Fix the Tech to Your Home Decor

Redecorating can be either a labour of love or a tiresome chore. Making your house a home is all about creating a space that is most comfortable for you, not creating a showpiece. The best advice is to list your loves and work out how to maximise them, discover your own style and run with it. Here are some unique ways of approaching home design and how to incorporate technology naturally; have a read and think about how you can take these ideas on board yourself.

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Media Centre

Very few people do not have technology and media as a central aspect of either their work or leisure routine. In fact, most of us use technology extensively in both. Therefore, plan the location and style of the technology you’ll include from the start. If music is your thing, plan for a great sound system. One that can be built in but easily accessed in case you want to upgrade is probably your best bet. For those who like film or television, there are some brilliant ways to incorporate a television into your living room design. Have a look at these unusual display ideas here on House Beautiful, www.housebeautiful.com/decorating/odd-places-for-tv#slide-8. The off-centre display above the fireplace is a particularly great idea – the television is not hidden but neither is it given pride of place. Wherever you decide to mount your television, make sure you do so securely. They are costly items to replace! You can find some great TV brackets at Brackets R Us, check out this selection here, www.bracketsrus.co.uk/TV-WALL-MOUNT-P18/, to see some examples of how you can mount your TV whether by tilting, rotational or cantilever bracket.

Alternate Rooms, Alternate Ideas

The lounge is probably the place where you relax the most and most likely is the place where you watch films and programmes more than in any other room in the house. Nonetheless, you probably want to be connected in other rooms too. For useful home decor, come up with solutions to issues you currently have. For example, is it frustrating that you can’t hear the radio when you’re cooking? Install some speakers and link them to your stereo. You could even try ceiling speakers like those available here, www.ceiling-speakers.co.uk/Kitchen-speakers.asp, so you don’t waste any valuable worktop space.

Bring It All Together

To make your home appear coherent and attractive, it’s important to make sure that the design you have fits with your technology. Some people are naturally inclined towards decoration in fabrics and textiles, others will enjoy poring over the specs of various technological items. For an overall flavour for your design, there are a whole bunch of design websites to flick through. One great source is this guide on the Channel 4 website which provides ideas depending on the size and light source of the room, www.channel4.com/4homes/rooms/living-room/design-planning-ideas/colourful-living-room-design-ideas-08-10-13. Whether you are inclined towards technology or design, don’t forget to think about the other and seek advice when you’re unsure.

Usability is the most important thing when it comes to your home. It is a place in which you can relax and unwind so don’t be afraid to focus on pleasure and functionality. Technology brings us that convenience so don’t shut it out from your home decor; embrace it and consider it a part of the beautiful whole.

Resistance is Futile: TV Bingeing

Have you sat through Sky TV and watched one channel continuously for 5 hours? I did, and there were over 300 channels more to choose from, each with its own never ending stream of entertainment. I should start by saying I have not sat down and properly watched television in several years. Whenever someone asks me where I’m up to in Breaking Bad I simply roll my eyes and blow a huff of pomposity in their faces. Who has time to sit and watch four series of tense, complicated drama? According to CNN here, the most popular way to enjoy television is to spend a good couple of days doing just that: TV binging. Why spend the week anxiously waiting for Game of Thrones to top itself over the entertainment summit when you can gorge yourself on an entire recorded series?

My main reason for kicking the TV habit was moving to university and assuming I couldn’t afford a HD TV of my own. So when I stumbled around on sites like Discount AV Direct and saw the price of a decent piece of kit, my interest was piqued. It was further provoked after spending the weekend at a friend’s house doing little else than lazing about in PJs and watching the crime drama channel. Have you ever seen the Hannibal series? It’s fantastic! (Look, it’s happening already! I’m craving it so much I’m talking to you about it!)

I believe that even in the face of 2013’s latest tech developments, as revealed here by Inc.com, TV is more than keeping up with the streaming threat of the household laptop. It’s easy to download the latest episode of whatever, so long as you don’t mind the wait, or the down-size in quality, or the tiny laptop screen, or the risk of a dud file…

No. TV still wears the entertainment crown in my opinion, if not for the quality; the ease of access, the control, the sound quality (provided you have decent speakers), and all on a huge screen in the middle of the room. This infographic on Mashable shows the progressive evolution of TV, and the effect on sales throughout the years: most notably the plasma and LED TV numbers. TV shows might often be boring or stupid, but TV itself is far from boring, and it is getting smarter every year.

