Geek Stuff Productivity Buster

Building a Home Theater for Around The Price of a Good TV

A little more than a month ago a neighbor of mine said “Here, have this projector.” I was astounded at the generosity because having worked virtually for more than 10 years now, the last time I had to get a projector for the office it was around $2,000 to get something that looked decent.

What I missed is that while I’ve been all about LEDs for home and my toolbox, I didn’t realize that they’ve completely changed the projector market too. My brain melted a little bit when I looked this projector up on Amazon and saw it was $90. When it started acting a little weird the company told my neighbor “We’ll send you another one, don’t even bother shipping the wonky one back.” Regardless of the price I was thrilled to get to mess around with a new toy.

The projector was good enough to be impressive in a dark room but our TV was sharper and didn’t require a darkened room, so the trade off of size vs. picture was about even. After a couple of weeks I started to have the same problem with it, not powering up or shutting off randomly so I recycled it but the damage had been done. I had a taste of a huge screen in the house having my own little movie theater was just too cool.

So, here’s where I went from there and links for you if you want to check it out. For the projector I went with this Yaber Y30 ProjectorYaber Y30. It’s 1080p so it’s not going to compare to a 4k image (4k projectors currently starting at $1,200) but it currently retails around $200 and it went on sale with a coupon for $150 and then I had some Amazon credit so I got it for $100.

What really got me and Carin was that we had an open wall large enough to hit a sweet spot. It was like having a 110 inch TV and it was a magic point. At that size, in many movie scenes the characters were “Actual Size.” It wasn’t like TV where you focus on the actors and that’s really where your brain is, or that it was a movie screen where everything was huge. It was like looking into the next room. It hit us in a restaurant scene where were we listening to the actors but it felt like we were in the same restaurant.

I have a few speaker sets around and I was trying to see what I could make work but realized that with a Soundbar that supports Bluetooth, Apple TV could connect and then I’d only have to plug it in, I wouldn’t have to run any wires across the room (or drill into the floor which is the only safe thing to do.) Bose TV SpeakerBose had their TV Speaker as a refurb for only $150 (sorry, looks like it’s gone up a bit) and it’s good enough for the small room. The wall mount was separate but this Amazon one is a better deal than the official Bose.

For the wall we are projecting on silver is the color you want (I naively thought it would be white, but that ends up being too bright.) Home Depot sells it and I got it online but it took about 10 days, I don’t know if they can mix it on site. A gallon was $60 and that was a huge mistake. We will do the whole room with it but if you are only doing one wall I did two coats and some touch up and I barely made a dent in the bucket.

The only thing I went full retail on was the Apple TV. Years ago I gave up on the whole media server thing and just went all in on Apple. Movies, music, TV shows, phone apps, it’s all in their cloud. I’m trapped there and it’s not cheap, but I don’t have to do any work to maintain anything. I throw the hockey puck in the bag with an HDMI cable and we can go anywhere with our media library.Apple TV

And you can see the three remotes, which is a pain, but the good news is that the Logitech Harmony programmable remote runs the TV and stereo in the same room, and I had enough open devices (limit 8) that I was able to add it all. So I hit the movie screen button and the projector, speaker, and Apple TV all fire up. The Harmony is fantastic but it can be a pain to program, I suggest using the PC/Mac App to program it, the phone apps seem to crash when under heavy load. Here’s a link and it should be $149 but it seems that perhaps too many people have gotten into smart remotes during Covid so they are out of stock and folks are tacking on an extra $100 if they have them.Harmony Remote

Since the projector is blocking the top of a window I went with cable runs, which are plastic tracks you can wall mount and snap on the cover so the cables are out of sight. With a white run on the window molding it’s difficult to even spot. Cable Run on Window

Here’s the image, and this is in the middle of the afternoon with the room half darkened:Screen

One thing I learned more about than I wanted to was ceiling mounting and image keystoning. Many projectors have keystone correction, the ability to correct the image if the projector is too high or low, or even not straight on. My first thought was to mount the projector up on the ceiling so it was totally out of the way of the window. After I set it up and went through the keystone correction (you just hit a couple buttons until the image is straight on all sides again) it was obvious that you pay a price in image sharpness by doing it. It was still watchable but out of focus in the areas where the light was traveling the farthest to hit the wall. I’ve learned that this is one of the things that make the $10,000 commercial projectors what they are, for big bucks you can keystone correct and still look great. For my budget… not so much.

