Chromecast Tricks

As a participant in the Android ecosystem and committed early-adopter I was quick to order a Chromecast when they were introduced in 2013. Sadly, our older Sharp Aquos HDTV lacked the input switching to make the little dongle convenient in my intended application. Since then I’ve struggled to find a use for the little guy.

This week I stumbled upon a new use case for the Chromecast…digital signage! This was inspired by a couple of apps for Chromecast I found in the Play store; Big Tweets and Countdown.

Both of these apps would have been tremendously useful in my past life. I surely would have used them in staging trade show presentations.

Big Tweets cycles through a tweet stream with a selection of nice graphic themes. It even allows custom themes for the graphically handy. Just plug it into a monitor or HDTV and set it up via an Android device. No keyboard or mouse. Low power. Reliable. Lovely.

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Chromecast In Da House

Chromecast-Sharp-Aquos-42inchIn the first day or two of its release I ordered a Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player via Amazon, and was lucky enough to actually get one delivered. We’ve been living with it for a few weeks now, and have some thoughts to share.

At the outset let me say that we’re reasonably well-serviced when it comes to TV & movies. We have two HDTVs, each paired to a second generation TivoHD. We do not partake of any kind of surround sound playback. It simply wasn’t desired.

As TivoHD users we have Comcast Cable TV with a generous, if costly, package of channels. We also watch Netflix streams and use Amazon Unbox downloads.

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Musing About Logitech’s Squeezebox, Squeezebox For Android, Pandora & Tivo

Squeezebox-TivoHD-SB-For-AndroidAround the house and office we use Logitech’s recently defunct Squeezebox music players. We have several of these, a mix of the Squeezebox 3 and Squeezebox Touch models.

There’s an Android app that provides remote control of these little players. I’ve had it loaded for as long as I’ve had an Android phone. However, it’s never worked for me. At least it didn’t until the past weekend.

Being something of a traditionalist I have historically fed the Squeezebox herd from a small media server or NAS on my network. Only occasionally would I point them to online sources like Radio Paradise, KPFT or KUHF.

This past weekend I started to play with Pandora. The Squeezeboxes can access a Pandora account and thereby stream decent quality music from an online source. Pandora’s paid service provides 192 kbps streams without advertising. That makes the $36/yr paid service seem quite attractive.

Millions of people already use Pandora. I accept that I’m late to that party.

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Telepresence In The Home: Who’s On First?

Cisco today introduced umi, it’s effort to bring telepresence from the board room into the living rooms of the world. Umi (pronounced like “you me”) attaches to an existing HDTV via an HDMI connection and is said to support HD video calling.

Depending upon your available bandwidth umi can provide 720p or 1080i video streams. They quote 720p as requiring 1.5 mbps in each direction, while 1080 requires 3.5 mbps. Those numbers suggest the umi is not supporting the H.264 High Profile compression profile that Polycom has used on their systems. H.264 High Profile makes more efficient use of bandwidth, according to Polycom it’s bandwidth requirements are as little as half that of competitive systems.

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Skype On Tivo Revisited

As I’ve mentioned previously, more than once, the recent release of SkypeKit seems like an opportunity for a company like Tivo to up their game. Adding video calling capability to Tivo seems like a natural extension of the devices functionality.

If you have a Tivo unit it’s already connected to your TV. It’s most likely already on your network and making use of your broadband to fetch guide info and download movies. I know that we use our TivoHD units to watch Netflix streams and download from Amazon’s Unboxed service. You might already be using it to stream music and view the family photos on your TV.

Yep, video calling on the big screen would certainly be a logical next step.

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SkypeKit: The Next Step In Skype Everywhere

Earlier today Skype announced the pending launch of a beta program for an SDK called SkypeKit. SkypeKit is intended to allow hardware developers to embed Skype client functionality into their devices.

SkypeKit seems to be a logical next step after having recently partnered with LG, Samsung and Panasonic to build embedded Skype clients for their newest HDTVs. I mentioned this previously.

There’s a bunch of coverage of the SkypeKit launch available at various places online. Engadget has their say and some nice pics of the Grandstream GXV-3140 Media Phone running Skype. Also a Litl webbook that looks like it’s running Skype with video.

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