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.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018

It’s that time of year again, when many of us in tech  migrate to that massive gathering of 200,000 to experience the newest, shiniest, and most bleeding-edge [and sometimes wacky] consumer gear ever thought up. 

We've been seduced by this show for years, and by every measure, the size, scope, length of taxi lines—and our sore feet—prove it. It's morphed from a pure consumer-product show to more of a statement on what's possible, as crowd-funded startups compete with the "big boys."

The big CES players have also swerved from traditional consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers; now including the major automakers, as our wheels become a tech tour de force, integrated with our wearables and home networks.

Thousands of displaying companies, showing tens-of-thousands of products, across nearly 3 million square feet of actual booth space. It was all there: the latest in 8K resolution video, and just about everything else consumer electronics related, from conversational voice control to diamond encrusted iPhone X cases (really!). It doesn't stop there: drones by the hundreds, self-driving concept cars (even a personal helicopter), including video displays that roll out like wrapping paper. 

Artificial intelligence (AI)? Yup.

One trend we’re not so fond of on the AI front: saying anything that runs an algorithm has AI. Thanks for nothing, marketers! Real AI actually learns, refining its processes to do better the next time. 

Most consumer electronics products may be smart, like your voice assistant, or “smart” TV, but true AI? The term is getting thrown around pretty liberally these days. As industry analyst Simon Bryant put it, “devices may well be smart and/or intelligent, but that doesn’t mean they are AI.” 

Other Futuristic Trends

  • Internet of Things or IoT? Tons to see and talk about.
  • Virtual reality? 
  • Augmented reality (VR/AR)?

All there. 

CES 2018 officially wrapped earlier this month, after dazzling the world with a glimpse into the future.

More than 3,900 exhibitors showcased world-changing technologies that spanned more than 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space across Las Vegas - the largest show floor in CES' 51 year history.

Get Social

There were 860,732 tweets about CES 2018 and 450,554 uses of the #CES2018 hashtag. 

From major international brands to the more than 900 startups participating, CES 2018 truly reflected the vibrant global tech industry. We encourage massive doses of skepticism. Of the start-ups from the 2017 show, only about 35% are still with us. Start-ups are not for the timid. 

Water faucets that talked to refrigerators, which keep track of train schedules—the size and breadth of what is shown at this geekly burlesque is just jaw-droppingly dumbfounding. 

We know many of you have seen or heard about a product or two, perhaps a technology that piqued some interest, know that we are your technology sentinels, and can patiently explain or even source what you desire (if available).

Caught during the show:  We're all used to having our projector screens roll up. If LG has its way, we'll soon be rolling up TVs too, and from the bottom up!

 Roll-up televisions by LG Electronics

Roll-up televisions by LG Electronics

 Touchscreen in armrest

Touchscreen in armrest

The Ultimate User Interface

How Do You Make Things Work?

The ultimate user interface? Thought control. We’re not there yet; maybe never will be, although somewhere there are labs full of researchers working on it. You won’t find the budget line item for that one, most likely. It’s cleverly disguised as a $622.87 toilet seat. No, we’ll have to settle for voice control, itself the stuff of sci fi just a few years ago. On that, we’re kind of stuck in the middle.

It’s easy to get your friend Alexa to turn on the kitchen lights if your hands are full and hitting the switch isn’t an option. You can buy a dimmer at Home Mega Mart that works with Alexa, and spend an hour this Saturday installing it.

What You Really Want

Where things are more difficult is what you’d really like your little listener to do for you: EVERYTHING! Oh, and that’s without you having to name off every single thing you’d like to change—just one quick “Alexa, I’m leaving," and she  turns off the lights, lowers the shades, kills the music, arms the security alarm to “away," and turns off all the TVs.

Fortunately for you, those same lab types have been cooking up that stuff also. We’ve been playing around with the fruits of their labor, and hey, it works! Does it work every time? Pretty much, if you speak clearly, and say the right things. That one is definitely not a “45-minutes-on-a-Saturday” operation, however.

