Sunday, 6 March 2016

Roadtrip Music with the new Chromecast Audio

As someone with a bit of an outdated built in stereo in my car, I lament slightly about the lack of ability to stream music from my phone. Don't get me wrong, I have a perfectly good aux cable, but to wirelessly stream music without the need to clumsy cables... Ahh, that's the dream right there...

Which is why I was so disappointed when the FAQ for the new Chromecast Audio says it won't work in your car.

Insert sad face emoticon here... Or so I thought....

But I can tell you, where there is a will, there most definitely is a way, and here is what you will need.

1) A Chromecast Audio
2) Your daily driver phone with the ability to create a wifi hotspot
3) A third device to set up the Chromecast (phone, tablet or laptop)
4) A car with a USB port and 3.5mm aux jack.

Got all that? Awesome, let's continue...

Firstly you will need to set up the WIFI hotspot on your phone and turn it on.

Then connect your second device to the hotspot on your phone.

Follow the setup instructions for the Chromecast Audio, but connect it to the hotspot provided by your phone.

Test by playing audio from the second device. Did it work? Great! Now let's move this party out to the car.

Hook up the Chromecast to the USB port and Aux jack in your car (and power up the stereo in your car)

Turn on the WIFI hotspot on your phone, and open your favorite Chromecast compatible music app, tap the cast icon and away you go!

Now it is worth mentioning that as your phone is only connected to WIFI by proxy, the official Chromecast App will not recognise the device as you are creating as opposed to connected to a network.

Now, if you are like me you are thinking, Yeah nice one, but it is still easier just to plug my phone straight in to the Aux cable. and you could be right, but combine that with a Tasker event, or, as I have, you could use NFC tags to enable your WIFI hotspot, and the whole process becomes a hundred time easier

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: Motorola Power Pack Micro - The Mobile Accessory You Never Knew You Needed...

If you are a normal human being, then you have probably lost your keys, or your mobile phone somewhere in your home, and it is always in the last place you look (convenient isn't it?). And we have all, I am sure, had the problem of being out and about for an extended period of time only to have your phone go flat just when you need it. Well I am here to tell you, that you don't need to be made late by missing car keys or inconvenienced by a flat battery on your smart phone any longer!

Enter the Motorola Power Pack Micro. A 1500mAh rechargeable battery so compact and light it is at home right on your key chain. It connects to you mobile via Bluetooth so that in the event of your keys disappearing you can make it sound off so know exactly which couch cushion you need to dig under. If you happen to loose your keys while out and about, and you have location services enabled, it will even show the last connected location on a map. Which I found really handy the other day when I managed to leave my keys at a family members house. But that is not all, if your phone is the item that has gone missing, a double tap of the button on the side and your phone lights up and rings.

It does all this though the Motorola Connect companion app, which details the last known location and battery level of the power pack, you can also toggle options regarding the ability to find the phone as mentioned above and battery level notifications so you know when you finally might have to charge it up again. It also works with other Motorola accessories like the Moto 360, Keylink (helps find your keys and phone much like the Power Pack, just minus the battery) and more. You will get the best out of this handy little device with an Android phone, but it can charge any device with a Micro USB power connection, tablets, cameras etc.

Now, I know what your thinking, 'Great, now I have to plug my keys in to charge at night.' Sorry to burst your bubble there, but I have had this one for over two weeks, and since the initial charge when it first arrived, up until I used it this morning, it was still at 100% capacity. So even at this point I have no idea how long it would last between charges. What I do know, is that with 1500mAh capacity, it is able to charge most current smart phones back up to around 40 - 50%, which is well and truly enough to keep you out of trouble on those late nights on the town.

If I have got your interest you might be wondering where you can pick one up... Well they are not easily available in Australia, I picked mine up from MobileZap for $53.49 plus shipping, which, considering it was shipped from the UK was incredibly quick, I ordered on a Friday and had it on the following Tuesday.

