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

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.

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!