Your Guide to Enjoying Atlanta

August 31, 2009

Yes, believe it or not CEDIA is a mere week away! For the majority of us that means long days and even longer nights, sore feet and probably a whole lot of Band-Aids.

Just when we were starting to get the hang of Denver, the free bus and all the best hot spots, CEDIA up and moved us to Atlanta. Now we have to go and figure out the nightlife scene all over again. Fear not, Caster is here! If you find yourself with some free time next week (yes, I do realize what I am saying), take a look at our list of the best things to do in Atlanta.

The Georgia Aquarium
Dive into a one-of-a-kind aquatic experience at the world’s largest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium! Get up close with gentle whale sharks, toothy sand tiger sharks, graceful beluga whales, playful sea otters and aquatic animals from around the globe. With the largest collection of aquatic animals, you are sure to see things you’ve never seen before!

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site & Sweet Auburn District
The area of Sweet Auburn served as the thriving center of Black enterprise in Atlanta from the 1890s through the 1940s, and is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, explore his birth home, visitor center, historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and The King Center, where Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize is on exhibit. The crypt and gravesite of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are also located at The King Center.

Churchill Grounds
660 Peachtree Street
Offering some of the best jazz in the city, Tuesday-Saturday.  The club is known for introducing
local talent as well as featuring jazz legends.

Dad’s Garage Theatre Company
280 Elizabeth Street
Little Five Points – Don’t miss Atlanta’s hottest new comedy improvisation show.

Best Restaurants

  1. Ritz-Carlton Dining Room
  2. Bacchanalia
  3. Chops & Lobster Bar
  4. Rathbun’s Restaurant
  5. Nan Thai
  6. Aria
  7. Joël
  8. Nam
  9. Bone’s Restaurant
  10. Nikolai’s Roof

Got something to add to the list? Please let our readers know. Add your favorite spot in Atlanta in our comments.

Posted by: Lauren

The OS Showdown Begins Today

August 28, 2009

Today, Apple is due to launch its new Snow Leopard operating system, a speedy yet subtle upgrade for current Mac users. CNN compiled the new OS reviews from the top go-to tech editors and websites hand-selected by Apple, including Walt Mossberg, Brian Lam, David Pogue, Engadget, among others. Each editor, though indicating all improvements are under-the-hood, gave Snow Leopard glowing reviews. Unlike the fanfare of the iPhone 3GS launch, however, Snow Leopard is making a fairly stealth grand entrance into the company’s storefronts that have proved to be a driving force in the company’s successful consumer launches.

In the other corner, PC users, XP and Vista users alike, eagerly await the October 22nd introduction of Windows 7. Taking a cue from its fruit friend, Microsoft issued Beta versions of its new OS months ago and the reviews are quite impressive. Editors and users compliment the new operating system’s sleek new look, improved interface, advanced hardware support and media sharing. So, will Microsoft be “borrowing” another play out of their worthy opponent’s book, launching Windows 7 in the company’s (highly?) anticipated CA and AZ storefronts planned to open this Fall? Most likely. The new stores will also prove to be an interesting evaluation opportunity to see if and how Microsoft can break down their previously unapproachable image and transform its corporate image. (If it’s worth anything, the Microsoft team that Caster knows and love is extremely intelligent, witty, and nothing less than approachable!)

 Should be an interesting OS, retail, and PR showdown between the two — and it begins today.

Stay posted.

OmniMount Adds Cantilever Solutions to its OmniLite Line

August 26, 2009

OmniMount has further expanded its line of eco-conscious mounting solutions, with the addition of cantilever solutions toOL125C_Black_Dropshot_Hi-Res the OmniLite Series. 

The OL50C fits most flat panels from 13 to 32 inches and support up to 50 pounds, while the OL125C fits most flat panels from 23 to 45 inches and support up to 125 pounds. Both single-stud mounts pan, swivel and tilt (-5 to +15 degrees) for maximum viewing flexibility and feature OmniMount’s signature cable management solution and Lift n’ Locktechnology to enable quick and easy installations for installers.

The OmniLite Series OL50C and OL125C will greatly reduce waste by featuring condensed packaging and sOL125C_Black_Lifestyle_Hi-Restreamlined hardware kits. Additionally, manuals and installation templates for each product will be printed on the inside of the box eliminating the need for unnecessary paper. The OmniLite Series will also utilize 100-percent recyclable internal packaging with no plastic bags, post-consumer recyclable outer box material and non-petroleum-based ink for all package printing. 

