Category Archives: Television

Chromecast

I had an Amazon gift certificate and was annoyed at running a cable between my tablet and my TV (first world problems!) so I decided to pick up Google’s Chromecast.  After playing with it for just a little while, I have to say, it’s pretty awesome.

What you need: A television with an extra HDMI input.

Optional: A USB port on the television.  This is used to power the Chromecast dongle, but it also comes with a standard plug adapter.  Though you’ll probably need an extension cord as well unless your outlet is within six feet.

Why Google is awesome: I was in love with the thing before I even plugged it in.  Why?  Because Google included a velcro cable tie with the USB cable so you can easily secure the excess cable.  It’s a small little detail, but can you name another company that does this?  Secure, neat cabling is very important and leave it to a company with server farms the size of a warehouse to realize that this extends to the home as well.

The device itself is a paltry $35.  This may be a limited time offer to increase demand.  Setup is a breeze.  The device itself is a tiny 3″ or so dongle that plugs into the HDMI port.  You attach the micro USB side of the cable to the dongle and the standard USB side to either your TV or power outlet and you’re ready to rock.  Set your TV input to the HDMI port your Chromecast is attached to and it’ll start up and look for a device attempting to talk to it through a WiFi connection.  I used my phone to set it up.  I imagine the conversation goes something like this:

Chromecast: Hello, I’m here!  There are so many WiFi connections here, won’t anyone come and talk to me?

My phone: Psst!  Hey, over here. I’ll talk to you.

Chromecast: Um, I hear you, but I can’t seem to talk to you.  It says I need a password.

My phone:  Oh yeah, that.  Here you go.

Chromecast: Why thank you.  Well, look at that, I am hopelessly out of date.  I’m just going to download an update and you come talk to me again when I’m done.  Bye.

My phone: Hello!  You’re done!  Let’s watch a movie.

Chromecast:  You got it buddy!

I’m sure I’m somewhat wrong with the handshake protocols, but my way sounds cooler than any dry technical information.

Then, it’s just a matter of launching a Chromecast capable app on your phone and telling it to send the output to the TV instead of your phone.  Having Netflix, I used that.  There is a Chromecast icon that you touch and then choose your Chromecast ID from a list if there happens to be more than one.  The video goes to the television and you can then use your phone as a remote control.  Easy peasy.  The video and sound quality is superb, though it will take a while to get to the full 1080p HD as the video buffers.

The remote control functionality is still a bit wonky on my Galaxy S4.  After only playing with it for a little while, I have found that sometimes it works just fine and sometimes my phone seems to lose the connection to the Chromecast thus losing the ability to pause the action even though the TV still plays the show just fine.

Amazon doesn’t have an app to use yet, but you can still stream their stuff using the Google Chrome browser with the Chromecast extension installed.  Setup is a bit of a pain since you have to make sure that Silverlight (what Amazon uses to stream videos) is disabled and then tell Amazon that you want to use the Flash player instead.  If you don’t do that, you don’t get sound.  Even with that, you still don’t get the high quality high definition like you do with apps that have native support for Chromecast.  Amazon promises to change that in the near future.

There are a bunch of other apps that currently support Chromecast, including HBO Go and Pandora with a bunch more promised in the future as the Chromecast development kit has just been released to the general public.  As far as I know, all smartphones and tablets can be used with Chromecast and your PC can as well but only using the Chrome browser as described above.

All in all, for just $35, the Google Chromecast is well worth the money if you want to stream Internet to your television.  It’s certainly more of an in between technology than a device of the future since we are quickly coming to the time when all televisions will be WiFi enabled.  But if you’re not in the market for a new television, this is a simple and cheap way to extend the lifetime of the television you currently own.

Pepsi Has Become The Official Drink Of Racists

I was listening to some unknown program on NPR the other day and these two people were talking about the infamous Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial that’s been the biggest topic of discussion to come out of the incredibly lackluster game.  It wa only like a 5 minute or so segment but it was both informative and hilarious.  The hilarious part came when they were talking about how brilliant the ad was and one said to the other something along the lines of, “With all the controversy over this ad, Pepsi has become the official drink of racists.”  If I were drinking Coke at the time, I would have snorted it out of my nose and that would have been painful.

