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In this post I’m going to talk about the Google Chromecast. When I got one of these, I convinced one of my Brothers-in-law to get one also. Since then, my parents, in-laws, and other Brother- and Sister-in-law have gotten one as well. I even purchased a second one. So, what is it, you might ask? Well, it’s this:
A Google Chromecast is a very small device that connects to one of the ports (an HDMI port to be specific) on the back of your TV and turns it into a Smart or Internet-connected TV. Other similar devices include the Roku, Apple TV and Amazon’s new Fire TV. Basically, these devices connect to the Internet and allow various media-related apps to be displayed on your TV. Some of these apps include Netflix, YouTube and HBO GO. While the Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV come with remotes, the Chromecast doesn’t and can be controlled with almost any mobile device as well as an extension for the Google Chrome browser (an extension is a little piece of software that you add to a major piece of software to make it do extra things). Using one of these devices to send media to the Chromecast is called “casting”. Now, that sentence is a little incorrect. The media you want the Chromecast to display on your TV isn’t really passing through your mobile device, just as the television signal doesn’t pass through your TV remote. Think of it this way, once you find the content you’d like to “cast”, your mobile device tells the Chromecast where to get it from, and to display it.
From whichever device you plan on using, within the app (or the Google Chrome browser) you’ll see this icon: . When you click, push or tap it, a list of all the Chromecasts on your wifi network will show up. You can select the one you want, start the content on your mobile device, and then you’ll see it on your TV. That’s it. Pretty simple.
…as these devices are relatively new, not all apps are compatible with them. Here’s a list on Wikipedia of all the apps that work with the Google Chromecast (as well as which mobile device(s) those apps work with):
Personally, I use YouTube, Google+ Photos, and Plex (a personal favorite of mine and the topic of an upcoming post) a lot. As an example, my kids love the music videos from Big Block Singsong (admittedly, so do my wife and I) shown on Disney Junior, and I’ve created a playlist of all of their videos on YouTube. On my Android-based Samsung Galaxy Note 3, I startup the YouTube app, click the Chromecast icon above, select either one of my two Chromecasts, and then start up the playlist. Then, my kids watch it for the next hour or so, while my wife and I nap.
One last thing I forgot to mention, the Google Chromecast is not expensive at all. It’s just $35 (and sometimes less) and can be purchased on Amazon (where’s it’s currently $29.99) or Google Play, or at Walmart (where it’s currently $32), Staples, BestBuy (where it’s currently $29.99) or Target (where it’s currently $32.49).
As always, email me if you have any questions!
Update: I’ve converted another! My sister has now purchased a Chromecast.
I know there are those who would insist I stay on topic, namely, building information modeling. But I’ve decided to go off-topic for a bit as an idea has come to my mind. Very often I get questions about the various technological items out there. They cover, hardware, software, gadgets, apps, the Internet, the Cloud, etc. The questions tend to come from family members, or family friends, or my friends. Now, by no means am I an expert, but I do tend to be an early adopter, tinkerer, and all-around, excited little kid when it comes to anything new. My family had a motto for me when I was a kid: give me, buy me, I want. I’d love to say I’ve grown out of that but, not only have I not, I’ve embraced it. Case in point, I got the new Moto 360 smartwatch for my birthday and am loving it. I like to try new apps, and tools, and websites to see which one (or combination of a few) can simplify my life. All that being said, it is really those who don’t take advantage of all this stuff, and get overwhelmed by the amount of information coming their way, that could really benefit.
I am calling this new sub-blog, Technology for my Father. My Dad has a lot going on in his life and, while I know he’d like me to handle all of his technological issues, he has, what I would call, Flashing 12:00 Syndrome. For you very young people out there, before Blu-ray and DVD players (and even laser disc players – look it up – as my father used to say to my sister and I), we had a device called a Video Cassette Recorder or VCR. It used large tapes to play and record video. When you first got a VCR, you’d plug it in and, on a small screen on the front, the time would appear. Except that it wouldn’t be the current time, it would say 12:00 and it would be flashing, just begging you to set it. Often times, people wouldn’t set the time, because it seemed like a complicated process. The thing is, it wasn’t. A lot of the tools and devices out there aren’t as complicated as they may appear to be, and, they provide such a benefit, that learning how to use them is a really good idea. Personally, I like to try out a lot of different services and apps, and then pick the one I want. The issue is, a lot of the people who ask me these questions, haven’t taken advantage of what tends to be more flexible and more useful tools. Therefore, I’ve decided to write a few blog posts that, yes Dad, even you can understand.
My parents have been using a Cloud-based, backup service called Mozy. First off, however, let’s just go over what the Cloud is. There are probably 100 different definitions out there, but the way I would refer to it, is like this: up until recently, you’d go online to one website or another and read information (Huffington Post), watch a movie (Netflix) or listen to music (Spotify). Nothing there was really yours. You couldn’t really manipulate anything that much or even create anything. Cloud-based services give you tools, that can be accessed anywhere, that allow you to create, store and manipulate your own things. The benefit of this, is that your device becomes a lot less important because the data is accessible on any device (as most apps are available on your computer (usually via a web browser), you iPhone/iPad, Android or Windows smart phones.
So, coming back to this Cloud-based, backup service my parents have been using called Mozy, the subscription plan they had gave them 50 gigabytes of storage space (in Mozy’s Cloud). Initially, all the data we picked would be copied there (in took a while). As they create, edit or delete a file, that action would be replicated in Mozy’s Cloud. The issue was that with the amount of pictures they take (and the additional photos and videos we send them of our kids), they ran out of space. Instead of up simply paying more money for more space with Mozy, I decided it was time for them to move to the Cloud. Now, this process definitely took me a while because their photos and videos weren’t really that organized. Strictly speaking, they had video files, photo files, and non-photo/video files (i.e. Word files, PDFs, etc.). I decided to use three services:
Once all files were uploaded (AND VERIFIED), I erased all of the moved files from my parents computer (except the stuff in Google Drive, which is synchronized). Once this was done, they really had no need for Mozy anymore. Therefore, we cancelled the account, and got a prorated refund. Not bad!
Of course storage prices vary on each of these sites, but they’re all reputable companies worth checking out. Also, while my parents were using Mozy and their Cloud-based backup, other services include Carbonite, Norton Online Backup (yup, the people who make the Anti-virus software) and CrashPlan. Again, prices most definitely vary, but it’s also important to remember that all of these companies always have promotions going on.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!
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