Home Sports Bars

It’s That Time Again! (at last)

Design and installation by UltraMedia, Inc.

Design and installation by UltraMedia, Inc.

Inasmuch as the NFL and NCAA has made football into a year round sport, it’s back, and for real. The NFL preseason is underway, college teams are grinding through camp towards the first kickoff, and Texas high school programs are ready to play in palaces that dwarf most Division 2 college digs.

Really, most high school players move on to play on Saturdays enjoy larger facilities and bigger crowds. On the other hand, plenty of Texas high school football recruits who play college ball will actually take a step back in those regards. So, what are most Americans doing to get ready for the season?

Well, drafting, of course! According to a recent estimate, more Americans play fantasy football than live in the state of California. Most pundits agree that’s one big reason for the NFL’s infatuation with reigning in defenses, while seemingly going overboard to help offenses put that pigskin in the endzone. It’s all about the numbers. There’s only 1 defense on your fantasy football roster, while fantasy offenses have a slew of position players with scoring opportunities.

So, what’s that have to do with us? Simple, we’re seeing a new home entertainment trend, and it’s largely due to fantasy football, although the sheer volume of football available on TV these days is another reason. From fantasy drafts to fantasy playoffs in week 12 or whenever your league starts them, people are hosting weekly fantasy parties and doing them in STYLE!

That’s spawned a trend that we wouldn’t have believed just a few years ago: home sports bars. Since fantasy ball is about multiple players on different teams playing in different games at the same time, that’s what people want to watch. It means we’re doing some amazing rooms with multiple screens. Your crew can gather and have all their important players on display at once. It’s super exciting and a pretty amazing way to spend a Sunday.

It’s definitely not just about Sundays, though. If you love college ball there are so many options now. It’s not like days of yore, when there were a couple of games on the networks each Saturday. ESPN and Fox Sports were just gleams in some network exec’s eye then. Every conference didn’t have their own sports network then, so universal game coverage wasn’t nearly guaranteed, as it is now. (Sorry if you’re a PAC12 fan trying to watch on DirecTV. Hopefully they’ll hash that out one day.)

That means getting an icebox full of your favorite beverages, trays of delicious eats, and football on big beautiful screens where ever you look. You won’t miss a single play, and if you do, that what replay’s for!

How can you possibly make all those screens show the games you want, when you want them to? No worries, that’s where we come in. We’ll put it all on a super easy to use remote. A touch here or there and you’ll have everything, right where you want it. When it’s time to shut things down (We know, that makes us sad too) it’s just a touch away. Easy-peasy.

Some folks love to watch all their pro and college games, but also put their kids’ games on the big screen for even more family fun. We’ll make that a breeze for you too. You can send it straight from your phone, tablet, or computer. Your family and friends can enjoy highlights just like the pros have. The kids LOVE it. “Hey dad, you have my touchdown ready yet?”

There are endless different screen layouts. Some of the more popular ones are:

1)    a single large screen flanked by 2 smaller ones on each side

2)    3 screens side by side

3)    A large screen with 2 or three smaller screens above

4)    A single large screen that can be electronically divided into many different combinations of large and small screens on the fly. This is Super WOW!

We’ll be happy to meet to give you some ideas and recommendations that make sure your new sports space is beyond everything you could imagine. It will be your favorite room in the house this season.

Drop us a line and let’s talk. If nothing else, we’d love to catch up.

Here Comes The Sun . . . and You Can Turn it Off!

Yes, we can do this!

Yes, we can do this!

Technology to The Rescue Again!

It’s HOT right now. Just check outside. Ask your AC; it’s working OT in a big way, struggling to keep up. Just check your power bill. It’s probably not pretty.

Preventing as much heat from getting inside your humble abode in the first place is one of the best ways to give your poor AC system some help. If you aren’t rockin’ the AC, it’s more important than ever to keep the heat out, because you’re sure not getting rid of it once it’s snuck inside.

That’s probably why we’ve been fielding more than the usual number of calls for window treatments this summer. They help keep the heat at bay. There have been some pretty sweet developments on the window treatment front too.

Cool Window Covering News, Even With No Wires!

First of all, most people want the ease and magic of motorized window treatments. No chain yankin’ for these folks! That’s meant either running wires during construction, or messy and time consuming retrofits. Motorized windows have so many advantages that many people without the wiring in place just ignore the hassle and have them installed anyway.

Fortunately, technology just keeps marching on. Recent advances mean that you can now have designer motorized window treatments in a large variety of styles and colors…. even if you don’t have any wiring! No, really, it’s true! Motor technology has improved leaps and bounds. Thank that Tesla in your garage.

Electric and hybrid vehicles continue to drive electric motor technology to new heights. What that means for motorized shades is that long-life, battery powered shades are now a reality.

Not only are they here, they’re virtually indistinguishable in appearance and function from wired shades or blinds. Unless you can’t resist the urge to show off your new motorized shades to everyone, 24/7, the batteries last for years. Super cool! (in more ways than one)

Of course, wired motorized shades continue to be popular, but if you have the ability to connect them to a bit of old-fashioned copper, you’ll have virtually limitless options, many of them completely silent.

Really, the first time we installed some silent roller shades, they were being lowered and we had our backs turned. Thinking they weren’t working, we swung around, only to gasp in amazement as we discovered they were, indeed, moving down. Very nice!

If one of the myriad roller shades don’t fit with your or your designer’s vision, there are honeycomb, Roman shades, and drapes that can all give you motorized convenience.

There are myriad control options, so you can take command the way that best suits your lifestyle and décor. Whether they do your bidding from a remote, keypad, or as part of an automated scene, they’ll do more than just help keep the heat away and bring some privacy. Blinds also help keep your beautiful hardwood floors and designer furniture fade-free. (and all be can be completely automatic).

There are so many options when it comes to window treatments it makes your head spin. One of our talents happens to be head deceleration, so we can help you sort through everything and help make sure you have exactly what you want. 

Drop us a line and let’s talk. If nothing else, we’d love to catch up.

Poof!! It's Gone . . . or, "Hear No Evil, See No Evil!"

Forgive the old photo, but the point is . . . can you find the speaker? And this was 15 years ago—so much more can be done today. (Hint: thick as a brick.)

Forgive the old photo, but the point is . . . can you find the speaker? And this was 15 years ago—so much more can be done today. (Hint: thick as a brick.)

If you’ve ever built your dream home or are in the midst of a project now, you’ve likely been in the crosshairs of an, uh, conversation or two. Your designer says “Not Here!” Your significant other says “Me, or your speakers!” or the dreaded “I’m not putting a big-screen THERE!”

After some agonizing decision making, it's clear that a compromise may be in order. Chill out! You may not have to sacrifice nearly as much as you think, and neither will they. Happy days are here again.

Hang On...

Like any man who hasn't turned in his man card though, you'd gladly live with big ‘ole speakers and a gear stack worthy of a Maroon 5 tour, if that's what it took to getcha some hair blowin' audio and a screen that made your local Cineplex roll over and play dead.

Decisions, decisions......

This design conflict is played out in living rooms, design offices, and architecture firms every day. We've had to step in and smooth things over more than once 😊. Fortunately, there are now some great solutions to the aesthetics vs performance debate.

You can have all the home entertainment you've ever dreamed of and more, but avoid those arguments about TVs, speakers, and video screens intruding on your meticulously designed space. Everything will be discretely hidden, camouflaged, or at least, discretely obfuscated.

The Best of Both Worlds

It's the best of both worlds, terrific performance, while maintaining the décor you just dropped big bucks on. As TV profiles approach credit card thickness, speaker manufacturers have tripped over themselves to deliver speakers that give the kind of performance people expect, while not requiring a box more appropriate for a Sub Zero. 

The nee-plus-ultra speakers still come in tower form. These days however, choosing something small doesn't mean sacrificing an eminently satisfying music or theater experience. Recent developments make possible compact or even totally invisible speakers that spread music everywhere, but leave guests vainly looking for where the heck it's coming from. 

When it comes to discrete audio, there are several options, including completely invisible speakers that are installed as part of the wall, more conventional in-wall and in-ceiling units with low-profile exposed grills, and any number of on-wall and micro designs that can be mounted next to TVs or hidden on bookshelves.

Developments in Unobtrusiveness (?!?)

One of the latest developments are “small aperture” speakers that hide most of the speaker in the wall or ceiling, and vent the sound through a small opening that blends perfectly with the small, décorator-style light trims. The upside is that they sound WOW!! The downside? Their cost is on par with some of the aforementioned designer lighting.

Katy, Bar the Door

A relatively new product category that's made its way on the scene is the speaker bar, containing all three front speakers required for surround sound in one compact unit. Speaker bars attach to the bottom of your TV. They deliver much more satisfying sound than the anemic, little drivers found in modern TVs. Face it, there's only so much room for decent sound in a TV that's less than 1“ deep.

 Improved though it may be, speaker bars share the same limitation with other compact speakers; no bass. They sound good in the upper registers, but require a subwoofer, without which they'll sound as thin as the TV looks. Fortunately, technology has that covered, too.

Great Vibrations

Gone are the days when real bass meant a cabinet big enough to park your Tesla in, even if it is only a Model 3. Now, compact subwoofers create tummy jiggling bass from a barely-believable little box. These little wonders are 12” or less per side. Such a small box has myriad placement options never available before.

Sometimes though, even a micro-sized box is just not in the cards (or your room). That's why enterprising speaker designers have come up with subwoofers that fire through floor vents, fit inside walls, and under furniture. In short, you can have the satisfaction and realism of good bass, no matter your space constraints.

Do you have some very particular requirements? 

We even work with speaker manufacturers that will custom engineer and build speakers to fit in nearly any space you can find. The advantage here is spine tingling performance in some unbelievable spaces you’d never think to put a speaker. Low bass is mostly non-directional, so we can get pretty creative with placement. They downside of these systems? You guessed it; custom design and construction is not for the faint of budget. That saying “Happy wife, happy life.” didn’t just spring up from nowhere though.

