Setting Up A Projector Room

Projector MountedOver the years I’ve spent a fair amount of money on different types of electronics. Back in the 1980’s much of that money was spent on a never-ending succession of high fidelity amplifiers and speakers. I still have most of that equipment and it still functions quite well to this day.

In the 1990’s my purchasing patterns shifted to a voracious appetite for personal computers, peripherals and software. Though I seemed to derive enjoyment at the time, I have comparatively little that remains useful today with the exception of a fairly massive 25-year-old computer desk.

From the mid-2000’s forward my computer-buying habits slowed somewhat, but I partially shifted from Windows to Apple machines. In the past couple of years my adoption of Android smartphones has mostly usurped my computer usage, completely freezing any urge to acquire new computer equipment. The computers I have – two older Apple laptops, two Mac Minis, a Compaq machine running Vista, and an Asus Netbook running Windows XP, all work remarkably well after equipping most of them with modern SSD’s. I record podcasts, write occasional articles, and do my taxes once a year and that is now the extent of my computer usage. Barring some unforeseen disaster, these older machines should last well in to the foreseeable future.

Of all of those consumer electronics purchases, few things stand out as being really enjoyable. Though I enjoyed the computers at the time, the investment in stereo equipment still delivers satisfaction, some of it 30 years on.

Today, I derive the most use and gratification from my smartphone. It is always with me and it ably handles most functions.

However, that doesn’t stop me from looking at and experimenting with consumer electronics. Back in the early 2000’s, I briefly considered buying a projector. At the time I didn’t think I had a good place to put it or use it, and the idea quickly got pushed aside. As it turns out, I’m glad that I didn’t buy one then, because consumer video technology was still standard definition and projectors of the era were expensive and primitive by today’s standards.

Fifteen years later, projector technology is radically better and far less expensive. Don’t get me wrong – it is possible to spend a fortune on modern projection equipment if you want the latest and greatest and your budget allows. However, it is possible today to get really great bargain projectors that can offer great value and performance.

When I bought my house 20 years ago, for whatever reason one of the extra bedrooms ended up as a junk room. I have no one to blame but myself – it was easy to just pile stuff in the room, close the door, out of sight, out of mind. Over the years I had given little thought about what to do with that extra room. It is fairly small – 9 and ½ feet by 13 and ½ feet, but nonetheless it could be made into a useful space.

A few months ago I started thinking about projectors once again. I purchased an Android-powered pico projector from Amazon to bring with me when I travel. I then realized a great use to put the junk room to – clean all of the junk away, and set up a larger wall-mounted projector capable of projecting about a 95” inch diagonal image on the opposite wall.

Projection ScreenI just happened to have plenty of extra speakers and an old surround sound receiver that had been lying around in the junk room for a few years. After a bit of research I purchased an inexpensive $350 dollar LED-powered Android 720p Chinese projector from Aliexpress.Com. After doing how-to video research on YouTube I purchased lumber and a friend helped me make a large wooden 16 x 9 format frame. I purchased Carl’s Place blackout cloth via Amazon, and with the same friend’s help I now have a large homemade projector screen that cost me a total of about $75 dollars in materials.

I purchased a projector wall mount from Amazon that was under $50 dollars, plus a few other odds and ends. From Walmart I purchased an inexpensive Sony BluRay player for under $50 dollars that even includes WiFi support and the important apps I need – Netflix, Amazon Videos, Hulu Plus and YouTube. I purchased a 5 input HDMI switcher from Amazon for under $20 dollars as well as well as a $15 dollar 25’ foot long HDMI cable to run up the wall to the projector. I even purchased an HDTV tuner that includes an HDMI output from Amazon for about $25 dollars. On the more expensive side, I purchased a 10” inch Klipsch subwoofer from my local Best Buy store for $300 dollars.

All together, I’ve spent less than $1,000 dollars. The resulting projector system for that price is impressive. I can stream HD content from the Internet, I can play BluRay discs, or I can watch local over-the-air digital TV. The digital TV tuner even has a USB port that will accept up to a 2 gigabyte hard drive if I wish to utilize its HD DVR functionality! All sound is routed through the surround sound receiver.

One Man Theater ChairBest of all, that once-upon-a-time useless junk room now has a great use. I have 100% control over the light so the resulting projected 95” inch 720p image is crisp and clear.

Some people might scoff at my purchase of what is essentially a no-name Chinese projector as opposed to spending a few hundred dollars more and getting a name-brand projector such as an Epson or one of the other brands of HD projectors. My reason for going with the no-name Chinese 720p LCD projector is simple – it uses a Cree LED lamp that will likely last 30,000 hours or more. Most name brand projectors use conventional bulbs that must be replaced after only 3,000 to 5,000 thousand hours and can cost $150 and up – way, way up in some cases, more than I paid for the no-name 720p Chinese projector. Especially for a first-time purchase, why not go with a projector using an LED bulb? I’m willing to spend money on electronics – if I didn’t like it, I could always go with another more expensive machine later.

