Virtual Reality.

If perception is reality, is virtual reality any less real?

Technology has come a long way and one of the most prevalent and fun examples is virtual reality. Although recently this technology has been more geared toward games, it wasn’t always full of light hearted fun.

An example is training simulators. A simulator is a type of VR referred to as semi-immersive. The immersion factor is determined by how many points of contact you have with the virtual world. To explain, in a simulator pilots sit in a mock version of an actual cockpit. They are not wearing any fancy headgear or hooked up to any sensors. Half the time the mock cockpit doesn’t pitch or roll. But where the windows would be are screens. These screens give the pilot a view of a simulated world so they can practice their skills without the risk of hurting themselves or anyone else.

Full immersion is where the individual is wearing a VR headset with visual and audio input, and standing on a special pad that allows the user to move around. The goal is to cut the user off from the real world as much as possible and put as many of their senses into the virtual world as possible. The user hears the virtual world, sees the virtual world, and feels the virtual world.

The goal of virtual reality is to place the users into a simulated virtual world where the users body actually believes they are where the computer tells them they are. If you want to find out more about what is possible in virtual reality check out this youTube video by segmentNext.

 

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2.4GHz or 5GHz, what?

If you own a newer wireless modem or router you may be faced with a choice.

When you bring up the list of available WiFi networks in your home you may see a variety of options, how do you know which one to pick?

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Don’t fret, the choice is pretty easy if you know what to look out for.

 

First, start by identifying which of the options belong to your network. Oftentimes your modem or router (whichever broadcasts your WiFi) will have a sticker on the bottom or side of the unit with the name of the network.

Second, once you’ve identified which network belongs to you, you may notice there are two similar but slightly different options: 2.4 or 5.

The two numbers at the end of your network name refer to the gigahertz in that band. The WiFi broadcasting devices that uses these two bands are called dual-band and offer you the ability to switch between two network bands depending on the device you are using and where you are using it.

The 2.4GHz band is designed for devices that may travel away from the WiFi network and require a longer range. The speed for these devices will be slower, but the signal can travel further.

The 5GHz band is designed for a shorter range but the network is faster.

Let’s say you have your WiFi hub in your living room. The TV in your living room is a SMART TV and connects to your network via WiFi. You would want that on the 5GHz band. The TV is stationary, close to your WiFi signal, and could use a boost in speed. Your daughter has an ipad and uses it in the upstairs loft. She likes to walk around with it and fire small tubby birds at seasick pigs. You would probably want her device to be connected to the 2.4GHz band.

Deciding which band to use goes a bit deeper with the strength of your network, the location of your devices, and if you have any relay hubs or signal boosters throughout your home. But the rule of thumb is: if the device is close to the signal and is stationary use the 5GHz band, and if the device moves around use the 2.4GHz.

If I’m not driving, who is?

The lines between science fiction and reality are more and more becoming blurred. Things that 50 years ago were the stuff of novels, sending the readers on incredible journeys into what could be possible, are becoming commonplace in the world today.

One such instance is self driving cars.

Imagine yourself, sitting in your car, arms crossed lounging back in your seat watching the world pass by, when suddenly, red lights in front of you snap your attention back to the road. Before you think to grab the wheel and swerve to miss your rapidly approaching doom, your car casually signals the blinker and changes lanes swiftly cruising past the stopped traffic in the lanes next to you.

No this isn’t impossible, it is currently in existence. The car in question has eyes! Well, not actually eyes, but high tech gadgets and sensors that allow it to monitor the conditions of the road around you to include the other cars. One such sensor is a device called Lidar.

What is Lidar? Lidar is a sensor that sends out millions of beams of lasers (no sharks) and registers how long it takes them to come back. This allows the device to sense where objects are, how big they are, and how to best avoid running into them.

This technology was used on Apollo 15 to scan and map the surface of the moon. It has also been used to scan the bottom of the ocean to survey the ocean floor as well as scan from airplanes to penetrate through deep jungle to see the terrain underneath. I’ve also  witnessed it used to search for alien wreckage!

Elon Musk of Tesla believes camera can do the job of seeing for the cars instead of Lidar, and builds his cars that way. It is Google’s self driving car program, Waymo, that is heading up the Lidar use.

Unfortunately, in the recent news, a self driving (Google) car for Uber hit and killed a woman who was crossing the street with her bicycle. So, perhaps the technology has a ways to go before it is ready for the mass market. The makers of Lidar do insist that the issue doesn’t lie with their technology, but instead with the software that is designed to interpret what the Lidar sent it.

In the end, self driving cars may be here, but perhaps they are not quite ready for the mainstream highways. Perhaps once the technology is further developed we will see more and more of these driverless vehicles hit the road.

 

What is a HERS Rating?

The price of utilities is one of those things that never seems to cut us a break. Every winter the price of gas goes up and every summer the price of electricity follows suit. With the costs continually rising what can we do about it?

Energy Efficiency! There are quite a few perspectives in regards to this topic. Some people seek out energy efficiency to save the planet. Some are looking out for their kids. Others, simply want to save a little money. No matter which boat you are in, the best way to judge the energy efficiency of your home is to look at the HERS rating.

