PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 4 - Google Chromecast

Subject: General Tech | December 17, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: holiday, google, chromecast, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

Getting media from your PC to your TV is still a feat that can often take complicated software and dedicated hardware. There are several methods for getting around this headache including things like the Amazon FireStick, Intel's Wireless Display technology and Miracast. But perhaps the most interesting, and one of the least expensive, is the Google Chromecast.

chromecast1.jpg

Chromecast is a small thumb-stick sized device that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV and then connects to your wireless network. From there you can connect to the Chromecast with your desktop, laptop or mobile device that uses Chrome as the browser. Essentially, anything that can you watch or read or stream in Chrome can be send wirelessly to your TV. In addition, for Android smartphone and tablet users, a growing number applications support streaming to the Chromecast directly including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio.

chromecast2.jpg

The only annoyance in setup is that the Chromecast requires a USB connection for power - but most TVs today have the necessary USB port so you don't have to use an AC adapter.

But damn, for only $29, this is a neat gadget worth giving a try!

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?

KickStarter: MatchStick Is Chromecast-like with Firefox OS

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 1, 2014 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: Kickstarter, Firefox OS, web, chromecast

When Google released the Chromecast, it was a surprisingly clean solution for streaming video (my apologies if solutions existed before it). Just plug it into HDMI and connect to it with a PC or a mobile device to use the TV as monitor for content, and it is cheap. I figured that the open source community would like one of their own, but I did not think it was going to be done. Now there is a Kickstarter up, with FirefoxOS.

matchstick-firefoxos.jpg

I constantly struggle with whether to discuss crowdfunding because, on the one hand, you never know if something will tank. On the other hand, is it really any less sketchy than pre-release information for computer hardware or video games (especially pre-release news for video games)?

In this case, I found out that it was promoted by Mozilla on their Hacks blog. It is based on a Rockchip 3066 SoC with 1GB RAM, 4GB of storage and 2.4 GHz Wireless-N. As stated earlier, it runs FirefoxOS which means that apps are websites. The SoC has a Mali-400 GPU that is capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, so it might even be able to support WebGL if the software and drivers are certified. Don't expect jaw-dropping 3D graphics, though. The GPU is rated at about 9 GFLOPs. For comparison, the Tegra K1 has a peak compute throughput of about 365 GFLOPs; alternatively, it is fairly close to later-model Intel GMA graphics (not Intel HD Graphics... GMA). Still, it might allow for some interesting 2D (or simplistic 3D) games.

Just a day-or-so in, it is already at over 150% funding.

Source: Kickstarter

Hack your Chromecast for extras and protection

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2014 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: chromecast, root, streaming, hulu, Netflix

Chromecast and some of its alternatives have been covered previously on PC Perspective, not just their capabilities but also ways to gain more control over your content stream. The market is quite saturated making it hard for a new user to pick which peice of hardware to pick up though thankfully many are inexpensive and you can actually afford to try more than one.  The news from Hack a Day this morning makes Chromecast a little more attractive, especially for those with a technical inclination and a love of rooting devices.  With a Teensy 2 or 2++ dev board, a USB OTG cable, a USB flash drive and just a few minutes you will be able to modify your DNS settings so you can watch geographically locked programming as well as load custom apps which might protect your ears from a certain type of torture.

chromecast.jpg

"Now the Chromecast has been rooted, allowing anyone to change the DNS settings (Netflix and Hulu users that want to watch content not available in their country rejoice), and loading custom apps for the Chromecast."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

$50 Roku Streaming Stick Is A Google Chromecast Alternative

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2014 - 02:13 AM |
Tagged: streaming stick, roku, Netflix, media streaming, chromecast

Roku has launched a new Streaming Stick for HD TVs with HDMI inputs. The small USB flash drive-sized device is powered by USB and plugs into the HDMI input of your television. From there, users can access the Roku app store to get thousands of streaming media channels including television, movies, sports, and music. For example, users can access media from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, VUDU, Pandora, and Spotify.

The Roku Streaming Stick can pass up to 1080p video and 7.1 channel digital audio to the TV. It can be controlled via a physical remote or an Android or iOS smartphone application. Roku is using RF for the hardware remote and Wi-Fi direct for the smartphone-to-Streaming Stick connection, which means that line of sight is not necessary (which is important since most TV HDMI ports are recessed on the back panel). Speaking of wireless, the Streaming Stick pulls its media from a Wi-Fi network connection, with support for dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n networks (2.4GHz or 5GHz).

