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Love me some Chromecast

Chromecast is one of the things that is hugely underrated when it comes to price/performance; however, it’s just technical enough that I haven’t told my mom to get one yet.

TL;DR – Google’s built Chromecast to let it be extremely useful if you can do an effective search and aren’t afraid to dig a couple of minutes down, but isn’t advertising Chromecast as much more than an option that app developers and content owners can add to their app to sell stuff to end users.

I dig it, because I can rewatch lectures while I work on homework from the couch; or on the big screen when I’m on travel.

Equipment Required:

  • PC/Laptop (Another thing to love is that this works on PC, Mac, AND Linux seamlessly)
  • Spare Monitor with an HDMI port, or a TV
  • Chromecast (Includes a USB Power supply)
  • Software

  • Google Chrome installed
  • DownloadChrome

  • Chromecast Extension for Chrome
  • ChromecastPlugin

  • Collaborate
  • Turn on the Chromecast monitor/TV, and wait for the Chromecast to boot. Follow the instructions to connect it to your network. You can use your computer, your phone, or whatever.

    3) Once Chromecast is connected to your WIFI network, you should be able to send almost anything from your computer to the Chromecast:

    Advanced Casting Features
    Click the Cast button in Chrome, choose the small arrow in the upper-right corner.

    You’ll want to do “Cast screen/window (experimental)”, and then select the Blackboard window. When you cast your screen to your TV or similar device, you’ll be asked what part of your screen you want to share.

    Anyway, if you cast the Collaborate window, even if you go fullscreen on the presentation, the computer will keep updating the collaborate window while it’s in the background, and keep displaying it on the disconnected monitor.

    Zepplin. Led Zepplin.

    Flying home from California, I’m inspired to listen to Led Zepplin through ZOSO in chronological order. Sure, me and about a million other people since the iPod was invented 14 years ago, but bear with me. The inspiration behind this was an exceptional podcast I listened to this morning, where Merlin Mann* was on “The Incomarable” podcast going through REM’s early discography (“Murmur” through roughly “Out of Time”)

    One of the things that Mr. Mann and the podcast host kept coming back to was the growth that the band and the members had to go through to get to the mega-band they became somewhere around Monster. Lots of music theory, since the hosts knew all of that crap. I like listening to it, even though I couldn’t tell a fretted 7th from a microstep.

    There was a side discussion about “Stairway to Heaven” that got me thinking – the throwaway comment was that Merlin would listen to it once a year, and that that was about the right frequency. BUT, he also had a bit where he talked about the Zeppelin’s evolution, and I wanted to go through and see if I could hear it.

    So I did it.


    My ears are bleeding, because, if nothing else, Led Zeppelin is one of those bands that cannot be appreciated at moderate volumes. These albums are from the pinnacle of analog musical production. Gated drums, full use of stereo, spatial separation, dynamic range – this stuff doesn’t happen much any more. I don’t know if the need for volume is inherent to the music, or is necessary to bring out the nuance in the tunes…


    From the first power chords of “Good Times, Bad Times”, Zeppelin seems to have sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus, like Athena, strong, beautiful, and brilliant.

    In contrast to REM, Zeppelin knew what they were doing from the start. Jimmy Page had been in the Yardbirds, Plant and Bonham had been playing together for a couple of years, and John Paul Jones is the first documented cyborg, a mix of human, metronome, and sampler.


    Take “Ramble On”. Starts with acoustic steel string and what sounds like handslaps on a desktop. Plant comes in with what could be a great ballad, soft and tender, and then the baseline starts – meandering, not really following the same melody as the vocals, but as heavy on the One as anything the James Brown band ever kicked out. Not funky, per say – there’s a little swing, but still completely and totally On the One.

    On one hand, almost every Zeppelin song is instantly recognizable as a Zeppelin song. But it’s kind of in the air if that’s due to production values, style, Plant’s unmistakable voice, or what.

    The Lost Artform of the Album

    Led Zeppelin made albums to be listened to as albums. Not as background music, not as singles, but as albums. THIS WAS ENTERTAINMENT, a way to fill evenings with friends. The music demanded to be listened to, and concentrated on.

    And Zeppelin were the masters of crafting an album side. Start strong, finish strong. Group sounds. Side 1 of ZOSO (or IV, or “the album with Stairway on it”) may be one of the most powerful sides put together – “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “The Battle of Evermore”, and finishing with “Stairway to Heaven” – if you haven’t destroyed a pair of speakers, or had a neighbor complain about noise during this side, you might not have lived.

