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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.

KRACK Attack!

By now you may have heard about a newly found vulnerability in Wi-Fi security called KRACK and may be wondering what it means to you. Without going too far down the technical rabbit hole, I’ll try to explain the risk.

KRACK is the industry short name for Key Reinstallation Attacks. A discovery was made back in July by researchers in a White Hat (the good guys) hacking lab that showed how the encryption of network traffic using WPA2 security could be negated. They passed their findings on to the appropriate government agencies and manufacturers who then took action to correct the problem with firmware/product updates. This past Monday they made the public aware of the problem with the encryption protocol.

What did not happen was some explanation of what it means to the general public. Since it is only applicable to Wi-Fi networks, the first thing to know is that anyone who wants to break the encryption must be in range of the Wi-Fi signal. If they can’t see the Wi-Fi then they can’t exploit the problem. The second thing is that the Wi-Fi password is required to begin the KRACK attack. If the hacker does not have the password then they cannot kick off the hack. Because of those 2 things, the risk to most folks is minimal.

There are a few things that can be done to protect yourself from KRACK. First, install the updates when you are notified of them. This is very important as the problem affects ALL devices. Every PC, Mac, smart phone, thermostat, washer & dryer, etc. with Wi-Fi capabilities has the problem. FYI companies like Microsoft released a patch for the Windows operating system on Tuesday with their monthly updates. Others will follow suit shortly. Again, install the updates.

Second, when logging into a website be sure that you are doing so with HTTPS, not HTTP. HTTPS encrypts the data between your device and the server that you are communicating. You will see this in the address bar of the browser. The address of the website should begin with HTTPS://. With this you will also see a little lock symbol adjacent to the address. These mean that your data is encrypted and not sent in readable text.

My take on KRACK. Since the hacker must be on the Wi-Fi network, the exposure is reduced for most people. Businesses with multiple Wi-Fi networks as part of their total IT systems are more exposed than consumers because of that configuration/environment. Essentially, if you update your devices you will be protected. This problem has been around since the WPA2 encryption language was written many years ago. It only took so long to discover it because the encryption protocol has been doing its job keeping things encrypted and secure. That will not change.

My biggest concern is what will happen to your components when the Internet service providers push out updates to their equipment. As was mentioned earlier, ALL equipment has this problem. Every router from Comcast, Cox Communications and Verizon has this issue. If the carriers push out updates in the middle of the night, things that were working the day prior may have problems the next morning. Let’s hope all goes smoothly on their end with these updates.

Lew

Things we thought were COOL at CEDIA continued

This month’s article is a continuation of our take on consumer electronics based on our attendance at the CEDIA conference in September.

One major theme jumped out to us, and most likely everyone, at CEDIA this year. Voice control seemed to be at every booth. It appears every manufacturer of electronic components and ancillary equipment have been working on getting their products integrated in some capacity with Google Home or Amazon Echo.

Voice Control
One interesting product was an assembly that allows you to mount your Amazon Echo in the ceiling just like you would a speaker. We liked the idea, but it could be an inconvenience to power reset the device, which we all know has to be done on occasion.
It seems like all of the other devices (TVs, Music Players, etc.) on display have some sort of interface that ties into these voice control systems. The purpose is to make simple actions like turning them on/off, adjusting the volume and channel as simple as saying “Alexa. Turn on Living Room TV”, “Alexa. Tune Living Room TV to channel 504”, “Alexa. Adjust volume to level 40”. Those are the commands that you must say in that exact syntax if you want those things to happen. We anticipate many consumers would rather just grab the handheld remote and press a button. But, it is available if you prefer voice control. Keep in mind, your devices must support being controlled by the Amazon Echo or Google Home, so if they don’t, you will need to upgrade those as well.

4K TV
4K video was everywhere. We love the picture that TVs and projectors can now produce. “Stunning” is the best word to describe a 4K image. There are a few things to keep in mind to see that image. First, for the eye to really see the benefit of the 4K picture it needs to be displayed on a screen 65″ or larger. The human eye has a very hard time telling the difference between a 1080P image and a 4K image when displayed on screens smaller than 65″. Second, the reality is that a lot of components that were installed just 1 or 2 years ago will not pass a 4K video signal. If even one component such as a 3 ft. HDMI jumper cable does not conform to the 4K standards, the equipment will step down to a lower resolution. When you think 4K you have to think of changing more than just the device that is displaying the image. Finally keep in mind that 4K starts at the camera. “Gone With The Wind” will never be a 4K movie. Only movies produced in the last few years have the capability to be shown in 4K because they were filmed in 4K. If you are looking for live video in 4K, you probably won’t see it for quite some time. It is a HUGE investment in camera and broadcasting equipment. Most TV production companies are still writing down their investment into 1080P equipment.

Networking
One overall topic that was talked about a lot at CEDUA, but was not prominently displayed is networking equipment. All of the latest devices such as voice control systems and streaming of content will experience problems without a rock solid network foundation to operate on. The most reliable network infrastructure is hardwired using category 5e/6 cable but almost everything is being advertised using Wi-Fi connectivity. Wi-Fi is great for what it was originally intended for which is the mobility of devices. But WiFi is not the best thing to use if you need “always works” stability because it can be impacted by so many external things. The good news is that there are enhancements coming out for Wi-Fi.

Currently there are some new “Mesh Networking” devices on the market that perform well and are easy to deploy. However, a problem with mesh networks arose while at the show. It seems that the RING doorbell will not work with mesh networks. Hopefully that will be fixed in the near future by RING.

Another change is something called MU-MIMO. Multi User-Multi Input Multi Output. Currently Wi-Fi routers/access points only talk to 1 device at a time. (Yes only 1 device. Don’t fall for some of the advertising that states otherwise.) It has been this way since 1997 when the 802.11 standard for Wi-Fi was ratified by the IEEE. MU-MIMO will allow multiple devices to talk to a router/access point simultaneously. The catch is that the communicating device must also support MU-MIMO. Almost all of the devices, including the top shelf laptops, do not support MU-MIMO. The unanswered question at this point is; will the devices be up-gradable by a firmware upgrade or will a hardware change need to be made? We will let you know when we know.

We hope you enjoyed our look at some of the interesting things happening in the consumer electronics industry and that you think about these pros and cons when shopping this holiday season.

Things we thought were COOL at CEDIA

As we closed our doors to attend the 2017 trade show for consumer electronics contractors, we came back newly educated on both products and technical skills.
Here are a few of the products we found interesting walking the show floor. While they may not apply to everyone, we felt it was worth mentioning them because, well…you just never know.

Stealth Acoustics
For those who don’t like the look of speakers in your walls and ceilings, Stealth acoustics makes a full-range of speakers and subwoofers that are fully invisible, hiding behind drywall. While they have a full range of speakers and subwoofers with varying sound quality, prices are a bit steeper than the grill-based speakers usually installed. But, if you are looking for a completely clean look in a room, then these speakers can fill your need.

Motorized Wall Mounts
If you like the idea of an articulating arm mount but don’t want to manually turn it in a direction, then you could get a motorized mounts. These mounts are not new, but they are gaining exposure. The best use of these would be for handicapped or elderly people who would find it difficult to adjust the TV. They are heavier than standard mounts, requiring additional bracing, but do the job.

Samsung’s Frame TV
When you’re not watching TV, Art Mode transforms The Frame into a beautiful work of art indistinguishable from the real thing. The Frame includes a free gallery of professionally curated art with 100 free pieces worth thousands of dollars* from 10 different categories. The consumer can buy individual pieces or subscribe to an ever-increasing library of established and emerging artists’ work. You can even upload and display your own personal pictures.

To be continued…