Project 1 (Home Theatre) - UPDATED: Done!

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Finally, we have some real news!

(Actually, quite a bit of it. More on that later.)

Let's start with the exciting conclusion of the original PROJECT #1 from AAAD - the Home Theater Remodel.


Buying a Prius in 2014 - Before CarPlay

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iOS 7.1 was unveiled a month or so back, and its centerpiece was Apple's CarPlay, which promises to finally deliver a safe, hands-free (and eyes-free) iOS experience for drivers.

Unfortunately, CarPlay won't be available for a while, and I need a new car now.

On the plus side, there have never been more high-tech, high mileage hybrid vehicles available.

So which car is the best fit for a tech lover with a long commute?



ADT Pulse Review - Great, with a "but".


ADT stopped by our house on Friday to upgrade our Brinks security system to an ADT Pulse system. 

There was nothing wrong with our old Belkin system - but we're ditching our AT&T landline, so we were going to need a security system that ran on cellular communications. 

And ADT Pulse definitely fits the bill. There's just one thing I wish was different.



Back to WOW! (Or, "Wow, AT&T. Really?")

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As you may recall, we spent quite a bit of time and energy bundling and unbundling our TV, internet and phone services.

And we're not done yet.



Mesa, Arizona - Home of the Chicago Cubs and Apple.

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I haven't been to Phoenix for a few years. (Granted, this polar vortex has me rethinking that course of action.)

My grandmother spends her winters down there (and statistically speaking, so does yours), and millions flock to the area in February/March for MLB Spring Training.

And now, two of my favorite companies in the world - Apple and the Chicago Cubs - call the same Phoenix suburb their year-round home.

That Phoenix suburb - Mesa - recently invested heavily in both entities. Here's why.



Why Google's Purchase of Nest is a Good Thing

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It's no secret that we're huge Nest fans here at AAAD. We're also, obviously, huge Apple fans. 

So when word got out last week that Google was paying three and a half BILLION dollars for Nest, the AAAD household had to deal with some cognitive dissonance. 

How can we love Apple *and* the Google-ified Nest?

Turns out it's easy. Read on. 



The Apple iPhone 5S Case - Understated. Perfect.

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When it comes to iPhone cases, you can usually go in one of two directions - plastic and a bit gaudy, or
elegant, but unbelievably expensive.

Occasionally, we see cases that are gaudy AND unbelievably expensive. 

Apple's new iPhone 5S case splits the difference. It is elegant, minimalist, and priced in line with the competition. 



The End of iTunes?

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There's no question that iTunes was a game-changer for Apple.  

But has the time come for it to just... go away?



How do I upgrade to a DirecTV Genie HR44?

DirecTV's official stance regarding their equipment is "you get what you get and you don't get upset."

But this is the tech-blog world! We're powered on a constant cycle of early upgrades! Surely the AAAD household can get its hands on the latest and greatest DirecTV boxes. Let's find out. 



The AAAD 2013 Christmas Gift Guide

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It's been a while since I did a High Five feature around here. And it's Christmas! So what are you hoping for this year? Here's what we're hoping for around the AAAD household for the 2013 holidays. 

(Or, more accurately, for 2014... we aren't getting any of these things this month. They're PRICEY.)

1. Lutron RadioRA 2

I previously thought I'd do whole-home lighting with an Insteon system... and they've REALLY improved their product lineup this year - but I just don't really like the look of the keypads. 

They look like old touch-tone phones. The Lutron keypads are the gold standard. 
A few years ago, I stayed at the Andaz hotel at Wall & Water in lower Manhattan (by the way, a spectacular hotel!), and every room had a Lutron lighting panel.

You had your choice of multiple "scenes" - hit one button, and all the lights in the room dimmed, except for the ambiance lights behind the TV, which turned on. So cool. 

I figured that it must have been a serious install, with torn-up walls and whatnot. 

And then a few years later, I stayed at the Historic Park Inn by Frank Lloyd Wright in Mason City, Iowa - and they ALSO had Lutron lighting panels in each room.

Now, I know that the Park Inn was a massive restoration project. But how were they able to retrofit that kind of lighting system into a 100-year-old hotel?

The answer is RadioRA 2 - a completely wireless solution. Just swap out your switches, and the primary control panel handles the rest.

I purchased a Main Repeater (the central control panel) on eBay a few years ago, back when we lived in the Bucktown condo. 

I thought that whole-home lighting control would make that place *awesome* when it came time to sell. 

And it probably would have, but there were two things I hadn't considered. 

One, the switches were pretty expensive, and I never got around to buying them. And two, the system is not designed for laypeople to install - you're supposed to go through their installers. 

I recently found an excellent tutorial on getting a RadioRA 2 system to work... and now I have a house worth the investment. I think this plan is back on. 

And then I'm going back to the Bucktown condo and installing it there, too. Some dreams die hard.

2. 27" iMac with Fusion Drive

There is literally nothing wrong with our current iMac. It's the best desktop computer I've ever owned. It's beautiful, and it does a fantastic job for everything we've thrown at it. 

It's also going on 4 years old. (I know, I can't believe it either.)

I also know that the Fusion Drive is kind of a ripoff. 

Apple puts an SSD in the iMac, changes the connectors ever-so-slightly so that you can't buy your own SSD,
and then charges you an extra $200 or so above the cost of an off-the-rack SSD for the spec bump.

I still want it. 

With a Fusion Drive, you get the speed of an SSD for your iMac's core functionality, and you still have a roomy TB of space on the standard hard drive. 

Plus, the 27" screen just looks massive compared to our 21.5" screen. And the super-thin design is even better looking than our (admittedly still gorgeous) aluminum unibody iMac from a couple years ago.

(Besides, I'll bet that we can get quite a bit for the old iMac.)

3. Synology DS413 

We have a lot of digital media. 

Not as much as we used to have - I've managed to sell off quite a few of our old DVDs, and we've generally stopped buying them as we've moved toward streaming everything - but still, a lot. 

It's not just movies and TV - it's the music library, all of our photos, our home videos, our ebooks, and on and on. 

As of now, that stuff resides on the iMac. (And our Time Capsule drive.)

With a Synology system, we'll be able to store (and access) all of this stuff in a central location (and keep that location generally hidden from view.) If the iMac's hard drive goes down, we'll be safe. If robbers clean our house out, they shouldn't find this squat little box.