REDBAND: Selecting the Right Control Partner for Small and Mid-Size Projects by Todd Anthony Puma

When doing large, whole-home, fully integrated projects, we all have our favorite go-to major manufacturer partner, be it Crestron, Savant, AMX, or similar. We all also have a preferred partner for small and mid-size jobs, like those involving a single room, apartment, or condo. In my conversations with fellow integrators, it’s these smaller jobs with the more basic control systems that provide the biggest headaches.

With these jobs being smaller and with smaller profits, service calls can be a killer. In my experience and discussions, I’ve found that problems on these projects are an epidemic because of poor RF performance, bad code datasets, and poor integration with components.

While it would be great to put a $2,000-5,000 control system into every job, it just isn’t economically feasible for a $10,000 living room surround sound installation. For those projects, there are well-respected industry brands to serve our channel. Unfortunately, in crowded, RF-rich, interference-strewn urban markets, these more modestly priced control solutions seem to struggle with RF interference, which inevitably leads to service calls to move an antenna or relocate an RF receiver, and from inconsistencies in their database, where codes that seem to be available just don’t work or just don’t perform well. Sometimes there’s an integration issue with a component, as well.

Continue reading on Residential Systems by clicking he link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=637

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND: Get Better or Get Left Behind by Matt D. Scott

“We’re up all night ’til the sun, 

We’re up all night to get some, 

We’re up all night for good fun, 

We’re up all night to get lucky.”

-  Daft Punk

The song of the summer this year seems to be Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. Now if you’re old enough, you’ll remember some of the great track that Daft Punk was known for and you’ll be very pleased with the album they’ve recently released. If you haven’t picked up/downloaded a copy, this is my endorsement, go get it!

Now back to the topic at hand, You’re wondering what Daft Punk has to do with my article today. Well, nothing actually! I just wanted to bring Daft Punk into a blog post. Now to be honest, the title is GET BETTER… Which is close to Get Lucky. I know, it’s a stretch, don’t worry about it!

So what do I mean by Get Better! I’m talking to all of us in this business.

I Want YOU to GET BETTER! — Yes, You!

I want you to do better in your job, to do a better job every day. I’m getting tired of seeing integrators cutting corners, cheeping out, using inferior equipment. It’s time to take some pride in what you do. Pretend that you ACTUALLY care about what you do and that you care about the end result that you provide your clients. It’s time for you to grow up and put in some effort.

Now I’m not talking to everyone out there, but there’s an awful large number out there that need to listen to what I’m saying (well typing, technically). I know there are many of you who are working hard at being the best you can be and I get that. Unfortunately there are too many integrators out there that have just put forth a very lackadaisical effort towards their work. I’m hoping this isn’t you, and hopefully it isn’t but let me get into some examples   and you can reflect.