It also takes some learning on everyone’s part. “Alexa, play Tom Petty in the den.” “Alexa, turn the lights in the living room to 40%." Those statements are fairly well defined and do what you want, for the most part. It’s when the aforementioned “everything” starts happening that things get confusing for the ole’ girl.

The key is in the products you choose to control, and how your system is set up. You guessed it—that’s where we come in! Even so, voice control is the very definition of “rapidly evolving." Amazon updates Alexa software frequently, taking into account their latest developments.

Ditto on the home products side. Manufacturers are adding Alexa functionality to different products and improving their existing interfaces. We are climbing the learning curve too. It’s new for everyone. We’ve heard stories of forward thinkers who installed systems 20 years ago in anticipation of voice control that was “just around the corner." Well, we’re turning that corner now. “Alexa, turn right!”

If lifting a finger is so 1995, and your hands are full, give us a shout and we’d be happy to discuss what you can have in the realm of voice control. Okay, it’s late… “Alexa, we're going to bed now.”


How to Get Out of the SLOW Lane? UPDATE your INTERIOR!

So, the big dude in the red suit risked life and limb scurrying down your chimney to drop a new 4K Apple TV or Xbox One X in your stocking this year. Lucky you! You’ll be rewarded with some pretty spectacular video, and all manner of other great stuff, but . . .

. . . yes, there’s a "but." Come on, you knew there would be. It turns out we were wrong. No, really, it happens occasionally. We’ve blathered on about your network’s importance over the years, but it turns out we really understated its significance.


Now that virtually every TV is 4K, and many other boxes that plug in to it are too, it’s like trying to pour a river through a straw. There’s more 4k content available, with more and more arriving every day. Compounding matters, everything from baby cameras to your Tesla hogs your network’s bandwith. Then, there’s the pachyderm hanging out on your Florence Knoll . . .


2nd screening (and its even more bandwidth-intensive cousin, 3rd screening) has taken our lives by storm, and due to all the HD video, it’s worse for your network than we’ve believed. Raise your hand if no one in your family has ever watched TV, while doing Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat on their phone, simultaneously checking out YouTube or Netflix on their tablet. Come on, we’re all becoming media multi-taskers.

Attention demands aside, what’s really taxed is our home network. It’s more and more likely that your main screen is showing some form of streaming content, whether via on-board widgets, or a connection to an AppleTV, Roku, or BluRay player that delivers streaming content. There’s an excellent possibility that is in network-crippling 4k. Now, add to that, the fact that your mobile devices and laptop show only streaming content.

Ultimate Frustration Exercise

If you thought we’d  forgotten video gaming—no such luck! We just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. With online gaming, it’s not so much the absolute bandwidth, but latency, that can be a real problem. In plain terms, latency is the time from when your kid pressed “fire” on their gaming controller, and then howled in frustration because they got hit, even though they fired first. Gamers call it lagging—whatever—it’s another way that your network can throw a wrench in the works if it’s not buttoned down.

You can see what’s driving the bandwidth bus that’s bringing your network to its knees. It’s simple math. More stuff on at the same time, and nearly every one of those things is demanding far more from your poor, overtaxed network than it did only a few years ago.

New Internet Connection Auto-Fixes Keep You Off Your Knees

Sometimes the problem is your Internet connection. Ever had to crawl back in the closet, or trek down to the mechanical room to unplug your modem and restart it? We can relate. Now there are ways to lessen your pain.

The latest power solutions monitor your Internet connection. When they detect a lost connection, they automatically power cycle your modem. Viola!! Internet connection restored, and you didn’t have to lift a finger.

There are ways to stop the choppy video, spinning progress bars, and interminable wait for the next page to load, and we’ve seen most of them. It may be your Internet service connection, service package, or internal network. Because of the number of variables involved, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We need to take a look. That being said, smooth sailing is likely just around the corner.

We’ll take a quick look and let you know how to get things screamin’ along again, and make sure you are ready for whatever demands pop up in the future. Life in the Fast Lane.....

Bigger, Badder, Better Video!

 Awesome short-throw projector, mentioned below—our installation at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas.

