News

My thoughts on Spotify

It’s an exciting time to be a music lover.  Spotify is a really exciting new addition to the world of streaming media.

It’s an endless music database.  You get to choose as many songs as you want from their robust collection of over 15 million (wow) songs.  And these aren’t only major labels either, so far there hasn’t been anything I haven’t been able to find.

Also, you get a feature that allows you choose the tracks you want synced to your computer or phone.  This way you will be able to listen whether you have an internet connection or not.

Did you ever make mix tapes or playlists that you wanted to share with your friends?   Spotify allows you to share your playlists over various social media apps.

Spotify is available for your PC, Mac, home audio system and cell phone, depending on your level of service.  I was able to add it to my Sonos system fairly easily.

The service is simple, you just download the Spotify Desktop App then build your library and create playlists.

The only downside I’ve seen so far is that it only works on one device at a time.  So if you have your Spotify playing through a music system, then try to listen on your phone or tablet, the original stream will pause.

All in all I think this is a really impressive experience.  Who wouldn’t want instant access to every song ever made (well, almost at least)?

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The original McIntosh

Long before the iPad, iPhone, iMac etc. there was a little company in Binghampton, NY called McIntosh that built high-end audio gear that made all audiophiles salivate. McIntosh Labs has been making the very finest audio equipment for decades and they have never bowed to design trends and have stuck with their classic look for as many years as you have been alive.

Experience the Tradition of McIntosh at Audio Video.

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Ammo to “Show Off” your 3D Theater!

So here goes, 3-D demos to rock your socks off…

Monsters vs. Aliens – view minutes 43:34-47:04 – This bright clip shows off the true benefits of cinemascope (the wider 2.35:1 aspect ratio screens) and exceptional color performance. Be sure to check out the Golden Gate bridge against the blue sky.

Alice in Wonderland – Trailer from Disney Digital 3-D Blu-ray Showcase disc – This clip literally jumps off the screen. No movie can match the color saturation in Wonderland. Check it out.

Grand Canyon Adventure, River at Risk – minutes 11:58-13:48 – The Grand Canyon in 3-D, what else can I say? Spectacular.

Bob’s Big Break – animated short – This is the pre-quel to Monsters vs. Aliens and can be found in the special features of that 3-D Blu-ray. This is a great demo since you can show a story from beginning to end as opposed to picking a scene from the middle of a movie.

Step Up 3-D – First Dance Scene – This is a teenybopper dance movie but a good demo of live action 3-D combined with good audio.

Avatar – hidden scene – Go to Disc 3 and find the hidden menu to the right of “Live Extras”. Select “You’re not in Kansas anymore” and strap in for some of the best 3-D ever produced.

Although 3-D has not quite taken off like the industry has hoped it would, these demos might make believers of the 3-D skeptics.

If you are in the process of building, dreaming about, or designing your own private theater, Audio Video builds and designs private screening rooms and home theaters in Central Texas.

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Have an iPhone/Android/Smartphone? Check out This Solar Charger

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Talking away on our phones or jamming to our favorite music on our iPod or MP3 player and we kill the battery before we’re near a battery charger. We’ve all had batteries die on us, and now there is an innovative and “green” charging solution by Revolve with their new xeMini hybrid charger.  You can purchase it direct from Revolve here > Revolve xeMini (no affiliation with Audio Video…just passing along something weportable-charger think you’ll like)

The xeMini is a hybrid charger that features a fairly powerful internal battery that can recharge over 3,000 different devices. It is small enough to take with you, and thanks to its built-in efficient solar panel, you can even recharge with the sun. How is that for green?? This travel charger can also be recharged from AC power (of course!) or even a PC through a USB input. It can even charge two devices simultaneously.

