Friday, February 25, 2011

SonicWall TZ 100 Network Security Appliance Overview

The Sonic Wall TZ 100 with wireless-n is a great product for those looking for a secure firewall/router with great protection and an excellent content filtering service. 

SonicWalls are easy to use and basically outsource the firewall, content filtering, and anti-virus functions to sonic wall. Your unit updates automatically with virtually no maintenance on your part. 

Basic set-up is easy. Sonic wall has an easy to use set-up wizard for setting up your wireless network as well as DHCP server settings. 

Advanced users will be able to take advantage of other features such as setting up a secure VPN. 

The TZ 100 also offers much greater speed than the previous generation TZ 180 and allows you to take full advantage of todays faster broadband speeds up to 25MBPS. Those needing faster connections still may want to jump up to the TZ 200. 

Logging into the sonicwalls default address of 192.168.168.168 begins the set-up process. You can either go through the wizard or skip directly to the main interface. I would recommend starting with the wizard then tweaking later from the main interface. 

Once you are logged in you will see a series of menu items on the left side of the page. Within each menu you will find submenus that allow you to change various settings. Get familiar with this because any time you need to make changes you will log-in here. 


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amazon Instant Video First Impression

Amazon introduced its new Instant Video service this week which is free to all Amazon Prime members. Its a great added value if you already have Amazon Prime (which gives you free 2-day shipping on most items that Amazon sells). If you don't have prime, its another great reason to sign-up.

Amazon is competing directly with Netflix in the streaming video space. Netflix has become nearly ubiquitous with its streaming video service and has built up a huge libary. Amazon has launched with around 5,000 videos but still has a long way to go to catch up to Netflix in terms of the number of titles.

I've tried out the service on my laptop and it works really well. Quality is good and playback is quick. Amazon seems to have a lot of video from the PBS library which I look forward to exploring.

Clicker.com has a great chart comparing multiple online VOD services.

I'll follow up later with impressions of this service using my Roku box.

Time Warner Wideband Internet 50MB/Sec Set-up

I stream a lot of music and video over the web so I was excited when Time Warner recently announced its new wideband Internet service in the Cincinnati area. Its expensive ($99 a month), but it offers speeds up to 50GB per second, much faster than my Cincinnati Bell Zoomtown DSL. Other available locations around the country include Time Warner Wideband New York City and Time Warner Wideband Texas.

I decided to give it a try and I've been very pleased. Installation was professional, however, I did have to log-into the modem myself to make some changes in order to get the superfast download speeds. This is probably because the service was new and the techs weren't fully up to speed yet.  I consistently get download speeds between 35 and 45mbps and I have no problem downloading high definition video. I often use the excellent video on demand service on my xbox and it works almost flawlessly. HD videos begin streaming instantly and I only occasionally experience any slowdowns.

For $99, I'm not sure how long I will keep the service for, but I can say for sure that it performs as advertised.

Finally, My New Perfect Inexpensive Whole House Streaming Audio and Video System!

I recently completed a new whole house streaming music and audio system and I couldn't be happier. The best part....it wasn't that expensive. Let me show you how I did it.

Here is what you will need (some of this stuff you probably already have):

Apple TV ($99) - 1 for each room
Iphone or Ipod Touch - ($299)
Good wireless router - ($50 and up)
Networked PC or Mac with the ability to run Itunes
Speakers - Powered or Passive with AV Receiver
Television Set

The key to this whole solution is the Apple TV which allows you to stream audio and video from your PC to your TV/Speakers and control everything with an iphone or an ipod touch. Apple TV is inexpensive at $99 and very small, about the size of a hockey puck. You will need 1 in every room that you want to stream audio and/or video. With an ipod touch, you can control what songs or videos are playing in each room as well as the volume. You can even stream Pandora directly from your phone to one of your apple tv's.

Here is my living room setup.

1 Apple Mac Mini MC270LL/A Desktop acting as a server for all of my audio and video with Itunes running.
Pioneer VSX-820-K 5.1 Home Theater Receiver
2 Infinity Primus Two-way 6 1/2-Inch Bookshelf/Satellite Speaker (Black, Each)

1 Samsung LCD TV

I hooked my Apple TV into my receiver using and HDMI cable, then ran an HDMI directly to my LCD TV. Then, I fired up my Apple TV and connected to my local network. You will want to make sure that homesharing is set-up in itunes on your computer. On Apple TV, choose computers then turn on Home Sharing. Enter your apple ID and password. After that, Apple TV will automatically find your itunes library.

