Category Archives: Blog/Comments

Holiday Electronics

8K TVs

Several manufacturers now have 8K TVs; Samsung, Sony, LG, etc. Most are selling for more than $2700. Is it worth getting an 8K? Until content is available in 8K, you are fine with a 4K or OLED TV. That said, there really isn’t much new in TVs, so we recommend you look for deals in 2020 models, even most 2019 models have the latest technology and capabilities.

Audio

If you are looking to buy new speakers this holiday season, look first at the purpose. Sound to enhance a TV, we recommend either surround sound (which will require installation unless you want to see wires all over the room), or a sound bar that can be mounted under your TV or sit below it. If you go with a higher end sound bar, such as the Bose 300. You might also want to add in the subwoofer if you truly want the effect of surround sound.

Sonos is still a great choice for wireless audio and does have 2 new products coming out, the Arc & the Beam. The Arc isn’t shipping till end of November so you will be playing it close to wait for this as a gift.

Gaming Stations

Xbox will release the next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on November 10, 2020 for $499 and $299 respectively. The PlayStation 5 will be released on November 12 at $499 for the standard console, or $399 for the digital-only version.

Other technology

Ring has everything from doorbells to full home security systems now. While their products are mostly wireless, keep in mind that you need a very strong Wi-Fi network to have them function at their highest capabilities. You might compare with Nest, which are generally wired products. Keep in mind that both Ring & Nest have monthly fees. Read before you buy.

Smart Home Hubs: Amazon’s new Echo 4th gen. can do everything but cook you dinner. Right now it sells for $99, but expect some deals as we get closer to Christmas. The Echo Show 10 is around $250 and competes with the Portal which has less capabilities but sells everywhere now for around $130. There is also the Google Nest of products starting at $90, which has similar capabilities. Look in our November newsletter for a comparison of these Hubs.

Is Your Home’s Network Infrastructure In Order?

Covid-19 has forced us all to spend most of our time at home. Whether working, going to school or entertaining ourselves, chances are that you will be doing all or most of these at home for some time to come.

We have already heard on the news the disparities of broadband coverage in some areas of the country and while we do live in a strong broadband area in the DMV, that doesn’t mean you are not subject to networking problems.

While your Internet may have been fast before, it may now be slowing down due to all the people in your home using it at the same time. In addition, the broadband coming into your home slows down from the Internet provider during times of the day when usage is very high, something you can’t do anything about at all.

That’s why you need to have the strongest internal network possible. “Products do not create a strong network infrastructure, designing a custom infrastructure for your home is the best solution” says Lew. Lew’s been creating residential networks for more than 17 years now and while he may use a certain line of products to create the network, he has found that no two homes are alike in what will work. One home may need nothing more than additional hard wiring, while another home may need multiple WIFI access points. Most require a combination of hard wiring and network expansion via access points and in some cases even extenders.

There is a huge waste of time and money spent on products that don’t fit the infrastructure and they can even cause more trouble by confusing the network you already have in place.

This virus isn’t going away anytime soon and even after there is a vaccine, many businesses will still be asking some of their employees to work from home either temporarily or for the long haul. Colleges have added more online classes, so don’t be surprised if they keep these going to help reduce the cost of education for those who can’t afford the room and board college experience. Even our school system may make changes that include more online learning.

That means you need to get your home’s networking infrastructure in order.

Things DO break

We all face frustration with technology. We hate it when something stops working for no apparent reason. Sometimes with electronics it can be a simple power reset to make the problem go away. But sometimes there are actual major problems that need to be fixed. Here are a few items we run into on a regular basis.

Poor installation practices. Sometimes people just don’t care. This customer was experiencing intermittent outages. The cause was buried in this rat’s nest of cables. Stability returned to the network once corrected.

 

This is what happens when something does not fit quite right. Inside the wall jacks are tiny metal fingers that make contact with the connector on the cable. If the wrong connector type is inserted into the jack or if a connector is forced into the jack this can happen.

 

Never underestimate critters. This is a section of outdoor cable that an animal took a liking to. This was most likely a mouse or squirrel that developed a taste for plastic and wire braid.

 

Ring’s new Video Doorbells & Chimes

Ring now has a Video Doorbell 3 and 3 Plus, as well as a Pre-Roll feature, which captures the 4 seconds before motion is detected to help users see what triggered a motion alert.

The new “near zone” detects motion within 5-15 feet of the front door. You can also exclude areas that you consider to be privacy zones. As the others did, you can still turn off video or audio recording for an extra layer of privacy at any time.

Plus users can utilize Alexa to communicate through Ring with whomever is at the door. Ring can be integrated to their smart cameras and their Smart Lighting systems.

The Chime Pro includes a built-in nightlight and Wi-Fi extender. Features from the earlier Rings are still incorporated into the 3 model.

“Back to School” and its IMPACT on YOUR Teleworking

If you struggled with your Internet back when schools were starting to go online in the Spring and you were also teleworking, it is going to get worse in another month or so, when the requirements to be online and in virtual classrooms increase for the new school year.

This is not a local issue. This is a national issue for all homeowners that are now going to need far more bandwidth than ever before. Don’t even think that living in Northern VA and having data centers in your backyard is going to provide you with plenty of bandwidth.

You can pay your internet provider to send you their maximum amount of bandwidth and still have problems due to it only getting “to” your home, and not necessarily “through” your home. You need to look at your home the way a commercial business looks at its workforce needs. A business’ IT department will make sure that every employee has the right tools to do their job, which includes computers and phones and topmost Internet without disruptions.

If you are going to have children on a computer, then later playing video games or streaming TV shows, while you are on your computer or having a virtual meeting, you are going to need to ensure that your “family” has the tools needed. These tools start with cabling and WiFi that will allow everyone to work and play at the same time.

Rule #1: If it can be hard-wired, get it wired. Hard wiring still provides a more constant connection than WiFi because you are literally tying directly into the internet providers service. WiFi is an RF (Radio Frequency) based transmission. RF transmissions are subject to interference from numerous things. Most interference is generated by things that are not in your control. Hardwiring devices eliminates this problem.

Rule #2: If you must use WiFi, figure out where you need it and assess the signal strength in that area.

Rule #3: Don’t look for a quick, cheap fix to improve your network. There are plenty of “hacks” on the Internet that can tell you how to improve your internet, but they have no idea what YOUR home is experiencing.

Also, keep in mind that your provider is also “busy” so the speed coming into your home is going to drop during busy times of the day.

Do an assessment now. Identify where your kids are going to do their homework and whether their laptop can be hardwired or if they are going to be using WiFi. Then you set up your teleworking station. Have everyone do a virtual call to a friend or family member at the same time, preferably during the day, during the week. Then, assess how it went. Did anyone’s screen lock up or stall? Take notes on what worked well and what didn’t work well. Then contact someone to provide a network design (preferably us) to optimize your home’s infrastructure.