So Small, So Cool 

It's not just speakers, other audio components have succumbed to miniaturization trends as well. Digital amplifiers are smaller and run much cooler than their old analog counterparts, meaning fewer ventilation and space concerns. You can run all your home’s speakers with some unbelievably clean and dynamic power from just a few rack spaces. If you don’t have a lot of space for a full height equipment rack these are a real prayer-answerer.

Modern technology means that you can have that great sound you want anywhere in your home whether surround sound for the great room or music throughout. Now, it's a treat for the ears, not a sore for the eyes. 

Stay tuned, soon we'll reveal how you also enjoy life sized video when you want it, but never see it when you don't. No, it's not all about roll down video screens, either.

Contact Us Now; Drop us a line to have us check things out for you. We will be happy to discuss your best options so you can enjoy sound quality rivaling the best commercial theaters or concert venues, but never know it's there when it off.

Three Reasons Why Simple Changes Make Sense when Making Over Your Bed and Bath

Contributed by Suzie Wilson of happierhome.net.

Photo by UltraMedia, Inc.

Photo by UltraMedia, Inc.

Does your bedroom or bathroom need refreshing? Sometimes, a full makeover isn’t really needed to give your living spaces a bright new look. In fact, you can get the most bang for your redecorating buck with smaller changes, such as updating your bedding or adding some tech. Want to learn more about how to rework your bed and bath with very little work at all? Then you should read through these simple decorating tips.

When it Comes to Your Bedroom, Quality Sleep is Priority #1

This is a perfect time to create a sleep haven in your room, with cozy bedding, soothing scents, and even tech that can help you get more of the quality rest you need to thrive. It may sound silly to use tech for sleep, but by adding controllable blackout shades, dimmable lighting fixtures, and other smart solutions, you can create a bedroom you cannot wait to come home to at night. UltraMedia can bring this tech to your bedroom or any other space in your home, and we can custom-tailor tech solutions to improve your life.

Tech can certainly make sleep and relaxation easier. If you have a television in your room, try to avoid drifting off with it turned on at night. Sleeping with the television turned on — even with the volume lowered — can create sleep cycle disruptions that will leave you feeling groggy in the morning. So, use those smart controls to switch the TV off before bedtime.

Style Updates Can Be as Simple as Changing Your Color Palette

If you want to make simple updates to your rooms, chances are you don’t want to update the paint. You can still add some splashes of fresh color, however, by changing out the color of your textiles and decor. For a calming, traditional look, think about going with softer shades of color throughout each space. Bathrooms decorated in comforting, natural colors such as aqua and brown tend to take on a spa feel that can make getting ready more relaxing. Those colors can work in your bedroom as well, or you can add some uncommon interest by mixing in a few boldly hued accessories and fabrics. Orange pillows combined with blue bedding can really make your bedroom pop, while you can add a rainbow of color to a white room to give it a refreshed look. Whatever colors you choose for your decor updates, be sure they serve to create a flow of color and design throughout your home for a more polished look. Bolder colors tend to look better as accents and decor, so keep this in mind for decorative cohesion.

Small Changes Give You Maximum Impact with a Minimum Price Tag

Spending money on tech and installations makes sense, but splurging on decor may not be your best bet when it comes to updating the look of your bed and bath. You can easily find decor for walls, tables, and more by shopping with big-name retailers like Target, TJ Maxx, and even Amazon, and then you can put the savings toward smart features that will help you relax at home. Another way to save on those simple room updates is to check out thrift stores for items you can upcycle into one-of-a-kind decor. You can make creative toothbrush holders out of thrifted toys, or you can add some stacked books to give your bedroom a warm feel. In addition to using the savings for tech, you can also dedicate more of your budget to adding soft bedding and towels that are well worth the investment. By investing in bedding that is more luxurious and comfortable, you can improve your sleep, which makes any extra expenses well worth it.

Making over your bed and bath doesn’t have to be a monumental task. With small, simple touches, you can give these rooms the fresh look you crave. You can even reduce stress and improve sleep. Plus, you can save yourself some time, expense, and effort in the process.

Technology to the Rescue Again!

Photo by UltraMedia, Inc.

Photo by UltraMedia, Inc.

Tech hath wrought so many miracles—improved our lives in so many ways. What are you reading this on now? A sleek laptop, or maybe a smart phone that can do everything from tell you tomorrow’s weather in Singapore or show your kid’s latest baseball videos in pristine HD…

In any case, tech has improved our lives in so many ways. Unfortunately, it can sometimes leave us all in its wake at times. Of course, when it does, it often provides an answer too! Don’t fret! Here are some ways we can help you enjoy today’s latest advantages, even if you still have yesteryear’s.

Video Like Looking Out the Window, But Better, Even If We Can’t Rewire

One tech area that sees constant improvement is definitely video. Have you looked lately at what used to pass for a nice image? Hmmm… The new 4K HDR imagery is, by all accounts, a revelation, especially on a large screen.

The problem for those with older systems is it takes compatible HDMI cables to work, and many older HDMI cables aren’t compatible with the newest video standards. That means simply replacing your old TV or projector with one of the new whiz-bang units isn’t enough. The cables must be upgraded too.

The older cables to your projector or TV just won’t work. In some cases we can just run a new cable for you, but in others we may have to get more creative. There are special devices that let us use other cabling that may already be in place to send the latest video signals. That means you can get all the splendor of 4K UHD, even if we can’t run the latest HDMI cables.

Finally Change Fuzzy, Old Analog Security Cameras to Crystal Clear HD Using Your Existing Wiring

Here’s razor sharp video on a smaller screen, albeit for a less enjoyable purpose. Tired of trying to figure out if that figure lurking about is Uncle Harold, the landscaper, or that sketchy dude you saw on America's Most Wanted last night? There's hope!

Even with the old, original wiring, chances are great we can use it for new HD cameras. You won't believe what you've been missing. It's like lifting a veil that's been covering your cameras for all these years.

If you're tired of seeing shadowy images on your security cameras, and would like to actually be able to tell WHO you're looking at, you'll love this upgrade! This is one where you'll be probably able to use the wire, but the cameras are from a bygone era, so they hit the trash.

The best news is even some of the latest surveillance tech, such as 5 mega pixel cameras (Means you can zoom an image in your mobile app and see details you never could before) and starlight (Much better in low light, see below) can all be had with these cameras too.

Starlight, Starbright

It’s no secret that the latest security cameras light up the night, so you can see, even when the perp thinks he’s hiding in the shadows. Pretty cool, huh? However, there has been a limitation for all but the highest end cameras used by government agencies (“The Agency”?) and casinos. They often must switch to black and white “night mode” to do so, and have limited range when in night viewing mode.

Once again, it’s technology to the rescue. With the latest starlight cameras you’ll be able to see a much larger area at night, and in color, too! No more guessing what color jacket the loser was wearing as he got into the gray car. Using the same kind of light amplification tech once reserved for special ops forces, you’ll be able to get some color in your night time images, while you gaze upon your whole kingdom, not just what’s in the night illuminator range.

Is it just like day time viewing? No, but it is a significant step up, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, either. Just because it’s based on government tech, doesn’t mean it’s a $500 toilet seat!

This Just In: High Res Audio Interest Surging

Finally, it’s not just your eyes that get to enjoy all the tech treats. A recent report by the Recording Industries Assoc of America (RIAA) reveals that major label interest in high resolution audio for streaming and download is soaring. It’s not just a “niche thing” anymore.

This may seem surprising for a generation raised on earbuds and sonically trampled MP3 music. It proves however that people can still hear and know great sounding music when they hear it, even if they haven’t heard it before.

It also means that the RIAA has finally recognized the rising demand for high quality recordings and is ready to step up and provide them. In an era when recording quality eclipses anything even imagined a few decades ago, it’s nice to see people can start to enjoy them.

It doesn’t take much, either. Just a set of willing ears and a few things to get the music to them. You’ll need a high-res audio capable streamer/player. You may already own one, and if you don’t, they’re not bank breakers. You’ll also need some decent speakers or headphones that can let the goodness come through. Again, you may have them now.

Contact Us Now; Drop us a line to have us check things out for you. We will be happy to discuss your best options so you can enjoy what technology offers now.

The Horizon's Getting Closer Every Day!

Photo by UltraMedia, Inc.

Photo by UltraMedia, Inc.

As a quick follow up to last month’s piece on outdoor entertainment; a new industry survey revealed that 63% of custom integrators (Yep, that’s what they call us) expect a significant increase in their outdoor installations this year. The reason is simple.

People are looking for more entertainment options at home and new ways they can enjoy their outdoor spaces. That’s led to the cool, new stuff we discussed last time.

What are the tech and entertainment trends that will be improving your life moving forward in the coming months and years?

1) Streaming Media

Wait, you already have Netflix and Spotify. Yes; yes you do, but that’s just the tip of the streaming iceberg. You and 58 million of your closest friends have Netflix, which makes it the largest streaming service by a large margin.

Hulu and Amazon combined only amount to a shade under 50 million. Youtube is also moving into media beyond music videos, your kids’ highlights, and how to do a brake job on a 78 Volvo. They'll have more and more original content in the coming months and they've already got plenty of 4K stuff up in their cloud for you to watch.

There’s a big shakeup on the horizon however. Disney is poised to enter the streaming entertainment market in a big way, and experts say it could threaten to topple Netflix from atop its pedestal. What they’ll bring to the party, beyond their massive catalog, is hugely deep pockets.

About that catalog, Disney has ABC and ESPN TV programming going back decades, and two stalwart movie franchises: Star Wars and Marvel. Those 2 are streaming staples, and while Netflix can show you them now, when Disney joins the party, their access will vanish. They also own 20th Century Fox, and can use their motion picture and TV offerings too. Netflix could be in for a spot 'o trouble.

If Disney goes the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu route of premium quality original programming, their expertise and massive resources practically guarantee they’ll be showing some top shelf stuff. It’ll be another thorn in the current Streaming 3’s side. It may well be terrific for you though. Imagine the kind of content they’ll create if the really focus on it; especially if they produce streaming exclusive offerings.

Moreover, a few years back Disney bought Makers Studios, the largest aggregator of YouTube channels, and from what we've been led to believe they did not stop there. It means they have deep YouTube content banks in that format as well, and they have been very quiet about what plans they have for those resources. Hmmmm...

