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When Google announced the Chromecast, I was watching the live Twitter stream, I immediately mailed the link to one of my friends who was coming to India and asked him to get it for me. So, finally, yesterday, the Chromecast landed up at my house. I wasted no time and I hooked it up to my 6 year old Samsung LCD(Non-Smart) TV.
TL;DR: I loved the device and it’s possibilities.
Setup was a breeze. Just plug the Chromecast to an HDMI slot and connect it to a power source and you are good to go. You get a nice wallpaper on your TV screen with instructions.
First you are asked to link with the Chromecast by first connecting to its WiFi network and then Chromecast connects to your home WiFi network. This goes without a hitch. Then, Chromecast asks you to visit the Playstore to get the Chromecast app.
This is where you run into your first problem. Since Chromecast is not released in India, the Playstore does not allow you to download the app. You get a “App is not available in your country” message.
No problem, I just went on the Internet and Googled for the APK, I found a download link on one site, apkmaza, downloaded the APK and installed it. When I opened the app, it immediately searched for and found the Chromecast on my network and informed me that I was setup and I could now start playing videos.
I first played a song from the Music app. It immediately started playing through my home theater system which is connected to my TV.
Then I played a 1080p video in Youtube and “casted” the video. This also played without a hitch.
Cast a Chrome tab
I then opened up my laptop as I wanted to test the “cast a tab” functionality. I installed the chromeextension and chrome tabs were ready to be cast with a small icon on the top right hand corner.
I first cast the Facebook tab and played a slideshow of some of my daughter’s photos. I have to say, my Mom loved the feature. This worked flawlessly and the video was also very crisp.
I then tried playing a video from Dailymotion. The video started playing fine, but after sometime the audio went out of sync and the video also started stuttering. There was no problem with my wifi network and as I diagnosed the problem further, I isolated the problem to my laptop CPU. As Chromecast tries to cast at 720p by default, my laptop was not able to encode the video at that rate. So I went to the Chromecast extension settings and changed the default to 480p. From then, the videos started playing without any problems. Though I have to say, even if I am casting a simple tab, it shows more than 50% CPU usage on the task manager. I guess this is the reason, they have not yet enabled casting a Chrome tab from Android phones and tabs. They would just not have the processing power.
Now that the basics were done with, I wanted to see what all we can do with Chromecasting. The first thought that came to me was video conferencing with Hangouts.
I logged into Gmail on my laptop and started a Hangout. Unfortunately, the hangout starts in a new popup window and the popup window does not have “cast” icon. So what do we do?
I Googled a little bit and found that you can open the hangouts in a tab by just opening https://plus.google.com/hangouts in a tab. And yes, once you open the hangout in a tab, I was able to cast the hangout onto the TV screen. So from now on, this is how we are going to do our office meetings 🙂
All in all, I have to say, I love what the little device can do. And the possibilities are endless. Just of few of the top of my head:
1. Play local audio and video. I think someone has already built an app for this.
2. Skype app for Chromecast
3. I am now building an app which integrates with your phone. While you are watching the TV, you will now get an alert in the TV when someone calls you along with information about who is calling you. I hope to finish this in a couple of months if I get some time.
4. Alarm app which starts casting some predefined content to the TV at the specified time.
5. Fitness app with your own personal trainer on the TV.
The possibilities are limitless. If you have some cool ideas in mind, please post them in the comments.
About the Author: Chaitanya is a principal architect at Ozonetel, a cloud telephony company. He blogs here.