  1. It’s time to take some pride in your work, this means your regular work. This can easily come down to just the care and pride you take to make your work neat. I own my company and I am a neat freak when it comes to things like this. Our racks are exceptional, our structured wiring installs are perfectly straight, even and level. Now this is the same in our Resi work as it is in our commercial work. We label (and not just a sharpie on the cable jacket) all of our wiring, we document our work. Now, I’m not bragging on myself or my guys, I’m strictly trying to explain a point. If you’ve done your job properly, another company should be able to walk onto one of your jobs and determine everything you did in a matter of minutes. That is the truest test I know to ensure that you’ve provided a clear and concise solution in every aspect of your project.
  2. It’s time to provide proper products, stop giving your clients crap! This is one of my biggest issues in our industry. It’s the guys that are trying (and unfortunately they are succeeding all too often) to sell their clients on inferior products as if they are name brand products. Let me give you a few examples: We recently fixed an entire residential audio system that consisted of some knock off/house brand speakers and controls that were sold at price points comparable to main brands that you would know. Unfortunately because they aren’t built to the same specs as the name-brand products, the performance isn’t there and worse they have worn out and are needing to be replaced much early then the expected lifecycle. We also recently worked on a commercial project that constituted of knock off CCTV products, which were again sold fairly similar to the price points of proper name-brand equipment. We were called in because of the constant service calls that were required to attempt to keep this sub-par system running. Now I know that there will always be clients who want a cheap solution and don’t care about the quality of the system but it’s time for us as professionals to step up and stop offering crap that we wouldn’t put into our homes or businesses into our clients!
  3. Stop trying to work outside of your expertise, you’re not helping yourself, and more importantly you’re not helping your clients! I’m getting tired of alarm companies and electricians, thinking because they watched a YouTube how-to, or attending a Cedia webinar and all the sudden they want to build your client a huge custom theatre. It doesn’t work like that. They would feel the same way if we decided that we were gonna jump into their fields. Think I’m wrong, I’m not… I’ve felt that pushback as a big Lutron RadioRA2 dealer. They push back hard. In the commercial world it’s the same thing, being a rental shop doesn’t mean that you’re instantly qualified to spec boardrooms. Every time you jump out and try to provide a solution you hope will work, you’re hurting our industry. You’re hurting my industry, and to be honest I take offence to that.
  4. Stop selling 20 year old solutions! I can’t believe I’ve got to touch on this, but seriously people. I don’t want to see any more systems deployed with AV gear that I  wouldn’t have even built-in 1999. Seriously people, step it up. There are so many amazing products that have come to market in the last 2 years that are designed to solve problems and make systems effective and yet I continue to see big huge power sucking amps that haven’t changed in 15 yrs when a tiny drive core would be more than sufficient. Let’s pretend that we actually go to the shows and we actually pay some attention to new technologies. I know, I know, it’s as shocking to me as it is to you, but there has been some innovation in our industry in the last five years. Why not actually make use of some of that innovation!

Now don’t get me wrong, If you are learning and trying to grow… I’m all good with that! Are you kidding, I’ll help you any way I can and even help train you myself if you’d like. I also know that this doesn’t apply to all of us, but If you’re honest with yourself and honest about your business. You know that you have areas you can improve in. I know I’m always going over what I’m doing and what my company is doing to find areas where we can do better! When you stop trying to increase and grow, you become stagnant and that’s not what I want for my business or our industry! I want to grow our industry, but not with low quality work, low quality products, and low quality solutions. We need to see an increase in people and quality in our industry, but we don’t just need extra bodies floating around providing bad solutions and bad products to the general populace. The only thing providing a bad solution will accomplish is to tarnish our reputation and cause our clients to become jaded towards our industry.

You see you need to get past the concept of just selling a project to pay the bills today and take a little bit of responsibility towards your business and our industry in general. Once we realize that every project we do equates to a small part of our business’ identity, I believe we’ll continually attempt to increase the quality of our work, with in turn will increase the quality of our businesses. Bottom line: It’s time for all of us to GET BETTER!

- Matt D. Scott

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Matt D. Scott is the president and founder of OMEGA Audio Video, in London, Ontario. Matt had his first encounter with Pro-Audio at age 6 when a PA loudspeaker fell, cracking his head, and leaving a scar to this day. After mopping up the blood, Matt started his AV career and has been working in Pro AV, Commercial AV, and Residential AV ever since. Matt loves the industry and all things tech! Check out his website: omegaaudiovideo.com and  follow him on Twitter: @mattdscott.

REDBAND: The How, Why and What of REDBAND Radio’s live podcast with Verrex Corp. by Christopher Neto

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The idea behind REDBAND is simple…Find unique individuals in the AV industry and give them a platform to air their views. George Tucker was the first to use the opportunity and write about the online AV community the rest is REDBAND lore. Since then REDBAND has grown and developed as a group. In under a year REDBAND has grown to 16 contributors from various geographical regions and backgrounds. I never expected the idea of guest bloggers to have flourished into what it is today. I wish I could sit here and write about this grand plan of where AVshout.com and the REDBAND bloggers are heading but fact is we do what we do because we love what we do for a living. If we didn’t we wouldn’t put in a full work day, come home, eat and work on AV related blogs, podcasts and videos.

