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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

By Julie Jacobson

SpeakerCraft's Jeremy Burkhardt has made some lofty claims in his day, but none loftier than this: "I am scrabbel king!"

He even misspelled "Scrabble," can you believe it?

Well, Mr. Burkhardt, I can tell you that I eat Scrabble letters for breakfast and you are going down. I will whack you with a Nirv wand and launch you into a mine field.

Consider yourself challenged. How about a CEDIA Scrabble Smack-Down?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/06 at 09:53 AM
Blogs, (18) Comments, Permalink

Monday, April 05, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
I feel like such an idiot.

I really don’t know a thing about X10, just like an X10 exec told me.

He said, “I am always amused by your total lack of knowledge of X10. … Julie, how can you be so out of touch with an industry that you cover and are supposed to be an expert on?”

Well, now I am fully educated. Indeed, X10 is way better than Control4.

The education comes courtesy of and the X10 Home Automation Store, both of which have Web pages comparing X10 to Control4.

Yes People, I'm Joking!
Um, since a couple of people (who don't know me or CE Pro) have asked ... yes, this is sarcasm. It is true that X10 and the reseller make these claims about X10's superiority over Control4. I am mocking those claims because they are silly and CE pros will laugh with me. Laughing is good.
The store asks, "Why pay for a Control4 Wireless Outlet Dimmer? We make practically the same thing better for 15% of the Control4 price!"

The verdict? Control4 is overpriced. It uses borrowed technology. And you can’t even install it yourself!

Top 10 Reasons to Use X10 Instead of Control4

1. Straight from the source
“Control4 uses the relatively new Zigbee technology to create their own products. With us, you know you're getting the technology straight from the source.”

2. No problems
“Since our…
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/05 at 12:30 PM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, (52) Comments, Permalink

By Julie Jacobson
I'm no fan of college hoops -- or TV sports of any kind -- but the NCAA finals is one game I want to see after watching tiny Butler beat Michigan State. (What can I say? I went to University of Michigan.)

My local theater is showing the game in 3D for $20 a pop, but I won't be there.

It's not that $20 is too much to handle. It's just that the show starts at 8:00 central, which means I wouldn't get home until well after 10:00, which is way past my bedtime.

So ... who is going? Please give us a full report.

Also: is there any non-Duke-Alum that isn't rooting for Butler?

A partial list of theaters showing the game in 3D can be found at
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 04/05 at 08:57 AM
Blogs, (0) Comments, Permalink

Friday, April 02, 2010

By Jason Knott
Of all the home control manufacturers, does Control4 have the least to lose from the introduction of the iPad?

Most existing whole-home automation manufacturers have dedicated touchscreens as an integral part of their systems. In some cases, those touchpanels are expensive because they are loaded with bulletproof control software.

But Control4 has always touted the TV as the primary user interface, not touchpanels. Its base system is a controller and an SR250 hand-held remote. Control4's 4-, 7- and 10-inch touchscreens are add-on upgrades, not part of the base package.

For many homeowners (and dealers), the iPad may be positioned as upgrade interface to an existing Control4 system, not a replacement of a Control4 touchscreen. So it likely won't be a situation of a homeowner downgrading to a less-expensive touchscreen in place of a Control4 unit.

"We don't think of iPad as cannibalizing any of our existing product," says Control4 COO Glen Mella. "It truly is an augmentation."

That doesn't mean an iPad will never replace a Control4 touchscreen. Mella admits a touchscreen is usually one of the first upgrades purchased by clients. He also foresees "a lot of $400 touchpanels coming on the market" in the near future from third-party manufacturers in reaction to iPad.

Mella advises dealers to take the new Control4 iPad app icon and put it on their own Web sites, marketing collateral and email newsletters. He also thinks integrators should pick up the phone and call all their existing customers to talk about it.
Posted by Jason Knott on 04/02 at 01:17 PM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (3) Comments, Permalink


Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy with the original iPad.

By Jason Knott
With the hullabaloo surrounding the iPad, it reminded me that Captain Kirk used a similar device on the Starship Enterprise on "Star Trek."

Kirk's PADD (Personal Access Display Device), minus the stylus, looks eerily similar to the iPad, don't you think?

If it can run a spaceship, home automation functions ought to be a snap!

Apparently I'm not the only Trekkie to be reminded of this. There's actually an iPad app called "Captain's Log" that is a collection of social networks.

Posted by Jason Knott on 04/02 at 08:43 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (2) Comments, Permalink

By Arlen Schweiger
My how things can change in a couple of months. We’d been hearing, waiting, anticipating, speculating for a long time before Steve Jobs announced in late January the arrival of the Apple iPad, with a fun show and tell in his usual style ... only to see the excitement quickly dwindle.

PC World summed up the early impressions from the critics back on January 28 like a swift kick to Apple’s crotch: “The overall reaction has been, in a word, underwhelming. What was hotly anticipated has mostly turned into cold soup.” Most critics’ early impressions focused on the product’s shortcomings, or they couldn’t wrap their heads around thinking the iPad was nothing more than a ‘roided-up iPhone.

