Comcast Gig: Gigabit with Strings

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Comcast Gig Service only appears to compete with Google Fiber

Comcast Gig service can be yours, right now if you live in an area that also has Google Fiber.  The service is only available where Google Fiber is also available, or will be coming soon.  But does this new service actually compare favorably to Google Fiber?

Google Fiber service is fairly simple.  1,000 Megabits per second upload and download connection speeds.  There is no bandwidth cap if the service is used for residential purposes and there is no contract, but you can waive the install fee if you keep the service for 12 months.  All this is available for $70 per month.

Comcast on the other hand has almost an innumerable count of optional plans, nearly all of which require at least a 12 month contract.  Granted the two plans offered that compare to Google Fiber do not require a contract, only if you want to pay the same amount.  Comcast Gig service is $140 / month without a contract, but $70 / month with a 36-month agreement.

Comcast Gig 003

As good as Comcast Gig appears, being the same price as Google Fiber’s service, there are a couple of drawbacks (not including the 36-month contract).  Comcast Gig service is limited on the upload to 35 Mbps (roughly 30 times slower than Google Fiber upload).  There is also a bandwidth cap, Google Fiber does not have a ceiling on use.  But the one distinct difference in all this between Google Fiber and Comcast Gig is that in most of the planned Google Fiber roll out locations Comcast Gig is available now.

Comcast Gig is in many of the cities where Google Fiber is active and planning, but what you may not be aware of (until now) is why.  If you’ve ever wondered why there was no cable service competition anywhere, it is because the cable companies designed it that way from the outset.  By default no cable company can compete in the same city as another originally because of the initial cost of cable installation.  BUT this same rule is being imposed on Google Fiber, when Google Fiber is not a “cable provider”.

So while Google Fiber is embroiled in a bureaucratic web, Comcast will snare those who want gigabit internet service, but don’t want to wait for Google Fiber;  even if that poor excuse for gigabit service comes with more than a couple of strings.

Are you willing to wait potentially another two years for a better service or just to hang on to your current bandwidth provider? Or maybe switch to a cheaper but very long term partially-gigabit service, with a company that is well-known to be one of the worst for customer care?  Hit me up in the comments for how you feel about this new service.

 

 

 

Get Outta My Head: Google Cast-enabled Speakers

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Google Cast-enabled Speakers

If you had the opportunity to read about Google’s recent launch of the Chromecast Audio, then you might have some idea of what Google Cast-enable Speakers are.  But if not, then you’re in for a treat. Sony, Denon, and LG have all announced Google Cast-enabled Speakers.

Google announced that several partners have integrated the Google “Chromecast” functionality into a couple of lines of stand-alone speakers.  These speakers, unlike most Bluetooth speakers, operate from a connection to your home Wi-Fi and steam clear, digital audio directly from the Internet.   The Google Cast element allows the user to control that audio stream from Google’s Play server, whether through Play Music, Play Movies, or from a host of other services like Pandora, Spotify, IHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, RDIO, and more.

Although these new speakers are not priced in the same ball-park as the Chromecast Audio itself ($35), they do offer a similar level of audio playback quality that you might expect from a high quality speaker.

LG Electronics

The LG Music Flow speaker series begins with the Music Flow H3.  A fairly small, vertically rectangular box that is slightly taller than a box of facial tissue. Atop the head of the speaker there is a iPod-familiar volume touch interface and a simple On/ Off switch.  As most of your music will be controlled through whatever smartphone or tablet device that you use, there isn’t much need for controls on the speaker itself.

Other devices in the Music Flow line are the H4, H5, and H7 speakers.  A unique feature of the H4 is that it includes a battery making your music more portable around the house.  And if you’re really into the LG line of speakers, adding the Music Flow Sound Bar will allow you to play back the audio from your home theater system.

Sony

The flare one expects from Sony hardware is somewhat diminished in the SRS line of speakers.  But where LG left off, Sony picks up.  The SRSX77 isn’t just a Wi-Fi device, it doubles as a Bluetooth speaker.  And adds all the support of the DLNA, Apple AirPlay, and a ridiculously long 100+ hour battery life.

