Whole-home audio redux with Amazon and Google

Image courtesy of Monoprice

Hey, it was 2002, and it worked.

I’ve been experimenting with whole-home audio since college. I bought a 100′ stereo cable and ran it from my roommate’s bedroom all the way down to the front room so we could have music playing on both floors of our four-person townhome. I remember price-shopping multi-zone amplifiers when I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. It seemed the height of luxury to be able to listen to the same song no matter where you were in the house.

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One man’s search for the perfect streaming media player

I am neither an audiophile nor a videophile, but I like to have a functional home theater that takes advantage of the state of the art without investing a ton of time and money into it. About eight years ago I assembled some mid-range gear—including a 46″ Samsung LCD panel, Denon AVR, Sony Blu-ray player, and Polk Audio speakers—that enabled me to watch movies in judder-free 1080p24 with lossless, 5.1-channel surround sound. It doesn’t hold a candle to e.g. a modern 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos setup, but it’s still a fine setup for our viewing distance and family room needs (if anything, it’s probably overkill).

We also have an Apple TV (3rd gen) and a 2010 TiVo Premiere that are getting a little long in the tooth. (Incredibly, the TiVo plays Prime Video at 1080p24 with Dolby Digital Plus, but it’s slow as molasses and you have to pay for the TiVo service to use their OnePass feature.) A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to cancel cable TV and the TiVo subscription and replace the Apple TV and the TiVo with a new, future-proof streaming media player that supports Plex, streaming TV services, 4K HDR, and Dolby Digital Plus. I tried out the latest offerings from Amazon, Roku, and Apple.

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Web site security checklists

There are a tremendous number of things you can do today to make your site more secure, while preserving compatibility with all but the oldest web clients (I’m looking at you, Java 6 and Internet Explorer 6). If you haven’t been keeping up with the state of the art, this includes things like (cue Benny Hill music):

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Review: Monoprice HDMI with RedMere

If you aren’t already buying all your A/V and computer cables and adapters from Monoprice, you’re doing it wrong! Monoprice has the best selection and prices you’ll ever find. They also manufacture (or possibly rebrand) a lot of high-quality original products, such as DisplayPort adapters, battery packs, and Apple-compatible 30-pin dock connector cables. (And no, they’re not a sponsor.)

Earlier this year, Monoprice announced a partnership with an Irish firm called RedMere. RedMere has developed a new technology that several OEMs, including Monoprice, have integrated or plan to integrate into their HDMI cables. RedMere adds circuitry into the HDMI connector on one end of the cable that effectively steals a little voltage from the display/sink device (e.g. a TV or A/V receiver) to boost the signal. This allows them to use a much thinner, lighter, and more flexible strand than usual.

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Review: Google Voice (Aug 2012)

Ever since GrandCentral was announced back in 2005, all geekdom has been anxiously awaiting the “Holy Grail” of automated call-forwarding services. There were a few lucky (and very stoked) early adopters, but after Google acquired the company in July 2007 and stopped boarding new users, all seemed lost. The project stagnated for nearly two years, with little or no information made available about the service to the general public, nor to those aforementioned early adopters regarding the future of their once-treasured GrandCentral accounts. Most people were left assuming that Google had bought the company just to kill it, and Google made no moves whatsoever to counter that assumption.

The phoenix suddenly arose from the ashes in March 2009, rebranded as “Google Voice”, finally becoming available once again in June. However, participation was by invitation only, and the nascent service was fraught with many quirks and missing features. The unwashed masses had to wait yet another year, until June 2010, to begin to partake in the offering. Fast forward two years or so and the service has matured greatly, offering many advanced features like number porting, in-call phone switching, call screening and blocking, and much more.

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