The segment was very enlightening in other ways as well.  They also talked about how people use commercials like this to mostly feel better about themselves.  Kind of a “look at how not racist I am, I like this commercial” kind of thing.  Which, kudos to Coke for being able to tap into that.  It’s exactly what you want to do in a commercial; subliminally associate a product with feeling good about yourself.  They also mentioned that the racism surrounding the commercial is probably not as wide-spread as believed since almost every segment rehashed the same tweets, posts, Facebook updates, etc.  So the reality, in their minds, is more along the lines of this whole story being more of a feel good about ourselves circle jerk than a story worth talking about.

It was a cool segment.  I agree with everything they said except about the racism not being widely spread.  Using the same tweets is more along the lines of lazy journalism than a lack of evidence of wide-spread racism.  I don’t follow Twitter, but I certainly found a decent share of racist blog posts surrounding the ad.

I am also some sort of Racist Whisperer or something.  When the commercial came on, I jokingly yelled at the TV, “This is Murica, speak English!”  Of course, being racist is easy and that commercial was some really low hanging fruit.

Anyone Remember These Commercials?

I was in the shower this morning when this randomly popped into my head:

I have no idea why that popped into my head.  It’s best not to ask questions of my brain.  It’s an incredibly creepy but effective ad.  That sent me spiraling into a Youtube vortex of Mormon commercials from the 80s.  Remember this one:

Or this one:

The last one is interesting because it features a black kid.  Why is that interesting?  Let’s just say the Mormons aren’t know for their racial sensitivity towards Blacks.

There are other commercials too, but the above are my favorite.  They’re simple, catchy, and tell an important moral lesson without being preachy aside from the memorable “From the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, the Mormons!” at the end.

Mrs. Landingham, What’s Next?

I just finished watching “Angel”.  Anyone who says it is better than “Buffy” likes to kill people with dead puppies and comes from questionable parentage.

“Angel” was mildly entertaining at times but much of it was fairly directionless.  It was very obvious which episodes had Joss Whedon’s writing behind it because those were usually of much better quality.  The biggest problem, I think, was the real lack of strong female characters like they had in “Buffy”.  Things just always sort of happened to the females and that’s a shame.  Giving Amy Acker a strong persona when she changes from Fred to Illyria near the end of the series shows just how wrong they went.  Here they have an incredibly talented actor and they make here a folksy love interest of all of the male leads who does the “I’m just a girl” thing way too often.  When given the chance to flex her kick ass side she really shines.  But then the series was cancelled and needed to be wrapped up quickly.  Despite being a fast wrap up, it was very satisfying.

So now I need to find another series to watch.  What should it be folks?  The only prerequisite is that it must be on Netflix.  Someone was recommending something to me not too long ago but I have since forgotten.  It’s too bad “Justified” isn’t on Netflix because I hear that’s pretty good.

Two Websites To Rule Them All

What if I were to tell you that two websites accounted for over half of all Internet traffic?  Which two do you think it would be?  The answer?  Netflix and YouTube.  That is astounding.  There also seems to be a correlation between Netflix’s and YouTube’s rise and Bit Torrent’s fall.  Bit Torrent, for those of you who don’t know, is a piece of software responsible for a very large portion of the illegally downloaded music and movies.  Make movies and TV shows easily available for people to legally consume and they will legally consume them.  Don’t and they will steal it.  Simple as that.

That reminds me of The Oatmeal graphic that was recently posted:

movie

Hush

Continuing on my quest to watch television shows that I somehow missed when I was younger, I’m watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.  It’s got a bit of hokeyness to it, but all in all, it’s pretty good.

I just got finished watching Season 4, Episode 10, “Hush”.  The basic premise is that there are these monsters known only as The Gentlemen and they steal people’s voices so they can’t scream and then they do what every good monster would and cut out your heart.  As a result, a lot of the episode is done in complete silence.  It’s really a testimony to how much can be expressed without words.

