Don't Lose your WiFi in the Back Room Anymore!

Isn't it fun holding your tablet over your head at just the right angle to try and get WiFi in your back bedroom? Didn't think so.

We may be able to help.  Adding a wireless access point (just say “WAP”) in poor WiFi areas is just what the doctor ordered.  All we need is a single network cable, and chances are there's one close by.  If not, we may be able to get one there.

If you've been suffering from slow or non-existent WiFi in parts of your home or business, those days may be over.  Let us take a peek around (network techs call this a “site survey”) and we'll let you know how we can fix it.

Faster, Pussycat!

If your WiFi has been sitting there happily for 5 years or more, we can probably make it A LOT FASTER everywhere in your home.  Technology marches on, you know.  With all the multiple devices, streaming media, and large file downloads to mobile devices, this will be a difference you'll really feel.

Bigger is No Longer Better

We were in a customer's old theater recently to freshen things up a bit, and were reminded how clunky some of the old remote controls were. Sure, "back in the day" a remote big and heavy enough to require two hands was the norm in many high-end systems.

Well, technology marches on, and so have remote control designs.  Many of those old remote screens look pretty bleak compared to the bright, crisp displays available today.  Many old remotes have grown dimmer with the passing years. Has yours?

Your remote is your connection to your system.  An upgrade could let you hold your remote comfortably in one hand, and still harness all the control power you'd ever want. Maybe we can even add a few enhancements on it for you. Lights, camera, Bueller?

Small changes can make a big difference to your overall enjoyment. It may even be something we can do in a day or two, but you'll love for years.

Contact us now to give everything a once-over for you.

Here are a few of the small-but-mighty handheld remotes that are so popular with our clients.  Please come by for a demo!

Here are a few of the small-but-mighty handheld remotes that are so popular with our clients.  Please come by for a demo!

A New Development We Bet You'll Love

Do It With the Lights on For a Change

Here's something our clients love. If you have a front-projection system, you probably know that complete darkness has delivered the best video performance—until now.  If you'd rather sit in a lit room and enjoy the game or concert with friends and family, technology has come to the rescue.  New, light-rejecting screens make it easy to enjoy a big picture—with the lights on, and window treatments open!

A Really Big Image—Where None Has Gone Before!

If you've wanted a really big image, but have a bright room, this new technology may be perfect for you.  Let us take a look, get some measurements, and determine if a light-rejecting screen is a fit for your large-but-bright space. 

If you already have screen, your church, office, or charity may be thrilled to get it. 

Here's a link to a recent installation:

Cyber Security and You

A major headphone manufacturer has been in the news recently, and although there's a saying in the PR industry “All publicity is good,” you'd likely get an argument from their execs. The hubbub was about a lawsuit over their alleged practice of selling user data to advertisers and data mining firms. The situation illustrates digital age differences our parents didn't face—until now.

How prevalent is the situation, and how does it affect you?  Very, and that depends. You've no doubt been annoyed to point of ignoring those 23 page User Licensing Agreements. Once the exclusive realm of software companies, you're now forced to check their “agree” box before you use your TV, refrigerator, phone, car, and Blu Ray player—in short, everything that runs software--which is basically everything with electrons flowing through it.

Bears and Caves

It's the old trade-security-for-convenience argument. As a society we've voted for convenience nearly every time. Just because we like things a little easier doesn't mean we can't be secure, too. After all, our ancestors killed bears and lived in caves so that one day we'd have to make this choice. Lucky us!

There is a fine line between maximizing your user experience and letting Samsung, Google, or Facebook know every inner working of your life. Although we've been adroitly treading that line for a few years now, it keeps getting finer. You know that ride share companies know where and when you travel, Google and Microsoft know everything you search for, and Facebook . . . well, they know just about everything else!

What to Do?

Let’s discuss how to protect you and yours' data. Although blissful ignorance is nice, eventually it can bite you in your somewhat exposed rump.