2) 5G

You may have heard of 5G. It’s been in the news a bit over the last year. It’s like 4G, but faster. It’s up to 50% faster over existing cell infrastructure, but that’s not where this baby is going to make hay.

Dedicated 5G networks use a different radio technology than 4G, and that promises a 2,000% speed increase. Since many networks still have spotty 4G coverage years after its introduction, once wonders how long they’ll make us wait for 5G. Considering all parts of the 5G standard are not fully ratified yet, it may be some time before 5G is everywhere.

The kind of streaming media and interactive control possible over a 5G network when it does arrive though….. We get warm and fuzzy just thinking about it!

3) WiFi-6

Enough of the confusing WiFI nomenclature we’ve endured for decades. After all the alphabet soup of WiFI designations never really made sense anyway.

  • 802.11G?

  • Wireless N?

  • AC?

  • WiTF?

Okay, that last one’s not real….

Anyway, someone decided that putting thing in numerical order would be much less confusing for the average Joe/sephine; probably for the engineers to, really. Like 5G (See, those cell phone guys figured out the numbering thing long ago) WiFI 6 is faster than its predecessor, but there are plenty of other advantages on the horizon as well.

Speaking of predecessors, they're all in for a change. 802.11AC will be known as WiFi 5, while 802.11N becomes WiFi 4. Ahhh!

For one thing, it’s better on battery life. That’ll pay big dividends when you don’t chuck your iPhone 13 across the room because its battery’s dead, again. It’ll also let your laptop stay connected for much longer and not leave you high and dry at Starbucks because the seats with power were all taken.

Since we seem to be WiFi connected to just about everything these days, another WiFI6 advantage we’ll all enjoy is that it allows more concurrently-connected devices. Those LAN parties (remember them?) can be cable-free now.

When your kids all have their phones, tablets, and AppleTV connected at once, and are streaming something different to each….. how come they can’t focus on 3 things at once at school??

Anyway, this’ll help, but it’s going to roll out gradually over the next couple years. Remember, your devices have to be WiFi6 enabled too. You’ve got time on this. The WiFi 6 standard isn’t even ratified yet, but hey, we like keeping you up to date.

If you’re an Apple Head, it’s not such good news, since Qualcomm will have the first WiFI 6 chips and Apple parted ways with them a while back. It’ll be a bit until Intel, Apple’s chip vendor, is on the 6 wagon. If you fly Samsung though, you’ll get in on the action sooner.

Also, this doesn’t apply to anything on your network using a wired network connection. If you’ve been listening to us beat our chests about keeping fixed location devices hard wired, and have upgraded your network in the last few years, all of that stuff is already enjoying advantages no WiFi can match.

If we haven’t touched your backbone for a while… easy there, we’re talking about your NETWORK backbone, it’s more important than ever that it’s well sorted.

As your network demands increase, you’ll need to use the fastest cabling and devices. After all, the only thing that WiFi does is get mobile devices to your network. After it gets there, all that data still has to go somewhere.

Contact Us Now; let's discuss how to make sure you're ready for these and other entertainment and convenience revolutions when they arrive. You know they'll be here before you know it.

Smart Home Improvements That Can Save You Money and Add Value to Your Home

Contributed by Suzie Wilson of happierhome.net.

Smart Home Improvements.jpg

Smart home automation is the future. In fact, 80 percent of home buyers prefer a home with smart technology. Tomorrow, that percentage will be a little higher. There is an ever-growing variety of smart devices that can be added to your home, and each one has unique benefits. Here are some of the most popular smart home improvements, as well as the benefits and value they provide to buyers who are looking to purchase them.

Smart Hiring

First of all, it’s important to note that while some of these items can be installed DIY, it’s never a bad idea to have them professionally installed. The average cost to install electrical switches, outlets, and fixtures in Dallas is $158 to $541, but installing a smart home system will likely cost quite a bit more. But the peace of mind you get from knowing it’s been done professionally is well worth the investment.

Smart Security

If you’re considering upgrading your home with smart technology, security should be the first thing on your mind. More traditional security systems are hardwired and monitored by a central station, but smart alarm systems can be controlled by smartphones, home networks, and/or wireless technology. Also, whether it’s a central alarm, door sensors, door locks, or video doorbell, you maintain control and can monitor activity while you’re away from home. Smart security is very valuable to consumers and home buyers because it provides peace of mind, saves time, and is much cheaper than traditional security systems.

Smart Smoke Detectors

Along with your security system, consider smart smoke detectors. Have you ever awoken in the middle of the night by the chirping of your smoke/CO alarm? Smart detectors, like the Nest Protect, eliminate that problem. Whether smoke or carbon monoxide is detected, or the alarm’s battery is running low, the notifications go straight to your phone. Similar to smart security systems, these detectors bring peace of mind, and they’re a hot item for home buyers.

Smart Thermostats

Half of your home’s energy costs come from heating and air conditioning, and installing smart thermostats is the quickest way to save energy and money. In fact, the efficiency of thermostats such as the Nest Learning Thermostat can save you up to $145 a year. Also, through wireless technology, you can control these thermostats even when you’re not at home, and many of them remind you of maintenance needs and allow you to regularly monitor energy consumption.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting also has a high ROI because of its convenience and energy savings. Through wireless technology, a smart lighting system allows all of the lighting in your home to be interconnected and controlled from an app on your smartphone. The best route for smart lighting is through LEDs. According to Energy.gov, LED light bulbs “use at least 75 percent less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.”

Smart Speakers

Smart speakers are another great investment. Certain speakers, like the Amazon Echo Show, allow you to connect to and control several different home automation devices — all with your voice. This means that you can control and monitor your smart security system, door locks, video doorbell, smoke/CO detectors, thermostats, lighting, and more. Going through the work of making all these smart home improvements makes a smart speaker invaluable.

There’s no question that home automation can add value to your home and draw buyer interest. Consider the plethora of smart security options and smoke detectors to provide peace of mind. Look into smart thermostats and lighting to add convenience and save significantly on energy costs. Finally, pick out a smart speaker that will bring all your improvements together.

Photo Credit: UltraMedia, Inc.

Enjoying the Sun and Stars—This Year, More Than Ever!

Enjoying the Sun and Stars More Than Ever 

Eclipse at the UltraMedia office.

Eclipse at the UltraMedia office.

Well first, we hope your bracket is still going strong. It's been a heck of a winter, and we are all itching to get outside again... after “The Madness” of course.

Thinking about your backyard, the deck, maybe the pool, and tossing in some technology just off the family room? Typically that’s a modest lift financially, but has explosive rewards in a family's lifestyle, comeradery, and alleviates anxiety better than one of those cold beverages you’ll be enjoying out there. 

Enjoyment is the name of the game, whether it’s just you, a cool breeze and your iPad; a ballgame and BBQ on the terrace after work; or a pool party on the weekend. Every year we’re amazed by how many more ways people find to enjoy their outdoor spaces. More often than not, music and media are a part of all the fun. Here some great ideas and things to watch out for in your outdoor entertainment space this year.

The New Foundation of Entertainment and Control

Before the mercury rises much further there are some things you should know to get ready. First, a solid home network and great WiFi coverage is more essential than ever. As we transition to an app and streaming media society, we depend on staying connected for convenient control and media enjoyment.

Holy is perfect for church, but you don’t want [holey] holes in your network. That means music and video dropouts, or missing the app download you were counting on. Ouch! It’s not just apps or streaming, either.

Since we use network devices (Think Alexa, Google Home, Ring doorbell, and most wall-mounted touch screens) to make things happen, network glitches put a real damper on instant action. For example, you ask for or press a button for a lighting scene, and there’s pause………… pause……… pause……. THERE we go, before anything happens. It’s maddening, to say the least.

All that just adds to the problems poor network connectivity causes for your game playing family members. Lagging, buffering, and other “ing”s combine to deliver a pretty un-enjoyable gaming experience….. especially for those unhappy enough to be within earshot of the inevitable “UUUgggghhh!! It’s lagging again!”

Fortunately, being outside doesn’t have to keep you from great connectivity and blindingly fast WiFi. Streaming HD videos to your tablet by the pool or putting green? Covered! How about changing the playlist, or turning on the deck ceiling fans? It happens Right Now! A great network is now the foundation of your entertainment and control.

New, Fun, and Different Outdoors

What’s new, fun, and different that’ll make your outdoor home entertainment more entertaining than ever this year? Well, that encompasses quite a lot, but here goes….

Tiny and Big 

Years ago there was a trend in home audio speakers toward sub-woofers and satellites. No, not the kind of satellites zooming overhead, but small speakers that can be placed unobtrusively but deliver spectacular sound, except for one thing; they have no bass. No bass? Well, that doesn’t sound good, does it? But wait, there’s more…

Here’s why it all works. Those little speakers can’t really have bass, they’re too small, so another speaker has to be used to fill in the low frequency gap and make your music sound full and realistic. They’re called sub-woofers and they work wonders. Fortunately the sub-woofers used to make those luscious lows are smaller than ever and can be placed where they don’t impact your décor. So far, so good!

This has been so successful indoors that the same concept is now available for your outdoor music. Instead of having a couple of big speakers that sound great, but are either too loud when you’re up close or too quiet when you venture father away, small speakers are discretely located throughout your landscaping. That delivers fantastic music everywhere you go, without blasting you when you’re close and vanishing from afar.

If you venture off your deck or terrace, or entertain in your outdoor spaces, this kind of outdoor speaker system is just the ticket. We’d be happy to survey your outdoor spaces and see exactly what would work best for you.

See No Evil

Sports fans, if you’ve never enjoyed a game outside without having to trek downtown, fight parking or transit crowds and “enjoy” $13 beers to wash down $15 burgers…… Recently, architects say video has become one of the major trends to enhancing outdoor living spaces.

You get the same cool breeze, but leave your car in your own garage, sip beverages from your own bar, and have your own clean restroom. It’s like a luxury box without the travel.

