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Home Media Store Blog

Home Media Store Blog
A blog about the home electronics gadgets and entertainment in our lives. It includes basic how-to's and industry news.
Articles: 1, 2, 3, 4

Articles

Changing Television: And a Couple of Wishy-Washy Answers
2009-02-01 11:07:00
I'm dedicating today's blog to answering some recent questions. The first is the question of whether or not the switch to digital TV is indeed happening February 17th.  Yes, maybe, but then again it's not unlikely it will occur June 12 instead. My understanding is that the Senate voted to put it off until June 12, the House rejected the move but is re-voting this coming week and is likely to also pass the bill to delay until June 12. So, at the moment the switch will be February 17 but it seems likely to be delayed prior to the February 17 deadline. Another question about the digital switch were questions from someone who receives their television via an over-the-air antenna. They wanted to verify that all they needed to get the digital signals was a converter box or perhaps a new television with a digital tuner.  I investigated a bit and found that this may or may not be true. In an article posted in the Frazee Forum I found that a VHF only antenna may not be able...
More About: Television , Answers , Couple , Changing
The Memory Card Dilemma
2009-01-26 10:50:00
For anyone shopping for a memory card to use with their digital camera or camcorder, they're probably trying to decide just how much memory they need or how much they really want to spend. Memory cards in general are of course pretty affordable but as the capacity has climbed, so has the cost.  There are many advantages to these higher capacity cards but there are at least one or two potential downfalls as well. - CostA basic 512MB SD card can be found online at Amazon for $4.  A 4GB memory card is more likely to be in the $7-$12 category (generally quite a lot higher at brick and mortar retailers) while a brand name 32GB card will generally run over $100 up to well over $1,000 for the camcorder cards.  With this pricing, it becomes important to assess just how much memory one really needs before having to download their photos or video. - RiskBeing able to capture thousands of photos or several hours of video before downloadin...
More About: Card , Dilemma
Cell Phones: Improving Accessibility for Low Vision and Blind Individuals
2009-01-23 12:29:00
I've written about cell phone accessibility for the deaf and hearing impaired but haven't really addressed accessibility for the blind and low vision population. For quite some time the best option for such individuals appeared to be screen reading software. These programs, such as Nuance Talks and Mobile Speak for Pocket PC's, work fairly well at translating text on the screen to speech. They allow the user to hear their text messages and on-screen commands. Recently, however touchscreen phones have exploded on the market and these devices make it extremely difficult for those with limited vision to use the keypad as it offers no significant tactile feedback. I recently came across an article however that describes some potential future developments that may make such phones more accessible. You can read about how one man is developing a dialer that can be used on touch screen phones which operates from whatever position the user's hand is in when first placing their hand on th...
More About: Cell Phones , Phones , Cell , Blind
Improving Your Indoor Cell Phone Reception
2009-01-19 21:36:00
Last year Sprint introduced the Airave, the first femtocell to be offered by a US cellular provider.  A femtocell is a home base station which can significantly improve cell phone reception in home and offices where there is currently a poor signal.  It achieves this by using your broadband connection to communicate with the cellular network while indoors. Recent reports indicate that AT&T is now testing a similar product and Verizon has announced that their femtocell will be available to customers by January 25th according to this Artstechnica article.  Pricing will be announced once the device is officially on the market. The other major nationwide provider in the US, T-Mobile, doesn't offer a femtocell but instead provides the HotSpot at Home service which allows the user to switch to Wi-Fi using their broadband connection and a hybrid phone resulting in a similar improvement in cellular reception.  
More About: Phone , Cell Phone , Cell
A Plasma TV for the Energy Conscious Shopper
2009-01-15 10:28:00
Plasma televisions offer a superior picture in rooms with less ambient light, don't suffer from motion blur, and are generally more affordable than similarly sized LCD displays.  Some consumers avoid them due to the risk of burn in that these screens experienced when they were first introduced years ago. Newer technologies however have nearly eradicated this problem. For other shoppers, plasma televisions weren't their choice because of plasma's higher energy consumption. Although the original purchase price was a bit more attractive, the long term costs could be budget busting. This may be history as well. This year Panasonic will be releasing ther NEO plasma displays which, along with deeper blacks, improved color contrast, and even slimmer profiles, will reportedly consume 50% less energy. For anyone wisely considering how to cut their home energy use and the associated costs this will make plasma a much better choice. Panasonic's S1 series will begin emergin...
