Monday, September 16, 2013

Podcasts That I Listen To On My Daily Commute

Driving to work in Atlanta traffic is pain especially when you have a daily commute as long as mine. In order to maintain sanity, I listen to a variety of tech podcast each day as I drive to and from work. Being a geek, it's helpful hearing opinions from other technology experts (or so-called experts) about tech-related news, helpful tips and product reviews. Here is what I listen too each week:

I am always open to listening to new podcasts. Feel free to recommend any podcasts worth giving a try.

NOTE: I use BeyondPod on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and iTunes, which syncs to my iPod Nano to listen to podcasts not only in my car but when I am working out as well.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What I Use: Google Chromecast

Something so simple yet so genius. That is what Google has delivered with the Chromecast. The Chromecast avoids all of the headaches associated with trying to get online content on your television and just streams existing services. It is also the perfect companion device to the Nexus 7 and Chromebook.

Inside the box is the Chromecast device, a relatively long microUSB cable, USB power supply, and HDMI extender that makes it easier to plug the dongle into some televisions. The Chromecast itself is a small, two-inch dongle that can be plugged into the HDMI port on any high-definition television (HDTV) and is capable of streaming content from YouTube, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music or Netflix directly to the television. Yes, it's that simple. You can also mirror websites, images, and video displayed in Google Chrome onto the screen with a simple browser extension. It can also wirelessly stream that content from your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. What's even cooler is that you can move your Chromecast from TV to TV without any additional setup, provided your Chromecast is connected to the same Wi-Fi network (which unfortunately, only supports 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n).

When Google first announced Chromecast, it offered three months of Netflix for free, but the promotion has been pulled because so many folks rushed out to buy the thing. I was fortunate enough to still get the Netflix promotion. As interest increases, I expect apps from other services such as Hulu to be available soon.

Now looking at it from the other end of the spectrum, the simplicity of the Chromecast is also what hurts it with some consumers. Unlike the Roku and Apple TV, it is not a standalone device. It is pretty much a dongle that connects to your TV that allows you to stream content from your compatible device. The Chromecast is pretty much useless otherwise. So when you compare the $35 Chromecast with the $49 Roku LT, which can stream content from HUNDREDS of channels, one has to wonder why anyone would pick the Chromecast. 

Nevertheless, Google delivered on its promise of simplicity and function with the Chromecast. While it isn't the most feature-pack device when compared to a Roku or Apple TV, it is however one of the most user-friendly and cheapest media devices on the market today that will get better over time. As it stands, the product is well worth its price.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tech Tip: Windows 8/8.1 on my Acer Laptop with UEFI

Acer has been my computer of choice for personal purchases recently (sorry Dell). Regardless of the type of computer I buy, I always, ALWAYS reinstall Windows on it. I do this to remove all the preinstalled crap(ware) that comes with most new computers. I like a fresh, clean install on my computers (along with solid state drives). Recently, I purchased a new Acer Aspire S3 391 and discovered something interesting during a clean installation of Windows 8.1.

For Windows 7 and Windows 8 installs, I generally try to use the free Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to create a bootable USB drive. Quick and easy. However, I soon discovered that the only way for the Acer ultrabook to recognize a bootable USB drive to install Windows was to set the BIOS to Legacy Mode instead of UEFI. Basically, UEFI is short for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface and is the standard firmware interface for newer computers and was designed to be the successor to the BIOS. The main advantages of UEFI are the support of GPT (GUID partition table) drives, which allow you to use drives larger than 2TB, Secure Boot, and a faster boot-up process. 

Making the change was simple enough and then installation runs as normal. Unfortunately, there is a 'gotcha' if you make that changes. If you reinstall Windows 8/8.1 with the BIOS set to Legacy Mode, when you change back to UEFI boot mode, it says "no bootable devices found". If you change the setting back to Legacy Mode, it works as normal. 

While UEFI is not required, if you are a geek like me then you probably want to make use of all the capabilities in the newer hardware. After a little research, I discovered that the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool always formats an existing partition with NTFS. Unfortunately, FAT32 is required for booting up in UEFI mode. If you want to use UEFI, the easiest process is to install Windows the old fashion way using a installation DVD (this is alternative to trying to convert the drive into a GPT drive). After installing Windows 8.1 from DVD (which you can use the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to create the DVD), I was able to enable UEFI on my Acer laptop and boot into Windows.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If for some reason you accidentally format the 20GB SSD used for hibernation (ooops), Acer has a very helpful video on how to set it up again. Link to video.