Outdoor TVs no longer command a king’s ransom, and they can be had with the kind of hugeness and video quality your favorite teams deserve. They’re weatherproof so you can leave them outside year ‘round. Yep, it’s better in nearly every way, and is also a great place to enjoy a romantic movie night with your significant other.

Concerts in Style

If you’re ready for the next dimension in outdoor entertainment, well, here goes. Holodeck-sized screens for outdoor movies, concert recordings or sports are now a reality. Turn your yard or terrace into an entertainment venue rivaling professional spaces.

Hundreds of concerts are now available on Blu-Ray, and putting your own on outside for family and friends makes for an unbelievable evening. Just don’t charge admission! The sound is breathtaking and the HD video is like you’re in the front row. The options here are truly mind-boggling but we can help you find the perfect one to match your entertainment dreams and space.

Contact us; let's discuss how to make your outdoor environment the perfect place to spend time this summer, and beyond.

You Can't Google Your Way Out of This One

Life’s a balance; an edge between competing interests and desires. How much of one do you want to sacrifice for its brethren on the coin’s other side? We encounter this daily, as folks with beautiful homes wrestle with the question of décor vs. audio-video realism.

What, if anything, do you want to give up in the quest for goose-bump-inducing music and media? Must you? As with many questions, the answer boils down to a resounding “it depends.” The question is often followed by variations of “but I’m not an audiophile” or “wow, that looks pretty good already!”

Compromise is a fact of life, even if you’ve never run for office. The key to success is skewing the balance to deliver the most favorable outcome. Can you have it all? No, but with some learned guidance you can get pretty darned close!

What About Google, Anyway?

Why can’t you just Google (apologies to Bing, who lost the Kleenex/Xerox war) what gear got the best reviews and throw it in? Why, indeed? It’s simple, really. Reviews seldom tell the whole story, although they can deliver valuable insight.

Every space is different, just as no one’s taste or preference exactly matches another. There are two reasons, right off the top. Nailing down the physical installation details for the best performance / aesthetic balance in your space, and then making everything function with seamless intuition definitely goes beyond the scope of reviews. 

The devil’s in the details. Even one so small as speaker placement; a few inches this way or that can make an audible difference between “oh, ahh!” and “oh, no!”

It's All About the Space

We see it frequently. Just because a particular piece of gear performed well in one environment doesn’t mean you’ll get similar results in another. For that matter, one’s person’s idea of sweet performance or aesthetic is likely not everyone’s.

Can a set of OmyGosh Gargantua-5500S tower speakers placed out in your room, driven by a stack of SupercalifragiWatt 9000 amplifiers elicit a response most typically reserved for a wedding night? You betcha! However, there’s most likely a battle reminiscent of a “Cops” episode before all parties involved agree to allow monolithic stuff like that into a space.

If it’s fine with all concerned, our compliments to your designer, LOL. Typically, though, we’re after high performance that’s a bit more subtle on the aesthetic. As that’s far from an uncommon desire, many talented engineers have spent sleepless nights wrestling with tough questions.

Their slumber sacrifice means you can get performance that stands up and smacks you in the face when necessary, just not visually. Realistic audio is now more than a forgotten Radio Shack brand from the 1970s. It’s a real possibility, even when not intruding on the space’s aesthetic.

What? Where?

High-performance speakers can now be concealed in drywall or wallpapered over, designed to fire through very small openings, or specially engineered to fit into unusual spaces and concealed behind custom grille-work. We could show it to you, but there's nothing to see.

In fact, nearly everything audio/video can be hidden, camouflaged, or configured to minimally impact your room, and let you keep the great sound and video. It takes a few smart people and years of experience to make it blend with your vision, but we've got that covered. :

Whether you’re working with a designer or not, we’ll look at your space and décor and help you exceed performance expectations, so you can get the goosebumps you want, while not compromising your space’s dream look. Contact us now and let’s discuss it. We’ve seen a thing or two!

Let's play "Spot the 12" subwoofer in this picture.” Hint: It's not in the in-floor heat register. It's only one example of how high-performance audio needn't intrude.

Let's play "Spot the 12" subwoofer in this picture.” Hint: It's not in the in-floor heat register. It's only one example of how high-performance audio needn't intrude.

Contact us now if you need help finding it, or you'd like to discuss how to make it disappear in your home.

How to Feed your 4K UHD Movie Hunger?

There’s nothing like basking in glorious 4K on your giganto screen. There are details you’ve never seen and subtleties never before revealed….. Is that a makeup line? No wonder "the talent" hates that stuff… But, we digress.

Even better, if you’re watching it on disc or some of the streaming services, you can even get unbelievably better sound too, as many movies are in Dolby Atmos or DTS-X.

What’s on? Glad you asked! Here’s a little rundown on some of the latest 4K titles available, or coming very soon:

  • Blackhawk Down – Not for small kids, but action packed from start to finish. Illustrates why sometimes it takes a special kind of hero. Over the top sound won an Oscar. Much like Saving Private Ryan (It was recently released in 4K too), if you didn’t watch this one with a really good surround system, you just didn’t experience it.

  • Robin Hood (2018)

  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Get this one, even if you're not a Queen fan!

  • Mission Impossible – Fallout

  • A Star is Born

  • Black Panther

  • 2001 A Space Odyssey (Remastered for the 4K release)

  • Game of Thrones: Season 1

  • Schindler’s List

  • Overlord

  • Karate Kid (1984)

  • Aquaman (2018)

  • Creed 2

There are some great pictures in there (we’re dating ourselves with that one :-) ). Whether you’ve seen them before, or have yet to experience them, grab a 4K UHD disc and settle in. What, you don’t have a 4K player? Well, some of these titles will make their way to the streaming services too. On the other hand….

What is Automation, Really?

Without lifting a finger, you’ll never leave lights on or shades open again. You drive away, and when you get a set distance from your home, your home goes to “away” mode. Your security alarm sets, lights turn off, and shades drop, even if you rushed out to the kids’ soccer practice and forgot. You don’t even have to press a button or say anything. Pretty 21st century, huh?

Really, it is. A new technology called “geofencing” takes care of it all for you. It lets your home control system know when you’ve gone a set distance from your home and take whatever action you want. Left the coffee on again? Not anymore; it’s off, too. It works in reverse too. When you’re arriving home the lights come on, your favorite music plays and welcomes you home.

Heading to the vacation cabin this weekend? Perfect, your lights will be on and hot tub warm and ready when you arrive. It’s perfect for a nice relaxing soak to erase the pressures of a long week. It’s limited only by your imagination. We can help you too, by sharing some of the ways we’ve helped others simplify their lives.

Here are some other cool ways to bring your home into the 21st century.

Auto Fan Control

Use a humidity sensor to turn on the bathroom fan, rather than a switch or motion sensor. It’s pretty darned easy to forget to turn on the bathroom fan. Sure, we’ve been putting those on timers for years, so you don’t worry about leaving fans on, but what if your bathroom is doing its best Amazon rain forest impersonation because you forgot to turn it on when you got in the shower? That’s where a humidity sensor comes in, it simply turns on your fan when the humidity rises.

Smart Security Cameras Are Revolutionaryn

Security cameras have used motion sensing tech for decades. When a predefined are of the images changes, it sets a flag and starts recording. It can also trigger other events, but if you’ve ever actually used this in anything but a completely predictable environment, you’ve probably discovered that yes, a bird flying by can really create an uproar.

Now however, motion analytics analyzes the image and can tell the difference between a Volkswagen Beatle and the 6-legged variety. It knows if a person is walking on to your property, or it’s just a dog. All of those have different consequences. Your dog escaped again? It happens, but now your camera system can send you an email. Is that a bird flying by, or is someone making off with the yard art? No need to excuse yourself from the sales meeting for the former.

The possibilities really are endless. You can be alerted when a vehicle enters the driveway, but not leaves, for instance. Pizza’s here! Have lights turn on when a vehicle goes by, but not an animal. There are mind boggling opportunities here for both business and residential applications.

We can go over the myriad possibilities for you with this one.

Safety First

New automation tech doesn’t stop with convenience. It makes you and your family safer too.

“Good Night” mode now sets the alarm, locks the doors, closes the shades, shuts off the TVs, music, and turns off the lights, except for the stairs and hallways, which go to a dim “nightlight” mode. It can even close the garage doors, so that “Did I?” never again crosses your mind, making sleep a real possibility. It keeps the bad guys out, too.

A Few More Better Ideas

Live Piano – Do you have one of those pianos that plays for you, even if piano lessons were somewhat of a disaster when you were a kid? Nothing beats real, live music. After all, that’s what we’re trying to recreate. 

We can probably play that piano music throughout your home for you, so you can enjoy it everywhere, instead of just within earshot. Yep, we’ll just send it to your house music system. What? You don’t have a house music system? Ok, we really must chat…

Automated lights in movie room.

Automated lights in movie room.

Lights Up – When you hit stop in your movie room, the lights automatically come up to 50%. When you turn it off, the lights raise to full on so you can find your way out and grab the empty drink and popcorn containers, then automatically turn off 5 minutes later.

Who’s There? – When the doorbell rings your touch screen automatically displays the front door or gate camera view. It can be on your app too. You’ll never again wonder if it really is the delivery person.

The possibilities are endless. We’d be happy to meet and discuss them and which might enhance your lifestyle best. Drop us a line now.

Getting Outside

Now might be the perfect time to start thinking about your outdoor home entertainment plans for spring. It will be here before you know it. If you start now you'll have plenty of time to design the perfect space that gives you outdoor rec and entertainment opportunities when the green leaves return next spring.

Monumental Facts

The Eiffel Tower, the world’s most visited paid building (7 million visitors annually), was originally planned to be torn down in 1909, when its permit expired. Partially because it was an outstanding radio antenna tower was it allowed to stand. It’s narrowly escaped destruction or relocation more than once during its lifetime.

Hitler wanted it destroyed as the Nazis withdrew from Paris in 1944, but the General tasked with the monument’s destruction ignored the orders, and left it standing. In 1960 Charles De Gaulle secretly put together a deal to move the tower temporarily to Montreal as the World’s Fair entrance highlight. Eventually cooler heads prevailed, and the tower stayed put, partially because people were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get permits to restore its original, mid-city location.