First, the Basics

  • Invest in trusted, multi-faceted security software for your computers (remember them?).
  • Always access the Internet from behind a firewall. Some specialized applications require temporarily turning yours off. REMEMBER TO TURN IT BACK ON!
  • Don't use an unsecured PC, even (especially) someone else's.
  • Don't fall for phishing or virus scams. Never open any email message with an attachment unless you are 100% sure it's safe first. Just because it came from a trusted source doesn't mean it's safe, either. Computers get hacked all the time and use “bots” to hijack email accounts and send malicious communications without their owner's knowledge.
  • Secure your wireless network. We can help with that.
  • Don't reveal travel plans or other sensitive info on social media unless it's in a private post (even then it scares the you-know-what out of us). Yeah, we know that talking about travel is half the fun, but it's an info gold mine for thieves or other ne’er-do-wells.
  • Password protect all your mobile devices and set them to sleep after a minute. That helps keep someone from picking it up 2 minutes after you leave it on the table at Starbucks and having free access to your whole life. Come on, you know your entire existence is on your smart phone!
  • Don't use easy passwords. You know what we're talking about: “12345” or “password” are too easy to guess. Change user names, too. “Admin” is often a default, so make sure you get it changed to something that makes sense to you, but is more difficult to guess for the unscrupulous out there.

What Else Really Helps?

  • Updates - Keep all the firmware on your mobile devices, computers, A/V gear and network equipment up to date. Often those updates deal with recently discovered security vulnerabilities.
  • Audit - Have a system audit performed to ensure hardware and software is updated and current regarding security and compatibility.
  • Control System App Check - Have your integrator (That's us!) check your control systems and associated mobile apps for anything that would make it easy for bad guys to get control of your stuff. This is especially important if you're remotely controlling security alarms, cameras, and lighting systems.
  • Deny Mobile Permissions - Clamp down on mobile apps permissions. Don't let them run in the background when not in use unless it's part of their core function. Also, limit their permissions to access your data, especially when not in use. It's a real pain if you have 76 apps loaded on your phone, but well worth it.

Contact us now to give everything a once over for you.


Cowboys Fit Update

"Fit" Facts:

  • 60,000 feet of low-voltage wiring
  • 36 speakers
  • 28 televisions
  • 6 WAPs
  • cameras

We've been so grateful for the opportunity to work on this wonderful project.  We wired, and installed a video wall, TVs, pendant speakers, sub-woofers, and in-ceiling speakers. It's a lot of work, and there is certainly some pressure, but we're having a great time.  The 2nd floor exercise area is just about finished, as you'll see here.  The showers, locker rooms, and reception area are still being worked on.  The facility is amazing.  Everything you could want in a gym.  Be sure and visit their website:   I hear they still have memberships available!

And, an amazing coincidence: Mike's son has just gone to work for the gym, as one of their top-six trainers!


Fun Project: Cowboys Fit

We were asked to wire the Dallas Cowboys' new fitness center, Cowboys Fit, for speakers and TVs.  This fitness center will be open to the public.  Tuesday, we were excited to begin work!  Pat's been checking on the job once or twice each day, and yesterday I was lucky enough to tag along.  Here are some images of our crew at work.  It will be an amazing facility, and it was so exciting to get to see it behind the scenes.  So many amenities, first class.  You can join now!


Sony's 4K Ultra Short-Throw Projector

UltraMedia was invited to demonstrate new technology to the residents of the Ritz-Carlton residences in downtown Dallas.  This 4K short-throw projector from Sony will open the projector market to many.  It projects the image upward, and doesn't require a ceiling mount.  It can be placed on a surface (like a typical console) just underneath the projection screen.  It's a powerhouse.  The fact that it doesn't require a ceiling mount cuts down on installation time.  It's easy to reinstall, if you move or remodel.  We appreciated support from Sony, Screen Innovations, and DirecTV.  Just-like-being-there sound was provided by Sonus Faber speakers and a REL subwoofer.

Pat shows that the image from the Sony 4K Ultra Short-Throw Projector is projected from below the projection screen (screen by Screen Innovations).

Sony's VPL-GTZ1, the world’s first ultra-short-throw 4K laser light source projector.  Get more information here.