I found this article from The Daily Beast very insightful and was impressed with the author’s analysis of TV binging. The reason I found myself staring through the 5 hour crime drama loop was because it required little effort to find, and even less effort to watch. Yes some of it was mind-numbingly bland, but that afforded a good round of commentary from my friends who were watching with me. So after years of TV abstinence, I have found myself eyeing up a new LED screen and preparing the lounge area. I believe it’s time for a good binge on the first half of this year’s entertainment!

Do More with Your TV

I’m by no means a Luddite when it comes to technology, yet neither am I a whiz kid. I’m in my 41st year, so I’ve adapted to a lot of technologies that the youth of today have grown up with.  I’m also old enough to remember the days where there were just 3 TV channels. Perhaps it is for these reasons that I’m somewhat amazed just how much technology has come on and just how much can be done with a TV today.

LCD, LED & Plasma

Back in the day, we’d often refer to the TV as the box, e.g. ‘is there anything good on the box tonight?’ Today’s TVs can’t really be called boxes any longer because, well, they just aren’t boxes anymore. A sleek panel is a more accurate, though more wordy and less catchy description.

Just a few years ago the largest TV screen available was 36”. Most people did not have one of these because the cabinets they were housed in were so huge that they dominated any room they were placed in. They also needed several people to manoeuvre them because of their physical weight. Now our thin TV sets are light enough to mount up on the wall.

It’s amazing what difference wall mounting a TV makes. No longer is the TV occupying any floor space of the room and the viewing position of the TV makes it feel more like a cinematic experience. There’s a great range of TV brackets that make wall mounting a TV easy and add new possibilities. You can see some examples on the TV Brackets 4U website. Cantilever brackets are a brilliant idea that enables you to tuck the TV away into spaces like and alcove when not being used and then swung out into a viewing position.

SMART TV

If you haven’t yet got to grips with SMART TV, this will be a useful overview. With a SMART TV, you have an internet connected TV; the TV connects to the internet router via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. Your TV can then access many of the catch up services independently of your cable provider. It can also connect to other services like Love Film and YouTube. Most TVs can also browse the web, but until a better way of entering text and navigating web pages comes along, this is still something of a novelty feature. If you’re thinking of investing in a SMART TV then I’d recommend this Which? Website article for advice and reviews of SMART TV services by leading TV manufacturers.

SKYPE

Although SKYPE is a feature of SMART TV, I’ve given it a separate mention because at the time of writing it is only the top end SMART TVs that currently have it. SKYPE for the uninitiated is a video chat system normally seen on a computer. Built into the TVs frame are a video camera and a microphone. Using this camera and the TVs internet connection, it is possible to video chat with people all around the world. It doesn’t require the other user to have a similar SMART TV; instead the other people you call can use SKYPE on smartphones that have a front facing camera, laptops and computers with a webcam connected. You can find out more about SKYPE and all the platforms it is available on from the SKYPE website.

Catch Up TV

Catch up TV services have been around for a while now. At the beginning the catch up services like, all required you to watch them via a website on a PC or laptop. Now cable TV providers have catch up services available from the set top box. If you have a SMART TV you’ll also find them available directly from the TV menu. Most TV catch up services allow you to go back to any point in the last 7 days TV schedule and watch programs on demand. Just occasionally a program will not be available due to licensing rights. If you want to find out more about getting catch up TV on your cable TV service, the catch up TV page of the Virgin Media website will tell you all you need to know.

HD and 3D.

I wasn’t immediately blown away by the improvements of HD TV over SD. The difference in picture quality, though noticeable was quite subtle in my opinion. Over the last couple of years I’d got used to it to the point where I almost forgot that the pictures I got at home were in HD. Then I happened to stay in a hotel that had an old SD TV in the room. I was taken aback how poor the picture was and when I returned home, reminded of just how brilliant HD is.

3D TV seems to be with us to stay. I haven’t (yet) gone for this technology though. I bought my HD TV at the point where 3D TV was only just emerging. I have considered moving this TV to one of the children’s bedrooms and replacing it with a 3D one. There are some great deals on the Electronic World website that have me very tempted. My wife has insisted that because the TV is only a few years old I cannot justify replacing it. By the time I’m allowed to buy another TV, 3D will probably be a standard feature on all TV sets.

I really love going to see 3D movies with the kids. Of all the movies I’ve seen in 3D, it is the children’s animated movies that have been the most fun and seen the best use of the 3D effect. I’m wondering if when I do buy into 3D TV for the home if it will be the 3D glasses that go missing under the sofa instead of the remote control.

