Windows Media Center vs. iTunes Home Sharing

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Update (Oct 29, 2013): With Home Sharing turned on and iTunes11, all my devices(iPad, iPhone, Netbook) are synced with my main PC (i3, Win7) with medias in an external HD! Sweet. No fuzz with Win Media Center anymore.

How: with your iPad, iPhone, open Music app, and look for Share in More… click your library. For other PC, install iTunes and turns on Home Sharing.

(Nov, 11,2012)So I had been using my 7 years old resurrected HP laptop as a media center with my music library residing in one of my external HDs. It had been doing a decent job, but sometimes it had been a hit and miss; for example, adding new materials, sometimes, they showed up and other they just didn’t. It took me a while to learn to play all songs with shuffle, and to do a search (it only takes up to 4 characters I remember). I used it for about a month, then I figured out it was easier to pop a CD into my DVD player to play music with my AV receiver  (Those you attach with big speakers!).

Anyhow, a light bulb moment today! Since I have to turn on my main laptop anyway for either streaming – Windows Media Center or iTunes – and I have my iPad, why don’t I use iTunes’ Home Sharing instead? Besides, my music repertoire is already in iTunes. The only worry I have is the output quality through the headphone jack to a pair of RCA plugs to my AV receiver, I test it and it sounds decent!

So what is nice about using iPad as my media center instead? Well, everything is now touch base! and the library recognition is painless and seamless. What you see in iTunes is what I get on my iPad, and ‘Music’ app is easy to use and to find and pick songs. I can also stream videos with Home Sharing.

How to turn on Home Sharing in iTunes (PC): Find the Advance Tab, Turn-on Home Sharing using your Apple ID

On iPad, iPod Touch, and  iPhone under music>settings>turn-on Home Sharing, and ‘Music’ app, under ‘more’ >sharing>select your music and video library.  This means I get the same libraries on my iPhone too, an additional tool to play my music and videos at home.

With the PS3 system, it will recognize Windows Medias automatically if you turn your sharing on in the PC. That’s another option to stream your medias at home. I guess that’s the same for the Xbox 360.

Now I don’t have a Window Surface, so I don’t know if the touch-base experience will be the same?! With an Android tablet, I believe Boxee is perhaps a good option, it works with iPad too.

There you have it, I figure it will be cool to use this setup for your Christmas Party! Sure, you can download music to your iPad and plug it to one of those extended speakers, but with my way you have access to thousands of songs !!! and additional audio settings with your AV receiver.

Cheers.

PC… who needs it, anymore?!

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I was at Costco yesterday, I was totally surprised to see that there was a desktop model on display, the others were All-in-One loaded with Windows 8.

I think owning an All-in-One is just silly. Imagine standing and swiping away like a restaurant waiter to get to the webpage you want, or worse try typing a letter in WORD using the screen-keyboard. Sure, you can sit and do the same, but I bet after 10 minutes, your arm will get tired. Besides, All-in-One is not new! If you have been following the evolution of Microsoft’s OS, Acer and HP had touch-screen all-in-One since Windows 7, just that no one was buying them. To be honest, even if an iMac 27″, I doubt I will get one, or salivate to get one; it’s just not practical. This will only make sense if you using the computer passively: watching videos, playing music and games, etc.: touch here, touch there…

If you connect the dots, iPad and tablets are doing exactly just that. Sure, you may also occasionally type an email, reply to text, post a picture, … but the difference is that tablets and iPad are lighter and totally mobile. I can type anywhere I want with a blue-tooth keyboard, and it is just as good, if not better.

Another point why PC is dead? Before you might need to bring work home, but laptop has become so cheap that you likely can use one of your offices’ to do real work. It means the days you had to use your home computer to finish a report was so yesteryear. Likely, you get a laptop on loan, and VPN into your office network to get the files you need, and work away. This also means even thumbdrive is another technology of the past; besides, your company probably never allows you to download stuff on a thumbdrive anymore for security reasons. Remember those thumbdrive-gates, where public servants lost drives with sensitive information on them, and worse they were un-encrypted?!

Of course, some will argue that they still need a home computer to edit their photos, home movies, and stuff like that. Seriously, how many people are really doing those?! Never mind some people still have a hard time understanding an OS! Besides, Photoshop, InDesign, iMovies, …are really meant for the pro.

So it became apparent last week when I decided to get the last few bucks out of my Netbook (remember those?!), I installed Lubuntu hoping to get more speed out of the thing: Gateway 11″ LT311h, WinXP. It did and I was happy that finally everything was working with this Ubuntu version 12.04. Its WIFI was working seamlessly (three years ago, I was still struggling with it to recognize my router, and it never did, I used ethernet …long story). My next dilemma was whether to get a new battery, so that I could use it at cafés, etc, and mostly for writing stuff like this. Gladly, I didn’t. I found an inexpensive ($14) blue-tooth keyboard, Logitech designed by ZAGG, to pair with my iPad2. In fact, with iOS7, it works even better.

