Ouya as a Set-Top Box

While I’ve been traveling for work, I’ve had two simultaneous disappointments.

  • Hotel television programming.  It’s not geared toward me; I’m not the target audience.  I watch by series, not by channel.  I use my DVR to watch, or stream with Netflix, or watch DVDs I’ve borrowed from my library.
  • Watching Netflix on my laptop for extended periods of time is taxing on my eyes.  Don’t get me wrong, the screen on my laptop is amazeballs, but it’s still a screen on my laptop.  My eyes get tired, my neck gets tired, and the relaxation at the end of the day turns into frustration and sore muscles.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a solvable problem.  My first idea has been to use the Ouya as a video and music streaming box.  I successfully loaded YouTube and Pandora.  I side-loaded a recent version of Netflix’s Android app without much difficulty.  So, the last time I was out California way, I brought the Ouya, attendant cords, and one controller with me.  I was ready to put it to the test!

Shockingly, some hotels still don’t want you to hook up your own devices to their televisions.  I did not call ahead, because I had no idea that this was still a thing.  Test #1 was a failure, but not from any technical shortcoming.

My next trip out has me staying at a hotel that specifically mentions the ability to hook up external devices to the television.  If you’re interested, keep an eye out for the details of Test #2 here.  Second try’s the charm!  (Wait, that’s not right…)

Writing Prompt

Writing prompt #6 – What requires your patience today?

A Brave New World

“Of course I will prepare for boarding, officer.” Captain Morgan waved the communications channel closed as she lowered the intensity of the ship’s repulsion field and prepped the primary airlock for cycling. “I have nothing better to do than be boarded at five checkpoints along Sol’s busiest trade route, three of which didn’t exist last month. I AM MORE THAN HAPPY TO COMPLY!” She forced herself to breathe. Shouting used excess oxygen, and oxygen wasn’t cheap. Yet. She waved on the internal ship-wide communications. “Gloria, greet our trade inspector at the primary airlock, please.”

Her voice came back distorted. “Another one? Guns or no guns?”

The captain allowed herself a chuckle. The Trade Commission must be scanning them with something heavy duty to be messing with the internals. “No guns. Especially not where they could be found.”

“Yes, Captain.” Another wave, and the speakers in the cockpit silenced. She breathed deeply again, and counted to ten. They must know she was smuggling something, and that it was wanted by very bad, very powerful people. If they knew what it was, they’d never bother boarding.

She climbed out of her seat and walked under the sun-like lights, trailing her hand along the floor-to-ceiling leaves. She intended to be in the cargo bay, checking their decoy cargo – real cargo worked well and brought in more profit besides – when the Inspector was introduced to her. If she didn’t care about the cargo, red flags would wave. After all, getting this stuff to its destination was her livelihood.

She cranked open the doors to the hold, entered, and quickly cranked them shut behind her. She grinned, and felt real pride. Nearly half of the hold had been converted to a greenhouse, and the growing things were thriving. The ship’s need for oxygen refills was halved, they had a smattering of fruits and vegetables to liven up the meal packs, and the improvement in morale for both herself and for Gloria had been immeasurable. They’d installed the wall-climbers after that, which had again improved their independence.

The crank popped on the outside of the hold’s door, so the Captain grabbed the manifest and began scanning and comparing ID codes. Textiles, rare “earth” metals, ore, more textiles, more textiles, three canisters of pure liquid methane…

“Captain!”

The clipped and demeaning tone of the Inspector raised her eyebrow. She turned and approached him, all business. “Inspector.” Jackass. “What brings you aboard the Steady Matron?”

He glared at her. “Contraband. Your ship will be searched through for it. I assume your documents are in order?”

She handed him a transparent plastic card and let irritation sneak into her voice. “They were at the last four checkpoints, I imagine that they still are. You are, of course, welcome to search the ship. I’m just thankful that none of my cargo is perishable.”

“I’m sure.” He dropped the card into a reader, and looked puzzled. “Captain Morgan? Like the rum?”

She rubbed her temples. A world of their own was worth whatever patience these morons required.

Nerd Links

First, let’s talk about Pocket.  I mentioned it last week in my gushing about my Kobo Aura, and it deserves some explanation.  Pocket is a free service (with a premium tier) that receives URLs, and saves them for you to read later.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface, right?  How many browser tabs do you have open with stuff to read later?  How many times have you lost all of that in a browser crash?  How many times would you rather read that article on an eink screen instead of a backlit one?

