Category Archives: Web Tool

Product Review – Sony Crackle TV

Product ReviewWeb Tools – I categorized this as a ‘web tool’ as it has a web component, but it is really more than simply that. I have known about Crackle TV for a while, but I was reminded of it at the July CapMac meeting where it was mentioned in the presentation on “Streaming TV” services. Many people are ‘cutting the cord’ and doing away with cable services and choosing a streaming option. Crackle TV is one of those options.

This service originally went under the name of Grouper until it was changed to Crackle in January of 2018. Crackle is a free streaming service that has been around since 2006. At the time of this article, it is available in 21 countries and is available on Roku, Android, Xbox, Apple TV, PS3, and iPhone. You do have to sign up for a free account.

Content includes both TV programs and movies. When I checked as I was writing this article there were over 70 TV series and more than 90 movies available. Available programs are organized into 8 channels – Spotlight Channel, Sony Crackle Originals Channel, Fandom Channel, Action Channel, Comedy Channel, Drama Channel, Thriller Channel, and the Icon Channel. Some content is older, like “Walker, Texas Ranger” on the ‘Icon Channel’, while other like ‘The Oath’ on the Drama Channel is original programming. The programming available through Crackle TV is included in the listings within the Apple TV App in the US.

I do recommend this service/App – I have the App installed on my iPad and Apple TV. Since it is free, I think it is a good option to add.

Pros:

  1. Free
  2. Wide range of TV series and movies
  3. Available on many different platforms
  4. All on-demand content

Cons:

  1. Limited current content
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Product Review – Pluto TV

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Product ReviewWeb Tools – I categorized this as a ‘web tool’ as it has a web component, but it is really more than simply that. I have known about Pluto TV for a while, but I was reminded of it at the July CapMac meeting where it was mentioned in the presentation on “Streaming TV” services. Many people are ‘cutting the cord’ and doing away with cable services and choosing a streaming option. Pluto TV is one of those options.

Pluto is a free streaming service that has been around since 2013. At the time of this article, it has more than 75 content partners, with over 100 free channels to choose from. Estimates are that more than 6 million use it every month. Pluto TV generates revenue through advertisements displayed to viewers.

A few of the current channels are shown in the image above. Channels are grouped into categories such as News, Sports, Movies, Entertainment, Comedy, Chill Out, Life + Style, and Geek + Gaming. There are also several internet radio stations offered. Some, mostly movie, on-demand content is available in addition to the scheduled programs. You can check out what is currently playing here.  The programming available through Pluto TV is included in the listings within the Apple TV App in the US.

You can view programs from Pluto TV through your web browser, or by downloading the Pluto TV App to your Apple TV or iOS device. Pluto TV can also be viewed via several other devices: Roku, Visio, Samsung, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Playstation, and Chromecast.

I do recommend this service/App – I have the App installed on my iPad and Apple TV. Since it is free, I think it is a good option to add.

Pros:

  1. Free
  2. 100+ channels
  3. Available on many different platforms
  4. Has on-demand content

Cons:

  1. Limited current content
  2. Content partners are, for the most part, not mainstream

Hurricane Season 2018 Opens with Beryl

Well, Hurricane Season (nominally defined as June 1 to November 30) is back. The first major storm of the season is  Beryl. If you live in the US, particularly the eastern portion of the country or are traveling there or have family there, you will want to keep up with hurricanes.

A while back I published reviews on three good websites for keeping track of hurricanes. I thought it was a good time to bring them back to peoples attention. These are:


You may be interested in my other Web Tool recommendations


 

Web Tools – HomeKitty

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Web Tools – Are you one of the growing number of Apps users that are wanting to automate their home in some way with HomeKit? If you are you probably already know it is a bit of a problem finding all of the products that work with HomeKit.

Of course Apple does have their own official list of HomeKit compatible products. Now, though, there is another source, HomeKitty, that provides a crowd sourced list of homeKit compatible products. I prefer HomeKitty as it includes a photo of each item, its price and a link to further information.

If you are thinking about implementing some home automation with HomeKit, you may find this new tool useful.


See my other Web Tool articles


 

Web Tool – GasBuddy

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WebTools – We all (well almost all) of us need fuel for our autos. The web site GasBuddy lets you check out the latest fuel prices. Prices are kept up-to-date by users making adjustments when they go to fill up their tanks.

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As the result of hurricane Harvey, fuel is somewhat hard to find in Texas right now. GasBuddy is helping consumers with a separate Gasoline Availability Tracker map that shows which stations have fuel for sale. As you can see from the screen shot above, most stations in the Austin area are currently out of fuel.

