It’s no surprise that the average living room has four remote control devices managing media and entertainment. That clutter is a mess and it also makes watching TV complicated. Anything to simplify that process is worth my attention and Google has done that with a very easy-to-use product called Chromecast. It’s the best TV app in my house right now and will only get better over time as new applications get developed for it. It gets two thumbs up from me for a number of reasons including price, it only cost $35. Here are five reasons why I think Chromecast is worth every penny.
- Chromecast is small and unobtrusive. This little hardware device is the size of a thumbnail drive that plugs into the USB port on the computer. Instead, Chromecast plugs into the HDMI port on any smart TV. Unlike a bulky set-top box, it’s practically hidden from view. Set up is a bit challenging at first connecting to Wi-Fi and entering a passcode to activate the software, but it didn’t take me more than 15 minutes.
- You can use your TV as a big computer monitor. Using my Chrome web browser, “casting” allows me to share photos, videos or whatever I have visible on the screen viewable on my TV. It’s almost like magic and I can’t believe it’s taken this long for a company to develop an easy way to connect your computer and TV.
- Chromecast turns my phone and iPad into TV remote controls. This is my favorite way to use Chromecast because it’s built into video apps such as HBO Go, Netflix and YouTube. It’s my go-to TV remote these days because I can essentially perform on-demand TV viewing from my mobile devices and bypass the entire cable system interface, which is archaic and slow. TV remotes are on their way out and becoming extinct thanks to Chromecast.
- Instant viewing without having to change the source on my TV. When I press the “play” button in an app or click the “cast” icon in my browser, content is sent to and displayed instantly on my TV. The HDMI source is activated within seconds even if I’m in a different TV source – it switches over immediately for viewing.
- Vibrant HD wallpaper on my TV screen. The Chromecast desktop cycles through various images of gorgeous art and beautiful nature photography before and after playback. It’s a nice reminder that it’s “ready to cast.
If Chromecast continues to add new apps to more media channels and networks, I feel like cutting the (cable) cord would be much more possible for me. Until then, Chromecast definitely gives me better control of the TV interface and my viewing pleasure.
Photo courtesy of JanneM
Now that we’ve comfortably slid into the New Year, many of us are thinking about making changes and implementing new practices to improve the quality of our lives. No matter who you are or what you do, it’s a perfect time to learn new skills, meet new people and set new goals. What better way to do that than to add some new tools to the online toolbox. It’s amazing how much inspiration can be found online if you know where to look. Skip the self-help websites and go for tools that you can use all year long. Below are four of my favorites that I’ve found to be extremely effective, enlightening and even entertaining. So in the interest of better living, why not put these sites to work and make 2012 a year of increased knowledge, productivity and enjoyment.
Plancast – Want to increase your network and get active in your community? Just head on over to Plancast where you’ll find a list of events that are happening near you. The site is a fantastic resource for finding industry conferences, local gatherings and social activities that you may have missed otherwise. The site has an integrated layer of community as well so users can find events that their friends and colleagues are attending, which makes going to them much more enjoyable.
Quora – Billed as a Q&A website, Quora, has amassed a huge network of subject matter experts in a relatively short time. The site provides a simple platform for finding answers to complex business questions, technical issues and random inquiries where members rank the best entries. There’s also an option to follow questions so that you can receive notifications when new answers are added. The site recently increased the value quotient of the site with its new “boards” feature allowing users to compile content from elsewhere on the web.
Scribd – Whether you enjoy reading poetry, scientific findings or baking techniques, you’re bound to find what interests you at Scribd. Called the YouTube of printed materials, Scribd offers a vast array of online literature that never disappoints. Personally, I’m always finding content that either inspires me, educates me or both. If you’re a writer then you’ll definitely want to consider setting up an account to promote your work and share it with the community.
Udemy – Education is a lifelong process and with online learning tools like Udemy, it’s now just a click away. The site offers an assortment of courses ranging from the academic to the artistic; many are taught by leaders in their field. The majority of classes are free of charge while some are nominal in price. Experts can teach others by becoming instructors and creating their own courses. Udemy’s mission is to disrupt and democratize education, and frankly, I believe they’re off to a great start.