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Showing posts from May, 2012

Not All AirPort Expresses are Created Equal

It probably goes without saying, but Apple's naming conventions don't follow much of a pattern. For the iPhone, we had the original iPhone (#1), iPhone 3G (#2, but with a "3" in the name), iPhone 3GS (#3), iPhone 4 (#4, makes sense!), iPhone 4S (#5, with a "4" in the name), and so on. iPods were generally just called "iPod", with new names for the different lines (i.e. "Mini", "Nano", "Shuffle"). Different lines - and different generations within each line, looked so different that they could be easily differentiated, and were often referred to by nicknames. (i.e., "Nano Fat"). Then we had the iPad, the iPad 2, and the.... iPad. Obviously, Apple doesn't want to get stuck in the "X+1 Integer" naming convention for succeeding generations of the same product. Eventually you have the "iPad 17", and it gets difficult to follow. But when it comes to the used market Apple's netw

Very Intrigued by SmartHome Insteon at Best Buy

We don't own a videogame system. We do, however, own a 6-year-old who WISHES we owned a videogame system. So, every so often, he and I go to Best Buy to try out some games on Kinect or Move, and to look at electronics. Tonight, the little guy needed a break from his packed-away house, so inbetween Star Wars Kinect sessions at BBY, we noticed a large in-store display for home automation products, among which were Smarthome's Insteon line, which were running full "Lutron RadioRA2" style lighting control (granted, with a little less style ) from an iPad. With a central controller costing $99, keypads at $49, and dimmer switches at $29. I don't think I could have been more sold. It was, essentially, what I'd been looking for in a pro-install system, but designed to be added to existing homes, and controllable via iOS. And keypads, for full "scene" control! This is absolutely essential to Project 1 - overhead lights fade out, front-wall sconce

One Day More - Packing for the Move (And More about Apple)

We close tomorrow afternoon, and we'll be furiously packing today, and furiously unpacking on Friday. I'll probably be occupied with moving through the weekend.  Starting Friday, Project 1 kicks into gear. While it will be a series of "good-enough" half-measures at the start, we should be able to review WOW Ultra TV by Saturday, and (if I get the coding right) have a static page for Project 1 (Home Theater) started shortly thereafter, which will have photos of the space and a mockup of what the final design will look like, a checklist of items to be completed, and links to the various posts detailing each stage of the project.  In other news: The Apple Store is now selling the Nest Thermostat .  I love the look of this thing, but it's the functionality that sets it apart. It's iOS controllable, and completely self-learning and programming. Plus, it looks like a Star Trek control panel for your house.  Sony sells their 3D glasses on the

Three days until closing, Two weeks until WWDC keynote.

Back from the long weekend, and sprinting to the finish line. Only three more days to get our condo ready for the tenants - today, sadly, the TV comes down from the wall mount. I will update this post throughout the day with step-by-step photos of the takedown and drywall rebuild. Today also brought a ton of rumors from Cupertino- iOS 6 with a non-google Maps app, a new taller iPhone with a metal back, and news that the keynote for WWDC will be at 10 AM pacific on June 11. I assume that the aforementioned iOS 6 and iPhone (and potentially Mountain Lion) will be the primary focus - but I'll be watching at Engadget and Gizmodo, just in case Apple unveils something new and wonderful that will alter my project plans! UPDATE: TV and mount removal went as well as could be expected. The wall repair will be the primary issue. Seriously, this was a great-looking TV wall mount. It had to be preserved for posterity. Our living room was at the end of a hallway, and the TV woul

The DirecTV HR34 Home Media Center - A Work In Progress?

Hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend. As I mentioned in my last post, we've opted to go with WOW for TV in the new house, while we figure out where we'll be able to mount a DirecTV satellite. And when we do switch to DirecTV - probably in the next 2-3 months - we'll be getting the HR34 Home Media Center, despite the fact that it costs an extra $100 at signup, and the fact that message boards around the internet are calling it a "work in progress". First off, it's (generally) only available to new customers at the present time, and I don't want to miss the boat on a 5-tuner whole-home DVR. Second... well... the original HD DVR from DirecTV was once a work in progress, too, and these days it's an absolutely rock-solid experience, with the absolutely gorgeous new DirecTV HD UI. (The new DirecTV HD UI is everything I'd always imagined TiVo would eventually achieve... but these days they seem to spend more time and energy on patent litigation t

Project 1: It's WOW! Ultra TV. Now off to Monoprice for HDMI.