Can't leave out these awesome Sonus Faber speakers.  They are beautiful, and delivered awesome sound during the Texas-OU football game at the Ritz-Carlton Residences.

With a throw of just zero to seven inches from the screen to the edge of the unit, this will project a 66" to 147"  diagonal picture using floor, ceiling or rear projection.  See more information on Sony's website.

This projection screen had color-changing LED lights on the back, and we changed the light from red to orange, depending on which team was ahead.  The Ritz-Carlton residents had fun with the back-and-forth of the colors.  Thank-you to Screen Innovations for their awesome support!

SIM2X-TV at the Ritz-Carlton's Texas-OU Game Day

The SIM2X-TV was introduced at CEDIA this year, and we had an opportunity to test-drive it (thank you so much, SIM2!) at an event we co-hosted at the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Saturday.  This little Italian-sportscar of a projector is a perfect solution for some challenging situations.  Such as: difficulty getting wire where it needs to go.  And when you're on the move, you want a projection system that's easy to take with you.  This picture was taken at our demo last weekend.  It was a big hit, as Ritz-Carlton residents discovered the easy set up and usability.  See more specs, and give us a call if you'd like to talk more about it.  We were impressed, and sometimes that's hard to do!  See our Facebook page for more photos.

Projector screen provided by Screen Innovations.

X-TV short-throw projector provided by  SIM2 .

X-TV short-throw projector provided by SIM2.

X-TV short-throw projector provided by  SIM2 .

X-TV short-throw projector provided by SIM2.

UltraMedia's Team Lunch

The UltraMedia team finally had time on our schedule for our not-quite-annual Christmas lunch.  Every year we try, but we’re so busy during the holidays, that it sometimes slips by us.  On Friday, we had a wonderful time at Katy Trail Outpost, talking about everything from our work, to our gratitude for one another.  We’ve never known a stronger team.  We agreed that it’s because all of us carea lot.  About each other, our clients, and the health and longevity of our business.  We had some great laughs, and great barbeque, on a beautiful day.

Technology Presentation at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas

Pat spoke to members of King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas about home technology yesterday. He was invited to present by one of our clients after working together on updating our client’s home technology.

Here are a few topics that were brought up in the Q&A session:

What do you think of DirecTV? DirecTV is typically the least problematic of the television content delivery options. Weather is probably the biggest threat to service; or, is the single most likely reason for an interruption in service. Interruption in service is often caused by a level 3.5 to 4 thunderstorm south of Dallas—not your location. And if the weather is that bad, you probably need to get up from watching television! For those that live up north, say in Canada, it doesn't take much of a storm to knock satellite out. But we get real strong signal in north Texas. Whether you use a small satellite dish on your house—or cable—either way, the signal is coming across via satellite.  An antenna on your house is the only broadcast that doesn’t use satellite in its delivery. Even cable companies are downloading from huge satellite dishes.  (Pat reminded everyone that a great way to save money on a service like DirecTV is to be sure off any receivers you're not using!)

Does AT&T now own DirecTV? Will anything change?  Yes, AT&T's purchase was successful, and it's too soon to know what will change, if anything.

If you use any means other than an antenna to receive television content, you’re using a satellite. You may use a small satellite dish on your house. Even cable companies are down downloading data from huge satellite dishes, and then distributing via cabling.

What about bundling? What is bundling? Bundling is purchasing data services like phone, Internet, and television from one source. (As one man in the audience said, “I get one giant bill!”)

Someone asked to talk about audio next. Pat responded, “For you, is it luxury or is it noise? For me, if music is going to be on, it had better sound good. If it's not a high-quality sound, it's noise.”

Someone from the audience then interjected with a question about vacuum tube amps. Are they still around? Pat answered that they’re still being built from scratch and really sound good. But there are a few drawbacks. They're really more for hobbyists than mainstream consumers, because they aren't very efficient, you have to occasionally replace the tubes, and they put off a lot of heat.