For me, the answer to those questions is “lots,” “too many,” and “often,” in that order.  I found out about the service when I got my Aura, and sent a few tech articles, blog entries, and Tor short fiction pieces to Pocket.  I synced Pocket on the reader, pulled up an article, read it, and then immediately sent the rest of my open tabs to Pocket.

My browser crashes less, I enjoy reading articles, blogs, and short fiction more, and Pocket handles the varying queue like a damn champ.  You can also read from your phone (online or offline), tablet, and I think a Kindle model or two.

Next is Gravity Ghost.  From the game’s site:

Gravity Ghost is a game to soothe your senses. There’s no killing. No dying. No way to fail. Just hours of blissing out to buttery-smooth gravity goodness.

Featuring a dynamic new soundtrack from the composer of FTL: Faster than Light, Gravity Ghost is a headfirst dive into another world.

The elements of the game play with gravity, and the elements of the world tell a story of a passed-away girl and the animal spirits that are seeking to restore balance to this universe.  This is the kind of gaming ingenuity and storytelling that makes me squee.  Thanks to Jesse Cox’s Indie Weekend series for a peek at this one!

Updateriffic

When the weather has been good, I’ve been back out on my morning walks. I’m still besotted with the world around me, and have been updating the Flickr album accordingly:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1SAZ4i

I’ve also updated my San Francisco Wanderings album:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjSn4iT5

I’ve been listening to music in iTunes again, instead of streaming, so my Last.fm profile has been updating:

http://www.last.fm/user/davecrampton

I’ve been caught up on my YouTube subscriptions, my RSS feed, my podcasts, reasonably so on my email, my fiction reading list (yay Clockwork Century!), my DeviantArt friends, and my LiveJournal friends. I am ignoring G+ out of spite.

My Kobo Aura Scoffs at the Rain

I consider this an open letter to Kobo, and its parent company, Rakuten.

Holy, shit you guys.  Just holy shit.

After doing a lot of research on eink readers, I picked up the Kobo Aura as my birthday gift this year.  (The wife and I get our birthday gifts around tax return time, as we rarely have money to burn around our actual birthdays.)  My local independent bookstore was out of stock, and my OTHER independent bookstore was also out of stock, so I ordered it online and waited for customs to clear it from Canada.

It has a microSD expansion slot.  It’s compatible with nearly every major ebook format, as long as there’s no DRM.  The screen is incredibly crisp and clear.  The full-screen refresh only happens every chapter.  The back of the device is shaped to mimic a folded paperback.  When I got it, I immediately purchased the majority of the Clockwork Century (I already had Boneshaker in dead tree format) and Flex from the Kobo store.

I cannot gush enough about the difference between reading on a laptop/tablet screen and reading on this device.  I stare at screens for both work and pleasure, so when I felt most of the muscles around my eyes relax, without even realizing that they’d been tight, as I began to read, I fell in love.  And as I do with the things that I love, I ended up leaving it on the roof of my car.  (There will likely be an entirely separate post about my mutant power, regarding leaving things on the top of cars.)  I set it there when I lifted my daughter out of her car seat, and entered a friend’s house, and totally forgot about it.

I later drove home, halfway across town, and remembered that I’d forgotten it.  I called my friends and asked them to look around their house, to no avail.

The next morning, after a rainy night, I dropped the kids off at school, went back to my friends’ house to search for it.  Having had no luck, and with the rain starting again, I drove back home.

Nikki volunteered to help, certain that I’d left it on top of my car, and it was gone forever. I refused to acknowledge the possibility, so she went outside to drive my car back to the friend’s to see if she could find it (she also has mutant powers).  She looked my car over (which I’d done FOUR TIMES) and immediately saw it, still sitting precisely where I’d left it.  She rushed it inside, yelling for me to dry it off, which I promptly did.  I powered it down, and let it sit for the day to dry out.

That evening, it powered on and functioned perfectly.  Not a single glitch.  The next morning, it charged normally.  No excess heat, no funky spiking in charged percentage, just the usual smooth curve.  After several days of use, with and without the front-light, the battery discharge was also normal.

It survived riding round the top of my car, and spending the night and morning in the rain, and continues to act as if it was just taken out of the box.

HOLY SHIT, YOU GUYS.

And I haven’t even mentioned how sweet the Pocket integration is.

If you are in the market for an ereader of any variety, I urge you to check Kobo out.  They have my highest recommendation.