    Any other band would have taken those 4 songs, spread them out over a single album, and added 4 weak songs to fill it out. Not Led Zeppelin. Catch your breath after that, flip over the platter, and let “Misty Mountain Hop” wash over you, and take you to “When the Levee Breaks” – 7 minutes of dread, forboding, and sheer exultation and pounding on the tom.


    Led Zeppelin

    It’s tough to find fault with this album. It’s earnest, tight, and coherent. WE’ve already doted on “Good Times, Bad Times”, so we’ve got to talk about “Dazed and Confused” – it’s up there with anything that the Thirteenth Floor Elevators oozed out of their psychadelic haze. Gotta sit on the couch for a couple of minutes before getting up to flip this one over.

    The second side doesn’t dissappoint – “Your Time is Going to Come” fades into “Black Mountain Side” – a brief instrumental relief, followed up by “Communication Breakdown”, which inspired a thousand thrash metal bands to follow. It ends on “How Many More Times”, a mismash of free jazz and rock and/or roll that keeps rolling with enough variation to make you disappointed when if ends after almost 9 minutes.

    Led Zeppelin II

    The thing that amazes me is that II takes everything that was good with “Led Zeppelin” and turns it up to 11. The first side is another four perfect songs, alternating power and grace, with “The Lemon Song” in there to shake things up a little bit – stutter step on the rhythm, and a little bit of frantic catchup in the middle – echoes of Buddy Holly, the King, and the Killer.

    Flip the album, and, for me, it gets better – “Heartbreaker”, “Living Loving Maid”, “Ramble On” – Solid, solid, solid. No way not to break the speakers here.

    Led Zeppelin III

    OK, so this is the one where the band “grows”. It wasn’t immediately in my Google search, but I remember a great article a couple of years ago which credited III as saying “OK, the 60’s and peace and love were great and all, but this is the 70’s, and we’re going to get messed up”. There had been earlier hints of crazy – the Tolkien references, the free jazz inspired jams, but III kicks off with “Immigrant Song” – driving, driving, crazy Vikings.

    But after that, the first side is hard to love. The album is clearly a statement from the band that they don’t just want to be the blues knockoff band that you could accuse them of from the previous two albums. But there’s just not a whole lot to love.

    The second side is a different story though. Dylan went electric; Zeppelin went acoustic. There had been a mix of amps, effects, and acoustics prior to this – side 2 strips down and lays bare the band. But even without racks of amps and effects, there’s a fullness to the group. Plant’s vocals stand up to Page’s racks of amplifiers, and there’s a continual swap between JPJ and Bonham over who’s driving the rhythm. I kind of wonder if maybe they were thinking about separating after this album – there’s a melancholy here that’s not present in the other three albums, and it’s not resolved when Mr. Harper’s song is done.

    Led Zeppelin IV, or ZOSO, or “The one with Stairway”

    Damn. Once a year may be enough after you’re 20, but damn. Other folks might write fantasy-themed songs, but there’s no-one with the stones to do something like “Evermore” and then follow it with “Stairway”. Two 5+ minute songs with wacky imagery back to back. I think it works because the first two songs on the side, “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” are packed with more rock and roll per measure than almost anything else ever written (I could possibly make a case for “Wild Flower” and “Peace Dog” off The Cult’s Electric, but the rest of that album kind of sucks.)

    There are few moments in music that should reliably give you chills. But, if you don’t start tapping your toe the moment the snare kicks in at “if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow don’t be alarmed now”, head bobbing at the cymbal crash at “your head is humming”, and playing air guitar after the key change before “As we wind on down the road” … Well, you might be a replicant with no real soul.

    Like I said earlier, the 4 songs on side 1 could fill out an album for a mortal band; this is Zeppelin, though. Side 2, though, could likewise stand on its own. “Misty Mountain Hop” picks up on “Immigrant Song”‘s, “f* it, it’s the 70’s” – “I really don’t know” … “I really don’t care if they’re coming, I know it’s all a state of mind”… But, it’s still tight and ends when it needs to. “Four Sticks” does a little bit of musical exploration, “Going to California” breathes for a bit.

    But when you think it’s done, the levee breaks. I’m amazed that drums that sound this big could be recorded, mixed and reproduced. The harmonica screams, and the Plant manages to make the guitar drone. That this is one of the most sampled drum loops ever is instantly believable – when I’m king, the minions that travel with me to let the people know I’m coming will be banging this out and screaming the line with trumpets.

    Crying Won’t Help You

    Somehow, Zeppelin manages to pull off 4 amazing albums in 4 years, and move from a sound largely based in others efforts to something clearly their own. I wish I could keep going, but frankly, I don’t really like later Led Zeppelin that much.

    It may be another year until I spin these disks, but if you haven’t in a while, give it a go.

