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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
At a time when there aren’t even enough instructors to train the tens of thousands of contractors that need lead-paint training, the EPA has decided to make its rules even stricter.

The Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule applies to homes built before 1978.

Originally, the onerous lead regulations included an opt-out provision that largely limited the regulation’s applicability to older homes that were the residences of pregnant women or children under six years old. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that the agency now is eliminating the “opt-out” provision.

Expected to be enforced starting in July, the new mandate will increase the number of homes covered by the lead rules from an estimated 9.4 million to about 79 million, even though the EPA itself estimates that a significantly smaller number of homes — about 38 million — still contain lead paint.

Go figure, the announcement was made on Earth Day -- no doubt a huge publicity ploy for the EPA which opted to make a tree-hugging statement rather than consider the real health issues of modest remodels, not to mention the health issues of the economy and the housing market.

NAHB fought hard to delay the certification rule, citing a lack of trainers, ineffective lead-based paint test kits, long delays in the firm certification process and other issues related to a general lack of preparedness for the rule’s implementation.

Good for them.

Too bad they…
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 05/04 at 04:12 AM
Blogs, Installation, Legal, Permalink

Monday, May 03, 2010

By Jason Knott
To quote Jim Morrison of The Doors: "This is the end, beautiful friend."

The end of what? The custom industry's recession! Let me be the first to so boldly declare the recession is over.

My conclusion is based on anecdotal evidence from many, many, many conversations with integrators over the past two months, along with indicative data from the CE Pro 100. The industry's largest custom residential installation companies are predicting an average increase of 12 percent in 2010 and so far, those predictions are holding true.

Here are just some of the tidbits I heard directly from dealers from all corners of the country:

From an integrator in the Midwest: "January was slow. February was only slightly better. Then all of a sudden March was a record month. We closed $400,000 in business in one day."

From a company in the Northeast: "After some proactive marketing about 3D and iPad, customers are calling us every day looking for upgrades."

From a dealer on the West Coast: "We transitioned our business to go after commercial contracts and in one year ended up doing 5x as much commercial revenue as residential."

From a company in the Midwest: "We signed on with one of the digital home health care companies and are selling medical alert pendants and home medical monitoring systems."

From a dealer in the Northeast: "I just signed on with a builder for a 60-home project. I got the job because I launched a solar division in 2009."
Posted by Jason Knott on 05/03 at 11:49 AM
Blogs, Events, CE Pro 100, Permalink

By Julie Jacobson
You probably have heard about the problems with the new Avatar Blu-ray, which has been gumming up playback, thanks to new DRM features implemented by Fox.

The problem can be solved with firmware updates, but most consumers who were psyched to play their shiny new disk wouldn’t know that.

Steven Cheung of Vidabox, which makes media servers, reminds us that this experience provides a perfect opportunity to sell service plans.

For its part, Vidabox offers and optional “Proactive” service plan, according to Cheung:

Any Blu-ray updates are automatically pushed out, making it super easy to keep up to date with the latest. There's really nothing the customer needs to do, and the dealer can apply the updates remotely, from the comfort of their office or even at home.

Since a number of Blu-ray players (and other CE devices) allow remote firmware upgrades, this value-added service can be applied (for a fee) to an entire equipment rack.
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 05/03 at 04:47 AM
Blogs, Video, Blu-ray, Permalink


By Julie Jacobson
"I will also disagree with Ebert that 3D, when done correctly, could not enhance the experience of nearly any movie, including his beloved 'Lawrence of Arabia," says Scott Hettrick blogging on

Hettrick addresses nine points expressed by Roger Ebert in his posting for Newsweek, "Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too)".

Hettricks writes, "But while I agree to a certain extent with some of Ebert’s specific concerns, I do not agree with his overall premise that 3D is being over-used and I do not agree with many of his nine points ...."

Here are a couple of Hettricks' objections (Ebert's version in italics):

Recall the greatest moviegoing experiences of your lifetime. Did they “need” 3-D? A great film completely engages our imaginations. What would Fargo gain in 3-D? Precious? Casablanca?

> Many people felt the stage versions of everything from the Marx Bros. “Cocoanuts” to “West West Side Story” were just fine in the live theater. Should Hollywood not make adaptations of any stage production?
“Gone with the Wind” worked just fine as a book — should Hollywood not adapt books either?
And what would be wrong with well-produced 3D versions of “Fargo,” “Precious” and “Casablanca?” Can’t you imagine the wood chipper scene in 3D?


>Yes, did you ever hear the expression that necessity is the mother of invention? You…
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 05/03 at 04:22 AM
Blogs, Displays, Permalink

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ruth and Joel Spira in the early days. Source: Cornell

By Julie Jacobson
So Joel Spira, founder and chairman of Lutron, is talking about the virtues of lighting in a celebration of the company’s acceptance into the Smithsonian museum.

He mentions that lighting control has vast purposes -- from energy efficiency to romance.

Unexpectedly, a voice blurts out from the small group of guests: “I can vouch for the romance part.”

Lo and behold, it’s Mr. Spira’s wife and Lutron co-founder Ruth Spira.

The quiet voice of Lutron, Mrs. Spira has been a business partner and sounding board for her husband for almost 50 years.

When asked what gap she fills in Mr. Spira’s vast talents, she said, “Thinking rationally.”