Something to note: if the home is preexisting and hasn’t had a HERS rating done during construction, you can get whats called an Energy Audit to figure out how efficient your home is. Afterwards, you will receive a report that details the steps you could take to improve your rating.

A HERS inspection is something done throughout construction and it evaluates the builders processes and systems while the home is being built. Throughout the building process they will conduct several inspections to ensure it doesn’t have any energy issues such as duct leakage or unexpected thermal losses.
hers-index

So what is HERS? The acronym stands for Home Energy Rating System. It is a rating given to your home to indicate the estimated energy efficiency. Basically, how much heat or cold transfer exists in your home. The higher the rating the worse the home is for energy efficiency.

On average (depending on where you live) most older resale homes have a rating of around 140 on the scale. Most builders in the area will build to code or anywhere between 20 – 25 points under. Certain builders are what is called High Performance Builders and maintain a much lower rating which would save you big bucks in the long run.

High Performance Builders use what is called advanced framing techniques and utilize different materials throughout the building process to ensure they meet the quality of home HERS inspectors expect. In fact, if a HERS inspector encounters something that doesn’t meet their standards they will require the builder to fix it before proceeding with the home.

So what does this mean to you? If you want to protect the environment, this is the home for you. Since your home doesn’t require the same amount of energy to heat or cool it you are pulling less power from your local power plant.

If you are looking out for your children, other than the benefit listed previously, the resale of HERS rated High Efficiency homes is higher. This is because a home built by a High Performance Builder will surpass all of the current codes and any of the ones in the near to mid future making your home more valuable as it competes with future new-builds.

And, finally, those of you who are concerned with saving money, even though your utility bill never catches a break, your wallet will. A home with a HERS rating of 55 will save the home owner around $1,800 a year on energy savings (taken from local market data). Sure, this number is from a HERS certificate from a home in my area and since the energy cost savings is based on local utility rates, I recommend you check with a builder or realtor in your area.

Owning a home is the American dream, and with so many builders out there, it pays to do your research and find one who advertises High Performance Building. Make sure they use the HERS inspections throughout the building process and that you get a HERS certificate at closing. It will lower your utility costs, increase your resale value, and if you add solar panels potentially take you off the grid (if your rating is low enough). Wouldn’t it be nice to generate your own power and not have to worry about a utility bill at all?

So what exactly is 5G?

According to statista.com over 5 billion people in the world currently posses a cell phone. Without much argument, it can be agreed that the mobile revolution changed the world. The disagreements sit more around if the mobile change was a good or a bad thing. However, for the sake of this article, and having a technology based writing platform, I’m going to side on the fact that it is good. Along with the changing mobile technology in the form of your phone, connections behind your device have changed dramatically as well. So what does 5G mean anyway and why do I care which my phone uses?

To get an important piece of information out of the way, the “G” means generation.

When phones first came out, they existed on a network known as 1G. It allowed mobile phone users to make cell phone calls. 2G, which appeared a short time later, introduced text messages. 3G gave us data and the ability to surf the web. 4G came in several forms all of which worked to push the connection faster. Of those forms, LTE (Long Term Evolution) eventually won out due to its standardized system. From there, most people became familiar with 4G LTE.

On to 5G. AT&T and Verizon have both said that they plan to release 5G in several areas of the United States later on this year (2018). What does that mean for us? Well, to put it simple: faster speeds.

Currently, 4G LTE allows us to download about 1 gigabit per second. But wait, that is when the system works perfectly. When you have a tower in the exact place you need it, no buildings are around, North Korea isn’t jamming your signal, the contrails aren’t causing interference, and there happens to be no clouds of insects hovering nearby. The fact is, although the technology can reach 1 gigabit in speed, no one really ever gets there.

Enter 5G technology. 5G will allow our phones to reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second. This will give you the ability to download a full HD movie in just a few seconds vs. the old time of 20 minutes to an hour (depending on the roaming bug clouds).

Sure, we are going to have the same obstacles interfering with our 10 gigabit speed, but when you are no longer drinking out of a straw and instead you’ve turned on the faucet, a lot more gets through anyway.

What to look for in a TV

So you want to buy a new TV? Great, we’ve already posted our picks for TVs at the beginning of 2018, and you can find that article here. However, for all of you techies out there who like to find their own way through the TV mess, here are some helpful tips for what to look out for.

LED vs OLED

Just about every modern TV out there is going to be one or the other. LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode. This is essentially the backlight for the screen which gives you the picture. The main downfall to LEDs are their size. They are too large to be a single pixel and therefore cause issues when you have high contrast images, for instance a dark scene inside a cave. The biggest redeeming factor for LEDs is their ability to glow very bright, which has its benefits in bright rooms. OLEDs are very small and can be made the size of a single pixel, allowing them to be shut off individually. This ability gives you a true black tone to your picture, which increases your contrast and helps you to discern between similar colors.

