More than 250 projects were submitted for Electronic House magazine’s 5th Annual Home of the Year Awards contest and the winning entries are up now on their website. Categories included: Best Home Theater $25k-$50k, Best Home Theater $50k-$100k, Best Home Theater $100k-$250k, Best Home Theater $250k+, Best Master Suite, Best Kitchen, Best Family Room, Best Outdoor Space and several more with 43 winning installation in all. Tons of pictures and equipment rundowns available here .
Intel showed off a pocket-sized device that monitors power usage by gadgets and appliances across a house. A sensor in the box could detect which appliances were being turned on or off by watching for their unique electricity usage patterns. That allows the creation of logs that can show, for instance, at what hours each day an Xbox or certain lights have been turned on. The sensor works by simply recognizing voltage drop patterns when devices are turned on and off, and doesn't require anything special from the appliances themselves. No official word on when a real product will be available but Intel says they will be using an Intel Atom processor and the MeeGo Linux operating system so developers can build additional applications for the device.
Syabas Technology's upcoming $130 Internet-based A/V streaming set-top box Popbox , the successor to the Popcorn Hour, will feature a complete UI redesign. The new interface includes "infopops" which show off the weather, Twitter feeds, and other data. The interface also includes a cover-flow-esque visual thumbnails selection for videos, music and other data, as well as universal search. The interface can handle Flash, Java and QT meaning Netflix is now available. Also available is Hulu, CBS and ABC content, which can now include the in-video ads required for playback. Facebook, Twitter, Shoutcast MP3, Revision3 and other Popcorn Hour content will rollover to the new box. Released today, the Popbox SDK enables developers to take an existing Adobe Flash application and easily transform it into a new applications for popbox. The popbox SDK hooks into the popbox UI to handle remote commands, execute widgets, and load application-specific data. Developers will be able to create popapps that play videos, music, and photos, read and write content metadata, and access files on mounted drives and UPnP servers from the home network or media from the cloud. Applications developed with the popbox SDK will be available to popbox consumers at launch through the platform’s popapp Center and can be made available to the existing installed base of over 50,000 Popcorn Hour A-200 and C-200 NMTs already in market.
I think everyone can agree that the high-school football team should be allowed to tackle both the guy walking downtown with his pet boa constrictor and the guy reading his iPad outside a bakery. That being said there might be legitimate sound reasoning for new internet devices--as long as owning one doesn't turn you into snake or iPad guy. The Mintpad is a 2.86-inch Wi-fi enabled device with a proprietary pen based UI built on top of Windows CE. Techlore has a demo of the device in action and its way more polished than you expect. The ASUS EeeKeyboard is said to be finally shipping at the end of April and the Chumby / Sony Dash sit nicely on tables displaying whatever RSS feeds your life requires. Also indoor scrolling LED sign have never been more popular.
Pegatron , an off shoot of ASUS, recently showed off a prototype tiny low power HTPC built using an ARM processor and Nvidia's new Tegra 2 . The unit itself includes HDMI, Ethernet, microphone and speaker plugs on the back and the Tegra 2 chip can decode 1080p and Flash video. This particular model is designed to run Windows CE or Google Android but it's possible other manufactures will incorporate full Linux Distros like Ubuntu For Arm and include either Boxee or XBMC software for a full Linux HTPC experience. Although no price has been set yet you can expect these units to be quite a bit cheaper than their Intel Atom based counterparts like the Acer Revo($350 US with Windows 7 Home Premium) .
According to Gizmodo Google is continuing it's business approach of throwing their hat into everything, everywhere. Google hopes that the new platform will succeed where dozens of lesser efforts have failed—to truly and seamlessly integrate web content onto TVs, bringing services like Twitter and sites like YouTube, in addition to games, webapps, and, of course, Google's search, to the big screen. The Google TV software reportedly includes a version of Google's Chrome browser for doing some light surfing, as well. The New York Times says Google TV will be delivered on set-top boxes that use Intel Atom chips and run an Android-based platform, though the technology will also reportedly be built directly into Blu-ray players and TVs from Sony. Additionally, Google is working with Logitech to built a keyboard-equipped remote control for the platform.
The $399 PCI Express Low Profile card allows Media Center PCs to play or record up to four live channels of HDTV at once, and stream live HD channels or recordings to multiple HDTVs throughout the home, all from a single cable connection and a single CableCARD. It can stream HD broadcasts to other HDTVs around your home via Media Center Extenders such as the Xbox 360. The Ceton InfiniTV 4 quad-tuner card is now available for pre-order and is expected to ship on May 31, 2010.
