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Your dream home cinema is easier to make than you think!
Gone are the days when the sitting room or living room used to have just a TV in a unit or on a table. Nowadays, as technology has advanced a great deal, most people are investing in a home entertainment system, complete with at least five speakers, a subwoofer, a dvd player, a set top box, and probably even a gaming console. All of these devices inevitably take up space, and so an entertainment center has become a common piece of furniture in many living rooms. Considering that there are so many electronic devices to place, it is important to make sure that the entertainment center is big enough to accommodate them all, along with a television, which is often a big screen. Sometimes buying a readymade entertainment center tends to be rather expensive. So, you might want to consider building one yourself. With the right plan and some basic tools, you will be able to do it with a very affordable price.
First of all you can easily build an entertainment center using MDF cut to size. MDF is generally denser than plywood, and even though it is not one of the strongest building materials around, it is affordable and ideal for a DIY project such as this. You can find different thicknesses, and it is also easy to increase the thickness of the board by attaching two boards face to face. This is mostly important for the top part of the cabinet where the television will be placed.
To buy the MDF boards you need you will first need to decide on the dimensions of your entertainment center. Consider the space where it will be placed, and all the devices that it will be accommodating. Taking measurements is very important so as to help you design the cabinet accordingly. You do not want to end up with a finished entertainment center where you cannot place all your devices. It is also important that you take into account the places where you will need to drill enough holes for cables to be housed. All of your electronic devices need to be plugged in, and you should try to minimise the hassle of tangling wires by making sure that you plan their positioning in advance. Considering this, you may wish to think about the possibility of including adjustable shelves, for more convenience.
Once all the panels and shelves have been cut in the right sizes you can move on to the assembly process. The center section of the case should be assembled first. Most probably you will be including shelves above the base, so apply glue to the end of the center shelves and then drive the screws to attach them. Make sure to align the front edges well. Then add the bottom part of the center section, which will need to be flush to the back edge of the dividers but centered too. Glue the dividers and then apply clamps to attach them well. Afterwards flip the unit over so as to be able to add the top part. Again, make sure the back edges are flush. Using glue and pocket holes screws should do the trick. Lastly, install the shelves.
If you are going to leave the entertainment center open, you may as well say that you are done. But if you want to include doors, this is the point where you will need to cut the door panels, so as to install the doors to the unit. If you are going to include any drawers you will need to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that they fit well and achieve a smooth slide.
Wherever you had to cut, make sure to sand well so as to get a smooth finish. Depending on the preferred color, you will need to apply more than one coating to make sure that it is well coated. It is often best to apply a third layer for the top boards for additional protection.
Many entertainment centers are flush against the floor. This guarantees more stability. If however you prefer to install legs, make sure to go for something that is sturdy enough, and that is well secured into the unit.
Finally you can load up all your electronic stuff, and of course, the TV, onto the entertainment center. Now, all that remains is sitting back on your sofa so as to start watching TV or play a game while everything is neatly organized in your newly built DIY entertainment center!
Access the best in British TV abroad
The way in which people access television is changing all the time. Since the inception of super-fast broadband via cable and fiberoptic internet connectivity, the choices have grown exponentially.
Not only that, user habits are changing too. In the past, people used to watch entertainment purely through their televisions to a set schedule dictated by the terrestrial and satellite networks. That has now all changed. Due to on-demand entertainment via apps installed on smart devices, set-top boxes, tablet and phones, people now watch television shows as they want, when they want.
No more week-to-week religious set times to catch up on a drama series, action show or soap opera. The consumer completely dictates how they want to watch their television, when and on which device. The balance of power has completely shifted.
The choice for consumers is even greater
Only a few years ago, on-demand was just coming into fruition. Sites like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player (now called ITV Hub), 4oD (now called All4), Demand5 and Sky Go were online versions of their respective networks only. But there were no cross network options that offered a broad spectrum of entertainment from multiple networks, or even countries.
Now with the emergence of popular services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime TV and NowTV, on-demand television has gone to the next level and has answered those calls. These services now offer the consumer a huge range of entertainment including terrestrial and satellite TV live and on-demand, sports, movies and pay-per-view events.
Even more impressive, is many series are now produced by and exclusively shown on these providers platforms. Netflix has invested heavily in original programming and can boast highly rated shows such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bloodline and Marco Polo to name a few.
Amazon is the same. Their long awaited Grand Tour series is set to hit our screens, starring ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, which is said to have had a huge production budget. Viewer audiences are expected to be massive yet this show and none of the aforementioned will ever air of mainstream television networks! Its proof that consumer viewing habits have changed for good and mainstream television is dying.