Standing 555 feet, the Washington Monument was the world’s tallest structure until the Eiffel tower was built in 1889. It will always be the tallest Washington DC structure, as taller buildings are forbidden. It has actually survived an earthquake, and took several visitors for what must have been quite a ride when the 5.8 magnitude temblor struck in 2011. They’re probably not clamoring to get back up there any time soon.

Partially due to a Civil War interruption and budget concerns, the tower took a lengthy 35 years to complete, finally being unveiled in 1884, and allowing visitors inside 4 years later. As a comparison, the Eiffel tower took less than 3. Of course, if was being worked on instead of being used as a cattle yard during the war, construction would have likely been faster.

Vinyl Collecting 101: Properly Maintaining Your Wax

If you are reading this, you probably have a new-found or existing respect for vinyl records and all that they have to offer. Truly, vinyl is making huge strides in renewed popularity, partly because of a format that allows listeners to enjoy an emotional connection with the experience of listening to warm sounds generated by oversized discs housed in colorful covers. While the appeal of owning a vinyl collection, large or small, varies in importance according to the collector, the methods for buying, transporting, playing, and storing are relatively set in stone. Keep reading to learn more about how to preserve your music collection for many years.

Pat Murray and Pat Johnson set up a new Project turntable for a client. It’s a Christmas present for our client’s daughter. This evening he’ll select a pair of speakers: either B&Ws or Tannoys. Ixos cabling.

Pat Murray and Pat Johnson set up a new Project turntable for a client. It’s a Christmas present for our client’s daughter. This evening he’ll select a pair of speakers: either B&Ws or Tannoys. Ixos cabling.

Getting Started with Your Collection

Older vinyl records are easy to come by these days. Other than Music Row, you can find them at yard sales, record stores, and thrift shops. Most of the time you don’t even need to spend much money on them. However, buying a good record takes a little bit of know-how if you want to add playable, quality albums to your collection. You need to contain your excitement over finding a nearly pristine sleeve of “Love Me Do.” Make sure to check the record for signs of imperfection, including ground-in dirt, scratches, chipped edges, and grooves.

Checking the condition of a vinyl record begins by carefully taking it out of the cover and visually inspecting it. While dust is to be expected, ground-in dirt is not. Use these tips to avoid problems:

  • Look for scratches, grooves, and chips by running your finger along the record.

  • Even if the record comes up relatively smooth, you should take the time to listen to it and see if it plays cleanly enough for your ear.

  • It is a good idea never to purchase a dirty disc if you can possibly avoid it. Ask if the shop has a cleaning machine and run the album you are considering through it at least once. Doing so makes it easier to identify imperfections in the copy.

Places to Buy Vinyl Records

If you are looking for a good place to purchase vinyl, you may want to consider:

  • Record shops

  • Second-hand shops

  • Book sales

  • Garage sales

  • Discogs.com

The first three choices are perfect for older, used copies. These are the types of places where you can find an album that you need to complete your collection of a particular artist. On the other hand, the last two listings offer excellent options for sourcing new vinyl. Of course, you can always check out vinylhub.com to find even more stores and websites to shop for the newest additions to your music collection.

Avoiding Bootleg Versions

Unless you are in the market for bootleg copies, almost nothing is worse than coming home with a great find only to discover the record is a fake. The best way to avoid this scenario is to learn to recognize a bootleg copy so you don’t accidentally buy one in your excitement. Bootleg copies of vinyl records typically fall short in the weight category, and they usually have an unbelievably low price tag. When in doubt, put it back.

Handling Your Records with Care

Vinyl records are easy to damage. You can scratch, crack, chip, and warp an album in less time than it takes to place it on the turntable. All you need to do is accidentally drop it, place it on the record player before cleaning it, or store it improperly to damage it. Album covers are even more difficult to keep in pristine shape, particularly because they are highly susceptible to scratches, tears, dents, and stains.

Handling your music collection with care using the following tips can help to preserve their good looks and excellent sound performance on your turntable:

  • Minimize heat exposure – Store your records in an area with a temperature between 59°F and 77°F

  • Eliminate the risk of pressure – Never stack your records on top of each other, even if you are trying to organize and declutter your home.

  • Minimize exposure to rapid temperature changes – Organize your music in an area offering relatively stable temperatures, such as climate controlled storage.

  • Avoid exposure to light – Keep your vinyl collection away from bright light.

  • Stay away from vibrations – While the Beach Boys may have loved pickin’ up good vibrations, your music collection will hate this type of experience. Store your records far away from any area likely to undergo some type of vibration, including stairways and appliances.

  • Embrace dividers – Separating your records with dividers minimizes the risk of damaging the covers when you slip your albums in and out of storage.

  • Minimize humidity exposure – Store your collection in a dry area offering 40% relative humidity or less.

If, at any point, you need to move your music collection from one living space to another, do so carefully. Use plastic sleeves to protect the record before putting it inside of its cover as well as to keep the album cover safeguarded from harm.

Tips for Organizing and Storing Your Collection

Storing your records properly is essential if you want to maintain their playability and their quality of sound. For many years, milk crates have been the preferred storage method for personal collections. Not only are they inexpensive to buy, but they are also the ideal size to organize albums. Unfortunately, milk crates do not make good storage options for the following reasons:

  • Flexible construction increases the likelihood of warping

  • Sharp edges promote damage to album covers

  • Open-air exposure encourages dust and dirt build-up

User-friendly options to declutter your storage of record albums include:

  • Storage carts for vinyl records

  • Shelving built to withstand heavy weight

  • Enameled-steel cubes

  • Designed-with-vinyl-in-mind furniture, including turntable cabinets and record player stands

Once you’ve picked out the correct storage or shelving unit for your records, it’s important to take the time to organize them. An efficient organizational method is key in making sure that you can locate individual LPs as your collection continues to grow. It can also help you show off your collection in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

Here are are some tips for organizing and displaying your records like a pro:

  • Organize by intrinsic or monetary value

  • Alphabetize them by band or album name

  • Organize them by genre

  • Order them chronologically

Maintenance tips such as cleaning the records and turntable itself

Not only is it important to store your record collection properly, but you also need to care for it well. Before you begin playing your albums, take a few minutes to check them out visually. A dirty record certainly isn’t going to play well on your turntable, and it may even sustain damage while you are listening to it. Use one of the following options to eliminate pressing residue and dust from your vinyl records:

  • Carbon-fiber brush – gently brush the dust off the record

  • Record-cleaning machine – follow the directions accompanying the machine

  • Wood glue – allow a thin coat of wood glue to dry on the record and slowly peel it off

Don’t forget about the stylus needle of your record player, because you also have to keep it clean in order to avoid damaging your records inadvertently. Use one of the following to do so:

  • Stylus brush – gently brush the stylus from back to front

  • Stylus pillow – gently place the stylus needle into the pillow

  • Ultrasonic cleaner – follow the directions accompanying the ultrasonic cleaner

Whether you are preserving vinyl as a collector or as a practicing musician, there’s a right way to do it. Truthfully, though, there is a learning curve in learning how to properly care for vinyl records. After all, this isn’t a practice that most households indulge in anymore. Nonetheless, if you are going to take the time to build a fantastic collection of albums, you may as well strive to maintain their value by using tips for the proper care of your records and turntable.  

How to be Ready for the Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Homes full of folks and the big guy doing his chimney scurrying thing again. These days it’s not unusual to have a new media streamer, like an AppleTV or Roku, fall out of his bag. That means you can enjoy more programming than ever, and most of at wrapped around your schedule, instead of the reverse.

You may not have heard, but there’s a content revolution a’brewing. Streaming media companies, like Netflix and Hulu are spending billions on new content. Some of it they’re buying, but much of it they’re producing themselves. This isn’t “shot in the garage with a camcorder and a worklight” type stuff either. We’re talking sky-high production values with all-star casts.

Much if this new content is created in 4KHDR, the highest quality, commonly available format. If you’ve gotten a new TV in the last couple of years, it’s most likely 4K, and many support HDR. Many people report HDR makes an even greater difference than going from “full HD” 1080 to Ultra HD 4k. (Fuller HD??).

But . . .

Yeah, there’s always one of those. Most of the newer streaming media players support 4K and HDR, so if the content comes that way, you can enjoy it to the fullest. Know that so much quality requires massive amounts of data, and every part of your system must be up to the challenge.

For example, if you have a TV and and sparkly new AppleTV 4K plugged into it, the HDMI cable between the two must be certified for 4K HDR or you’ll likely get signal dropouts and other unpleasantness. The same is true for every cable and component between the source and display, whether that’s a TV or projector.

Now there are several providers such as Hulu Live, DirecTV, Sling TV, and YouTubeTV that offer streaming live TV. In some cases you can even get sports channels that may be otherwise unavailable. We’re talking several of the Power-5 conference networks, NAIA live game feeds, or Ivy League broadcasts. Between that and binge watching, there’s a plethora of content available to supplement what shows up from your dish or cable.

Don’t Do It!

We’ve blathered on about this before, but there’s a common thread that binds all your streaming content together. It’s your network, and all things streaming show up only after passing through it. Although most streaming media players have built-in WiFi, don’t use it unless it’s unavoidable. That little streaming box isn’t going anywhere, so it doesn’t need a WiFi connection. We recommend using a wired network connection if a device gives you the option.

Better save your precious WiFi so your kids can 2nd screen on their tablet while watching TV. Basically, reserve your WiFI for mobile devices and laptops, while offloading data hogs like streaming media players to your hard-wired network.

Of course, we are happy to help you sort this whole thing out before anything gets unwrapped this year. Contact Us Now and we can discuss how to make your home entertainment be more, well, entertaining than ever this holiday season.

The Rest of the Family

Tracer Johnson

Tracer Johnson

The average dog can be trained to understand roughly 250 different words and gestures, many of which they will eventually learn organically. For example, that’s why when you say “Time for dinner.” Your canine gets so excited. They’re well aware what the word d-i-n-n-e-r means!