In similitude to the LG line of speakers, Sony too has a line of speakers ranging in price from slightly more than the LG to a great deal more. You should expect to get solid performance from these speakers for the price, but don’t expect to pay less than $100 for any of them.

Denon

As of yet Denon has not released it’s line of Google Cast enabled speakers.  But we can get a glimpse of what is to come via their website (Press Release).

Dropcam Tabs: Get Outta My Head

dropcam tabs

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a GOMH, but this one is a biggie.  Dropcam Tabs are pretty cool.  They literally allow you to keep track of everything you own.

About the size of a stick of gum, the Tabs have several sensors built-in along with a long-lasting coin-cell battery (expected life 2 years).  These sensors include an accelerometer for sensing when things begin to move or when they stop.  There is a vibration sensor for when things shake or break.

The uses for such a device would seem to be limitless and via the video below, Dropcam gets us started.  Suggestions like the entry doors of your home, and possibly your yard.  Windows are another possibility too, but what I find to be a good use goes further.  I’d use mine to tell me when the washer and dryer have stopped, not merely for when it’s time to change the clothes, but how long each cycle lasts.  I’d like to know how many times in a day that the refrigerator door gets opened or what’s going on in the house when our pet bird flips out.  I want to know when the mailbox gets a mouthful,  and when any of our vehicles arrive or leave.

In the second flagship model that Dropcam announced, the Dropcam Pro, there is installed a Bluetooth antenna.  This antenna can connect via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to the Dropcam Tabs.   The range of BLE is roughly 100 feet neglecting walls and other obstacles.

Currently the limit for Tabs per Dropcam Pro is eight, but that’s only per Dropcam Pro.  I can imagine a world where the sensors are smaller, last longer or are powered by heat / vibration.  Where nearly everything has a sensor and my home becomes a data producing unit.  Now, I just have to wait for Dropcam or someone else to develop a heat sensor and I can plot the temperature delta across the whole house.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The price of each of these beauties is only $29, so eight of them would set you back about the same price as another Dropcam Pro.  The age of the in-home sensor is upon us and Dropcam Tabs are leading the way.

Update: DropCam became Nest just before the Tabs were supposed to be debuted and the project was either cancelled or put on hold. Sorry, I was looking forward to them as well.

Source:  Dropcam

 

 

 

 

Get Outta My Head: Google Nexus 5

Google Nexus 5

Google Nexus 5

I totally did not see this coming, but then I’ve been holding out for a good smartphone. Not that the prior Nexus phones were bad, but I finally bit the bullet on number five.   Alas, why now? Because I’m really quite tired of Samsung.  Get Outta My Head, Google Nexus 5.

It’s only been a whopping five years since the advent of the Android Smartphone (at least for the public).  The Google G1 (HTC Dream) was released October 2008 and I got my grubby hands on one (still have it, too).  Since that time I purchased the Motorola Cliq, the Samsung Galaxy S, the Samsung Galaxy S II, and the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Samsung did an amazing job making itself the leading Android device manufacturer.  But at the same time they seem to have caught a bit of the Sony-virus (I just made that up).  The Sony-virus is the belief that you’re so great, that you can make anything (no matter how crazy it is) and people will want it because it’s just that awesome.  Apple does this too, but they have their own operating system.

The last straw for me was the Android Jelly Bean 4.3 update that I (finally) got for my Galaxy Note 2 in early December 2013.  The update was ginormous, but a significant portion of that update was bloat-ware from Samsung.

But enough about Samsung, the Google Nexus 5 (manufactured by LG) is pretty slick.  I wonder how much interaction LG got from Google on the design (if any)?

Dimensions

The Nexus 5 is a bit smaller than the Note 2, the screen is roughly 14 mm less diagonally (0.5 in), but it definitely has less bezel.  Across the top and bottom of the device, there is less bezel as well, but I certainly appreciate the lack of branding (no manufacturer glaring across the face of the phone).