So, much to Carin’s chagrin (drilling another 4 holes in the ceiling) I ordered another mount, this one with an extension arm, so that the projector was shooting straight at the wall at the right height. This was kind of a pain, but she did admit it was worth it when we fired up the next movie.

The good news with this is you can tell people are screwing up the mounting job all the time and so Amazon has no shortage of open box specials. I got the first ceiling mount for $5 down from $20, and the second with the arm for $10, down from $35.

So end of day I’m going off to the movies to see the new Star Wars stuff on Disney+ and with my random coupons and credits I got there for around $470, which is almost exactly what we paid for our TV about 3 years ago. I recommend it to any TV, movie, concert or sports fan!

Productivity Buster

Google Plus vs. Facebook

C.C. Chapman was good enough to hook me up yesterday with a Google+ invite (link goes to a post of his initial impressions). You’ll notice it looks very familiar:

So far I like it better than Facebook, it has a much better UI for putting contacts into groups. By default when you add a new contact you can add them to Friends, Family or Acquaintances. They call these “Circles” and you can add custom circles. There’s a contact management screen where you can drag and drop people into Circles that is very cool.

I noticed that it’s very easy to set up integration with Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn and even facebook. But have yet to test what these integrations actually do.

There’s integrated video chat, and it looks like you can do shared viewing of YouTube videos through integration there.

It appears that they are throttling the addition of accounts. Last night there was a button to send invites, this morning it is not appearing. I’ll mention it on twitter when it comes back, if you are not already following me I’m @johnjwall

Looks like they are shooting at Facebook in a big way.

Productivity Buster

Techno Fear vs. Techno Joy


Productivity Buster

Missing the Mark

Sorry to drone on again about running, but this is a good discussion of product marketing and choosing the feature set to go to market with.

Nike SportWatch A couple of months ago I read that Nike was going to be releasing a GPS watch for running that worked with the Nike + running system. The idea is that you wear the watch when you run, and then you upload the data to the cloud where it keeps track of your runs and lets you challenge others (sort of like a Facebook for running). It also allows you to wear a heart rate monitor, which I have used because I am an old fat bastard, and don’t want to die out on the course.

If you dig into some of my prior posts you’ll find that I was big on Nike+ when it first came out and I loved the iPod integration. The big win was to get audio feedback. You could have your playlist of favorite running songs, and then it would automatically lower the volume and tell you “You have reached 4 miles, your pace is 9:00 per mile”, and then the music would go back up to volume. I just loved how it was completely integrated and seamless. Of course time marched on and I left Nike+ behind for two reasons – one was that the method of measuring distance (basically a pedometer in/on your shoe) was not very accurate. This was a real bummer when I thought I was at the race’s end, turned a corner and found I still had a tenth of a mile to suck it up. The other was that Garmin had a better system – similar cloud features (although not as sexy), and an integrated heart rate monitor.

When I heard about the Nike SportWatch I thought this would be the triple crown – GPS quality accuracy, Heart Rate Monitor, and integrated audio. I also freaked out and gave up my lunch hour today when I read my latest email from Marathon Sports, my local running store, who said that because of the marathon 2 weeks away they had them in stores and the rest of the world wouldn’t see them in stores until early May. I called and they offered to hold me one until lunch and I grabbed it (and my favorite Caprese sandwich from Tutto Italiano which was right on the way). Thank goodness the sandwich was as good as usual because I was disappointed with the watch.

The first bummer is that the band is just slightly smaller than my Garmin, and smaller than the last Nike+ watch/remote that I owned. The one notch difference is enough to be a back breaker for me, it’s just tight enough to restrict my movement. Even worse, because the USB connector is at the end of the strap it’s not like I could replace it with another band. It does look like I could use the heat gun to stretch the side without the USB connector, but I instead opted to sell it on eBay because of another issue – music is not part of the system. After my buying frenzy subsided I understand why it doesn’t work – both the watch and the iPod are only receivers, neither transmits so there’s no way to get heart rate, GPS and music all in the same system.

