Friday, April 24, 2015

Raspberry Pi 2

Local microcenter had the 2's in stock so yeah I picked one up with a case. I haven't looked at my old pi in years so it was a pleasant surprise to see how much has changed. I love this new noobs installer (except it could use some partitioning options). It makes installing multiple OS's with multiboot so easy.

It's almost a usable desktop os. Video is playing during this pic:

Openelec kodi is running really well. Tested 1080p mkv and Dts and dd5.1 pass through. All is working well. Fire tv is still probably the better couch experience for kodi but this is a pretty nice do everything Linux pc.

Here is how the case from Microcenter looks like:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pebble Watch (original) and initial impressions on Apple watch.

- So I recently picked up an original black Pebble watch to see if I would like wearing a watch again.  I haven't worn a watch for several years now.
- I got it for an amazing $60 new from best buy.  For that price I was willing to take a chance.  It's a lot easier to swallow than $350 :-)
- It's a bit clunky looking bit fits on my wrist fine.  My wife wouldn't be caught dead with the thing on her though.
- I love the week long battery life and the e-ink.  This thing is great for notifications.  I had no idea it didn't even have a speaker.  But it's nice to get that buzz when a notification comes in during a meeting and all I have to do is take a quick glance at my wrist.  This is actually useful IMO.
- There are a ton of apps and watch faces on the pebble store; a lot more than I expected.
- Waterproof.  You can swim with it if you want.
- Fitness tracker apps are only OK and not the most accurate.  I've never been a big believer in fitness trackers anyways.  When I workout I use a fitness specific watch like my tom tom multisport cardio which has a built in optical heart rate sensor, gps, etc.

Wonky bluetooth issues:
- Apparently it interferes with my miccus mini-jack rx a2dp bluetooth audio receiver I use in my car and keeps cutting out my audio every minute or so. It could also be a combination of the hands free in my car (acrua 2007 which seems honda has issues with pebble) and my miccus + pebble. It's really annoying. Lots of other posts with pebble interfering with car hands free and a2dp. The solutions are either to turn off your pebble or the bluetooth on the pebble while in the car. Not using the product is not really a solution IMO. I did test turning off my pebble and everything goes back to normal.
- So I tested my original pebble in my wife's 2013 pilot and the bluetooth works just fine there. No audio drop outs or any quality issues. So apparently it's just my car/bluetooth a2dp receiver :-(.
- UPDATE 5/7/2015:  So I decided to upgrade my miccus to a new iClever Himbox bluetooth 4.0 and I'm happy to say it plays nice with the pebble.  No more audio drop outs.

Still, for $60 I'm still pretty happy with it. I find it more useful on the weekends when going out vs day to day use at the office. I don't like having a watch on my wrist while at the computer. It might be useful on heavy meeting days though.

Apple Watch
Walked into an apple store and gave the watch a try. I went through all the apps and settings and messed with it quite a bit. FYI, you only need an appointment to try one on but they had several that were bolted down to a table you can play with. I had my pebble on while I was doing this. :-)

The demo mode was a bit more limited but at least I got a feel for the basic UI. The controls are a bit confusing at firs since I kept wanting to hit the communications button as home. Force push didn't really blow me away as much as I expected from all that I read. I pushed harder and it vibrated. There was no tricking of the brain or anything (I think I might be confusing this with the new macbook 12" touchpad). The sizes seemed fine to me. No idea about weight since I couldn't pick one up. Wife looked over the big display case with all the models and bands for all of 30 sec and then left the store. She has no interest in this.

I think the most useful thing about a smart watch is the notifications and maybe some of the custom faces. I already have that with my $60 pebble. I think I'll wait for v2. The way I seem to use a smart watch beyond notifications is the info has to be on the watch face. If it's buried in some app that takes more than 1 - 2 interactions then it becomes a job for the phone. That's why I like my weather watch face or like the bitcoin price watch face. I can glance down and get some useful bit of information in addition to the time in < 1 sec.

The apple watch sure is pretty though.

I'm pretty satisfied with my pebble and should hold me over until version 2 of the apple watch is released.

Sling TV (the service)

Sling TV on iphone 6: the quality looks great! (at least on the phone) and the streams start really really fast (much quicker than say netflix). Buffering time seems < 2 sec. So far I'm impressed. I'll have to try this on my fire tv stick later tonight. You have a few bandwidth options on the iOS app.  I really wish there were separate settings for wifi vs cellular:

DVR features seem to work fine on channels that support it. I like the 30 sec jump forward and 10 sec back buttons.
CC works well too.

- So I got in on the $50 off fire tv deal with a 3 month sub to sling tv.  So far it's been a hit at the household.  I don't really watch much of live tv but the wife still enjoys all those shows on HGTV and Food network.  This is perfect because these channels are part of the base $20/month package.  The DVR ish functionality isn't too bad at least for those channels so she can pick the shows she wants to watch whenever she wants.  I just added a second fire tv and I've disconnected the cable box.  Fire TV is on ethernet.  If she's ok with this setup for a week I'm probably going to finally cut the chord!  The biggest negative I see is it only allows one stream at a time.  Hopefully they increase this in the future. There seems to be clients for quite a few platforms including: windows, osx, xbox one (tested and works well), android, ios, roku, and fire tv.  These are all fat clients (no web based client) so for linux you are out of luck.  This means chromebooks are out unless you can maybe hack the android version to work (haven't looked into it).
- So far quality has been very good at home.  Streaming begins very fast with very little buffering time.  Bitrate is 3.7mbps.  

Highly recommended IF the base $20 has channels you care about.