How good is the Google dongle?

images-2We often hear the phrase ‘streaming content’ – but what does it actually mean? If you catch your favourite programme via the BBC iPlayer or if you watch a YouTube video on your phone – you’re streaming content. In other words, watching something via the Internet.

But if you’re fed up with watching The Great British Bake Off via the BBC iPlayer app on your tablet or phone and want to watch it on a larger screen there are various options. Before Christmas we looked at Apple TV, Roku and Now TV boxes , and last week Google entered this market with their much-anticipated ‘Chromecast’, so we thought we’d have a look and see how it compares.

The Chromecast is a ‘dongle’ (looks like a USB stick), not a box like the others, so it tucks neatly behind your TV and it’s small enough to pop into your pocket if you’re travelling.

images-4To set up the Chromecast, just connect it to a HDMI port on your TV. It also needs a power source, which you can either get using a USB connection on the TV or use a regular power socket.

Next you need to connect to your local wi-fi network, and then you’re ready to start streaming (or ‘casting’). Chromecast doesn’t have it’s own remote, instead you can download an app (for free) to your phone or tablet, or even use the Chrome browser on your laptop.

The Chromecast is pretty good value at £30 – Roku are about to launch their ‘streaming stick’ for £50 – but the selection of content that you can stream is quite limited at the moment. It gives you access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, plus lots of other channels you’re unlikely to watch (unless you’re especially keen on Korean movies).

You can use Chromecast to view your own content, like videos you took on your phone, but you’ll need to install another app to your mobile device so it’s a bit fiddly. If you’re an Android user you can stream films from your Google Play account, in the same way that you can watch iTunes films through Apple TV or Sky Movies through a Roku box.

imagesSo what’s the verdict on Chromecast? If you’re an Android user with lots in your Google Play library, it’s pretty good, with great picture quality. It can’t do all the things that the competitors can – yet – but being a Google product, new apps will inevitably change that before too long. If you’re an Apple devotee, then go for Apple TV because it’ll talk nicely to all your other devices. If you really just want BBC iPlayer, Netflix and 4oD, Roku looks like the best bet – wait till April 21st for their new stick.

If you’re still wondering about the best way to smarten up your TV, get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat through the options.

This week’s blog has been written by our newest Tipster, Graeme Young.


Vague but exciting…

Sir TimLast week we heard a lot about the 25th anniversary of the invention of the world wide web and the genius of Sir Tim Berners-Lee (left). So we thought it would be fun to look at some of the highlights of the coverage and present our favourite web facts:

1. Tim Berners-Lee presented his idea for the web in a paper called “Information Management – a proposal” in March 1989. It was originally designed to be a forum for the scientific community to share their research online; his boss’s initial response was ‘vague, but exciting’

2. The worldwide web was almost named TIM (The Information Mine)

3. A measure of the success of the web is how long it took to reach 50 million users: it took broadcast radio 38 years and television 13 years. The web got there in four.

4. Three quarters of UK adults use the web every day, but 4 million people still don’t have access to it. There are 4 billion people worldwide who can’t access the web.

5. The availability of answers on the web means that we’ve forgotten how to remember things – now that almost anything can be found in a few clicks online, it’s hardly necessary to retain information anymore. Researchers believe this is making us superficial thinkers.

Web - internet6. The web isn’t the same as the internet; the internet is the network of computers that sends information around the world; the web is just one of the applications that uses this network, in the form of millions of pages of data. I like the analogy of the postman and the letter.

7. There are almost a billion websites globally, although ‘only’ around 180 million are active. Every month Google processes 100 billion queries, and of these, about 15% are questions that it has never seen before.

8. The Observer columnist Henry Porter describes the worldwide web as “not merely the greatest invention since writing” but “the most revolutionary event in the history of the human psyche since the first hunter-gatherers began to conceive of gods who had access to their most private thoughts”.

9. Our addiction to the web leads to some anti-social behaviours – according to The Times, 36% of children and 33% of adults use electronic devices during family meal times, amazingly that figure is 88% amongst 12 -14 year olds.

stawberry10. This is my favourite ‘fact’ – the internet (including the web) weighs as much as one strawberry. Apparently, physicist Russell Seitz has worked this out based on some atomic physics assumptions and the billions and billions of ‘data-in-motion’ moving electrons on the internet, and come to a figure of 50 grams – the weight of a strawberry.

So happy birthday to the web, and happy birthday to Fingertips too – we are one year old this week, something only made possible by Sir Tim’s vague but exciting invention.