Although you’ve always heard that your dog pants to dissipate excess heat because they don’t sweat, that’s only partially true. Dogs actually do sweat; through the soles of their feet, but the heat loss is negligible, hence the panting.

OK, just remember we're always here to make tech easier and more fun for you. We keep up with the crazy pace of change in home and technology so you don't have to (as much). Drop us a line any time if you've a tech question, or just need to bend an ear.

CEDIA Expo 2018

What Was Hot at THE SHOW This Year

Quick, what’s the one constant in lifestyles today that didn’t exist 2 decades ago? Reality TV? Drive through coffee? Smart phones? Well, the last one for sure, but what about WiFi and The Internet ? It’s ubiquitous and we like it that way. Heck you could go so far as to say we need it that way. How else could we stay caught up on all the cool stuff at the CEDIA Expo? It wrapped up a few weeks ago in San Diego.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. It’s the start of football season, the U.S. Open final rounds, and that technology mosh pit that gives us a glimpse of what our technological future holds. Yep, the CEDIA Expo: 500 neon adorned booths chock full of stuff that will become commonplace, and even passé at some point.

Remember when you actually had to touch something to turn on your lights? Lifting a finger….. yawn.. These days, illumination just happens. Kind of like the way your groceries magically appear on your doorstep when you’re out of smoked gouda and capers. That’s the kind of stuff that made its debut at the CEDIA Expo… Ok, so not the cheese part.

So, What Was There and Trending This Year?


Laser projectors are finally gaining steam. They’ve several advantages over traditional lamp driven units. Sublime image quality? Check! Cool running? Indeed! Light sources that last 20,000 hours and up? Now you’re talking! No more frantic calls for a $500 lamp replacements just as your guests arrive for the Super Bowl. Several manufacturers showed off their laser wares, and the future is indeed looking bright!

More Comfortable Video

This next item may or may not develop into a full-fledged trend, but it’s sure to soothe sore necks everywhere, thanks to a trend that has yet to dissipate. That trend is putting TVs over the fireplace. Yes, we’ve thankfully been blessed with a crop of svelte, new fireplaces that leave one’s video at a more comfortable viewing height, but what if your fire is taller?

Fortunately, there are now TV mounts made just for you! The TV sits above the fireplace, just as would a painting back in the 20th century. Should you want to watch the TV sans neck crane, you simply press a button and your TV comes out from the wall to clear the mantle, then lowers your TV to a more neck friendly height. Presto!


That’s the sigh of relief you make when you never again have to leave bed to answer the nagging question “Did I lock the door?” Automated door locks end that uncertainty and more. Need temporary access for service people, cleaners, or dog walkers but can’t be around? Automated door locks are your easy answer. You can unlock a door from your phone, give people a special code you can easily change if needed.

The automation part is even more magical. For example: when arming your security alarm, your doors automatically lock too. We can even set them up to automatically turn on lights inside your home when you unlock the door. No more walking into a dark home!

I See You

As more of our daily lives arrive via delivery chances are great that someone you’ve never seen will be at your door soon. Is it the FedEX driver, or someone taking a look at growing their business… when you’re not around, of course! It a great reason video and intelligent door stations and intercoms were more popular than ever at the show this year.

Answering the door from anywhere and saying you can’t come to the door provides another protection layer and a deterrent to ner-do-wells. They can’t tell if you’re home or not, and you’ve got their face on video. We can even integrate some of these into your existing security camera system.

Most importantly, remember that UltraMedia is one of the few technology companies in Dallas with the Texas Security License. This certification is difficult to maintain—expensive, with continual education and audits.

Looking Beyond the Horizon

photo by Valerie Johnson

photo by Valerie Johnson

Meet George Jetson

We keep expecting to see George and Jane zip by in a sky car. It’s the future, you know, and many of the Orbit City developments The Jetsons enjoyed have come to fruition, along with a few they couldn’t predict back in 1962, when the cartoon debuted.  You can’t fault Mr.’s Hanna and Barbera though; Few could have realized that while we wouldn’t be living among the stars in 2018, we would regularly use technologies they depicted, such as voice control. 

With the advent of self-driving cars, albeit in only 2 dimensions, we’re one step closer to realizing their dream. In fact, there are several Jetsons’ (Jetsonz, in 2018?) innovations you’ll likely see in your home soon, if you haven’t already.

Voice Control – George, Jane and the gang regularly took advantage of voice control to direct household chores. We’re not dodging protruding hands folding our laundry and pouring drinks, but we regularly ask Alexa and Google to play our favorite music, close the blinds, and turn on the lights…. and they do!

How About This?

Forget to set the alarm but you’re already in bed? You could just grab your tablet or phone and do it from there, but why? You’d have to put your glasses back on.  Instead, just ask! Your alarm will set, doors lock, shades close, garage doors shut, and lights go to night mode. Oh, and that TV the kids keep leaving on in the play room downstairs? Yeah, that shuts off too!

Not only does it let you make things happen from the comfort of your posterior, voice control finds your favorite shows, or searches for ones you didn’t even know you wanted. One extremely popular feature is cross platform searching, where you find your desired program on any streaming or broadcast platform.

How does it work? For example, say you are looking for the movie Draft Day (Hey, it’s the start of football season). A quick query reveals it’s streaming on Netflix and Amazon, plus it’s on 2 different movie channels soon. When there are so many content delivery platforms to choose from, cross platform searching really helps you find what you’re looking for, no matter where it’s hiding.

Holograms – Those at the 2018 CES may have gotten a peek at the future: ray tracing holography. Many high dollar organizations are hard at work on the technology. The fact is however, we are still many years away from commercially available, realistic-looking holographic projection. 4K HDR technology is the next best thing however.

“Standard” 4K TV has been with us for a while now, and there are finally ready sources of commercially available content to show. Most of that is still movies and TV shows from pay per view on cable or streaming on Netflix and Amazon. 

4k (also called UHD) Blu Ray discs offer a step up in picture quality over streaming sources, and they’re worlds ahead in sound quality, if your audio system can handle it.

Why is a 4k Blu Ray so superior in audio compared to streaming?

Simple, streaming is very bandwidth intensive and so far the best surround sound formats get left off the streaming menu. Dolby Atmos, the digital steering surround format that lets sound engineers drop a sound in precisely the right spot, even directly overhead, isn’t found in streaming content. Neither is Atmos’ competitor, DTS-X.

Even the two formats that are basically direct copies of the original sound track recording, Dolby Tru HD and DTS HD-Master Audio, are conspicuously absent from streaming alternatives.

The “Oh Geez!” audio quality of these formats have been commercially available on even modestly priced surround sound gear for nearly a decade. Still, they’ve yet to find their way to “The Stream” where many of us get our content. It’s one of the biggest arguments for “going disc”.

What About That HDR Stuff, Anyway?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it’s a way of recreating the detail that merely going to more pixels simply can’t match. For example, you look up at the clouds and marvel at the subtle shades and textures that make a cloud look so fluffy and 3 dimensional. Then you look at images of clouds on your 4K TV. Yeah, they look great, but there’s no mistaking them for the real thing.

That’s where HDR comes in. It adds in the subtle differences in color and shading that separate an ultra-high definition image from reality. Done properly it’s stunning. In fact, many engineers say it TV images would have been better served by adding HDR to “old” 1080p TVs, rather than stepping up to 4K first. For many reasons, both business and technical, that didn’t happen.

NOTE: The content must be created in HDR, it’s an “end-to-end” technology. Many discs have HDR, as do programs streamed on Netflix and Amazon. The stuff’s out there, you just have to go get it! DirecTV even showed 3 holes of the Pebble Beach PGA tour stop in 4K HDR.

Why only 3 holes? Well, they were the most beautiful, so they best showed off what the technology can do. It is still exorbitantly expensive to produce live TV in 4k HDR, so they were limited to 3 holes. Hey, 20 years ago, the same could be said for gold old HDTV, too!

4K HDR Gaming is Here Now

If you’ve a gamer in your family, the X-BOX One X does 4K HDR. Look for games marked “X-BOX One-X Enhanced” to find those that have the extra pop, but leading titles such as Forza 7, Assasin’s Creed Orgins, Call of Duty WW2, Far Cry 5, and Maddens 18 and 19 all sport the full gamut of 4k HDR. It’s a visual treat you deserve to see. The lighting effects in Madden 19 with HDR must be seen to be believed. It’s really next level stuff.

Sony PS4 Pro is also 4K HDR enabled, and sports a similar array of games to ogle.

What to Watch Out For

So, what can you step in when making the 4K HDR transition? The leap to 4K HDR is asking a lot from your system. The sources and cabling all must be rated to either reproduce or transmit the bandwidth required. Old HDMI cables won’t do it reliably, if at all. You’re likely to be rewarded with a black screen or intermittent picture.

Another pitfall is buying a new 4K HDTV that does not support HDR. There are two kinds of HDR: HDR-10 and Dolby Vision, with the former being the most widely supported. There are many subtle differences between 4K TVs, but HDR support is not one of them. It’s a game changer for those that have seen it in action, and disappointment for those that saw it and discovered their set didn’t let them watch it.

Look for an HDMI 2.0a port. Many TVs supporting HDR have only one of these. Plug into another HDMI port, and poof, no HDR support.

HDMI, HDR, 2.0, 2.0a, Tru-HD, HD-Master, it’s all a bit of alphabet soup. We’d be happy to come out and look things over for you. Contact us now if you’re ready to chase George and Judy around Orbit City.

Once, People Thought They Were Fuzzy

And yeah, they kinda were . . .

In business, we use it to describe extreme focus on a goal or objective. It sends Facebook’s data 3,400 miles across the Atlantic at 13 terabytes per second on their own private network; and you thought YOU had a fast Internet connection! Thanks to one of these things, we know the distance from earth to moon averages exactly 239,228.3 miles, but is growing by precisely 3.8 centimeters per year.

Yep, thanks to the laser, we know that an object nearly one quarter of a million miles distant is becoming farther away each year by half the length of your finger…. exactly! How cool is that, and how does it relate home entertainment?