So if you are a literal smart phone power user, and looking for a way to keep track of your keys, and keep your phone charged while your at it. I can definitely recommend the Motorola Power Pack Micro.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Review: Spending some time with Android Wear and the LG G Watch R

A while ago I posted on my ever increasing use of the phrase 'OK Google'. Well six months ago for Christmas I was gifted a new toy which has increased that usage even further, an Android Wear smartwatch, namely the LG G Watch R. I am not going to go into the specs, as there are enough blogs that cover that area, however you can view them here.
Custom Face on LG G Watch R
A custom watch face I designed for Android Wear on my LG G watch R
The fact of the matter is, that I have enjoyed using this watch so much over the past months that it I no longer consider it a novelty item. I actively and instinctively use it in my day to day life, and not just to tell the time or read and reply to SMS messages and emails or screen calls.

I should probably mention this is not my first foray into wrist based technology, I am also the proud owner of a first generation Tissot T-Touch, and have been an avid admirer of watches for years. I am extremely thankful that instead of mobile phone technology replacing the humble wristwatch, they have embraced and combined them, this is what drew me to the G Watch R in the first place, a smartwatch that looks like a traditional timepiece. Something they have continued with the G Watch Urbane.

So, why do I love this watch so much? Do I really need to be tethered to my phone constantly? Or if you are a clearer thinker, does my phone always have to be tethered to me? The answer is no, I don't really get that many phone calls, messages or emails throughout the day. So it is not necessarily about getting the notifications without having to reach for my phone, although it is handy when they occur. It is about the way everything works together. Even if I did not have a smartwatch, I would still be wearing some kind of wristwatch. So why not a watch that can tell me more than just the time and date? That is the truth of it, my LG G Watch R is mainly used, at least in my case, in conjunction with Google Now. Let me expand on that a little, I put almost all of my appointments and reminders into Google Calendar, So I get the Google Now Time to Leave reminders on my wrist, as well as my phone. This is a big thing for me, as all my friends and family know, I am, or at least was constantly late, but now I get a reminder 10mins before I have to leave for an event, and my tardiness has reduced drastically. Or say my lovely wife has put me in charge of doing the washing, I can flick my wrist and say "Ok Google, remind me to hang the washing in 45 minutes" and boom, I am at the washing machine right as the timer finishes 45 minutes later.
Flight Reminder on LG G Watch R
Even flight reminders so you can pick up friends and family from the airport on time
But there is so much more to it that that, turn by turn navigation, right there on your wrist, thanks to the Google Maps Wear app, still managing to run late despite everything? A flick of your wrist and "OK Google, message Dad, 'I am running late, be there in 15 minutes" and poof, that SMS you wouldn't have had time to type is on its way and you didn't even have to pause the search for that clean pair of matching socks your were looking for! In a meeting and you can feel that phone call buzzing in your pockets? Swipe from up from the bottom of the watch's screen and discreetly send a preset message saying you will get back to them shortly. Using your phone as a music player? Skip over that annoying track, or turn up the volume on your favourite number from across the room, don't even get me started on the fitness apps and functionality. There are so many more features with more added with each firmware update, and this is just the first generation of Android Wearables. One of things that I love about Android Wear, the features it has do not try to replace your phone merely compliment it and it does that so well, it gives you what you ask for, when you need it.

Android Wear watches are by no means essential devices, if you don't already wear a watch, you probably wouldn't want one anyway. However if you do wear a watch, have an Android Smartphone, and use Google services like Google Now daily you might just surprise yourself at how useful these wearable devices really are.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Target and Kmart Australia remove GTA V from shelves amid sexual violence claims.

Ok, I am going to start this off by saying I do not condone violence towards anyone. Regardless of race, colour, creed or gender, no one deserves to suffer at the hands of another person.

That is in fact why this petition irritates me so much. As a gamer who has played every GTA title since GTA III (released in 2001) and campaigned in support of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia for a long time, the creators of the successful petition to have GTA V removed from Target and now Kmart stores have based their opinions on a few minutes of Youtube footage. I am not going to go into too much detail on the actual petition, it has already been given far more media attention than it really deserves. Suffice to say the description was filled with assumptions, misinformation and other ridiculous hype, there is extremely little truth there and for fairness you can read it here.

A bit of background into the games for the uninitiated

The Grand Theft Auto series is primarily developed by Rockstar North, a British developer based in Scotland. The main aim of these games is to lampoon the world in which we live, in particular the criminal underworld of various fictional parts of the USA. This can be confirmed by the NPCs (non player characters) that you interact with, advertisements and conversation that you hear on the streets, radio and TV. Almost everything is an over exaggerated stereotype, and they don't hold back either, literally the entire game is designed to satirise everything and everyone. So they are bound to offend in some way shape or form.

