THE CONNECTED LIFE

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John Sciacca Posted: Dec 17, 2014 0 comments
Automation describes using control systems to operate equipment or other applications with little or no human interaction. At its simplest, home automation could be a garage door opener or a mercury-filled thermostat kicking on your HVAC system; and at its most complex, there’s virtually nothing an automation system can’t do.

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John Sciacca Posted: Nov 12, 2014 1 comments
A fairly common complaint I hear in my custom showroom is the inability to hear dialog while watching TV or movies. The scenario plays out almost identically every single time. A couple will come in, usually older, and the husband will stand there sheepishly while his wife explains that her husband’s hearing has deteriorated and now it’s to the point where he can’t hear the TV unless he blasts the volume which is then too loud for her to tolerate. The husband will then usually chime in that his hearing is fine, and that he just has a hard time with the dialog. But do we have anything that would help so they could both enjoy TV together?

So, first off, guys! I’m not sure what it is that we’re doing in our younger years, but, dammit! It is causing us all to go slowly deaf as we get older! We need to pull it together!

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John Sciacca Posted: Nov 05, 2014 1 comments
The biggest annual event on a custom installer’s calendar is the CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) Expo, which took place September in Denver. This year’s Expo was brimming with new technology, namely the overwhelming rollout of Dolby Atmos, a new surround format that I discussed in my previous column, along with several other exciting introductions like a new laser-powered projector from Epson and several very cool new wireless music system such as Denon’s HEOS and DTS’s Play-Fi.
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John Sciacca Posted: Oct 22, 2014 0 comments
Manufacturers have been so busy focusing on video upgrades with 3D, 4K, local dimming, and OLED, they’ve pretty much forgotten that audio makes up at least 50 percent of the experience. The end result is that we haven’t really seen any significant surround sound advancements since 2000 following the release of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, which brought Surround EX and rear channels.
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John Sciacca Posted: Aug 27, 2014 3 comments
Your home is likely filled with all manner of smart devices, but your most precious electronics—your rack of AV gear and video display—are likely all connected to one of the dumbest devices in your house: your surge protector.

When most people go shopping for a surge protector they focus on figures like clamping rate, response time, single pulse energy dissipation, voltage protection rating, number of outlets, and the warranty. And these are all important things – especially if that sad, sad day ever comes when your house is visited by The Big One; that dreaded bolt of lightning that picks out your home like the angry finger of God. But there are some real advantages that come from giving your surge protector an Ethernet connection and a big o'le steroid shot full of IQ points.

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John Sciacca Posted: Aug 20, 2014 0 comments
When you think about technology, you probably imagine the sexy-cool stuff like multichannel home theater systems, über-thin flat-panel displays, or high-res audio from your favorite artist streamed to any room of your home. And, yes, these are definitely the fun parts of tech that make this such a great hobby for us all.

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John Sciacca Posted: Jul 29, 2014 0 comments
One of the most disappointing things I face is spending time going over different options for someone’s new home’s entertainment and automation system and having them leave my showroom saying, “Wow! Now I’m even more confused than when I started!” (More disappointing is the, “Oh, I wish I’d come to you to do my system!” regret that comes when they can’t get the other guy/company to come back to finish or service the system.)
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John Sciacca Posted: Jul 16, 2014 0 comments
When you think about a home security system, you probably think about protection and sirens that go off and keypads that go BEEP-BEEP when someone opens a door. And while that is a huge part of a security system’s mission statement, a security system is also a huge source of information that an automation system can mine to execute events around the home!

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John Sciacca Posted: Jun 18, 2014 2 comments
Because you are currently reading this, I’m going to make three assumptions…

1) You have fine taste in A/V writers.
2) You are currently alive.
3) You have a barely concealed disdain for your Internet Service Provider and would like to pay them as little as possible while retaining the maximum surfing speeds.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, American ISPs now have the lowest customer satisfaction ranking of any industry in the country. And bottoming out that grim list of corporate scum and villainy is Comcast and Time Warner, the two most hated companies in the US. So, congrats, guys! One of the reasons why we seem to hate our ISP so vehemently is the growing cost of service coupled with horrific customer service and reliability and speed issues. Read on if you want to do something about it…

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John Sciacca Posted: Jun 09, 2014 1 comments
The landscape of our entertainment systems and how we enjoy them has continued to evolve with changing technology. And the importance of different components has changed right along with it. Remember when a cassette player/recorder was the most important music playback device? And then it was a CD player. And then a CD changer. And then an iPod. Now you probably never use any of those devices any longer, rather relying on streaming music from a drive on your home’s network, some cloud-based service like Pandora or Spotify, or beaming it via Bluetooth or AirPlay.
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John Sciacca Posted: May 21, 2014 0 comments
The day will come when you will press the “Watch TV” button on your fancy remote control—or however it is that you turn your system on—and…nothing will happen. Or something will happen, but it won’t be the right thing. Generally the problem will boil down to you’ll be able to see it but not hear it or you’ll hear it but not see it. Before you panic and start spiraling down into a world of Apocalypse Now-level darkness, try these five simple troubleshooting tips. Chances are one of them will get you back on track before the first commercial break!
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John Sciacca Posted: May 07, 2014 0 comments
Good listening is safe listening. Here are three sets of headphones that add to your (and your kids) enjoyment of music without blowing out your eardrums.
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John Sciacca Posted: Apr 16, 2014 3 comments
A few weeks ago I got an email notification from my Kaleidescape movie server saying temperatures has exceeded safe operating range and the server would be shutting itself down if temps didn’t soon return to normal. “What the hell?!” I wondered. Nothing had changed in my rack, I hadn’t added any new gear or changed anything with the ventilation and the server was exactly where it had always been sitting and working fine for the past few years. Of course, I immediately blamed my 7 year old daughter, accusing her of all manner of destructive behavior, but when she assured me she was (in this case) innocent, I searched further.
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John Sciacca Posted: Apr 01, 2014 19 comments
Ask virtually any music listener if they own any high-resolution audio files, and they’ll likely give you a blank stare, wait a beat, and then maybe come back with a question like, “You mean like CDs I put on my computer or something?”

For the record, high-resolution refers to music recorded at better than CD’s 44.1-kHz/16-bit quality, usually 96-kHz/24-bit, typically written as “96/24.” (See my high-rez audio audio primer here).

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John Sciacca Posted: Mar 18, 2014 0 comments
Once Cutting-Edge Systems Are Starting to Look like Dinosuars

Having been a custom installer since 1998, I’ve installed more than my share of housewide audio systems. And, as you can imagine, these systems have changed and evolved quite a bit over the years.

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