The laser contributes to reducing your home boredom quotient in several ways. Its coherent light beam plays CDs (remember them?), DVDs, and Blu Ray disks. Flat panel TV production would be impossible without it. More to the point, the manufacturing laser has directly contributed to the free fall in large flat screen TV prices, thickness reduction, and tremendous picture quality gains. That may not even be the best part.

If you’re a movie lover, you know nothing beats a really large screen. All the subtle emotion and more comes shining through.. If you’re so excited for football season that you’re about to make a pilgrimage to training camp this week, you know how important a jumbo size screen is to really bring the game home.

Great Relationships

How does any of that relate to lasers? They’re the latest projector light source, and they look niiiccce. Really! That latest generation of laser powered projectors have completely blown our socks off. Thankfully, it’s summer, and we don’t really need socks anyway.

All the stuff that makes lasers so OMG! for sending the entire 5.6 million article contents of Wikipedia across the Atlantic every bleeping second also makes the laser perfect for lighting up your media screen. The light is bright, pure, and supremely controllable.

We’ve been in this technology thing a long time. Even in this sci-fi age of voice control, auto-motion-tracking 4K security cameras, and cross platform content searching, not much impresses us anymore. Yet, the first time we dialed in a laser projector more than one “Wow!” was heard escaping our collective lips.

No Mas, No Mas, Really?

With all that, perhaps the thing that so many people really enjoy about the laser is it doesn’t quit. It’s no Roberto Duran. Your days of being greeted with a WARNING! PROJECTOR LAMP EXCEEDS SERVICE HOURS emblazoned across the screen, just as your guests settle in for the Super Bowl, are no longer.

Rejoice! Laser projectors bring you 30,000 hours of bliss with no lamp replacement, don’t heat the room like the Arc lamps in your current light cannon, and are quiet as your father’s Lexus.

Will they work in your theater? Yeah, pretty much, unless you have special circumstances, but that’s where decades of experience designing media rooms and theaters comes into play. We can take a look at your plans or space. Chances are there will be no problems making everything work.

Is big always better? Of course not, so get that pebble out of your shoe and contact us, because unlike that rock in your shoe, big is better when it comes to laser sharp images.

Not the Brightest Tool In the Shed

Well, maybe we're no missile scientists, but we've noticed that a projector sure looks better in a dark room. Sometimes however, you either don't want to sit around groping in the dark just to watch the game on a huge screen. What then?

Science has an answer. A new generation of screens actually reject ambient light, while reflecting the projector light. The upshot is that you can now sit in a room with some lights on and still watch your jumbo sized projection screen.

No, you still can't shine light directly on the screen, but trust us, it's a big improvement for enjoying a big, ole image when complete light control is impractical or undesirable.

Contact us now to see if one of these new screens or the wonders of laser projection could stimulate some new excitement in your media room just in time for the season.

What's Old is New Again!

Back, and better than ever.  There's a compelling reason!

We've got one for you to test drive!

We've got one for you to test drive!


We’re conditioned to search out the new. In the world of home entertainment, that seems a never-ending theme. Newer is more; more pixels, more channels, more surround sound speakers . . . Yes, now you can have an experience that's a virtual copy of what the studio engineers enjoyed when they made it. But, what if it’s not always about the new, but sometimes about the old?

What’s Old is New Again?

Yeah, Baby! Neilsen, the research folks that tell if your favorite TV show is a hit or dud, report that in 2017 vinyl album sales climbed for the 12th straight year. Not only did overall sales numbers climb, the number of hot selling LPs was up 32% year over year. In an era where some kids ask: “What’s a CD, and why would I ever want one?” (Really, we’ve been asked that.) it’s refreshing to know that some things are still about the music.

Why would anyone want one of those big platters, when the new high bit rate audio formats deliver stellar fidelity that was just a tangerine dream just a few years ago, unless your paychecks had a CBS, Sony, or A&M logo on them? It’s about the story and the warmth, really.

From the Corners of My Mind.... 

Just as escalating values on Hemi ‘Cudas, split window Corvettes, and Shelby Mustangs are powered by a generation’s ability to own memories from their (misspent?) youth, vinyl is visceral. It elicits a day when life was easy, and possibilities endless…. the good, old days. Vinyl also has stories. Each comes wrapped in one.

Today, there’s convenience at the cost of involvement. We enjoy from a distance, and the music isn’t part of the experience; merely hitchhiker along for the ride.

Not with vinyl; you must get your hands dirty, and it feels great! It’s the difference between growing prize-winning tomatoes and picking your salad at Whole Foods. They both taste great, but there’s a difference you can feel.

On a related note, it’s often said that environment is half of what reaches your ears. DTS and Dolby, the brain trusts who bring us movie sound track technology control, or rather create, the environment with a dizzying array of digital signal processing and audio channels. When we set up your system, we “eliminate the room” with room correction technologies. 

Surround sound has journeyed from 5.1 to 7.1 and now 11.2. Make no mistake, for movie sound tracks designed with this tech baked in, it’s nothing short of a revelation. Ooohs and Ahhhss abound every time we dial one of these things in.


When it comes to LPs, that’s sort of ironing out the kinks that make vinyl so involving in the first place. “Back in the day” we used 2 speakers and sat in between them. With the right set up it could be nothing short of sublime. 

The right pair of speakers, in the perfect location, inhabiting a spot-on acoustic environment, created what we called at the time “wall to wall and floor to ceiling”. The sound was something that’s been flat out lost with earbuds and MP3. Sound morphed into music. 

Really, few people under 40 have ever experienced it. You could actually close your eyes and see a concert unfold in front of you. Instruments precisely located in 3d space. It was moving, involving, and sometimes just a bit freaky!

Technology keeps marching on. Think Indy and the boulder. We’re not talking about stopping that big rock, but maybe stepping out of its way once in a while. A brief journey to a far-off land, right in your favorite chair. 

If you’re ready for a whole new experience, contact us now to discover how vinyl can revitalize your musical experience. We’ll take a look at your system and your space then give you the top options to bring the fun back.

Dipping Into the Poisoned Well For Your Sports Coverage?

photo by Valerie Johnson

photo by Valerie Johnson

Why do we constantly do business with companies we despise? Insurance companies, cell phone companies, and TV service providers consistently lead the way in poor consumer experience surveys. It’s a dubious distinction, but one they can’t seem to shake. In August, 2017 Comcast lead the poor customer experience race, but AT&T, DirectTV (owned by AT&T), Dish Network, and Cox Communications all secured spots in the Top (bottom??) 10, too.

Like death and taxes however, insurance and TV services are with us to stay. However, it doesn’t mean that you must use one of the aforementioned to supply your viewing pleasure.

You Say You Want a Revolution...

There’s a revolution brewing. Between changing viewing habits and a monthly bill that would avert more than one mid-life-crisis sports car, consumers are flocking away from cable TV. That doesn’t mean they now eschew TV. It just means they source it differently.

When asked why they don’t leave too, many remaining cable / satellite subscribers peg one reason; live sports. We’re a nation that loves sports, and missing out on our favorite teams, or even ones we’ve barely heard of, is something most are loathe to do.

Although most viewers prefer watching their favorite shows on their DVR or on-demand, sports don’t fit there. There’s something about enjoying it as it happens that creates a different experience level; that and spoilers on Twitter mean you can’t escape knowing who won.

The live sports experience is an integral part of our lives, and people aren’t ready to give it up. Fortunately, they don’t have to. There are an increasing number of alternatives to traditional providers to get live sports. As even most cable companies turn to streaming to deliver their programming (didn’t know you were already watching streaming TV, did you?), so can us “average” viewers.

In the last year or two a veritable plethora of live streaming TV options has appeared. There are several leaders:

  • Hulu Live
  • YouTubeTV
  • DirecTV Now
  • Sling TV
  • Amazon

Their differences change constantly, as they adjust packages and add channels. Can you watch live sports this way? Yes, yes you can, and pretty darn well, too! Is replacing cable or satellite with these streaming a good solution for everyone? No, they’re definitely not.

How do you choose which is best for you?

Plenty of homework is the short answer here. Ah, and you thought you left school behind long ago…. As when choosing between satellite TV providers, some due diligence is necessary to uncover exactly which delivers the perfect programming / budget mix to suit your viewing lifestyle.

You can use smart TVs, BluRay players, and streaming boxes, like Roku, AppleTV and Amazon Fire TV to view the different services, Again, this is a fluid situation, so we can help you work through the process. The streaming boxes have apps that let you control them when your remote is hopelessly mired in the cushions or of dead battery. The apps also let you use a keyboard to enter search characters, instead of the infernal cursor.

Common Threads

Yes, that was an Eagles tribute album, with country artists performing Eagles hits, and a darn good one, too. Check it out, if you haven’t already. So, what’s the thread binding these streaming TV services together? Fast Internet. If you’re a “have not” in the broadband Internet department, it’s vital to enjoy one program, let alone having Suzy watching something in the family room, while Billy streams MLB in the rec room, you’ve got 3 business stations in the den, and Chris binges the last season of The Americans in the bedroom.

More often than not, we find single users on multiple screens these days. For example, if Billy’s streaming MLB Network on the family room TV, chances are he’s also watching ESPN on his tablet, while YouTubing on his phone. That’s a massive bandwidth suck, but one your Internet service and home network must support to avoid wails of discontent. Wouldn’t want that, after all…..

The Secret to Your Viewing Pleasure

That’s one reason why you’re not completely “off-grid”. You may be cutting one cord, but you’re now more reliant on another. There are several parts to a great user experience here:

Internet Service – The faster, the better. That means you can pull more information down from the web at one time. That better supports bandwidth intensive HD video and music streaming, large image downloads, and general web surfing.

Home Network – Once you get all this great content to your humble abode, it must get to your users around the house. That’s your home network’s job, distributing data inside the home.

  • Your home network typically has 2 parts:
    • WiFi
    • Wired

We try to save WiFI for mobile devices, since they have no other alternative, while putting fixed devices like TVs, streaming audio devices, appliances, and desktop computers on your hard-wired network. That separation is a big secret to keeping you happy with your viewing experience.

I’m Falling….