More About: Plasma , Energy
Just When You Thought It Wasn’t Possible: Digital Photography Gets Ev
2008-06-08 13:10:00
When the Eye-Fi Share Memory Card was introduced, consumers were able to transmit photos and video to an e-mail address or photo sharing site using the card’s built-in wireless connection, freeing consumers from data cables and card readers.  It made the process of uploading photos more convenient and, at $99 for 2GB of storage, was also affordable. Now however, things have gotten even better as the Eye-Fi Explore SD Card is being introduced to the market. This 2GB memory card will also automatically add geotagging information to photos taken.  For those venturing into more remote areas however, it is important to note that it’s effectiveness will be limited by the proximity of Wi-Fi access points as it uses these to operate. This newest Eye-Fi card will be priced around $129.For those merely interested in easily uploading photos from their digital camera to their MAC or PC, there is the Eye-Fi Home, another wireless 2GB memory card for only $79.
More About: Photography , Thought , Digital
OLED TV: Persistent Questions About the Newest TV Technology on the Market
2008-06-05 14:33:00
The Sony XEL-1 OLED TV was introduced with quite a bit of fanfare a few months ago. Although the 11 inch screen is small, most who have seen it agree that it’s a pretty picture and slim beyond belief at only 3 millimeters. For those who are interested in the sleekest and newest gadgets it’s nearly irresistible. It appears  however, that for the average consumer there may be good reason to wait for the technology to mature further. Certainly, as with most technologies, it is anticipated that prices may drop as manufacturing processes mature and numbers of displays increase. At $2,500 for an 11” TV screen, OLED is currently cost prohibitive for many consumers. Screen size is also expected to expand as additional hurdles are cleared.Recent news stories are also indicating that longevity may still need to be addressed.  Sony has reported an anticipated lifespan of 30,000 hours but more recently others have indicated their expectations are nearly half of that as ...
More About: Technology , Questions , Market
Non-Traditional Tripods
2008-06-01 13:44:00
I like tripods.  I don’t always have one with me when I need it but I know pictures with my Canon S5 IS or films made with my camcorder come out far better when I use one.  I know that some people are completely opposed to making the purchase and toting them around but I’m pretty hung up on a clear, steady image. For those who want to spare the expense and the additional baggage, there is an option or two that may offer greater stability and yet meet their budget and convenience needs.  I’m not saying they are top of the line gear, but in my book, almost any type of stabilization device can be useful. First for the ultimate in portability there is the bottle cap tripod. The 1.6 ounce camera shoe merely snaps on a bottle top and can easily be carried around in your pocket. Obviously this would come in handy only when you have bottled drinks or something similar along and a surface to place it atop.  Certainly at home and perhaps when involved in an ...
More About: Traditional
Streaming Netflix Movies to TV
2008-05-27 16:44:00
Last week online movie rental giant Netflix announced that their subscribers can now purchase a $100 set top box, manufactured by Roku which allows them to stream movies directly to their television.  Last year Netflix took the first step in moving from mail delivery only when they introduced their Watch Now feature which allowed users to stream movies to their PC. However, the ability to stream movies to television will probably capture the attention of a broader audience.The Roku set top box provides the necessary connection to the internet via wired or wireless-G network connectivity. The device has HDMI, component, composite, and S-video outputs. Netflix customers initially have 10,000 titles available for streaming and can easily select them from their queue. For those who rent movies online via Netflix, the other good news is that the streaming service costs nothing. Once the set top box is purchased there are no additional fees beyond their typical subscriptio...
More About: Movies , Streaming
Data Only Plans
2008-05-26 10:56:00
I have blogged about some of the features and plans, as well as cell phones for the hearing impaired that are available. However, for the deaf or those with a profound hearing loss, texting ability is the key for communication. For these individuals, typical plans that require them to pay for voice calling features are an unnecessary expense. Several of the major US cellular providers do provide text only plans that don’t necessarily require a voice plan. T-Mobile offers “Sidekick Data ” which provides the user unlimited e-mail, instant and text messaging as well as web browsing, with voice calls priced at 20 cents per minute if needed. User can also get unlimited picture messaging when using select Sidekick phones. All this, for $29.99 per month.Sprint on the other hand, has “Sprint Relay” which gives users unlimited e-mail, instant messaging, internet access, domestic text messaging, and “phone as modem”. Any local voice calls made would be 20 cen...
