Chromecast Review

Typically I have used a game console to watch streaming video services like Netflix or Hulu. After a recent reconfiguration I no longer had either consoles connected to my TV. This left me searching for a replacement. These days there are a number of options for this. At the top of the list was the Roku. It’s small size, feature set and price point were extremely attractive.

Then I saw that Google had released a device called the Chromecast. The Chromecast is an HDMI dongle that streams video straight from your computer or mobile device. At $35 it seemed worth at least investigating. So after a week or two thinking about it I finally decided to buy one. Apparently it had been a hot seller. Google was quoting a couple of weeks for shipment and Amazon was quoting a couple of months. After waiting patiently, the Chromecast finally shipped and today I received it.

The packaging is nice and compact. There isn’t any wasted space and it was easy to open. Inside the box there are only a few parts: the Chromecast itself, a USB cable, an A/C plug compatible with the USB cable, and a HDMI adapter. The Chromecast is powered via the USB cable that can either be plugged into an available USB port on the television or into a power socket via the A/C plug. Fortunately my television has a USB port that is able to power the Chromecast.

After the initial power up the Chromecast runs a configuration and is ready for setup. A quick trip to the Google setup page to grab some software and I’m on my way. Once I had installed the software I was able to detect my Chromecast pretty quickly. After that it was just a matter of adding the Chromecast to the wifi and installing a Chrome add on and everything was ready to go.

When the Chromecast has completed setup a video plays in your browser. I was able to easily forward the video to the television via the browser plugin. For my next test I opened up Netflix in another browser tab – lately I’ve been watching The IT Crowd again. The Netflix video player has a built in button to forward the video to the Chromecast so it’s even easier. The video quality started a bit pixelated, but quickly improved.

So far I’m really impressed with the Chromecast. I found it quick and easy to setup and start using. It is certainly worth the price. I haven’t tested out how it works when controlled via a mobile device, but I expect the experience to be just as good as what I have experienced so far.

Idea Bacon Launched

My friend Alex and I have launched an early version of a project we’ve been working on called Idea Bacon. It is a website built using Ruby on Rails and hosted on AWS. The purpose of the website is to allow people to share ideas for new products and services that they may have in the back of their mind. A secondary purpose for the website is as a vehicle that allows us to learn new skills.

There are many project website I have worked on that just end up sitting on my hard drive and never see the light of day. Idea Bacon is one of the first Rails based websites that I have pushed out into the world for others to see and use. In doing so I have learned a bit about running a Rails app in production.

I have also been learning the lessons that come when people start to use what you’ve built. Suddenly the application contains real data that people expect will be there when they return. In development it has been common for me to take the eraser to sections I didn’t really like. This is still possible, but requires more thought on how to execute the changes.

So far the project has been really fun and educational. I expect to complete and publish some updates in the weeks to follow. Until then please check out what we’ve done and give us some feedback.

First Post

Note: Rather than write yet another ‘First Post’ entry I just copied the old one I wrote last year back into WordPress. So, yeah, this is a post about moving out of WordPress in a fresh WordPress installation.

I have decided to leave WordPress behind for now. My blogging needs are small and I’m no longer interested in the maintenance that WordPress requires. Instead, I have moved my whole website to Octopress. It is a static site builder that extends the functionalty of Jekyll.

The pages are written in Markdown and then converted to static HTML files. This post is the jumping off point. Next I will put some content on the other pages and change the layout a bit. Maybe I will even add Disqus commenting.

Since I am always interested in shiny new web development ideas I plan using this website as a bit of laboratory for new ideas and projects. Or to at least show off the things I am working on. Lately I’ve been having some fun extending my Javascript knowledge and learning Backbone.js.

A project currently in the works will help me, and perhaps others, learn which of their DVDs can be watching through a streaming service. Of course this isn’t an original idea. Can I already does this quite well. Rather than write another blogging app or todo list I thought this might be a good way to learn Backbone, Node.js and working with API calls.