Category Archives: Commercial

Service Calls on Electronics

We perform quite a bit of in-home service calls. Did you know that you have several options before scheduling an in-home service call?

1) DIY first: We always recommend you troubleshoot the problem yourself first. Standard troubleshooting is to perform a re-set. Resetting means physically unplugging, waiting & restarting your equipment. You are not going to mess anything up doing this. You may have had a power surge or an update to one of the devices messed up the communications between your components. Look at this as the same as performing a computer reboot.

If that doesn’t work and something is still not working, it could be a bad component. It’s easy to figure that out too. Just unplug it from the system & try it independently. If your TV is working right, detach it from the cable, internet, CD player, etc. Just plug it directly into the wall & see if it works.

Same goes for a DVR. These go bad often. Remove it from the system and if you have more than one in the house switch them to see if the other works with your system. If it does, plug in the other DVR to see if that functions with the other TV.

2) Telephone/Video Service call: We do perform telephone/video service calls for some situations. Generally we have had to work on your system within the past 6 months to a year. This type of call involves the tech working to help you find & correct the problem. If you call or email us about the problem we can determine if a telephone service call is appropriate. We do schedule these calls and the charge is the same as our hourly in-home rate, except we bill in 15 minute increments and there is no travel fee, so the savings are substantial.

3) Email: Lew is more than happy to respond to an email with a potential solution. Please keep in mind that he may not get to your email for several days due to his busy schedule. Also if his suggestion doesn’t work, he won’t be able to continue to offer up solutions by email, so it may have to turn into a phone/video or in-person service call. Since we do not bill for email responses, we do have to limit the responses.

4) Wait and see: This approach, believe it or not, does work. We cancel service calls quite a bit because the problem just goes away. Why? No one really knows. User error, an update that didn’t take right away but reconnected later. Who knows. That said, waiting a few days may be all you need to do to avoid a service call. I would probably suggest #1 be done as it won’t hurt anything to do a power reset anyway.

Last resort, and unfortunately due to the complexity of today’s technology and system’s infrastructure, call us for a service call. We generally schedule service calls on Mondays and Fridays, but if the schedule allows, we can schedule them mid-week too. Time slots fill up fast so unfortunately there may be a wait.

CES 2020

While we didn’t attend CES this year, we did keep abreast of what was going on there & what the “big” takeaways were this year. Of course the biggest “news” was the future launch of 5G cell service. The CES show floor was chock full of devices boasting 5G capability, from super fast gaming routers to all kinds of modems, laptops, and smartphones. But since 5G networks haven’t yet been set up in much of the US, this tech will likely stay within the walls of the manufacturers for awhile.

Health and Wellness became a large segment of CES this year. From monitoring devices to products to track and help you sleep. We will start seeing more technology that allows consumers to interact with their doctors, sending them vital information about their health, without going into a doctor’s office.

Due to the increased awareness and even hacking problems that have come to light over the years as we utilize voice command devices & camera systems, privacy protection products were quite prevalent on the floor. Companies are leaping onto the privacy wagon, and their products promise to protect our data at every level.

While we are concerned about privacy, it hasn’t stopped manufacturers from making more & better cameras & Sensors for a variety of purposes. From homes whose appliances can book their own maintenance appointments to underwear that tracks your vitals, signs point to a future in which machines know everything about us.

As always, there is a lot of unusual tech at CES, tech that captures a niche audience but hopes to go mainstream. Companies are pouring millions of dollars into toilets, pet technology, mood elevating robots and even a digital nose.

Lastly, there are always the really cool things at CES to see, like the helicopter taxi and more advanced self driving vehicles.

Will Trade War with China impact Electronics?

Most of the components of cellphones, computers, and other electronic products are now manufactured in China. So, tariffs against China will result in increased costs of these components to come to the US, and passed on to American consumers. Even if China doesn’t raise the tariffs on electronics being imported here, they will raise the price of other products that will reduce the ability to buy electronics. “The latest tariffs will add another $500 a year in costs for the average U.S. household,” Katheryn Russ, an economics professor at the University of California at Davis, told NPR.

“Companies won’t immediately increase their prices”, said Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation. “Retailers will try to endure as much of the costs as possible but 25%, they can’t absorb all of that,” he said. “Products currently shipping to the U.S. for sale won’t see hiked prices, but some products may become more expensive in the summer, such as back-to-school items”, he added.

Electronics are among the hottest holiday toys and birthday gifts and, as such, analysts say this could impact retailers including Walmart, Home Depot and Best Buy.
As far as products that are part of our installations…U.S.-levied tariffs on steel and aluminum have manifested in rising prices of racks and enclosures, which are largely made of these materials.

The steel and aluminum tariffs may also affect coaxial cables (which use copper-cladded steel conductors and aluminum for shielding/braiding/armoring)
Tariffs on plastic molded parts can affect wall plates, connectors, and patch cords.

While some of the larger companies may try to absorb some of the tariff costs into their profits, as a small business near the end of the product chain, these increases will need to be passed on to customers.

Using Technology to Save You a Service Call

Service calls are expensive, both to the business and to the customer. Unless the business operates where trucks are out on the road all day, every day, putting a vehicle and person specifically on the road to perform a short service call is a large business expense. Many AV companies won’t even perform service calls, unless it is part of a maintenance plan with an existing customer.

We will perform service calls for both customers and non-customers and while we must roll a truck for a homeowner or business that we’ve never done work for, we are trying our best to avoid some trips with existing customers.

By using the customer’s video phone, we attempt to troubleshoot a problem with a customer who is willing to use FaceTime or Facebook Video. The customer schedules a call with our technician and is directed to show various things that could be causing the problems. This type of Virtual troubleshooting isn’t as effective as an in-person visit, but it is faster and depending on the problem, can result in the customer fixing the problem with the virtual assistance of the tech. The cost is the same hourly rate as a service call, except that there is no minimum 1 hour fee and no travel fee.

For more information or to see if your existing problem qualifies for a virtual service call visit, contact Bonnie by phone or email.

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