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Jack Up Your Wall

For anyone that isn’t looking for the full movie theater effect such as having a room dedicated to screening a movie and just wants an above average den with a sweet system, there’s one thing I can’t stress enough: wall jacks. The worst thing you can do, in my opinion, is have speaker, video, power, and any other kind of cords strewn throughout the room you’re setting up. The biggest violator of this is speaker wires and for a good reason (I guess.) If you have surround sound (which, if you don’t, you need to sit down and have a talk with yourself about it), there will naturally be two speakers on the opposite end of the TV and Audio/Video receiver. That is, if it’s set up properly that’s where two of the speakers should be, but we won’t get into that here today. Since these speakers are in a remote location in relation to the receiver, it is only natural that people do their best to hide these wires which doesn’t usually work out. So, you’re left with a couple options: 1) Get wireless speakers, 2) Get in-wall speakers, or 3) Jack up your wall!

I don’t advise taking the first option because while it may be cool to have wireless speakers, they still need a power source (aka – they need to be plugged in), and aren’t as good as wired speakers performance-wise. Option two is one that is becoming more popular, but it limits how the room can be setup and can hinder the full effect the sound system can have. Then there’s option three. By “Jack up your wall” I mean put lots of jacks for things such as speaker wire, HDMI, Power sockets, etc. If you have lots of options in lots of places, it makes it much easier to rearrange the room furniture-wise without the experience the system gives suffering. There are many options out there for wall plates and custom combinations to fit your needs. In my opinion this is the best way to go and allows the most flexibility for future arrangements of furniture as well as new audio/video equipment.

In case you were wondering what I’ve been talking about, it’s things like these:
Extron Wall Plate

This particular Extron wallplate combines multiple interfaces into one for easy switching options and provides for hidden, in-wall cabling.

There are a zillion places to buy cabling and wall plates and stuff like that, but the place I usually get that kind of stuff from is CablesForLess.com. They have awesome prices and a great selection, more than what you will need for an in-home setup while Extron equipment is geared more toward the commercial setting.

Image credit: Extron.com

Product Review: Logitech Harmony 670

Logitech Harmony 670

If there’s one thing your entertainment system or movie theater needs, it’s a remote so you can spend as much time in your seat as possible. We wouldn’t wanna ever have to do something so crazy as to get up to change a setting because that would require work, which we know none of us want to do. Fortunately for you sloths out there, we have not only remote controls, but remote controls that combine the functions of your 50 various remotes into one: the Universal Remote.

Universal remotes come in many flavors, but one of the leaders is Logitech. I’m a Logitech fan to begin with because I have a few of their products and I know they make good stuff but the old saying, “You get what you pay for” applies 100% to Logitech products. They have a number of product lines including keyboards and mice, speakers, and remotes. They have probably 20 different universal remotes, ranging from about $50 up to $500. The more you spend, the more satisfied you’ll be. The remote I’m talking about here (which is the one I have) is the Harmony 670 which retailed for about $80-$100 when it was in production.

This remote is programmable through your computer, and, once it’s setup to your liking (which can take forever), works pretty well. It has a screen (not color) to help you with using the remote, and quick buttons like “Watch TV,” and “Listen to Music” for ease-of-use. Like I said, once it’s setup correctly, it works great.

The problem: It’s unbelievably annoying to program the remote. The software coupled with the remote is awful on its best day and makes it extremely tedious to program. That’s probably why the remote has been sitting in my drawer for the past year and a half. I haven’t felt like setting it up since I got a new TV. Guess that goes along with the whole sloth mentality I was talking about before.

Anyway, I give this product 2 stars because it will serve its purpose perfectly but only after you put about 3 hours of blood, sweat, and tears into programming it. Want more stars from a Logitech product? Simple. Spend more.

Movie Review: 127 Hours

Let me start off by saying this: I’m one of those people who look at a movie’s credentials and make a judgment of how good its going to be before I even see it. Usually, I’m dead on. This time I was so off it’s not even funny. Wanna know what this movie was about? A guy who got stuck in a rock crevice in the middle of nowhere and eventually got out. Boom. Done. Literally could have been shot in 10 minutes and resulted in the same reaction from viewers. Picture this: guy falls down in a crevice in The Middle of Nowhere, Utah, and the next hour and 15 minutes of the movie is shot with 1 person who doesn’t move more than 2 inches. If you can picture that, then you’ve already seen the movie.

Let me back up for a second just so you people can figure out where I’m coming from. I can’t stand movies that are so transparent in their plots and previews that I know what the entire movie is before I even watch it. I’m no professional movie critic, but let’s be serious. Guy gets stuck, has to get out. If you can’t figure out what the movie is going to be without seeing it then I don’t know what to tell you. That being said, I arrive at my main argument: What’s the point?

