Top Ten Smart Devices To Get The Most Out Of Alexa

If you got an Alexa for Christmas you’ve been living with her for a month now. How’s that going for you? Many people will be getting used to having her around and thinking about what else she can do. As a stand-alone device she can be a lot of fun, but her real benefits only come when she is synchronised to the rest of your Smart devices.

It’s easy to choose the smart tech which will work with Alexa, because the answer is basically anything! If it’s an Amazon or Echo product it will work with Alexa with the minimum of fuss. Then there are all the third party products which Amazon has given licenses to. Manufacturers have recognised that if their product is going to sell then it’s necessary to make it compatible with the leading Smart home interface, which is essentially Alexa. Google Home is right along side Amazon with market penetration, so it’s handy that these two major players are working together to create a ubiquitous format which will support all devices.

But now that you don’t have to worry about whether your new investment will work with others, which are the top choices of nick-nacks which will bring joy and ease of function to your life?

Why not check out these top ten purchases to begin with, and see where the Smart home revolution takes you?

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Prepare & Position Your TV To Get The Best Picture Possible

flat screen TV, television, installation, wall, wall hangingPeople admit to watching around three hours of TV a day, but we all know the reality is that while you might only remember watching TV for that long many of us switch the TV on when we get in and probably won’t turn it off again until we go to bed. It keeps the kids quiet after school, then there’s the soaps, followed by the news, then a movie and before you know it you’ve been watching television for six hours. Maybe not really concentrating, but still, that’s a quarter of your day when the TV has been on.

Considering how large a part television plays in our homelife today it’s important that you choose the right one for you. In the days when we only had one big TV per household the choice was easy, pick one which was big enough to be seen from the other side of the room and put it where it wouldn’t get glare from the sun streaming through the window. But things change. We now have more channels via Freeview, Freesat and Sky than we could ever hope to watch, and that’s before we even begin thinking about Netflix, Hulu (via a VPN), YouTube, and streaming sites.

There is choice not only in size, but in picture quality too, both factors which naturally affect the price of the television set you ultimately end up bringing into your home.

Simple economics would dictate that you get the biggest screen for the lowest price if you want to score yourself a bargain, but in reality that’s far from the case. A large TV in a small room will absolutely overpower the space and you won’t be able to get physically far enough away from the screen in order to be able to enjoy the picture. The rule of thumb is that the screen should be positioned one and a half to three times the screen’s diameter from your head. So if you have a 70cm screen the closest you would want to be from it is just over a metre, and the furthest you would want to sit would be approximately 2 metres. You would most likely want to sit within a 30 degree angle of the screen. Flat screen TVs are made up of laminated layers which perform a different task in the makeup of your picture. Increase the angle you’re watching at too far from 90 degrees and your view of the layers goes out of phase, meaning that colours change or invert entirely. Read more

Turning Your Family Room Into A Home Cinema

home cinema, family room, entertainment, home theatreWhen people think of a home cinema they probably think of a small bank of recliners, low light, big screen and an audio system most of us would have to take out a second mortgage to be able to afford. And yes, such home cinema exist and we’d all love to be able to have one in our home if only we could, but what about we mere mortals who don’t have the kind of wallet that allows for a wing of the family pile to be given over to home entertainment?

What if we’ve got kids, a regular size house, bills and car payments to make? How do we get into Home Cinema?

First of all, think about which space you’re going to use and how you already use it. People don’t tend to keep the Front Room for best any more, nor do they have dining rooms which are only used to entertain guests. Often these spaces have been knocked through to provide a larger living space or made into family rooms where the kids can shout and scream until they wear themselves out in time for bed.

Aha! There’s the trick! If you’re going to use it for watching serious movies or playing until it’s your bedtime there is no overlap. Once the kids have vacated it it’s yours for the use of.

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What’s Stopping You From Installing A Home Cinema?

home cinema, home theatre, projection screen, Unless you’re building a new home or have the luxury of being able to add an extension to you home just to facilitate your new home cinema you’re going to have to work with the layout of the room you’ve got when thinking about configuration & location. Windows and doors offer the biggest problems, followed by chimney breasts and fireplaces. Not only can you not place a projector screen or large format TV across a window or door, you need to be able to use them, and can’t put speakers in them either!

Chimneys and fireplaces offer their own inconveniences as a mantle is a great place to hang a regular size flat screen TV, but a large format is too big to hang where they can be seen without straining your neck while hanging a projector screen in front of the fireplace makes it a fire hazard.

And once you’ve found the right location for your TV or screen, where do you put the speakers to get the most out of your surround sound?

In order to get the most out of your home theatre you have to be both flexible, and imaginative. Windows, doors and furniture tell you where things can’t go, so you have to work that little bit harder to find the perfect spot where things can go.

Often placing the picture, be that the TV screen or projector screen is the least of your worries. You’ve got a perfect, UHD display, but now where to put the speakers to get the surround sound to finish off the full theatre experience? Read more

Switching Over To Fibre? Myths & Realities

Ofcom suggest that as many as 94% of British homes could take advantage of fibre broadband, however, only 45% of us have taken advantage of superfast internet. What are the advantages of switching from cable to fibre optic data transfer, and what are the stumbling blocks preventing people from taking up fibre?

A recent Which? survey found that 41% of internet users said they weren’t considering moving over to fibre because they were currently happy with the speeds they were getting. 20% said they didn’t use the internet enough to make it worth while changing provider or switching their contract.