Next, a woman asked about turntables. Pat replied that there is definitely a resurgence in turntables. Record player sales are going up and CD sales are going down. People like the interactive feel of the vinyl records. And for many, it brings back that nostalgic feeling we had when we listened to records growing up. Vinyl is the only non-digital source of music right now. Our ears are analog. Digital is a more convenient way to have 10,000 albums at your touch, but it doesn't deliver the same experience.

Matt Sworn in as City of Lavon Reserve Police Officer

In 2013, Matt worked doubly hard—he worked as a technician at UltraMedia, and he also worked his way through police academy.  In October 2013, Matt completed officer training, and in October of 2015, was sworn in as a Reserve Police Officer with the City of Lavon.  Matt is sworn “to serve and protect with honor and integrity.”  We're extremely proud of him and his accomplishments. 

Buying Security Cameras on the Internet: Any Savings?

We all enjoy getting a deal on the Internet.  What about buying home technology?  Can you get a good deal?  Maybe.  But is it smart?  Maybe not.  Here’s a recent email exchange with a client for whom we’re installing cameras in his 17,000 square foot home.

Client:  Pat, is your supplier high on the camera price?  Here’s what I found on the Internet.  (Link to site.)

Pat:  I will check it out with the rep. They are selling well below my wholesale.

Pat to our distributor:  Please see what this seller is doing—what’s up? They’re selling BELOW wholesale. They say they’re an authorized seller. Any thoughts? Or is this not legit?

Our distributor:  This is not an authorized reseller. We run into these guys a lot.

Zero warranty, and no factory support. That’s not competing. Just predatory.  If purchased from them, it voids all warranty. They do not purchase from the manufacturer.  They do a bait-and-switch. 

Pat to client:  I’ve had calls and emails with our distributor.  It’s what I thought.  This seller you found on the Internet takes your money, then declares that the items are backordered when you wonder why they haven’t been delivered.  Then they try to get you into a different brand to appease you.  I have seen several sites like this on the AV side of the business.  Some even call me to try to side-sell them high-end equipment.

Client:  I don't understand how Amazon can sell this stuff under your cost.  Help me feel I'm not being overcharged other than I'm taking a chance on overnight delivery.  How do these people obtain this equipment and not be distributors?  I have bought electronic devices before on Amazon and filled the warranty paperwork out (I never have had the need for warranty work though) and I never heard back from the manufacturer that I would not be covered.  It doesn't make sense they would ignore their warranty on a new product. I'm just trying to figure out how this all works.   

Pat:  Frustrating, definitely—and especially so for the manufacturers. Amazon is only as reliable as the company backing the sale, since Amazon is just a middle-man.  I’ve use Amazon, and have never had trouble, but I always do business with only major-name stores and I confirm that they are not on a list like this one, where the manufacturer is actively pursuing legal action.  I buy cameras from the factory-authorized distributor in Carrollton, TX.  They are probably charging me 5-10% markup for handling since I’m not factory direct.

After reading the information on the link about unauthorized resellers, and you feel comfortable making an online purchase, it will be a way to save money. Perhaps you could try buying a single item first (from someone not on ‘the list’) and see how it goes.  If it works, great!  Then order the rest.  Remember the warranties, if needed, would have to flow through the place you purchase them from since the manufacturer tracks serial numbers.

Hope this helps.  It's why UltraMedia and other service/labor-based companies are getting high on labor.  The margins are almost gone on the items we sell. Keep the questions coming!

Client:  Great job doing the research on this.  It’s not worth the risk, and you guys have never let me down.  Please order the cameras and recorders.  Thanks for your time and patience answering my questions.

Weeks later: the cameras and recorder were installed on the job site.  The clients have still not moved in yet.  There have been 4 attempted break-ins.  Between the alarm system, and the recorded images, nothing has been stolen from the home, and the police have excellent images from which to work.

