Six Useful Hacks to Help Make Google's Nexus Q Worth It

When it comes right down to functionality there are really 0 reasons to spend $300 on Google's Magic 8-Ball.

We want to like Google's Nexus Q. It isn't shaped like a run-of-the-mill media box, it's got a ton of — dare we say? — hot wires snaking out of its rear Matrix-style, it's got several components built in the U.S.A. and it glows! That's about as nice as we can be to the orby Nexus Q, because when it comes right down to functionality there are really 0 reasons to spend $300 on Google's Magic 8-Ball.

But that's okay (for now), because where there's room for improvement, the eager developers and hackers always have you covered. Here are six "fixes" and proof-of-concepts that give us hope that the Nexus Q is more than just an expensive paperweight.

With the initial stock of the Nexus Q completely selling out on the Google Play Store, there's clearly demand for Google hardware (although the actual number of units Google sold is uncertain). Being hacks, this list covers some tech that's little more than a proof of concept, but they represent the Q's potential. In the Google world, potential is all you need to design the future

1. Netflix and App Launcher

A streaming media box is not worth $100, let alone $300 if it can't stream Netflix. Sure, it can pipe video from Google Play and YouTube, but no Netflix? You gotta be kidding! Luckily, thanks to the work of "kornyone," Netflix is a go on the Nexus Q and so is the ability to launch tons of other Android apps.


2. Run Games

Less than 24 hours after Google took the wraps off the Q, software engineer Philippe Hausler and Christina Kelly from Apportable immediately got to work cracking it open. While they weren't able to control any of the games they managed to get running on the Q, they did manage to get Swords and Soldiers on it. It's only a proof-of-concept, but it's enough proof that the Q can run games. Now it just needs a controller.

3. Pong

With no controller of its own (the Q uses an Android smartphone or tablet as one) and even fewer buttons, there isn't really much to work with. YouTube user "detansinn" cobbled together this super primitive Pong hack that uses the Q's volume wheel and play/pause button to control a rudimentary paddle and ball. It doesn't do two-player and doesn't even keep score, but, as detansinn indicates, it's a proof of concept that could lead to more use of the Q's volume wheel as a controller. It's like going back to the good ol' Atari days!

4. Web Browser Remote

As we already mentioned above, the Q can only be controlled wirelessly with an Android smartphone or tablet. QRemote, by YouTube user Tomi Blinnikka, gives you a third control option: a Web browser. It's still in early development and only controls music, but with time it's possible we'll see the QRemote being used to control a whole lot more.

5. CyanogenMod / XBMC

Folks dissatisfied with the limited capabilities of stock Android have, for years, flashed their Android devices with CyanogenMod. For those unfamiliar with it, CyanogenMod is a redesigned, open source user interface based on Android that gives users more control over what apps, features and customizations can be had on their devices. Developer Jason Parker managed to port the popular and versatile XBMC media player, albeit without sound working. Once audio gets fixed, the Q can finally be a real streaming media player.

6. Google Chrome

Google TV attempted to put a Web browser on every TV, but never really found its place. The initial Google TV boxes were expensive, had clunky software and laughable app support. It's better now, but it's still very much a failed experiment. It would seem that Google didn't learn anything from that whole ordeal because the Q, a device the company described as "an Android computer for your home" can't even surf the Web out of the box. Again, developer "kornyone" cleans up Google's mess with this USB input and Chrome browser add-on. To the Interwebs we go!


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