Friday, October 28, 2016


Anyone can easily have a home theater if they are willing to make some effort: a new BIG SCREEN TV is all that’s needed to look at, while adding a surround sound system (be that an AV Receiver and a set of speakers or an all-in-one home theater system) takes care of the audio. Then a few other components are needed to complete the setup; for example a Blu-ray player or better yet a 4K Blu-ray player, a turntable for playing vinyl or a digital high-resolution audio player.

So that’s the end of it right? No it’s not. Lost in the effort to create a home theater is the fact that
there are steps to take in order to keep the home theater functioning efficiently. Some of these steps are so simple that they’ve often overlooked, but ignoring them is not to anyone’s benefit because they can seriously impact the quality and enjoyment of the home theater.

The Video Cables
HDMI cables are amazing because they take care of both the video signal and the audio signal, eliminating secondary cables and the mess they can cause. But while HDMI cables tend to look somewhat alike on the surface, the quality of their manufacturing is very different. So while free HDMI cables are often included with the purchase of a component, it’s best to buy a HDMI cable where you can see what you are getting rather than accepting whatever has been put in the box as an afterthought, especially since the cables will often get bent when placed in position for doing their job. Getting or replacing the HDMI cable with a high quality one is a simple way to get the best picture possible.

The Audio Cables
There are times when audio cables is the preferred (or required) choice in the home theater, for example when connecting a record turntable. There are also times when a Toslink optical audio cable is needed, because of convenience or use with an older audio amplifier. These optical cables digitally transmit the audio signal in a superior fashion to that of analog audio cables but are somewhat delicate and so replacing existing ones with newer and more sturdy version is best. In the case of analog cables, using high quality and well made cables will help to eliminate hiss and other “noise” problems that can plague the sound.

Keeping Everything Clean
Dust can damage components by getting “into the works” or just by piling up on speakers or components or, worse yet, on the television. Dusting the home theater is simple enough and will also contribute to a healthier environment (vacuuming around home theater components should always be done carefully as a matter of course). Keeping speakers clean means not rubbing them with a cloth that can cause scratches to the finish, and that’s even more of an issue when cleaning a TVs screen. The screen is glass, after all. For that, expect to use a special kit which provides a safe cloth to use, as well as the proper cleaning fluid to use with the cloth. Reading the instructions that come with the kit will insure doing it safely (one obvious tip: spray the cloth, not the TV screen for cleaning).
The purpose of a home theater is to entertain. But whether you have set it up yourself or used a professional installer to do it for you (for example, Just One Touch), taking these few simple steps will insure that you are getting your money’s worth every time you sit down to watch or listen.

Friday, October 21, 2016


For most people, being out “on the trail” brings up imagines of lonesome woods devoid of life and filled with violent animals. But the reality of camping is so different — and so much fun — that everyone should reassess and try it, no matter how annoying summer camp memories may have been. But whether you’re hiking up a mountain trail or just camping out in a National Park or even the backyard — there’s no reason not to bring some civilization with you. And by that we mean mobile devices that can add to the fun and even keep a bit of safety surrounding you. 

Here’s some examples:

Everyone probably has used a portable Bluetooth speaker at one time or another. But many don’t consider just how safe it is to take some of these speakers out on the trail — there are waterproof models that laugh (so to speak) at being dunked in a river, others that are weather resistant and others so rugged that they handle getting dirt on them better than you do. Portable speakers that are designed for the outdoors work just as great indoors, but when they’re taken on a trip is when they can really shine. And since their volume is usually all out of proportion to their size, which is often small and lightweight, there’s no reason not to take them along so that they can perform for you. 

The great outdoors rarely comes with electrical outlets. But mobile devices need power — and lots of it —so how can this be taken care of? The simple answer is to pack lightweight power backup devices that can be used to replenish the mobile device’s power. There are even backup devices that use hand cranks and solar power to generate their own electricity, such as flashlights and lanterns. Some of these self-generating power supplies (there are some portable speakers that fall into this category and even some portable camp stoves as well) are also made to supply mobile devices with power as well. That makes them not just “green” but also sensible to take along.  But having one of these battery backups on hand is a no-brainer.

The great outdoors rarely features WiFi, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own wireless network even while setting up camp or in your sleeping bag or tent. There are devices that go out and onto the Internet using a cellular signal — it’s basically the same as using a phone’s cellular signal to connect. The difference is that these devices then generate a WiFi “hot spot” so that everyone can use them. This allows not just phones but also tablets (which rarely have cellular services built-in) to be used. And unlike using someone else’s WiFi network, you’re in complete control of when and how it’s used (not to mention not having to share it with others that are not of your party). This also works much better than having to try and use a phone to create a “hot spot” because it takes a lot of processing power away from the phone being used for other purposes (like to provide music for that Bluetooth speaker).

Spending time outdoors away from home doesn’t mean leaving the convenience of today’s digital lifestyle behind. It just takes some planning and a little bit of technology to get the job done.