It’s also certainly less weighty than the Note 2; the Note 2 is a chunky phone for this age.  The lack of weight is offset by the soft rubber back.  I don’t feel like I’m going to accidentally fling it across the room when gesturing while it’s in my hand.

I did immediately notice that the Nexus 5 is smaller in my hand.  However,  as I am larger human,  my hands are abnormally large and so a large phone feels more natural.  Going back to a smaller phone sticks out in my mind, but definitely not in my hand.

Performance

Since the update to Android, 4.3 the Note 2 has had noticeable lag.  The Nexus 5 is very quick, this is likely due to the much faster processor.  Although both phones have quad-core processors, the Nexus 5 has a 2.3 GHz, where as the Note 2 has a 1.6 GHz.  I also suspect that the mass of bloatware that comes along with the update to Android 4.3 did not help the Note 2.  But it should be noted that Google realized the fragmentation of its OS and has drafted a newer, faster OS in 4.4 (KitKat).

Within the first two weeks of use, I’d noticed a strange issue when skipping around in video playback such as Netflix and Google Movies. But I came to realize that it depends on the WiFi connection, not so much the phone.  The device isn’t hurting for power, but if the connection is poor, so will be the video performance.

The camera software is certainly less feature packed than is the equivalent in the Samsung UI, but I can’t say that I miss it.  The trouble with Samsung is the thought that someone might use the camera for every aspect of human life (not that they may be incorrect in Korea).  The simplicity of the default camera software in KitKat is sublime, I don’t need a hundred bells and whistles to make the experience good.  If I wanted that, I can install Instagram.

The awesome in Android OS 4.2.2 and higher is the inclusion of the Photosphere.  If it seems complicated, it is.  The Photosphere is not easy to create, despite Google’s attempts to make it so.  But the results are awesome, once you get the hang of it.   In the Android 4.3 roll-out to the Note 2, Photosphere was the one thing I was most looking forward to, and yet Samsung did not include it.

Android OS 4.4 KitKat

I’ve certainly covered some features about the Google Nexus 5 already, but what I have not covered is the changes to the operating system.  Google has taken a turn away from buttons.  The Nexus 5 has three buttons, volume up, down, and power.  Everything else is software.  The Google Nexus 5 has surpassed the iPhone in simplicity.

There is a high level of intuitiveness in the new OS; things that even I, a user from the outset of Android, was not aware of.   One of the things that I appreciate most about the latest revision is the “smart Caller ID”.  At first I’d thought that I actually had the contact information when I saw an image of the local repair shop that was calling about my truck.  But then I realized that I never took that picture and it fact it was the image from Google maps that was associated with the number of the shop.  This works for businesses and people alike, but for people they will have to have their image and phone number publicly available.

Another fine feature of the Google Nexus 5 is that the “OK Google” voice command is at your beck and call. Although not quite as sensitive as the Moto X, the voice command will work as long as the screen is on, since all desktop screens have Google Search across the top.   Google’s voice command service is fairly smart in its ability to discern between phrases.  However, if the speaker attempts to ask a question in a non-native language, the phone may not recognize the request.  My limited use of Siri is almost incomparable to the voice recognition in Android OS

Conclusion, so far…

I could literally ramble on about this phone and it’s features for many pages, but I’d rather just get back to using it.  I’m sure that at some point I will revisit this and update it, or else make another post about the phone (maybe the Nexus 6?).  The phone is awesome, now if we would just get a 6-inch screen…

Get Outta My Head: Portable Power Banks

Portable Power Banks

I recently discovered that I have a fascination with portable power banks.   I managed to acquire one from a friend and have found it invaluable.   So I took to researching them and after several days of study I can definitely tell you that I still have no idea which Portable Power Bank is the best.    There are just so many options, both great and poor.

I will admit that despite being a Google Fanboy, I don’t often use Google Shopping to find good deals and well-documented information on products.  Sadly, Google’s technique needs some work.  However, Amazon does an excellent job of making products easy to read about and buy.  Not to mention that their Product Reviews feature is excellent.

And although Amazon does have good information, it’s still sometimes hard to find a solid and reliable product, even if it has good reviews. The market for portable power banks is busy to say the least.

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