It turns out that I really like the no-name Chinese projector. It has two HDMI inputs along with various analog inputs, outputs, USB and even an SD card slot. It runs Android 4.2.2 and even came equipped with a wireless mouse, along with a remote control. If I wish, I could easily also pair it up with a wireless keyboard and use it as a computer with a large projected display. The Android 4.2.2 comes with the Google Play Store so that means it has access to all the Google Play Store apps. At $350 dollars, I consider it a true bargain.

This has also been a learning experience. I’ve found over the years that regardless of how much I research something, I never really know about it until personally taking action. The only thing I would change about the room setup at this point would be to go with the so-called “Flexigray” screen material from Carl’s Place as opposed to their black-out cloth which is bright white and the most commonly used projection screen material. Because the room is so small and has light colored walls and ceiling, when the projector is on in the otherwise pitch black room it lights up the room enough to create enough stray bounce light from the side walls and ceiling to slightly interfere with the projected image. At this point I could either take steps to darken the walls, or re-cover the screen with the Flexigray material which has superior stray side light rejection properties, thus creating better black levels. I probably won’t make any changes anytime soon – the current projected image really is just fine. But, it’s something I learned and something to keep in mind for future reference.

For under $1,000 dollars, I’ve managed to create an amazingly enjoyable experience. That same money could have easily been spent on the latest gadget being pushed – say an overpriced smart watch – a dubious solution in search of a problem that comes packaged with planned obsolescence for your spending convenience.

Even though it has only been a couple of months, I already know that setting up this projector room is one of those rare things that offers genuine satisfaction and enjoyment, as opposed to all of those things that soon enough ended up unused and obsolete in a pile of dusty junk.

Line 6 brings Amplifi Remote app to Apple Watch

Line 6 logoLine 6 is a musical instrument and audio equipment manufacturer that’s been a real industry innovator for nearly two decades. I bought my first Line 6 guitar amp back in 2001 and have been hooked on the company’s products ever since. At this point, it’d be a neck-and-neck battle between Line 6 and Apple as far as which company has made a bigger dent in my overall net worth.

One thing that Line 6 has done recently that’s really intriguing is the development of “remote” apps that work wirelessly with its various products. The first of these connected-app lines is the Amplifi guitar amp/smart speaker system.  Amplifi was designed to bridge the gap between practicing at home and jamming with other musicians. At home, the Amplifi could be used as a speaker for entertainment systems. At the rehearsal space, Amplifi also works as a full-power electric guitar amp.

Amplifi is also the first Line 6 product to use a remote app to control different features of the device. The app originally launched for Android and iOS, running both on iPhone and iPad. Now, Line 6 has brought its Amplifi Remote app to Apple Watch:

The new AMPLIFi Remote v2.11 update enables guitar players to control and access guitar tones via Apple Watch. Guitarists can now access tones, control levels, search the Line 6 Tone Cloud, and use the tuner, right from their wrist. AMPLIFi Remote works with the entire AMPLIFi family, and provides guitarists with unprecedented control over every aspect of their guitar tone and effects.

Amplifi Remote features such as Tuner, MyTones and master/instrument level controls will be accessibly directly on the Apple Watch version of the app. Users will also be able to do a “dictation search” of Line 6’s Tone Cloud service, which will allow them to use vocal requests to search thru guitar tones saved to Line 6’s cloud service. Tones can then be quickly loaded onto an Amplifi device for immediate use.

It’s great to see Line 6’s continued development of things like the Amplifi Remote App. The company has also started rolling out other products that work with similar apps. I’m definitely excited to see what else Line 6 comes up with this year.

PutDown Trap Kills Rats

British Inventors ProjectThis interview from Gadget Show Live comes with a warning. If you think that rats are cute cuddly animals with every right to life, you should probably stop reading now. If on the other hand, you believe that they’re plague-ridden rodents that should be wiped from the face of the planet, read on.

The inventor and founder of the PutDown Trap is Mark Sheahan, the British Library’s first ever Inventor in Residence. Mark took on the challenge of every inventor of building a better mouse trap, or in this case a rat trap. The Putdown Trap is poison-free, self-rearming and needs no power.

The Putdown trap uses the motion of the rat in and out of the trap to inject air into the rat’s brain causing an embolism and subsequent death. The needle is sprung-loaded so the trap re-arms itself and there’s no poison to either refresh or be eaten by another animal accidentally. There’s a second needle to spear the heart.

The photo below shows the internals of the trap – the rat moves in from left to right.

Putdown Trap

Take Control with the Netduma R1 Router

British Inventors ProjectThese days it’s not unusual for a household to be consume considerable amounts of bandwidth. Someone can be gaming, someone can be streaming an HD movie and and someone else can be on a video call. Who’s hogging the broadband? Who takes priority? The Netduma R1 router answers these questions and takes control back with easy-to-use software for gamers and demanding families.

Netduma R1

On show at the Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project, the Netduma R1 sits between the cable modem and the rest of the network. It provides a raft of features for gamers including geo-filtering, anti-flood, player & server denial and ping stats. For bandwidth hogging households, there’s graphical network monitoring and device prioritisation. Everything can be done via web-based interface and no technical knowledge is needed; to prioritise one device over another, simply drag the device out.

