Wireless Displays

Wireless Display technology has been around for a few years, but it had a prominent showing this past spring at CES as several hardware manufactures released devices built on Intel’s new wireless screen sharing technology. Most recently, Google released a small device that is similar in function to media hubs that we discussed in a past article; however, this little device included a beta service that allows you to stream content wirelessly from any device as long as the content is running in a Chrome browser. While the service is low quality and limited to only content that can be played within a Chrome browser tab, it signals the hat of yet another technology giant being thrown into the ring. Apple is, in my opinion, ahead of the curve though still locking its users into the Apple only Ecosystem. The latest version of OS X includes the ability to use an HD TV or other display connected to an Apple TV as another fully functional monitor wirelessly.

Intel’s Wireless Display or WiDi technology is not much different from what Apple provides, though it does allow for more choices when choosing devices for running your wireless display. Hardware manufacturers like Netgear have developed set top media hubs that support the Intel WiDi technology, and Intel has even signed deals with several TV makers who now have sets that are being shipped with the technology built right in. On the computer side of the equation, Intel has 3 requirements to take advantage of WiDi. First is an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor 2nd generation or newer. Second is an Intel video card that supports WiDi. Finally, a network card that has been certified to work with WiDi is also required. Right now, only a few network cards that are not Intel brand cards are available that support WiDi. Visit this site (http://www.intel.com/support/wireless/wtech/iwd/sb/CS-031059.htm) to see a full list of hardware capable of running Intel WiDi.

With Google jumping in the ring with Intel and Apple, alongside other smaller competitors in the space, I expect to see some rapid innovation in this technology over the next year or 2. What will really make this a must-have technology for everyone will be, like most other technologies, simplification. Whoever can make this technology work with the least amount of effort and additional hardware will jump out ahead of the rest of the pack. I am really looking forward to this technology taking hold mainstream and hoping wireless display becomes a standard feature for desktops, laptops, and tablets alike.

Media Hubs – Home Entertainment Evolution

Our world revolves around media: pictures, movies, music, and even documents. Families are separated by their media devices, flung to the far corners of the house hunkered over computers, laptops, tablets, and other handheld devices. Each device is like an island, providing entertainment to only one person. In a previous article, I discussed how to share content like movies and music with multiple devices around the home. In this article, we are going to talk about devices that bring all of that media together in one place, the family room. These devices are sometimes referred to as media hubs.

For some time now, geeky folks like myself have been toiling away at getting all their movies, music, pictures, and DVR content in one place and sharing it around our homes, building computers that reside in our AV cabinets in the family room and using them to display this content on our TV. Our TVs and DVD players are now “Smart” and include some apps that allow us to connect to some of that media over the internet. Devices like the Roku box stream content from the internet, but also allow for other applications to be added to it that allow you to stream your personal media from a computer in your home. I am looking at building a custom solution that uses a hobby electronics device called a RaspberryPi to create a media hub for streaming content to my family room. Another new device that wants to be the only media system you will ever need is the new Xbox One. I know I talk about the Xbox in the security article of this newsletter, but it really is just that cool to make it into 2 articles. The Xbox One is a Blu-ray player, game system, video phone, TV tuner, DVR, content- streaming pile of cool. But it won’t be on sale till later this year.

There is a trend forming here, and I think Microsoft is on the right track. Being able to get to and view your content should be easy. It should in the words of Steve Jobs, “Just Work.” And people shouldn’t have to have 50 little boxes hooked up to their TV with an equally large number of remotes to operate. And while the family room has always been the hub of entertainment, the different methods of delivering that entertainment are going to converge into a single powerful media hub.

The Apple-Powered Family

I am a stalwart PC user. I know and love the Windows operating system, but over the last few years my family, like many others, has become more and more dependent on our Apple iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPods). Our used iPhones have become iPods for our kids, and we have an iPad the entire family shares. In what seems like the blink of an eye, my family has become Apple-powered, and my wife and I were unprepared. My wife asked me the other day, “How can we manage how the kids are using the internet and apps on our devices and keep them safe?” My response was, “Let me find out.” I have done my research and now I would like to share the fruits of my labor with you.

The first thing that you need to decide is who needs an Apple ID. Apple IDs are used to log you in to do all things Apple: buy/download apps, purchase music and movies from iTunes, and use iCloud. For my wife and I, it was easy – she and I each needed an ID. We figured that since our children are very young, they don’t yet need the level of independence an Apple ID would give them in the Apple world of “stuff.” We use our Apple IDs to keep our devices backed-up in the cloud and to distinguish who is who in our shared iCloud Calendars. This is a great feature for an Apple-powered family. Create a calendar in iCloud and share it with the entire family to keep track of everyone’s schedules. When someone updates the calendar, it shows up on every device instantly.

