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TV Wall Mount Installation

TV wall mount installation

TV Wall Mount Installation

One of the things that TV wall mount installation has taught me is that there are three basic types of people.  There are of course many subsets of these groups, but the three main types of people are: the “DIYers”, the “Can’t Do’s” and the “Could Do’s”.  The DIYers don’t need our help and they don’t want our help, unless they try to do it themselves and mess something up.  The Can’t Do’s really do need our help, either because they don’t have the knowledge or the experience to do it themselves.  Lastly the Could Do’s; who could do the job themselves but either don’t have time to do it themselves, or would simply rather pay someone to do it for them. No matter if you’re going to pay to have someone install the TV for you, or if you’re thinking of doing it yourself, there are a few things you should know before you get started.

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Smart TVs & Advanced Viewing: The future of media

Smartphones are all the rage now-a-days.  It seems like everyone’s got one, and while most people only use them for games and web browsing they are extremely powerful devices.  Since so many people enjoy all the capabilities of smart phones, we’re often somewhat disappointed when we turn on the old TV.  If you’ve found yourself in this same situation, then this is the post for you.

We’re going to review all the top devices and by the end of this post you’ll know which one meets your needs and quenchs your thirst for content on your TV.

Things you should know…

DLNA – The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a non-profit collaboration established by Sony.  What that means for you is that devices which are DLNA compliant will allow you to share digital media on your network.  If you have pictures, music, or videos on your desktop computer a DLNA enabled device will be able to access that media and play it on (in this case) your TV.

HDMI – This term shouldn’t be vague to most people at this point, but if you’re not familiar with it we’ll define it for you.  HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is a compact audio/video interface for transmitting uncompressed digital data.  It offers the ability to transmit Audio, Video and Data across a single cable.

The List…

– Roku may be the biggest name in the industry.  They were one of the first to market and have had success with a handful of different models.  We’re specifically looking at the Roku 2 XS, which retails for $89.99.

Pros:  Very easy to setup.  Simply plug in power and an HDMI cable to your HDTV, connect to WiFi and you’re up and running;  Offers Youtube Channel (unlike some Roku models);  Offers all the standards you’d expect like Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora & etc.  And now offers games like Angry Birds;  1080P Support.

Cons:  No DLNA support & narrow file format support;  Although you won’t be charged unless you buy a game or pay-per-view item, it does require you to enter a credit card number when you setup the box;  No HDMI Cable included…

The bottom Line:  Overall a good device, but lacks some of the features you’d really like to see in this type of device.

We give the Roku 2 XS 3 shields out of 5.

Apple TV
– If you’re an Apple iOS fan, then you probably already know about Apple TV, which is now in it’s second revision.  If you don’t already own one you’re probably curious if it’s going to fit your needs.  Unfortunately it probably won’t.  The good news is that, unlike most Apple products, it isn’t terribly expensive.  Retailing at just $99 it’s right at home in this market.

Pros:  Offers the ability to play iTunes content on your TV and home entertainment system; Very easy to setup (similar to Roku); Offers the ability to stream from iPad and iPod to your TV (screen mirroring via AirPlay);  Sleek design and simple remote control;  1080P Support.

Cons:  Doesn’t offer Hulu or Pandora;  Sometimes seems sluggish;  Requires iTunes, which isn’t much of a con if you’re already an iOS user;  No HDMI cable included…

The bottom line:  The fact is that Apple, like many large corporations, doesn’t want you to have options if those options might limit their profits.  While most devices in this category are about opening doors and helping users get the content they want, Apple TV is all about closing doors and limiting what you can do.  If you’re not an iOS user, or if you don’t really care about screen mirroring or iTunes on your TV… Avoid this box.

We give Apple TV 3 shields out of 5.

Vizio Co-Star
– The latest implementation of Google TV leaves much to be desired.  Since many video sources and websites block Google TV from streaming, you’re going to have limited options with this box.  Vizio is a great company that has been on the rise in recent years, and the limitations of this product really aren’t a reflection of them.

Pros:  Nice double sided remote with touchscreen and full keyboard;  It’s in the affordable $100 range;  DLNA available via app.

