May 03, 2019

Casting using Google Chromecast

Let’s start with a couple of basic questions to see if this is something you might be interested in:

Do you have a TV with an HDMI port?

Would you like to be able to cast what is on your phone or computer to that TV?

If you said “yes” to both questions, you might be interested in getting a Chromecast.



But wait: If you also have a Google Home speaker device of some kind (for example, a Google Mini or other model), there’s even more you can do.



If you are still reading, let’s begin.

The basics:

Getting a Chromecast is pretty simple. It’s sold by Google and almost anywhere technology is sold – even at Amazon. It lists for only $35, but it goes on sale for less from time to time.

Installing it is pretty simple too. Plug it into an available HDMI port on the TV. Connect the other (USB) end to the provided cord, and plug that cord into a power outlet. Turn on the TV and change the “Source” to the HDMI port the Chromecast is plugged into. Then, if you don’t already have the Google Home app loaded on your phone, you will need to download it to complete the setup. I won’t go through the steps here, but it’s pretty straightforward. 


If you need help, see this Google page: https://www.google.com/chromecast/setup/
 

If you already have the Google Home app with other devices set up, like a Google speaker device, then just add this new device and make sure you set it up in the same WiFi network as your Google Home speaker device.

One other note: You might want to give the device a simple name – for example, “Living Room TV”. This will make it easy to choose the right one in the event you end up getting more than one Chromecast.

Now that it’s set up, how can you use it? 


One way is from the Chrome browser, so you will want to have it on your computer and phone. You can also use it with apps that work with Chromecast, such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. Note that if you have Amazon Video, you can still cast, but it would be from a tab inside the Chrome browser.

Using An App On Your Phone:
Select an app on your phone (say, the YouTube app), choose a video, and select the Cast   button to cast it to your TV. If a list is presented, choose the Chromecast device to cast to. If your TV isn’t already turned on and the appropriate HDMI port selected, you may need to do that. Some TVs will turn on automatically and switch to the proper HDMI port when something is cast.

Using Google Chrome:

Open the Google browser. Go to, say, YouTube.com and find something you want to watch. Once you have selected the video, choose the 3 dots ( ) in the upper right corner of the browser, and then choose “Cast”. (If you see the Cast icon, you can choose that.) If a list is presented, choose the Chromecast device to cast to. If your TV isn’t already turned on and the appropriate HDMI port selected, you may need to do that. Some TVs will turn on automatically and switch to the proper HDMI port when something is cast.

You can cast just about anything you can display on your phone or computer, including videos, images/pictures, and files.

Using A Google Home Speaker:

What if you also have a Google Home speaker device? Well, that just adds more fun. As long as they are both in the same WiFi network, you can say something like: “Hey Google. Play Queen on YouTube on Living Room TV”, and magically you will have Queen playing on your Living Room TV (with the same caveats as described above about possibly having to manually turn on your TV and switch to the correct HDMI). You can also say: “Hey Google, skip” if you want it to go on to whatever surprise video might be next. You can also say: “Hey Google, stop” when you don’t want to watch anymore.

You can also stream Google Play Music, a radio station from iHeartRadio, a podcast you subscribe to, and lots of other stuff.


Final Caveat



For all of the above, there is another caveat: When you are done watching and you want to switch back to regular TV or your cable box or whatever, you will need to do that using your TV remote, just like you would if you have any other external sources (such as a DVD player) plugged in to a port on your TV.



Enjoy!


All in all, the Google Chromecast is a lot of fun – and it costs only $35 or less.
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In the event you missed previous articles about Google and Amazon devices, you can find them here:

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/11/review-google-home-mini-vs-amazon-echo.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/12/part-2-review-google-home-mini-vs.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2019/01/google-home-adds-feels-like-temperature.html



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Richard L. Kuper

The Kuper Report

April 01, 2019

Alexa - Why Aren't You Doing What I Ask?

If you missed any of the previous articles about Alexa and Google Home speakers, you will find links to them at the end of this article.

Lately I've noticed that Alexa doesn't seem to understand what I ask it. It either does something totally different, or it doesn't respond and I have to ask again.

As noted in a prior article, I stereo-paired two Echo Dot speakers. For the purposes of this article, I will use the default "wake word" of "Alexa." I actually had to change that on my devices -- because frequently, when someone would say Alexa on the TV, it would wake my devices and Alexa would try to respond.


Here are a few situations I have encountered recently:

Scenario 1:
Me: Alexa. Sixties on Six on Sirius XM.
Alexa: Playing Symphony Hall on Sirius XM.
In addition to not playing the station I requested, the music is only coming out of one speaker.
Me: Alexa. Stop.
Alexa thinks about this for a bit, sort-of stops, then continues playing.
Me: Alexa. Stop.
Alexa finally stops.

There are several issues in the above scenario. First, Alexa did not follow my instructions and played the wrong station. Second, the music only came out of one speaker. Third, Alexa did not stop as directed.

Scenario 2:
Me: Alexa. Play Sixties on Six on Sirius XM.
Alexa: Sixties on Six on Sirius XM.
The correct station plays, and in stereo.
Me: Alexa. Stop.
This time, Alexa stops.

I have no explanation for the first and third item in Scenario 1, but if you look closely at my first command, there is a slight difference between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2. In Scenario 2, I included the word "Play", which seemed to make all the difference.

Here is another issue I've encountered:

Scenario 3:
Me: Alexa. 1010 WINS Radio. (I am expecting to hear the news station 1010 WINS via Radio.com).
Alexa: Playing Family Values Radio from iHeartRadio. (Alexa plays what is apparently a Christian broadcast station.)
Me. Alexa Stop. (Alexa does not stop). I repeat "Alexa stop" multiple times, without success. Finally, I open the app on my phone and press the pause button. Eventually Alexa stops. One time, when I repeated this exercise as described in the note below, even that didn't work. My only recourse was to pull the plug on the speaker.

    Note: I have been able to repeat this bizarre scenario multiple times. I also tried adding the word "Play" as in Scenario 2, and I even tried adding "on Radio.com". None of these changes in command made a difference. The results were the same.
In order for this to work, I stumbled upon the following solution:

Scenario 4:
Me: Alexa. Open Radio.com
Alexa: What would you like to listen to?
Me: 1010 WINS
Alexa: Playing 1010 WINS. (1010 WINS radio starts playing.)

Me: Alexa. Stop.
Alexa stops.

 
Scenario 4 got me what I wanted, but I didn't used to have to do that.

There have also been multiple occasions when I would ask Alexa a question, or ask Alexa to do something, and it would dutifully beep or flash lights showing it heard me, but then not respond. It has been very frustrating.

By comparison, once in a while one of my Google Home devices might not respond, but this issue has been far more prevalent with the Alexa devices in my experience.


In the event you missed previous articles about Google Home and Amazon Echo, you can find them here:

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/11/review-google-home-mini-vs-amazon-echo.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/12/part-2-review-google-home-mini-vs.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2019/01/google-home-adds-feels-like-temperature.html



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Subscribe to The KUPER Report by Email
  • Select the Subscribe link above.
  • You will be asked for the email address you want to subscribe with and to confirm you are not a robot.
  • You will then get an email with a link to click in order to confirm your subscription. The email will come from Feedburner.
  • You will need to open that email and click the provided link in order to actually be subscribed.

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Richard L. Kuper

The Kuper Report

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