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Showing posts from June, 2012

I've got people.

Well, not yet. But maybe soon. We have an AV specialist coming over to the house to give us an estimate on re-wiring the living room for HDMI and for in-wall speakers, and a security guy coming over to reconnect that system... and while I'm at it, a fence guy to get that backyard enclosed, and a yard guy to get the backyard less brown. So for the next few days, at least, no real updates on the projects.... at least until the estimates come in too high and I start attacking the drywall and floors with a punch saw, spade bit, and fish tape. In the meantime, we're expecting the 2 new sets of 3D glasses today. That gives us 4, which should be enough to accommodate most movie-watching groups at our house.  Off to Monoprice to get the TV mount and lots and lots of HDMI - and off to Best Buy to get a 40" LED for the master bedroom!

A Weekend in the City

Apologies for being AWOL the last couple of days. We were back in the city over the weekend - Cubs v. Red Sox on Saturday night, and The Hold Steady at the Taste of Randolph last night.  That was fun, but exhausting. Back to work. In the meantime, I have an uninterrupted week in the suburbs - it's time to take a look behind the entertainment center/fireplace mantle wall and figure out how we're going to run HDMI wires.  The "before" image. We're picturing built-ins on both sides. In other news, I managed to pick up 2 additional pairs of Sony 3D glasses on eBay for about $33 each. Still expensive, but having 4 glasses will make 3D something that we can occasionally actually do, instead of 2 of us watching a movie while the third gets a seizure from the flickering TV.

WWDC - What changed, and what didn't

I'm not going to get too much into yesterday's WWDC keynote - obviously, Tim Cook did an incredible job and the biggest unveiled product - the new Retina Macbook Pro - is, essentially, the perfect notebook computer. But this website isn't about new notebooks. Or even, really, about Mountain Lion or iOS 6. It's about seamlessly incorporating everything that Apple does into my home. And some of the things that were discussed yesterday do affect our projects.  1. The new Airport Express.  IMPACT: Minimal. It's about the size of an AppleTV - the new Airport Express adds dual-band, and an extra ethernet port. But I'm not using my Expresses as the primary router - they're wi-fi extenders, and more importantly, music streaming devices.  I'm hoping that the A1264 Expresses I've been buying get a little cheaper on the secondary market - but that's unlikely.  2. Siri 1.0. IMPACT: Potentially, major.  I still have an iPhone 4, w

Getting Started with Insteon Home Control

Who says we can't multitask? On to Project 3!  We made a return trip to Best Buy, and learned the prices had essentially doubled on most of their SmartHome Insteon products. ( I must have happened across a huge sale last time - and I have before/after photos of the pricing to prove I wasn't imagining things !) Anyway, I'm sure we'll be picking up most of this stuff at BBY, but in the meantime, it's off to eBay, where I picked up a 2414 SmartLinc central controller (retail $99) for $22. This will allow us to control all connected Insteon switches with an iOS device - which was the entire point of this enterprise from the start. The dimmer switches will be a bit more expensive, at $40-50 each, retail - and our home theater room alone is going to require 4. And a couple of LampLincs to make sure our table lamps get with the program. Back to eBay! We're also going to need (want) a KeyPadLinc in order to control "scenes" - i.e., "all

One more day until WWDC!

Tomorrow, all of the Apple and general tech blogs (engadget, gizmodo, tuaw) will be covering Apple's new products. We've already seen that iOS 6.0 will be discussed, if not demonstrated. Obviously, all of this newness may have some effect on my remodel/projects. But probably not too much. In the meantime, I'm off to Radiohead with a couple of friends, one of whom is a fantastic architect, responsible for designing most of the Wrigley rooftop clubs, and a handful of Chicago's most talked-about restaurant interiors (Nellcote, Sunda). I've been picking his brain about the home theater project, and he's had some great cost-saving ideas. So, off to Tinley Park. I'll have more tomorrow.

Sticker Shock - First WOW UltraTV bill is $163

Well... that's no good. I mean, it's not that far off from what I expected, but it's up there. I knew that we were likely to see a number of costs and fees on the WOW UltraTV package, but I'm a little surprised at how quickly the costs added up. Our UltraTV-Internet-Phone package is $130... plus $17 for HBO (higher than Comcast's HBO cost, IIRC), plus another $12 and change for taxes and fees, and a $4 fee for "phone connectivity", which the bill takes great pains to explain is not a tax. If it's not a tax, and goes directly to WOW, why not build it into the advertised cost of the phone line? Maybe I'm missing something here, but this seems like a classic case of misdirection and undisclosed fees, just trying to get an extra $50/year from each subscriber. Even though DirecTV requires a 2-year commitment, I think I'm likely to give them a shot at this point. Right now, we're paying more for our first month at WOW than we did for Co

Wired for Sound and Down for Whatever

(Post title courtesy of Craig Finn of The Hold Steady - playing next week at the Taste of Randolph street festival!) In one of my first posts on this blog, I noted that we wanted "AirPlay Everywhere", including the patio. I wasn't exactly sure how do to that on a permanent basis, however - I didn't want the "solution" to be dragging an outdoor speaker around with me. Well, our house has a feature that has made this issue moot. AirPlay project - partially completed! When the previous owners built this house, they had an infant and a toddler. So, they had the entire place outfitted with a whole-home monitor-speaker system. The "monitor" aspect is not particularly useful for us with our 5-year old, but the "speaker" aspect comes in handy. Primary Monitor/Speaker control panel We noted right away that the main control box for the system has an AM/FM radio and a CD changer. Even more promising, the system has an AUX input, which is

Review: Three Days with WOW Ultra TV (UPDATE: Now with Photo/Video)

Ultra TV Grid Guide It took a couple of days and a half-dozen false starts, but after getting the primary box replaced, we have a fully operational Ultra TV setup. We are going to keep it for at least a few months. Here is the rundown: 1. Install was a bit of a trial. We have a very new home, so this shouldn't have been a wiring issue... But for the first couple of days, WOW simply could get high definition to work. They'd reset the box remotely (or I'd unplug it), HD would work for a couple minutes, and then a black screen and a "Signal Loss Detected" error message. We got a box replacement, and a $10 statement credit. Fair enough! 2. The channel lineup is a bit on the slight side . It's not bad, mind you - but there's no way to get NFL/NHL/NBA networks, no Bravo HD (SD only, which is just odd...) and a number of channels I'd expect to see in "basic" are on the "signature" tier, which I don't get. We also woul

Assessing Project 1 After Move-In

Well, that wasn't easy. But the move is (mostly) done. We'll be unpacking our boxes for some time, but our house is starting to feel like our house . Except that home theater. It's barely even started. (I'll add pictures later tonight.) After a weekend of false starts, WOW! Ultra TV is now up and running, and I'll have a full review ASAP. In the meantime, we're dealing with a few Project 1 issues that are going to take some problem-solving. 1. There's no easy way to get HDMI cabling to the TV . The living room features a fantastic fireplace, with built-in shelves on either side, pre-wired for a TV to be placed on (or hang above) the mantel over the fireplace. But that wiring is part of the problem. We have a power outlet, and a coax connection - this would have been ideal even 10 years ago, but it's completely inadequate for what we're planning - I need a minimum of 4 HDMI cables between the TV and my various components. (We could attempt ONE H