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Sunday, 19 May 2013

The New Google Maps





Google introduced the new Google Maps at Google I/O this week. Along with a brand new shiny look it has added Earth mode (see 2:11 in video) which is a lite version of Google Earth minus the Google Earth plugin. This will run in all modern browsers and no extra software will have to be installed; I also expect more features will be added to the web app with time. For us Chromebook users, this is a must needed feature. As I have told many of future Chromebookers, cloud enthusiasts, and techies the only major thing that Chromebooks were missing was Google Earth. Here's hoping that my invite to the new Google Maps arrives soon!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Life With Google TV: Canadian and No Cable subscription edition

Kijiji how I love you; you gave me a $230 Sony Google TV Box (NSZGS7) for $130, unopened (it was a credit card reward for a retired teacher). I had read some good reviews about the device, and since I love Google products, it was an easy decision. The Apple TV Box was somewhat attractive, but the killer missing item is the browser, especially since all TV channel websites have video but not all have apps.

Initial setup was extremely easy, it took less than 10 minutes including spending 5 minutes trying and successfully pairing it with my Samsung 32" TV. Within 30 minutes I was extremely comfortable with the system including the remote...both sides of it.

In order to keep things short, below are some highlights of the Sony Google TV Box; Canadian Edition:

  1. Hardware: Not sure what the processor or RAM is, but it handles everything well with no hesitation (remember, the spec is dead). There is HDMI input/output ports, 8 GB of internal storage (about 4 GB free for apps) 2 USB ports (which I haven't used yet), optical audio output, and an Ethernet connection. The remote is well designed, possibly a bit too big since I find it a bit clumsy and I have somewhat large hands. The 2.7" clickable touchpad (touch to click also available) works fine and has edge scrolling for horizontal and vertical webpage movement, and the QWERTY keyboard which is also backlit gets the job done; occasionally the remote is unresponsive. Battery usage seems average, the include batteries are working fine and I have used the remote a lot.


    The Remote: Maybe a bit large, QWERTY keyboard on the back.
  2. Apps: There is nowhere near the selection of apps available as for an Android phone or tablet and most of the apps are pretty-much useless. Google itself has a very poor selection; there is no Google Earth, Maps, Google Plus, and so on. There are some nice streaming TV apps available, one of my favorites is TV Portal which provides a huge list of shows with appropriate links for streaming in a very nice interface. Movies are available for rent/purchase, TV shows still haven't arrived to the Great White North. Sony Video and music unlimited come pre-installed and I haven't used either yet.
  3. Chrome Browser: For some reason, Google TV uses version 11 of Chrome, current desktop versions are at 25!! It gets the job done, has Bookmark sync, and it has Flash Version 10 (this was a deal-breaker for me). Every website except for CityTV has allowed me to stream video, although some playback issues has been experienced with the CTV site. Chrome runs within Android 3.2, which, like the browser, gets the job done.
  4. Updates: This is not a Nexus device, so I wasn't expecting many updates. I received one when the system was turned on, none since. I am expecting the next will be sometime after Google I/O 2013. 
The overall experience with the Sony Google TV Internet Box has been great. Prior to this I relied on my Chromebook connected via VGA to my TV, this was fine but lacked the HDMI experience and the "lying back on the couch channel surfing" experience. The box has become part of my routine; I turn it on before I eat breakfast to watch the CBC National, stream some Netflix during the evening, and explore the great unknown of TV Portal at night. When all of this gets boring, I can surf the web via the Chrome browser to update G+ and Facebook statuses, check to see when the latest snowstorm will hit Newfoundland, and look at beautiful pictues of puddy tats. If you are a user like me, one that lives on the web and dislikes Big Cable, the Sony Google TV box is highly recommended. 


The Google TV Experience (the really bad ending to Lost is getting closer!!)