Here is the deal, companies like CloudOn, Google, are offering workable version of Office derivatives (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) in the Cloud, and files created are sync-able with Dropbox, Google Drive, and the likes, which means as long as there is a WIFI connection, I can work on those files as I please. Of course, one caveat is that you may not want to work on anything confidential on an open Hotspot. But at home, it’s game!

So iPad and tablets are in and laptop will soon be out, but not entirely, students still need them. Commercial laptop will remain, unless we revert back to terminal.

Mind you, I still prefer to write my blogs using my 15.6″ laptop, but for simple outdoor writing with a café au lait, my iPad/Logitech duo is nothing but perfect: light, truly functional, and practical now!

P.S. I use iWriter (Apple’s App) for basic non-format writing.

Regain space on iPad

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I have an iPad 2 with 16GB. As we all know with the iOS installed, we only left with 13.4GB for all our stuff.

Mine has been at the critical point of 1GB lately, so I started deleting stuff on the iPad to reclaim some of the space. I only have apps on it now, I stream my music from my iTunes library, and not really crazy to have movies and watch them on my iPad.

It has been 3 years since I bought it, I figured last week it was time to reset it to factory settings and restore my backup to give it a deep cleaning, like how we are supposed to with our laptop every year to cure performance issues.

So I did it last week. Make sure you backup your iPad on the computer before doing anything!!!! It took about an hour, and you know what, now I have 9.4GB of empty space, that’s almost 900% gain.I was astonished.

I think when you deleted apps on the iPad, it didn’t really uninstall the entire app, so some stuff were left behind…so this is the only way to clean it up, get space back, and improve performance: it had been freezing many times before I did this.

I am sure you know how to do this, anyway the steps are:

1) connect iPad with USB cable with iTunes on ( I wouldn’t do this wireless)

2) select device and pick iPad. On summary page, Backup and then Reset to Factory Settings.

3) Follow steps on screen after iPad is reset, and select “backup-date” to restore

Everything will be exactly before the reset including your wallpaper! I am going to do same with my iPhone now.

Cheers.

Just iTunes U itself makes iOS so much better…

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Usage share of web client operating systems. (...

Usage share of web client operating systems. (Source: Median values from Usage share of operating systems for August 2011.) Windows XP (35.21%) Windows 7 (31.21%) Windows Vista (11.27%) Mac OS X (7.31%) iOS (3.38%) Linux (2.25%) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think there have been enough said about iOS being a closed-system; therefore, it is controlled by Apple and less friendly. On the other hand, the Android OS is totally open-source; therefore, you can make changes as much as you like “if you know how” or “where to look for them”. One point I want to make is that Android OS is Linux, and Linux is great if you know command lines, etc. Trust me, I had used many versions of Linux, even was crazy enough to buy the Corel Linux way back when, but each time was the same disappointment: I was spoiled with Windows and unable to learn processes that were beyond point-click-hourglass-wait-fingercrossed-installed. I remember I had to issue “Mount” in Linux so that my CD-ROM became functional. So my point, Linux does offer great flexibly, because you can truly script and tailor to your needs as you want! But I am lazy, and too senile to do that, but I did try.

Here is my point regarding iOS, despite it is a close-system, Apple’s own applications are well thought out; therefore, no need to tweet. Case in point is the iTunes U that I talked about in my earlier blog: Attending iTunesU in bed with pj, other than the choices of lectures, I just discovered another great feature it has: taking notes when you watch the video lecture.

Fig1: top right (notepad icon)

To access the notebook, click on the notebook icon top right (Fig. 1) ,which opens up the notepad while the video is still running, i.e., you can truly experience it as if you were in a lecture.

Fig 2: Notepad with video

You can record your notes and access it as you need in course binder!

If this is not genius for students, I do not know what is! The only missing thing is to get a bluetooth keyboard and you are all set. If your college is on the same wavelength and delivers its courses this way, all you need is an iPad with keyboard for the entire semester! No more bulky knapsack with textbooks and laptop. Do other tablet OSes do that other than improving games and watching TV shows, movies, youtube… and connecting to social media. I think I am right on this one.

Cheers.

Inserted graphics are from Virology W3310 offered by Columbia University conducted by Dr. Vincent Racaniello.

Chrome for iOS

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As I said in Browsers: Google Chrome is the best IMO…., there are a lot of things that make it easy to use with the desktop version, and now Google up the ante and came out with the iOS version.