Awesome short-throw projector, mentioned below—our installation at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas.

Size matters.  Just ask your . . . cruise ship company.  Bigger is just more fun.  It’s the same for image sizes in your home theater.  Larger pictures have more of . . . well, everything, really.  We tend to think of the “big stuff” we think about experiencing our movies and sports on a large screen: big impact, big excitement.  Sometimes, it’s the small stuff that really makes the difference.  Say what?

It’s often the subtlety of an actor’s performance that draws you in and creates a veil of believability that makes cinema such a compelling art form.  The emotion created there is difficult—if not impossible—to convey on the postage stamp of a 55” (or even 65”) TV, especially at typical viewing distances.  Sure, they make 85”s now, but that’s better for your man cave/sports bar than your theater.  We’ll get to why in a minute.

To truly experience all that a performance offers, all aforementioned subtleties must be on full display and conveyed effectively.  Part of that equation is lost when watching on a mere mid-sized screen, and that’s a shame.  Actors pour heart and soul into their performances, and one needs an adequate vessel to convey it.

That being said, projectors have delivered massive lush, crisp, and clear images for nigh on a decade now. We still get the occasional misconception, “Is a projector as clear as a TV?”  Why yes, yes, they are—and are much larger, too.  Recently though, developments have come to pass using the same technology which revolutionized audio almost 4 decades ago: lasers!

The Source

Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation… Now you know why the term LASER stuck. Really, it’s just a beam of light, refined to its highest form. Basically, what else is that picture in your home theater but light? Why not use the purest, most refined light to create the image you’re watching? Enter, the laser projector!

It Always Seems to Happen at the Wrong Time

A laser projector’s image is fantastic, but that’s only one benefit. The other big plus goes to creating the light itself, and how it seems to experience lightus interruptus at the most inopportune times; like the day before your big Superbowl or Oscar viewing party. Sure, you can call us for a new lamp, but it may not be on the shelf. Eliminating the need for one altogether nips that problem in the bud.

Projector lasers last from 20,000-50,000 hours. That’ll pretty much ensure even the most fervent enthusiast (you?) will never encounter that dreaded lamp warning flashing on screen at the most inopportune time. Go ahead, let the kids play all the Xbox they want in the theater. Cartoons? Why not?

Shape Shifter

So, about why a really big TV is better for your sports bar than home theater… You’ve probably been at the “real” movie theater, and after you got your shoe unstuck from the gum on the floor, enjoyed the curtains part even wider after the ads played. Some of us remember when that time was used for cartoons.  Ah, to be young again!

Anyway, parting the curtains to display a wider picture is necessary when the movie is filmed in a wider screen variation. In fact, most motion pictures are now made this way. You probably are more familiar with the dreaded home variation of wide screen movies; black bars! Yes, when you enjoy “wide screen” movies at home they are more typically smaller, not bigger.

That’s no good; imagine you went out and jumped in the Suburban to take all the kids to soccer practice, and it was the same length as your Range Rover, just not as tall. That’s what happens when you watch a wide screen movie at home. Instead of getting wider, they stay the same and give you some black bars. Yuk!

We hate being typical, so here’s another way. Add a piece of glass to the front of your projector called an anamorphic lens and use a projection screen that’s the same shape as those widescreen movies you love.

It lets you not only get rid of the black bars, but your picture is brighter and crisper, too. The lens and projector work together to maximize resolution and brightness. If movies are your thing, it’s the cat’s meow, and the end of black bars on widescreen motion pictures. Happy day!

If you love movies, hate black bars, and would like extra brightness and clarity in your theater, contact us now to see what will work in your specific application. Don’t have a projector? We’d be happy to chat about that, too:-)

Life is "Too Short"

Yes, that was a rap song from your college days, but we digress. It's also a revolution in home theater projection, related to those ultra-short throw projectors your kid's teacher uses in class. The home theater variety is thankfully much nicer!