Access all this great content in France
As the entire developed world is now connected to the world wide web, gaining access to these services is now so straightforward, that all it takes is a simple box connected to the internet and a TV and they’re ready to go.
Even more impressive is UK based content like this can be watched in France by using a VPN or a smart DNS to change the physical IP address of the device and bypass any IP filtration that blocks users fro outside the United Kingdom from using these services across the English Channel.
So if you’re an expat living in France, the great news is, you can watch Sky television is France without erecting any unsightly, complex satellite dishes. A simple VPN router or smart DNS will allow you to purchase a Now TV box, Apple TV, an Amazon Fire TV box or stick; even a Roku or MAG box and you’ll get access to whatever content you like.
Even apps on your TV such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer or Android TV will work and allow you to watch non-localised content purely due to a simple IP change. You could watch UK based content or even US-specific content just with the simple switch of an IP.
So if you’re enjoying life abroad in neighbouring France, life just got even better with the advances in technology that allow live and on-demand streaming of practically any content you like, when you like and how you like.
We try out Skywatcher’s popular entry-level telescope
When it comes to higher apertures, Dobsonian telescopes are the masters of this domain and the Skywatcher heritage range is no exception to the rule. This 4-inch table top telescope which is incredibly cheap, costing under £100 is the perfect example.
It’s a stylish stargazing gadget, packaged in a nice design and a sleek looking metallic hot red finish. It’s focal length can reach 400mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/4 thanks to the 4-inch parabolic mirror. It comes packaged with two eyepieces as standard, one 25mm and the other 10mm, a 2x Barlow lens and a very useful red dot finder.
Set up is a breeze and takes literally seconds. Simply unbox it, pop on the finder, add an eyepiece and you’ll be staring at the sky a few moments later. With its small scale design, the Heritage 100P is designed to be a tabletop viewer, so you’ll need something flat and sturdy to get the best results from this telescope. A good quality garden table would suit best as you can sit back and enjoy the views in comfort, with minimal shake or image blurring.
In terms of focussing, this model is equipped with a rack and pinion system. Our test model was a tad stiff to adjust but overall, the control we found to be good enough at this price point.
The finder is a basic zero magnification unit. With the small red dot that is projected onto the clear screen, we found it surprisingly easy to align it to the main telescope. If we did have one small gripe, it would that both the focuser and finder didn’t feel very well positioned to the telescope whilst in use and it could get in the way from time to time when viewing through the eyepiece. Strangely enough, if their positions were flipped, it would make a great deal more sense and alleviate this problem.
On the plus side, we found the mount that comes equipped with the telescope to be nice and sturdy and a breeze to use.
Field of view tests
The put the Heritage’s optical qualities to the test, we first pointed it at Regulus in Leo. Using the 25mm eyepiece, the star remained sharp and crisp for the central 60% of the view, but outside of that, the image quality swiftly started to deteriorate.
Overall, wide field views were decent, confirmed when we pointed our new toy at both M81 and M82 in the Ursa Major constellation. Switching over to the 10mm eyepiece however, gave us much sharper edges when viewing M82 and we could even make out some structural textures at times when the skies were at their darkest.
In terms of planet watching, we found views of Jupiter to be rather small even when using the 10mm eyepiece but e could still make out the equatorial bands and the four Galilean moons which is impressive for a budget telescope.
Observing Mars was a real treat as we were able to see ice caps and some interesting markings whilst it was great for viewing the rings of Saturn, with both Titan and Rhea both clearly visible through the eyepiece.
Closer to home, the Moon was a breeze to observe, with plenty of craters and Lunar Mare to enjoy although not in great a detail as we would have expected.
As with any telescope, the set-up process is what makes or breaks the deal and this one gave us no fuss whatsoever, making it the perfect choice for beginning astronomers and stargazers.
With this model being so compact and lightweight, its the ideal telescope to take to friends to enjoy or pack away on short trips. Weighing in at just over 2.8kg, its no heavyweight and can be enjoyed by practically anyone, of any age, making it the ideal entry level telescope to start a lifelong interest in the constellations and beyond.
Storing it was easy, with it being compact and easy to move, to it will never be a purchase getting in the way or collecting dust. As always, it comes with the usual high end build quality you’d expect from Skywatcher Telescopes and at a price under £100, you can’t realyl go wrong.
Overall, a great entry level telescope for someone who is just starting out on their stargazing journey or an ideal purchase for an experienced astronomer who wants something more compact to take on the road.