Friday, May 29, 2015

Chromecast: Two Months Later

About two months ago I bought a Chromcast. It was then, and remains to be, the best $35 I have spent in 2015. As far as tech goes, it continues to amaze me. To be honest, I still don't understand exactly HOW it works. But I can at least explain it:  basically the Chromecast dongle communicates with your router on your home network, and interfaces with apps you have on your smart device, or computer. Your devices initiate a stream called a "cast" and then hand it off to your router, allowing you to continue using the device for other things while streaming content to your TV.

However, I have found that like many tech gadgets, it has become very glitchy. I don't know what it is about me and tech, but I buy something and it works perfectly for the first few weeks; then all of a sudden, I get the weirdest glitches and it can become rather frustrating if you don't know how to resolve the issues. I don't understand why this happens, but it seems to be universal.

For example, I bought Logitech Harmony 650 universal remote control a few years ago. When I set it up, it was perfect. I couldn't believe how easy it was to set it up and how ingenious and intuitive it was. Then after a few weeks, it started having glitches. The TV mode wouldn't start on the right HDMI setting, the whole remote would crash, or all of a sudden revert to the home screen. I was constantly having to revert to using the factory remotes. So, I decided to upgrade to the Harmony Smart Control; another universal remote that allowed you to use your smart phone or tablet as the remote. This worked much better, but again it had it's issues. It became cumbersome to have to swipe from screen to screen to get to what you wanted to control and anytime you wanted to make changes, you had to take the hub and connect it to the computer. In addition, I just could never get used to tapping glass to raise or lower the volume. For the most part, the remote app worked pretty well, but sometimes making a change would cause you to have to start over from scratch; reprogram all the screens. That was a pain in the ass.

Chromecast is unfortunately not without it's drawbacks either. But before I explain the problems, I want to go on record and say that for all it's faults, it's still worth it.

The problems I've encountered include:  the Chromecast icon not appearing in the apps - therefore you are unable to cast; error messages that say there is no Chromecast device on the network; an occasional failed cast; and other minor issues, all of them which can be remedied by rebooting Chromecast and/or restarting the apps you want to cast from. 

So I thought I would include some of the fixes that have worked for me.

Issue 1 - Cast icon missing; unable to cast from app:

  • Close the app you are trying to cast from and re-open it.
  • Go to the Chromecast app, click the settings (gear icon) and select "reboot," select YES to reboot. STOP. The screen may say there is no Chromecast device for a few seconds. DO NOT try to go through the initial setup again. Chromecast will do everything it needs to do by itself.
  • Power cycle your router (if necessary).
  • Power cycle your Chromcast dongle (I've never done this, but it couldn't hurt, if necessary).

Issue 2 - Error occurs during the cast:

  • Nine times out of ten, I'd tell you to ignore it. Chances are, if you still have a stable stream, you should be OK. Sometimes you may have to go through the steps in Issue 1, but Chromecast will usually remember where you left off in your stream and allow you to resume from that point.

Issue 3 - No Chromcast Device Found:

  • This is a tricky one. When this happened to me, I think I power cycled my router and it fixed it, though one time after I restored my iPhone, I did have to go through the initial set up.

One thing I want to stress is don't get stressed. It truly is a smart device, and it seems like less is more; that is, you may only have to try one or two of these fixes to get back on track, and in most cases, Chromecast will fix itself. And also in most cases, you won't lose your stream. Alternatively, you can always try Googling your problem.

Again, I really don't know the cause of these issues, but I can say that Chromecast serves as the interface between several hardware devices, and software applications. The problem might not actually be with Chromecast, it might be with the app you are casting from, or the devices you are using; for example, I've seen problems with some apps but not others, and I've never seen any problems with Backdrop, which is all Chromecast and not connected with any app.

Knowing these little fixes certainly does help. I'd still recommend Chromecast, but only to those techie kind of people who are willing to put up with the nonsense, those willing to see past the issues to what Chromecast truly is:  a marvel of technology that is both truly useful and fun. That said, I still fully recommend the device, but not to those who aren't tech savvy, or get easily frustrated with issues from time to time.

...Stay tuned for a review of the apps I use.