Most recently we launched our first foray into the podcast space with the help of AV Nation. While at InfoComm 2013 Mark Coxon, George Tucker, Mike Brandes and I went into the studio to record an unscripted view of the show we were attending. Having no idea where the conversation was heading was the main idea behind the show’s concept. When it was all said and done the end result was exactly what we had wanted. We had taken the idea of “shop talk” and put it on “tape”. What we didn’t expect was the response we received to the podcast when it was released on AV Nation. The hits, tweets, likes and downloads were better than we could have imagined. Again this goes back to the fact that we don’t see ourselves as anything special…we’re regular “Joes” in the industry.

As soon as I got back from Infocomm 2013 I began to work on an idea that Todd Puma and I had been working on. The original concept was to showcase or uncover people, places or ideas that touch our industry both directly and indirectly. When I brought the idea to Tim Albright, the founder of AV Nation, he liked the idea but not even Tim was aware of what we were planning. With Tim’s ok I approached Verrex with the show concept.

A few months back I had visited the Verrex headquarters for an industry event. While entering the building for the event I could hear a band rehearsing in the background. I later found out that the band I heard rehearsing in the background was Verrex employees who would get together every so often and Jam after-hours. Thinking back to the event I thought how awesome it would be to someday have an AV tech band play on the podcast. Most of our roots as AV professionals come from the music and performance industry. Ask around your office “Who played in a band or was a DJ?” Some were “unofficial” roadies for friends and family bands by default. Eventually they developed a skill that they translated into a career later on in life. I knew then what to do for our next podcast.

I approached Verrex with the idea to have the Band on the show and bring Tom Berry Jr., the CEO of Verrex, as our featured guest as well. I thought “How cool is that a company in our industry allows its employees to jam in the office”. The concept of a show based on how AV companies were changing and embracing a new style of company culture was interesting to both me and the members of REDBAND. REDBAND attacked the idea like a pack of hungry wolves…They loved the idea.

So the stage was set for our 2nd episode of REDBAND Radio. So how do we do this? George went to work on the audio portion of the project and figured out a way to bring the bands audio onto the show while the rest of REDBAND kept pushing other ideas that would make it “real cool”. We agreed that the idea of video would be the “cherry” on top of a cool concept. One catch… no one told Verrex. We worked diligently on the video idea afterhours testing back and forth. We tested a few different platforms to bring video to the show. It wasn’t until the night before the show that we felt comfortable enough with the Google/ YouTube platform to move forward with it as an acceptable means to do video.

The day of the show George, Todd, Jacqueline and I showed up onsite to set up for the show. By the way Jacqueline has not been officially announced but she is one of the newest REDBAND members who will soon post her first article. In typical AV fashion as soon as we walked in the door many of us knew or had worked in the past with some of Verrex’s team. Once we got past the hellos we quickly moved to the set up. The podcast portion of the show was relatively simple to set up. We had audio feeds ready and additional mixers on hand along with our computers. I had brought a spare PC for back up and few other devices “just in case”.

As the set up began we quickly found out that the dedicated laptop for the Verrex Band was giving us problems. We decided to remove the laptop from the equation and grab the audio and camera feed elsewhere. When the backup option failed the bulk of the operation fell onto my PC hence the technical difficulties that came across on the show. I should have been better prepared with more than just a secondary backup so that responsibility falls squarely on me. But the Show must go on and it did technical issues and all.

Looking back at the event I can say that we “overtaxed” my pc. We can also attribute some of the issues to network/bandwidth as well. Once we added video to the equation we knew that we would be changing everything. We each have been in AV long enough to know how much video can slow a pc or network down. Regardless of the issues we would soldier on Live. Verrex only found out about the video addition when we set up the cameras. In a way I’m glad it worked out that way. Verrex’s CEO was dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt and not expecting to be on video. Instead of panicking about corporate image he did exactly what we were hoping for he sat and talked to us like one of the gang.

