Archives For joel

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward jumps back into his role as a Features contributor here at Zatz Not Funny. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joelsef Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

I recently picked up a new Sony TV with Android TV for our living room. This television replaced a Sony LCD HDTV from the late 2000s. That set hails from an era when the majority of TVs were dumb — no built-in apps that today’s smart TVs feature. But I increased its intelligence by first adding a Windows Media Center PC back in 2009, then experimenting with Google TV, Boxee, Chromecast, and ultimately settling on Roku 3 as our over-the-top streamer.

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We arrive in 2016 and it’s nearly impossible to find a decent television over 30″ without some sort of “smart” designation and apps aplenty. That’s why I decided to go with a Sony this time around. The last time we refreshed a TV (for a different room, back in 2013) we went with a Samsung and its Samsung Smart Hub. In the three years we’ve had that TV, Samsung has pared down the 2013 TV’s UI to the very basics and removed many of the original features. It still has apps, including Netflix and HBO, but it’s nothing like what Roku offers.

Our new Sony X800D series runs Android TV and Sony has Android TV across most of its television line now. Besides the Nvidia Shield and now defunct Google Nexus Player, Sony is the biggest player in Android TV at the moment, although Sharp and Philips have options as well.

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Philips just released firmware for the Philips Hue bridge that may permanently sever access to any “non-approved” ZigBee bulbs. We previously covered third party support in January 2015, when Philips indicated it was not blocked – and have since benefited.

hue-zigbee-faq

The recent change seems to suggest any non-Philips bulbs from manufacturers such as Cree, GE, and Osram will not be supported in many situations, whereas “Friends of Hue” branded product are. At the time of publication, it’s unclear whether 3rd party bulbs will stop working immediately after the firmware update or if they may only become inaccessible after the bridge is reset. We’re also not sure if being “reset” means rebooted or factory reset. This appears to apply to both the round v1 bridge and square v2 HomeKit-compatible bridge after the latest firmware update is applied. Continue Reading…

When Google recently held their big event, I was surprisingly interested in the new Chromecast Audio dongle announcement. I’d lost interest in the original Chromecast over the past year, instead meeting my streaming needs via the Roku platform, with a little Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV thrown in for good measure. That first generation Chromecast had sat unused for a few months.

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I jumped onto Google Play the day they announced the $35 Chromecast Audio and ordered myself one to try out. It came two days later and the family has been enjoying it for the past week.

The full potential remains to be seen because multi-room streaming—similar to what a Sonos system can do—is promised “in a few months.” However, I wanted to try it out as an alternative to Bluetooth speakers and our 2008-era Sony S-Air wireless speaker system.

Summary: I like it. Continue Reading…

Philips Keeps Hue Going

Joel Ward —  September 29, 2015

I have been a fan of the Philips Hue wireless bulb system for a while now, including how to extend it using other brands of ZigBee bulbs and home automation hubs. So much so that I even did a presentation at my company’s Ideas Festival about how devices like Hue have enabled my son to break out of his shell and interact with his environment.

Philips Hue Go and Hue Disco

Over the summer, the Philips Hue Go portable lamp was added to the Hue lineup. I have to be honest: I didn’t even notice it at first. Which is odd because I love this stuff. A few weeks ago I had some Amazon gift card money burning a hole in my pocket so I was browsing for something interesting to buy when I came across the Hue Go lamp. It seemed totally frivolous so I had to order one! Continue Reading…

UPDATE: Philips may have just killed 3rd party bulb support. Details can be found here. (12/11/15)

A few months back, I got into the home automation game thanks to encouragement from Dave and Adam. I’ve experimented with a few different platforms thus far, and particularly like Philips Hue alongside Staples Connect.They work well together.

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Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward continues his role as a Features contributor here at Zatz Not Funny. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

In our crowd, just a few years back watching OTA and cable on your computer was all the rage. Platforms like Windows Media Center, SageTV, and SnapStream BeyondTV allowed you to attach a tuner to your PC, watch and pause live TV and record shows. I was all about Windows Media Center, and with the advent of Windows 7 it was available in every edition of the OS (well, except Home Basic). Instead of needing to buy a “Digital Cable Ready PC” like with Windows Vista, Windows 7 allowed WMC to view encrypted cable via a CableCard with the right tuner attached to any PC. Who needed a cable box anymore?

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Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward continues his role as a Features contributor here at Zatz Not Funny. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

A few months back, we finally replaced our 2007-era Sony SXRD rear projection 1080p HDTV with a newer Samsung LCD/LED model. Not only do we find Sammy’s picture quality light years ahead of the Sony–even though it’s still “only” 1080p and not 4K—the new set shipped with all the bells and whistles of a modern “Smart TV.” In fact, it’s hard to find a large, high quality television nowadays that doesn’t have some sort of apps built-in. So whether you want them or not, you’re probably getting something.

Samsung’s Smart TV Hub is impressive, featuring one of the nicer TV UIs out there right now. While the LG WebOS TV unveiled at CES may be a contender, I’d say Samsung is probably the most sophisticated TV UI at the moment. It definitely has a lot of features and the Smart Hub is divvied up into five main screens: On TV (aka TV guide); Apps; Social; Photos, Video & Music (aka DLNA); and Movies & TV Shows.

SmartHub-Photo1-OnTV

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Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward continues his role as a ZNF contributor. Beyond Zatz Not Funny, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

When the Google Chromecast came out over the summer, one of the first things many of us wanted to use it for was phone, laptop, and tablet screen mirroring. Basically, something like Miracast (or WiDi). Alas, I was under the impression that Google’s initial implementation only allowed for mirroring of tabs in the Google Chrome browser…on a computer, not a tablet or phone. Of course there’s the baked in support for Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora and a handful of other apps beyond the Chrome tab mirroring, but I wasn’t aware of official full screen sharing.

chromecast-screensharing

As it turns out, Google includes an experimental feature that allows full screen mirroring — only on desktop operating systems, via a Chrome browser plugin, and currently without audio. We can assume this experimental feature will eventually become an official feature, and hopefully include full audio, better performance, and Android support.

We have been playing with the Chromecast ($35) screen mirroring and comparing it to Miracast, and it seems to work in a very similar way, though with some differences. Continue Reading…