More About: Plans
Filming on the Cheap
2008-05-22 12:16:00
The Flip video camcorders have been around a while now but I am still getting questions about how to find the most affordable means of recording films and sharing them online. The answer is still Flip. Even the Ultra Series runs around $170. It’s 5.1 ounce weight makes it great for toting around and it’s 1.5 inch LCD screen is a transreflective TFT which makes it great for using in daylight. It has a surprising 2GB of internal memory for 60 minutes of recording time and provides 2x digital zoom for getting up closer.The Flip offers 640 x480 video quality and is equipped with on-board software to enable editing, organizing, and seamless video uploading. While they may not rival higher end camcorders, this is a great little device for anyone seeking an affordable option to begin creating films for the purpose of viewing them online or on their TV.
More About: Cheap , Filming
Expanding Options for Affordable International Text Messaging
2008-05-18 22:56:00
Both calling and text messaging outside of the country can be costly. A message sent via any of the major carriers in the US can cost between 15 and 30 cents although some providers do offer package deals for heavier users.There are a number of online services that offer a savings; some costing as much as 10 cents per message although a few offer free messaging for those willing to send text messages via their computer.  Services such as ipipi.com, peekamo.com, and text4free.net are just a few. Recently however, Jaxtr.com joined the ranks of free international texting services.  Jaxtr states  that it is a free service which allows users to call family and friends overseas for the same cost as local calls. In addition, they recently announced that users of the service can text message through their website to over 155 countries for free.  If messaging overseas is of interest, check out this International Text Messaging webpage.
More About: Options , Text Messaging
Why Would Consumers Buy a Camcorder?
2008-05-15 11:20:00
Millions of consumers used camcorders to record important milestones and events in their lives some years ago. Unfortunately many of those images were lost due to the fragile film on which they were recorded. In addition, there are many fine digital cameras on the market which can also capture short stretches of video. However, for consumers considering their options there are a number of facts to think about.  One important point is that camcorders have changed considerably in recent years.  Most new offerings in the camcorder market no longer use tape as their recording medium.  From hard drives to flash media, the storage is much more durable and should last for generations.  Filming with camcorders has also improved significantly. These devices, like most tech gadgets, have shrunk considerably and are much easier to tote along and handle.  They also offer image stabilization which helps to reduce the undulating movement so characteristic of hand held s...
More About: Camcorder , Consumers
Keeping Your Landline Because of a Poor or Nonexistent Cell Phone Signal?
2008-05-11 19:21:00
For millions of people, eliminating their landline isn’t a possibility due to the lack of a decent cellular signal inside their home.  Many of the options touted to improve signal reception have been ineffective over the years but more recently other alternatives have appeared that may well put an end to this issue. Hybrid phones have evolved which can operate off of both Wi-Fi and a cellular network. T-Mobile now offers the Hotspot@Home service which makes use of a home broadband connection to make calls at home or the cellular network when out and about. Those using the service are restricted to specific T-Mobile hybrid phones which include the Blackberry Curve, Samsung t409, and the Nokia 6086.Another service that is just emerging comes initially from Sprint, although other providers are expected to follow suit.  Sprint offers a home base station, the Airave, which also makes use of a customer’s home broadband connection.   Customers can make use of ...
More About: Phone , Cell Phone , Cell , Poor , Signal
Kids and Digital Cameras
2008-05-08 13:31:00
Digital cameras can be great learning tools for kids ages 7 and up.  There are lots of resources online to help parents and teachers identify the critical skills children should learn in handling a camera and capturing good images. There are also many suggestions for fun activities and learning opportunities. Digital cameras do tend to be the preferred tool as the expense and delay of processing and developing film is eliminated. In recent years, cameras for kids who are 3 to 6 years old have emerged.  Certainly disposable cameras and even used cameras can present a cheap option but they really aren’t appropriate in most cases for small children.  Cameras designed with large buttons for little fingers, large easy to grip handles, simple functions, and rugged design are more appropriate for kids this young. These cameras range from around $40 to $90; a significant chunk of change for parents on a budget. There are numerous models out there; the Polaroid Pixie and...