Calendars aren’t the only thing we can share. We use cloud services like Skydrive to share files and documents, with iOS 6 we share photo streams from our devices over iCloud, and we share our music and movies using iTunes. I found that built right into iTunes are features that allow me to share all of the music and movies I have on my computer with all of the other computers and devices I have in the house. I don’t have to buy that “Party Rock” song 5 times for everyone to listen to it. Apple has 2 ways of sharing your digital media on your home network: iTunes sharing and Home Sharing. Turning on iTunes sharing allows up to 5 computers on your network to watch or listen to any music or videos in your iTunes library. The only hitch is that you can’t take the file with you. Home sharing is a little different. When you enable Home Sharing, streaming movies is extended to your iOS devices and to Apple TV. You can also copy between computers, great for taking that new movie or playlist on a trip, using your laptop. You will also be able to copy media imported from a home share to your iOS device and take it with you. The iOS devices don’t seem to count against your authorized computer count.

Now let’s talk about the kids. iTunes and iOS devices have some very handy parental control features. Parental controls on your computer can be found on the Parental tab under preferences in iTunes and under Restrictions on the General page of the Settings app on an iOS device. In iTunes, you can disable access to things like the store and iTunes Radio. You can restrict access to apps, music, and movies based on content ratings and lock it all up with a password so kids can’t change the settings. iOS devices allow you to hide apps you don’t want kids to have access to, in addition to the same types of content restrictions as iTunes. You can disable in-app purchases or disable access to the store all together. These are just a few of the settings available to make iTunes and iOS devices safer for your kids. If you have created Apple IDs for your kids but don’t want to give them unlimited access to your credit card to buy apps and music, you can use the iTunes Store Allowance to purchase apps and media. At any time, you can go back and change the monthly amount, suspend, or cancel the allowance. The one place that iOS devices seem to have fallen short in the parental control department is safe web browsing. For $3.99 from the app store, the Kid Safe browser app has the solution with all the safe web browsing features you could ever want.

Apple devices empower people to do things they never did before and now, as families get more ingrained in the Apple ecosystem of devices and content, Apple has empowered families to share, learn, entertain, and be entertained in a new way. Many people think that electronic devices are pulling people further apart, but with the right know-how families can learn and play and learn to play together in a new way that works with our digital age and do it safely. For more detailed instructions on how to setup home sharing, calendar sharing in iCloud, or parental controls, visit the blog @ jcbits.wordpress.com or ‘like’ us on facebook @ facebook/JacobsCompanyBITS, where I will be posting How-To tutorials.

CES 2013!

As I am writing this newsletter, the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is preparing to get underway in Las Vegas. CES is one of — if not the — largest venues for the makers of all of the must-have tech gadgets to unveil their latest creations and technologies. This year is no different. Already, the Internet is a buzz with news about what is being debuted by manufacturers like Panasonic, Intel, and Samsung. I am so excited to see what new gadgets this year’s CES will bring.

Some companies have already begun product unveilings, like Sharp and their new display technology called IGZO and improvements to their Quattron color technology. Lots of new TV and display technologies are expected this year at CES. There was speculation that a clear, that’s right you can see right through it, display from Samsung would be unveiled. The see-through displays may be science fiction, but Corning Inc. (the makers of much of the glass used in displays from smartphones to TVs) believes it is coming at some point. Will this be the year? I guess we will have to wait and see.

There are lots of other cool things at CES; tablets, phones, wearable Bluetooth fitness monitors, new technologies from auto manufacturers, like Siri integration and Pandora radio for your car. If you thought the see-through display rumor was over the top sci-fi, then the Vuzix Smart Glasses will really put you over the edge. These smart glasses are a hands-free display for your smartphone that you wear on your head. Another technology that will be making its way from the realm of sci-fi is the 3D printer. For several years now, DIY inventors known as Makers have been tinkering with printers that can create 3D objects by printing layers of plastic one on top of the other. 3D printing is great for the inventor in need of a way to get a prototype of a part out of the computer and into the real world, but what might the average household use one for? Well, some of the projects I have seen are for printing designer home accessories like a vase or decorative artwork. I have also heard of individuals getting files to print replacement parts for toys or other common plastic parts that have broken such as gears or buttons. Today the base model 3D printer will run you $1200 — pricy for most, but the price continues to drop as more people adopt these cool little devices.

Manufacturers at CES will certainly be bringing a lot of very cool and useful new gadgets to consumers this year, and I look forward to sharing more information about some of the coolest ones with you in the next issue. I expect to see lots of new gadgets for the home network centered around wireless and audio/video streaming. Hang on technology! 2013 is shaping up to be one wild ride.