When you haven't room for a traditional projector, or would rather not see one hanging off your ceiling, ultra-short-throw may come to your rescue. See the pic at the very top for an idea of how it works. Yes, the projector is hidden in the svelte cabinet directly under the screen!

Ultra-short throw is much more application specific than traditional projectors, so give us a shout if it sounds interesting. We'll be happy to investigate if it's a good choice for your particular application.

 Another example of a short-throw projector.  Yes, we can do this, too.  (Stock photo.)

Another example of a short-throw projector.  Yes, we can do this, too.  (Stock photo.)

New WiFi Security Hole Just Exposed

Key Reinstallation Attacks (“Krack Attacks”)

We virtually all use WiFi, whether on our phones, laptops or tablets, so when a major security vulnerability is announced, it's time to pay attention. Just announced in mid October, this is a biggie!

Dubbed "Krack Attacks", likely because the more technical term "Key Reinstallation Attacks" hasn't the proper ring to it, these are pulled off by the innocent-looking dude in glasses and a tie sitting at the next table. 

If a hacker is close enough to your mobile device or router to connect, they can basically create a fake network and trick your device into connecting to the bogus one, rather than the legitimate WiFi network. The problem is in the WPA2 security protocol used by most devices, so nearly everything is vulnerable. Newer Android and Linux devices have the highest exploitation risk with this hack.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself From Krack?

Update all your mobile devices and WiFi routers in your home and business ASAP. In your business, it's likely IT is already on top of this, but check with them just to be sure.

So, About That Game...

It’s finally here—the season of the brown, oblong ball that rarely makes forceful contact with a player’s foot.  And yet, they call it football. The NFL is probably the world's most effective entertainment franchise.

One needs only take a peek at the difference between the NFL now and back a few decades to see it. Movies? On the decline. NASCAR? Once huge—not so much now. TV? Perhaps, if you can pry the 2nd screen distraction from people's hands. The National Football League, on the other hand, is the national pastime now. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

 This is one of the model home theaters we designed and installed for Darling Homes in Frisco, Texas.  We designed a full-on home theater, and a game room just outside it.

This is one of the model home theaters we designed and installed for Darling Homes in Frisco, Texas.  We designed a full-on home theater, and a game room just outside it.

Sure, the NFL Has Rivals.

Take college football, for instance. Millions of sports fans do, especially now that college football games can now be seen starting Thursday nights, rather than being confined to the traditional Saturdays. Speaking of tradition, that's part of college football attraction, although tradition was recently broken with an actual National Championship playoff series. No, really!

College football takes us back to our youth in a way that pro football just can't. Despite the cry that college athletics, and especially football, now approaches a profession in many ways, it is still played by kids with a passion for the game. There's real pageantry and passion there that's hard to duplicate.

Memories of gearing up for games on crisp, fall afternoons, and cheering fellow students are still fresh in many minds. It's what drives alums to proudly display their alma mater's logo and colors, splashed across everything from sweatshirts to the game room wall.

What else could make so many still get worked up over a single play, decades after the ball crossed the plane? Why does someone always make sure Washington State University's logo is behind ESPN College Game Day's set, although the show itself has never set foot in the Palouse? Why have Penn State's unis remained unchanged for over a century? Why is there a “Touchdown Jesus” at Notre Dame, spear toting Horseback Riders in Pensacola, and live buffaloes running in Boulder? It's college football, that's why!

What could possibly make watching football any more exciting? How you watch it, of course! Family and friends, all gathered to experience the game. Of course, if you're all watching a screen on your wall that makes that postage stamp Jerry's got hangin' from the ceiling of Texas Stadium seem downright tiny.... now you're talking!

Four Times the Fun

Sometimes it's tough to pick just one game, though. What if you could split your screen, so you can keep your eyes on up to 4 games at once? When something big happens, you'll instantly blow up the action on one of them to fill your entire screen. It's like a sports bar, but you never leave the comforts of home.

Adding to Your Game Experience

It's not only the size that brings the game experience home, though. Most people don't realize it, but games now are broadcast in full surround sound. All the game sounds fill your room. It really is like being there, but no one's going to spill a cold drink down your back!

