Tag Archives: Cut the Cable

Google Chromecast – First Impressions

If you’re one of the millions of us who have ‘cut the cable’, you’ve probably already heard of Google’s Chromecast. Chromecast is available in about 120 countries around the world so unless you’ve been living under a rock, the name should be familiar to you.

Photo of Chromecast
Here it is, the latest version of Chromecast. Different colors are available.

We received a demo Chromecast last week. Here are our first impressions of this simple device plus an explanation of what it does.

All you need to get started with Chromecast is a HD TV and a relatively fast Internet connection. You’ll also need a remote. This is the part that we found a bit unsettling about Chromecast because the device itself does not come with a remote. The solution to all of lives probably lives in your pocket or purse. Any Android or Apple smartphone will work as a remote control unit. Additionally, you can use a tablet, laptop or desktop computer running Google Chrome. A simple solution, as it turns out.

You’ll have to think of Chromecast as an enabler rather than a standalone piece of technology. For less than $50.00, any HDTV can be made smart. When we think of a smart TV, we usually think of something that allows you to use Netflix. Many people stop there but there is so much more than Netflix out there.

Photo of Chromecast setup
Connect Chromecast to any open HDMI port, plug it into an electrical connection and you’re off!

The photo above shows how your Chromecast should be connected to your HDTV.  Once you’ve done that, the rest of the setup is done on your remote; your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Setup is easy, don’t worry. On a smartphone, you download the Chromecast app then enter your WiFi password and you’re off and running.

Once your phone and Chromecast are linked, it’s simply a matter of downloading and installing the apps that enable you to watch shows on your HDTV. Yes, Netflix is one of those apps but there are many, many more. Here’s a small list:

Photo of Chromecast apps
In order to watch material from any of these apps, you’ll need to install that app on your remote.

Once you’re installed some apps on your remote, find something you want to watch and then cast it over to your HDTV via your remote and Chromecast. Tap the icon you see below and your show will pop up on your HDTV.  Anything that you’re watching on your remote that can be cast to your HDTV will have this icon up on the top right corner:

Chromecast icon
If you can see this icon on your remote screen, you can cast whatever you are watching up to your Chromecast and watch it on your HDTV.

Play will pause on your remote and continue on your HDTV. If you want to watch something else, press pause or stop on your remote and choose something else. Cast it up to your Chromecast and your HDTV will show your current selection.

TIP: Once you start any video on your HDTV, the quality will be poor for a few seconds. Don’t dismay, it will get better. If you have a relatively fast Internet connection, you won’t notice a difference between your Chromecast broadcast and a DVD. Chromecast uses the latest and greatest WiFi protocols. A wired Ethernet connection is available, more on that later.

That’s it for today. We’ll run through some of the available apps in our next post. Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook .Thanks for reading!

Alternatives to Cable TV

We’re all about saving money here on Computers Made Simple. Although we haven’t had any cable or satellite TV for years, we are still able to watch just about anything we want, when we want. Here’s how we do it:

1. OTA (over the air) TV – Every new HDTV comes with what they call an ATSC tuner. All this means to you is that you can hook up a basic antenna to the TV and receive at least a few channels, all for free. We are in Canada, Toronto to be specific, so we have a wide choice of absolutely free OTA television. Your total channel selection may vary but we get at least twenty-five HDTV stations plus some incidental SD (standard definition) ones. The best part of this is that the HDTV channels are much crisper than what we would get if we paid for cable. Why? Because your cable company compresses the HDTV channels that it receives by satellite and OTA antenna before they send them off to you. The definition of the free OTA reception will astound you.

Photo of Basic HDTV Antenna
A basic antenna like this will give you many free Over The Air TV channels in full High Definition.












2. Netflix/Hulu etc. – If you have a reasonably fast Internet connection and a decent usage cap, let’s say something around 200 to 300 gigabytes a month, you can access more streaming movies and TV than you can watch in a lifetime.  We’ve had Netflix for years and love it. It’s cheap, $7.99 a month, and provides complete TV series plus its own home-made content. Indeed, some of the Netflix creations are just as popular as those put out by the larger cable producers, HBO for instance. Hulu isn’t available here in Canada, not without a VPN anyway, but it and other providers offer very popular content too. Most recent DVD players and some HDTVs have the ability to stream all of these providers and more. As well, the Play Station game consoles and Apple TV are capable of supplying the HDTV content to your HDTV.

Photo of Netflix Streaming
For $7.99 a month, Netflix streams thousands of movies and TV shows.







3. Sports Subscriptions – Every major league sport offers a premium subscription package which allows you to watch virtually every game in their respective seasons. From hockey to baseball to soccer and basketball, you can get your fill of game play for around $100.00 per year. We subscribe to the Major League Baseball package and we get all pre-season games plus the full regular season and playoffs. On top of that, we can watch any game at a time that suits us, not only when it’s on live. Many of you spend that much per month to see a few games per month.  The package is a fantastic deal compared to regular cable, at least in our opinion.

Photo of NHL Sports Package
Costs are low for full season entertainment.

4. Network Streaming – Except in some cases, the Olympics being one, all the major networks stream their own shows from their respective sites. Yes, you have to watch ads but you get complete episodes without resorting to illegal torrents or any number of foreign sites that stream these shows as well. In the case of the Olympics, NBC has chosen to lock-out non-cable viewers. In Canada, the CBC streams live and recorded Olympic content to anyone, as long as they are in Canada, that is.

5. Alternative Streaming Sites – Every now and then we find something that we want to watch but can’t find coverage through any of our regular sources. In those cases, we turn to the darker side of the Internet and watch the event on one of the many streaming sites that are out there. Unless you have a good ad blocker as well as an excellent anti-virus app, we wouldn’t recommend this. We also won’t suggest any sites since many have adult ads and pop-ups. The option is there if you want to pursue it but be careful.

6. TV Capture Cards – Your new HDTV is great for OTA viewing but sometimes you might want to have access to a DVR (digital video recorder). For that, we suggest one the many Hauppauge tuner cards for your computer. We have used Hauppauge products for years. Our latest card has two tuners and can record either two shows at the same time or one while you watch something else. Pricing varies but everything you need is in the box. Additionally, if you have am HDTV somewhere else in your home, you can stream content from your computer using an Xbox 360 game console or several other types of hardware.

Photo of Apple TV
This little puck is amazing. Price can be under $100.00 by times and the selection of streaming apps is huge.

The options are out there. You don’t have to pay through the nose for entertainment, no matter what your cable company says. There are alternatives, some free, some very low cost.

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