Cons:  Sites block Google TV so you’ll be limited on what you can do; No Hulu support;  No HDMI cable included…

The bottom line:  You’re probably better off with another device…  Here’s a great video review for this device from CNET

We give the Vizio Co-Star 2 shields out of 5.

Smart TV’s
– Many manufacturers are offering upgraded models of their TV’s which take advantage of this new technology.  Samsung may be leading the way but they’re not the only ones getting in on this game and capabilities may vary between manufacturers.  Many offer a standard set of apps which typically consist of weather, news, stocks, and Netflix.  Some offer the ability to download additional apps.  Be weary of models without built-in WiFi as models requiring dongles often don’t function as well.

Pros:  No installation, everything’s built-in;  Uses the TV’s remote.

Cons:  Often limited on what apps are available;  The added expense of a Smart TV is often more than adding a separate device;  Often seem sluggish due to limited system resources.

The bottom line:  If you’re looking for simplicity and ease of installation, a Smart TV may be for you.  If you’re looking for a more robust device with more capabilities you can save money buying something else.

We give Smart TV’s 2 shields out of 5.

Android Mini PC
– We’re most excited about this line of devices.  If you’re looking for a true “Smart Phone” experience on your TV then an Android Mini PC is the answer.  With a fully capable web browser utilizing both HTML5 and Flash content you’ll be unstoppable on the web.  Android means full access to the Google Play Market and all the games and apps available therein.  From Netflix to Angry Birds, nothing is out of the question.  Small form factor means it’s portable; you can take it on vacation, to a friends house, or anywhere you go for that matter.  Some models even have the HDMI connection built-in so you won’t even need an HDMI cable.

Pros:  Google Play Market; USB 2.0 Support for webcams, keyboard, mice and much more; Very Affordable; Very small and portable;

Cons:  No-name manufacturers may take you outside your normal comfort zone when making a purchase (although this isn’t much of a con for most people due to the extremely budget friendly price point).

The bottom line:  We can’t stress this enough, the only way you should go with another device is if you’re committed to having iTunes on your TV.  And even if you decide to go with Apple TV, an Android Mini PC would be an excellent backup device to take up the slack for Apple’s short comings.

We give Android Mini PC’s 5 shields out of 5!

Recommended Models:  
SainSmart SS808  1GB of RAM and 1.6GHz CPU ($59.99)
OEM Systems offers this model with 512GB of RAM and 1GHz CPU ($37.70)

You may also be interested in a great Keyboard with touchpad from Logitech for only $34.99

Lastly, Install Heroes offers a model of of Android TV box that has an option you won’t find anywhere else;  A built in Digital TV Tuner and internal hard drive slot.  Our box is the only one capable of replacing your cable/satellite service by taking advantage of free-to-air digital transmission.   The box retails for $289.  For more information contact us via email.

I hope this has been beneficial to you.  No matter your choice, the future of television is here and Smart TV is it.  Enjoy!

Dust: The electronics killer.

Standard CPU Heatsink

Standard CPU Heatsink

As with most of my blog posts, this one was prompted by a recent experience with a customer.  This customer called complaining of a computer that was nearly unusable.  Among other things, it had fallen victim to a virus.  Upon receiving the computer it was obvious that there was a lot of dust inside the computer tower.  Since my stock of compressed air had run out I decided to wait to open the beast until my stock was replenished.  After doing all the software work necessary to get this computer back on it’s feet I decided to go after the dust monster lurking inside.

To say that this was the dirtiest computer I’ve seen would be a slight overstatement, although it was definitely in the top five.  The CPU heatsink was covered with a quarter inch thick patch of brown dust, which I estimate was blocking 75% of the airflow through the heatsink fins.

After blowing out the majority of the dust.

After blowing out the majority of the dust.

