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.

iOS7 has landed!

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There are many improvements, but after reading some reviews, I do agree there is a speed issue, i.e., some apps seem to take a while longer to open up, but so far no crashes.

As I said in Twitter before, it’s an OS update, but essentially it is the sleekness that will draw people’s attention.

Likes:

1. Locked-screen Notifications: clear and readable, easy sliding to check all of them.
2. Clean screen swipe to get to passcode entry.
3. Keypad seems to be more sensitive reading input letters. Before, I always had to correct my entry entering the wrong letter or number.
4. Dimensional layers are cool, i.e., the set-back background makes the app-icons look floating above. With iPad, you get dynamic motion background.

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5. Mutli-apps accessibility. Double-click the home button will show all active apps. Swipe up will close it. In other words, no more negative sign to close them on the bottom bar, when home button is double-clicked.
6. Easy pull up (from bottom) to change most used settings, like bluetooth, wifi, camera…
7. Same, while in use, pull down from top to show notifications. Interesting iPad version now also includes weather report.
8. Camera controls are now on the left and right side, which makes them more accessible.
9. Overall, it feels lighter with the esthetic changes? psychological or good design?!

Dislikes:

1. It seems it takes more power, so it lasts shorter between re-charges (non scientific).
2. Apps may take longer to load.
3. Can’t slide2right an email to delete it anymore.
4. If you have the setting set to “show all”in Music, your music library will include those purchased in the iCloud… I turned it off, so it only shows the ones that are downloaded to my devices. Besides, you can’t play the ones with iCloud symbol, you have to download them(again) first ??? very confusing.

An OS, is an OS, is an OS… iOS7 is sexy, sleek, as predicted, and easy on the eyes- no sound wiping, no vibration swiping, no big screens, small screens, opaque, transparent, big icons, small icons,…and no calories (Jelly bean, Donut, Kit-Kat: WHY)!!!

Cheers.

Free Digital Newspapers no longer!

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Have you noticed that most digital version of newspapers are gradually going subscription base and that you have limited views of articles: most are 10. It started with New York Times, and then now it seems all of them have caught on: Telegraph, National Post and now our Toronto Star. However, it seems like the version on iPad is still free…

I don’t blame them, they all have payroll.  So what I do now to get free information or news? I use Google news, instead.

Perhaps I have never been a daily newspapers reader, so I don’t think I will miss them.

Cheers.

 

Networking Win-Xp with Win-7

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If you still have Win-Xp machine(s) around in your household and want to network them with your Win-7 machine(s), it is not hopeless. Here are the steps. Oh it only took me an entire afternoon to figure out with googling and trials and errors, so it should be easy for you now.

Before I get to the steps, you need to understand the architect behind the two systems are  totally different. I believe Win-7 is built on the more stable corporate platform Win2000, so its networking methodology is certainly different from Win-Xp, which derived from Win98…

Differences:

1. Win-7 connection with Homegroup of other Win-7 machine is easy as long as you name it correctly in all machines. Miraculously even media sharing is quite easy to set up, i.e., PS3. There is something called media sharing in network sharing to enable that function.

2. Win-Xp has NO Homegroup,  but Workgroup. So before with an all Win-Xp network, you did the same naming all machines with same name like the Win-7 above, and you will be able to shares drives and map them if you wanted to…

Steps:

1. Do the same and consider Homegroup and Workgroup are the same thing, so name them identical so that all machines despite OS version will find each other.

2. If you do it correctly, you should see on either machine its Network Center(7) / My Network Places (Xp) displaying named PC/laptop, at this point, if you click on it, likely, it will say “…talk to your administrator” or “… need permission”

3. Most important: on Win-Xp machine, right click on the folder or drive will give you the option of “sharing”, the thing is “Network sharing and security” is turn-off, so turn it on, if it isn’t so. Then as usual click on “Share this folder on the network”. On Win-7 machine look at the setting of rights of Public Doucments . That’s how I finally figured out to get files from my Win-7 machine, cause it showed up on my Win-Xp automatically, and I had no problems getting to files. On the other hands, other folders gave me “… talk to administrator…”, until  I put “Everyone” in the rights  in “Choose people to share with…”.  To get there:  Right-click on folder you want to share, Select Share with / Advance Settings. The share drive should be //xxxx.xxx  , click Share button will bring to the “Choose people to share with…”

4. Caveat: I haven’t set up password for folders yet, so you may have researched this if you want to make sure no one can hack into your networked folders.

There you have it, as usual Microsoft !!

