Netflix on Chromecast is a terrible experience

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I have 2 Chromecasts, one for my home and one for work.  The second one I won while at a conference so I decided to make it the travel one.  I’ve never had good luck streaming Netflix to Chromecast while traveling for work and I thought for the longest time it was the Chromecasts fault or the fault of the network at the hotel.  I’ve mostly dispelled that by trying to use Netflix with my Chromecast at home where I know the network connection is reliable and the TV is supported and doesn’t have any funky software on it because it is MY TV after all.

I was trying to stream Jessica Jones from my iPad Mini 2 and for some reason it would just choke and not stream or load for the longest time.  I tried using my Apple TV 3 and it streamed the content like a champ with no problems at all.  This leads me to believe either that the Netflix app is poorly written for casting to a Chromecast or the Chromecast itself isn’t capable of handling Netflix streams.

I’ve started to take my older Apple TV 2 with me on my trips since some of the places I stay have HDMI ports that let me hook it up so I can watch Netflix and also stream local content from my iPhone or my iPad. I still take the Chromecast with me but its only used if I don’t feel like packing my Apple TV (it takes up way more room and is kind of heavy).

YouTube seems to be streaming just fine on my Chromecast but maybe its because the hardware and software are both made by Google so they ensured that it would work correctly and more than 50% of the time.  I know I’ve unplugged the Chromecast out of frustration more than once during a hotel stay and just resorted to using my iPad to watch my videos.  That habit might actually push me to getting a newer iPad (hopefully they’ll come out with an iPad Air 3 that can use the Pencil) and that might be my next tablet upgrade although I am still quite happy with my Mini 2.

I’m not going to worry too much about not being able to watch content on the big screen in my hotel if Chromecast doesn’t work, I’ll always have my iPhone or my iPad to fall back on and frankly the app on the iPad for Netflix is pretty good so I actually watch Netflix on my iPad more than I do on my TV even at home and especially not on a computer since the interface isn’t the best.  I guess Netflix really is more for mobile than for home viewing.

Finally upgrading my 2011 MacBook Pro Hard Drive to an SSD

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After so many years, I’m going to upgrade the drive thats in my 2011 MacBook Pro to an SSD.  I’ve been struggling with my 750GB hard drive for a while now even though the computer is only 4 years old but I’ve run into space problems numerous times now.  I’ve moved my iOS device backups to an external hard drive but thats kind of a pain since I can only do backups and media syncs separately.  The 1TB really isn’t to gain more storage, its more for speed.

A couple of months ago I replaced the battery inside my MacBook so that I can use it again without having it always attached to DC power  (I’m writing this blog post on battery power) and its been great to be able to take my computer around with me without having to drag the power cord along.  I already have 8GB of RAM in the MacBook which should be plenty by all accounts but the performance bottleneck has always been the hard drive.

Now that I have the SSD (well its technically coming in the mail), things should get a lot faster and that will make my computer feel new again.  I made an agreement with the wife that I wouldn’t get a new computer for another 3 years after getting this SSD.   I did see that there were some issues with this particular drive model, but I took the chance since it was $100 below the model that I wanted which was a Samsung 850 or a Crucial 550.  I also read that the company that makes the drive is pretty good about RMA’ing the drive if there’s something wrong and I have my Time Machine backups so I’m not too worried about data loss. I was eyeing one of the newer MacBooks for over a year but I don’t use a computer enough at home to warrant getting a new one.  This brought me to the conclusion that I should just do upgrades since my MacBook is one of the last versions where you can actually replace the parts in it.

I’m hoping that I get the drive during Thanksgiving break, it will take quite a while to clone my current drive (I’ve read iFixit and it might take as much as an entire day to do it).  If I can make my MacBook last as long as my desktop (its going on 8 years and its even running Windows 10 which is amazing), that would have almost doubled my normal upgrade cycle for my computing devices except for my iPhones and iPad’s.  Even those are sticking around fairly long with an average age of 3 years before they’re being replaced.

Now for the hardest part, waiting for the stupid thing to arrive so I can make my computer go FAST again.

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Flipboard still wins as my news app of choice

I’ve been on the iOS 9 public betas for a while and I’ve had a chance to access the News app that Apple has provided but even though it’s pretty good it’s still not as good as using Flipboard.  I’ve been a Flipboard user since its earliest inception way back when I was using an iPad 2 (not to be confused with the Air 2).  There’s something about it that seems better regarding the experience that Apple hasn’t replicated yet.  I haven’t added all that many extra sources since I first started using it but I do end up browsing other sources when I have the time or there’s a particular topic that I find interesting.

The News app is only ok, I think the thing that I don’t like about it is the limited choices of where content comes from.  It’s also probably my own ignorance on how the app works.  I already had a kick a as news app so why should I change and set up another service to get the same news that I’ve been reading all this time?  I’ve tried using the News app on multiple occasions and every time I’ve found it a bit lacking.  Although I will admit that the place I get most of my news is my Twitter feed which I’m thankful that Flipboard supports.  What disappointed me a lot was the loss in ability to read my Facebook feed using the app but that was because Facebook changed the API and what you could access.

The real kicker though is that the app I still use a lot is the Zite app.  Zite was an app that was bought by Flipboard and recently there is an option to import all the things that you could read in Zite to Flipoard.  I still like the way the Zite service works, even better than Flipboard in my opinion.  It’s still one of my go to news apps for just reading stuff and it has a better way to get me articles that I generally wouldn’t have read otherwise.  I think more integration of features from the Zite app into the Flipboard app will finally get me to ditch Zite but until that time I’m going to continue t use both as my primaries.

I’ll still check out the News app every once in a while but since it’s part of the core OS, I probably won’t see any significant changes to it until the next iOS revision.  And therein probably lies the biggest weakness to native apps on iOS, they can’t be updated like all the other apps on the App Store, you have to wait until there is another iOS revision to see major upgrades to the service.  Maybe iOS shoudn’t pack all those apps into the core OS or they should make u[dates available via the App Store.  The iWork apps work that way although those apps can be deleted and the core apps can’t but maybe that’s an area Apple should consider in the future.

In the mean time I’m going to continue to use Flipboard for aggregating news since that’s what it’s good at and I like the interface the best.

Working in the Great White North

It’s already November and I’m well below my goal of 100 blog posts a year.  I know that I’ve done way more than that for Facebook posts but the blog has taken a back seat.  Anyway, for the past month or so I’ve been traveling to Toronto Canada for work.  This isn’t the first time I’ve gone international for work but going to Toronto in 2015 is really going to screw my taxes.  But other than that it’s been pretty nice going up there.

I’ve been able to go see my aunt, uncle, and cousin who I haven’t seen in about a decade (well my cousin I saw this summer in Montreal) but still, it was nice to make the connection.  It was pretty exciting for a while since the Blue Jay’s were in the playoffs but they didn’t get past the ALCS but now it’s hockey season so of course that’s going to make Toronto exciting all over again.

I’ve also captured some pretty awesome pictures from the plane and from walking to and from work.  I’ll have to see more of the city and take more pictures as my project continues through December.  I haven’t toured around the city so much yet, I always pass the CN tower on my way to work but I haven’t seen much else of the city besides taking the subway.

The only downer is that I’m not going to make a lot of hotel points or status this time around.  I have made it past 200K miles on American Airlines though so it’s not a total loss.  I’ll send more updates from TOronto if there’s anything cool to report.  I am eagerly expecting to use Apple Pay though, it should be making its way to Canada soon. 

Oh last pet peeve, I really don’t like foreign transaction fees and I wish my credit cards wouldn’t have them but since it’s a short project I’ll just deal with it for now.