Football isn't the only reason to take a good look at home entertainment. Baseball season is in the heat of the pennant race now. Soon, it will be playoff series time, leading up to the World Series. It's another reason to gather with family, friends and food. Judging from what we've seen over the years, many of you take full advantage of the opportunity.

To make sure everything's ready to go before “Go Time”, have us over for a quick look see. Contact us now though, it's always one of our busiest times of the year. We can make sure everything's working perfectly, or chat about how to bring out the best in your fall entertainment experience.

They're Going Back Now

As if it wasn't busy enough, kids are headed back to school, whether that means flying back to college a thousand miles away, or trekking a thousand feet to an elementary school. One thing that makes all the difference these days is your WiFi set up. Chatting with your collegiate on Skype? Junior high homework on the laptop?

Either way, robust WiFi makes all the difference. The newest WiFi even lets you move freely about your home with no dead spots or having to switch your WiFi network as you go. Imagine that! People tell us it's the best thing since WiFI itself.

Can You Hear Me Now? YES!

TIP: If your home has poor cell service, some cell providers allow WiFi calling. Check to make sure yours does. To use it, it's normally a simple matter of just turning it on in your phone's settings. If your home WiFi is up to it, you'll them be able to make calls without asking that infernal question ever again.

Finally, It's That Time Again....

The big annual CEDIA EXPO just ended. That's the one where all the consumer electronics companies under the sun show their latest cool stuff. It happened in San Diego, and there was some stuff there that will make your life easier and more fun . . . maybe both! There are at least a couple things at the show every year that really wow us. Stay tuned to this space for news from the show.

Contact us now to make sure your systems are back to school ready and up to snuff for the football season and baseball playoffs.

When Was This?

  • Only 14% of American homes had bathtubs, much less the 3-4 bathrooms most new homes sport today.
  • 90% of doctors had no college education, instead attending “medical schools” that were nowhere near the kind of facilities where doctors study today, after they've already attended 4 years of college.
  • 20% of adults could not read or write, and only 6% graduated from high school
  • Mother's Day, Iced tea, canned beer and crossword puzzles had yet to make their debut.
  • Las Vegas, NV had only 30 full time residents.
  • Coffee was only 15c / lb. One suspects most folks didn't get theirs at Starbucks . . .

Give up? 

Things have changed so much. Americans then would scarcely recognize much of what's so normal today we don't give it second thought. Smart phones that can communicate with nearly anyone around the world, using voice, text, and video, in addition to running a stunning variety of apps. 

Air travel, that, despite its failings, gets us safely throughout the world in only hours instead of days or weeks. Huge flat screen TVs that let us watch sports from around the globe as if we were there. An entire library's worth of books contained in a slim tablet smaller that just one book. So, when was life in the US as described above? It was only 105 years ago, in 1912. 


A New Way to Get Your Football

Your Alternatives Just Got A Lot Sportier

Canadian football has kicked off. The NFL season is fast approaching. College athletes are reporting to camp any day now. For many people, that's their primary reason for owning a TV. All those other shows? Just a bonus! On a related note, finding those NFL games online starts sounding better and better when you take a peek at the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index numbers.

 We set up this game-day system for The Ritz-Carlton Residences.  We used a short-throw projector, and a Black Diamond projector screen.

We set up this game-day system for The Ritz-Carlton Residences.  We used a short-throw projector, and a Black Diamond projector screen.

The ACSI is a ranking of customer satisfaction (Duhh!) measured by the University of Michigan. Yes, they still examine consumer rankings from Ohio... In any case, they're pretty much the benchmark for customer satisfaction rankings. 

Typically, cable companies occupy the lowest rungs of the CSI ladder. Hey, whadda ya know, this year is no different..... unless you live in Canada, whose cable cos for some reason have customer satisfaction ratings far higher than their American counterparts, according to an early 2017 JD Power survey. 

In Canada JD and the boyz found that Netflix ranked 81% for comparison, while SaskTel ranks highest in both television at 72.7 and internet service satisfaction with a 71.5 for a fifth consecutive year. In television, TELUS ranks second with a 71.9 and MTS ranks a very close third at 71.8. Your experience, of course, may vary!

