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 :-)

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.

Please note that commas inside double quotes are preserved and not converted.

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


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 : – 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.

A Small iPhone to Android Survival Guide

Here are a few tools that I discovered to ease the transition from the iPhone world (iCloud, iTunes, Contacts, etc) to the Android world. These tools help you to approach the same level of comfort that you have with your iPhone (although it’s certainly not a complete experience).

So far I’ve installed the following :

  • iSyncr : lets you sync your iTunes content audio and video – needed to sync your music
  • Swiftkey : this keyboard has predictive input and allows you to swipe your words, which is way faster than pecking the words out – the iPhone really should have this type of input as well !
  • MX Player : plays all the videos I’ve thrown at it, has all the codecs
  • 1Password : it’s a weak “read-only” solution so you’re not able to add new content to it, but at least I still have all my passwords with me when I need them – free.
  • 1Weather : a good weather forecaster, but there are several ones around
  • Kindle : the ebook reader from Amazon

Here are a few links from similar iphone-to-android-switchers :

I love iFixit ! Highly recommended !

Last week the HD in my mother-in-law’s hand-me-down iMac went the way of the dodos and crashed, loosing all the information on it.

Did you know you can burn a copy of Ubuntu (I used 12.10) to a CD and it will load and boot on a mac, even with EFI firmware ? This helped me verify that the disk was indeed dead and non-salvagable (it was the /Users directory that was totally destroyed !).

The 24 inch screen is still great, the CPU (an 2,16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo) is a bit slow nowadays but still more than good enough for surfing and showing photos and playing music, so I figured why not replace the hard disk and save some money ?

I visited and checked if they had a repair guide for that particular iMac model and sure enough it was there. I bought the necessary hard drive and Torx screwdrivers, and I have just now succesfully replaced the failed 500 GB disk with a 2TB disk.

When I subsequently booted from the Snow Leopard disk, it couldn’t see the drive, but a quick trip to the disk utility made it show itself, and I was able to format it and continue the installation – everything is just fine, thanks to those iFixit people !

Note that iFixit is a free service, but you can help them out by buying repair tools or hard disks from them, or writing your own guide.

I figured I could help point some people in the right direction – they have an amazing amount of DIY repair manuals !

PS – for those who break the temperature sensor on the HD or the wires (I didn’t) : there’s a software solution for that !

AIR Badge plugins for WordPress take away all the hard work!

This is soooo cool.

Creating an AIR badge for an Adobe AIR application is a bit of a hassle, but the following 2 WordPress plugins really do take all the work out of it. Any post where you want to add an Air badge, you’re done in 3 minutes.

You’ll need either one of the following plugins:

– The Original plugin, made by Peter Elst, which is easy to use
– The Updated plugin with built-in click tracking (requires a bit more work)

I decided to use the original plugin, and you need to do just 3 things to use it.

  1. install the plugin (in your admin menu, just go to the plugin section and use the “search plugins” button to search for “air badge”
  2. upload your .air file to the server (if you want to use the wordpress “Add Media” uploader, you might also need to install an additional plugin called “PJW mime-config” and add .air to the list.
  3. create your badge by writing the following magic words between the words ‘airbadge’ : application name, full URL to .air file, application version, image.jpg

You’re done ! Admire your work (and that of the guy who made it possible, Peter Elst)!

Python Package Manager

Python Package Manager Logo
Python Package Manager Logo

The Python Package Manager is here, a visual tool for the python developer to find and install all the necessary packages.

It shows you what is already installed on your system, with the option to deinstall the packages, and by typing into the search box you can find additional packages and install them, all graphically. It’s supposed to be cross-platform, but the homepage of the developer only provides a windows download option.

I just hope this gets used and keeps being supported, as it is a lot handier than using the command line ! I do think you still need easy_install and wxpython/wxwidgets though…

AWStats Tool that creates custom IIS log format lines

I recently ran into a problem where I needed to read a few IIS logs to find out the number of visits during the day. The tool I wanted to use was AWStats, a  free log file analyzer tool that can create some handy reports.

If you need to read an IIS log file where the admin has set up a custom log method, this tool for AWStats is very handy: in the top of your IIS log file it states which are the variables it uses. By selecting these on the web page, you get a custom awstat log format line that you can just copy / paste into your awstat config lines.

Disk Usage on a Mac : Omni DiskSweeper is now free !

Remember my post about using some bash scripting to find out the sizes of those space-consuming movie directories ?
The Omni Group has decided to make a few apps free to use from now on – one of those is the OmniDiskSweeper application, which is quite a nice tool to use !

After selecting a disk to scan, it gives you a very clear overview of your directories and their respective sizes, and you can then drill down in them.

A handy delete button is provided as well…