REMOTELY POSSIBLE

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 17, 2015 0 comments
If you’re an AV aficionado, enthusiast, geek, or however you think of yourself, Logitech’s Harmony is most likely the first—and maybe only—name that comes to mind when you hear the term “universal remote control.” Although none of the company’s remote controls are perfect (the perfect universal remote control only exists in that magical fantasy world inhabited by unicorns and hard drives that never crash), Harmony’s remotes have been good enough to pretty much crush the competition in the $30 to $350 range. Despite their king-of-the-hill position, Logitech nearly sold off the Harmony division in 2013. It’s a good thing they didn’t, because since then the company has embraced home automation in many of its universal remote controls—and recently Harmony has turned that embrace into a giant bear hug.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 04, 2015 2 comments
50, 25, 7, and 1. Those were the numbers my son told me about when I helped him and his wife move from one apartment to another over the weekend. We wouldn’t have had the conversation at all were it not for Comcast. Because moving isn’t already painful enough, Comcast was able to add to the misery by wasting an hour of our time with a needless trip to one of their “service” centers—and, of course, add a $35 service charge for the trouble. (Considering that Comcast had to pay at least two service representatives to act like utter dimwits, $35 is really a bargain.) Since my son and daughter-in-law only need high-speed Internet and couldn’t care less about cable TV, I wondered aloud if they’d considered switching to another ISP.

Competition being what it isn’t, my son told me the sordid broadband story...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 20, 2015 0 comments
Over the years, I’ve written a lot about outdoor audio and video. Today, most of the people I talk with know about outdoor speakers, especially the portable Bluetooth type—although it’s generally the small, water-resistant models that they think of. (They’d be so much better off with the Soundcast Melody. It’s $399, but I have yet to find a portable, outdoor speaker with Bluetooth that sounds and looks anywhere near as good. Two years after it was introduced, it’s still the best of the portable outdoor bunch.) A smaller number of people know about outdoor speakers that can be permanently installed under the eaves of your home, on a back patio, or around a pool. Some have even heard about outdoor speakers that look like flower pots, rocks, landscape lights, or, sometimes, lifesize dogs, slightly larger-than-life-size frogs, and even angry Tiki heads. But when I mention outdoor, weatherproof TVs—if they’re still talking to me—people either blankly look at me like I’ve just said something in broken Klingon or they say, “Really? They make those? That’s cool.”
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 02, 2015 0 comments
Get ready for the onslaught of Apple HomeKit support announcements. Lutron Electronics announced today that the company’s new 2nd generation Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge DIY home lighting automation hub now supports Apple’s HomeKit. The new Lutron Smart Bridge (L-BDG2-WH) is available now in Apple stores and from numerous other retailers
 and online stores as part of the Caseta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit for $229.95.

At the moment, the most significant advantage of the Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge’s support for Apple HomeKit is...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 04, 2015 0 comments
Sonos is one hell of a system. I’ve tested a lot of the wireless, multi-room, streaming audio systems over the years—including some of the latest “high performance” systems—and Sonos has remained my go-to system. It’s not because Sonos is the best sounding wireless streaming system, although it certainly does sound good. I use Sonos speakers in rooms where music is secondary (or tertiary) to the main activity, such as in the bathroom or kitchen. In these rooms, ease-of-use, convenient form-factor, and reliability trump ultimate sound quality—and Sonos is tops in each of those categories. But that doesn’t mean Sonos can’t be improved upon. And that’s where Flexson comes in.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 22, 2015 0 comments
On April 18th, Quirky Wink HUB owners got an up-close and a little too personal look at the perils of putting control of your smart home into even the most well-intentioned hands over the internet. According to Wink:
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 17, 2015 0 comments
Remote controls suck. Even the best remote controls, such as the Harmony Ultimate Home, suffer from issues that are inextricable parts of what make a remote control a remote control. For instance, there are buttons to press. They’ll either be too small for some people, or the layout won’t be ideal for others. Then there’s the fact that it’s easy to misplace a remote control. Some wind up in between the cushions on the couch. Others—and this happens more often than you would think—have been known to mysteriously make their way inside the kitchen refrigerator. Those are just two of the many problems associated with remote controls for the average person. Now think about that remote control from the standpoint of someone who is up in years and is perhaps suffering from arthritis and/or poor eyesight. For the elderly, remote controls don’t just suck, they’re often impossible to use...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 18, 2015 0 comments
I can’t claim that I haven’t been guilty of the same practice in the past, but sometimes I get very, very tired of reading article after article in the tech press about the latest thingamabob that promises to revolutionize the way we do something—even to the point of changing our lives forever. Of course, as journalists and writers, we need readers; and, unfortunately in most cases, sensationalism gets the eyeballs we crave. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been a boon for us. We get to report on lots of crazy ideas that’ll never make it to market but sound awesome. “New HDMI cable promises to cure cancer and is Dolby Atmos-ready!”