I know that there may be a large number of you who have no idea what a heatsink is, so I’ll explain.  If you’ve ever held a notebook computer in your lap for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with how hot they can get.  The CPU (Central Processing Unit, or “processor”) is responsible for the majority of this heat.  A heatsink is a block of metal fins, typically copper or aluminum, which dissipates the heat produced by the CPU with the help of a fan.  Imagine the heatsink is like the radiator in your car, what would happen if it was blocked or broken?  I’m reminded of the classic Tom’s Hardware video where they show you exactly what happens when you remove the fan from a CPU(linked below).  Without proper cooling some CPU’s can reach temperatures of over 600°F, thereby destroying itself in a puff of smoke.

Some of the dust removed from the heatsink.

Some of the dust removed from the heatsink.

Although having dust caked on your heatsink is not quite as drastic as removing the heatsink altogether, it still isn’t good for your computer.  Computer’s that cannot properly cool themselves will inevitably fail much sooner than they otherwise would.  Heat is the enemy of any electronic device, and dust is heat’s nasty little sidekick.

We all know smoking is bad…

It’s not news that smoking is bad for you, but did you know it’s bad for your computer as well?  If you hadn’t already noticed the color of the dust removed from the heatsink… IT”S BROWN.  Brown dust is not normal.  Dust inside of a computer is typically a shade of grey.  Brown dust is a direct result of cigarette smoke being pulled through the computer as it attempts to cool itself.

As cigarette smoke is drawn through a computer the nicotine and tar form a sticky film on nearly every surface in the computer, especially the hot heatsinks.  This causes dust that may have flown by to become trapped.  Then more nicotine and tar layers on top of the fresh dust.  It’s a never ending cycle.  The reason that the dust shown above was able to hold together in a nearly perfect little square patch is because of the nicotine and tar holding it together like glue.

It’s also noteworthy that smoking near your Apple computer actually voids it’s warranty…

Enough with the finger wagging…

So what can you do about the dust?  Well you can actually take care of this problem yourself, if you feel comfortable opening up your computer tower.  In the links below there is a detailed set of instructions for taking care of this problem.  You can also find instructional videos on youtube.
The main points to remember are:

  1. Do not use a standard vacuum cleaner;  The static charge created by normal household vacuum’s is very bad for your computer.
  2. Use no liquid other than Isopropyl Alcohol on internal computer components.

If you’re in the greater Knoxville area of East Tennessee Install Heroes will come out and perform a system tune up, virus scan, and dust removal on your desktop computer for as little as $50.

What about my laptop?

Desktop computer have much larger openings for air and dust to enter through, and they have much larger empty spaces inside them as well.  Because of this, laptop computer rarely have dust inside them.  While you may not have to worry about dust inside a laptop, there are a lot of products geared toward keeping the outside of your laptop clean.  I recommend Monster Screen Cleaner ($19.99) for laptop screens, or screens of any kind really.

So, if you think your desktop computer may have been attacked by a pack of wild dust bunnies;  Call and we’ll come to the rescue!


TV Calibration; Does your TV need it?

Yes, your TV needs to be calibrated.  For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about;  Calibration refers to adjusting the color, tint, brightness, and contrast of the TV to get you the best color and HDTV viewing experience possible.  Far too often I see customers who set their color and screen settings to “Vivid” mode just because it’s brighter.  Brighter does not mean better.  In fact brighter can be bad for your eyes and it can cost you money.

“Sounds like an excuse for me to pay you another $50″…

Not necessarily.  Have you ever been watching a football game and noticed that the field loTV Calibrationoks like it’s painted green instead of just growing green?  That’s a symptom of a TV with incorrect color settings.  Have you ever been watching night scene in a movie and noticed that something which should be black looks more like dark grey?  That’s a symptom of a TV with incorrect Contrast/Brightness settings.

Having your TV calibrated will cure all those symptoms, and more.  A correctly calibrated TV will often result in a dimmer picture than the default settings, and if the TV produces less light, it uses less power and can enjoy a longer lifespan thanks to the reduced strain on the light-generating components of the TV.  So not only are you getting a much better image, you could be saving electricity and making your TV last longer as well.  I only say “could” because some TVs have to be set brighter than factory settings to obtain optimal picture quality.  After all, picture quality is the primary reason to have your television calibrated.

