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).

Smartwatch or Not-so-Smart watch

 

LG Watch Urbane Smartwatch

There are currently two types of Smartwatches available in the world, those that must connect to a phone and those that are independent. The latter is not nearly as common, which would include it’s own data and calling plan, but it is still a possibility.  Maybe most people do not want this stand-alone functionality, but should we want it at all?

The screen on the Smartwatch is quite small, even the Apple Watch isn’t much of a screen. And with the move toward larger screen in Smartphones, it’s a wonder how the world is interested in the tiny face of a Smartwatch.

Calculator WatchI wore a watch as a kid, and I certainly yearned for the possibility of a Maxwell Smart or Dick Tracy wrist-communicator.  I had a calculator watch in middle school and it was pretty chic in the geek circles that I ran in.  But it was a far dream to have the functionality available today in a Smartwatch. Still, I would not conceive of the Smartphone ideal for another decade.

It is my impression that the Smartwatch market is yet just another intrigue of the Tech Industry.  Many of us gave up our watches (myself included) when we purchased our first Apple Smartwatch mobile (cell) phone.  Only those who sought the elegance of jewelry or retained the business formality of the US East Coast, seem seek a clock on the wrist.

This is what I believe has happened in the presentation of the Smartwatch today, that we’re only barely scratching the surface of what can be or rather should be expected from a wrist-worn computer.  Where the Smartphone has become a pocket computer that happens to be able to offer the time and phone calls, it is in fact a pocketable computer. The Smartwatch that is tethered to your Smartphone is little more than a trinket or extension of that pocket computer.  Could it yet be the primary device or are we fooling ourselves into believing that it is anything other than a fancy time-piece?

Samsung Gear S SmartwatchThe Samsung Gear S and the LG Watch Urbane both have WiFi, although the Gear S goes a bit further offering 4G connectivity.  Both can operate at a distance that is greater than the limit of Bluetooth. However, the Gear S can operate at any distance from your phone as it is effectively a phone unto itself. But in being capable of separation from a Smartphone, or run alone, it is itself weak.

As the Smartphone is to it’s functional predecessor the laptop computer, so the Smartwatch is lacking not only in power, but battery-life and ease-of-interface. One automatically reaches the conclusion that the Smartwatch should not and in fact likely is not designed to be a stand-alone device.

Agent Smith SmartwatchIt might appear that someone has replaced the author of Get Outta My Head, with an impostor, by the assertions made in the prior paragraph.  But I assure you nothing could be further from the truth.  I want the Smartwatch to be capable of all that a desktop or laptop, but even the greatest of current technology does not appear to be able to prove such a fantasy.    To quote a famous  character from a science-fiction movie, “Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world.” (Agent Smith, The Matrix)  I agree with Agent Smith in saying that we lack the technical capacity to create a Smartwatch that rivals a laptop or desktop.  And that, for now, we should not try to act like we have one.

The Smartwatch is cool, no doubt, but until an interface comes along that does not require a tiny touch screen, I think that it should remain a watch (with benefits).

 

Sony Digital Paper Tablet (w/ Video)

Sony Digital Paper tablet 01

The Sony Digital Paper Tablet

Oh great savior of paper, Sony, you’ve finally done what Amazon never had the guts to do. A real electronic ink tablet, with all the bells and whistles that the Kindle never had.  Thank you very much.

Alas, why did this tablet not see the normal fan fare that you’d expect from a very useful device?  Is it the $1000 price tag? is it the 13.3″ full touch screen?  What about the WiFi and 3-weeks of battery life?  External Memory card slot? Still nothing?  Okay, so it only has 4GB of on-board storage, a measly 1200 x 1600 resolution screen and only 16 shades of gray scale.  But who cares about that crap, it’s a full e-ink tablet.

For now it is the closest thing I have yet seen that matches paper, letter for letter, word for word, and isn’t vaporware.  You can actually buy this tablet on Sony’s Direct to Consumer website (and a few other sites).  Considering the recent release of the Russian Yota Phone 2 with it’s dual screen action (one color led touch, the other gray scale e-ink touch), I think it’s high time something this cool hits the market.

If Sony won’t sing it from the roof tops,  I will.  Check out the video

Amazon Fire TV Price Drop

Amazon Fire TV Price Drop

Amazon Fire TV Price Drop Coincidence?

On the same day that the Google Nexus Player arrives the Amazon Fire TV price drops.  Coincidence?

No, the Nexus Player won’t even get to you house until 3-4 weeks from now. In that time you could be enjoying a months-worth of content on Amazon.  But what does the Fire TV not do?

Play Google Movies.  And what does the Nexus Player not do?

Play Amazon movies.

So which do you choose?

Both of course.  Seeing that you already have a Roku 3 and an Apple TV.  Why not just add the full gambit and get each video source at each device.

Get Outta My Head: Stack Smart Light Bulb

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The Stack Smart Light bulb is what the Nest is for home heating and cooling.  It is the first iteration in what might be the closest thing to the future of lighting.  It’s not just mood lighting, it’s algorithmic interactivity lighting, or a light that knows your habits.

So, it’s really here, the smart light bulb.  No other light bulb seems to compare or in reality should ever bear the name “Smart”.  I have to admit that I am curious to see it in action as I know how smart the Nest is.  So few tech items I’ve purchased have had an ROI of less than 12 months.  If the Stack bulbs is like the Nest, then it will be a good buy.

At present my home is completely populated by LED bulbs, I made the early decision to go that way when the last CFL exploded in the kitchen.  I promptly dropped the 2nd LED bulb that I purchased and rather than breaking, it just bounced on the floor.   I later tested this again on the concrete floor of the garage and got the same result.  All the pluses, none of the minuses and they last so much longer.

The Stack Smart bulb appears to promise much and such things always make me wary.  What I really want is fine control, not just automated.    And the Stack bulb needs to be controllable from outside source software, not proprietary crap like the Phillip’s Hue.  I need my Nest Thermostat, Dropcam, and Stack lights to work together, rather than on their own.  I need statistical information sent out to a server that I can see too (not merely through a website or app).  I doubt that this will be available in the earliest models (if ever).

As we move closer to the automated home there needs to be a way to unify all the devices, that does not require me to pay a subscription (except for support).   The Internet of Things is coming fast and needs a central control point that is free of the clutches of the manufacturer.

Otherwise, it’s a brilliant idea.