

Are you ready to cancel your cable TV? Maybe. Maybe not. For years this question didn’t even come to mind, but with the influx of streaming, many people are now looking at their viewing patterns and some are, in fact, cancelling their cable.

How to decide.

Keep track of what you watch for a week, maybe 2 at the most. Are you watching local channels, cable channels or streaming movies & TV shows. Be very aware of the quick hit viewing. Do you go to local news for quick updates or ESPN to see the scores? These little “check-ins” are usually not possible with streaming only.

If you are watching local channels than all you need is a good antenna. If you are streaming, than you’ve already got a Smart TV, Hulu, Apple TV or some other streaming device that basicly makes your TV into a large tablet without cable.
However, if you watch a lot of cable channels, then you need your cable and your subscription is important. If you are watching premium cable channels, you might be able to just get those channels only. HBO is now offering HBO NOW which is for streaming and doesn’t require cable.

As there become more and more choices in “how” we watch movies & TV shows, we may begin to see some serious changes in how we subscribe to cable TV. For instance, rather than selecting a package, we may be able to select the exact channels we wish to watch and pay only for those channels. But, there are a lot of people involved in the politics and economics of cable TV so changes will come slow.

Something that some people who have cut back on cable do not like is the delay to watch something. With cable if you don’t like a show you press the channel up button and just like that you are watching a totally different show. With streaming content you have to stop the show, search for a new show, maybe start a new app (like switching from Netflix to HBO GO) then watch. This process usually takes minutes to do. If you want that “instant change” capability then streaming may not be for you.

One final note…be sure everyone in your family weighs in on whether or not cable should be cut from the family budget. Take away Mom’s favorite channel and nobody is going to be happy.