More About: Kids , Digital Cameras , Digital
Sharp: Televisions That Are Becoming More, or Less, Connected
2008-05-04 21:23:00
Earlier this year Sharp introduced their Special Edition 94 series line of LCD televisions. They feature 1080p resolution and internet connectivity. Via an Ethernet port on the television, users can view web content such as videos and weather and news information.  In addition, they can access AQUOS Support which would allow Sharp to diagnose problems with a TV or to calibrate it properly without having to send someone to the consumers home.Just last week, Sharp also announced that they were shipping the first wireless HDTVs to Japan.  These sets should become available in the US later in the year.  Sharp’s new X series TVs will offer consumers the ability to eliminate most of the cables/cords associated with modern home entertainment although the power cord will still be necessary.
More About: Televisions , Connected
Cell Phones That Do More Than Entertain
2008-05-01 12:52:00
I wrote an article a couple of years ago about some of the issues with cell phones that make it difficult or undesirable for some older people. In some instances current phones just don’t have the right features. Cell phones with the ability to browse the internet, watch video content, and take pictures are great, but for those who are aging, the ability to monitor blood sugar levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and so forth would probably be more important for this segment of the population. (A segment which is burgeoning.)Now, finally, it seems that cell phones with such capabilities are being developed. According to this article from Goliath, Qualcomm is actively working toward combining or syncing medical and wireless devices such as cell phones for such purposes. In addition, in a recent interview with the Washington Post, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam mentioned development of a cell phone wrist watch with a band to monitor health signs such as blood sugar and blood p...
More About: Cell Phones , Phones , Entertain
OLED TV: Stay Tuned
2008-04-26 23:34:00
If you’re the kind of person who is more interested in the newest technology rather than the most affordable when it comes to your television, then OLED is probably the product on the market for you.  Some months ago, Sony introduced their 11” XEL-1 with it’s 3 mm thick profile for around $2500. The good news is that production is expected to ramp up, and as things tend to go, with increased volume and improved production techniques, prices tend to go down. As positive signs in this direction,LG has announced that they will be introducing a 32” OLED TV in 2011 and Samsung predicts it will be producing OLED display TVs by 2009.  In addition, Sony has indicated consumers can expect an even slimmer OLED; a .3mm 11” TV in the future although no details have been announced.In the meantime, plasma and LCD will probably continue to be the crown jewel for most of us.
More About: Stay
The Evolution of Car GPS Navigation Devices
2008-04-24 12:16:00
GPS Navigation devices have become increasingly popular in recent years.  They  offer up-to-date on board maps, voice directions, and information about points of interest that add a great deal of efficiency and even safety for those who use them.  Like all things tech however, the changes and upgrades are ceaseless. The next level of GPS navigation devices have cellular data connections which allow users to get real-time weather, traffic, and other information for a monthly fee. This TechOn article describes anticipated future developments for getting two way data link devices directly into American cars in the future. Clearly, such capabilities allow a GPS device to become an even more effective navigation tool.Another evolutionary step for  GPS navigation is the addition of information to help warn unwary drivers of  areas they might wish to avoid based on crime data.  Although currently in use in Japan, it’s future in the US is uncertain.&n...
More About: Evolution , Devices
Additional Cell Phone Options for International Travelers
2008-04-20 13:59:00
Cell phones can operate off of a variety of networks but there are two primary ones; GSM and CDMA.  Unfortunately for those who travel outside of the country, cell phones generally don’t work with more than one network and the network used by some of the major US carriers is not the one used by many other countries, including most of Europe. Sprint and Verizon for instance make use of the CDMA network while Europe and much of Asia uses GSM primarily.For this reason, Sprint and Verizon phones have typically been poor choices for those who wish to travel with their cell phone. Things are changing however. Recently Sprint and Verizon introduced CDMA/GSM hybrid phones which will operate off of their CDMA network here in the US but are capable of making use of the GSM network elsewhere.  Sprint now offers the Blackberry 8830, Samsung Ace, and Motorola i930 while Verizon has the Blackberry 8830 and Motorola Z6c.  This is certainly good new for international travel...