The OL50C and OL125C have MSRPs of $59.95 and $149.95, respectively, and are available now.

Read the full press release here.

Al Gore to Keynote GreenBuild Conference

August 25, 2009

I’m heading to GreenBuild this year with Kim and I couldn’t be more excited as I’ve heard from multiple sources that it is inspiring and full of knowledgeable and passionate people in the green building and energy fields.  I hope it will be refreshing because while I’ve been to a number of energy and sustainability shows this past year, I have yet to feel truly wowed but any of them.  In fact, what I’ve really found is that it’s a lot of the same people talking to each other about a lot of the same things.

That said, GreenBuild is said to be a worthwhile experience and the USGBC just announced the Al Gore will be the keynote speaker at this year’s event!

via USGBC:

Nobel Laureate, best-selling author, and the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary – the Honorable Al Gore will address thousands of Greenbuild attendees at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. as part of the Greenbuild Opening Keynote & Celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Along with four terms in Congress, two terms in the Senate, and two terms as Vice President, Gore has written the bestsellers Earth in the BalanceAn Inconvenient Truth and the just-released “Our Choice.” The first 5,000 full-conference attendee registrants will receive a complimentary copy of Gore’s latest book “Our Choice” and all other attendees will be able to purchase the book on site.

Gore is chairman of the Emmy-award winning Current TV; chairman of Generation Investment Management, a firm focused on a new approach to sustainable investing; is a member of the board of directors of Apple; a senior adviser to Google; and a partner with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He is also a Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University and chairs the Alliance for Climate Protection, a non-profit organization designed to help solve the climate crisis.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Welcome to the Future

August 24, 2009

I’m a huge country music fan. A few weeks ago, I was listening to a new song by artist Brad Paisley, called “Welcome to the Future”. The song’s lyrics go though some pretty cool technological advancements that we have had over the past decades, some of which we probably don’t even remember living without. 

“When I was ten years old
I remember thinkin’ how cool it would be
When we were goin’ on an eight hour drive
If I could just watch TV 

And I’d have given anything
To have my own Pac-Man game at home
I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade
Now I’ve got it on my phone”

After hearing the song for the first time I started to laugh. With CEDIA fast approaching, I’m sure we are going to hear lots of product introductions that are going to make a lot of last year’s new product obsolete. That’s just the world we live in. Everything is constantly changing, especially when it comes to technology.

I found this great article on PC World about “Obsolete Technology: 40 Big Losers” and thought it would be fun to share. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Playing video games at an arcade
Status: On life support
Once a favorite activity of geeks worldwide, going to the arcade to play video games began fading away in the mid-1990s, just as going to the arcade to play pinball had done a decade before.

A few arcades survive, but the days of gamers lining up to toss quarters into “Street Fighter” or “Mortal Kombat” are long gone. It’s easy to see why: The advent of advanced gaming systems allows you to experience the same action at home, minus the dungeon-like lighting, the deafening game noise and the premature exhaustion of your lunch money for the week.

8. Getting fuzzy TV reception
Status: Deceased
When the United States flipped the switch on an all-digital broadcasting system this summer, it also effectively sent the fuzzy “white snow” to the graveyard. So long, annoying static; we always loathed you.

9. Hearing the sound of a modem connecting
Status: Nearly deceased
How a familiar series of sounds could simultaneously be so grating and so gratifying is a mystery that man may never unlock. Jonesing for a fix? Try the 56K Modem Emulator.

11. Waiting to get photos developed
Status: Showing signs of illness
Though film-based cameras aren’t completely gone, the advantages of digital snapshots —namely, that you can view a picture immediately after taking it and that you can discard bad shots at no cost — have certainly made traditional cameras far less common.

16. Enjoying complete privacy
Status: On life support
In the face of constant monitoring by Google and the many forms of GPS tracking in our lives (social networking shoe, anyone?), privacy has become a rare and precious commodity within the connected world. Speaking of which, that’s a nice shirt you’re wearing today.