P.S. I remember in the 80s, a regular phone cable is all you need to network two Mac Classics, and you just had to set rights of what each could see or not see.

Cheers.

Unbundle a smartphone?!

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I jumped the smartphone bandwagon after a defiant move not to get the then sought after iPhone One,  instead I opted for the Google phone, we called it HTC Dream here in Canada. The experience was not bad with my well-endowed 6 GB data plan, which up till now I hardly use 15% of it each month. I don’t download or stream videos; it’s tedious. And there is nothing wrong with my now iPhone4.

Neither am I a social media drudge typing mindlessly on the small keyboard updating my status or posting photos or txting. However, txt is good for one thing:2-the-point. Like 6pm same location; running late ETA 15 mins… short and sweet. It replaces those filler conversations during a call of “How are you?”  “What are you up to”…(after 3-4 mins) “Hey, listen I will be late, maybe 15 mins!” Txt is efficient up to the point one should really write and send an email instead.

Perhaps most people are on the same page here, cause I hardly get any phone calls anymore, except those irritating spams. My mom and I are on face-time now, so even long-distance I  hardly use.

Music. I never think it is a good idea to use your phone for music: a) takes up digital space; b) reduces battery life.

Games. I am too old to learn.

It brings to my point; it is time to stop thinking more is better, and jump off that ideology of multitasking! or the need of it. Why? it sounds fabulous, but most things end up half-baked. Multiple-purpose photocopier/printer/scanner/ fax is the best example of its products turn out being mediocre and the process slow. Another problem is we tend to overzealous of all the potential uses it offers, but hardly use more than one of them. Besides, the manual is usually 500 pages long and with thickness of a brick. Are you saying you have mastered your smartphone menus and settings and that I am dead wrong?! Afraid not.

I want optimal experiences! so I am now using dedicated gadgets.

I use my 5th generation 80GB iPod (2005) for music during workout, on subway, on walks. My entire music library is on it, with additional podcasts that I listen to. I bought new battery from Amazon to give it new life (at least 8 hours playtime), and I pair it with CNET recommended  Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 Earbud Headphones-$9.99 at Winners:marvellous.

I read books on my Kobo Mini! The best $40 I had spent in a long time. Books are free from my local library. I use Overdrive to download books to my computer, then copy and paste them to Adobe Digital Edition, and from there copy to my eReader via USB-takes 2 minutes! Glass-base smartphones are just not ideal for reading books; perusing pdfs is a different story!    

So why a smartphone? txt, receive and send emails, some apps, and the occasional internet search. Therefore, it begs the question when we will ditch smartphones and go for 7-inch tablets with 4G or LTE service instead? It is certainly easier on the eyes, and more functional when pairs with bluetooth keyboard for typing emails, and do some work perhaps?! CloudOn app is a functional office suite in the Cloud, do you know?!

Finally, with my process of reduction, our cellphone should really be the size of any bluetooth earphone. All it needs is a contact list with names, phone numbers, and voice activated OS to dial out and received calls, which we do now anyway with the phone as the control centre. In fact, we have been doing that since we have single-purpose cellphone.

What about Google glasses for video-calls?! or better, an iWatch/Phone?!

Funny, we love to go in circle!

Kobo Mini @ $38 (cdn)

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Since Christmas, the Kobo Mini had been selling at $55 each, and I was very tempted to purchase one, as my experience of reading on my iPhone was not the greatest: bit heavy, slippery holding it, and reflection under the sun. With so many books(paper) yet to be read in my house, I let the idea went.

Anyway, long story short, at $38 the 5-inch Kobo is the right price for an e-reader! It’s light, and I can borrow books in Adobe ePub format from my library. It reads well-no reflection like on iPhone or iPad! The touch screen is not the most sensitive and accurate for annotation, but I can bear with it. Although it comes with a broswer like other e-readers, it’s not the fastest yet it works fine. Regardless, I have other devices to surf the web while on the road, so it was never a deal-breaker.

For the e-books you get from the library, they have to be downloaded to Adobe Digital Edition (with registration) first, and upload to e-reader through USB  connection to your computer, which is really just drag & drop.

Bottom-line, it is a great little device that people may overlook and go for the 7″ Kobo Touch or Kindle’s (over-price IMO) instead, but you should really buy this; it’s value for money.

I went through my first book within two days, and it felt great on the eyes, in my hands, and on subway.

But iPad is still a better choice for reading pdf documents; it’s awful with Kobo.

Cheers.

P.S. $38 at (Canada)Bestbuy, Futureshop, and Walmart.

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