Chromecast is a $35 streaming dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and plays audio/video content on a high-definition TV using your Wi-Fi connection.
The basics: what it is and what it does:
You can use it to stream online videos from YouTube, Netflix and elsewhere, and use your computer, mobile phone or tablet as a remote control. It doesn’t have any kind of separate app store or user interface on your TV – everything gets controlled from your PC or mobile device.
The key word here is control: Your phone doesn’t stream videos directly to your Chromecast dongle. Instead, it just tells the device which video it should stream from the cloud. That means that you can use your phone for something else, or even turn it off, once the stream begins. This also helps preserve your smartphone battery
This kind of remote control capability only works with apps and sites that directly support Chromecast. In addition to that, users can also stream any web content directly from their computer’s Chrome browser, as long as they have a special Chrome extension installed.
The setup is remarkably easy if you follow Google’s directions and download the setup app on your computer or mobile device. Just get those apps, and the setup is literally done in two minutes. Plug the dongle into your TV, connect it to a power source and fire up the app on your computer or mobile device. Enter the password of your local Wi-Fi network, and you’re good to go.
Chromecast is a great device for Netflix viewing: Streams look as good as on any other device and navigating the Netflix catalog on a computer or mobile device works much better than on a connected device like the older WII we have for streaming Netflix.
The other use for Chromecast right now is streaming videos from YouTube. One limitation though is that streaming videos to Chromecast from your PC is only supported if you are on YouTube.com, and not if the video is embedded in a third-party website. That means that you’ll need to click through to YouTube.com before you can start watching on the big screen.
When Chromecast was introduced it was thought that the HDMI-CEC standard would be its secret killer feature and it is. Chromecast can automatically turn on TVs that support HDMI-CEC and even change the HDMI input, switching from live TV to whichever video you selected on your mobile device. One complaint is that turning on the TV doesn’t work if you plug your Chromecast unit into the TV’s USB port, which is why it makes sense to use the extra power adapter that Google ships with the device instead of USB.
Netflix and YouTube are clearly just the beginning for Chromecast. Hulu, Vimeo, HBO Go and others have already pledged their support, and many developers have begun creating apps and games for the device. All of this means that Chromecast will get substantially better over the months to come.
No additional monthly fees and only $35 to bring Netflix to a TV in your bedroom or den is really a no brainer even if you already have a smart TV, or watch Netflix with the game console that’s otherwise collecting dust in your living room. The device makes it easy to bring online video to the living room or kid’s room and in turn makes TV watching a lot more enjoyable. I’ve just ordered 3 more dongles for 2 TV’s at home and one here at the office.
More information is available here:
Microsoft’s New Windows 8.1 Ad Shows Off The Start Button!
With Windows 8 now the go to operating system for consumers and business users alike, Microsoft is hoping that bringing back the Start button in Windows 8.1 will make users fall in love with its newest operating system.
Users told Microsoft not to kill the Start button. Even Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen publicly griped about its loss when he reviewed an early version of Windows 8. After a lot of soul searching, Microsoft saw the light and listened to users.
Bringing it back is a step in the right direction, but, as mentioned before, if you already tried Windows 8, and hated it, Windows 8.1 probably won’t change your mind, Start button or not. The bigger problem is that the user interface just isn’t intuitive in a whole bunch of ways. It’s almost downright confusing. But, we have little choice in the matter, aside from abandoning PC’s and jumping to a MAC or Linux based system, we’ll all need to learn to like it.
On top of that – April of next year is the drop dead date for Windows XP’s extended support & security updates so if you don’t make a change before April 9th 2014, you’ll be surfing the net with a 12 year old operating system (that’s ancient in technology terms). When Windows XP was first developed the internet was a different place. Smartphones were non-existent, laptops were a luxury and tablet computers were a thing of science fiction
That said, here’s a YouTube video showing how the revived Start button will look when Windows 8.1 is released to the public on Oct. 18:
Updated Windows 8.1 Demo
ACTSmart – Be Prepared! Get Emergency Information on Your Cellphone from Mass.gov! There are now two primary methods that Massachusetts citizens can get emergency information on their cellphones, Ping4alerts! and Wireless Emergency Alerts.