Speaking of WiFi, there have been plenty of developments in the last couple of years to ensure you have a smooth WiFi experience throughout your home, without falling off the network or having to constantly switch to a stronger WiFi access point. It works outside your home too, so your mobile devices are ready to go when you’re in the yard or on the patio.

Is it complicated? Kinda, but that’s why we’re here! We’re happy to check everything out and make sure it’s all ready for whatever life, and 4K streaming, throws at you! Contact Us Now and let’s chat about it.

“Hey, my stuff stopped working!”

photo by Valerie Johnson

photo by Valerie Johnson

It's a Brave New World

We are in a new era in the way things work together…. or sometimes don’t! Your mobile apps talk to your music system, car, thermostats, and even your refrigerator these days.

Nearly everything that uses power has an operating system now, not just your computer. WiFi is pervasive and connects to seemingly everything. While that’s brought unbridled convenience and opportunity, into every life a little rain must fall.

Control systems manufacturers, software platforms, App developers, and the like must work with in this app-enabled ecosystem. All these entities design their creations to work together based on the rules in place at development time; except that sometimes, they don’t.

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google want to create a better user experience for the gazillions of folks walking around with their OSs and voice controls. They take no responsibility for any mischief that may arise from said changes, however.

You know how often platforms change, and each time is an opportunity for some level of disaster. When was the last time your phone updated and created a problem or two?

It’s the same with your home automation system manufacturers, remote control company, or music app. We’re all just an update from catastrophe… in a first-world-problem sense, of course. When the status quo is maintained, we’re all fine.

Unfortunately, things don't stay the same. One or more of those involved will invariably make changes and cause problems for others. Although many try to play nice with each other, the fact is, things often go sideways. It’s the nature of the beast, also known as the mobile device world we can no longer do without. We get caught in this web just like you.

For example: Apple updates iOS, Sonos decides to change their interface, or myriad other changes sneak into your system; any one of which could introduce unwanted operation…. or sometimes none at all.

For example, a recent Forbes article said of Apple’s iOS 11 update, and subsequent revision that attempted to address various issues with the original 11 update: “That said for others the horror story continues so your mileage may vary.” You’ve probably been caught in an update or two yourself. We get calls weekly on it. There’s Mr. Jones again…..

The Fix

How can you avoid any updateitus induced problems? Move to an off-the-grid cave in Greenland. If that’s not sounding like an attractive option (brrr!), here are a few ways to minimize the effects of updates and changes. Unfortunately, there is no sure fire way to prevent issues here, aforementioned Greenland move notwithstanding.

  • Unless it has to do with a pressing security vulnerability, don’t install mobile device OS updates the first day they’re released. Wait a week or two to give app developers time to revise their apps to accommodate the OS updates. Sometimes these re-update are released in as little as a few days. It may require turning off auto update features on some apps and devices. Contact us to chat about when this can help.
  • Use a hard wired network connection instead of WiFi for all stationary network devices. This frees up wireless bandwith for devices that need it, so you get better streaming media performance. A hardwired connection also prevents devices from falling off the network due to interference. A hardwired connection instead of WiFI means WiFi and wireless network hardware operating system updates will cause fewer troubles.

New Ways to Enjoy Your Outdoor Spaces

Summer’s coming! We’ll be blessed with longer days, and more time outside in the yard, on the deck, and around the pool.

We installed a James Loudspeaker system (including subwoofor) in this west Plano backyard.  Heard, but not seen!

We installed a James Loudspeaker system (including subwoofor) in this west Plano backyard.  Heard, but not seen!

Fortunately, that outdoor time can include all the favorite media you love, and you won’t need to jack in some of those infernal earbuds to do it. Besides, music and sports are meant to be enjoyed with family and friends, together. Although people now text (or Snap, depending on their age), instead of talking, yanking those silly-looking dongles from their ears, and throwing on some music everyone can enjoy together really livens things up.

As for sports, gathering outside to enjoy today’s freshly grilled offering while the team’s trying to grind out a win is one of the best ways to cap off a summertime day. Fortunately, summer encompasses plenty of sports watching opportunity: NBA playoffs, Baseball, and the football build up. Let’s get it on!

Like puppies and small children, outdoor media doesn’t stand still. There are some innovative ways to bring your favorite media into outdoor spaces, whether that’s a deck, yard, or outdoor living space (speaking of growing trends).

One thing about the outdoors, it’s wide open. While that’s a big plus for roping and ranching, it can make your music sound, well, a little thin. That’s because inside a room, the low frequencies (bass) are contained, outside they escape. There are just many more air molecules to energize, and the relatively small speakers typically used for outdoor audio just aren’t up to the task.

What About Just Using Bigger Speakers?

While that is an option, typically big disco monitors from the club just don’t mix well with your décor or landscape architecture. There’s no getting around the laws of physics though, making realistic impactful bass outdoors requires big air movement, and you can’t cheat the laws of physics. Big air movement may mean big air movers, but who’s to say we must see them?

In a page ripped from the home theater, outdoor audio has come around to the advantages of subwoofer/satellite speaker systems. Relatively small and unobtrusive speakers make most of the music. The advantage is that, hey, they’re small and unobtrusive. That also means you can place them where they deliver the most consistent sound throughout your space, without intruding on it.

The Bass? 

Didn’t we just say that realistic bass meant moving big air, and that needed bigger boxes? Yes, you read that right. Fortunately, speaker manufacturers are people too, and like to enjoy fantastic music outside without looking at it. That’s lead to the latest trend on outdoor speaker design, hidden subwoofers.

The most common application is taking advantage of that which you have in abundance outside, the ground. There is a whole new generation of subwoofers designed to be buried underground. Well, not completely, of course; the bass goes up through a tube to an exposed vent protruding from the ground. It’s about the size of a big mushroom. That’s basically what it resembles, too.

It’s a revelation. You never know outdoor audio could be so involving! You'll have them dancing in the streets…. Or the yard.

What about having music like that on the deck? We have some terrific options for you there too, but we’d better take a look at your deck first…. Contact us now and we’ll come check it out, or discuss how you can have your garden, yard, or putting green really hoppin’…..

Outdoor Viewing Gets Smaller

Yes, there’s always outdoor video. Sports just isn't the same without it! The latest generation of outdoor TVs finally look nothing like those bulky behemoths from a few years ago. Sure, those outdoor sets were flat screens…. Kind of. The latest weatherproof outdoor TVs have adopted the svelte appearance as indoor TVs, and deliver a bright, engaging picture as you hose them down.

Actual, designed-for-the-outdoors TVs open up so many placement options, and you needn’t worry about the weather or the hassle of moving your TV to a safer location when it threatens.

Right next to the spa? Yeah, that’s relaxing!

On that uncovered end of your deck? Of course!

Maybe on the side of the pool house, or the back side of the garage to create an outdoor theater… it all works great, and gives you new opportunity to enjoy your outdoor space this summer.

The point is, technology’s here now to help you and your family get so much more use and enjoyment from your outdoors. Oh, and while you’re out there, you’ll probably want your WiFi, too. Boy does it work great out there!

Contact us now about doing a site survey to see how the latest outdoor WiFI developments fit for you.

When You're talking, Who's Listening?

Voice Command is All About Control

In speaking with an associate recently, he recounted working on a palatial home some years ago for a well heeled auto industry exec. Although the home neared 15,000 square feet, the client omitted lighting control from the project because he was sure voice control was just around the corner.

Fast forward far enough that his kids, elementary school age at the time, are now homeowners themselves.... and the auto exec is finally getting his voice control.

It's a technology we've all known is “just around the corner” for quite some time. Well, back in January we reported that Amazon had sold over 8.5 million of their Alexa voice control units, so it seems that we're finally turning that corner.

As with most other technologies though, it is still in its infancy, despite the nearly double digit millions of Alexa units the 'Zon has managed to roll off its website. The good news? If you already have a home control system there's a chance we can add at least some voice control functionality to it now.

I'm Awake, Let's Do This!!

“Alexa, I'm awake” can set your entire home to your perfect wake up environment. The shades rise, your perfect wake up music rolls through the speakers, and a path magically lights to your coffee maker. Yes, there IS fresh coffee brewing, of course! Your bath TV goes to CNBC so you can catch up on the markets as you get ready for the office.

As you're leaving, simply tell your home. It will ensure your security system is activated, lights and A/V systems are off and the shades drop. If it's:

  • Lights
  • Thermostat
  • Shades
  • Media
  • Scene Presets

… chances are we can activate, deactivate or access it using your voice.

Not Too Sure About Voice Control Yet

Maybe voice control isn't really your thing (yet). Visions of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey dance through your head. In that case, we can already do all of this cool stuff from a keypad button press or by using your security system to tell the automation system when it's armed or disarmed. When it's armed to “away” the system knows you're leaving. When you disarm it, it knows your back and takes the appropriate measures to make sure you're warm and fuzzy.

Always Listening.... to Everything

Maybe you've already picked up on something that has some folks a bit unnerved. All of these voice control units must be listening 24/7. It's the only way they can be ready to carry out your commands. What do they do with this info, and who else can listen in to what they're hearing? Good question!

White coat types call these technologies Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) engines. In theory, these smart machines do nothing until they hear the “Wake” word. In Alexa's case, it's “Alexa”. For Google home, the other prime voice technology, it's “Ok, Google.” You've probably uttered those words yourself a time or two. Voice control machines must always be listening for that word or phrase, however.

Some worry that that listening capability could be hacked and surreptitious forces may listen for fun or profit. Could it happen? Possibly, if the right brainiac hacker hits on the perfect formula to do so. Amazon and Google have some pretty formidable resources at their disposal to make sure this doesn't happen, though. After all, their engineers and execs use this tech in their own homes, and they have a vested interest in keeping it secure.

The other worry is the recordings could be used by government to implicate someone. Could the voice data be used in that way? It would likely require a court order, but it does open an interesting scenario that will likely make big headlines at some point in the future.

We've reached critical mass. Not in the uncontrolled, nuclear chain reaction sense, but in that we are not going away from voice control or a world where everything is intertwined through the Internet. We've seen the future and most have readily embraced it, privacy concerns be damned! We're a convenience society now, and you have to admit, convenience has never been more, well, convenient.