Whether you are in desperate need of fuel this weekend somewhere in Texas, or just looking for where you can fill your tank for the lowest cost, GasBuddy may be your answer.


See my other Web Tool articles


 

Web Tool – National Weather Service

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Web Tools – While looking at Apps to track Hurricane Harvey, I found some very good on-line tracking through the National Weather Service. The screen shot of the home page above gives an overview of the entire US. Clicking on an area of the map gives you a more detailed view. In my case I am intersested in South Texas.

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While the screen shot is fixed, the actual site provides an animated view of what has been appearing on radar over the past hour or so. This is another great tool to add to your collection to keep appraised of weather events near you if you are in the US.


See my other Web Tool articles


 

Web Tool – Unisys Hurricane Tracker

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Web Tools – In my search for Hurricane Trackers I came across the site Unisys Hurricane/Tropical Data.  As with the other tool I mentioned previously, this site has historical data on storms and covers both the Atlantic and Pacific. I like that this tool shows all of the storms in the current season to date alone with their tracks. I also like that the track of each storm is color coded to show the severity of the storm over its course. I only wish that it included a prediction of the landfall for the current storm and the ability to zoom in for a closer look.


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Web Tool – Accuweather Interactive Hurricane Tracker

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Web Tools – Those of us living in Texas or the other South Eastern states grow concerned this time of the year (June 1 to November 30) when Atlantic Hurricane Season is at it’s height. This year there have been 9 storms that have been tracked thus far.

Along the Gulf Coast hurricanes can be devastating when they come ashore. Even where I live Central Texas, we have felt the affects of hurricanes more than once. As it stands now, we likely will be experiencing the remnants of ‘Harvey’ as it moves through Texas. I went searching for sites to track hurricanes and one that I found that I like is the Accuweather Interactive Hurricane Tracker. As you can see from the screen shot above, not only is the hurricane’s historical path shown, but a prediction of where it is headed is given as well. You can also look at historical data on other hurricanes.

If you live in a region where you are subject to hurricanes, you may find this website useful.

On-Line Circuit Simulator

If you are into build-it-yourself electronics kits, you may have heard of LushProjects. In addition to various kits you can buy and assemble, there are also introductory courses to electronics available on the site. The best thing though is their on-line circuit simulator.

This simulator allows you to design DC and AC circuits. Use passive components such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, switches, transformers and relays. You can also simulate electronic circuits that contain diodes and transistors. You can even go a step farther and describe a circuit that contains many of the off-the-shelf ICs available Logic gates, Op Amps, 555 Timers, DACs and many more.

If you are interested in electronics design for home projects, are a student of electronics or engineering, or a professional who wants to do a quick simulation, this simulator may be just what you are looking for.


See my other articles of interest to the Engineer


 

Tech Tip – Private Browsing with StartPage

Product ReviewmacOS Toolkit – I don’t recall where I first saw StartPage, but I installed the extension into Safari a few weeks ago and have been using it on a regular basis.

So, what is StartPage? StartPage is a search engine company based in the Netherlands. The potential benefits of StartPage include:

  • it is outside the reach of US law enforcement agencies
  • it uses secure connections over HTTPS
  • it does not collect search information
  • it provides private click-throughs using a proxy

The basis of the search engine results is Google, so the results of the searches are as good as any when using StartPage. StartPage is provided by Ixquick “the world’s most private search engine. Ixquick has been third-party certified by EuroPriSe, a European Union privacy initiative.” If you visit the StartPage website, you will see the very prominent statement that “StartPage does not collect or share any personal information!“. Many have become concerned with this as some ISPs have begun to ‘harvest’ search history information from their clients.

Beyond the search anonymity, sites listed in the StartPage search results are accessed through a proxy service that “allows users to surf the web with complete privacy. The proxy lets users browse websites safely and anonymously, without passing on any private, personally identifiable information to the websites they view.

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A portion of a search using StartPage is shown above. In the list of search results will be links very similar to those seen in a Google search. If you click on a link there, you leave the protection of StartPage and are browsing just as if you had been using Google. There is a “proxy” button besides each link in the search list. If you click that link then the page is retrieved through a StartPage proxy making your website visit invisible. You will encounter slower page loading when going through the proxy. StartPage provides a full description of how their proxy works here.

I think that this will become a standard part of my macOS Toolbox. While I am using StartPage with Safari, it is compatible with most browsers. There is also a Ixquick Search App that provides anonymous searching on mobile (iOS and Android) devices.  If you are concerned with your web browsing privacy, this may be an option you want to look into.


See my other macOS articles