More About: International , Phone , Cell Phone , Cell , Options
Pandigital Photo Frames: The Next Generation
2008-04-17 12:46:00
Pandigital, a market leader in digital photo frames, announced their new line of PanTouch frames will become available in May 2008. These frames will offer users the ability to operate their photo display via a touch sensitive frame or from a distance with a remote control. The PanTouch frame icons can be activated by touch or swipe to activate and scroll through photos, video clips, or MP3 files.  The photo display on the PanTouch frames can remain fingerprint free as the control area is on the matte area of the frame rather than the viewing area. Three models will be offered initially. - A 7 inch widescreen with 128 MB internal memory will be priced at $119.99- An 8 inch 4:3 aspect ratio frame with 512 MB internal memory will be priced at $169.99- A 10.4 inch high definition frame with 4:3 aspect ratio and 512 MB of memory will go for $249.99 and will be available in a black or wood frame.Each frame will have a remote control, alarm clock and calendar functions, program...
More About: Photo , Generation , The Next Generation
Taking Care of a Flat Screen TV
2008-04-13 15:46:00
Neither LCD nor Plasma TV screens are high maintenance, however, it can be important to take some precautions to avoid causing damage, especially when cleaning them. Here are a few tips: - don’t touch the screen - wipe fingerprints and other smudges with a dry microfiber cloth.  Don’t use tissues, paper towels or other materials which can potentially scratch the screen. - for spots requiring heavier cleaning, use manufacturer approved cleaners only. (these are generally the anti-static type cleaners used for computer screens as well) - any cleaner used should be sprayed on the cloth rather than directly onto the display screen For more tips regarding how to clean, mount, and care for your plasma or LCD screen see this handy Plasma TV Care webpage.
More About: Screen , Taking , Flat
Digital Picture Frames
2008-04-10 17:36:00
Photographs from your digital camera can be manipulated and shared in many ways. With the increased popularity of digital photography many people opt to share photos online versus sending prints or posting them in albums. As prices have come down in recent years, digital picture frames are also an increasingly popular way of displaying favorites.  There are many manufacturers from Sony to Westinghouse, Nextar, Audiovox and Pandigital to name just a few. Prices vary widely as does quality and size.  Popular frame sizes start as low as 5 inches and go up to 15 inches. Most frames on the market today can handle multiple photos by presenting them in a slide show and many possess multimedia capabilities that allow the user to include music and video. Display quality is obviously a primary concern with selecting a frame. The minimum resolution recommended will depend on the size display that is selected.  Obviously, the larger the display area the more pixels necessary to c...
More About: Picture , Digital
HD Radio: It's Not Satellite Radio; but It's Good Listening
2008-04-06 16:10:00
Periodically I get questions about the similarities and differences between HD and satellite radio. Both offer better listening than traditional radio alone. HD radio offers far more stations than traditional radio; at least twice as many.  However, satellite radio has the greatest selection.  Listening quality is also improved with HD radio.  In addition, HD2 channels offer commercial free listening.  On the other hand, satellite radio is virtually commerical free as well and is likely to remain that way. HD radio stations, like their traditional counterpart lose their signal once a listener is beyond a certain distance from the broadcasting station unlike satellite radio which allows listeners to maintain reception to any given station no matter how far they travel across the country. The advantages that HD radio offers over satellite radio however are the ability to continue to receive local stations and it's affordability.  After the purchase of an a...
More About: Radio , Satellite , Good , Satellite Radio
World Phones: Cell Phones for Travelers
2008-04-03 15:28:00
For those who travel internationally, there is the possibility of renting a cell phone for use when going outside of the US.  However, a more simple and cost effective method for those who travel frequently may be to purchase a world phone that operates on the three (or four) most commonly used frequencies.  An unlocked version of course offers the most flexibility. I am often asked which phones are indeed considered “world phones”.  There are a number on the market, but the Sony Ericsson W300i, Motorola RZR V3, Nokia 3220, and Motorola V220 are among those that offer the necessary credentials for use in a wide variety of countries. Having such a GSM phone for use at home in the US certainly reduces the hassle of procuring a separate phone for use when traveling.  However, for anyone who is new to this world of international calling it is important to understand the fees for international calls. Before leaving the country with your cell phone be sure ...