HD vs 4K

HD is a technology familiar to most of us. It is a reference to the amount of pixels on the screen giving you clearer definition. It comes in either 720p, 720i, 1080p or 1080i. The “p” stands for progressive scan and the “i” stands for interlaced. The biggest difference between them, is the “p” will have a crisper picture during faster paced action scenes whereas the “i” may blur during those same scenes. 4K is also a reference to how many pixels are on the screen. In fact, a 4K tv has 3840 x 2160 pixels while 1080 only has 1920 x 1080. What that means to you is the more pixels the sharper the image. If you are like me and have to have the sharpest picture, make sure to buy the 4K. Besides, the price difference isn’t anywhere near where it used to be.

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HDR

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. This technology greatly improves both the contrast ratio and the color quality. In fact when consumers were tested and asked to pick between a 4K TV with no HDR or a 1080p with HDR they almost all chose the 1080p TV and said that it had greater picture quality. HDR gives your TV a much truer tone and therefore a much greater picture quality. Couple HDR with 4K and you have a great looking TV you can be happy with for years to come.

Refresh Rate

This is how many times the screen changes within a single second. The standard TV has a refresh rate of 60Hz however many can be purchased at 120Hz. This means that your TV either cycles frames at 60 frames per second or 120 frames per second. There is a kicker: unless you are a gamer and you hook your TV up to your computer, 60Hz is all you will ever need / get. Nearly all providers of Television Service only broadcast in a 60Hz format. This means that even though your TV is capable of operating at 120Hz it will still only show at 60Hz. Some manufactures offer technology boosts, for instance Samsung’s Clear Motion, which raises your Hz from 120 to 240. There is a slight, but noticeable, difference but nothing worth going out of your way to find, unless you absolutely must have it.

SMART Capability

SMART TVs are becoming the norm. This technology allows you to use apps like Netflix or Hulu without having to connect an outside device such as a ChromeCast or Roku.

WiFi and / or Ethernet

A WiFi capable TV is very common on today’s market. The biggest issue with the technology is the upload / download speed is generally pretty slow and can sometimes cause delays, or slow loading times when booting up an app on your SMART TV. This is where an Ethernet capable TVs comes in handy. Being able to bypass the built in WiFi and simply plug the TV into your modem or router will increase your speeds considerably. WiFi will do the job though so no sweat either way.

HDMI / USB Ports

Not a lot to be said here. You just want to make sure you take note of how many are available and ensure that it is enough to fit your extra devices. If you have an Xbox One, a Ps4, and a Switch you will need to make sure there are enough HDMI ports for each device plus your cable box. Otherwise you will have a fun (and frustrating) time changing out the cords manually when you change devices.

Conclusion

After reading through these key points, if you decide you would rather not attempt to memorize all the different options and would rather let us point you in the direction of some reliable choices, head on over here to see our “Good”, “Better”, “Best” picks for TVs in early 2018. All of our picks are great options and based on your price point you would have a great product no matter which you choose.

Good luck out there!

4K TVs

With so many buzzwords floating around the television arena (UHD, 4K, HDMI, HDR, Refresh Rate), it is easy to get confused and talked into buying something the salesperson wants instead of what you need. Oftentimes, without approaching this purchase with a bit of knowledge, it can leave your head spinning and your wallet lighter. With so many brands and models of TVs, the research to find a great quality product can leave your head spinning. Let us help.

The Good

ROKU_S4

Roku S4

This LED (screen type) TV comes in screen sizes of 43″, 49″, 55″, and 65″. Has both wireless and ethernet capabilities, perfect to use with its’ Smart TV Features. It has Ultra High Definition 4K picture and HDR10. This tv, priced at around the $300 mark for the 43″, won’t break the bank but has enough features to be future proof for the next couple years.

Links to Buy:

TCL 43S405 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV (2017 Model)
TCL 49S405 49-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV (2017 Model)
TCL 55S405 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV (2017 Model)
TCL 65S405 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV (2017 Model)

The Better

SonyTV

Sony X900E

This LED TV comes in 49″, 55″, 65″ and 75″ also with 4K picture, HDR (for color and contrast), wireless and ethernet capabilities, as well as being Smart Enabled for your app pleasure. The Sony X900E features several advanced capabilities mainly in the Sony specific arena: 4K HDR Processor X1, TRILUMINOUS display technology, 4K X-Reality Pro, to name a few. All in all, this pick is a great mid-ranged option bound to take you through the next couple years and then some.

Links to Buy:

Sony XBR49X900E 49-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model)
Sony XBR55X900E 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model)
Sony XBR65X900E 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model)
Sony XBR75X900E 75-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model)

The Best

C7_ST_Desktop_Front

LG OLED C7

The biggest thing separating this TV from the other two picks is the OLED technology. To put it in plain english: OLED gives you blacker blacks and richer colors granting the viewer the ability to see greater color deviations in the picture. If you’ve ever had to squint to make out hard to see details during a dark scene in a movie, this new screen technology drastically improves the quality of the on-screen lighting alleviating many of those occurrences. Additionally, the HDR technology is better than the other two picks among the similar features. To cut to the chase, you would have the top of the line current day TV as well as a very future proof pick for the upcoming years.

Links to Buy:

LG Electronics OLED55C7P 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV (2017 Model)
LG Electronics OLED65C7P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV (2017 Model)