    * There are few people of whom I’m greatly jealous and whom I’d really like to meet, but Merlin Mann has got to be high up on the list. He’s internet famous

    Music Monday – 2 June 2014

    Freaking New England. A week ago, there was frost on the car in the morning; this week it’s bouncing off of 90. Regardless, it looks like Summer’s here.

    This is my garage. Boats, bikes, bottle opener, and a bluetooth speaker. Smells of tools and wood. There’s an old wingback chair that one of the neighbors was throwing out with a broken leg and faded upholstery that I snagged and repaired. It’s a terrible chair in many ways – definitely has a funk from the garage, humidity, and gasoline, and is hopelessly covered in cat hair from when we exile the cat to the garage when he’s being loud at night.

    But, it’s what I’ve got. Nice place to sit after the kids start to wind down, door open, watching the neighbors stroll by. Tunes used to be decent computer speakers; now it’s a bluetooth speaker – place to charge the phone, and it travels with me out to the garden and to the back porch and front porch for meals and rocking chairs.

    This is what counts as happiness to me – a comfy seat, a good book, and some quality tunes. Tonight’s been classic alt-rock.

      “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – The Who. Able to initiate teenage angst from 60 paces.
      “What Goes On” – The Velvet Underground, 1969 Live. I really can’t count how many times I’ve played this entire album, let alone this track. iTunes puts the number at 128; I cannot comprehend that it’s that low. 9 minutes straddling the fine line between awesome and chaos – this song is everything that made the Velvets amazing.
      Then, specifically because I’m about as Gen X-y as they come, we’ve got to throw in “Superman” by R.E.M. Except, it doesn’t look like there’s an official link on YouTube. If you haven’t heard it, go to REM’s audio player, look for “Life’s Rich Pageant”, and play the last track. Meanwhile, enjoy “Orange Crush”.
      For the last bit, I’m going to give you just a fraction of Wilco covering “Don’t Fear the Reaper” from their awesome 2013 covers show at Solid Sound at Mass MoCA. Pick up the whole show at Wilcoworld – much else on there including “Roadrunner” and “Get Lucky”. Exceptional to hear a legendary band having fun with their favorites.

    So, that’s it for tonight.

    Wind Came Whipping Cross the Plain

    Some days, staying put just makes sense. Cup of coffee, wool blanket, and a good book. The norther had roared in from the north, a tall line of grey cloud over a darker mass of snow and wind. Ted had pulled into the old farmhouse in as the first flakes had started to blow, and had brought in the load of firewood and bucket of water before the wind really began to blow. By the time the snow really arrived, the fire was going, the chimney had a good draft going, and there was nowhere for Ted needed to be for the next three days.


    The wind hit the windows hard, rattling them with a fury borne of a thousand miles of fetch across the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Cold, grey waves crashed into the rocks below the hut, trying to tear the cliff down before it was razed by glaciers at the beginning of the next ice age.

    The door opened, and a figure stepped out, quickly pulling the door shut behind him. He had a stocking cap pulled tightly over his ears, and his coat was wrapped tightly around him, long tails wildly flapping in the wind. The bucket he carried held a thermos of coffee, and two rapidly cooling sandwiches.

    He made his way carefully to the path on the edge of the cliff, winding his way to the observation post carved into the side of the cliff. Jutting out below, the barrels of two cannon interrupted the straight face of granite tumbling into the sea below. Pulling open the blast door with a grunt, he let himself into the gun emplacement.

    Sixty years later, I let myself out of the same shack with a bottle of scotch and ice in the bucket, and made my way down a crumbling path to the same bunker. The massive steel door was permanently jammed open, salt and rust winning the battle against paint and preservation as they always must. My laptop was charged and slung over my shoulder, and I was set to write the Great American novel.

    It was going to be an instant classic – hubris, pathos, and resolution all rolled up into one. There were metaphors capable of making the most jaded feel empathy, and characters so lifelike you would sit up all night waiting for them to stroll into the local pub, sweep you off your feet, and take you home. I had already struck a deal with a town in the south of France that was going to remake itself – physically and historically – into the book’s settings, and the travel site I’d struck a deal with had already begun taking reservations based on draft descriptions out of the novel-to-be. There was a six-month waiting list for a room in the shack where the main characters would have their big fight, and their passionate recovery.

    In short, I was on the verge of becoming a legend.

    The problem, however, was that I had diddly squat.

    Oh, there were a few paragraphs here, and some moving vigniettes there, but, despite creating a wildly successful marketing plan, and landing the largest advance ever for a first novel, I had bupkus.