Among the big US cable boys, Comcast, Frontier, and Time Warner didn't finish last. That was Mediacom, which despite finishing last, actually boosted their score from last year, hanging on by 2 fingers at 56%. Abysmal, yes, but up from 2016's 54%. Sooo, they got that goin' for them! It kept Comcast, Frontier, and TWC out of the cellar (Wasn't that a Ratt album back in the '80s?) where their respective 58 and tied for 60 scores would have otherwise landed them.

So, now that you know you're not alone in your contempt for the CableCos, what else is out there if you'd like to “cord cut”, and go sans utility company?  First, the bad news is that you will still need a utility, and likely one of the aforementioned, to slurp up your broadband Internet. You just won't need them to put a picture on that new 75” vision of loveliness adorning your rec room wall.

Where To Now?

Ok, you finally drew the last straw with Comwarntier. What are your choices, then? One popular choice is SlingTV, If you think you've heard the name before, you probably have, SlingTV evolved from the Slingbox. Now, though, no box is actually needed; you just get the TV part.

It's streamed from the good, ole Internet. The best part for sports fans, is that you can get ESPN, including “The Duce” and 3, TBS, TNT, FS1 and 2. It's 25-40 clams a month, depending on the number of channels and simultaneous streams fot your lifestyle.

The bad news is that, although they recently introduced DVR functionality, Disney and ESPN channels are not included in the “pause and delay” group... yet. Since they are both part of the Disney empire, one suspects their absence is due to a legal, rather than technical reason. We'll keep you up to date on that one.

Sling's available on streaming's usual suspects: AppleTV, Roku, Amazon FireTV, Google Chromecast, etc. That's just the beginning when it comes to fast piping sports. Most of the major sports networks have streaming services available on those boxes as well, whether or not you choose to sling yourself into he next decade.

For example, if the “other football” is more your thing, there's Fubo TV, also available on FireTV, Roku, Chromecast, etc. There you'll find a veritable plethora of sports too, with a heavy emphasis on footbol. Soccer leagues with streaming coverage on Fubo include La Liga, English Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, the UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores and Primeira Liga. They also have Bein Sports, FS1 &2, ESPN, Big10 Network, and more.

You've probably heard of Hulu, too. The one-time Netflix alternative is jumping into the live streaming arena with both feet now. Yes, sports play a big role in their programming. The Golf Channel, ESPN 1, 2, U, & News, CBS Sports Net, Big 10 Network, FS 1&2, and TNT are all rearing their heads on Hulu live streaming.

Note that live streaming of NFL games is not available on smart phones with Hulu. Deal breaker? For some, definitely! Hulu live streaming is for AppleTV, X-Box One, and Chromecast, now with Roku and Amazon FireTV set to arrive in the near future.

Recording of live TV with Hulu is on the cloud with 50 hrs of recording. Not enough? Hulu says: “With Enhanced Cloud DVR you can record multiple shows at the same time, fast-forward through any content in your DVR (including commercials!), and stream your recordings anywhere, on any of your supported devices.” So there!

So, can you get over the live sports hump without cable now? Yes; yes you can. The DVR issue may be a problem for some. Heck, who are we kidding, it is a big deal, but cloud DVRs are closing the gap here too. I see a pile of cable boxes adorning Comcast, Time Warner, and Frontier's steps as we speak....

So you may be right around the corner from ditching your cable TV service altogether, but there's one thing that can make or break your streaming TV experience; your home network /Internet connection combo. Both must be stellar for your experience to be smooth, like great video.

Putting all streaming devices like TVs, AppleTVs, Roku, etc on a wired Ethernet connection and off your WiFi is a big help. That frees your WiFi from the insane demands of HD video streaming, unless of course, you're streaming to a wireless device. If that's the case, robust WiFi makes all the difference.