But that’s not what this post is about.  I want to talk about The Gentlemen.  I don’t think I’ve seen a creepier monster on television or even in movies.  They are tall with mottled grey skin and emaciated, elongated faces.  Their mouths are frozen in a wide clownish grin with lips so wide apart their gums show.  They dress in black suits and ties with white button down shirts and pocket squares.  They float five inches off the ground with arms extended out from the elbow menacingly towards you with hands shaped into claws.  They are perfectly silent.  They will haunt your nightmares.

tumblr_m0ne2zFHJY1qh01r8o1_500

Yeagh!

Awards Shows Suck

Unless, of course, it’s being hosted by NPH:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BraXq07kkM&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

I got tired just watching Neil Patrick Harris belt out this epic opening number for the 2013 Tony Awards show.  That’s how you do an opening!

Even the closing number is pretty epic.  NPH includes a list of all the winners in his rap:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whlsf_hISP4&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

Game Of Thrones Schadenfreude

(Warning: Kind of Spoilery)

Yesterday was the Red Wedding episode on Game of Thrones.  It’s the episode that every person who has read the book has been looking forward to.  Well, at least it’s the episode that every person who has read the book has been looking forward to since Ned Stark got his head lopped off:

The Red Wedding is producing similar angst.  Check out twitter.  I love how everyone is saying that they’re going to quit watching the show. They’ll be back.  They always come back.

I remember reading the Red Wedding scene the first time and having a similar reaction.  Not that I wanted to quit reading after that but just the whole thing was really a punch in the gut.  It really is one of the best scenes in all of fantasy.  I knew it was coming in the show and it was still a punch in the gut.  Especially the multiple stabbing in the gut which was not in the book that I recall.

Oh, the callus evil of Roose Bolton.  I love how he actually teases Catelyn with what is about to come.  And Walder Frey.  It wasn’t really clear in the show, but the taking of food and salt upon entrance to a man’s home is sacred.  It means no harm will come of you as long as you are under their roof.  Your mortal enemy will not harm you if you partake of this ceremony at his gate.  Walder Frey betrayed that.  And he did it beautifully.

And the bloodshed has just begun…

The News Media Is Not Liberal

You hear it a lot.  The liberal news media.  The news media won’t cover story X because it’s liberal.  The liberal news media doesn’t want you to know about Y.  It’s all a bunch of poppycock.  Stories X and Y aren’t covered because they’re either non-stories or they’re boring stories.

The news media is only liberal in the sense that society is liberal and the news media is a reflection of society.  The news media doesn’t cover conservative stories because conservative stories are boring.  “Things are exactly the same as they we’re yesterday!  News at 11!”

That isn’t to say that the news media doesn’t have an agenda.  They do.  That agenda is money.  That agenda is ratings.  If a news organization thinks a story can generate either of those two things, they will cover the story.  If not, they won’t.  End of story.

Really, “news” should be taken out of the name and they should just be called ” the media” because much of what they do cover is not news and what they do cover is so unbalanced it’s not even funny.  They take a story and offer “both sides” of the story even when there is quite obviously only one side.  “Is the sky blue?  Opinions differ.  Let’s hear both sides.”

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to change the current state of things short of creating a state subsidized news system.  Of course, we already have that in NPR and PBS and they do a stellar job of reporting stories in as unbiased a way as possible.  “Unbiased”, by they way, does not mean reporting both sides.  It means reporting the truth.

NPR and PBS are horribly underfunded, unfortunately.  This is mostly due to the same people who scream “media bias” at every opportunity.  They really are the only two entities who do hard news anymore and that makes them dangerous to the corporate conglomerations that run, well, everything.  CNN, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, all spin their news to appease their corporate masters.    It is a sorry state of affairs.

For all its many, many flaws there is no liberal bias in the media.  Change is just much more interesting than nothing changing so it gets covered.  I will admit that reporting on things that have worked well for a long time would have social benefit but it’s very hard to sell as a news story.  These things won’t change so it’s up to us to seek out news.  This is a very tall order in the chaos that is our lives.  The result is a criminally uninformed society.