These are the goodies I noticed:

1) you can use voice control in the browser, i.e., if you say New York Times, it will do a google search and display the page link, as if you type it in. This is pretty kewl because you can do google search hands-free. It not Siri, but I was able to ask it to show me Toronto temperature and map, yes, I do have to click to expand, but less typing! (American English only!)

2) it will sync with other chrome browsers that you have on. For example, I was reading the Star on desktop, the sync page will show that and I can open it on my iPad … it syncs with my iPhone and desktop automatically without me touching the settings.

3) The incognito mode is available, and you can easily switch between the two, there is an icon to do that on top right. Now, it will be nice to have that with the desktop version.

4)Bookmarks are sync on all devices including access to desktop’s!

5)The look and feel is the same as the desktop version, so no learning curve. It has a dedicated bookmark page, just swipe.

I am impressed with it! I was using Atomic Lite for its incognito mode, I just deleted the app, sorry. Safari is native to iOS, it stays but I don’t think I will need it much.

Cheers.

Microsoft Surface

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English: Microsoft surface table

English: Microsoft surface table (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest buzz was the surfacing of the soon-2-come Microsoft Surface tablet. As usual, MS is going to give you choices, whether is stripe-down RT version, or the full Win8 experience.

From what I have read and seen in the news, the drawing point to this tablet is MS R&Ding the whole thing, i.e., no third party! I guess with MS deep pocket, it can be exciting?!

The appeal as they try to market it is the rainbow colours array of the gadget (focusing a demographics of 16-25, perhaps!). To me, nothing of a wow here, looking at them. Sure, the tablet and keyboard are thin, but so are some ultra-thin notebooks on sales now. So, after you upgrade it to Win8, how is it different? especially when the ultra sells for its quick boot time, and wake time already.

I already talked about Android tablets weakness (for some) was with their multiple-versions open source system, but will the close source Win8 base tablet wins over established iOS’s?

Despite all, with anything new, don’t and go for 2nd generation, if there is going to be! That’s the cardinal rule for consumers, whether they are gadgets, appliances, or automobile.

The one think I am curious is how the keyboard works? motion sensor, i.e., like how we type on smartphones or iPad or Android tablets? If it is based on mechanical compression, press down, then it will be a failure! cause, there are Bluetooth keyboards that do the same with iPad! Now, it will be interesting if the keyboard is backlit, i.e., the key lights up as you type! you know, like how we see it in movie, clear glass keyboard, as you type, the key lights up and shows the letter….

Buying gadget is about seeing and feeling, so let’s wait till the real thing comes out!

What’s next?!

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Nothing came out lately was endearing, gadget-wise. Most manufacturers are just in an uncreative-none-risk taking phase now, i.e., tweeting or enhancing with what are already working. I mean even the iPad is a bit underwhelming now.

On the video side, blu-ray never took off. How many times people will upgrade their movies collection? The fact that blu-ray disc is averaging $20 Cdn does not help either. Yes, some are discounted at $10 each, but likely those movies that have already been seen multiple times. So, what manufacturers like Sony, Samsung, and the likes do? Package blu-ray disc players with wifi and steaming capabilities. New idea? NO! Think about PS3! BTW, still one of the top rated multi-players. Average WiFi ready and non dongle version player runs about $150 retail. PS3 $250!

What about TVs? LCD, LED, Plasma… Obviously, the barrier to purchase has long been eliminated. A 720p 32inch LCD tv can be had for about $350. I got my 42-inch projection 1080p tv for $3000 in 2001. A high-quality 50-inch tv is about $1,200-$1,600. I believe 50-inch is the ideal size, especially some movies are still shown in letterbox. Once again, manufacturers are integrating tv sets with WiFi to charge you more! If you are like me with different means or gadgets to tell weather conditions, having the ability to display it on the tv may not be that thrilling; besides, doesn’t every city have its own weather channel? C’mon, we can surf the web with the big-screen tv. Trust me, it’s nothing exciting to work a mouse on your couch handle, or on a foldable table you eat tv dinner on. What about getting e-mails? Facebook and twitter? If you want everyone in the living room read them too, then it’s a great idea! That’s why people are buying privacy screens for their laptops.

iPod = portable music, period.

Every game console has motion detection now, so it is just a matter of taste and loyalty. Same goes for portable game unit. I play simple games like Jewel, Sudoku, and Bowling, so my iPhone is fine.

Now that we have been using personal computers for over 30 years, truly there is nothing sexy or special about it anymore. Hence, when have you seen a software commercial lately? and I dare anyone will lineup overnight to get Windows8! Microsoft had its Windows 95 moment, but beyond that…. Zzzzzzzz.

Digital camera: what is old is new again!

I am not lying, there is no excitement out there!

Cheers.

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