Google ChromeCast : nice but limited (in Belgium, for now)


Last month I was passing through France and had the opportunity to buy a Google Chrome Cast doohicky for 35 euros; since then you can now also buy it in Belgium.

For those not in the know : the Chromecast dongle allows you to ‘cast’ things from your smartphone to your tv. So for example you can show Youtube clips or the latest snaps of your kids on your tv.

Setup is a breeze, really the easiest setup ever for such a complicated interaction of software and hardware – just install the hardware on your tv and install the chromecast app on your smartphone, the app gets you up and running in minutes.

Behind the scenes it must be quite complex: the app disconnects your smartphone from your wireless network, searches for the Chromecast dongle which is on it’s own default network, and asks your wifi password so it can pass it on to the Chromecast, updates it with the latest firmware, reconnects to your network, and it’s working ! I was fairly impressed with the ease of setup.

Once the setup is done, you can start ‘casting’ pictures, home-videos, etc from your smartphone to the chromecast. Each app that can do that has a chromecast icon somewhere that you can tap, and then select your chromecast dongle.

The data you are casting is actually not directly sent to the chromecast, but first goes up to the internet, and then back down to your dongle.

  • Disadvantage : your casted picture/video travels out of your local network, to make a detour on the internet – more distance makes it slower
  • Advantage : Google Movies / Netflix movies / Youtube clips stream at a decent resolution for your smartTV, and probably come ‘directly’ from the Google/Netflix/Youtube servers instead of traveling via your app.

I played around with it for few days, and here is my feedback :

  • It makes any tv with a spare HDMI and spare USB port a ‘Smart TV’ so you can upgrade your TV for a low low price of 35 euros
  • It plays well with your smartphone and any apps that can cast data (I use Android, YMMV on an iPhone)
  • In our world where our mobile phone is becoming more and more a centerpiece of our live, this integrates very nicely
  • If you could just use it for casting your own pics and (silly YouTube) videos, then the price of 35 euros is just right to make your tv smart, but it will be sitting mostly unused behind your tv: unfortunately out-of-view is out-of-mind
  • However, when you can use it to control your NetFlix account (or other similar streaming service)and order movies from your mobile to stream to your TV, *then* it becomes much more interesting !
  • Netflix has announced that it is coming to Belgium sometime this year. Meanwhile Google has quietly opened Google ‘Play’ Movies in Belgium as well… in the same week as they announced that their Google Chromecast is available in Belgium as well…

    Hmmmm… smells like a strategy to me :-)

TP-Link TL-WPA4220Kit

TP-Link, D-Link, Devolo with HomePlug AV are all compatible

I just bought a new TP-Link starter kit to replace my last Devolo device (since I’m not a fan of Devolo anymore). Cheap when compared to other devices, especially as it has 2 ETHernet ports, which is what I was looking for.

The title on the box of the TP-Link starter kit, however, is a bit misleading : 300Mbps AV500 Wifi Powerline Extender Starter Kit.

My eyes just skimmed over the first words (300Mbps) and I immediately went looking for another device than this, because I was searching for a *500* Mbps AV device. Not a 300 Mbps.

I took me a few times to actually completely read the description on the device (after looking at more expensive devices). Turns out that it is actually a 500Mbps AV device, and the 300Mbps is for the WIFI part of it !!

TP-Link, you might want to change that… Customers might think like me that this is a 300Mbps device and go for another device.

The devices itself are small. The plastic does not feel perhaps as sturdily made as Devolo or D-Link, both of them seem like big blocks compared to the TP-Link device. However, that is not what you buy it for… So far, the TP-link devices certainly work, with almost zero setup.

Using WPS on the router I activated the Wifi-Cloning at the TP-Link device, a few blinks, done, and then it automatically repeated my wifi. Where the wi-fi reception in the kitchen was guaranteed to be close to non-existant, due to the router being behind multiple walls with different angles all the way at the other side of the house, suddenly reception of my network is now between 3 and 4 bars ! ETHernet ports work as well, as I can stream video from my NAS to my tv.

I can also confirm that TP-Link, D-Link and Devolo all happily talk to each other – as long as it states on the box that they are AV Homeplug compatible they should work fine together !

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Importing a comma-separated csv file into Numbers Tool

I created this to scratch an itch of mine when reading a csv file into Numbers that contained commas. It turned out that Numbers puts each line into a single cell. It ignores the commas. And there’s no way to specify that the delimiter needs to be a comma, not a semi-colon.

Here’s a small tool made using a small python script and Platypus that will launch as a ‘droplet’ and will allow you to drop a csv file on it that has COMMA (meaning this , ) separated values.

It will accept any csv file and convert from commas (,) to semi-colons (;) and save the result out again as “filename2.csv” – Numbers should be able to open it correctly then. Your original csv file is only read.

It works on my smallish csv files, but please note :

! WARNING ! THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES THAT THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU – YMMV ! WARNING !

Please note there is NO feedback if something goes wrong.

It works on my 2 macs (using OS X Mavericks), so I figured I would throw it out in the wild for those people who also might need it.

You can download the (non-signed) app here : Com2DotCom.app – you’ll need to open it using RIGHT-CLICKING on the App the first time.

Feedback, comments, bug reports, etc are very welcome. If possible, I’ll try to respond and help you out.

Apple iWork updates : Numbers becomes slightly more useful

Some new iWork updates this morning on my Mac Mini : KeyNotes, Pages and Numbers can now save password protected documents, can now display charts based on time series, more compatibility with MS Office Documents.

iOs Keynote Apps have received similar updates.

You can now do some things with Numbers that Office Excel already can since ages : sort on multiple columns, chart on time series… Progress!

All in all a good update, but frankly, this is late in coming, and the updates should continue coming to get even more functionality in there. I understand that this is a from-the-ground-up-rewrite, but these functionalities are what people expect from the start, not delivered 6 months or more waiting for it.

Now if only with the new version I could figure out how to updating an existing chart line with a new entry that is in the same column as 4 other chart lines…

I have one column of numbers that has a monthly entry for each measurement. Multiple years in one column. I want to graph each year in this column separately. This works, but when I add a new monthly measurement at the end of the column and try to update the appropriate graph line, this results in a mess of graph lines.

So far, I haven’t found it, except redoing the whole thing from scratch. Somehow I expected a more intuitive process on doing this, but perhaps my intuition is failing me on this, or I have been brainwashed too much by Excel :-)

Also, what is really bothering me is importing a csv file that has “,” separated values instead of “;” separated values. This results in the whole line being imported into the first cell, as Numbers expects “;” for csv. Nothing else.

I can’t even *FIND* the “import” command, you can only OPEN a CSV file in the regular way, and there are no options possible to indicate HOW you want to open the file / import it. Very disappointing.

Apple, please keep the updates coming, and make Numbers something worthwhile to use. Meanwhile, I have to write little scripts to do my work for me.

Just updated to WordPress 3.8

I just updated to WordPress 3.8 – phew !! Sure are a handful of changes. Not too sure about the newest template, I’ll leave it activated for now, but it’s not how I want my site to look…

For example I have put all my widget elements in the right side container, so my blog posts can have a bit more space. Apparently this is not possible by default, as the text just stays centered in the middle instead of taking up all the space as intended. The theme as-is also seems not to be fully responsive, as it does not expand past a certain size… hmmm. Needs some investigation.

A collection of interests and happenings…