She’s a fun, feisty woman, that Ruth Spira. I’m looking forward to spending time with her this evening.
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/29 at 01:21 PM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Lighting, Permalink

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

By Rachel Cericola
I recently went to see "Alice in Wonderland." On my way out of the theater, I noticed huge bins for collecting 3D glasses.

I threw mine in - but it looked like I was alone.

Now, I have plenty of stuff lying around the house: junk mail, a few boxes that need to be broken down, tons of magazines, Blu-rays, kiddie toys ... do I really need 3D glasses as a souvenir?

So that got me thinking: Do YOU recycle your 3D glasses?

According to Geek Sugar, 42.1 million 3D glasses have been distributed for "Avatar" alone. That number is huge and seems kind of contradictory considering the movie's theme, as well as Fox's special "Earth Day" Blu-ray/DVD release for the blockbuster.

Somewhere, James Cameron must be crying (at least when he's not sleeping on his bed of money). He's not the only one, I'm guessing. It just seems like a bit of a waste. Let's get one thing straight, though: I'm not against 3D glasses; I love them. However, I don't see myself carrying a personalized pair to the theater when they just give them to you anyway.

Cereplast and Oculus3D are two companies teaming up to make biodegradable glasses for theater and home use. Those could be available as early as this summer. However, there are a lot of "Avatar" and yes, even "Clash of the Titans", showings before then.

For now, is it too much to ask to throw them into the bins that are…
Posted by Rachel Cericola on 04/28 at 08:13 AM
Blogs, Permalink

Saturday, April 24, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
There's a nice bungalow for rent in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for RM 16,500 (about $5,200) per month.

I don't know why I thought this non sequitur was so funny, but there's an odd segue from video-on-demand in this very smart home to the Malaysian home's landscaping.

I guess it's a good thing for home control. Normally you'd see a full paragraph on the landscaping and one sentence on the automation.

To compliment the house, the current owners have applied Forbes standards in luxury living and incorporated an integrated sound system with built in ceiling speakers in the living/dining and Master bedroom with remote and or wall panel controls. A range of remote controlled lighting, air conditioning and security cameras are available throughout the house. Digital Media system is available in the living, family and study/home theater room, which is state-of-the art containing Astro and Video on Demand disk based library of 100’s of movies readily recalled at the flick of the remote. There is a Plasma 42 inch screen in the living room, a 32 inch LCD screen in the family room and a 60 inch wall mount screen complete with surround sound and projector home theater system in the study/home theater room. The smart home system is designed for comfort, safety and life style. Sophisticated yet simple and easy to use. The garden is beautifully landscaped and features a wide range of well chosen shrubs providing colour throughout the year.

Any takers?
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/24 at 02:36 PM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Permalink

Friday, April 23, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
Sad but true. With the analog sunset nearing, manufacturers are phasing out component video, and it's easy to forget.

On, a dealer tells of an older couple that gets "very confused by technology." They wanted to upgrade to Blu-ray but didn't want anything fancy -- didn't even want to be confused by a Netflix splash page.

So "Tweetymp4" thought he found something simple enough with the Panasonic DMP-BD45.

By the way, neither of the two TVs had HDMI. And when the Panasonics arrived -- surprise, surprise -- no component outputs.

It may seem obvious, but we're just not in that mindset yet: If your client's TV doesn't have HDMI, make sure to check the specs for component video.
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/23 at 06:26 AM
Blogs, Video, Blu-ray, Wire and Cable, HDMI, Permalink

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
HD Guru Gary Merson tells me he visited a few A/V retailers recently and – surprise, surprise – he found some issues with their 3D displays.

Most notably, the Samsung 3D TVs and Blu-ray players on display had not been updated with the latest firmware. As he says in his blog:

Every model 2010 3D TV examined to date requires a firmware update. The Samsung 3D HDTVs in particular are multiple updates behind when unpacked. We observed display models at two regional chains and at a Best Buy demo using the earliest firmware version.

As he tells me, the so-called “firmware updates” aren’t just bug fixes and a few shiny new features. There are some very critical elements that are locked out in earlier software versions, such as – oh -- controls for contrast and gamma.

Magnanimous guy that he is, Merson took it upon himself to perform the firmware upgrade on his own at Best Buy and make some tweaks to the picture.

He says the sales associate walks up and says, “Wow, that looks a lot better.”

Specialty A/V retailers: You wouldn’t DARE sell or demo 3D gear – or any firmware upgradeable products – without performing the updates, would you?
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/21 at 10:39 AM
Blogs, Displays, Video, Blu-ray, Big-Box Retailers, Permalink



By Julie Jacobson
Handsome? Check

Sense of humor? Check

Kind and gentle
? Check

Loves his mother? Check

Owns an iPhone? No

Next …

Good news, iPhone-owning single guys. According to a UK survey of 1,500 women, 54% of chicks would be more likely to date a man if he owns an iPhone.

According to one respondent, "If he has an iPhone then he's obviously intelligent and well-off."

And more reliable, evidently, as 37% of those quizzed say that owning an iPhone makes a man seem more reliable. Nearly all of those women said a second date would be likely with an iPhone-toting guy.

So then why do 35% of women say that what a man does for a living would affect their chances of a first date?

Ironically, another study says that men who own iPhones have on average GBP 3,750 (about $5,800) less disposable annual income than those sad creatures who do not.

I, for one, prefer men who own Scrabble boards.
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/21 at 06:19 AM
Blogs, Permalink

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