What you saw and heard was 100% real conversation that took place inside Verrex’s warehouse. I guess the whole event was more REDBAND’s style than we originally expected. Everything from the Rock Band performing, to Sitting in the warehouse with equipment as our backdrop, to interviewing a major integrator in our industry while he sitting there in a Rolling Stones t-shirt couldn’t have been better. We had a vision and video was part of that. Pushing the limits of traditional podcasting that has been used in our industry and going out a live from a major AV integrator headquarters with a LIVE band not only special but it made the event unique and unprecedented. I can’t say enough of about the event without thanking Verrex for the opportunity and for rolling with the surprises. They were along for the ride and hopefully a great time with it.

Moving forward you can be assured that we will fix our technical issues. We have already met a few times since the show to discuss our lessons learned. It’s truly impressive how a group of late night writers, who already volunteer hours of their “off time”, are working tenaciously on  solutions to improve the next podcast. I don’t doubt the members of the REDBAND because as the quote says:

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew

I look forward to your feedback, comments, ideas and criticism. It’s how we learn.

Sincerely,

Chris

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REDBAND: The Changing Face of Higher Education Technology By Mike Brandes

Across the nation, higher education technology departments are working at a feverish pace to ready themselves for the onslaught of returning students and the deluge of connected devices they wield. Five years ago most of the previous sentence wouldn’t have made sense. I remember sitting in college classes as a senior, in 2009 looking around the room and seeing a large percentage of students were using laptops to take notes and research facts in the classroom, with a tiny percentage also owning some other connected device (smartphone, PDA, etc.). I also remember sitting in the same classroom four years earlier and the percentage of students using computers in class was significantly lower. Now, four years removed from my senior year of college, the number of connected devices on campuses nationwide is staggeringly high. A white paper, written in 2012 by CDW-G, estimates the ratio of connected devices to students is as high as 3.5:1. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine the ratio is drastically higher today.  I have at least 6 connected devices in my office at any given time and students living on campus are likely to have more devices than that given the proliferation of smart TVs, gaming consoles and media players over the last two years.

University IT departments are preparing for this blitzkrieg of bandwidth-sucking devices by increasing internet connections and placing stricter security measures on campus networks. Millions of words have been written on the subject of BYOD in the classroom and in the enterprise; but it’s important to also remember the effects of BYOD on network utilization. Network Admins everywhere are placing enhanced security devices in the network to compensate for the vulnerability brought by a surge of connected devices with suspect, if not sub-par, security measures.

Any device connected to the network represents a potential vulnerability to malware and viruses; we all know this. Connected devices such as gaming consoles, apple TV’s, smartphones, tablets, iPods and other media players represent increased vulnerability to networks. More and more equipment, configurations processes and procedures are necessary to protect networks, keep users connected and manage bandwidth. The higher education technology landscape, much like any enterprise technology landscape, has drastically shifted in the past five years. It will be interesting to come back to this post in five years, and see how archaic this really is. The good and the bad of working in technology is things never stay the same. I look forward to watching the landscape grow even further, and the new challenges it presents.

Mike Brandes

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT, and previous experience in Pro Audio including full time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council. Check out Mike’swebsite http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND: An Inexpensive Way to Offer Music in Any Room with AppleTV Control by Todd Anthony Puma

Low-Cost Multi-Zone Media Streaming with iPhone/iPad control using AppleTV and a DAC… It’s the holy grail, but rarely comes together. It’s low cost, easy to use, easy to install, and features iOS control.

