Got an Android device? Using Google Music? Then get this app:

Cast to UPnPI stumbled on this app the other day, and its a fine example of someone taking Google’s infrastructure (in this instance its Play Music app and the Android platform) and making something pretty awesome.

So what’s the app? Titled (rather un-sexily) Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic, the app turns your Android device – and specifically the Play Music app – into a UPnP/DLNA host. In plain english, this means you can play your music from your phone (and this includes the All Access streaming part of Play Music) to any UPnP/DLNA receiver – like your Xbox360, a Sonos, XBMC etc etc.

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Nevermind Apple TV or Chromecast – buying an Android TV stick is a complete no-brainer

mk808bLike most geeks of my ilk, I have a few devices that plug into my TV and connect me to the net. With my Apple TV I can watch Netflix and do various others things. Having jailbroken it, I can also run XBMC now, which finally makes the device more worthy of its pricetag. Elsewhere I have an Xbox 360 which can also stream Netflix, and additionally can stream Sky, BBC iPlayer and various other on-demand services. Generally, that’s the one that sees the most use here.

Lately though, something else has eclipsed both – and frankly is proving such good value for money that it beats even that Raspberry Pi in the “so cheap it’d be mad not to buy one” stakes: an MK808B Android TV stick.

What’s an Android TV stick? In short, its a tiny dongle-like mini-computer with an HDMI socket, bluetooth, wifi and two USB sockets. It plugs directly into your TV and turns it into an experience similar to that on an Android tablet. And the price? Just £33 – including delivery.

Here’s the thing: Apple TV, Xbox, Roku and various other devices of their ilk are all closed platforms in one manner or another. You can only run the apps that they permit onto their platform. Android, on the other hand, has an infinitely wider number of apps available and as such leaves them all for dead when it comes to beefing your TV experience up. YouTube, VEVO, Netflix, Spotify, Rdio, TuneIn Radio, Google Music, Google Movies, XBMC, Skype… you name it, the Android TV stick can run it. You can even add in support for beaming content from your phone to the TV (e.g. to show a photo) Its really quite incredible.

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Old smartphone + Skype = simple access-anywhere home security camera

Skype_std_use_logo_pos_col_rgbIt seems inevitable these days that we’ll be changing our phones at least once every two years, if not every year. As a consequence then, most of us will no doubt have some spare handsets lying around. In my case, its a couple of old Android phones and an old iPod Touch.

I’m one of those people who hates to see old tech go to waste, mainly because I’m of the view that they’re still eminently capable of doing some useful things. You only have to see how much the Raspberry Pi has taken off to know that low-powered tech can still perform a lot of useful tasks. So, with that in mind I thought I’d see what could be done with my old handsets – and found rather a nifty solution. By simply installing Skype on them, then setting Skype to automatically answer with a video call, I can use the handsets as globally-accessible video cameras, letting me check on home when I’m away etc.

If you want to give this a go, its dead simple. Just do the following:

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Gasp! Android is slowly winning me back. Here’s why:

androidjellybean4point2A few years back I invested in my first smartphone: an HTC Magic. At first I loved it, but one event in particular pissed me off beyond all belief, namely when not 3 months after I bought it, Android upgraded to a new iteration and I couldn’t install it on my handset. Nonetheless I did persevere and upgraded a year or so later to an HTC Desire. As a handset that was much better than the Magic – but once again the fragmentation issue raised its head and this time it was the last straw for me: I switched to an iPhone 3S and since then I’ve remained an Apple phone person. Over time I also bought into the Apple ecosystem that bit more: I have an iPad, a jailbroken Apple TV2, and I use a MacBook Air laptop.

When the Nexus 7 tablet arrived though, I figured it was time to revisit Android purely to see what had changed in the years since I’d last used it. I didn’t need this tablet; frankly price was the main factor as it wasn’t a bank-breaking amount to pay for one.

And here’s the thing: over time, I’ve found myself using the N7 more and more. Slowly, little things about it have started really winning me over – to the point where I’m even now sat here contemplating an investment in an Android phone again.

So what’s changed?

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