Big Changes in a Short Time

Perhaps the most amazing thing about all this change is that almost none of it was with us 10 years ago. 10 years ago, LCD TVs were just becoming available. They were only small, 19inch screened sets and like all emerging technologies there were extremely expensive. A typical LCD TV would set you back in the region of £600, a lot of money now and back then it was way more than most people were prepared to pay for what is effectively, a portable TV.

As for the rest of the technologies mentioned above – well they just didn’t exist or it was an obsolete relic. Internet connections were not fast enough to support streaming of pictures good enough to be viewed on a TV and 3D was an abandoned technology of the 70’s that involved glasses with red and blue lenses in them!

I wonder what changes the next 10 years will bring.

Picture This: the LCD TV vs. the Plasma TV

Everything comes at a cost. The cost of getting the answer to the question, ‘which TV should I buy, a plasma on an LCD?’ is reading this short blog, but I can tell you that by the end of it, you will have achieved three things:

1# You will know which TV will ultimately cost you the least amount of money in terms of your monthly electricity bill

2# You will have gained an insight into why it will cost you less

3# You will have a basic understanding as to what both LCD and Plasma TVs are and how they work

All you have to do is keep reading…

So, to understand which TV is right for you it is first necessary to take a moment to explain what a pixel is. Most simply, a pixel refers to a single unit (or one teeny weeny dot on a modern TV…or one huge dot if you’re still playing 8-bit video games). Each dot combines the colours red, green and blue. LCD or plasma technology allows us to turn these pixels on and off and more importantly turn them to the right level or degree. Different gradients or intensities of each of the three colours (that comprise each pixel) is required in order for them (combined) to create a picture. Think of a painter creating a picture, only now understand that (for TV to work) this needs to happen precisely, almost instantly and continuously…at least while your TV is on. This is when things get interesting. Not only does this process happen accurately, almost instantly and over and over again, but picture this: around 260 shades of red, blue and green can create 16 million colours. PICTURE PACMAN

So, which should I buy, a plasma TV or an LCD?

That is up to you, but that answer (though true) is not very helpful to someone asking for advice, I know. So, I’ll explain (extremely briefly) that the predominate difference between LCD and plasma TVs is that LCD TVs contain liquid crystal while plasma TVs contain a gas. LCD TVs are generally more popular than plasma television sets because plasma TVs use more electricity than LCD TVs…generally.

The difference in the amount of electricity used between plasma and LCD TVs is far less than it once was. That said, if you watch regular TV programming (which involves many colours and a lot of movement,  which in pixel terms simply means even more colour switches), an LCD TV will be a more cost efficient choice for you. SO, if you like watching the news, your kids like cartoons and your wife simply can’t get enough of Second World War documentaries (what did you think I was going to say?) then LCD technology will save you money in the long term. What’s more (because I’m just full of good will and knowledge)  I can also tell you that you can also further save money by purchasing your shiny, new LCD TV from these guys: www.cheap-lcd-tv.co.uk

Plasma TVs are only more cost efficient if you live alone and tend to only watch, for example, episodes of David Attenborough’s wonderfully narrated Blue Planet. Why? Well, plasma technology is more efficient when it comes to producing numerous and complicated shades of the same colours and if you’ve ever seen Blue Planet you’ll know a lot of the time the screen will be predominantly…well…blue.

And seen as, ‘what is cheapest?’  is generally all we ever really mean when we ask a question such as, ‘which TV is best for me?’ there’s your answer. And, because I’m feeling super kind today (maybe it’s the thought of people reading my latest blog…or the promise of that repeat of Blue Planet, episode 5 that’s on tonight), for anyone who does genuinely want to read more about the differences between Plasma and LCD TVs, I can even provide some further reading:  Here is a great resource, brought to us by the nice guys at Which?

 

 

Why Should You Get Cable TV?

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After the switch over almost all of the television provided for people is digital, though just because it is the ‘free’ option does not mean that it could be the best option for you the telly viewing public.

On digital there are a certain number of channels that you can receive for ‘free’ at the cost of your TV license. There is not exactly a wide variety on these ‘free’ channels and often some of the channels that appear on your TV are not available to you, you must pay extra for them to be unlocked. So if you want a wider variety of channels that are all unlocked, then an option for you might be to swap to cable TV. With any television provider there  are a selection of cable TV packages that you can receive from both BT and Virgin Media in the UK. The average package also includes phone and broadband, and if you mention to a cable provider you are thinking of switching to them they may try and strike a deal with you in order to add your phone and broadband to them as well and this may end up saving you money in the long run.