My company has been doing it for a while for many of our customers, and it’s been a huge success. It was just a matter for finding the right DAC. We all know that AppleTV is a great little box for $99 and that most people love iOS control, but how do you make that a reality for whole-home systems? There are now a slew of affordable, capable DACs on the market. While I historically have been a bit of a DAC snob, using brands priced $400 and up, for the AppleTV I’ve been using a great little DAC from Zuum Media that hasn’t let me down and produces great sound for the price. It’s the DACD-Stereo for $169 MSRP……

Continue reading on Residential Systems by clicking he link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=632

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND LIVE!

REDBAND: Then & Now…Growing Up Nerdy by Heather Helton

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When did it become “cool” to be a nerd?

You mean to tell me all those years I was bullied as a kid were completely pointless? Does that mean I’m some sort of a nerd hipster now? Because, after all, I was a nerd before being a nerd was cool. Nerds everywhere are desperately trying to protect the boundaries of their sacred universe as if it were some exclusive club reserved for the elite. Well, guess what? You’ve officially become the breed of asshole that tormented you in grade school! So why are nerds so “butthurt” about this trend?

Well, I have several conjectures. I think the biggest frustration is with “faux” nerd girls (I feel the term “idiot nerd girl” is a bit harsh). These are the pretty girls who throw on a pair of glasses and exclaim, “Omgah, I’m sooo nerdy!” I can understand why this would piss nerds off. It’s debasing to nerd culture. To them, not just anyone can be a nerd; you must earn nerd cred. Think of it this way: You won’t be accepted as a jock without proving your athletic prowess, right? Well, you won’t be accepted as a nerd without proving your intellectual prowess. Nerds assume that pretty girls can’t deliver in this department. Why so judgmental, I’m not really sure…

I would guess intimidation plays a role. When you’re part of a culture that has been male-dominated for so long with a strong sense of brotherhood, it’s hard to adapt to the induction of females — especially when your group is notorious for being awkward around them. Introduce an attractive woman to the group and it’s even more difficult to accept her without argument. I suppose we’ve all been conditioned to assume that attractive people just aren’t as intelligent. I throw bitch fits all the time about how I get paid twice as much for my looks than my brain. It’s rather insulting and I’m sure I’m not the only girl out there who feels this way. As an audio-visual technician at an educational institution, I’m often mistaken for a student rather than an employee. Others seem baffled that an attractive female is capable of operating and troubleshooting sophisticated video conferencing equipment.

Even while interviewing for a position, someone had the audacity to say, “You wouldn’t like it here, anyway; it’s all middle-aged males.” Who are you to tell me what type of environment I would or would not be capable of working in? It’s unnerving to be repeatedly turned down for jobs simply because my age and gender isn’t in line with the preconceived mental image of a qualified candidate. Oh, and as if nerdy gals didn’t have a hard enough time in the workplace, we find ourselves fighting a social battle as well:

  • Why can’t I host a Reddit meetup? Do I need to check with the meetup Gods to have permissions bestowed upon me?
  • Why can’t I wear my glasses without being called a poser? They’re prescription…Get over it!
  • Why do you look at me like that when I tell stories about chess tournaments, astronomy club, AND cheerleading? Would you pass out if I told you I carry a tool bag at work? Give me a break!

How are truly nerdy girls supposed to distinguish themselves from the faux nerd girls, when nerds are already in attack mode? Why are they so defensive? I know they’ve been through a lot, but hey, we all have! We live in a society where individualism is emphasized. Everyone wants to be a special snowflake. If everyone suddenly jumps on the nerd ship, being a nerd won’t be some sexy secret society anymore. I get it, you want to preserve the integrity of your group, but you ought to give people the opportunity to prove themselves. You may find that they surprise you and fit right in!

If not, don’t fret; popular culture cycles and recycles. As quickly as the siege seemed to appear, it will subside and all will be well in the universe again. I’ll still be here, though. So save a spot for me!

Heather H.