Roku Streaming Stick HDMI Version.jpg

Using the smartphone application, users can browse for and queue content. In general, the Roku stick can go out and fetch media on its own without a smartphone or computer intermediary passing the content. However, it does support limited “casting” functionality similar to Google’s Chromecast. In this mode, users, can pass YouTube, Netflix, and personal (on device) media over to the TV from the smartphone. Roku has stated that casting support for other media streams and casting from a PC is coming in the future.

Roku’s new Chromecast competitor is available for pre-order now for $49.99 with availability expected in April. The price is on the high side, but it does offer access to all of Roku’s channels, a physical remote for basic playback and navigation controls, is able to stream media on its own, and is also able to do media push functionality similar to the Chromecast (but in a more limited fashion at the moment). More devices and competition in this space is a good thing though!

Will you be picking up a Roku Streaming Stick or holding out for something else?

Source: Roku

Hulu and HBO Go Streaming Apps May Be Coming To Google Chromecast

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2013 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: media streaming, hulu, hbo, google, chromecast

Google released its Chromecast streaming stick last month, and the device launched with support for YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix streaming. For the remaining content sources, users need to resort to "casting" an entire Chrome web browser tab from a smartphone, tablet, or computer connected to the same network over Wi-Fi. At launch, Google stated that additional apps are coming, including Pandora (and later Vimeo). Now, stories are appearing online reporting that Hulu Plus and HBO Go support may be coming to the $35 streaming device in the near future.

Variety reports that HBO is "actively exploring" the Google Chromecast as another method for subscribers to access content. As usual, users will need to be subscribers of traditional cable or satellite services along with paying a monthly subscription to HBO itself in order to access HBO Go on the Chromecast. For now, users are able to stream to their televisions by using the tab casting feature, but an app would be ideal. The company has not announced any specific timelines for an app release, however.

Additionally, Hulu has said that it is working on adding its own streaming app to the Chromecast for Plus subscribers. Specifically, Hulu representative Meredith Kendall was quoted by Variety in stating that "We are actively working with Google to bring Hulu Plus to the platform." Hulu seems to be more certain on delivering a Chromecast app for its users, so it is likely that Hulu Plus will come out before HBO Go, though free Hulu users will have to resort to casting the entire Chrome tab.

Have you received your Google Chromecast yet? Are you excited for new apps, or is the tab casting "good enough"?

Read more about Google's Chromecast media streaming dongle at PC Perspective.

Source: Slash Gear

Marvell ARMADA 1500 Mini SoC Powers Google's Chromecast Streaming Dongle

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2013 - 11:12 PM |
Tagged: Marvell 88DE3005, Marvell, chromecast, armada 1500 mini

Last month Google launched its $35 Chromecast streaming stick. Marvell Technology Group Ltd. recently revealed that the Chromecast dongle is powered by a Marvell Armada 1500-Mini 88DE3005 SoC.

The company has not released the full specifications on the SoC, but it is essentially a cut down version of the existing Armada 1500 which features two Marvell SMP cores clocked at 1.2GHz, a GC1000 GPU, Qdeo video decoding, audio engine, and security engine that supports DRM such as Widevine (used by Dish Anywhere and other video streaming sites) and Playready.

The Armada 1500-Mini SoC is a single core variant of that chip. It supports the same security engine and has supports having USB, Ethernet, HDMI 1.4a, and SATA connectors on devices it powers. The Armada 1500-Mini supports 1080p video and the audio post processing engine supports Dolby and DTS surround sound.

PRN8-MARVELL-ARMADA-1500-MINI-1yHigh.jpg

Marvell is releasing a streaming stick of its own using the new SoC in addition to making the chip itself available to other companies to use in their own devices.

For more information, check out the Marvell product page for the Armada 1500 Mini.

