Chromecast doesn't do enough to add value. The only thing it really brings to the table is the novel control scheme. Yes, it's a cheap streamer that I can control with a $75 tablet or retired smartphone, but I'll bet I can find a price-competitive BluRay player that can do both those things and still play discs AND use a proper ethernet connection.
A Pivos Xios running Linux firmware with XBMC might be a decent fit. It can't keep up well at high bit rates, but the one I have can and and does play 1080p content including AC3 and DTS.
This review read like an Apple user looking for things to whine about. I don't recall seeing anywhere in the verbiage of press over the last two days any promise from Amazon that it would be some universal media-seeking device.
That being said, like any respectable media streamer these days, it DOES support Plex access, which should be your go-to tool for local content access. If it's on the same LAN with a client, you can also connect to it via DLNA and thereby use it with pretty much set top box smart enough to connect to the internet.
The single best STB I've ever found in terms of capability is the LG Smart TV Upgrader, which LG sold for about two months back in 2009 or so. It supports SMB, AFP and NFS, but it also has support for Netflix, Youtube, Hulu Plus and Amazon. It can play h.264, open VideoTS folders and it doesn't have a problem with AC3 or DTS audio. Unfortunately, it's slow as hell and the UI is ugly. I'm not entirely sure if LG is still releasing firmware updates for them but they're a pretty good alternative to a fully functional HTPC.
There's this thing called Plex Media Server.
Plex accesses locally defined content libraries, scrapes them for metadata and makes them available both locally for clients smart enough to play back the raw data or transcodes them for access by dumb (DLNA, like Playstations or the like) or reduced-capability clients like iFruits. Furthermore, it negotiates authentication-based access and sharing with the Plex Web Service, meaning that you can expose your media collection over the internet, for access outside your home or use the service to share with others. Plex isn't supported by as large a collection of consumer electronics as Netflix, but it is on a lot of smart TV systems and runs on most mobile and desktop platforms.
If you already have a respectable collection of local media and a half-decent computer you're willing to leave on, you more or less have a streaming media service that is entirely under your control. If you're enough of a nerd to be reading this deep in a Slashdot comment thread, you're also enough of a nerd to figure out how to leverage Plex or something like it to make a content service that is satisfactory for your needs.
8 at a time Netflix costs about the same amount as purchasing three new Blu-Ray releases or taking myself and my SO to the theater three times. Do you judge me more or less harshly for watching more than three movies a month?
I've had an 8-at-a-time Netflix subscription since 2000 and I've been copying discs for that entire time. My goal is to touch a disc one time and Netflix facilitates that - I rip the disc and send it back. I don't mind doing it (at this point it's automated). My local copies tend to be better than the pirated product and it's not like my ISP is going to rat me out for doing it.
In theory I can download faster than Netflix can mail me discs, but dealing with physical discs more or less eliminates the risk factors from piracy. I'm willing to accept the slight inconvenience of having to put a disc in a drive for that.
I would strongly prefer tabs and basic controls to remain on-screen in the first place.
I actually kind of like the Surface2 for some tasks, since it's thin and light for a 10" tablet and has a nice keyboard and a really nice screen. I often use it as a second or tertiary screen while I'm working since it's pretty easy to drop in to an RDP session or open Office documents and it can deal with printers and scanners just as well as any Windows 8 PC. It's a genuine workplace tablet.
But web browsing on it BLOWS. Metro-IE has to be switched to desktop mode to make any configuration changes (say, changing your default search engine or adding a TPL), but desktop-IE's controls are too damned small to be used with a finger and switching back and forth is PITA as well. Tabs and favorites are a hassle in Metro mode. It's just too much an ugly duckling. Windows RT has another general purpose browser, UC Browser, but that doesn't really improve the user experience over Metro-IE.
I actually find myself using the Metro-based NewsBento for about 75% of the web browsing I do on my Surface2. NewsBento is an RSS reader, which takes care of most of my normal sort of reading, but that doesn't really help for quick searches. I otherwise get a better web browsing experience with Firefox on my 5" phone than on a 10" tablet with IE.
So anyway, I want a decent arm's length, touch interface browsing experience for the devices I have. Microsoft doesn't give it to me, and I've been holding out hope for Firefox (or to a lesser extent Google) to make something decent. Honestly, if the Surface2 had a decent web browser (and a better Metro-based local media player, though VLC was just released for Metro a couple days ago), it would be a vastly more credible general-purpose mobile device.
The replacement for tape is different tape. Optical media isn't going to catch up to the data densities or transfer rates that tape has to offer any time soon. The (kinda old) LTO4 changer I use for my personal stuff handles 800GB/tape and only needs about three hours per tape. This new disc format isn't even going to be competitive with an eight year old tape spec.
I dunno, I always get a big belly laugh whenever I log into something and see that horrible 1980s B&W X11 desktop, complete with ugly 'X' cursor.
Try flying on a Virgin America plane with the LCD screen inflight entertainment systems in the seat-backs. They'll often mass-reboot the things before or after a flight, briefly revealing that retro-fantastic, monochrome stippled background with 'X' cursor...
Do we have any Mars rovers close enough to the poles to not get sunlight in winter?
The non-roving Phoenix Mars probe landed sufficiently far north that reduced sunlight due to an approaching winter caused its (expected) failure. It most likely got buried by carbon dioxide ice later on anyway - orbital photos showed its solar panels got crushed...
For keeping space probes warm, radioisotope heater units are pretty common. Apparently the Chinese Moon rover has them - but it sounds like it hasn't successfully closed itself up in order to keep heat inside.
It's entering its second lunar night - it landed on the Moon on December 14th.
The Babbage difference engine model is in the Computing section, on the 2nd floor
Definitely still there when I visited in early December last year - loads of Babbage stuff, in fact. Including his brain in a jar!
(The museum did feel kind of tired and empty compared with how I remembered it, sadly - and the Wellcome collection stuff didn't seem nearly as grisly as I thought it was as a ten-year-old. They've got some fancy new galleries at one end, but it's more of the raising-questions public-oriented kind of display rather than the dusty old real exhibits I've really come to appreciate. I did get a bit spoiled by the two branches of the Museum of Flight in Washington DC about a year ago, however. Blimey. Spaaaaaace!)
I always liked the working electromechanical telephone exchange.
If you're ever in Seattle, try the Museum of Communications. Fairly large old telephone exchange with colossal amounts of powered-up electromechanical telephone equipment - place a call on a phone and hear it rattling through the machinery until another phone next to you starts to ring. Loads of old teletypes, UNIX boxes and miscellaneous other hardware to look (and often poke) at.
Basically nerd heaven, yet surprisingly few people round here have heard of it. Makes the equivalent display at the London Science Museum look a bit silly.