Netduma Control Software

Speaking to the Netduma team after the interview, I was impressed at what they have managed to achieve. I’m not a gamer but some of their plans for family-friendly enhancements sounded really interesting. Priced at £149 / $199 it’s not cheap but for gamers it’s definitely worth having a look.

Tegstove Camping Stove Cooks and Powers

British Inventors ProjectThe Tegstove is a portable gas stove that cooks food, powers gadgets and recharges its battery. Displayed at Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project, the Tegstove uses thermoelectric generator technology to generate energy from widely available clean burning butane gas.

The Tegstove is the perfect solution for campers and hikers who are well off the beaten track and want to keep their GPS charged or power LED lights at night. As its primary function the Tegstove burns butane gas to cook food or heat water. As a secondary function, electrical energy is generated from the difference in temperature between the hot of the burner and the cold of the gas cylinder. The electricity can be used either to power a device plugged into the USB port or to charge the Tegstove’s internal battery.

Up close this is a beautifully designed product with great attention detail which I sincerely hope will carry through into the retail product.

Tegstove

The Tegstove is on pre-order at CrowdShed for £69 if you get in quick, which I think is a bargain. I don’t even camp and I want one!

TravelHug 3-in-1 Travel Pillow

British Inventors ProjectThe TravelHug is a 3-in-1 travel pillow which provides a comfortable upright sleeping, transforms into a water-resistant cushion for the beach and finally converts into a soft flat pillow for sleeping.

TravelHug works by wrapping around your body to give adjustable support to your head and neck. By putting TravelHug into its own pillowcase, you then also have a water resistant cushion or soft flat pillow. TravelHug rolls away into a small stuff sack ready for convenient comfort anywhere.

Travel Hug

Part of the British Inventors Project, the TravelHug is available now for £20 from their store. Matching coat not included.

Homes Just Got Smarter with Kibbi

British Inventors ProjectWith the Internet of Things and smart homes being all the rage, it’s inevitable that there would be at least one smart home system at Gadget Show Live taking part in the British Inventors Project. Here’s the Kibbi – homes just got smarter.

KibbiThe Kibbi intelligent hub provides round the clock security combined with entertainment. The built-in HD wide angle security camera monitors 24×7 with motion detection and night vision, and saves video footage to either cloud servers or local USB storage. The keyfob-size Kibbi sensors are fixed to doors, windows, fridges and measure movement, vibrations and temperature. The speaker announces alerts and can wirelessly stream music too from smartphones.

The complementary Kibbi app works with Android, iOS and Windows – it’s good to see the Windows app here too.

The Kibbi previously raised nearly $57,000 on Indiegogo and pre-orders (£170) can be made through the Kibbi website with Deliveries expected from May 2015.

Secure Your Vehicle With Your Smartphone

British Inventors ProjectRegrettably car theft is a major problem worldwide and while car security has improved significantly over the past years, an increasing number of cars are being stolen using cloned keys or bypassing keyless security systems. Demonstrated at Gadget Show Live, My Smart Remote is an additional layer of security that prevents thieves from stealing a vehicle even if they have the key, whether physical or otherwise.

MySmartRemoteMy Smart Remote consists of a small electronic unit and a smartphone app for both Android and iOS. The electronic unit is installed discreetly in the car and this can lock down the vehicle and stop the car from being started. The electronic unit communicates via Bluetooth with an app on the owner’s smartphone putting in extra security which is largely invisible and crucially unrelated to the vehicle itself. Consequently, even with a cloned key, the car is going nowhere. An enhanced version of My Smart Remote can also control internal features of the vehicle including the horn, air-conditioning and opening the boot (trunk). There’s an anti-carjacking feature too.

My Smart Remote is on pre-order at CrowdShed. £159 gets the standard security version and for additional internal control, the enhanced version costs £299.

Popcord Keyring Charging Cable

British Inventors ProjectOne of the few “tech” products at the British Inventors Project, the Popcord is a short USB charging cable which loops back on itself to hang on a keyring. As it’s on your keyring, you never leave it behind so any time your phone needs a charge, the Popcord is on hand.

Elegantly made from metal to complement the latest mobile devices, it’s available in six colours and two variants, one USB to micro-USB and the other USB to Lightning for Apple owners.

Popcord

It’s on pre-order at GB£29 or a little under US$42.50 and is expected to ship shortly.

Cycloc Stores and Displays Bicycles

British Inventors ProjectFollowing British success in the sport, cycling has seen a resurgence in the UK and there are some very tasty bikes on the roads these days. Storage when off the road can be a problem though, especially in city apartments. Cycloc provides a solution to this with colourful wall-mounts which both store and show-off the bicycle. Perfect for the bijou town pad.

Cycloc Bicycle Accessories

Cycloc’s range of products was on display at Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project. The latest product, Hero, cleverly uses the pedals to hold the bike to the wall. Fresh to the market, it costs a few pennies under £40. In the picture below, Hero is holding the upper bike, with Solo keeping up the lower one.

Cycloc