More About: World , Cell Phones , Phones , Cell
A Few Words About DLP Televisions
2008-03-31 15:57:00
The number of DLP TVs on show room floors are dwindling. The sleeker design of LCD, plasma, and even the new OLED screens are attractive to consumers.  Pricing for LCDs and plasmas have come down significantly in the past couple of years but DLP is still a more economical choice if you are on a budget and want a larger screen. The most common repairs on a DLP are replacements of the lamp or the color wheel.  These items are available to consumers and the replacement can be done relatively easily by those comfortable with minor DYI repairs.  For many, the basic and affordable repairs make DLP an even more attractive option.For those willing to consider a somewhat thicker display check out DLP TV which can also offer access to replacement parts and some tips for performing the task.
More About: Words , Televisions
E-Mail Without the Computer
2008-03-27 09:34:00
I found an interesting gadget the other day.  It sounds great for anyone who has an elderly parent or grandparent without internet access that they want to be able to stay in touch with on a regular basis. What I found was the HP Printing Mail box.  It is merely a printer designed to work with the Presto Service to deliver photos and e-mails to people without a computer or internet access.It doesn’t allow the receiver to send e-mails but then most of the intended audience probably wouldn’t want that complexity or the cost that comes with it anyway.  What it does do is allow a selected group of people to send an unlimited number of messages, photos, and other content without the receiver having to do anything. There is no tech to learn.If you want to forward things you find on the internet, communicate while you are traveling anywhere in the world, share photos, or simply stay in touch with a loved one without the cost of long distance calls, this could be a w...
More About: Computer , E-Mail
Could the Your Next Camera Offer 3-D Photos?
2008-03-23 16:43:00
The majority of camera owners have a digital camera. Their popularity has blossomed as buyers have discovered the convenience of being able to review their shots immediately allowing them to assure they get an acceptable shot and to simply discard unacceptable images without the expense of developing them first.  Working without film, printing at home, and having the editing tools to further tweak our creations has been a tremendous step forward for home photographers.  The image quality these cameras produce has steadily improved as well as they now rival 35mm film cameras.The question now is what is the next step for consumer digital cameras? Do we really need more megapixels or smaller cameras? Maybe not.  Perhaps the next step will allow consumers to create images with more depth. Recent news reports indicate that Stanford researchers have been working on developing a digital camera with a multi-aperture sensor that would capture details about the distance of all ...
More About: Photos , Camera , Offer
A More Self Sufficient Television
2008-03-21 08:13:00
Earlier this year, Sharp introduced their SE94 series TVs. They have improved picture quality with 1080p resolution, super fast response time (around 4 milliseconds), and smooth transitions so that even rapid motion looks great .What’s really more unique however is their internet connectivity. Via the internet connection, users can access customized content for things such as traffic reports, news, stock quotes, weather and much more on their television. This connection even allows viewers to access AQUOS Net for real time customer support. Support personnel are then able to directly access the TV to make necessary adjustments. The days of tweaking and re-tweaking your picture quality could be fading. These sets were introduced at $3,199 for the 46” LC46SE94U model, $4,199 for the 52” LC52SE94U model, and $10,999 for the 65” LC65SE94U model.  Prices have dropped somewhat on these special edition Sharp TVs however and greater bargains can be found.
More About: Television , Sufficient
Phones for the Hard of Hearing
2008-03-16 16:56:00
I’ve written a bit about cell phones for the hearing impaired but another important consideration is amplified phones for the home.  I’m probably not the only person with an older relative who very much prefers a corded phone and yet has difficulty communicating over the phone because of hearing loss.Certainly, there are a number of amplified phones on the market.  When trying to select the right one I would suggest first checking to be sure the volume adjustment on the phone will be adequate for the user.  Thus, trying it out at the store before buying is best. (You can then go online for the best bargain) Some phones will amplify volume by 10dB or so while others can amplify by 30, 40 or even 50dB.  Trying it out is particularly helpful to assure that the phone amplifies the frequencies that the person is having most difficulty hearing; most often higher frequencies.  Some phones allow the user to adjust the phone to amplify either high or low &n...
More About: Phones , Hard , Hearing
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