The DVR market has become a lot like the cell phone market. You have the phone that is a tiny portable computer and you have the phone that comes cheap with your service provider, makes calls and you don't care if it falls into the lake. The middle appeals to less and less people. The DVR market also seems to fall into those two extremes. You're either a person looking for a living room platform where you can get all the latest services and software (Pandora, Netflix, Social Networking photos, Hulu etc) or you just care about skipping commercials when you watch Modern Marvels or Pawn Stars. The new Tivo Series 4 is neither. There are two Series 4 models : the Premiere with a 320-GB hard drive for $300, and the $500 Premiere XL with 1 TB, THX-certification and a backlit remote. The big feature is a new interface and the additional services available through it: Blockbuster, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and streaming music from Rhapsody or Live 365. That's all well and good but the interface and services aren't available as upgrades for existing Tivo owners and they really fall short compared to a full HTPC. I'm not sure why a person who rents their DVR from Comcast would buy this or why a person who knows better wouldn't buy a computer and HDMI cable. Click here for a closer look at the interface and features.
Shuttle new XS35 is just 3.3cm thin but includes some great features for your mini HTPC needs. This including a dual-core Intel Atom D510 at 1.6GHz , Nvidias new Ion 2 graphics processor, HDMI out, five USB ports, VGA out, LAN port, memory card reader, 2.5″ HDD, and an optical drive. The unit is passively cooled so the only noise will be from the hard drive or optical and the unit has standard VESA mounts so you can mount this behind your LCD. The Shuttle XS35 nettop is said to be on its way in Q2 2010, but pricing and hard ship dates have yet to be revealed.
The upcoming MSI Air Keyboard is an HTPC keyboard and mouse combo that fits right in your hands much like a game controller. The unit features a full QWERTY keypad with an accelerometer within that is able to turn the mini keyboard into an air mouse. The device interprets tilting the keyboard up and down, left and right as mouse movements with the mouse left and right buttons mounted on the shoulders of the keyboard. Through a USB dongle, the MSI Air can connect to PCs and Macs up to 160 feet away. Available here for $89.99.
The web site Hacking Windows 7 Media Center is a great resource for how tos on making Windows Media Center for Windows 7 do everything Microsoft doesn't support out of the box. The site includes information on setting up automatic commercial removal, getting MKV's to work perfectly, using media scrapers to organize and collect covers, movie posters and other data for your media collection.
No it can't. It doesn't want to either and that's good for all of us. Several small companies are using Marvell's SheevaPlug , a computer the size of a wall plug, to build personal servers that give you the benefits of remote file and information access without the creepiness, perceived or valid, of hosted cloud services. The TonidoPlug sells for $99 dollars and plugs in beside your home router. It runs a custom suite of applications on top of a embedded Ubuntu Linux OS that allow you to host photo albums, music jukeboxes, personal blogs, money management, calendars or file sharing all available online through your browser or locally with complete control over who has access to what and nothing is ever stored in the clouds. Google Docs, Facebook and Flcker are free services but the aren't charities and the information you give them never goes away. Everyone has their own line of what they are comfortable with and products like the TonidoPlug give you an alternative.
It's been almost three years since TiVo last introduced a new, stand-alone DVR but today the company announced that it will hold a press conference on March 2 to debut what they have in store for the future. Tivo sent out the announcement with the words “Inventing the DVR was just a warmup”, so clearly they think this going to be a big deal. Whether the world agrees is yet to be seen but images of a TiVo Premiere have surfaced and a newly revamped menu system are expected but with such a big claim they certainly have got a lot of people speculating.
Without any actual 3d content or a 3D television to view them on, rushing out to buy a HDMI 1.4 3D compatible Blu-ray player might not make much sense, but if you still don't own a Blu-ray player then maybe Samsung's BD-C6900 Blu-ray player is worth checking out. The unit will be the first Blu-ray players on the market to support the new 3D Blu-ray standard and was available for pre-order on Amazon for $399 before they took down the link. Besides 3d the Samsung BD-C6900 comes with the Internet@TV suite which includes applications such as Netflix, Blockbuster, Picasa, Pandora, VUDU, Twitter like the rest of Samsung's 2010 line up.
Philip's is releasing its second generation Living Colors color changing LED lamp. The latest LivingColors lamp produces 16 million colors through a combination of 7 LEDs—an overall quality of light that's 50% brighter than version one. By using the touch-sensitive color wheel and intuitive remote control, you can increase and decrease the color saturation, brighten or dim the light, and turn on and off the lamp and color loop feature. Also, the remote control will remember the last setting used and automatically returns to that setting when the lamp is turned back on. Because the LivingColors remote is controlled by radio frequency, you can change the color effect from anywhere in the room without pointing the remote directly at the lamp. You can also connect up to six LivingColors lamps to the same remote control. The second generation Living Colors lamp isn't available yet but the first generation lamp and its mini counterpart are available now on Amazon here and here .
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Automation & Control - Featured Product
Smart Bulbs are out there and they can do far more then just provide light. Speakers, projectors, wi-fi extenders and more. The standard light socket that is wired up and ready to go in nearly every home in North America is now providing an easy and affordable option for home owners and renters alike to enter into the world of the "Smart Home". Here is a look at some of the Smart Bulbs and Smart Lighting options out there, and this list is just the beginning. In this ongoing article we hope to continue to add to and grow this list, so stay tuned!