Guess what? Thats all there is to it. You now have access to all of the music, videos, and photos that are in your itunes library. There are multiple ways to control your system, but my favorite way is to use the remote app (free) on your iphone or ipod touch. Fire up the app and it will automatically discover your Apple TV. You can use a touchpad remote to navigate directly on your tv, or, you can click done, and navigate your itunes library right on your screen, which is my favorite approach. Just select a song or video and it will almost immediately begin playing on Apple TV. If you just want music, you don't even need to turn your TV on. To play pandora, just fire up the Pandora App and click the icon in the lower right of your screen to start sending the music immediately to your apple TV. Another great option is Netflix. If you are a netflix subscriber you can access the entire Netflix streaming library from your Apple TV.

Very cool, very easy. Add as many Apple TV's as you need and control them all from your iphone or ipod touch. Apple TV has a lot of other great features as well that we'll explore on future posts. Enjoy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stream Music, Video, Photos, and More Using Orb for iphone

Stream Music, Video, Photos, and More Using Orb for iphone.

I've been testing out the orb app for iphone and I've found that its a great solution for streaming music, video and photos from your home pc to your iphone. After you create an orb account and install orb on your computer, the software indexes the music, photos and video on your hard drive. Then, you can download the orb iphone app on your phone and sign into your orb account.

Once you log-in, you will see an interface that allows you to choose what type of media you want to access. If you choose music, you will see a screen very similar to the ipod app on the iphone.  Select an artist, then choose your music. Playback begins within seconds and you can listen to the music on your home pc from almost anywhere. Same for home videos and photos.

Its a great solution. The orb for pc is free however the iphone app does charge a one-time fee. But, when compared to other solutions that charge a monthly fee to host your music on another server, its a great bargain.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Connecting Blu-Ray Player to HDTV

There are multiple options for connecting your blu-ray to an hdtv, but the only way to get the highest quality picture is to use an HDMI cable or component cables.

The main advantage to HDMI is that it is 1 cable that transfers both Hi def video and hi def audio. With component cables you need 3 video cables (red, green and blue) and 2 audio cables.....or an alternative audio cable such as digital optical audio for premium sound.

All modern HDTV's should have an hdmi cable and all blu rays should support hdmi as well. My recommendation is to use it if its available. Its easy and it gives you the best possible quality in sound and video.

The only reason to use component is if you do not have enough hdmi ports available to support another HDMI cable via blu-ray. In this case, you can use component plus an audio cable, or buy an hdmi switcher that will give you an additional hdmi port.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

3D TV Will Be In Your Home Soon - Are You Ready?

Panasonic is leading the way in an exciting new technology called 3D-TV. 3D appears to be the next major leap in technology after the HDTV revolution. But don't put all of your equipment up for sale on ebay just yet. Early reports are mixed but its likely that early adopters will be able to purchase 3-D HDTV equipment as early as 2010. But it will likely be quite some time before an extensive library of content is available to view. There are currently some great cutting edge 3D movies in the theater including James Cameron's Avatar featuring aliens on the planet Pandora, and Disney's Christmas Carol. These are likely candidates to be some of the first feature films available for purchase for 3-D home viewing.

So what will you need to replace? Everything. A new HDTV, a new 3D blu-ray player, and you will also need special 3-D glasses in order to create the 3-D effect....yes it does seem strange to picture the entire family sitting together at night wearing funny glasses. I sometimes wonder if the effect will initially be too strong and too immersive for viewers with short-attention spans. I know I often do other things why I am watching television. Will I want to putting my glasses on and taking them off over and over? Will you be able to have conversations with your fellow viewers during a 3-D football game? Ultimately, its likely that this technology will be widely adopted in 15 years, but I do think there may be a long learning period and some major adjustments in viewing habits. I can see the concept working great for dedicated home theaters, but not so well for multi-use environments. Nevertheless, I look forward to the opportunity to test 3-D TV in the near future.