So I’m a bit jaded. As a result, it’s probably unfair to a company whose people have worked very diligently to come up with a new slant on a device category that’s been problematic from the early days of the consumer electronics industry, but I’m a bit underwhelmed by

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 28, 2015 1 comments
I’m not a terribly big fan of Nest, but I don’t hate them, either. I own a Nest Thermostat, and I like it—for the most part. What I don’t understand is the gushing amount of praise a lot of writers give it, both as a standalone thermostat and a major smart home device/controller. You get the feeling that if God needed a thermostat, the Nest would be the one He’d buy. Despite what you might read, the NEST thermostat has its flaws, two of which are its inability to detect occupancy in other areas of the home and its requirement for an always-on Internet connection when used with other smart home systems.

But I have to give the Nest folks a great deal of credit for doing a very honorable thing recently...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2015 0 comments
Predicting what the lovechild of so-and-so and such-and-such would be like isn’t an exact science. After all, Frankenstein’s monster was a lovechild of sorts, and we all know how badly that went. But after looking over a new Kickstarter project, I’m convinced that if Logitech Harmony, Bang & Olufsen , and Revolv (R.I.P.) ever rubbed up against one another long enough to swap the right amount of corporate DNA to create a lovechild, NEEO, “The Thinking Remote”, would be it...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 24, 2014 0 comments
If only my smart home could cook turkey without drying it out...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 27, 2014 1 comments
On Friday of last week (Oct 24 or “Devolve Friday” as it’s now known), visitors to the Revolv website were treated with the following headline: ”We want to share some exciting news with you. Revolv is now a Nest company.” Wow! Considering that Nest — the maker of the hugely popular Nest Learning Thermostat and the less-popular Nest Protect smoke/CO alarm — has one of the biggest corporate sugar daddies in the world (i.e., Google), that’s incredibly exciting news. As I stated in a recent review of the Revolv Hub Home Automation Controller: “The Revolv Hub is a powerhouse that looks to be relatively future-proof from a hardware standpoint. A great choice for a newbie.” With the crazy amount of money Google/Nest could throw at it, Revolv could evolve into the epitome of a smart home system hub.

Moving down the Revolv home page, however, readers soon discovered that the exciting news is actually...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 07, 2014 0 comments
CEDiA 2014 is over and done, but its effects will linger on in the form of first impressions, developing trends, and new technologies. By the numbers, it was a great convention with more than 480 exhibitors and well over 18,000 attendees who made the trek to Denver from 82 countries around the world. But those are the dry statistics. What’s much more exciting was the stuff we saw and heard, as well as the trends we noticed and how they’re going to affect the industry. (By the way, CEDIA didn’t officially change the organization’s name. I did, but I’ll get to that later.)

Dolby Atmos was still too new to have been everywhere on the Expo floor. In those booths where it was being demonstrated, though, it was...

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 09, 2014 Published: Sep 08, 2014 0 comments
2014 CEDIA Expo Coverage Begins Wednesday

In the grand scheme of all things electronic, it’s not as big a deal as the annual CES in Las Vegas. In many respects, though, CEDIA Expo 2014 is an even more important event for people interested in customizing home technologies to make them seamless, integral parts of their customers’ lives. Oh, hell, what am I saying? “Customizing home technologies…” The guys—and most of them are guys, although that’s changing—who go to the CEDIA Expo every year are fascinated by gear that can be hidden, be controlled at a distance, is motorized or otherwise moveable, and can be tweaked and tinkered with. Sure, we talk about "lifestyles", but the reality is we go to CEDIA to geek out on the gear.

It’s a completely safe bet that when the show floor at CEDIA Expo 2014 officially opens at 9:00 AM on Thursday, September 11, the place will be packed‐and a number of us from Sound & Vision will be fighting our way through the throngs of installers, designers, specifiers, representatives, and booth demonstrators...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 08, 2014 2 comments
Not long ago, I had an extended conversation with Mark Walters, the Chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance. Our discussion ranged pretty much across the board as far as the smart home topic was concerned, including how quickly the landscape is changing (not quite daily, although it seems that way) and the various companies – both large and small – that are trying to stake their technological claims in this relatively new territory. Clearly, the consensus is that there’s lots of money to be made in the smart home automation business. The problem, however, for both manufacturers and retailers is choosing a space that’s full of milk and honey rather than settling in what will eventually become a electronic ghost town complete with rolling tumbleweeds of discarded protocols and standards. Consumers, by the way, are basically collateral-damage-in-waiting during this high-tech land grab. (But that’s part of the risk you take as an early adopter, I suppose.)

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