Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Plex server delay

I mentioned the other day that I was upgrading my Plex server. Well, it arrived. Sort of.

The new computer arrived, but the new large hard drive is still to be delivered. My current Plex server has a 10 TB drive, and I'm upgrading to 14 TB, since the current drive is nearly 80% full. No, I didn't have to upgrade just yet, but I will have to eventually, and a new computer is as good a time as any. So, when the new hard drive arrives, I'll complete the setup.

I did start the setup. Downloaded the Windows updates and got it ready to put the new drive in. I'll then transfer the content from the current drive to the new one. I have an adapter that will allow me to connect the old drive to the new computer. I can then simply copy all the files over. When that's done, I'll install Plex server software, and retire the old device.

Or, thinking about it, maybe I'll just access the old drive via the network, and copy it over the network to the new drive.

When the new drive arrives, I'll decide. Either way, this will be a completely clean install, and I'll have a lot of free space -- nearly 6 TB free -- on the new drive.

I've been happy with my old Windows computer running Plex. I think I'm going to like the new one even better. Once everything arrives.

Will this improve my Streaming Life? Probably not. Or not at first. But as I increase my local content library, this will indeed be an improvement.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

New Roku? Hmmm.

I recently speculated about new Roku devices being announced soon, and I doubted I would be interested in one.

Well, now it's official. New Roku devices are out. And they're all sticks.

Okay, not all of them. But two are sticks, and the other is an update to the Walmart exclusive Ultra LT.

Looking at the sticks, they've started adding "4K" to the names of the devices. One is the Streaming Stick 4K and the other is the Streaming Stick 4K+.

The specs look good, as you would expect. But my current sticks work just fine. I wouldn't really gain anything by replacing any of them. So, for me, I won't be upgrading. However, if I do need to replace a device, or add a stick to a TV, I'd definitely get one of these. It's worth getting, it's just not worth getting simply to get.

The Roku Ultra LT? It's been a scaled down Roku Ultra ever since this Walmart exclusive was launched. It's a good device, and I would consider it worth the cost. However, Roku does put the full Ultra model on sale enough that I'll buy it when it's on sale if I need a new Roku device. Well, unless I buy a stick. I kind of let what's on sale drive it.

The Best Buy exclusive Roku Steaming Stick+ Headphone Edition? I'm not seeing a replacement for it, unless you consider the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ as that, since the remote comes with headphones for this new model.

I don't know if Best Buy will continue to carry the Streaming Stick+ but I've seen nothing to indicate it would be discontinued. This is a wait and see thing.

Will other devices be released? No idea. Maybe. But probably not until next year.

I don't think I'll be buying a new one of these, as although I see value in them, I don't see enough value to justify the expense. My Streaming Life is fine as it is.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Don't use Roku Pay

I've posted about this before, but I really do not like Roku Pay.

I'm a fan of Roku devices. Huge fan. But their Roku Pay setup is awful.

Here's the idea: You can use your device to subscribe to content -- such as HBO Max or other services -- without having to go to an external Website on your computer or mobile device and set up an account. It's a convenience. And, if it worked well, that would be wonderful. But here's the thing: it doesn't work well.

Sure, it works for most people that use it. And, sure, it works well for most people that use it. But when it doesn't work, it really causes problems.

As a way of being helpful -- 

-- Roku won't let you remove an app if you have a Roku Pay subscription. Why would you want to remove an app if you have a subscription? Well, sometimes, apps mess up. And sometimes, the way to fix it is to remove the app, reboot the Roku, then reinstall the app.

What do you do if you have a Roku Pay subscription and you have a problem with the app? You have to cancel the subscription, then remove the app, reboot the device, then reinstall the app. What about your subscription? Still canceled. You can use it until the end of the subscription, but it'll stop then. Unless you re-subscribe.

So, yeah, there are workarounds, but it just seems to me to be extra complications. And I don't mean to be mean, but lots of Roku users can't handle complications. Heck, lots of people can't handle complications. I'm not going to go off on some rant about society -- I could, but I won't -- so I'll leave it as I'm seeing this as more complicated than it needs to be.

Perhaps if Roku worked out some kinks and bugs -- and more likely, logic holes that the the tech guys or business designers didn't think about because they don't really use the devices like an average user -- then Roku Pay would be okay. But, as it is, it's not.

If you want to subscribe to a service, I'm going to recommend you subscribe to the service directly. Don't use Roku Pay.

Same thing with subscribing through Amazon. I don't know of a large number of issues with Amazon, but if you use a platform to purchase, you're limiting yourself to that platform.