After some deliberation, we went with WOW for all three services - cable/internet/phone. At least at the outset. I'm eventually going to go with DirecTV - probably this summer - but I don't want it installed until we have a better understanding of where the dish would go. (Potentially, on the pergola we're going to be building off the back of the house.) Despite the odd holes in the channel lineup, UltraTV does have some serious advantages, and I'm looking forward to providing a full write-up after it's installed next week. Now, it's time to start looking at how all this stuff is going to work together. At the outset, we won't have our built-in shelving to the left and right of the fireplace. That's going to come later. For now, we're working with the same AV cabinet we've used for the last few years, which will sit to the left of the fireplace. The space above the fireplace has a power outlet, and a cable connection. No HDMI. Off to M

Project 1 - One Week Until Close, Let's Talk TV Mounts

At the moment, I'm strongly leaning towards WOW for all services, at least initially. Primarily because I'd like to see the new house in person for a few days, and plan out how a DirecTV dish could (or should not) be attached, prior to having an installer show up. Were it not for the installation issue, I'd be going with DirecTV and WOW in an unbundled group. Regardless, WOW works without contracts, so I should be able to make that change if/when we choose - (have to confirm that the $70 phone/internet is available to current customers as well as new customers, however... or it's back to Comcast as a "new" customer.)  With one week to go, our energies are strongly focused on fixing up the city condo - got to make it nice for our tenants. Painting all the walls, filling nail holes, that sort of thing.  However, it's also time to talk about TV mounting and installation .  We have a Sony gorilla glass 55" LED TV. It basically looks like

Comcast debuts new Xfinity UI and iOS app

Its about time! Comcast showed off its new user interface and iOS app , which really, really looks fantastic. As good as DirecTV, even. No idea when this goes national - apparently, Boston gets it "in the coming weeks", with other markets to follow. I'm going to have to discuss it with Comcast, but considering Comcast's statement that this UI will be made available to *new* customers at no added charge, this news actually makes me MORE likely to ditch Comcast now, so that I can be a new customer again when this eventually comes to Chicago.

Unbundled - DirecTV with Comcast (or WOW) Internet

As a satellite television provider, DirecTV is more or less unable to provide broadband to its customers directly. Sure, they occasionally advertise bundles with AT&T, but that would be for DSL - a workable solution, but still, an internet solution which  advertises speeds that are between 1/10 and 1/5 as fast as what we can get from the cable internet providers. (DirecTV's website has other internet-providing partners listed, but they aren't in the Chicago area.)  When I called DirecTV about the AT&T bundles I'd seen online, they had absolutely no idea what the bundle pricing would be and told me I'd have to work with AT&T directly. And, a quick look around the net indicates that this "bundle" isn't much more than 2 companies working in complete separation. I can build that kind of bundle myself! In yesterday's post, I weighed WOW's UltraTV offering against Comcast XFinity's Triple Play. Similar offerings, similar pri

The Home Projects

I mentioned in the first post that I was going to track several Apple-related projects at the new house. For starters, we'll have the primary entertainment center. Upcoming projects will include (subject to reordering): 1. Primary Home Theater . This will require mounting the 55" TV above the fireplace, running at least 4 HDMI cables to it. We'll design and install built-in wall units on either side of the fireplace, incorporating in-wall speakers, and (after selecting a cable/internet/phone provider) run a wired network to the entire system. I also need a bunch more active shutter 3D glasses, which we never use and which are kind of ludicrously expensive, but which is still a neat effect. 2. Wired Internet . Tired of waiting for movies to start after downloading them... And tired of living in fear of buffering when watching a streaming video. We'll need to run CAT5 through the walls, and spec out switches and routers. I currently have a Time Capsule and an Airport

Who plays nicer with Apple: Comcast or WOW?

9 days until our move, and we'd like to hit the ground running. I can't imagine the family will be too excited about going without TV or internet or phone for a few days while I sort things out, so I suppose it's time to make one of the most important decisions a new homeowner will face. Who will be our cable provider? We've been Comcast customers for years. Here in Chicago, they've had good service offerings, and have usually managed to keep us around by sweetening their deal just enough to make switching seem like a chore. But when you're moving, everything is a chore! May as well weigh our options. We need to cover three services here: TV, Internet, and Phone. I'm currently paying Comcast about $150 for a single TV, with HBO (I bring my own TiVo so I'm not currently paying for DVR service), 20 Mbps internet (which seems to top out around 14 Mbps in the city over wifi), and unlimited nationwide home phone. In the suburbs, we'd li

Seriously, what is the purpose of this blog?

I'm a big fan of technology in general, and Apple in particular. But right now, no one is doing tech better than Apple. I find that truth to be self-evident. Their gadgets are simpler, and work more consistently. (That wasn't always the case - the Mac LCIII I took with me to college was so underpowered that it wasn't able to run the MacPaint program it shipped with in full screen.) Now, if a company does something better than Apple's doing it, by all means, I'll buy their stuff and talk about it here. And if Apple *doesn't* do something, like make a DVR or a TV or speakers, for instance, I'll talk about that, too. So why a tech blog? What is the purpose? What is the angle ? Well, after 11 years in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood, and 7 years in our current condo, we're moving. To a house the suburbs. A house which will serve as a blank slate for all of the tech projects I've intended to start here, but put off for years because ou