Another feature I liked about it is that the internal battery is powerful enough to charge most smartphones twice without having to recharge the xeMini. With this in your car, pocket, purse, or briefcase, you can’t use the “my battery is about to go dead” excuse. You’ll instead have to download some of the funny excuse apps in iTunes or the Android Market if you need a creative way to get out of a bad conversation. Enjoy…

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Now you see the TV, now you don’t

Design-savvy clients love watching TV as much as anyone, but often hate seeing the TV when it is turned off. Thin as they are today, a TV is just a rectangular monolith on a wall that adds nothing to a room’s interior decor or ambiance when it isn’t being watched. Behold the mirror TV, one of the tricks up our sleeves to hide video monitors.

The mirror television trend started over a decade ago, but it was often a difficult effort where you would try to find the best  single sided mirror that didn’t dim the TV too much, yet still do a good job of hiding the TV. Then there was the thickness issue, most flat screens were still too thick to fit in 2 x 4 construction walls. Then, there was the TV ventilation issues…

Now, thanks to brands such as SEURA and Media Decor, engineering a mirror TV solution is no longer a job for MacGyver. These clever hidden televisions are specially engineered to be behind mirrors, and the ventilation and mirror opacity variables have been all figured out for you. Since the larger TV sizes are now ultra-thin also, most of these engineered hidden TV solutions fit in standard 2 x 4 wall stud depth.

Audio Video carries both SEURA AND Media Decor as well as a motorized picture option by Vision Art.

http://www.seura.com/

www.mediadecor.com/

www.visionartgalleries.com/

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AudioVideo interview with Beclose President Liddy Manson

AudioVideo: Can you describe for us a typical BeClose system installation and the associated costs?

Liddy: BeClose is typically installed in a home where an older adult is living alone and would like the safety net of knowing that if something goes wrong, a family member or caregiver will find out.  We have customers at a range of stages on the health spectrum from extremely active and independent (walks 4 miles per day) to very infirm (cognitively impaired and bed ridden 90% of the time).  The advantage of the BeClose system is that it is flexible enough to provide caregiving information that is actionable regardless of the health and mobility of the resident.  Our average system costs roughly $300 for the equipment, and as little as $49 per month for the monthly service fee.

AudioVideo: Another concern we hear is about the wiring and the need for a phoneline for a system.  How has BeClose responded to those concerns?

Liddy: Unlike all other Emergency Response and Home Monitoring systems, BeClose is an entirely wireless system.  This means that residents do not need an additional phone line or broadband internet access in the home, each of which adds between $20 and $40 per month in expense.  BeClose operates using wireless technology to communicate to caregivers, and the cost for that transmission is included in the monthly fee.

AudioVideo: I know that there are easy instructional videos on the BeClose website, but can you give us a feel for whether special skills or training would be required for a home care agency to be able to plan and install a BeClose system?

Liddy: We designed BeClose to be as easy to set up as an electric clock and as easy to activate as a purchase on Amazon.com.  For those who want additional insight on where to place sensors and how to set up custom alerts, we offer a half hour free consultation session with a customer support specialist so that everyone can rest easy that the system has been installed correctly.

AudioVideo: Would BeClose enable the business model that we proposed, where a home care agency can provide a service to check-in on clients with a BeClose system (e.g., weekly or maybe daily or monthly depending on need)?

Liddy: BeClose has a number of tools that make it easy for homecare agencies to use in providing top level care to their clients.  We provide a daily summary email of each customer, so homecare workers can do a quick check-in each morning and get a sense of the state of the resident before they arrive for work.  In addition, we offer multi-view monitoring for homecare workers should they wish to log on to our system and see a snap shot of several customers at the same time.  Finally, we allow the families of the residents to send alerts to an unlimited number of care givers, giving homecare agencies the opportunity to provide families who are far from their loved ones backup support 24/7 — a new model of homecare services.

AudioVideo: Thank You, Liddy!

