The "5.1" reference that appears at the start of many primetime shows is the networks' advisory to switch on your home theater's speaker system. When you do, you'll enjoy the program the way it was meant to be heard. A show broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1 can deliver audio to five full-range speakers (front left, center, front right, surround left, and surround right) plus a low frequency effects channel (designated by the ".1") to the subwoofer.
To increase your awareness of what you're missing if you happen to be watching a TV that doesn't include an external sound system, we've listed some of the ways a program's sound director enhances the show by steering audio to discrete speakers in your home theater.
Apple recently refreshed their entire MacBook product line – which includes the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air – with new designs and higher horsepower hardware.
The aluminum unibody design, used on the majority of the new Macs, is cut from a brick of solid aluminum. This results in a stronger, more durable notebook, while at the same time reducing the computer's weight. You really have to handle one of these machines to appreciate the leap that Apple has made with manufacturing; they simply feel more solid than any other notebook that I've handled.
An Aluminum MacBook
The compact MacBook, previously only available in a plastic polycarbonate housing, is now available with an aluminum unibody design. The system features a high-gloss 13.3" widescreen display with a 1280 x 800 resolution, a DVD burner, and integrated GeForce 9400M graphics by nVIDIA.
Weighing in at only 4.5 pounds, the computer is less than an inch thick when closed. Two USB 2.0 ports are available for device connectivity. It should be noted that the computer lacks FireWire connectivity, a longtime staple on Macs. Users who desire an aluminum notebook and require FireWire will have to move up to the MacBook Pro.
Nearly 72 percent of online households log on for entertainment purposes every day, according to the Conference Board. They stream episodes of cable TV programs like The Daily Show, watch YouTube clips, and download video podcasts. Even without the Internet, you may have transferred hours of family camcorder footage now buried on the computer's hard drive. Suddenly, it's easy to see your computer as a versatile source component for your big screen TV. Too bad the PC is shackled to a desk in a different room, and show time in the home office amounts to people standing behind your chair squinting at the small screen.
It doesn't have to be that way, especially during the holidays or any home gathering. Here are three ways to view computer content in the more accommodating setting of your living room and home theater:
An external sound system completes a home theater, and turning one on yields unexpected pleasures. Recently, I stumbled upon a new TV series on HBO and a romantic drama on Blu-ray Disc both designed to indulge the ears.
The series, True Blood, features a waitress who can hear what people are thinking. As she works her way past tables, thoughts cascade toward her from every direction. And the audience hears the cacophony, too, brilliantly steered from multiple speakers at the sides of the TV and near the sofa.
The movie, August Rush, on Blu-ray and also available on DVD, features a humdinger of an opener: a child prodigy deciphers the musical nature of wind rustling the field in which he's standing. As the wind shifts, the sound washes over the audience from various directions. The powerful effect is all but lost on viewers relying on the TV's internal speakers alone. The same is true for the restaurant sounds in True Blood.
Use it or lose it is what they say about fruit, milk, and cable TV. Unless you're a vegan or feed lots of mouths, the larger chunk of the family budget likely goes toward your cable subscription. A typical household can easily spend some $1,000 a year on cable TV channels. But unlike the money paid for a new TV set, what do you have to show for paying last month's cable bill? This month's cable bill!
So, considering the unremitting drain on your resources, you might be interested in ways to increase the value of what your cable dollar buys. One way is to record and stockpile as many shows as you can, assuming someone in your household will eventually watch them or will want to watch them again. Even if you have only one HDTV set, you'd be prudent to arm it with a dual-tuner digital video recorder (DVR). Two tuners enable you to record programs from two different channels at once, even while you're watching something completely different that was recorded earlier. The most advanced set-top boxes rented by cable companies come with about 160 Gigabytes, sufficient for storing perhaps 20 hours of high-def shows. That's not a lot considering how many new and returning series, movies, and sports events vie for your attention every day.
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