Don't you just hate it when you grab your iPAD and start streaming, only to find dropouts and glitches as the connection pukes its guts up all over your fine Persian carpet? Yep, it's a problem! Even if you have more than one wireless access point (WAP) in your home, many mobile devices don't automatically switch to the strongest connection. That's a pain if you're streaming the game and it drops the connection just in time for you to miss the best bicycle kick goal this year.

It's also big trouble if you're using your tablet or smart phone to control your home systems like lights, HVAC, window treatments, or music. That means a good connection is a necessity, no matter where in your home you are.

We can fix the roaming WiFi problem. It's not as simple as just using a stronger WAP, or adding a WAP or two (or even 3), although that's certainly part of the solution. The trick is making them work together and then managing your device's wireless connections so they're always connected to the strongest signal. We have some tricks up our sleeves for that. Stellar WiFI and a super fast broadband connection everywhere? Now that's a good time!

One last thing before we head on outta here, but just as important: your wired internet backbone. After all, all your wireless has to get it's network connection from somewhere, and all your wired devices appreciate a strong backbone. Strong backbone, weak mind???? Oh, that was something else. In any case, all the cables and boxes that make up your wired backbone should be inspected to make sure they are taking advantage of up to date technology.

It's advanced significantly in the last 5-7 years, and that means a more robust connection and and the ability to stream to many more devices simultaneously, even while some in the family are talking on VOIP phones, playing video games, or listening to streaming music, like Pandora or Spotify.

One things that is often neglected, even if the hardware has been updated a few times since Ceasar let out his last breath, is the software. All your network devices get periodic updates from the factory to help performance, security, and functionality. In some cases it updates automatically, but in most cases it's up to someone to make sure the latest update has been downloaded and installed. That's right up our alley, so we will be happy to check that for you, too.

We'll look at all that network stuff for you, both wired and wireless, to make sure you have the best experience possible. Just contact us now to get things moving.

UltraMedia is Growing!

Chris Jones, Systems Designer, has been in the audio/video industry since 1992.  (How are we so lucky to end up with all these seasoned vets?)  For a very long time, Chris worked in “distribution,” selling lots of different audio-video products to lots of different audio-video companies.  In 2017, we lured him over to the custom installation side.  He’s a perfect fit for UltraMedia, with his extensive knowledge of audio-video gear, and outgoing and friendly demeanor that clients love.  Like all of us, he finds the ever-changing nature of technology a challenge, and has way too much “special training” to list, having been in the industry for so long.  He loves it all—his biggest thrill matching the right technology to his clients’ needs.  His two favorite industry mags are CE Pro, and Residential Systems.  In his time off, family and fishing come first. 

Read about the rest of the team at www.ultramedia.biz/best-home-theater-company-dallas/

Can a Home Theater Add Value When It Comes Time to Sell?

It's time to consider updating the entertainment quality in your home. You're thinking about investing in a home theater, but you're not sure if you should make the move.  There are plenty of benefits to upgrading to a comprehensive, custom home theater, of course.  You'll love the sound quality, and your friends won't want to watch movies anywhere else. But, how will it impact your home's value?

Consider Your Ideal Home Theater Space

Perhaps you would like to convert an extra bedroom, or even the family room into a space where you can watch movies, listen to music, and just enjoy your family or friends. Home theater rooms, such as those with customized projectors, large screen TVs, and comfortable seating really can be an excellent investment in your own personal enjoyment. Imagine a Saturday night spent with a few good friends, lounging in a room with lighting control, perhaps automation, surround sound, and the perfect acoustics.  That may be desirable to you, but is adding a home theater to your Dallas home going to make it more desirable to others who may buy your home in the future?

Home theater Dallas technology

Today's Buyers Love Tech

One of the nicest benefits of upgrading your home's entertainment system and overall technology is that it can boost your home's value. In the Dallas home market, where there is a lot of competition, having added features like this can help your property stand out among others like it – especially in the luxury market. In some cases, this advanced type of technology can boost your home's value by around 72 percent of the amount you invest in the system, depending on what you select.

