Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sometimes Google Now is too smart for its own good

Earlier today, I looked up the dictionary definition of "arsenal" online using the search "Arsenal dictionary" because I wanted to look at the other, non-military, uses of the word.

And almost immediately, Google Now popped up upcoming Arsenal games in my new cards because Google Now had added Arsenal to the list of teams I want to track.

Google, I love you. But please don't do that.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Google Chromecast: second impressions

Some random thoughts about the Chromecast after a week with it:

1) Check everything that's in the box. 

For those of you who don't follow me on Google+, I was having real issues this past weekend getting the Chromecast to work on the TV in the basement.

After spending two days troubleshooting the problem, it turned out that I needed to use the HDMI extender (see picture) to get the Chromecast dongle to sit in my HDMI port. The extender... that was still unopened in the box... because I didn't even bother to look at it.

The TV in the living room didn't have this issue, fortunately, or I probably would have given up and returned the thing to the store. The fact it did work out of the box (more or less) was a big plus.

2) While I really like my Chromecast, I still can't work up the rationale to get a second one for the finicky basement TV.

Up until buying the Chromecast, everything I've been streaming to my TV has gone through my iPad Mini hooked up to Apple's HDMI adapter and run to the HDMI cable to my TV. This works very well and allows me to stream anything I want that I can get on my iPad, even if there's no actual app for it, like New Japan World's service. But it also requires me to find my Apple adapter, get the HDMI cable and hook it all up to my iPad, etc., and it also leaves me without the use of my iPad Mini for as long as I'm streaming.

The Chromecast, of course, lets me stream stuff off my iPad without giving up use of said device. But because I'm otherwise in the Apple ecosphere, I can't stream everything from my iPad unless there's a Chromecast compatible app. I can stream stuff of my computer to the TV, but it maxes out at 720p instead of 1080p.

And there are a couple of subscription streaming services I get that don't have Chromecast compatible apps yet, so I'm still forced to use my iPad/HDMI combo to get those easily on my basement TV. Which makes me less inclined to buy another Chromecast for the basement that would be used pretty much for my other 2 major Chromecast compatible streaming services, UFC Fight Pass and Netflix.

Of course, this would all be much more simple if I had an Apple TV.

3) But neither can I work up the rationale to get Apple TV so I can AirPlay stuff.

And this may just be because I'm fundamentally cheap, but having spent the money a year or so ago for the HDMI adapter and another HDMI cable, I'm loathe to just never use it again and spend another $109 plus tax on an Apple TV just so I can AirPlay stuff from my iPad for what amounts to those other two streaming services.

Really, in the end, what I want is for enough streaming services to become Chromecast app friendly enough to justify me buying a second Chromecast. Because even a second one - and almost a third one - is still less expensive than one Apple TV.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Google Chromecast: first impressions


 
I bought a Google Chromecast today. It was $39. I figured it would work with most of the streaming services that I use. I figured it would be easier and more convenient than having to give up my iPad Mini for extended periods of time to the HDMI adapter cable on the TV to watch streaming stuff. And even though I have various iDevices, the Chromecast was significantly cheaper than Apple TV. I put it on the 32-inch 720p flatscreen in the living room.

Does it work? Oh yeah. Netflix, YouTube and UFC Fight Pass worked really well right out of the gate streaming from their apps on my iPad Mini.

But the whole process of getting it up and running was not without its weird glitches.

Glitch 1: My 2008 Windows Vista laptop is too old to install Google Chrome. Yup. The set-up page rejected me. I had to use my iPad Mini to set it up.

Glitch 2: My 2008 Windows Vista laptop wouldn't Google Cast from a Chrome tab. Or it wouldn't cast without some major, major, major lag and sound issues.

(EDIT: Of course, it was well after this I read the documentation for the Chromecast that clearly says it's not recommended for Windows Vista. D'oh!)

Fortunately, my circa 2013 Windows 7 desktop computer didn't have the glitches that my laptop did. And I got some excellent tab streaming off my desktop computer for several streaming services that don't have Chromecast-compatible apps.

So, based on my first 30 minutes with the Chromecast, I'm impressed. Now ... should I get a second one for the 46-inch 1080p TV in the basement?

FUNNY POSTSCRIPT:

I bought the Chromecast this morning at a major retailer that is open early in the morning. I had checked their website to make sure they sold them. I'm walking through the TV electronics section and I can't find the Chromecast. There's a clerk setting up new demo TVs.

Me: "Can you tell me where the Google Chromecasts are?"

Clerk: "Google? We don't have Google! We only have the Roku" (starts walking me to the aisle) "and we are sold out of the Roku."

Me: "Well, your website says you sell the Chromecast."

Clerk: "No Google. Just Roku."

So I walk down the aisle. To a whole shelf of Chromecasts in their boxes.

And, yes, I did gently note this to the clerk as I walked by to go to the checkout.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spotify gets annoying

I was listening to the Christian worship group Hillsong on Spotify the other day when the service suddenly played me a Katy Perry song. And then another top 40 pop song. And then I finally got back to Hillsong.

Weird, I thought. Normally, Spotify intersperses songs into its shuffle playlist (for freeloaders like me) with songs that are at least related - by the same artist, or in the same genre. So what I want to listen to gets interrupted but at least by something that isn't a jarring departure from what I chose. I accepted it as the price to pay for not paying the price for Spotify's premium service.

On my drive home from work Friday afternoon I'm listening to the new Steve Taylor album Goliath. I get through 2 songs and then MILEY CYRUS plays. OH COME ON NOW! Then another Steve Taylor song and suddenly: Coldplay.

So I switched to my Music app and started listening to other things.

Of course, I could pay the $10 a month to get the full service and skip Spotify inserting annoying songs. But on the iPad, you can listen to anything on Spotify without having to go through the shuffle play-only option that rules the iPhone app free mode.

Am I annoyed enough at Spotify that I'm going to hook my iPad Mini up to my iPhone adapter in my car and use my iPhone hotspot to stream entire albums in my car without having to listen to Miley Cyrus?

You bet I am.