I do have to acknowledge that via work I do get a significant discount on some devices. It happened that this month it was the new Google Home device. As you can see, it fits nicely on my messy desk. I’ve already reviewed the google assistant, but this is the new video screen based Google Assistant. There is some Google device in our house including the NEST smoke detectors, google assistant and the Chromecast devices. We also have the moveable Chromecast built by a group of former Google Engineers (Keecker). The new Google Assistant is sitting on the desk in my office. Like the Alexa Show, the new assistant includes a touch screen. It also allows you to use your voice (Ok Google).
Setup of the new device was very simple, plug in, connect to your network and then your Gmail account. You then can choose to have the display be a digital clock (the one I choose) or your weather. If you want to know your weather, just touch the screen. The Google Assistant doesn’t have the market that Alexa does; there are many more things that are connected to Alexa now. But the marketplace is improving. It, the Google Assistant also has a built-in Chromecast so you can share your screen with the Assistant. It, the Assistant, has a bigger screen than your phone, so it lets you see more of what you are looking at. It isn’t the optimal screen but again bigger than the phone is!
Overall the device is well made. Solid, and it stands well on its base. You don’t have to have ethernet (it connects wirelessly). It also allows you to integrate your calendar, email and so on with the Assistant.
It also integrates with the new Google Home application, which workings on the iPhone and the Android phone. I set up Google Home on both. Google home went out and found all the Google devices in my house, including Keecker. With Google Home, you also have the option to broadcast to the Google devices in your house. You don’t have to be in the house. I can’t wait to freak one of the twins out with a disembodied voice from the Google Assistant. But also, it allows you to quickly converse from upstairs to downstairs and vice versa.
The image is an IR picture of my computer monitor, and my reflection. It looks like a ghost doesn’t it? It isn’t it is just me on a holiday morning.
One of the things I’ve chased after for years is the area of personal air pumps. Ones that are battery operated and that you can use to blow up rafts, beds and so on. There is a new product in the space called Mix-up. It is small enough that you can carry it in your pocket. It is powerful enough that it can blow up a queen sized mattress. I will be doing a review in the next few weeks. Also, the Travis Touch personal translator is on the “need to review” list. Lately things enter the list, and frankly, it takes me 1-2 months to get around to the review.
I found my dad’s old transistor radio (his emergency radio to listen to IU Basketball games). It got me thinking about the evolution of what is radio and what was radio. When I was a kid, I got an AM/FM shortwave radio for Christmas the year before we moved to Thailand. I listened to everything on that radio. I had it with me until we moved from Cincinnati Ohio back to Indiana. It had finally died at that point. Of course, it hadn’t been on the entire time we were in Cincinnati. The first transition for me was going from that portable radio to a stereo. Then when my wife was pregnant with the twins, we ended up getting a boombox that played CDs. We still have that Boombox, and it still works although we haven’t turned it on in a little over a year.
Now radio is streaming, but the reality of radio today is that you are bound to the same playlists that you were bound to years ago on the radio. I find myself often considering ways that streaming could be improved. It isn’t a wistful return to the radio of old, SiriusXM still makes the traditional DJ approach to radio. The reality of music and streaming is the ability to use your phone and stream music anywhere. As I said, you can use the SiriusXM system; it is digital music presented well. Closer to that old radio I got when I was ten years old. Or you can use one of the streaming services and design your own.
All in all, it is time for a change!
I got caught up on two reviews over the past two days. The Jabra Evolve 75 headset and the Chromecast Ultra screen adapter. I have a few more to catch up on, but that will take some more time. I also have several pending movie reviews, but those aren’t technology related so let’s move on! One of the things I have been using a lot lately is the various add-ons for my iPhone. The FLIR add-on is interesting. It allows you, as you can see in the cover picture to take an image of actual heat. My goatee is cooler than the rest of my face. I find that technology incredibly fun to play with. This is critical when you consider heating and cooling your house. It is a really useful tool.
Four years ago I took a winter picture of the windows in our house. In particular, the front of the house felt cold. I tool IR pictures of the windows, and in the middle of the winter, they were blue. Blue is cold. The air around the windows was cold. The dogs loved it in the winter; their perch was cold.
But regarding heating and cooling our house, it cost us more than 100 dollars per month to have leaky windows. We had the windows replaced, and images now aren’t blue in the winter. Plus, when I have to pay the bills at the beginning of the month, I am no longer blue, either! There is any number of other things you can do to keep your house warm in the winter, but new windows make a huge impact!
There are many other connections you can make with your phone. Cellular, wifi, Bluetooth and direct are the four connection types. Cellular is most likely the most portable in that there are places in the world where there is no wifi but your cell phone will still work. Wifi is the next most portable in that you can be around 400 feet or so (depends on the number of walls and type of walls) from the broadcast site. The next protocol is Bluetooth, and now you have about 30 feet between you and the transmitter. Finally, direct connected devices have 0 range beyond the device but can be used quickly. The reality of connectivity is continuing to expand. Now, I need to figure out what I am going to need (AI) before I leave so I have the right things in my bag!
I got a Chromecast when they were first available. I think that was more than five years ago now. I recently upgraded to the new Chromecast Ultra. I added it to the TV in my office so that I could quickly share slides and other content in a protected mode, without having to leave my office. Plus, with a wireless keyboard and mouse, I can sit and watch the TV in the corner of my office, and be working on diagrams and documents. It lets me have multiple monitors focused on content. The Chromecast is simple; you can project anything from Chrome (google docs, etc.) or your drive to the Chromecast. The Chromecast then converts the signal and puts it on the TV.