Surge Protection

Last year, Brett Shipp with WFAA (Dallas) wrote a story about an unfortunate woman who lost every home appliance, thanks to her local electric company (I’ll be kind and not name names).  They were repairing a transformer near her home, when a surge resulting from their effort created an in-home fireworks display that fried over $10,000 worth of her home electronics.  (Hers was not the only home affected.)  Apparently neither the electric company, nor the insurance company, helped her with her claim.  So, she had to replace appliances that included home entertainment electronics and flat-screen TVs.

The damage may not have been as extensive if she had installed whole-home surge protection.  Be mindful: there is a difference between surge suppression and surge protection.  Surge protection is the mac daddy.  But both have their places.

Surge suppression is less expensive—not as robust.  It’s most commonly used to protect individual devices or small systems, like a home entertainment system.  Suppression limits a surge—knocks it down—but doesn’t stop it.

Surge protection is more expensive, and stops just about everything but a direct hit; i.e.: a lightening bolt to your roof.  We have a SurgeX surge protection panel installed at our electrical panel to protect our whole-home entertainment system.

Since the largest surges come from outside your home, it makes sense to install either surge suppression or surge protection at your high-voltage electricity panel.  (You get the biggest bang for your buck when you install protection at your panel.  No pun intended.)  SurgeX and Torus are the top-of-class manufacturers of surge protection and suppression.  Other great products come from Furman, APC, Panamax, and Ditek.

Pricing starts at $30 with Panamax, and reaches $9,000 from Torus.  Your cost will be determined by the level and type of protection you need.  Please visit these sites for technology specifics: ,,,,, and

DIY: Paint Metal Speaker Grills

For years, DIYers and contractors have sought our opinion about the best way to paint metal speaker grills used on in-wall speakers.

Faux-finished walls have been popular for so many years, and it was easy to replicate the mottled finish of the wall on speaker grills.  Our process: thin the paint 4:1 paint and water.  Brush onto the speaker grill, and using canned air, force air through the grill holes to clear them of paint. 

Recently, we were challenged to find a new way to apply paint to grills that would result in a smooth finish.  We found one at Sherwin-Williams.  It’s called PreVal Spray Gun.

The unit is no bigger than a can of canned air, with a 16 oz. glass paint reservoir attached to the bottom.  It has a thinning guide, and can be sued with auto paint, lacquers, acrylics, primers, and varnishes.

It delivers a very light paint mist to the speaker grill.  It may take several thin coats, depending on the original color of the speaker grill, and the paint color being applied.  Our applications filled only a handful of the holes in the grills, and we easily removed the paint with a sewing needle.

Connectivity in the Home: Wired, Powerline, and Wireless

Connectivity in the home is growing.  And if you’re not connected, your home may not be technologically up to date.  Devices that have typically functioned independently are now being made with added benefits that can appreciated only when connected to other technology in your home using a broadband connection.  Our clients are networking the electronics in their home and offices, sharing information among their products, increasing the products offerings and functionality.

Games, movies, music, and photos can be stored on a PC anywhere in your home, and can be accessed by any number of other devices (on the other side of the house), as long as the infrastructure, or wiring backbone is in place.  Our clients can control their home theater, security, and lighting from a smart phone or iPad.  They can even adjust their home thermostat from their office, so that the temperature is comfortable when they arrive home.

Direct-connected or hard-wired networks offer the greatest reliability and speed.  Running data along a wire (as opposed to wirelessly) will ensure the fastest speeds, with the least amount of interference.  Installation runs more than a wireless system, because more labor is required for a wired network system.  But the end product is very secure.

Powerline control (PLC) is another form of wired connectivity that uses existing electrical runs to communicate broadband.  While it runs more slowly that Ethernet, powerline control is still much faster than using a wireless system.  The devices that are used on either end of the powerline control system (plugs and switches) are the most expensive part of installation, but do save time and labor costs.  This alternative is very convenient and is secure.

A wireless network is the most convenient way to get connected.  Much of the equipment manufactured now comes with access points that make the units ready for Wi-Fi.  What you lose with a wireless system are speed, capacity, and security.  But, it makes each device, like a smart phone or iPad, very mobile in the home.

We’ll be happy to talk about which option would work best for you.