But to say that these games actively encourage violence specifically towards women, as claimed in the original petition, because of a little known feature that has been in every 3D and HD GTA game since 2001 is almost laughable. I would assume that Rockstar would try and make the world as statistically correct as possible, meaning that there should be just as many male NPCs as female, and with every NPC being 'mortal' you could end their lives and steal from any of them. Ok, so the NPCs depicted as prostitutes and strippers are all female, not really statistically accurate, but don't just look at one group. Lets take a look at the population of the GTA universe. All the drug dealers are male, the majority of the African American population are shown as gangsters, including the protagonists Franklin and CJ. The Italian Americans are mostly shown as Mafioso types, you head to the country areas and most are portrayed to be Rednecks. They are all inflated stereotypes, and I bet, if you ask most people for their stereotypical idea of a prostitute, they would most likely say a young woman in revealing attire on a street corner. It is not necessarily true, but it is the way that this profession has been portrayed in TV and movies for years (Law and Order, Pretty Woman etc). Does this need to change? Yes, quite frankly the statistics I came across while writing this regarding violence and substance abuse including sex workers was horrifying. But is a single video game franchise to blame for this? Highly doubtful, there has been no proven link between violence in video games and in real life, despite numerous studies.

Not sure if  that was the best place for that...

However as far as I am concerned Target did this to themselves, in a Christmas sales leaflet, they put an adult game with an R18+ Rating as part of a toy promotion aimed at children, so it is no wonder that there is so much flak headed their way, from both sides of the court, I mean just take a look at some of the comments on their Facebook Page. Now a video game with a rating of R18+ should not be advertised in a toy sale under any circumstances, to do so shows a lack of respect for the rating the game has been given, and markets it to impressionable children, and unwitting parents who still think that video games are for kids, will buy it for 'Little Jimmy' and get concerned when they see the content of the game. Now I was at the midnight launch for GTA V at my local store, and I was blown away by how many kids under the age of 18 were there with their parents, it actually made me see red, all that time I had spent signing petitions and writing letters so that games could be classified correctly and my mates and I were stuck behind a line of twelve year olds, no exaggeration there, because I actually asked the group of kids in front of me how old they were, and one of their mothers told me.

Would you purchase this for your child?

GTA V is rated R18+, and for good reason, as seen above it ticks every box in at least the 'Strong Impact' range. This is obviously not for kids. In fact here is the description of R18+ from the Australian Classification Board "R18+ material is restricted to adults. Such material may contain classifiable elements such as sex scenes and drug use that are high in impact. Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community." Sounds about right to me, especially that last sentence. Just because something offends you does not give you the right to have it banned.

I find this quote by Stephen Fry rather fitting...

I am going to finish by asking you to sign the counter petition. Don't get me wrong, any retailer has the right to choose its inventory. However their decision to sell or remove from sale any product should not be based on, or influenced by poorly researched opinions. You simply cannot pander to to every keyboard warrior standing on their virtual soapbox, me/us included, without doing your due diligence and assessing the validity of the claims made, including any in opposition before taking lasting action.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for a trip to Los Santos.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

'OK Google'

The amount of times a day I use the phrase in definitely on the rise. From reminding me to hang the washing in an hour, to finding out the weather for a trip on the weekend, those two little words keep me out of all sorts of trouble.

Ask me anything!

Seriously, my wife asked me to make scrambled eggs for breakfast the other day, and as sad as it seems, I have no idea how to make them without destroying them. So out comes my 'phone, and a couple of seconds later it tells me exactly what to do, and, in the process I found out why I kept stuffing them up in the past (too much milk/cream).

Mine never look this good though...

The amount of awesome stuff you can do just by uttering those words is great! But, I know what you are thinking, isn't it much the same as Apple's Siri? Or Microsoft's new Cortana? Well, earlier in the year someone put them to the test, and you can find out the clear winner here.

So I will continue to ask my 'phone questions, and it will continue to save me by letting me know how long to boil an egg for that perfect soft boiled deliciousness, remind me to contact a customer when I get to work or even let me know when a family members flight gets in, or, as is more likely at Brisbane Airport, been delayed... Find out more about how these two words can help you every day at the following link