Cable TV can provide  you with a much  more reliable source of television. Often your digital viewing can be disrupted by a bit of bad weather and means that you might end up missing your programme. Cable TV is not effected by the bad weather as it runs under the ground, so you can watch all the channels you want come rain, sleet or snow.

Though it may cost a little bit more money each month it is nothing compared to the satisfaction you will receive knowing you have so much choice for channels, as well as knowing that you will always be able to watch what you want, when you want to.

Are 3D TVs Worth It?

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Going to the cinema, or just sticking a DVD in have their pro’s and cons.

The cinema is a visual experience with spectacular cinematography, stereo sound, increasingly more 3D movies and the smell of stale popcorn circulating a darkened room.

Nowadays, it’s getting easier and easier to replicate the cinema experience from the comfort of your own sofa with the introduction of home cinema systems and now, the increase of 3D TVs gaining prominence in our homes.

Sky TV also launched their own 3D channel which shows mainly sports and movies, making it easier than ever to have the 3D experience at home.

Essentially, 3D movies aim to make the visual experience as real for that moment as it can be. To be honest, it’s an optical illusion bringing the audience interface and film closer together and in that sense, 3D can greatly enhance the viewing quality of what could be a bog standard film.

Recent successful movies marketed in 3D include ‘Avatar‘, which can be argued to have changed the future of cinema forever.  James Cameron’s money making masterpiece is the perfect set up to advocate the use of 3D it being a tale of discovery, an alien landscape and action. I fail to see the relevance of  a 3D Katherine Heigl romantic comedy however.

One major flaw when watching 3D at home are the glasses.  Of course it’s no different to watching 3D in the cinema but at the same time it is.  Your sofa is not a cinema chair, and so you find no problem slobbing out, lying down or even eating an Indian whilst watching Pixar’s ‘Up’ in 3D, but the glasses can be quite uncomfortable and a nuisance when you’re just trying to chill out.

There’s also the problem of never having enough glasses for everyone to use- never a problem with say a HD TV, which also enhances a viewing experience.

Of course you could always buy more glasses, which can be quite expensive if you buy TV specific models, but all glasses, even the cheaper models, all perform the same function.

If you’re thinking about buying a 3D TV, good models include this Samsung UE46ES8ooo which is HD, LED 46″ and comes with Smart TV as Standard but cheaper models are available too.

Overall, there are pro’s to turning 3D, but isn’t TV an escapism from the reality of life sometimes?  ’One Born Every Minute’ or ‘Embarrassing Bodies 3D’ doesn’t quite have the same appeal as say ‘Toy Story 3′ in 3D somehow. Things might get a little too real!

 

Cable Broadband

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Cable broadband allows its user to access the fastest download speeds available and it is typically used by businesses and companies that rely on internet access to operate. Increasingly cable broadband is becoming available for people to use in their own homes and there are several Internet providers who are now focusing their efforts on cable broadband.

The fastest and most expensive cable broadband connections allow their users to experience download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second. High speed cable internet makes streaming videos, downloading large files and playing online games extremely quick and easy, however the monthly subscription fees for the fastest cable broadband connections can be quite expensive.

If online gaming is your thing, then it will be pretty much impossible to play online without a fairly high speed broadband connection. There is no point in getting a games console, large television and then having huge amounts of lag when trying to play. If you have a good quality PS3 HDMI cable to connect your console to your television, you shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of gaming by suffering through slow internet connections.

Many companies who provide cable broadband connections are also offering their customers package deals which include access to cable TV services too.

Cable broadband services are slowly garnering popularity in the UK, however in other countries they have been common place for many years already. For example, in Japan cable broadband connections that make use of high speed fibre optic cables are commonplace, and many Japanese consumers receive very high speed internet as a result.

One disadvantage of cable broadband services is that they may run sluggishly in certain areas if a lot of people are trying to use the service at the same time, particularly in areas where the cabling is dated. Many cable broadband companies make use of bandwidth caps and download limits to try and combat this problem. If you are suffering from slow speeds and you are not sure of the reason, looking online can shed light on the problem, such as this article from Which? on improving your speed.