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Heather is an experienced Marketing and Communications professional with expertise in Video Production, Videoconferencing, Tech Support, Customer Service and Social Media. She spends ample time  watching the alien life forms taunting her from the other side of the glass ceiling…with a brick in her hand.  Connect with her on Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hehelton and Follow her on Twitter: @heathereleanora

REDBAND: Technology Leadership Series: Building Successful Teams by Mike Brandes

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One of the best moves a CIO, CTO or technology manager of any level can make is to build a strong, competent and complete team.  While this idea seems to be common sense and commonplace it’s more integral to the success of the organization than it seems. There are endless books, blogs and seminars on the topic of team-building strategies, compiling successful, high-performing teams isn’t difficult.

 Hire people who are smarter than you. As a leader, personal insecurity shouldn’t be part of any decision-making process, ever. Not being concerned with individual perceptions is important. Any true leader knows it is the team, not the leader who is the catalyst for success. Surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, who make decisions differently than you and whom process information differently than you will allow more creativity into the decision-making and brainstorming process.

Insist on all team members being an excellent cultural fit. Every company, intentionally or not, has a company culture. Making hiring decision based on company culture is imperative. With rare exceptions, every employee contributes to team morale and culture. Each employee being highly skilled and competent isn’t enough. Each team member must contribute positively to the success of the enterprise as well as the company culture.

Clearly define expectations and roles. Few things contribute to high turnover, low morale and under performing teams than unclear expectations. It’s nearly impossible for employees to stay motivated while working towards a moving target of poorly communicated expectations. It’s simple to increase team productivity; efficiency and morale by ensuring team members are clearly understanding all expectations. Making smart hires and developing employees are important but nothing will keep employees engaged longer and deeper than clearly defined goals and expectations.

No one person is capable of doing everything, no matter how much we try. Leaders aren’t leaders unless they have followers, it’s important to ensure teams of followers are assembled in the best way possible. Hiring competent, intelligent and diversely talented people who are committed to the values, goals and culture of the organization; and then clearly and plainly setting reasonable expectations are the ingredients to strong, engaged, effective and successful teams.

For the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

Mike Brandes

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT, and previous experience in Pro Audio including full-time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council. Check out Mike’swebsite http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND RADIO’s New Top-Secret Podcast on August 6th (Spoiler Warning #AVTWEEPS)

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For the Last Month have been working on ideas for the next REDBAND Radio podcast with AVNation. The first podcast was easy. Four REDBAND members at Infocomm and the thought of an unscripted, press “record and go” type show was hard to resist. I personally enjoyed sitting down with the “band” and talk AV. So what do we do for show #2 that would make it interesting, fun and possibly go where others have not?

In order to make some of our ideas a reality we created the REDBAND community page on Google+. I’m very proud to say that the community has grown quickly in a short period of time.  So with the Google community up and running I can now layout the details for the show that has been “in the works” and “under wraps”.

Tuesday August 6th REDBAND Radio will Broadcast Live from Verrex’s Corporate Headquarters and Yes Verrex knows we are coming. Verrex’s President CEO & Chairman Thomas Berry Jr. will sit in with the “band” to talk AV during the show. We will also have a musical guest. “The Verrex Band” will be performing Live on the show.

And the word “Live” is not being used lightly in this post. We will be recording for the podcast but we will be also be live on the REDBAND google+ community page.  In order to view you will need to have a Google+ account and join the community.  If you don’t have a google+ plus account…get one by Tuesday Evening to join! Once you have the account set up follow the link below to the REDBAND community:

gplus.to/redbandav

We expect to go live between 6 and 7pm EST. I will definitely have more details on the community page along with details on how you can interact with us Live during the show. We’re confident that the show will be entertaining, informative and most of all fun.

So what’s next? We are already working on some more off the wall ideas. If you have an idea for the podcast or would like to join us on the next show please let me know.

Thanks again for taking time out to read our posts, listen to our podcasts and watch our videos.

Sincerely,

Chris

Check out the latest REDBAND Video