The good news is that because they are still kind of rare I got $60 more than I paid for it (which won’t cover my gas, time, the $10 pouch for the transmitter, $20 pouch of the iPod, yadda, yadda, yadda).

What really got to me was as I was trying to figure out how to make it work, I came across a number of solutions, all of which fall short. There’s software for the iPhone and the iPod touch that have differing degrees of accuracy (if you are using the accelerometer on the Touch or the iPhone GPS), but no heart rate monitor with this route. The iPod Nano works and one of the two versions does connect to the heart rate monitor but neither version has GPS. None of the Nike methods (this watch or a simple wrist band) have music. There’s at least 6 variations, none of which have the complete feature set. It’s really too bad – all the pieces are there to have a unique solution that has never been in the market, instead there’s a bunch of solutions, all of which competitors have already had out in the marketplace. Granted, it’s simple to use and the best looking one out there, but how many geeks are willing to pay to upgrade to a better looking pocket protector?

Productivity Buster

Yeah We’re Comin’ to Your City


Productivity Buster

The Sheer Joy of Well Crafted Prose

As a younger man I wrote only to pass on knowledge. I still print rather than use cursive because it’s easier to read, and my copy was the same way – lacking irony or metaphor, but communicating effectively.

Now I worship the well-crafted phrase. It’s not enough to get your message across. Great copy can also entertain, and I prefer humor.

On the other hand there’s no faster path to sloppy copy than Gin, but that’s another story.

I don’t bike much at all, but this piece on biking in Boston is absolutely brilliant. Not only is the Boston attitude spot on, it sets up a turn of phrase that stands at the peak of perfection:  “thus alerting the wizard, who alerts the monkey”. This is the comedy I hold in highest regard, it has no need to resort to vulgarity, and is as funny as anything out there. I get the feeling Clarence has done some stand up in the past, or in his future.

Productivity Buster

Random Friday Copy Entertainment

We’ve had many stories on Marketing Over Coffee about things I’ve run into with the Google alert on my own name. Between high profile college basketball prospects, nature photographers and Saints there’s a lot going on in the world of the John Walls.

This week I found the first tie to Professional Wrestling, John Wall, the husband of Gladys “Killem” Gillem. It’s actually a great short read, a bombastic story of a pioneer Lady of Wresting, Lion Taming, Alligator Wrestling, The Fabulous Moolah, and a guy getting crushed by 500 pound crate.

I was also glad to see that the $70 gallon of milk on Amazon now has well over 1,000 reviews, great reading.

Have a great weekend!

Productivity Buster

Funniest Cakes on Earth

Last week I was in the supermarket and saw this cake that someone had gone to the trouble of having decorated, then for some unknown reason decided to “hide” it in the Doritos rack. Trying to come up with the story behind it made me laugh – what, they decided that they really weren’t going to miss  Kelly that much? Or maybe it came down to choosing between Kelly’s Cake and a bag of Tacos at Midnight Doritos (sorry Kelly, how about a Dorito?).

I laughed all the more because a co-worker told me about Cake Wrecks about a month ago and it’s the funniest thing in my feed reader. My personal faves:

The one that started it all

Vader baby cake

Getting the digital picture on the cake

Big Budget Wedding Cake


Productivity Buster

Death Star Canteen

I saw Eddie Izzard on The Graham Norton show and I couldn’t stop laughing about this for the next hour.  Aside from a few f-bombs it’s safe for work.

Productivity Buster

Second Life Stats – Who Cares?

I’ve had this draft in my “stuff to complete” forever. As I was reviewing my drafts I saw this and started to laugh – have you been to Second Life recently? I sure haven’t. Here were the facts that I had picked up, which are probably horribly out of date – hey, what more do you want from a Saturday post?

As Vice President of Systems Engineering, Ian Wilkes is responsible for all aspects of IT infrastructure at Linden Lab.

LSL – Linden Scripting Language (they have their own….)

Grey Goo (This was sort of a virus that threatened to consume the island until it was stopped).

956 square KM, 8x San Francisco, 100TB of user-created content, 30 million concurrent scripts

Monolithic C++ App
Closed Source

Started selling in 2003