Leaf drops

This past weekend we got our first real snow. It’s still in the mid-30s to 40s during the day, so it didn’t stick around too long, but it reminded us that it’s winter. My wife sent me a text when she was heading out on Saturday to come check out some leaves in the driveway. She sent me an amazing pic of some water droplets on the fallen leaves. I didn’t have time at the moment to go check it out, but later in the day I managed to snap a nice shot.

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Moved over to a Roku

I own a 3rd generation Apple TV, and I’ve had it for around 5 years. Before that I had a 2nd generation but had to upgrade when various services like YouTube were no longer being supported. Even before that I had a 1st generation Apple TV, which was one of the biggest experiments that Apple had put out at the time. Originally, the Apple TV was a way for me to stream my iTunes library from the computer to the TV. However, as the various services have developed, it’s become something much, much more.

My wife and I use the Apple TV constantly to watch Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. But it’s no longer the only game in town. Pretty much every consumer electronic device that you can buy has some way to connect up to online media services. Additionally, now that you can rent and stream movies from a multitude of sources, I no longer download any movies to my iTunes library. This makes be less dependent on any one particular service, since I can get movies from Amazon and Google as well.

Recently, our 3rd generation device has been having issues. It isn’t getting many software updates, and it occasionally crashes in the middle of streaming media. All of Apple’s development work is being put into its high-end streaming device that has a complete app store experience built-in. It was coming time to put the old black box away and move on to something new. The question was move to what?

The three main options I landed on were Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, or Roku. The Amazon device is very slick, and has a nice UI. It is also very deeply embedded into the Amazon ecosystem, making it the ideal device to watch content from there. From what I was able to read online, it struggled with connecting to services like Google Play. On the Chromecast side, the opposite was true. It connected to Google just fine, but the Amazon integration was a bit lacking. Additionally, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of needing to use your phone as a remote all the time.

So that left me with Roku. As readers of this blog might remember, I’ve had some experience with Roku before. I also own a small TV in one of my kids rooms that has Roku built right into it. I happened to be at Best Buy this morning and noticed that the standard streaming stick was on sale for $40, so I decided to take the plunge. Since I have already set these up before, it only took me a few minutes to replace the Apple TV and be up and running with the Roku. The setup of the channels took a couple more minutes, but overall, it was an incredibly simple process.

So now the only issue is my iTunes Store content. Thankfully, Movies Anywhere solves the problem of any movies I’ve bought from Apple. I’m hopeful eventually that something will come along similarly for TV shows. For now, I’ll just move over to using either Google or Amazon to purchase and rent movies, which are both fully supported on the Roku.

The wife and I spent the rest of Sunday binge watching Stranger Things 2, and I was happy to have a reliable streaming device, that had all the latest software updates to the various channels. The Apple TV served me well, and it might end up getting hooked up to a different TV in the house. But for now, it’s job is well served, and I’m happy with where I’ve moved on to.

 

The demise of quality?

Maybe I’m just turning into a crotchety old man, but lately it seems like the quality of ‘things’ has gone downhill. I’ve had multiple examples of things that just don’t work as long as they should, compared to the items they’ve replaced. This doesn’t just seem to apply to technology either.

For years, my day-to-day running socks, as well as casual work socks, have been inexpensive C9 brand socks from Target. Much of my day-to-day running wardrobe has been C9, and I still have a few pieces of clothing that I bought when I started running over 7 years ago. The other day I put on a pair of C9 socks that were no more than a month old, and discovered that they had already developed a tear. This wasn’t a hole on the bottom from over-use, but a seam that was pulling apart.

Then yesterday, my two year old Pioneer stereo/HDMI receiver decided to stop outputting signal. Previous to this device I had a nice Sony ES receiver that lasted me over a decade. I only replaced it because it didn’t have any HDMI capabilities which are a requirement nowadays in home media. So now, two years into it, I need to decide if I’m going to replace or repair this device, when I shouldn’t have had to worry about it. (Update: it started working again mysteriously when I took it to the repair shop, and now it seems fine…)

Perhaps it’s just a string of bad luck, but it feels like maybe things aren’t lasting as long as they should, and maybe part of that is on us. Maybe we’re just too willing to accept that things don’t last that long, and we use the excuse that we want the latest and greatest all the time. Maybe we should start demanding more quality in the things we buy, and insisting that we not have to replace things long before we should. Here ends the rant.

Another first snow

All week the weather has been hinting that we might see some snow on Friday. Sure enough, I woke up to find a slushy mess on my car, and the beautiful sight of large snowflakes streaming from the sky. I love the first snow of winter, and Friday was no exception. It was a beautiful morning, despite people forgetting how to drive in it.

Even though I shared the shot below on other social media, I like how it came out so I’m sharing it again here. Enjoy the winter everyone!

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Got to try CarPlay!

Today I brought my car into the shop to get some work done. It was costly enough that I decided to spend the extra $25 to get a rental car for the day. I love getting rental cars from dealers because they are usually the latest model vehicles with all the bells and whistles. Today was no exception as I got to drive around in a 2017 Honda CR-V decked out with leather and everything else you can imagine.

One of the biggest perks is something I’ve been wanting to play with for a long time, Apple CarPlay. I immediately plugged my phone in this morning and started playing before I left the parking lot. CarPlay (and Android Auto) are dead simple to use. When you plug in your device the screen is taken over by a UI similar to that of your phone. No more clunky auto manufacturer attempts at a user interface. You get something clean and familiar.

It took mere seconds to get my phone screen up on the dashboard, with it’s limited set of icons that are CarPlay enabled. Most apps don’t make sense on a dashboard, so only a few have been modified to work. Thankfully, Google Play music is one of them. Operating CarPlay is just like operating my phone. The menus are familiar, and you simply press the screen and select, just like on the phone. Things are optimized to be efficient and easy to use, with no clutter.

As I used CarPlay over the course of the day I fell in love with how it wasn’t distracting, but in fact got out of the way. Changing music involved a quick poke with my finger on the next track, or simply pressing the steering wheel controller. Siri was there for any other interactions I wanted to have, meaning it was easy to pull up directions and travel times without taking my eyes off the road. Best of all I didn’t need to worry about pairing anything to Bluetooth.

I don’t know that a new car is in the cards for me for a while, so I’m starting to think about getting an aftermarket deck installed. I’m curious if anyone out there has ever gotten a CarPlay/AndroidAuto deck put into their vehicles, and what their experiences are?