22. Storing data on a floppy disk
Status: Nearly deceased
A disk with 1.44MB of storage? Shyeah, right. The once-standard protocol for storing and transferring data seems puny by today’s file-size standards. (And don’t even get started with the truly floppy 5.25-inch variety.) Few new PCs are being built with floppy disk drives anymore; and as a result, the era of the A:\ prompt is in its twilight. As for the Zip drive, Iomega may still say it sells ’em — but is anyone buying it?

29. Using proper grammar and punctuation
Status: On life support
txting and iming has made proper grammar seems kinda old skoo, dont u thnk? heres hoping 4 capitalization & punctuation 2 make a comeback in emails & other writing. the gr8 gatsby probly wuld hv been way less gr8 if it wuz written like this. Lol

38. Sending documents via fax
Status: Showing signs of illness
Why fax when you can attach? Especially since most documents are now created on computers, the facsimile may soon find itself on the endangered species list. Fear not, though, “Office Space” fans: The legend “PC Load Letter” will live on forever.

Posted by: Lauren

Insider Tips for Less Stressed Air Travel

August 22, 2009

Last night I went to see Cheryl Wheeler perform at Hi Hat in Providence. If you don’t know her, you should; she is awesome, she has a beautiful voice and she is so funny!!! One of the last songs she performed was “On a Plane.” In her intro to the song, she talked about her frustrations with air travel, and discussed the recent story of the Express Jet “mishap” in Rochester, Minn. Everyone in the crowd laughed in agreement (myself included). Cheryl got me thinking about how people hate to fly because of all the problems they encounter along the way.

Even though my g-chat status has been “drama free zone” all week, I can’t resist at least a little drama. So, with the recent horror stories about air travel in mind, I’ve decided to give the people in our industry who frequently travel a few insider tips (the “inside” part being that I conveniently happen to be dating/cohabitating with a pilot who flies commercial jets). I am going to touch upon the top five complaints I hear about airports and flying, and how you can avoid or at least deal with the situation.

(Warning: I am not really that sympathetic to the traveler’s complaints.)

  1. PROBLEM: Lost baggage. SOLUTION: Pack a carry-on! I am a serious girly girl; I like my accessories and my shoes and my makeup and clothes (do I need to go on) and if I can go to Madrid for six days with a carry-on, you can make it on your long weekend without your closet in tow. Now if for some chance a carry-on is completely not practical (say, if you are taking a super long vacation, in which case lucky you; you shouldn’t be complaining about anything) or if you are traveling with kids, then of course you’ll need to check bags. Just be smart about it. Pack some things in your carry-on that can get you through a day if for some unfortunate reason your bags get delayed. I have always received lost baggage within a day.
  2. PROBLEM: Flight delayed. SOLUTION: Suck it up!!! The airline industry doesn’t delay flights because it wants to have the 30 to 200 passengers who were supposed to be at XYZ at such-and-such a time complaining and irate at the ticket counter. Flights are delayed because of maintenance issues, weather delays, maxed out flight crews and a variety of other reasons. The reason for your flight delay is real and, trust me, it is in your best interest. So just chill out, bring or buy a book, and sit back and relax. Complaining won’t help the situation.
  3. PROBLEM: The plane was so small. SOLUTION: See my solution for #2. As my partner in crime would say, “Well, I am sorry there isn’t a 747 scheduled to go from your Podunk town to the hub.” People want more frequent flights with more options to travel. As a result, they are going to be traveling on smaller planes. You can’t expect jumbo jets to be just waiting in your little town to carry 30 passengers back and forth four times a day. It’s all a numbers game. You just need to figure out what is more important to you: Being able to drive 20 minutes to your local airport OR having a nice big plane take you to your destination. Unless you live in a big city, you aren’t gonna get both.
  4. PROBLEM: We had to taxi for a while before takeoff/we had to circle before landing. SOLUTION: Keep reading that book. I know you’re excited to exit that plane and start your business trip or vacation, but if every plane just decided it was ready to take off or land whenever it felt like it, well, you’d probably be dead, because planes would be crashing into each other all the time.
  5. PROBLEM: Horrible food. SOLUTION: Bring your own. Your ticket price doesn’t include a five-star meal from Morton’s. You’re paying for the fuel and for the pitiful salaries of the pilots and the flight attendants…definitely not for your food. If you want yummy food, pay for first class or take an international flight.