And value doesn't just come in the final sales price of a home. Every day a home sits on the market costs a seller money, meaning it is paramount for sellers to find ways to stand out from their competition. Dallas home buyers appreciate high-quality technology and upgrades that improve their life quality. This includes features such as:

  • Custom theaters designed to the home's specs
  • Lighting control
  • Outdoor entertainment areas – in case you don't have that room you were hoping
  • to remodel
  • Security cameras
  • Control systems including wireless or in-wall systems
  • Multi-room music systems
  • Automation that helps your home to do what you need it to do
  • Connected networks of entertainment features

If you haven't thought about the value this can bring to your home, do so now. This system is one that will last a lifetime. It enhances the home in various ways. For example, the theater system works very well as a getaway and entertainment feature that will give them a reason to have friends over.

Theater Systems Don't Limit Home Buyers

Another key reason to invest in a theater system for your home is that it's not limiting for buyers. Other types of upgrades you make (such as swimming pools) require the new home buyer to spend time and money repairing, updating, and maintaining. That's not the case here, since after setup, the system is ready for use without any upkeep other than perhaps a small amount of dusting, and the software updates that ever-advancing technology requires.

Make Your Home Your Own

At the end of the day, homeowners want to make upgrades that they enjoy while knowing they can help their home sell later on. Check out the options available to you at UltraMedia, Inc. They are the designers of interior technology that enhances the quality of life and may even offer a bit of a boost to your home's value.

Surround-Sound from Above—It's Really Raining!

There's a new surround-sound sheriff in town, and his name is Atmos.  From the same folks that brought you Dolby surround back in the day, Atmos lets filmmakers put sounds exactly where they'll do the most good—even in a particular place in your ceiling. The effect is stunning!  Blu Rays from Spiderman to Hunger Games, and Mad Max: Fury Road use Atmos; hundreds of films in all. It's really a revelation.

We'd be happy to check out your system and let you know what it would take for an Atmos upgrade.  Normally, we'll have to at least add a couple of speakers for you to get the effect.  If you revel in movies, that enjoyment will certainly get a nice boost.  You'll get pulled right into the movie.  It really can be that good! The “you are there” quotient goes up to 11.  We didn't believe it, until the first time we experienced it. WOW!

Change your Analog Security Cameras to HD Using Existing Wiring (You Can See Clearly Now)

Tired of looking at your security cameras, trying to figure out if that figure lurking is Uncle Harold, or 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 good we can use it for new HD cameras. You won't believe what you've been missing. It's like lifting a veil covering your cameras all these years.  If seeing shadowy images on your security cameras has really got your goat, and you'd like to actually be able to tell WHO you're looking at, this upgrade is certainly worth looking into (and at)!  You'll probably be able to use the wire, but you'll have to recycle the cameras.  Call Pat and let him show you an active system!

 UltraMedia is one of the few AV companies in Dallas that has its security license.  A security license is required by the State of Texas to legally install camera systems.  This photo was taken today from one of our installations.

UltraMedia is one of the few AV companies in Dallas that has its security license.  A security license is required by the State of Texas to legally install camera systems.  This photo was taken today from one of our installations.

Seen or Unseen?

It's time to replace your old in-ceiling or in-wall speakers.  The new high-tech speakers look better and deliver the performance demanded by new digital music and surround formats. 

The new ones even look better?  Yes!  In the last couple of years, manufacturers have redesigned speaker grilles to have a much more svelte look. You'll love it!

You may even be a candidate for completely invisible speakers. That's right—speakers that have no visible grille at all!  They completely disappear after installation, so you hear great sound, but see nothing. The concept has been around for decades (and we installed them decades ago), but like most things "tech," they've come a long way in 20 years.  They're easier to install, abetter value, and the sound, well, let's say it's been taken up a level (pun intended).

Those old speakers aren't necessarily done, though.  We'd be happy to move them to a room where you've been dying to enjoy some music. What about your garage, craft room, or workshop?

 These cool new speakers have a great low profile.  Notice there's no bezel.  This is not a stock photo.

These cool new speakers have a great low profile.  Notice there's no bezel.  This is not a stock photo.