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Google TV – Honeycomb happiness

Received the Honeycomb update for the Sony TVs during November.  It’s different in many ways interface-wise, and smoother and faster in several others.  I’ve made a point of seeing how other household members react; so far it’s been favorable from all age groups.  …and I like it, too!

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Well, before I upgraded to the Sony, I had a bit smaller TV with a VGA input–and it was a blast hooking up the Cr-48 to that and seeing its video card pounding out 1920 x 1080 web maps (and a wee bit of YouTube).  But I’m getting quite a bit better images, massive 5 GHz wireless connectivity, and two-way HDMI device integration with the new TV that is running Android 2.1 Eclair.

Using Google TV in its Sony LED-LCD flat panel form.  Without a set-top box, and with Comcast ultra-Basic service, the Google TV scavenged 124 TV channels off of cable plugged directly into it, sans set-top box.

One annoyance of the initial setup is a cool marketing-inspired audio blast that wakes up with the TV on its first boot.  I had to take the panel out to the garage and sync the remote keyboard in order not to wake the kids.  The Sony remote is a wee bit like a game controller, and has good keyboard ergonomics for its thumb-oriented size.  I’ve never used a PlayStation, but I was pleased with how much I could do so fast.  It took me a visit to the kitchen with bright lights to see that the extra characters on the keys are actually purple, and require pressing the Fn key, rather than the Shift key, to access them.  (I was flummoxed six times trying to enter an account password).

At the moment, the TV is using 5 GHz 802.11n 40-MHz wide wireless.  I’m inclined to drill a hole through the wall and run a CAT-5 cable from the wireless router that is parked on the opposite side of the wall by the TV.  That way, all the 5 GHz bandwidth goodness can be exclusive to the Cr-48. ;^)

On the initial setup, I had made it through the ~30 minute channel scan, and was ready to acknowledge that the channel was working, when I pushed the back button (the channel had changed to snow).  Now I find myself running through the full 30-minute channel scrounge once again. Not so happy, but neither is it the end of the world.  You know, the screen that shows for those 30 minutes really does say “Pressing the BACK button will cancel Auto program”.  But what really wasn’t clear to me was this: that risk of cancellation continues into the subsequent screen that is all different and showing TV picture.

The TV re-imaged itself on first boot.  I have no idea what version of Android it’s running, but it is up-to-date, whatever it is.

I did choose to configure the TV with its own Google account, not so much because of any horrors that I’d read about online, but I did note how prominently in the online FAQ was featured “how do I change my TV’s account after I’ve set it up?”  The setup procedure did offer the opportunity to create a new Google account, but by the time I’d gotten that far, I’d already gone upstairs and created one to-purpose, which I used.

OK, the second time through channel setup, I paid closer attention and was not busy on other websites with the Cr-48, trying to split my attention.  Now I’m through and every channel is very fine.  As compared with the 32-inch Insignia LED-LCD that I took back to the store tonight, most every channel fills the screen without extra effort on my part to dig down into Advanced Video and set it in some obscure way that does better than the TV wanted to do itself.  This, by itself, makes the viewing experience much more satisfactory for me.

So, zowie!  I’m running Google Chrome on a 40-inch screen for the first time.   The MarinMap.org site did fairly well, but did crash the browser after I’d zoomed way in and was trying to zoom out a bit.  Now I’m at ArcGIS.com, and learning how the Sony controller splits out button-pan-scroll on the left from the mouse control on the right, with Zoom and Scroll buttons along the top of the controller.  It’s not entirely what I’d guess it should be, UI-wise, but it does work.  The button scrolls only work in the N-E-S-W directions, not along the diagonals.  And their steps are really rather small, which becomes annoying.  On the other hand, one can use the pointer to touch some location on-screen and then holding the Zoom button will zoom in on that spot.  That’s a time-saver!

I’m quite satisfied that I’ve provisioned the family with a much more satisfactory web browsing solution than I had hooking the Cr-48 up to the Insignia 32-inch display through a 12-foot VGA cable.  That left me with ghosting images.  This is as sharp as can be and actually readable for my eyes just fine without glasses from nine or 10 feet away from the 1920×1080 screen.

Flinging around the world topographic base map on ArcGIS.com, I was able to once again crash the browser.  I’d check its version, but it’s always in full-screen mode so far.

I really like the way that Sony set up the controller to use RF connection, as one really doesn’t want to struggle to type while simultaneously worrying about IR line-of-sight to the tube, er, panel.

And checking out my uploads to YouTube, it’s apparent that I’m getting full 720p resolution on display, unlike the 360-line limit that I’d experienced on the Cr-48, made even less adequate with VGA cable ghosting.

There we go.  I’ve found some familiar Android Eclair About screen.  Model “Internet TV”, Firmware 2.1-update1 and build “ogm_2.1_2010121503ON.164108″  with nominal 4GB internal memory.

Hmm. Here’s this Google TV Remote thing.   Two minutes later, I’ve got the app identified in the Android Market on my phone, it’s downloading (on the 2 GHz WiFI, so it doesn’t conflict with TV bandwidth), and now I have the “Connect to new IP Remotes” setting on the TV checked, and it finds in seconds the “NSXGT1-8080xxx” that summarizes my set’s model and serial number.  The phone grinds for about two seconds as it waits for a pairing connection, and now it’s asking for a PIN code!  After casting about on the Internet for a bit, I try a second time and then the TV prints out a PIN code on screen in 144-point type.  Hard to miss. After about 20 seconds of flailing about to realize that the key arrangement on the G1 phone screen is totally different than the Sony remote, I start to recognize icons—and everything works fine!  Total effort: 5 minutes.

Whoo hoo!  With the G1 keyboard open, I can type addresses into Chrome quite easily, and the entire touch screen of the phone becomes a mouse swipe area to move the cursor on the screen.  This is very cool.  The, G1 and the Sony remote seem to get along reasonably well with both connected at the same time.  I’m pleased, and rather tired.

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