Source: Marvell

Gain root to your Chromecast dongle

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2013 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: streaming, media, google. chrome, chromecast, hack

The Chromecast streaming dongle you heard about just a few days ago has now been opened up thanks to a quickly discovered exploit.  As a bonus, the page on Hack a Day also shows off more of the internals of the device including 17 unused connection just begging for hacks to be created. The exploit allows you to dial in to a root shell which will exist on port 23 although as of now there is little you can do but examine the modified Google TV OS but this should change as creative people have a chance to play with the new device.

chromecast-hack.png

"Well that didn’t take long. The team over at GTVHacker have worked their magic on Chromecast. The HDMI dongle announced by Google last week was so popular they had to cancel their 3-free-months of Netflix perk. We think the thing is worth $35 without it, especially if we end up seeing some awesome hacks from the community."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Google Launches $35 Chromecast Media Streaming Stick

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 27, 2013 - 03:39 AM |
Tagged: streaming, media, google. chrome, chromecast, chrome os

Earlier this week, web search giant Google launched a new portable media streaming device called the Chromecast. The Chromecast is a small device about the size of a large USB flash drive that has a full size HDMI video output, micro USB power jack, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The device run’s Google’s Chrome OS and is able to display or playback any web page or media file that the Chrome web browser can.

Chromecast.jpg

The Chromecast is designed to plug into televisions and stream media from the internet. Eventually, users will be able to “cast” embedded media files or web pages from a smartphone, tablet, or PC running Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac OS X with a Chrome web browser over to the Chromecast. The sending device will point the Chromecast as the requisite URL where the streaming media or web page resides along with any necessary authorization tokens needed to access content behind a pay-wall or username/password login. From there, the Chromecast itself will reach out to the Internet over the Wi-Fi radio, retrieve the web page or media stream, and output it to the TV over HDMI. Playback controls will be accessible on the sending device, such as an Android smartphone, but it is the Chromecast itself that is streaming the media unlike solutions like wireless HDMI, AirPlay, DLNA, or Miracast. As such, the sending device is able to perform other tasks while the Chromecast handles the media streaming.

At launch, users will be able to use the Chromecast to stream Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play videos. At some point in the future, Google will be adding support for additional apps, including Pandora Internet radio streaming. Beyond that, (and this feature is still in development) users will be able to share entire Chrome tabs with the Chromecast (some reports are indicating that this tab sharing is done using the WebRTC standard). Users will need to download and install a Google Cast extension, which will put a button to the right of the URL button that, when pressed, will “cast” the tab to the Chromecast which will pull it up over its own internet connection and output it to the TV. When on a website that implements the SDK, users will have additional options for sharing just the video and using the PC as a remote along with handy playback and volume controls.

Alternatively, Google is releasing a Chromecast SDK that will allow developers to integrate their streaming media with the Chromecast. Instead of needing to share the entire tab, web developers or mobile app developers will be able to integrate casting functionality that will allow users to share solely the streaming media with the Chromecast similar to the upcoming ability to stream just the YouTube or Netflix video itself rather than the entire web page with the video embedded into it. Unfortunately, there is currently a caveat that states that developers must have all there apps (using the Chromecast SDK) approved by Google.

Chromecast Chrome Browser Tab Sharing.jpg

Sharing ("Casting") a Chrome web browser tab to a TV from a PC using the Chromecast.

It should be noted that Wired has reported success in using the tab sharing functionality to play back local media by electing Chrome to playback locally-stored video files, but this is not a perfect solution as Chrome has a limited number of formats it can playback in a window and audio sync proved tricky at times. With that said, the Chromecast is intended to be an Internet streaming device, and Google is marketing it as such, so it is difficult to fault the Chromecast for local streaming issues. There are better solutions for getting the most out of your LAN-accessible media, after all.

The Chromecast is $35 and will ship as soon as August 7, 2013 from the Google Play Store. Amazon and Best Buy had stock listed on their websites until yesterday when both e-tailers sold out (though you might be lucky enough to find a Chromecast at a brick and mortar Best Buy store). For $35, you get the Chromecast itself, a rigid HDMI extender that extends the Chromecast closer to the edge of the TV to make installation/removal easier, and a USB power cord. Google was initially also offering 3 free months of Netflix Instant streaming but has since backed away from the promo due to overwhelming demand (and if Google can continue to sell out of Chromecasts without spending money on Netflix for each unit, it is going to do that despite the PR hit (or at least disappointed buyers) to bolster the profit margin on the inexpensive gadget).

The Chromecast does have its flaws, and the launch was not perfect (many OS support and device features are still being worked on), but at $35 it is a simple impulse buy on a device that should only get better from here as the company further fleshes out the software. Even on the off-chance that Google abandons the Chromecast, it can still stream Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play for a pittance. 

Keep an eye on the Google blog for more information about the Chromecast. The device is currently listed on the Google Play store for pre-order.

Source: Google