Darryl Wilkinson

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 18, 2014 0 comments
I’m on a quest to find the best of the affordable smart home automation systems that are available (or will be shortly). The first couple of review samples have come in, and one of the primary aspects these two systems have in common is the impressive amount of engineering and design effort put into making installation and set up as easy as possible. That’s vitally important because for home automation to really get its foot in the door (so to speak) and appeal to more than just gadget-freaks like me, the system controllers need to be smart enough that the end user doesn’t have to commit an overwhelming amount of brainpower to the process of setting them up and getting them running. If the initial installation of a smart home automation controller is anything close to the pain involved in creating a bunch of macros in a programmable universal remote control, there’s going to be a lot of product returns from unhappy customers.

The first system to arrive was...

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 06, 2014 7 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Internal storage for up to 100 BDs, 600 DVDs, or 6,000 CDs
Bit-for-bit downloads of BDs and DVDs from Kaleidescape Store
System interface and operation unmatched by any other movie server
Minus
BD must be inserted to authorize playback, even if movie has been imported
Limited options for adding zones and storage

THE VERDICT
The Cinema One provides almost everything you’d want in a movie server. “Almost” not good enough? Pair it with the DV700 Disc Vault.

Sometimes I’d rather take a jackhammer to my brainstem than dig through piles of disc cases and endure the mind-numbing delays of spinning icons, non-skippable trailers, loading menus, FBI warnings, and whatever else stands in the way of watching a movie at home.

If it seems like I’m exaggerating, it’s only because you haven’t experienced the tidal wave of dopamine that comes with using a movie server in your home theater. For the uninitiated, a movie server is an A/V component that provides near-instant access to movies stored digitally on an internal or external hard drive (or drives). Some servers, such as Kaleidescape’s new Cinema One, include a built-in Blu-ray/DVD player that makes it easy to import movies or music.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 05, 2014 0 comments
The so-called smart home is built on a foundation of three pillars. As with the architecture of a real home, each pillar must be equally as strong, or you run the risk of the entire structure collapsing. Fortunately, the virtual-world failure of a smart home system is nowhere near as likely to result in physical injury as is the falling ceiling and walls of a real-world building. Obviously, though, having a smart home that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do is a waste of money. Having a system that only works some of the time is even worse because there’s a period of intense frustration before the homeowner finally gives up and quits using the system entirely.

The three pillars of the smart home are...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 29, 2014 0 comments
A lot of the sizzling hype at CES2014 was about home automation or, if you prefer using the gussied-up term, the “Smart Home”. Not everyone’s definition of a Smart Home (or home automation) is the same, though, and - as far as I know - there’s no standardized IQ test to determine how smart your Smart Home is.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 22, 2014 0 comments
CES is just too big for any one human being - or, in our case, nine human beings - to cover completely. And, unless you’re a word-factory like my compatriot, John “The Sciacca” (who, I believe, outsources his blogs and reviews to a small company in Sri Lanka), it’s damn near impossible to write about everything you see at CES while you’re in Las Vegas. And then, of course, there are all the things you didn’t see but wished you had...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 10, 2014 Published: Jan 11, 2014 0 comments
ivee Sleek is a “hands-free, voice-activated, internet-connected assistant for the home that answers questions, obeys commands and controls other internet-connected devices.” ivee Sleek uses the AT&T Speech API powered by the AT&T Watson speech recognition engine to begin the process of turning voice commands or questions into system actions or answers. ivee Sleek has the smarts and the capabilities to understand and answer questions in 33 categories, including time and weather conditions and stock prices. The smart assistant is also able to integrate with Iris from Lowe’s and Staples Connect systems, giving it the ability to control internet-connected devices, such as smart thermostats, motorized locks, security cameras, and smart plugs. Oh, yeah, it’s also a digital clock, too. ivee Sleek is available for pre-order now for $229.99. No subscription fees are required.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 10, 2014 0 comments
EcoHarvester is a startup company that uses “green technology” to engineer consumer electronics devices that do not require batteries. Instead, the devices are “human-powered” and rely on power generated by the users’ own movements or micro-kinetic energy. The company’s first product, the BonsaiLight, is a desk/tabletop dimmable LED lamp that comes with a battery-less wireless on/off switch that uses “a razor thin mechanism to capture motion, yielding a significantly larger amount of power-for-size than other battery-free switches…” Because the wireless switch “harvests” the power it needs from the kinetic energy expended when the user turns the switch, it can be mounted anywhere without the need for running new wires. The BonsaiLights will likely incorporate Bluetooth connectivity and other wireless protocols. The company anticipates beginning a Kickstarter campaign within the next several months, with production to begin as soon as possible. Exact pricing of the hardware was not available, although the wireless switches will hopefully sell for under $40 each.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 10, 2014 0 comments
Samsung Electronics thinks your home should be smart – as long as it’s filled with Samsung Smart TVs, Samsung home appliances, and Samsung smartphones that are all connected and managed through Samsung’s Smart Home platform. Samsung’s Smart Home is designed to enable homeowners to control and manage many of the devices in their homes via a single, simple app. The devices that Samsung envisions to be part of the Smart Home ecosystem will include refrigerators, washing machines, Smart TVs, digital cameras, smartphones, and wearable devices (such as the Galaxy Gear). In the beginning, Samsung Smart Home will offer three features: Device Control, Home View, and Smart Customer Service. Device Control provides what you would think from the name: the ability to monitor and control home gear, such as turning the house HVAC on/off or changing lighting scenes. Interestingly, Smart Home will offer a voice command function on all of the controller devices. According to Samsung, “Users can also use chat control on their smartphone app as a fun, convenient way to communicate with their devices.” (Only as long as the appliances don’t start talking back…) Home View will allow users to view their home in real-time thanks to cameras built into Samsung appliances. (So, that means no walking around in the kitchen in your underwear…) The Smart Home’s Smart Customer Service will notify customers “when it’s time to service appliances or replace consumables, and provides assistance in after-sales servicing.” The company has developed a dedicated Smart Home software protocol (SHP) to facilitate communication between Samsung devices as well as (hopefully) other manufacturers’ appliances and devices.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 09, 2014 1 comments
SANUS gave an X-ray view of its upcoming In-wall Power and Cable System that’s designed to make it easy for homeowners and DIYers to install flat-panel TVs – and soundbars – on the wall and hide the wires without having to hire an installer and/or an electrician. The basic kit includes a single- or double-gang in-wall receptacle, a matching in-wall AC connection box, and an extension cable that plugs in to an existing AC outlet. You can basically think of it as a safe, uncluttered way of running an extension cable in the wall along with all of the necessary AV connecting cables. The wide ELM809 in-wall mounting box is designed to go behind wall-mounted soundbars and provide access to AC as well as AV cables that are hidden in the wall. The basic package will sell for $99 with the soundbar solution being priced at $49. Both products should be available this spring.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 09, 2014 0 comments
Metra Home Theater hates cords and cables more than you do. The company’s new 3.1 Audio Mount Sound Bar combines an active soundbar with a 160-watt class D amp with a wall mount capable of handling 50- to 90-inch TVs. But Metra didn’t stop there. It also incorporates a powered subwoofer into the mount itself, possibly making the 3.1 Audio Mount Sound Bar the world’s easiest-to-install and cleanest-looking AV system ever. The MSRP for the 3.1 Audio Mount Sound Bar will be $899 with the product shipping early this year.

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