BeClose TeleCaregiving

DVRs and Other Set-Tops Drain Billions Annually

The Natural Resources Defense Council says that your home’s biggest energy hog could surprise you.
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June 16, 2011 | by Rachel Cericola

Your DVR, cable and/or satellite box gives you so much pleasure. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it also asks a lot in return. The NRDC says that your home’s biggest energy hog is not the refrigerator or air conditioner; it’s actually that pesky set-top box.

The report says that users are spending approximately $1 billion a year to use those boxes. OK, that entertainment may be priceless to some. The shocking part, however, is that those set-tops use another $2 billion while inactive, but still running at near full power.

Get ready to be even more horrified. The NRDC says that the energy wasted is equivalent to the annual energy output of six coal burning power plants (500 MW). Yikes.

“Set-top boxes are the ultimate home energy vampires, silently sucking significant amounts of energy and money when nobody’s using them,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the NRDC. “The consumer, who pays the electric bill, deserves technologies without hidden costs. At a time when everyone is trying to cut waste from our budgets and electric grid, service providers shouldn’t saddle their subscribers with boxes that unnecessarily squeeze their wallets.”

The report, “Reducing the National Energy Consumption of Set-Top Boxes,” says that a new high-def box actually sucks up more energy than a new flat-panel TV.

There are approximately 160 million set-top boxes currently in U.S. homes. That’s about one box for every two Americans.

NRDC is hoping that pay-TV service providers will solve this problem with energy-efficient boxes. One possible solution would be adding some type of low power mode, which is starting to pop up on boxes in Europe. Of course, you could also ask your provider about a better box—one that meets Energy Star Version 4.0 requirements.

“We’ve improved the efficiency of all sorts of electronics—from TVs to video game consoles,” said Horowitz. “It’s just as possible to improve the efficiency of our DVRs and other pay TV boxes. But they’re not going to build a better mousetrap unless we, the consumers, demand it.”

Rachel Cericola – Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

How to eliminate “Wall Acne”

TRUFIG flush mount HVAC registersFollowers of this blog and our website know that we are big fans of  interior design-friendly products. If you haven’t seen TRUFIG’s flush-mount products yet, visit www.trufig.com for pictures and installation videos. With TRUFIG, Audio Video can make common household fixtures like electrical outlets, lighting controls, dimmers and home automation touch screens almost disappear.

Unlike one-off attempts to hide these devices that clutter every wall, TRUFIG gives us an engineered flush-mount solution that is repeatable and adaptable to nearly any well executed interior design, be it traditional or contemporary. They even have solutions for solid surfaces like granite and marble. Now TRUFIG has turned their attention to one of the most unsightly eyesores to clutter a beautiful wall…HVAC registers!
Flush mount HVAC by TRUIG at DSI Ent Systems
TRUFIG was conceived by the founders of Sonance, an industry leader in interior design-friendly products that help integrate technology into homes in an aesthetically pleasing way. Sonance was one of the first companies to introduce in-wall and in-ceiling speakers many years ago and continues to innovate.  With that  in mind, the visionaries founded TRUFIG to apply the same beautifying treatment to common wall accessories that not only “de-uglifies” wall accessories, they actually enhance the interior décor.

The new TRUFIG HVAC registers install completely flush with the wall or ceiling. The TRUFIG aesthetic is superior to conventional HVAC registers; once you see any TRUFIG flush-mounted accessory, you will wonder why nobody thought of this before.

Currently, there are 4 different HVAC register sizes available: 8″ x 4″, 10″ x 6″, 14″ x 8″, and 12″ x 12″. There are about 27 different ‘standard’ sizes of HVAC air supplies in use today, and even more sizes than this for return air, so it will be a while HVAC flush mount kits by TRUFIGbefore all sizes have TRUFIG kits available. If you are building a new home, though, just be sure your architect and HVAC technician designs around one of the above sizes. Optionally, TRUFIG can design a custom flush-mount kit for a different size (not only for HVAC but for almost any wall-mounted accessory). If you are interested in a custom TRUFIG product, please call Audio Video at 979-268-6010.

