Is this for cooking dinner in the jungle?

By | October 19, 2015
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Two new(ish) gadgets I want to tell you about today.  One with a name that seems to make no sense (an Amazon Fire Stick really does sound like something you’d take with you on an expedition) and one that’s actually fairly sensibly named.

Amazon Fire Stick – not for when you’re stuck in the jungle by the river and want to cook dinner
Nowadays lots of people watch TV on the internet, rather than just through a TV aerial.  Jules and I use BBC iPlayer and ITVplayer quite a bit.  Sometimes because we want to watch something on the iPad so we can watch it in a different room from the TV, sometimes because we missed a program and forgot to record it, so we watch it on the internet instead.

It’s really handy – and once or twice I’ve even thought about getting rid of the main TV and scrapping the TV licence (you can watch TV online without a licence as long as you don’t watch it live).

But some films are much better on the big screen.  And I like watching Formula One on the normal TV because you can see a bit more detail on the full sized screen.

Well, there are a few ways to watch TV on the internet on your full sized TV.

First, some TVs (Smart TVs, they’re called) have the facility built in – you press a button the remote and access BBC iPlayer or whatever.  Great if you’ve got it – but not everyone has.

And you can get a cable to connect your iPad, Android tablet or PC to your TV and watch it that way.  That works pretty well, though you might have to fiddle about unplugging the cable that currently goes into your TV and plugging this one in.  And Apple are notorious for not being happy about anyone else making cables for things like this, so they have a tendency to make sure updates to the system stop the cables working.

There’s another way – devices like Amazon’s Fire Stick or Google Chromecast.

The Fire stick is something you plug into your TV, tell it your wifi password (both of these only work if you have wifi) and then you can use a remote that comes with it to browse channels on the internet.  Pretty straightforward – an easy way to use your TV for internet TV.

The Chromecast works slightly differently.  Again it plugs into the TV but instead of using a remote to control the chromecast, it lets you “cast” the screen of your ipad, tablet, laptop or even smartphone onto the TV.  So you can set iPlayer working on your tablet and watch it on the TV.    You can use it when you’re doing other things, too – it doesn’t just have to be watching TV online.  You could use it when you’re using Skype to see your friends or family on the big screen.  Or even just browsing the web, or showing off your latest holiday snaps.

Of course, these methods are only any good for watching internet TV if your internet connection is fast enough to watch TV on.  If it doesn’t play properly on your laptop or tablet, it probably won’t play properly on the TV.  But if you find you use iPlayer or anything similar a lot and would prefer to watch it on a bigger screen, it could be worth looking into.

What’s an iPad Pro?
Not long ago, Apple brought out an update to the system that runs iPads, iOS.  At the same time they announced a few new devices, too – mostly updates to existing ones.

There was one that’s a bit different, though – the iPad Pro (which is due out in November).  If you’re ever thinking of getting an iPad, there are a few to choose from, and you might wonder if the iPad Pro is simply the top of the range one and so maybe you should go for that.

Well, in a way it is the top of the range one, but it’s not quite that straight-forward.

It’s aimed for business use, though it could also be handy in education.  The biggest difference from a “normal” iPad is that it’s bigger – it’s got a bigger screen.  That’s great for working on complicated documents, but it does make it harder work to hold – being heavier and wider it’s much less comfy to hold with one hand, for example to read an ebook or browse the web.

It’s also designed to make it easy to comment on documents someone else has put together, with something called the Apple Pencil that lets you write on top of the documents and send your comments back to the other person.  Handy in business, but probably not that helpful to normal people.

It also lets you have two apps running on screen at once.  In the past the iPad couldn’t do this, but now the ordinary new ones can as well, so that’s not unique to the Pro.  It does work better on the bigger screen, of course, there’s simply more room to see each app.

Personally, I don’t think it’s so suitable for home use, so for most people, I’d stick to the “normal” iPad range (either the iPad mini or the iPad Air 2).  But at least now you know what it’s all about.

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