Chromecast review

So far, my Chromecast is pretty awesome.  Netflix and YouTube look amazing.  We’ve cast from my computer and Mr. Geeky’s phone.  Casting other tabs can be problematic.  I’ve found HuluPlus to be the most problematic.  There’s a significant audio delay which is quite annoying.  Rumor has it that Hulu is joining the Chromecast gang, so hopefully, it will be as nice as Netflix and YouTube.

I’ve cast straight from the Comedy Central website to watch The Daily Show, and that has worked really well.  Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Prime were a little tricky.  To view those through Chromecast, I had to disable the Silverlight plugin and use Flash instead.  I could shift renting videos from Amazon to Google Play to alleviate part of that problem, but having Prime, which I love for the shipping, means I’m losing a benefit if I can’t easily stream to Chromecast.

Mr. Geeky tried HGTV, though, and had some issues, mostly with the website itself, not Chromecast specifically.  So, that brings me to a larger point. Mr. Geeky’s issues had to do with a) having difficulty finding the episodes he wanted to watch, b) having to watch the same ad over and over, and c) glitches with the video going back to the beginning.  Chromecast (and Roku, and other streaming services) will change the way we watch tv.  They already have.  But TV networks and stations are going to have to change the way they put video on the web.  They’re going to have to use a service that allows people to easily find the shows they want to watch, something people are using their DVRs and cable services for now and which Roku, as I understand it, has a nice searchable directory.  Otherwise, a lot of shows won’t be found.  And, they’re going to have to something about advertising.  I noticed this issue when watching Hulu on Tivo.  Often the same 1 or 2 ads permeates all the videos.  I’m assuming that ads are keeping the price of these services affordable.  I don’t mind sitting through a couple of ads during a show, but I’d like them to be different and hopefully, somewhat interesting.

I’d love to also see a way to watch some broadcast TV live via Chromecast or the web.  There are some rumblings about this happening, but it’s still just rumblings.

It’s funny, ten or so years ago, I remember saying they would never get video to the web for a variety of technical reasons.  Those reasons have been overcome.  What’s in the way now, are old business models that don’t take into account an increasingly mobile audience who prefer time-shifting, and who don’t have cable.  It’s coming, and frankly, Chromecast is a step in that direction.

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My ecosystem is dying

Nearly everyone in my online world is in a tizzy about Google reader going away. So much of my online work an cliff is tied up in google reader, I’m not sure how I’ll replace it. The larger issue is not reader itself, but RSS, which reader is built on. My dissertation focused on rss as a technology that binds the web together. RSS enabled me to forgo the tedious task of bookmarking things and checking them periodically for new stuff. I started with bloglines and moved to reader a couple of years later, mostly because the rest of my stuff was going Google. Through reader, I could easily read and share the blogs and other items I read. There’s nothing else out there that I’ve yet seen that does this so cleanly and seamlessly.

The argument has been that everyone is reading and sharing through Facebook and Twitter. Well, yes. And I use those, too, but those are like moseying up to the display table at a bookstore and seeing what the staff has picked out. Reader is like perusing a shelf of books in the library. There was order to it.

When blogs first came on the scene, I jumped in, reading and then writing. RSS was built for blogs, to capture an audience where none yet existed. Thanks to RSS, I had some 300 readers a day. friends of mine had more than that. we built a community around the connections we made. Newspapers and other online media were late to the rss game. I remember when the NYTimes finally got an RSS feed. But now, now there are those little buttons to like and tweet and pin, so no one needs rss anymore, or reader. I think maybe I know what the dawn of the automobile just have been like. One ecosystem faded, but another was built upon its remains. It’s at once sad and exhilarating. In case you’re wondering, I’m lamenting the passing of the old ecosystem. I’m standing around with my thumbs under my suspenders talking about the days when there were no browsers much less RSS. Yep, I’m the get off my lawn, back in my day, kids these days dude of the Internet.

I’m sure I will survive in the new ecosystem. It’s not like I’m totally unfamiliar with what else is out there, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the things I used to do with just twitter and Facebook. I’m going to drive my horse and buggy a little while longer.

Why I Love Google Docs

A while back, I made a podcast (which seems to have disappeared) about how I thought Google docs weren’t quite ready for the education sphere. For some projects, that’s still true. If you need footnotes or even a lot of endnotes, Google docs won’t make that easy for you. But if, like me, most of what you write is devoid of special formatting, Google docs is great. I’ve written memos, letters of recommendation, resumes, and more. By far, the best thing about Google docs is the collaboration features. I’m able to work with people across the country easily, thanks to Google docs. There’s no waiting for someone do make changes and email them to you. If you want to jump in and add something–even at the same time as someone else–you can. I’ve used this with my student workers as well. I’ll start a help document, point them to the url and have them add to it.

I recently did a presentation in Google docs. It worked really well and I really like the chat feature, which I wish they’d add to the document area. I like the way your presentation quickly becomes a url and an embeddable presentation. With PowerPoint, there are too many steps to get to that point.

I also started using the spreadsheet function for a large data collecting project that I was working on with someone. It just wouldn’t have been practical to pass a spreadsheet back and forth via email or to work on spreadsheets separately. We needed to know who had done what at any given moment. The coolest feature they added to spreadsheets was forms. I’ve used those a lot. I’m having my students fill out information about work they’ve done via a Google form. I’ve used them for workshop sign ups and I’m using one right now to decide when to hold a workshop. It’s much faster than coding up your own web form. All the data is neatly organized into a spreadsheet.

And all the documents can be saved in standard formats–pdf, doc, ppt, xls, txt, html. And I’d recommend doing that every once in a while. Google may claim their motto is “Don’t be evil” but that doesn’t mean that mistakes might not happen (I’ve seen them on the Internets).

I love that Google docs is simple and straightforward. It doesn’t take forever to load and you can just do the basics without too much thought. Also, if I’m unable to get to my computer, I can still get to my documents. Now that I’ve gone to a laptop, this doesn’t happen too often, but I have been in meetings or in a lab where it would be a pain to go get my laptop.

Now, I’ll be fair, not everyone thinks Google docs is the best thing since sliced bread. But instead of shelling out money for Microsoft Office in order to get the advanced features, get OpenOffice. But read the original post and comments. There’s a good debate there.

Google is not about privacy–and that may be okay

There’s a post this morning about how some people are complaining that Google Reader’s new feature where your shared items are shared with your contacts violates their privacy. Robert Scoble says that Google needs more granular privacy controls a la Facebook. I vote with his first response, that people need clarification on what public means.

I’ve written about this before, from the standpoint of being aware that future employers are increasingly eyeing a future employee’s online presence. Increasingly, I think, if you’re using social software, nothing is private. Search, even, is not private. Sure, there are ways to change settings so that your searches aren’t cached, your blogs aren’t pinging services, etc., but most people don’t change the defaults, so they’re just out there. And that’s okay. People just need to understand up front what it means to have so much of their online activity shared. And maybe being more open–online or elsewhere–is a good thing. Maybe it makes us more accountable for our actions. Sure, there are still some parts of our lives and our thoughts that are private, but mostly those parts aren’t being put online and if they are, I’d argue that either a) someone doesn’t understand how public the online space is; or b) they want people to know about those parts. Healthy skepticism is good, but paranoia leads us down a bad path.