Lutron’s Wireless Climate Control Decreases Wall Acne

Lutron is justifiably famous for their lighting control and electronic shades: now they have a new product offering up their sleeve that works well for both new construction and remodel projects. Lutron just released a new wireless climate control system (HVAC) that greatly improves on the good ol’ thermostat. Here are the main details:

  • A small wireless on-wall temperature sensor is placed where it will monitor the temperature most efficiently (2 or more can be used to average temperatures in an area). The changeable battery has a 5-year life (Lutron also includes a wired return air duct sensor is included for backup, just in case the wireless temp sensor needs a new battery).
  • Lutron’s seeTemp wall control (what we think of as the ‘thermostat’) may be ganged next to Decora light switches, dimmers, or Lutron’s own lighting control keypads (both HomeWorks and RadioRA2) to minimize wall clutter. Available in 27 different gloss and satin colors, and a Celsius version is available, too. The seeTemp control gets its power either from existing thermostat wiring, 120v AC, or 24v DC. Since the Lutron Wall Control does not have to be wired back to your heater or A/C unit, you can put these in many new and convenient places.
  • The only wired component is the ‘HVAC Controller’, which connects to your existing or new HVAC equipment…the HVAC Controller communicates wirelessly with the seeTemp wall controls and temp sensors and ties the system together. This controller device is hidden away, and mounted right next to your big HVAC unit.
  • Optional control from your Android phone, iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch both in the home and/or anywhere in the world using a $19.95 Lutron app in iTunes and the Android Market.
  • This system can be controlled from popular 3rd party home automation control systems like  AMX, Control4 and Elan.
  • Ability to set temperature schedules through the seeTemp wall control, Android, Apple apps, or through the 3rd party control systems mentioned above.
  • Works with Lutron’s wirless occupancy/vacancy sensors…select a temperature set point when a room is occupied and another when no one is around (save energy).
  • Ability to completely eliminate visible wall controls (the seeTemp) IF using your Android phone, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or the above-mentioned home automation control systems.

Lutron RadioRA2 lighting and climate control

According to www.energystar.gov, you can save up to 16% of the energy used on HVAC with temperature controls, so a ‘smart’ climate control system is worth it, both for lower energy bills and reducing your carbon footprint.

This HVAC system allows for much more flexibility & convenience than a typical thermostat system, as the wall controls may be placed where they make sense aesthetically and for ease of access. Less wall clutter!

This is an excellent new climate control system, but there are a few limitations: you can have a maximum of 2 HVAC Controllers, and each can communicate with a maximum of 5 temp sensors, so the system will accommodate 10 climate zones max. At this point, there is no humidity monitoring/control and no outdoor temperature sensor.

Integrating climate controls with home automation systems and eliminating wall clutter is not new (we’ve been doing it for years), but the exciting news is that Lutron’s new system can easily be retrofitted to existing homes and gives some of the same benefits of integrated climate control without having to invest in a full home automation system.

For greater convenience and energy savings, you should couple this climate control system with RadioRA 2 lighting controls and Sivoia motorized shades. Then, you can have a “Green” button on the keypad that dims the lights 5%, lowers the shades to block heat gain, and set back the temperature 2%. Likewise, when leaving for vacation, you can press an “Away” button that triggers lighting scene patterns that give your home an occupied look and sets back the thermostats to an energy-saving set point. Convenience and energy savings both!

YouTube Now available on your DirecTV DVR

For those of you who have DirecTV, YouTube is now available to view through your DVR.

How do you access it?  Easy…

Press ‘Menu’

Select ‘Smart Search’

Type in what you are looking for just like you would to find a program.  If you typed in “car chase”, the result of the search will yield a few options like this…

Car Chase – HD

Car Chase – YouTube

Police Car Chases – HD

If there is a YouTube match, you will see YouTube next to the search result.

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