Like is this a movie or a documentary? I guess the whole point was to get this guy’s story out there right? That’s all it could be? That’s cool I guess but the movie itself did absolutely nothing for me. There it is though just raking in awards and nominations left and right. Whatever, I guess I can agree with it being a good acting job by James Franco but I’m pretty sure I could count on one hand how many words he actually spoke throughout the movie.

Before you get all fired up about me not liking the story, boo-hoo Ryan you’re so mean this guy went through a lot, spare me. The story was one thing but I completely and 100% stand by my thoughts that as a movie, this was absolutely pointless. Don’t get me wrong, the guy’s story is commendable, but I think the movie was completely unnecessary and there was just no point to it.

PS – I think you can rate this post, so give the movie a rating. I’m givin it a hard 2 if that’s even an option but I haven’t even seen the rating system yet so I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to do that.

Image credit: 127hoursmovie.com

I Hate 3D

Seriously, I can’t stand all the rage about 3D TVs being the next big thing for your living room. Don’t get me wrong, and the title of this blog post may be a little misleading, I enjoy a 3D movie every once in a while as long as the movie is fit for 3D. Like I saw Avatar in 3D when it came out and that movie is 100% fit for having a 3D version. I’ll watch a 3D movie at a theater every once in a while just like the next guy. But the day you see me sitting in my own living room lookin like these clowns:

Shoot me. Not even kidding.

If I ever walk into a friend’s house and people are sitting on a couch looking like the goons in the above picture I will tear into them so fast it will make your head spin.

That being said, I refuse to do a blog about 3D TVs.

Image credit: topnews.in

XBMC

So if you have a home theater system based on a home theater PC as described in a previous post, you may be wondering how you’re going to make it all work together. You have a projector or TV, a sound system, and a computer. Neat, now you can browse the internet on a screen that’s entirely too large, right? Kinda. If you have all of your movies on DVDs or BluRays, it’s time to get them stored digitally for easier access. I’m not going to go over how to do that, so the rest of this post is going to assume that you muts have already done that.

Moving on then. You have all these movies/TV shows/music stored on your HTPC (or, at the very least, have direct access to them from the HTPC), so how do you make them easy to browse without manually going through folders on your computer and searching for a movie all while squinting at your high resolution screen? You use XBMC. XBMC, or Xbox Media Center, was an app designed and used on the original XBOX system that made browsing your media simple and easy. Since it was designed, it has moved over to being only for the XBOX to being for PCs and Macs as well. XBMC is an open-source, free project that is constantly being updated.

So how do you use it? Well, you install the program on your HTPC, run through all the setup nonsense and hopefully if you’re not dumb enough you’ve added your media to the library so that it’s easily accessible the next time you go to watch a flick which will probably be in the next ten minutes since everyone knows you have nothing better goin on. Now, when you fire up your home theater system, XBMC starts up and bang! there’s all your movies and TV shows for your browsing pleasure. Kinda looks like this:

XBMC Back Row Screenshot

There’s a bunch of other bells and whistles that it has as well like weather and whatnot, but I’m not going to get into that because it’s better for you people that never see the light of day to go check out the whether outside for yourself.

XBMC.org

What’s the point of this blog?

This should have been posted first, but whatever.

There’s a lot of people out there who love to sit in their living room/TV room/den/man cave and spend hours of their their lives glued to the couch watching TV/movies, playing video games, and doing other various things that don’t contribute to the world in any way, shape, or form. I’m just as much of a fan as the next person when it comes to watching movies and TV (probably even more of a fan than your average person.) But for some reason, I want to help improve that experience of spending countless hours on the La-Z-Boy by pooling the ways you can do so here in this blog.

So here I am starting a blog about improving your viewing experience at home with various tips an tricks that I probably stole from other sites and added a few words to.

Home Theater PCs

With the advent of High Definition everything taking over, it is quickly and surely becoming more of a standard than an option in today’s world of technology. Show me a bar that doesn’t have ten HDTVs with multiple games on and I’ll show you an empty bar. Naturally, computers are no different. The ability for computers to be able to display high definition content is easily doable nowadays. So what does that mean for you and your dream of having a home theater? It means your home theater (or potential home theater) can become even more like, if not better than an actual movie theater. Pair a computer with high definition processing power and a high definition projector/gigantic television, and you’ve got yourself a personal theater (minus the sound, of course.) What’s the best part of all of this? You can easily get yourself a computer worthy of being called an HTPC for a couple hundred bucks. Whether or not you store your movies in file format on a computer or whether you use BluRay discs will determine what sort of configuration you need for your particular setup.

They can even be as simple as the Acer AspireRevo or the Asus EeeBox. These pint-sized computers come with full HD capability and built-in digital sound. Anything based on the nVidia Ion platform is made for HD playback.

Or there’s always the option of taking this into your own hands and building your own computer.