People FREAK out over EVERYTHING these days!! Stop complaining and take a few deep breaths, go do yoga or put yourself in a time out. It will all be OK. If your bag gets lost, just remember they didn’t do it on purpose (unless you were one of those obnoxious people being super-rude before you even gave away your bags, in which case you risked some bad karma). They made a mistake and you will most likely see your belongings again soon. If your flight is delayed, there is a reason and be glad they have been so thorough and are correcting it. If you want more leg space and a bigger plane, fly out of a bigger city.

I just ask that before you unload on the pilot, the flight attendant, the person at the ticket counter: This is their job. They live your most frustrating travel day FOUR DAYS A WEEK, EVERY WEEK. They hear your complaints and they get it, but there’s nothing they can do and, if there was, they’d do it. And furthermore, consider your fellow passengers. The person sitting next to you or the people around you might not think the things that have you in such a tizzy are the end of the world. In fact, your ranting and raving might be the most annoying aspect of their traveling experiences!

I could go on and on with this, but I think I’ll finish by encouraging you to check out this bit that Louis CK did on the Conan O’Brien show. Maybe it’ll give you a laugh and help you realize that your travel experience isn’t as bad as you might think. And then you can join me in the drama free zone.

Posted by: Becca

Consumer electronics manufacturers are running their own “Cash for Clunkers” programs targeting consumers and dealers.

August 21, 2009

It’s the last weekend to turn in your heaps of metal (once referred to as cars) as Monday, September 24th, marks the last day of the US’s Cash for Clunkers program. With the $3 billion of government funding quickly running out, the program has thus far amounted to 457,000 car deals and pay outs of $1.9 billion in rebates (per this morning). The “success” of the program is yet to be determined, but car dealers need to hurry to be sure to submit all necessary paperwork (which I hear is a BEAR and quite extensive) by 8pm EST on Monday. Regardless of the outcome, this element of the government stimulus package certainly injected some much-needed consumer activity into our waning economy.

This week, Home Theater Review’s Jerry Del Colliano posted a great story “Cash for Clunkers – Meet the AV Business” article. It is a good read that likens the struggling custom install consumer electronics industry to the plight of automakers. Though GM, Ford, and the “lucky” car dealers (the definition of lucky yet to be determined) are benefitting from TARP program funding, there are plenty of other dealers throughout the country who are equally struggling to move inventory.

The Las Vegas market is one of the many nationwide to be virtually devastated (not to be dramatic, but the news makes the once burgeoning community sound like the ghost town of old) by the current economic climate. HTR’s article focuses primarily on one high-end AV dealer that is weathering the storm thanks to ample investor funding, but “Craig’s” business is being burdened by older AV product in its showroom and a plethora of inventory.

“Cash for Clunkers – Meet the AV Business” notes the “lip service that AV manufacturers give towards ‘dealer support’… You’d see how you could get an extra five percent off a nice big new order to help offset the trade-in costs. Everybody wins and everything moves forward for the first time in over a year in the world of specialty audio-video.” Well, that is exactly what Runco, a leading manufacturer of luxury video solutions in the custom CE installation industry, intended with its TradeUp and TradeOut program that launched earlier this year.

Residential Systems magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jeremy Glowacki, recently spoke with Runco’s VP of worldwide sales, Bob Hana, about this very topic; providing value to Runco customers and Runco dealers for older product and putting that value towards new, upgraded gear for their homes and showrooms.

In a recent conversation, Hana reminded me that step one of fundamental selling during tough times is to reach back to past customers, especially because so many new technologies have been introduced recently. “A lot of things have changed in the last six months to a year in this industry,” he said. “You’ve got every excuse in the world to upgrade. There’s the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 1080p video, and Blu-ray.”

Though the specifics of the program is a mixed recipe consisting of a little of this and that, from both the dealer and manufacturer, the program has proved to be successful for those taking advantage of the opportunity. Time will tell if Runco, like the TARP program, was overwhelmingly successful in its efforts to inject sales life, activity and profit into its dealers’ businesses, but thus far, feedback has been positive.

“Runco is creating a sales opportunity where there otherwise might not have been one,” said Gramophone’s Josh Shobe about the program. “Right now, that kind of support is invaluable.”

Posted by: Katie