Published On: March 14, 2011

How To Avoid Internet Dependence In Your Home and Home Theater

Published On: March 14, 2011
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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How To Avoid Internet Dependence In Your Home and Home Theater

Today's hot, new A/V products all have Internet connectivity and a host of Web-oriented applications. Of course we're all addicted to the Internet, but is it a good idea to get our home theater and home automation systems addicted, too?

How To Avoid Internet Dependence In Your Home and Home Theater

digital_detox.gifFor four years my father was a professor at my alma mater, the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, where he taught a number of classes on topics ranging from Generational Media Studies to other new media related topics. In one of his classes he directed his students (for extra credit of course) to physically surrender their all-powerful cell phones to him on a Thursday for safekeeping until class was in session the next Tuesday. Amazingly, a good number of the Gen Y kids were willing to take the challenge. And boy did they regret it by the time my father returned from his main residence in Scottsdale to teach at USC the next week.

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• Read more unique stories like this in our Feature News section.
• Learn more about all the connected AV gear in our Blu-ray Player, LED HDTV, and Plasma HDTV review sections.

When interviewed in front of the class, the students talked about drug-like withdrawal symptoms including shaky hands, a feeling of emptiness and separation anxiety. They archived the effects and typed, tweeted and posted on Facebook right from class as if they had been starved for a week and then were presented with a luxurious buffet spread.

While its no secret that today's youth are hooked on the digital lifestyle including being constantly connected (even if not emotionally or physically connected), they highlight a growing problem in the world of specialty consumer electronics, home theater and AV convergence.

From BD-Live on our Blu-ray players to the gleaming applications that now come standard on our HDTVs to multi-player functionality on video games to Internet radio to firmware and software updates on AV gear to access for programmers - our AV systems have become fully dependant on the Internet. It's impossible to download movies, troubleshoot an installation or even research a review on or without the Internet. It turns out that home theater enthusiasts are hooked and completely dependent on the Internet too, and there are no signs of the need for connectivity letting up any time soon.

They say in The Program (meaning A.A.) that "accepting that you have a problem is the first step" and I think we are all past that point when it comes to the need for Internet in our lives, so now it's time to get down to some real-world solutions. One solution comes from my own personal system. Currently, I use Apple TV for distribution of uncompressed music from my large collection hosted on my Mac Pro tower running iTunes. I distribute that music via my local network to Apple TVs (both wired and wireless in most locations) and I use older versions of the device mainly because you can locally host some media. Granted the hard drives internally on the version 2 of Apple TV aren't big by today's standards (and can't be externally augmented with say, a Firewire drive) - you can host most of your playlists and the files for a good amount of music and or a few movies and/or TV series on that hard drive so that if your Internet or network goes down - you are not completely out of luck. Snapping up the old Apple TV units (version 2 - not the hockey puck-like new ones that only stream) is a good, affordable solution for many people's networks. For the more hardcore user - you can reportedly have a local computer store upgrade the internal hard drive to something larger which is an acquisition and upgrade I am likely do to for a few of my key Apple TV units.

Read more about the connection addiction on Page 2.

Another way you can deal with digital dependence on the Internet in
your home theater is to stay loyal to the almighty Blu-ray disc. While
it's popular in some circles to poo-poo silver discs in a world that
now knows digital downloads - you can't beat the performance of a 1080p picture on Blu-ray and nothing comes close to the audio that you get from Dolby TrueHD and/or DTS Master Audio
in 7.1 found only on Blu-ray. The performance differences can be
confusing for many consumers and enthusiasts because cable and
satellite providers like DirecTV
aggressively promote via TV ads, emails and other media that the 1080p
video for their pay-per-view movies is as good as Blu-ray - but it is
nowhere close. It's massively compressed to save bandwidth, thus
leaving you a less-than-gorgeous image on your set. Things get even
worse when streaming from the likes of Netflix, VUDU, Blockbuster and CinemaNow.
While these services are convenient - they offer poor surround sound
and worse-than-pay-per-view video. They also demand that you have a
perfectly working Internet connection, which increasingly is becoming a
problem for more and more home theater enthusiasts. Simply put -
sticking a Blu-ray disc in your player and pressing play gives you a
state of the art experience without dependence on an Internet
connection with performance that streaming, satellite and cable
providers cannot deliver at this date.

The Internet and our need for connectivity isn't going anywhere any time soon. Some larger installations by the top custom AV installers
are starting to use routers that can auto-switch between two or more
Internet providers. Not everybody gets fiber optic Internet at their
house; however most have the option of cable and DSL from the phone
companies. Considering the need for the Internet not just for video
streaming and networking but for things like the kids doing their
homework - a stable Internet is about as important as depending on a
utility like water, gas or electric. In most cases cable Internet
service is faster than DSL, thus that would be the go-to service.
Amazingly, the "consumer" product from the cable providers can be up to
twice as fast for service but their "business" products - complete with
a fixed IP address, better hardware and better support - can be worth
the extra money to keep your connection going. We have both at my home
and the business Internet has never failed but the consumer-grade
Internet is down about once per month with outages as long as 24 to 48
hours. DSL will be installed soon to offer an easy-to-switch solution
in a world where there is such a high standard for connectivity.

With smartphones driving the consumer electronics market and AV components connecting via wireless networks and HDTVs packing more "apps" than a 13 year old's iPhone
- we all are going to need to be connected at home; however it's
important to keep an eye on how to get the top performance from your
home theater and AV systems while also insuring that you are connected
when you want to be. Your Internet providers are under pressure to
offer you more and more features for less money. Little effort and
thought is given to reliability, thus you should plan for how to you'll
stay connected most if not all of the time.

Additional Resources
• Read more unique stories like this in our Feature News section.
• Learn more about all the connected AV gear in our Blu-ray Player, LED HDTV, and Plasma HDTV review sections.

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