As we approached the century mark in episodes J.D. and I considered all the cool things we could do to mark the occasion. Sky divers, bouncy castles, and a Blade Runner marathon were all discussed but in the end we decided to offer up what all of you have come to expect from us: tech news, helpful hints, product reviews and shenanigans. Thank you for sticking with us for these past 100 episodes and we look forward to serving up many, many more!
This week El Kaiser takes a listen to Bowers & Wilkins flagship P7 headphones and J.D. makes using your set top boxes a whole lot easier.
In the news, Facebook experiments with its users; the NSA takes a particularly strong interest in Linux users; protocols for the Internet of Things popping up like weeds; Python is more popular than Java in schools; and The Beatles film “A Hard Days Night” gets the remastering treatment.
Set-top boxes are great for streaming all kinds of new video from the Internet onto your TV screen, but have you ever noticed what a pain it is to enter network passwords or YouTube search terms by tapping around with the remote control? It’s like trying to type one letter at a time with a chopstick clenched between your teeth.
Most people are running the handy Google Chromecast stick from their phone or computer already, but what about those bigger boxes — the Roku, the Amazon Fire TV and the Apple TV? Thankfully, there are apps with virtual keyboards, like the Roku Mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone (shown below):
For those with an Apple TV parked on the entertainment center, Apple’s own Remote app (shown below) gives you much more control over the little black box than the thin silver stick that ships with it. Once you load up the Remote app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can control your Apple TV and iTunes library — and even type in search terms with the virtual keyboard.
The Amazon Fire TV has a remote with voice search for stuff Amazon sells. But if nothing but a real keyboard with clicky little keys works for you, you have other options. Logitech’s $150 Harmony Smart Keyboard Remote (shown below) works with the Roku box, the Apple TV and even the Fire TV now for good old-fashioned text entry; the keyboard also works with a lot of other stuff on your home-entertainment system. Apple TV owners can also pair up their Apple Bluetooth keyboards (or other Bluetooth keyboard models) to the set-top box and type away, perhaps without having to go buy additional hardware.
In addition to easier typing and navigation, using a remote app or keyboard offers another usability bonus: There’s less of a chance you’ll lose your mobile device or keyboard in the couch cushions.
I guess it was inevitable but it still came as a shock. Not long ago I realized that I spend significantly more time on my tablet devices than I do on laptops or PCs. In fact, there are some days I don’t use keyboard and mouse driven devices at all. My iPad has become my main content consumption device as well as a crucial part of my work arsenal. One problem though. Typing more than a sentence or two on a tablet becomes an exercise in frustration and don’t even get me started on taking quick notes on it. Not to sugarcoat it but the experience really and truly stinks.
I made it a point to find a decent iPad Bluetooth keyboard that was both portable and durable. The first keyboard and case I tried was the Koolertron Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Case for Apple iPad 2 and iPad (don’t call it) 3. What at first appeared to be brushed aluminum turns out to be cheap plastic. The keyboard feels flimsy and when the iPad is in the case it becomes top heavy and leans too far back. I expect it to snap right off the base one day. The one redeeming feature of the keyboard case is the 4000mAh power lithium battery. It can charge the iPad while you use the keyboard and it’s rated to last 55 hours although your mileage will vary.
As the name implies, the Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a Bluetooth keyboard that doubles as a case for the iPad 2 and the 3rd generation version of Apple’s tablet. A magnetic clip, similar to the one on Apple’s Smart Cover, keeps the aluminum-backed keyboard attached to the iPad. There are compromises with the keyboard, especially when it comes to the function keys, but overall Logitech’s unique cover delivers an excellent typing experience. Two deal-breaking issues (maybe two sides of the same issue) are that the Ultrathin Cover scratches very easily and it offers a total lack of compatibility with standard iPad covers that protect the back of the tablet from dents and scratches. To use the case you must leave your iPad naked as a jaybird.
If you’ve read this far I guess you really want to know what my go to iPad keyboard is. Well, turns out it’s an old familiar face:
Yup, the Apple wireless keyboard is my preferred iPad input device. It sports Bluetooth connectivity, is compact, rugged and looks good. If you can live without the iPad specific function keys available on the the Koolertron and the Logitech cases you’ll find the Apple keyboard is a real workhorse.
Click here to listen to Episode 04.