Bringing an old telly back to life with a Chromecast

Google-ChromecastGoogle’s Chromecast is a neat little device that plugs into the back of a television via the HDMI port, and then is supplied with power through a standards mini-USB charger that you might use with a smartphone.

It then enables you to ‘cast’ content from another device – a laptop, tablet or smartphone – onto the television, assuming the app you are using on said device supports Chromecast.

They are relatively low cost devices – just £30, and work rather effectively. If you have an Android phone, for example, you can play television programmes, movies or YouTube videos on your television set, so you are not reduced to squinting at a tiny screen.

We had an old telly which didn’t have anywhere to go in the house as we had run out of TV points. We could have bought and plugged in a DVD player, perhaps – but who on earth watches DVDs?

Instead, the Chromecast works perfectly. We can watch Netflix and BBC iPlayer (to name just two services) on the big screen, all controlled via whatever device we happen to have to hand.

I hadn’t really thought before about how streaming services like the Chromecast can be seen to “liberate” older tech like televisions from having to be where there is a cable to connect them to the aerial on the roof.

Plus it means I can now watch the World Cup in bed, which has to be a good thing, right?

iPhones

I’ve had an iPhone for about 18 months now. In the summer, I upgraded from my 8gb first generation model to a 32gb 3GS. It’s awesome, and with the 3G, extra processor speed and storage, plus improvements to the camera and the phone experience, I’d say it is the first true experience of what the iPhone was always meant to do, if that makes sense.

Here are a few recent examples of how the iPhone doesn’t change your life, but does subtly make it so much easier, and sometimes stranger:

  1. Before having an iPhone, when I went on trips to London for meetings and things, I’d take a laptop, mp3 player, and my phone. Go back a couple of years and I’d have a PDA as well (a Palm Tungsten T5, if you’re interested). I might have had a separate camera, and possibly something like a Flip, just in case. Now, unless I have a bit of work to do when I am traveling that involves a lot of typing, I just take the iPhone.
  2. I got a phone call the other day, when I happened to be in London, from someone asking to meet up. They told me where they were, and as soon as I hung up, I looked up where it was on the map on the iPhone, and where the nearest tube station was from it, and where the nearest one from me was. Then I went straight to the Tube iPhone app to get the best route from where I was to where I needed to be. This is great for me, as I don’t really know London that well, and means I don’t have to faff around with loads of maps, looking like a tit. Instead I get to stare into my phone, looking like a tit.
  3. Today I was in Halfords, looking for a bike rack. I found the one I wanted, but it wasn’t priced up! A normal person would find a Halford’s staff member to ask. I just went to the Halford’s website on my iPhone and searched for the product’s reference number. I got the price in a couple of seconds.
  4. On the train home, before Christmas, I was having several conversations, all through my phone. One was using SMS, one on Yammer, another on Twitter, another through email and another on IM. I skipped around them, keeping up and responding to each without any real thought. When I got home, I really couldn’t think why I was using each medium to talk to those people – I had the mobile number of the person I was emailing, so I could have sent them a text, for example.

The interesting thing about 2,3 and 4 is that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing, it just happened. The iPhone’s interface isn’t perfect – for instance, why are the compose buttons for SMS messages and emails at different ends of the screen? – but it’s still fairly intuitive and keeps out of the way. Having all these different streams coming into one device just makes everything so fluid.

The one issue is that typing a lot just isn’t feasible. This seems to be a great way of sorting that out, though:

I’m not willing to jailbreak my phone though. Let’s hope something similar that’s authorised will appear soon.

Kindling

My Kindle arrived today.

I can haz Kindle

For those that don’t know, it’s Amazon’s own e-reader, a portable device that can hold around 1,500 books in its memory which can be read by turning pages using the buttons.

Even though I knew the screen was 6 inches, it still seemed smaller than I was expecting. The device is also a lot thinner than I thought it would be:

Thindle

The screen is really weird, it’s like nothing you’ve looked at before – other than the page of a book. Very odd.

Another interesting thing is the wireless – the Kindle uses the cell network, the cost of which is covered by Amazon and is presumably a part of the cost of the device.

Anyway, I can buy and download books from Amazon.com – not from the UK store yet (which may mean spelling issues…), or add books or documents from my computer. This can be done either by plugging the Kindle into my computer with the supplied USB cable (also my only way of charging it, since the plug supplied is US only too), or by sending a file by email to a special address, which is pretty neat.

You can also use the keyboard to add annotations to documents or books, so this could be really useful for students.

As well as established e-readers like the Sony Reader, the Kindle also has competition from Barnes and Nobles’ new Nook. Crunchgear has a useful comparison chart.