At this point I have done over 100 TV calibrations, and I have yet to find a single customer who cannot see the difference once I demonstrate the before/after affects of the calibration.  Because of this I offer a money back guarantee;  If you’re unsatisfied with Install Heroes’ Calibration Service after we perform a calibration on your previously un-calibrated TV, we’ll give your money back.  It’s that simple.  We know you’ll be happy with the TV Calibration Service, and we’re willing to prove it.

So why can’t I just calibrate my TV myself?

In fact you can do a basic calibration yourself, without the help of a professional.  If you Google search “TV Calibration Images” you’ll find a lot of images that can be used to do a very basic calibration on your TV.  Simply burn these images to a disc and play it in your DVD player.  The same sites which contain the images will typically also include instructions on how to utilize them.  The information is a bit too detailed to cover here and now, but it is available online.

Spyder Colorimeter

The difference between this DIY version of a TV calibration and what you would pay a professional like myself to do is that I utilize a Colorimeter.  This device is basically an electronic eye that connects to a laptop and uses proprietary software to help measure and calibrate the TV settings far more reliably than the human eye.

My buddy had his TV calibrated, can’t I just copy his settings?

No.  The reason is that every TV is different, even within the same manufacturer and model.  Even more different are your homes and their lighting conditions.  Lighting in the room has the greatest impact on how your TV will ultimately be calibrated.  This is why movie theaters have no windows, natural light would alter the way the on screen image looks.  Additionally, it is not recommended that you have a calibration done on a TV in a sun-room since the lighting conditions in that room are constantly changing.

Final Thoughts…

Like anything else, there are a lot of varying online opinions about the importance of television calibration.  Ultimately it’s like surround sound;  It’s not necessary, but it will improve your viewing experience.  There are many choices to make when purchasing a new TV or home entertainment system, and they are all very personal choices.  You can be perfectly happy without having your TV calibrated, but those who choose to have it done will never be disappointed with their decision.

So if you find yourself watching the Kentucky Derby and thinking to yourself “those horses just don’t look quite right”; Call and we’ll come to the rescue!

Data Backup: The importance of backing up your data.

Today’s blog post is a two part story.

Procrastination, Assuming, and Laziness…

It’s very rare that I consult a customer about repairing their computer without discussing the importance of backing up their precious data.  I often say that your hard drive is a mechanical device, and like all mechanical devices it is prone to fail.

The biggest threats to the safety and integrity of your important documents are procrastination, assumption, and laziness.  People tend to think that they always have tomorrow, and they assume that since they’ve never had a problem with their hard drive that they never will.  This is called the normalcy bias.  Or they just don’t take the time to do it themselves, or hire someone to do it for them.

Whether you’re a procrastinator, an assumer, or just plain lazy; your data is not safe if you don’t have it backed up.  I can attest to this fact.  If you’ve been paying attention to our site, you may have noticed that it was down for a few days.  This was due in part to the fact that we did not have a backup of our website.  If we had, the site would have been down for a few hours instead of a few days.

But alas this is a two part story, so:

Malicious Human Behavior…

Viruses, malware, spyware, phishing attempts, identity theft; all implementations of human maliciousness in the digital age.  As I mentioned before, some of you may have noticed that our site was down for a few days.  I hope that none of you noticed that in the weeks before the problems with our site, was hacked.  After a bit of research we determined that the hacker deposited a virus on the site to infect our visitors.  They also setup a fake insurance website within the structure of our site in an attempt to steal personal information from people infected with their virus.

We apologize to anyone who fell victim to this malicious hacker.  As a public service we’re providing links so that you can learn what phishing is and how you can protect yourself.  Those links provide some great information that will help you protect your identity and personal information.  Another great link to educate you on protecting yourself is

So what’s the point?  Sometimes it’s not a problem of faulty hardware that causes you to lose your data.  It could be a novice user on Shame on youyour computer accidentally deleting your family pictures, it could be a malicious virus corrupting your data, or it could be a hacker trying to cause problems.  No matter what precipitates the loss of your data, it is ultimately your own fault if you don’t have a backup.

So while you’re thinking about Earth Day this weekend, take a moment to develop a plan to backup your data.  As always, if you need help;  Call and we’ll come to the rescue!