Click for more information. (http://www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/mema/get-emergency-information-on-your-cellphone.html)
Both of these methods will provide timely and important information about emergencies and hazards in your area and how you should respond to ensure your safety. Important messages may be delivered using both methods.
Q: What type of alerts will I receive?
A: The app receives a data feed from the National Weather Service for certain severe weather events. Messages are sent for watches and warnings for tornados, thunderstorms, flash floods, blizzards, hurricanes, and others. In addition, MEMA also uses Ping4alerts to send important information about potential or actual emergencies.
Q: How will Ping4alerts! notify me if an alert has been sent about severe weather or other emergencies?
A: When a new alert is sent, Ping4alerts! Will cause your phone to sound an audible alert and it will push a notification to your phone’s screen. In addition, certain severe messages about life threatening conditions may override the phone’s silent or vibrate settings to ensure that the user gets the message.
Wireless Emergency Alert system: Have you received an emergency alert on your cell phone about severe weather, an AMBER Alert or another emergency and were unsure of what it was or where it came from? Beginning in June 2012, the Wireless Association and the wireless industry joined the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer a robust and reliable Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system.
There are three different kinds of WEA alerts:
1. Imminent Threat Alerts – Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters where an imminent threat to life or property exists:-Most WEAs will be issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). WEAs will be used by the NWS only for the most imminent and severe weather conditions. This includes automatic alerts when Warnings are issued for: Tornados, Flash Floods, Blizzards, Ice Storms, Hurricanes, and Tsunamis.
-Imminent Threat alerts may be issued by authorized state officials, such as the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Alerts must meet certain criteria that are established in the FCC rules to ensure that only the most urgent messages are sent as a WEA.
2. AMBER Alerts – Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child. These alerts are sent by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
3. Presidential Alerts – Alerts issued by the President or a designee. While these alerts will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message, they are differentiated from a regular text message because they include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice. WEAs are not text messages but instead use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion (or delays) on wireless networks. There are no fees/charges for this service (does not count as a text message). The device’s location information is used only for the delivery of the Wireless Emergency Alert and is not tracked by the provider or the government.
WEAs will be sent to those within a targeted area, unlike text messages, which are not location based. While WEAs will be targeted, an alert usually is sent to an entire county. As some counties are quite large, you may need to investigate further after you receive a WEA to learn whether you may be in harm’s way. Your best use of WEA is to immediately seek additional information about the imminent threat impacting your area.
If you have a WEA-enabled phone, you are automatically enrolled. The number of WEA-capable devices continues to grow, and many of the new phones (both smartphones and non-smartphones) that are sold from participating carriers will be able to receive these alerts. If your device has the Wireless Emergency Alerts logo (see logo to right), then it is WEA-capable. If you have an older phone, you might need to only upgrade your device’s software, rather than purchase a new one. To confirm Wireless Emergency Alerts are available in your area and your device is capable of receiving the alerts, please check with your carrier.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are just one notification tool available to the public. If you do not have a WEA-enabled phone, then you can still rely on other means of receiving emergency information. This includes NOAA Weather Radios, news media coverage, ping4alerts!, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on radio and TV broadcasts, social media, and other alerting methods. Many communities in Massachusetts operate some type of local emergency notification (“reverse 911” type) system that may require registration in order to get local alerts and messages from the community. WEAs are designed to supplement, not replace these other notification methods (which can be done by contacting local public safety agencies).
More information about WEA (including links to cell phone carrier information) is available on the CTIA website. For FAQs, see FEMA’s WEA/CMAS website or the National Weather Service website. WEA is also known as the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). WEA/CMAS/PLAN are part of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
ACTSmart – Be Prepared! If a natural disaster strikes, what will happen to your pet? Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet.
Last week we talked about Ready.gov and what they are suggesting for natural and man-made disasters. This week we’ve recommending the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and what they recommend in case of a disaster. We especially liked their recommendations for your pets! There were LOTS of great suggestions that we hadn’t thought about! And, you can sign up for email updates and RSS feeds about any topic that interests you!
Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit
Prepare a disaster kit for your pet(s), so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. Ask your veterinarian for help putting it together. Here is a checklist to get you started. Some examples of what to include are:
Disaster Supplies for Pets
- Food (in airtight waterproof containers or cans) and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet
- Food and water bowls and a manual can opener
- For cats: litter box and litter
- For dogs: plastic bags for poop
- Clean-up items for bathroom accidents (paper towels, plastic trash bags, bleach-containing cleaning agent)
- Medications for at least 2 weeks, along with any treats used to give the medications and pharmacy contact for refills
- Medical records
- Rabies vaccination certificate
- Current vaccination record
- If your pet has a microchip, a record of the microchip number
- Prescription for medication(s)
- For cats, most recent FeLV/FIV test result or vaccination date
- Summary of pertinent medical history; ask your veterinarian for a copy
- Sturdy leashes or harnesses
- Carrier or cage that is large enough for your pet to stand comfortably and turn around; towels or blankets
- Pet toys and bed (familiar items to help the pet[s] feel more comfortable).
- A handout containing identification information (in the event you get separated from your pet)
- Current photo of pet
- Pet’s descriptive features (age, sex, neutered/non-neutered status, color(s), and approximate weight)
- Microchip number
- Owner contact information (cell phone, work phone, home phone)
- Contact information of a close relative or friend,
- A handout with boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems
- Documents, medications, and food should be stored in waterproof containers
Today, after four-years of discussion, the new stronger FTC rules protecting children online, goes into effect.
Much has changed about the Internet and the way we use it since In 1998 – the year Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. Behavioral advertising, online tracking, social networks and the advent of the mobile Internet have made the Internet more accessible to children, and children’s personal information more accessible to companies as well as potential bad guys.
One thing that had not changed, however, was the federal regulations implementing COPPA – until today. Following a more than two year rule-making process and six month phase-in, the amended COPPA rule is now in effect.
COPPA is complex, but it contains three fundamental concepts.
- First, before an operator of a website may collect personal information from a child under the age of 13, it must obtain the verified consent of the child’s parent.
- And finally, the sites must store the children’s’ personal information securely.
These requirements apply to all child-directed sites – sites that have children as their primary target audience – and general audience sites that know they are collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.
The new rule adapts these core concepts to the current realities of Internet usage and data collection. In doing so, it substantially expands what is considered “personal information.” Reflecting the growth of social networks, user generated content and child-oriented mobile apps, operators of child directed sites now must obtain verifiable parental consent before they can collect users’ screen names, photo, video and audio files that contain a child’s image or voice, geo location data precise enough to identify a street and city; and persistent identifiers, such as cookies, an IP address, or unique mobile device identifier.
The new rule also makes clear that third parties, such as advertising networks, who receive personal information from sites they know are child directed must comply with COPPA, even if they have no direct user relationship with the child. Although these third parties will not have to investigate their partners’ sites, the Federal Trade Commission has suggested that they will be deemed to have knowledge if one of their employees recognizes that they are receiving personal information from a child-directed site.
The FTC has ramped up its enforcement of COPPA in recent years, and civil penalties are often substantial – up to $16,000 per violation. Companies, especially startups, will need to understand how their data collection practices fit within the complex new COPPA Rule.
Although the FTC has indicated that it will exercise moderation in the initial months of the new rule where companies are acting in good faith to comply, that leniency will not last forever. For additional information visit the websites listed below.
This smart phone GPS application proves that crowd sourced navigation is working and it’s getting better.
At its core, Waze gives you voice-enabled GPS directions on your iOS or Android device. Best of all, it’s FREE. It’s still not perfect, but if you’re willing to trade a little routing efficiency for features you can’t find on other navigation apps, like real world travel times and up-to-the-minute, user-reported traffic jams, Waze is definitely worth checking out.
Here’s how it works:
Waze connects you to other drivers automatically (and anonymously) in the background. The app then pools data from everyone and channels it into more efficient, time-saving routing algorithms based on real-world trip data from other users, not just what the map data infers. This is essentially what TomTom does with its long-standing IQ Routes feature, but until Waze came along, we hadn’t seen it on a free phone app. On the display, cute little icons show you where other Waze users are as you drive.