Monday, October 17, 2016


There was a TV network who had a slogan that if you hadn’t seen one of their shows, it was new to you. The same can be said of old movies which, even if you’ve seen them in the past, continue to bring a sense of fun and enjoyment every time they’re watched. It’s why so many of them are called “classics” and why they can be watched over and over again. But one of the disadvantages of old movies is that their quality suffers in comparison to a “modern” film. That makes watching them less enjoyable. But while it is true that the movie studios have remastered and enhanced the quality of many of the old movies, the overall quality can still use some help. And that help is right there at your fingertips. Here’s how:

Setting Up the Room
Movies look better when the room is dark — that’s why you often bump into armrests on chairs when trying to return to your seat after buying that tub of popcorn. But even movie theaters aren’t totally in the dark so having a bit of light is OK. But try experimenting with turning off the overhead lights or moving the position of a table lamp or closing the drapes to see just how differently the images on the display will now look. Then make a note of what looks best so you can repeat it when it is time to watch.

Adjusting Your Flat Panel Television
Today’s televisions are marvels of technology — and don’t get us started on how impressive a big screen TV looks seated in your living room or bedroom. Unlike the tube-models of the past, a flat-panel TV has a number of controls that are specifically designed to alter/enhance the picture that is being displayed. You can go into the menu and “turn on” such things as “noise reduction” or “edge enhancement” among others. Even the color temperature is under your control (and counter-intuitively can make a big difference when watching a black and white movie). Of course the overall brightness and contrast of what is being watched can be altered too, but in most cases a modern television will handle that on its own. It will even give you movie “presets” that are pre-configured for changing how the overall image will look. And of course having a 4K television with dynamic range (HDR) means an even higher resolution for watching. 

Update Your DVD/Blu-ray Player to 4K
DVDs have been around for quite a long time now, with Blu-ray discs having taken over because of their higher resolution and better color renditions. But to get the best results from that spinning disc you need the latest technologies built into the disc player: for DVDs that means a new DVD player and for Blu-ray discs that means a new Blu-ray player. And since 4K movies will eventually take the top-of-the-mountain position, a 4K Blu-ray player should be sitting in front of that TV or to the side of it. Streaming is all very well and good, but a lot of the older movies just can not be found online. Besides, why not use that great library of discs that you’ve been collecting all these years?

Nothing beats the comfort and convenience of watching old movies at home. Now that modern technology has given us the best TVs and video players to watch them on; it’s time to sit back and enjoy.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Back in the day, remote controlled vehicles (i.e., “R/C”) was a lot of fun to have — cars and military vehicles and even planes could be controlled from a distance. Today it’s all about Unmanned Aircraft Systems — or as they are more commonly known, drones. Drones take the idea of having a flying machine and ups it to the nth degree in a way that R/C never could. Plus unlike R/C vehicles, drone’s are able to do a lot more than just fly. So it makes sense to break a drone down into its basic components in order to decide which drone is best for you.

Drone Specifications

A drone at its heart is a flying machine. This means it has to have a means to propel itself aloft (propellers) and stay there. The battery powering the drone determines how long a flight can be, and must be charged after each flight before another can take place. Also built into the drone is acceptance of commands from a remote controller. Sensors to keep an eye on altitude and stabilize the flight can be included as well as the ability to build in GPS, crash avoidance and other more exotic systems.

Drone Video

A “birds-eye view” is custom made for a drone. But since the person is earthbound, it’s up to a camera lens to be the one seeing what the drone is flying over. A high-resolution camera in a drone is becoming commonplace (for example, 720p or 1080p or even 4K resolution) and videos can alternated with HD resolution pictures. Memory cards store what the camera sees, although it is also possible on some drones to stream the video to the owner’s smartphone running a special app. 

Drone Control

Wireless control is the basis for flying a drone, and the most obvious kind of controller is one that you hold in your hand and which is automatically linked to the drone. Learning to flying a drone does take some practice, but the learning curve is not onerous at all, especially in the case of a drone that is controlled through a smartphone app. There’s also another advantage of smartphone control — in some cases the phone’s screen becomes a view screen that works with the controller to show you what the drone is seeing (through streaming video).

Drone Registration

The final thing to know about owning and operating a drone is that it must now be registered with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). This applies to pretty much anyone buying a drone for recreation purposes  to fly outdoors (i.e., non-commercial) but is a lot easier than that of going to the DMV for a driver’s license. A drone registration can be done online ( and is good for three years, providing you’ve paid the minor fee. This doesn’t give you carte blanche to fly your drone anyway you’d like because — just as in having a car — there are rules that apply. Most of these are common sense, like not flying a drone near an airport or where airplanes might be found over a fire or near a military installation or in a crowd. But as there are some serious rules in place, and to avoid causing a hazardous situation to exist, check out the information found on the FAA’s website (

Drones can come as simple or sophisticated, small or large. Choosing the right type of drone is a personal thing, especially since they are not made a la carte at this time — what the drone comes with is what you get.  But for anyone looking to fly the skies, nothing beats watching your own drone flying amidst the clouds, under your control.