Two months later the product is picking up steam again upon its impending arrival, and it looks like the swift kicking has turned into behind-kissing. And with app announcements from companies like Netflix coming fast and furious, the iPad seems to be getting better by the minute. But we’ll let the critics speak for themselves, so here’s what a few have to say so far about the former “cold soup”:

From Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: “If people see the iPad mainly as an extra device to carry around, it will likely have limited appeal. If, however, they see it as a way to replace heavier, bulkier computers much of the time - for Web surfing, email, social-networking, video- and photo-viewing, gaming, music and even some light content creation - it could be a game changer the way Apple’s iPhone has…
Posted by Arlen Schweiger on 04/02 at 08:16 AM
Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (0) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ric Johnson (center) accepts the Leadership Award from CEA TechHome Division chair Ian Hendler (left) of Leviton, and Roland Graham of, chair of the Mark of Excellence committee.

By Jason Knott
For once, Ric Johnson didn’t know what to say... and it was kind of refreshing!

Johnson, chief residential designer for Elite Systems Solutions in northwest Ohio, was the recipient of the CEA TechHome Division’s Leadership Award for his outstanding service to the industry given out at EHX Spring in Orlando last week.

Johnson, who is well known for gift of gab when sharing his expertise, was humbled by the award.

“I started in this business in 1968 pulling pink wire, and for the first time ever, I am speechless,” he told attendees at the CEA’s Mark of Excellence awards ceremony. “I learn more than I give. It’s a wonderful industry.”

Johnson is currently serving his sixth term on the TechHome board of directors and fourth term on the Multi-Room Audio/Video (MRAV) council where he is chair of the group’s builder initiatives. He is also in his fourth term as president of the West Central Builders Association, an affiliate of the NAHB. He currently a director of the Home Technology Alliance, a collaboration between CEDIA and NAHB.

You won't find a harder working, more dedicated individual than Ric. In his "spare time," he is a consistent contributor to CE Pro and participates in panel discussions at EHX regularly. He even keeps me on my toes... scouring the CE Pro Web site and pointing out any mistakes we might have made.

It is a well-deserved honor for this servant of the industry.

Congratulations Ric!

Posted by Jason Knott on 03/30 at 08:59 AM
Blogs, Events, EHX Spring, Associations, (1) Comments, Permalink

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jay Franetovich of Middle Atlantic shows off the company’s RDR series at EHX Spring.

By Jason Knott
Middle Atlantic's racks are getting downright sexy.

On a more serious note, Middle Atlantic was showing off its new Residential Designer Rack (RDR) series at EHX Spring, touting an aesthetic appeal making it well suited to be on display in a home vs. hidden in closet like racks usually are.

According to Jay Franetovich, application engineer at Middle Atlantic, the pre-configured rack has "four pillars" of configuration:
  • Cable management
  • Thermal management
  • Built-in power distribution strip
  • Aesthetics
The unit ships loaded with the accessories.

From a visual standpoint, the wood and metal unit has sleekly designed, patterned shelves and unobtrusive venting panels between each shelf.

The three-shelf S3 unit has an MSRP of $1,100, while the S4 is $1,250 and the S6 is $1,400.
Posted by Jason Knott on 03/29 at 10:55 AM
Blogs, Product News, Events, EHX Spring, Equipment Racks, Spotlight, (0) Comments, Permalink

By Tom LeBlanc

For the audience, attending the EHX CE Pro All-Star Band concert during EHX Spring 2010 in Orlando, Fla. was a can’t-lose situation.

If the performance flopped, it still would have been entertaining since the band is made up of regular CE industry professionals — amateurs who happen to love performing music.

If their performance rocked, well, then they were in for a good show.

They definitely didn’t flop and definitely rocked.

The show went off without a hitch and the band simply sounded great, covering dozens of class rock staples.

Band members Tom Fritschi, Vince Luciani, and Aaron Severtson (all of Innovolt); Victor Baut (SpeakerCraft); Jeff Gardner and Jim Garrett (both of CEDIA); Shawn Hansson (Logic Integration); Mitch Klein (URC) and Bob Archer (CE Pro) managed to look like they perform together every weekend.

Particularly impressive was the guitar performance by Fender’s John Cruz. The guitar designer, also an accomplished guitar player, at one point dazzled the crowd by placing the guitar flat on the stage, kneeling down and picking a commanding solo.

Another highlight of the show was when the band invited people from the crowd to come on stage and perform. Mike Mongiovi of Automation Generation came on stage and belted out lead vocals on a Black Crowes tune.

Mongiovi stayed on stage (at the behest…
Posted by Tom LeBlanc on 03/29 at 07:04 AM
Blogs, Events, EHX Spring, (0) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, March 25, 2010

By Steve Crowe

The days of calling Circuit City a defunct big-box "store" might be coming to an end.

Systemax, which purchased the Circuit City brand in May 2009 and relaunched the company online, is "contemplating a brick-and-mortar rebirth," according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Systemax bought and revived CompUSA, one of many failed electronics retailers, and now plans to open stores in Houston, Chicago and other major markets after successfully testing stores in Florida. There currently are 34 CompUSA stores.

Could Circuit City follow the same plan?

"Recession hurts, but it also creates opportunities that would not have existed otherwise," said Systemax Chief Executive Richard Leeds. "We have a tremendous amount of excitement around our company now because of these acquisitions. We picked up two iconic retail brands for well under $50 million. That to me is the bargain of the century."

Would Circuit City stores be successful?
Posted by Steve Crowe on 03/25 at 08:16 AM
Blogs, (5) Comments, Permalink

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