Why Bargain TVs Aren’t a Good Investment

High-quality TVs are typically good investments in technology, and you can count on getting many good years out of them.  But more recently, the market has been flooded with “bargain TVs,” and these need to be carefully considered before you buy on price alone.

  • Durability – Good displays have about a 4% or lower failure rate.  Bargain brands have failure rates as high as 20%.
  • Integration – Good brands offer lots of inputs and control options like VGA and RS-232.  “Deals” offer far fewer of these options.  And these options are key in allowing you to get the most for your money.
  • Viewing – Better brands use better (more expensive) video processors, high-contrast glass, and other quality components that provide the best picture.  Bargain brands typically utilize the cheapest components possible.
  • Reliability – High-quality TVs can be repaired by just about any qualified service outlet.  Bargain displays usually have no service centers.  So, many are “disposable,” and must be trashed when they break.
  • Technology – Higher quality = more R&D.  Lower-end brands may be a year or more behind the technology curve.

Why Use Top-Quality (and more expensive) Cables and Connectors?

Cables don’t garner the same respect that other products like flat-panel TVs and awesome-sounding speakers get.  To many clients, cables are no more important than staples and wire ties.   However!  That couldn’t be further from the truth!  Read on!

  1. Cable basics:  The reason UltraMedia uses better cables is because high-quality cables permit less noise and distortion to enter the system.  That’s why a system with better cables performs better, hands down.
  2. All cables in the system are important, just like all tires on the car are important.  Further, that means interconnects as well as in-wall video and speaker cables must be of the highest quality, to ensure that all of the information passes through the media system unhindered.
  3. All of UltraMedia’s systems are built on a strong foundation of high-quality cables. Just as you’d never build a great home on a cinder block foundation, it would be unreasonable to think we can build a great home theater or AV distribution system on cheap cables.
  4. Short cables are like dating. If you change your mind and want to upgrade from an inferior cable to a high-quality one, it’s easy to make a change. Long cables in the wall are more like marriage—changes are difficult, painful and expensive. You want to get the wiring done right the first time!
  5. We are often asked, “What is the secret to better performance in the AV industry?”  Our answer:  “In photography, it’s lenses. In cars, it’s tires.  In the AV world you get the greatest performance bang for your buck with better cables!”  

The fact that we insist on using only the best in wiring infrastructure differentiates UltraMedia from our competition.  Our clients win with better, more reliable cables and better performance. We reduce labor expenses when we install cables that are more reliable and easier to pull and terminate.

To learn more, visit Audioquest.

Vienna Acoustics

From anywhere in the building!

I decided a long time ago that there is another, unexpected litmus test for a speaker: how it sounds when you’re not in the sweet spot.  How does it sound three feet away from the sweet spot?  Two rooms away?  In the bathroom?  It doesn’t matter where I am, the sound these Musics create is impeccable.  I don’t know how they do it, but where cheap speakers make sounds unrecognizable and unbearable from the next room (or behind a closed door), these Vienna Acoustics manage to deliver not only reference-quality sound in the sweet spot, but incredibly clean and full sound no matter where in the building I travel.  I really, really like that—and recommend a listen!

Vienna Acoustics

Budgeting for Home Technology

We have the absolute delight of working for clients who have typically had much freedom in their home-building/renovating budgets.  Of course, there will always be those who are unaffected by the peaks and valleys of the economy, but we’re seeing budgets viewed and reviewed more carefully these days.

As always, we respect our clients’ limits.  Last year we developed a budget review process that works undeniably well.  Not only does it show our clients just about every type of home technology we provide, it offers a way to systematically arrive at how much a client wants to invest in each.

For instance, under the “custom lighting control” category, there are three price ranges: single room from $500 - $3500; 2,000 – 6,000 square foot home from $5,000 - $20,000; and 6,000+ square foot home from $15,000 - $300,000.  These are only ranges and starting points—a place for a conversation to begin about the special technology needs and desires of the homeowners.

Please call us if you’d like to run through a budget review in person!  We’ll be glad to help you get an idea of what your technology upgrade/update ideas might cost.