Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chromecast versus Apple TV

I've been a long time Apple  user.  I do own the iPhone, the iPad and of course, the Apple TV 2.  My girlfriend bought the Apple TV 3 a while ago before we started living together.  In our home, we have mostly Apple products and a few PC with Ubuntu installed.

Even if I do prefer Apple products, I do also have an Android Tablet for development purpose, the Asus Memo FHD 10.  It's a neat device that I like to thinker with.

As I wanted to be able to stream movies on our TV's bedroom, this was a great opportunity to get a new toy: the Google's Chromecast.  One Apple TV is hooked in the living room and the other one is the kid's bedroom.  As my main usage for another streaming device was only to watch a few movies one in a while, the Chromecast was a good choice, considering the low price of 40$.

How does it compare with the Apple TV?  It does the job at streaming movies on the TV and that's about it.

I wasn't expecting much more than that for this price.  The Apple TV is around 100$ and the Roku 3 is selling at 120$ (Canadian).

So how does the Chromecast compare with the Apple TV?

Pros:

  1. It's small, really small
  2. It's can be hooked directly in the USB TV port, thus no need for an external power outlet
  3. It's easy to use
  4. Image quality is good, at least on my bedroom TV
Cons:

  1. There is no remote.  You need your phone/tablet to interact with it
  2. There are not apps.  The device is driven by the apps on your phone/tablet
  3. Not all apps are supporting Chromecast
  4. You cannot play your favorite games like on iOS/AppleTV.  
  5. You need specific apps to stream photos/videos on your TV
  6. Initial setup can take more than 5 minutes... 

Overall, the Chromecast is a great little device.  Having to search for compatible apps is a bit annoying.  Major apps do support it like Youtube, Netflix or Google Movie.  But if you want to show a photo from your Facebook profile on the TV set or mirror a game on the big screen, you'll be facing some issues.

The thing is that iOS/AppleTV are meant to work together.  The support for Airplay and AirPlay Mirroring is native in iOS, making the streaming process so easy, you take it for granted.

On Android, it's not as easy.  It kind of me reming the first days of the Apple TV.  It took a few trials and errors to find the proper app to stream movies from my NAS to the Chromecast.  Sometimes, movies in MP4 format will not work with the Chromecast even if they are compatible with the Apple TV.

If you are on a limited budget, the Chromecast is great.  But if you can manage for a more expensive device, you should get the Apple TV or the Roku 3 as you will get more for your money.

You get what you pay for: 40$, a remote display...

Friday, July 17, 2015

iOS 9 Public beta glitches

I've been testing iOS 9 public beta for the last few days on my iPhone an iPad.  Overall, the latest and greatest from Apple is doing great but some glitches are showing up from time to time.

YouTube 
In the YouTube app, when an ad is displayed, the countdown is showing "ad.skip_in_seconds" instead of the actual time for skipping the ad.

Blogger/Keyboard
Switching keyboard language leads to a strange resided keyboard in the Blogger app.

Mail
In the Mail app, the top of an email is not showing up occasionally.  

Others
Other glitches that cannot be shown visually are:
- keyboard is a bit slow and unresponsive when writing a long text (like this post)
- opening apps is a bit slower 
- wallpaper orientation does not follow the device orientation once in a while
- keyboard sound feedback is dropping randomly

Most issues are happening on the iPad 4th generation.  If you plan to upgrade to iOS 9 public beta on your iPad 4, you wait a bit for next release.  It's not that bad, but annoying nevertheless.

The iPhone 6 is working like charm for now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Should you install iOS 9 public beta?

This week, Apple made is next iOS version available to the general public.  iOS 9 beta can be installed on your iDevice easily by regetering your device at https://beta.apple.com.




Is it worth it?  Remember, this is a beta version and may contain some major issue affecting your daily usage.  I've upgrade my iPhone and my iPad yesterday and I must say, I like it... For now.

There are a few quirks like as I am writing this post, the keyboard is not resizing properly for some odd reason.  Nothing dramatic but a bit annoying.  Other issues I've found is the top of some webpages is not visible from time to time.  Restarting Safari seems to fix the issue.


On my iPad 4, iOS 9 is a bit slower than iOS 8.4.  Animations when switching apps is a bit sluggish and do not feel as snappy as it was.  I've red ducked the animations to avoid the issue.  Probably this will be fixed in a future version so I am not worried.

On my iPhone 6, all is working as expected.  I haven't found any issues for now.

Beside having the latest and greatest features on my devices, there are a few notable features that I do really enjoy.  Mainly, the new keyboard and the new Control Center.

They keyboard has been updated with a few minor feature for copying and pasting or selecting text by using two fingers.  The best new feature is a simple thing:  uppercase and lowercase mode are now showing on the keyboard, making it a lot easier to figure if I will write in uppercase or lowercase.  This was a minor annoyance but it was about time.  I also find that the keyboard is a bit more responsive than before.  It maybe an illusion or just me having visions but as I'm writing this post, I do feel like keys are more responsive than the keyboard in iOS 8.4.

The News app is still not available but the new Notes app is another great improvement over the previous one.  You can now add formatting and doodles into your notes, making them more useful than before without relying on a third party apps.  Again, it was about time...


Since my iPad is a bit old, I cannot test the multitasking features but I hope that Apple would at least provided the picture-in-picture feature as I do enjoy watching a movie while browsing the web at the same time.  Crossing my fingers...

iOS beta 9 is not for everybody.  It's a risk to take.  In my case, I am pleased for now.  I keep my files and important stuff on my NAS so it's not an issue if I have to reset everything.  If you are relying heavily on your iDevice in your daily usage, you should wait for the final version instead.  It's fun to discover the new features but not at the cost of preventing your normal usage.

If you have the urge of testing iOS 9 public beta, make sure to backup everything using iTunes on a computer before upgrading.  The whole process will take about 45 minutes, depending on your bandwidth and device generation.

I'll continue testing out iOS 9 and post as I make discoveries.