    So, this was it, I told myself. Get rich or die trying. I figured there was enough material on the hard drive I’d left in the cabin that a talented editor could cobble together something that’d pacify the newspaper critics and get me at least enough time on the bestseller lists for the publisher to recoup the advance. It’d be popular, but if people went back for a second read, they’d realize there was nothing there. I’d be remembered as a case study in Marketing programs for a decade or so, rather than living on in the canon forever. Though I might get a few years in the Literary Studies departments as the oversold potential found tragically floating in the cold waters of the North Atlantic below an unfinished masterpiece.

    The plan was simple – camp out at the edge of the world and write. There was plenty of gas for the generator and a solid supply of scotch, cheese, hard sausage, and crackers. There was a still-functioning spring on the property, and i was far enough from civilization that it’d be nigh-unto-impossible to indulge in wine, women, and song.

    The wind whipped with less fury inside the bunker. It whipped more with disdain than fury, kind of like the scolding a third grade teacher would deliver after catching a student eating paste for the 20th time. I’d prepositioned a stash of firewood, and I got the kindling to start smoking on the third match. A little bit of effort, and a tidy fire was going with the smoke whipping out of the gun ports, continuing to blacken to the overhead.

    I checked to see that there were batteries in my satchel, and fired up the laptop. All right – good stuff. Text editor was opened, and…

    The cursor blinked there, expensive green blinking against a deep black screen. Distraction free. Just right for an outpouring of creativity.

    The cursor continued to blink.

    A little tipple ought to set me right, right? I pulled out the scotch, poured a generous two fingers into the coffee mug i’d poached from my last job, and leaned back against the cold concrete wall.

    The cursor continued to blink.

    Noticing that my glass was empty, I refilled it, and walked over to the gun port to contemplate the ocean. In my mind, I was beginning to tie together the basics of the story, all coming back to the sea endlessly lapping on the shores, and the tides, powerful yet silent, changing yet constant. Art, boys, I was here to create Art!

    The cursor continued to blink.

    25 sep 2007

    On the cheap plastic wall clock, the big hand was pointing to 12, and the little hand was pointing to 6.

    Once again, five o’clock had come and gone, and I was still sitting at my desk working up numbers for yet another data call. A quick prairie-dog over the top of the cubicle showed no-one else still at their desks, so I unlocked the bottom drawer of my desk and slipped out the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black I kept handy for such an occasion. Made a mental note that it’s about time to pick up a new bottle.

    I slugged down the last gulp of cold coffee, did another quick look over my shoulder, and poured a finger into the coffee cup. Sniff, sip, and swallow – the familiar warmth in the throat and twinge in the back of the nose. Leaning back, I closed my eyes and stretched.

    She’d snuck up while I was in a moment of reverie. “Woman, don’t you knock?” I asked.

    Susan tossed her hair over her shoulder with a smile. “Don’t you know it’s against policy to have booze in this office?” She had her coat and keys in her hand and her laptop bag slung over her shoulder.

    Cat in a box

    So, I’ve been flying a bunch again lately, and at times I’m struck with the state of suspension that is a plane in the air. Yeah, statistics and all show that we’re safer flying than driving, blah, blah, blah. But I came across footage of a DC-10 crash back in the 80s. The plane had a turbine explode in-flight, severing the rudder controls and bleeding the hydraulic system dry. The pilots did a yeoman’s job, driving the plane with control from the two engines on the wings only, and actually flying an approach that way. Amazing.

    Still, though, the couple of hundred folks on that flight were in a superposition from the time the plane left the gate until the time the plane suffered massive structural failure induced by ground impact, just like the rest of us are from the time the door goes closed and cell phone traffic ceases until the time we jostle with the jerk in the seats across the aisle who just stands there and farts.

    Certainly, there’s distraction there, ipods and whatnot, but there’s a little something in the pit of my stomach every time I get on a plane. What I wouldn’t give for an honest-to-god Transporter, where it’s a bunch of digitized sound, and you’re either where you’re heading, turned inside-out due to a software glitch, or in a bad ’80s movie with your DNA merged with that of a fly.

    Still, the view from the air can be stunning.

    One Hundred Words

    Proved to be too much for me. Not quite sure why, but my writing has been really suffering lately.

    Work’s been great though, so could it be just a change of priorities?

    One Hundred Words

    Proved to be too much for me. Not quite sure why, but my writing has been really suffering lately.

    Work’s been great though, so could it be just a change of priorities?

    Three Little Words

    “Say it.”


    “No, c’mon. It’s not so tough: three little words…”

    “Three little words.”

    She snorted, flipping her short brown hair off of her cheek and over her ear. The smallest hint of a smile played at the corner of her eyes. He continued to walk towards dinner, hands in his pockets, her arm hooked in his right elbow.