Waze also knows that even if a route is technically shorter, you could still end up taking just as long as you would via the longer way on the highway, because of all the traffic lights. I had several instances where Waze nailed the ETA in actuality; whereas my Garmin’s GPS guessed I’d arriv earlier, only to adjust itself as the trip went on to eventually match what Waze had said all along.
Performance, Incident Reporting, and Conclusions
While en route, Waze doesn’t display the current road speed limit, and there’s no 2D or 3D lane assistance like on newer Garmin and factory supplied navigation systems. On the plus side, the colorful, animated traffic icons showing the current status and delay times looked very sharp on the map. Real-time traffic alerts worked well, and provided plenty of options throughout my trip.
Tap the exclamation point on the bottom right, and it will pop up nine icons to report an accident, police activity, heavy traffic, and other road hazards. In landscape mode, it will only show six icons, though; you need to scroll to the right to see the other three. Still, this is where Waze really shines; the app popped up plenty of real-time traffic alerts during a recent trip to northern Vermont and back. And on one leg of our trip, Waze popped up an alert that there was police activity coming up 400 feet ahead. And there was! There was a state police car at the side of the road with its lights on. Waze prompted me to either give it a thumbs up (meaning the report was correct), tell it that it was close but not exact, or tell it that there was in fact no police vehicle present.
The voice prompts were understandable, and the fact that it works via blue tooth helped greatly with low volume concerns. I also didn’t hear any pronunciation gaffes with Waze like I experience with my Garmin Nuvi.
If you want turn by turn, voice prompted navigation with real time traffic alerts, gas prices and hazard reporting – all for FREE – WAZE is the answer. Remember – this is a crowd sourced application so the more you put into it, the better it will become. Download it from the App Store or Google Play.
In today’s crazy-busy world, who doesn’t want to cram more “done” into your day? We’ve got 3 really simple things you can do to get more work done for the hours you’re putting in.
Use dual monitors.
According to a University of Utah study, you can increase your efficiency by 25% just by adding a second monitor. Performance measures included task time, editing time, number of edits completed, number of errors made, as well as usability measures evaluating effectiveness, comfort, learning ease, time to productivity, quickness of recovery from mistakes, ease of task tracking, ability to maintain task focus, and ease of movement among sources. All of these factors combined show truly increased productivity.
Block social media sites and/or other non-work related content online.
THIS one won’t be popular for a lot of people, but if you want to get more done, then take the distractions out of your day. Of course if your job is “social media director” for your company, this doesn’t apply; for all the other workers in your office who don’t NEED to go on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to do their job, this will remove the temptation to “snack” on social media sites throughout the day, which add up to hours wasted on entertainment surfing. Content filtering software can easily manage which sites you can and cannot go online to view, also keeping employees from gambling, searching for jobs, reading the news or visiting sex sites.
Set up remote access.
It’s incredibly easy to access files, e-mail and programs from home (or while on the road) these days using cloud technologies or other remote access applications. Not only does this allow people to keep working when forced to stay home with sick kids or to wait for the plumber to show up, but employees would also put in several more hours of work on their own initiative if they could easily jump on their home PC and put in a few hours.
Google unveils Google Glass - augmented reality glasses.
What is Google Glass?
Google’s Project Glass is Google’s attempt to make wearable computing mainstream, and it’s effectively a smart pair of glasses with an integrated heads-up display and a battery hidden inside the frame. Wearable computing is not a new idea, but Google’s enormous bank account and can-do attitude means that Project Glass could well be the first product to do significant numbers.
How does Google Glass work?
First of all – let’s not confuse Google Glass and Google Goggles. Google Goggles is software, an app that can search the web based on photos and scans. Google Glass is hardware and according to well-informed Google blogger Seth Weintraub, Google’s Project Glass glasses will probably use a transparent LCD or AMOLED display to put information in front of your eyeballs. It’s location-aware thanks to a camera and GPS, and you can scroll and click on information by tilting your head, something that is apparently quite easy to master. Google Glasses will also use voice input and output.
What are the Google Glass specifications?