Low Cost TV’s

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If you’re looking for a low cost LCD TV then you should have no trouble in finding one as cheap LCD TVs are available from most electronics retailers. When they were first introduced LCD TVs were quite expensive and considered by many to be a luxury item. However, the technology has becoming widespread and they are incredibly cheap and easy to manufacture, hence the marketplace has now become flooded with low cost LCD TVs. Even the power consumption is drastically reduced when comparing Plasma and LCD TVs, giving LCD TVs the edge

When you’re looking to buy a new TV it is often best to shop around to see where you can find the best deal. Although there are many extremely inexpensive LCD TVs currently available it’s not always a good idea to buy the cheapest model you can find as low cost sets produced by unknown manufacturers are likely to be very poor quality. Thankfully, many highly reputable manufacturers of TVs and other electronic equipment produce LCD TVs that are of a high quality, but can still be purchased for a reasonable price.

If you’re looking to buy a cheap LCD TV produced by a big brand then it is definitely worth looking online as many online retailers will have a huge selection of cheap LCD TVs for sale which in some cases will be hundreds of pounds cheaper that the same sets being sold in the high street.

Sustainable Technologies

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The modern world is a heavily industrialised place and this is only increasing as the larger “developing” nations shift their moniker further from the present and in to the past tense. Countries such as India, China and Brazil now have some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and with huge populations and a lessened civil rights commitment to adhere to they can provide workforces for large industrial and commercial enterprises nearly overnight.

All of this growth brings with it an increase in pollution and this is why we should attempt to reduce our carbon footprint at every turn, even when out shopping for fres clothing. You may wonder how you can reduce your emissions while shopping, but there are several things you can do without much impact on your day.

The first is use public transport on your way in to town rather than drive. Although a big food shop is a bit unwieldy for the bus, a couple of Drunknmunky clothing items like t-shirts would be fine to carry home by hand. The next one is to take your own bags out when you when you shop. These can either be the kind of plastic carrier replacement bags you can buy everywhere, or even old plastic carriers you’ve used before. A Drunknmunky clothing item will fit in to an old carrier bag quite happily, and it will save taking a new one from the shop you’re visiting. Use these tips to enjoy environmentally friendly Drunknmunky clothing.

Shopping Online

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One of the biggest social impacts broadband has made is through online shopping. Even for items where fit and comfort are incredibly important, such as motorcycle helmets, people are turning their attention online. This is because the capabilities of something like a motorcycle helmet could be the difference between life and death, so why trust a salesman’s word on it? Through the internet, people are now able to see a myriad of professional and amatuer reviews and opinions of a product at the touch of a button, allowing them to make an informed choice in their own time.

If you’re looking to buy some protective motorcycle gear then it can be purchased from a number of specialist shops. Most motorcycle shops will have a huge selection of leathers, boots and motorcycle helmets for their customers to choose from. There is a great deal of products produced by different companies and most motorcycle helmets are available in a variety of different designs and colours. However, despite the huge selection of different designs available most road safety experts will always suggest it is best to wear a white helmet as it significantly improves the wearer’s visibility when riding.

When you’re choosing motorcycle helmets it is always wise to pick the very best quality helmet you can afford. However the best quality helmets offering the highest level of protection are not necessarily the most expensive ones. It is possible to purchase some extremely protective, excellent quality motorcycle helmets for a very reasonable price that will provide their owner with many years of wear. Two particularly well known companies that manufacture motorcycle helmets are Arai and Shoei. Their products are frequently worn by many professional and competitive motorcyclists.

Digital Music

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Grand pianos are traditional instruments that many people aspire to own due to their fine elegance and association with people of high status. Unfortunately for most people grand pianos are far too expensive to purchase and few people actually have the space in their homes to accommodate them. Many people seek alternatives such as digital grand pianos, which are growing in the popularity. Digital grand pianos are simple regular digital pianos that are housed in a cabinet which replicates the appearance of traditional grand pianos, although they are significantly smaller. Digital grand pianos can be bought at a fraction of the cost of traditional, acoustic grand pianos.

Many purists dislike digital grand pianos and claim that a digital instrument can never accurately replicated the fine tone of traditional grand pianos. Many pianists also dislike the feel of digital grand pianos as their keyboards often feel quite different to a traditional piano. However manufactures of digital grand pianos have attempted to overcome this flaw by creating special keyboards will a feel and response which is very similar to that of real grand pianos, however many people still argue that this is not an accurate enough replication and prefer to play on traditional grand pianos.