Ouya as a Set-Top Box, part 2

I really appreciate that this last hotel had a media box hooked up, so that external devices could be connected to the room TV. It had composite, S-video, and HDMI, as well as a 3.5mm audio in jack.

I hooked up the Ouya, which survived another trip as carry-on in my backpack, and the video came right up. The audio was the obnoxious guy from the menu channel, and I couldn’t get it to go away. After a bit of fiddling, I double-checked the labels on the media box ports.

HDMI was labeled as “Digital Video.”

A quick call to the front desk confirmed that it was video only. There was always the audio in jack, but the Ouya doesn’t have a matching output. That left specialized cables or adapters and now I was moving into “too much work” territory.

I did have a work-around. The speakers on my laptop are excellent, and it has an HDMI out port. I hooked the laptop up to the TV, muted the TV, cranked the volume on the laptop, and used my trackball as a remote for Netflix and YouTube goodness.

Conclusion – Leave the Ouya at home as the really cool Android gaming console that it is.

To Do – Figure out how to avoid Laptop Neck while traveling. Maybe something like this?

Fitness Toys

I’ve been replaced by a pod person.  That’s the only explanation.  Wait, is 38 too young for a mid-life crisis?

I woke up one morning and re-installed MyFitnessPal on my phone.  I mean, sure, I’ve been doing morning walks, and enjoying the hell out of them.  But I have always maintained that tracking what I eat sucks the joy out of eating.  Worrying about numbers, worrying about whether or not I’m hitting some kind of goal, sends me into an obsessive depression cycle wherein all I can do is think about the numbers.  The amazing, awesome, yummy food ends up being nothing but math.  The joy of eating, of tasting, is gone.  That’s how I always reacted.

Always.

And then I didn’t.  I installed the app, tracked the food, and it still tasted just fine.  I didn’t obsess.  I added my weight, measured daily, to the list of tracked stuff.  Nikki advised against it, but I wanted to see my daily fluctuation.  I wanted to collate data, as they say.  I turned on the pedometer function of my phone, until I got birthday money from my parents.  Then I went out and bought a Fitbit Flex, adding my sleeping patterns to what I was tracking.

The momentum kept going (as momentum is wont to do).  After a week of looking at my sleep patterns – or lack thereof – I dug out my year and a half old prescription for a new CPAP mask, took it in to my doctor, and had it updated.  (I really want one of these.)

I get excited to use my new lawn mower, and to haul things around in the yard.  I’m taking the kids out on evening walks ON TOP OF my solitary morning ones.  They love it.  I love it.  Who am I?

Is it that I’m playing with toys?  Is it that I’m internalizing the big data component of work?  Am I having the healthiest mid-life crisis ever?  Pod person?

I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to keep going.  I’m enjoying this and I’m feeling good.

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…)

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!

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.