The New York Times says that the glasses will run Android, will include a small screen in front of your eye and will have motion sensors, GPS and either 3G or 4G data connections. Weintraub says that the device is designed to be a stand-alone device rather than an Android phone peripheral: while Project Glass can connect to a smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4.0, “it communicates directly with the cloud”. There is also a front-facing camera and a flash, although it’s not a multi-megapixel monster, and the most recent prototype’s screen isn’t transparent.
What will we be able to do with Google Glass?
According to Google’s own video, you’ll be a super-being with the ability to have tiny people talking to you in the corner of your eye, to find your way around using satellite navigation (sat-nav), to know when the subway’s closed, to take and share photographs and to learn how to play the ukelele in a day.
Watch the Google Glass – One Day video
It looks like Superman’s X-Ray vision might not just be for Superman anymore.
Thanks to new research coming out of the University of Texas at Dallas, we may be able to channel one of Clark Kent’s famed superpowers by using our cellphones to see through walls.
A team at the University of Texas at Dallas, led by Professor of Electrical Engineering Dr. Kenneth O, has tapped into two significant scientific advances that could open up this new technology. The first is an unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum, and the second is a new kind of consumer-grade microchip.
The electromagnetic spectrum characterizes wavelengths of energy and measures all ranges of light. Dr. O’s research is using the terahertz band, which has previously been inaccessible for most consumer devices. The band lies between microwave and infrared rays and can allow devices to “penetrate” through objects in a way similar to X-rays.
When signals on the terahertz band travel from your phone, they’ll bounce back — and that’s when the microchip comes in. The chips are manufactured using CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology, which is the basis of most of the electronic devices around you. A censor in the chip will pick up terahertz signals and then images can be created.
If terahertz-band signals can create images with fewer lenses — which would be the case with this technology — that means less money for lenses and a smaller camera. By using a CMOS sensor, the cost becomes even cheaper.
“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” said Dr. O. “The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and receiver on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.”
The technology goes beyond seeing through walls or other kinds of objects. In medicine, for example, there’s potential for it to be used in place of X-Rays. Businesses could also use it to detect counterfeit money.
And just in case you’re worried about spies using their phones to see what you’re up to far away, don’t fret — the researchers are fully aware of privacy concerns. That’s why Dr. O and his team are only focused on using their technology within a distance range of four inches.
What do you think of this new technology? Would you want to use your cellphone to see through walls? Let me know.
The FBI is warning that hundreds of thousands of people could lose their Internet connections come July, unless they take steps to diagnose and disinfect their computers.
The problem is related to malware called DNSChanger that was first discovered way back in 2007 and that has infected millions of computers worldwide.
In simple terms, when you type a Web address into your browser, your computer contacts DNS (or Domain Name System) servers to find out the numerical Internet Protocol (IP) address of the site you’re trying to reach, and then it takes you there. DNSChanger fiddled with an infected machine’s settings and directed it to rogue servers set up by a crime ring — servers that handed out addresses to whatever sites the ring chose.
The DNSChanger Working Group said early this year that about 450,000 systems were still infected by the DNSChanger virus.
As noted in the FBI press release, the crooks “were international cyberbandits who hijacked millions of computers at will and rerouted them to Internet Web sites and advertisements of their own choosing — collecting millions in undeserved commissions for all the hijacked computer clicks and Internet ads they fraudulently engineered.”
Late last year, however, the FBI disrupted the ring and seized the rogue servers. And since so many infected computers relied on the servers to reach the Internet, the agency opted not to shut them down and instead converted them to legitimate DNS machines.
Running the machines costs the government money, though,so they’re being switched off in July. If your computer is infected with DNSChanger then, the Web — for you — will no longer exist after July 8th.
The DNSChanger Working Group (DCWG), the body set up to oversee the servers, has created a Web site to help you diagnose your machine and, if necessary, remove DNSChanger. You can check it out at www.dcwg.org using the link below. And it’s probably not a bad idea to do so sometime before, say, July 8th. This site is receiving massive hits from folks wanting to secure and disinfect their PC’s so if you can’t connect to their servers, you might want to follow the directions on the FBI site links at the end of this article.
Here’s how you can check and see if your system is affected/infected by this malware
For additional information visit the FBI’s webpage focused on “Operation Ghost Click”