Sunday, April 19, 2015

Not so easy "plug n play"

Yesterday I had the (unfortunate) privilege (if you want to call it that) of trying out the Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player. While it's a neat little contraption, I felt it was too much a hassle to deal with.

Let me start from the beginning:

My neighbor has been looking for some sort of set up where she can hook a TV up in her kitchen. Something little, something cheap and something that will get the job done. She thought that if she bought Chromecast, she could just plug the thing into something and watch tv.. just like that. Turn the screen on, flip a magic switch, and voila, easy bake muffins on the count of 10.

Boy, were we wrong.

We had plugged the device in to her living room TV, since she's yet to buy a small kitchen one. Since the device doesn't come with proper instructions (big man, small package deal. Box was bigger than the stick). No one had gone over it with her in the store and she was led to believe that she can just put this thing in her laptop or TV and on comes Chopped or something.


You've got to plug this stick into your HDMI port in your TV. Let it search for your wireless, all the while you're on your computer downloading the program to make Chromecast run. Yes, you need either a computersmartphonetablet, or any other internet accessible device that allows you to download the app to the desktop, and subsequently stream online. From there, you have to make sure everything is seeing each other: The wireless internet finds your device, the Chromecast stick finds your internet. your device finds Chromecast stick, and then your Chromecast can work. Providing you remember to turn "on" the piece to magically send the video you want to watch to the stick. That's not to say you are up and running and ready to go. On a computer, you need the Chromecast Extension (providing you're using Chrome as your web browser. You can stream from here). On a mobile device (phone, tablet, etc), you end up having to install all the Chromecast approved apps (Hulu, Xfinity Go [for those with Comcast], Youtube works fine) on top of the Chromecast app.

Confused yet? So were we.

This post will become as convoluted a hassle as I feel this piece of technology is.

Essentially, whatever you're trying to magically transmit to your TV, Chromecast doesn't mean you can easily give up cable. Unless you know what you're doing with Chromecast.

We spent two hours trying to figure the thing out, and decided it's not for either one of us. With her laptop, because the computer is a few years old, it buffers every few minutes. Trying to do a test run - watching a show via Hulu, it was a fail, as the sound was there, the video was there, but their lips weren't matching up. Then, the video was there but the sound wasn't. Therefore, you must have an updated computer in order to run this thing.

Don't have a computer, but have a smart device for your internet?

She has a Samsung tablet that she uses for basic stuff. We installed the Chromecast app via the Playstore. From here it was a downward spiral of questionable frustraion. I got it to work twice, perfectly, but trying to write down the step by step directions, it was a fail. You have to somehow "mirror" the screen to the paired Chromestick, on top of connecting the stick wirelessly to both the TV and tablet.

I was able to connect everything, have it see each other, but got a black screen. No video, only audio. Tried pushing some options and I got video, no audio. Other options tested, I got both, but there were points where it was over pixelated. Tried something else and it worked like a charm. Going back to retrace the steps to make it all correct: black screen again. It's like, you have to let it do its thing and don't think about it each time you do it, or face wanting to throw everything out the window.

Even leaving it "perfect" to then want to shut the tablet off and do other things, the Chromestick gets shut off too.. in a way. So whatever you just did to be able to watch something on the HBOgo app, you just lost.

Either we kept missing something to make it mess up, or technology has defeated two more people. Seriously... the more mobile wizards in this world who own the streaming media players and actually get them all to work, have a one up on everyone that can't seem to understand why their tablet can send an album to their TV one minute and the next minute they can't watch TV. It's a hard life, trying to keep up with the Joneses, and by god, I really hope it doesn't get any harder!

My friend will end up returning the stick, deleting the apps, and buying a cheapy tv. She'll get a splitter, some cable wires, and see if she can split the cable from her cable box to her new TV. If all else fails, she'll have to live with using her laptop on the counter to watch her shows.

Thanks for hearing me out and I hope anyone who has these devices has better luck than we did!