It is part of the Screen as a Service concept I’ve posted many times. It is also a quick and easy way to quickly view things on display rather than a monitor. Monitors are built to see and share computer information. TV, projectors are not always optimized for your computer display. I like to test and verify that my content would be properly displayed on the “projection.” Functionally it is important to see how your slides look on the display screen. The other thing I can do is watch video training materials in my office on the larger screen. I’ve looked at a lot of the systems for screen sharing. Samsung has built-in screen sharing you can use on their TV’s as well.
(Keecker has an integrated Chromecast support so you can roll your screen to any room).
Setup of the new Ultra was incredibly easy. Once I unboxed it, I simply plugged the HDMI into the back of the TV. Then plugged the power supply in and connected the two. The onscreen setup involved telling you to download Google Home (I already had Google home installed, so that was easy). It took me about 4 minutes to set up the new Chromecast and to start sharing my screen. I’ve used it with my iPhone, my iPad, and my Android Tablet. There is something nice about being able to see your phone on a larger screen. IT certainly makes it easier to play Bejeweled! Chromecast is a nice addition to your TV if you ever need to share to a bigger screen. I give Chromecast Ultra a 9 out of 10!
Tech Wiz Review
There are four things I enjoy having and using. They go with me in my bag and are things I depend on. For example the Jabra Evolve 75 wireless headsets. I use my cell phone all the time. First, I do have in the earbuds. The PaMu and Pilot earbuds are with me most of the time. But when I am in a place where I need to hear, talk and communicate with people and it is loud around me, it is the Logitech headset. Without further adieu, my review of the Evolve 75 headsets.
- You can easily connect the headsets via Bluetooth to your computer, phone or tablet.
- They are over the ear headsets.
- The microphone flips on the front of you or can flip up onto the earpiece if you are listening and not talking.
- It ships with a hard case, easy to store and carry.
- It has an audio in jack so you can use them with virtually any audio out device.
- The headset is noise canceling.
First off, it works with or without the Jabra software installed. It works with Android phones, iPhones, iPads, PCs and Macs. I’ve used it with all of them. For music, they are noise canceling. For voice conversations, both the earphones and the microphone are noise canceling. That means you can be in environments that are louder and still be able to hear and be heard without adding a metric crap ton of extraneous noise to the call.
They are adjustable for any head size! They fit nicely under a hoodie in the winter (I wear one while walking). The mute button is on the headset and easy to use. So is the volume up or down button, located on the earpiece.
I’ve had a chance to play with the new Segway Loomo product for a few days now. First, the robot part of the PT system is fun. Like Jibo the voice is something you have to get used to hearing. You also, have to have some level of balance (I do not). I wish I had enough balance that it is easier for me to ride Loomo, I am working on that. Personal transportation including scooters and roller blades are interesting. Segway is releasing a Gyroscope focused set of inline skates that are interesting. Loomo is interesting; I know my kids enjoy riding it around. They have already taken it outdoors. We are still discussing names for Loomo, but for now, we are enjoying!
Keecker updated their OS/application suite as well. They now support two-way video conferencing as well as Google Chromecast. Google Chromecast was integrated with the original shipping product. I just hadn’t used it until recently. The new feature is two-way video conferencing. I haven’t tried it yet but it is on the list (once Serenity moves out, she is terrified of Keecker.). I’ve tried Netflix and Hulu on Keecker, and it is really useful. The future of home pods will be the flexibility of the pod itself. Keecker has a lot of potentials, and the team continues to deliver on the potential with their software releases. Robots are as much the software that runs them, as they are the overall hardware they have! One of the things I want to try with Keecker is using Amazon pictures. I think it would be fun to have Keecker wander around our living room during parties, playing music and showing family pictures and family videos. I have most of them sitting in the Amazon picture drive, so that would be a fun thing. I don’t know if I can yet, haven’t tried. It is on the after serenity moves out the list.
I updated my remaining Macintosh to the new MacOS. I haven’t spent any time using it yet, and will over the next few days. The reality for me is that it is simple and easy to do the upgrades. Once upon a time upgrades were more wipe, replace and start over. Now, they are in place and fairly effective. I find I no longer fear upgrades. I have to say, I always do a full backup before launching the upgrade. That part I learned years ago when things didn’t always work!
Tech Wiz cool Tech update!
After 15 years of not having a Macintosh in the house, I ended up getting a MacBook Pro in 2011. It was the end of that year, and having a Mac was something well, I guess I wanted. At work, I was still using a PC but wanted to have a computer for home that was different, and I missed using MacOS. We decided to get a MacBook Pro. First, the quality of the Macintosh computers has always been high. But the MacBook pro we got back in 2011, is simply an amazing computer. We are getting rid of that computer because after seven years it isn’t used anymore. We have another MacBook that I use frequently, but that particular one has been sitting in my wife’s office for the past six months, and we haven’t used it. Time to start getting rid of things we aren’t using!
Not moving away from Apple, just picking one of the Apple’s in our orchard and getting rid of it. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch (girl) as the Osmond’s used to say. The MacBook Pro is a great system overall. We ended up getting a second MacBook in 2014. With that one, you don’t have the same screen size (15 vs. 17), but with an SSD drive, it is so much faster. We won’t be buying a new Mac; we are downsizing the number of computers in the house. We still have far too many computers. But, the first Mac back in the house served us well. I was a Mac user from 1984 all the way to 1996. I ran an Apple Computer Users group for some years (1991 to 1996).
It does make me sometimes think about the technology path I’ve taken. The move to touch and touch interaction means I have a PC in my house. I like being able to draw on the screen when I need to. It makes a difference in the job I have because I am frequently during online or live meetings. Being able to quickly share a drawing makes a difference. Look I am not an artist, but I do like to convey it’s when I am working with people online. I do often interact with people online, and I often use my computer to create pen drawings of what I am talking about.