While it’s true that the average speed currently provided via metal cable, around 12Mbps, is quite sufficient for browsing, using social media and streaming a movie, as data use increases both in individual homes and generally throughout the population, those speeds won’t be sustainable with the current infrastructure and won’t be sufficient for the average homeowner.

As media continues to be delivered by Earth based technology (cable & transmitter to antenna) the metal cable infrastructure cannot keep up with the amount of data which needs to be delivered as we continue to increasingly inhabit the internet. As our demand for more data, delivered more reliably increases every year the current infrastructure will increasingly find it hard to cope. However, fibre is more than capable of taking over and delivering what is required. Read more

Adjusting Your TV For The Perfect Picture

Large flatscreen television mounted in the center of a wall with a black soundbar mounted underneathGetting the best picture from your television is a matter of personal preference, some people like a really saturated picture as it gives them a sense of really seeing something on television while others prefer a more muted picture where the colours are a little more gentle than in real life. But in either and any case, there are certain things to consider when setting up your picture and sound.

The theory is that your prime seating position is directly in front of your TV set, at a distance 150% of the width of the TV while the set should be mounted at a height where the bottom third of the screen is in line with your eyes when you sit in your favourite chair. In theory this will mean that the screen will fill your field of vision as fully as possible without you needing to move your head to see the full picture and you won’t have to raise your head to look up at the screen. Read more

Watching Television In The Age Of Advertising & Fake News

Child watching television, ads, advert, advertising, TV, marketing, People, especially young people, are watching less and less broadcast television despite the ever increasing number of channels available on Freeview, Freesat and subscription charging satellite broadcasters such as Sky.

At first glance it’s easy to see why. Despite the vast number of channels the variety and content of what’s available to watch is uninspiring. If you don’t like reality TV in the form of Big Brother, Love Island, Made In Chelsea, Geordy Shore or The Only Way is Essex your viewing choices are actually rather limited. Your options for avoidance become narrower when the ‘personalities’ these shows throw up become loose in the wold, appearing on other shows. You’ll see them appearing on panel shows, news quizzes, even offering their considered opinions on daytime chat and current affairs programming, and, in an arch example of media eating itself, celebrity iterations of other reality television shows.

If you are in the position that you want to watch something on broadcast TV you reach the second obstacle to enjoying a television show: the adverts. There has to be a saturation point where advertising is so frequent that viewers simply won’t watch any more and on most of the commercial stations that point seems to have been reached. Read more

Esports At The Olympics? Why Not!?

The International Olympics Committee is currently considering whether to include esports in the future Olympic Games.

By 2020, and if not then by 2024, we may be able to see video games played at an international competitive level, or we may not. The IOC says it needs more time and information before it can make a decision on whether they can be included. The IOC said that while some games are not “compatible with the Olympic values” they also recognise that “competitive gaming entails physical activity which can be compared to that required in more traditional sports”.

Now, purists and traditionalists will naturally say that computer games are clearly not sports as they don’t require the skill, training, aptitude or physical prowess that’s required by IRL sports whereas anyone who’s ever played or watched a tournament of esports will tell you that’s clearly not the case. Huge numbers of solid hours are required to learn how to play games at a competitive level, requiring skill, dedication and whatever else is needed to get to international competition level. Read more

What will you look for when buying your next LED Flat Screen TV?

flat screen television, TV hanging, TV Mounting, television hanging, television wall bracketI wonder how many people would go back to buying a cathode ray tube TV if they had the choice. They were big, heavy, and not very impressive in terms of picture quality. Their only redeeming feature, so far as I can remember, was that once ensconced in the corner of the room they were a handy place to keep ornaments. The fact that you can hang your flat screen TV on the wall means that extra space is freed up, so you can find a proper bookcase where you can display your prized knickknacks.

Meanwhile, you should also be choosing your flat screen television, but which one?

LCD, LED, OLED QLED Flat Screen TV

LCD and LED TV sets make up the majority of TVs available on the high street today. The LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes, can be made extremely small and that means that when they are build into a flat screen it’s possible to generate a picture of much higher resolution than was possible with the old vacuum tube TVs. Active dimming is used to ensure the contrast of the picture. Achieving a black which is really black has always been a problem for TVs of any kind, and active dimming is one way of ensuring that dark areas of the picture remain dark, even when nearby areas of the screen are fully illuminated. They also have a backlight which boosts the brightness of the picture but this comes with drawbacks: it makes the picture more visible if you’re watching in the dark, but it means that the true black everyone is looking for is impossible. Read more

I Feel The Need, The Need For Data Speed

We all know the adage that noting is assured but death and taxes. Today we can add washing up and the frustration you feel when your home entertainment such as TV and surfing is interrupted by slow data speeds and adverts. Since we can’t help you live longer and I don’t really like washing up, let’s look at your IT speed. It won’t fend off death but faster data does mean that you’ll spend less time waiting for pages to load, files to transfer and movies to buffer. With all that time freed up, it’s like adding time to your life, which is nearly the same.

A few years ago it was also found that we, as TV viewers, waste a year of our lives surfing channels looking for something to watch. Whether that’s avoiding adverts or actively looking for something to watch foregoing the EPG and looking at what’s being broadcast in real time, that’s a lot of time that you could win back. Read more