That means if you subscribe to, say, HBO Max through Roku, you can only use it on Roku, and only on your Roku account. No setting it up when you're visiting the kids or parents -- they need their own subscription anyway, so I'm not too bothered by this -- and no using the subscription on your phone, tablet, computer, or other streaming device that's a different platform. If you have Roku in one room and Fire TV in another, you can't use it on the other platform.

Roku Pay is a good idea poorly executed. I don't use it. It's not worth complicating my Streaming Life. I suggest you not use it either.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Roku and data caps

I'm a Comcast/Xfinity Internet customer, and have had to deal with data caps for years. Comcast had a 1 TB limit for a while. Several months ago, they upped the limit to 1.2 TB, making things a little better.

Now, I've not exceeded my limit but one time, and that was not due to streaming. Well, not really. I had accidentally configured iTunes to download all my movies and didn't realize it, and this happened before I went out of town. So, it sat and downloaded a shipload of movies for a few days, and that put me over my 1 TB (at the time) data cap. But for actual streaming, I've never exceeded the data cap.

I have always ensured that I never turn off the TV with my Roku device streaming. It could continue to stream. Many people don't realize that, and some have a hard time understanding that. If you don't get it, keep this in mind. The TV is simply a viewer and listener for a Roku box. The Roku device is a separate device, and turning one off doesn't impact the other.

Think about connecting a DVD player to your TV. Play a DVD. Then turn off the TV. The DVD keeps playing, right? You just can't see or hear it, but the player keeps playing the DVD. It doesn't pause it. Turn the TV back on, and the DVD is not where you last saw it, because it kept playing. Same thing with a Roku device.

So, I always hit the Home button on my Roku when I was done watching it. And, when Roku introduced the Bandwidth Saver feature, I made sure it was enabled.

Go to Settings > Network > Bandwidth saver > On

That way, if there is no interaction from the remote for four hours, the Roku will put up a message at the bottom of the screen. You can dismiss it, or let it count down and end the stream, returning to the home screen.

There's one other thing you can do to help with data caps. Well, two things, actually. Many services, including some Roku apps, have settings for limiting the bandwidth. It's usually under Settings in the app --- when it's in the app -- and you can sometimes tell it how much bandwidth to use.

Some services also have settings you can access in your Web browser that let you limit bandwidth usage. Some that have profiles, have separate settings for each profile.

The other, which is related in a way, is to use the Roku itself to limit bandwidth usage. There is a "Secret Screen" that lets you set that. Roku doesn't officially support it, so use at your own risk. I'm letting you know about this, but if you choose to use this feature, and it screws something up, it's your fault. Got it? Good.

To access the Bit Rate Override screen, press HOME five times, REWIND three times, and FAST FORWARD two times.

From there, the Manual Selection will let you pick from a list of bandwidth limitations, from 12 Mbps down to 0.3 Mbps.

One other thing to know, apart from you do this at your own risk, is that not all apps will recognize and honor these settings. Some apps automatically use whatever bandwidth gets the stream started, then move up or down (usually up) to provide the best quality it can, ignoring the Roku device settings. For those, you have to go to the service or app to change the settings, as described earlier.

Oh, and one more thing you can try. You can adjust your Roku display settings. Settings > Display type 

From there, pick 1080p TV is your device is a 4K/UHD device and TV. Or, 720p, if you really want to cut back.

Or, do all of the above. That way, you'll have a greater chance of ensuring you don't go over your data caps.

I don't use the Bit Rate Override settings, because my streaming has never been such that I needed it. I have tried it, and it worked for some apps, and not for some apps. I don't use any of these tips, because my streaming habits and data caps haven't caused a problem. But, if they do, I know what to do.

If your data caps worry you, try these things to help limit your Roku data usage, and stay under your limits. You want to enjoy streaming, but you don't want to spend money you don't need to. You want the best bargain you can to make your Streaming Life enjoyable and affordable.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Upgrading Plex server

A few years ago, I moved my local video streaming from iTunes to Plex. iTunes worked well enough. It allowed me to add MP4 files, including those I ripped from DVD, to the library. The problem was it only worked with Apple TV, and I wanted a solution that worked with all my devices. So, I moved my MP4s to Plex, then ripped my iTunes downloads and moved them to Plex. I've not regretted my decision.

However, the computer I used to run iTunes and then Plex is an older Windows device. It's actually a powerful device, but has some age on it. It's nearly eight years old and is beginning to show its age. It has an Intel Core i7 fourth generation processor. I added a second hard drive, and upgraded a couple of times, now with a 10 TB drive. But, I'm ready to upgrade. So, I ordered a new device.

I ordered another Dell, but instead of an Inspiron, I got an XPS, which is a little bit of a step up. I got an i7 processor, but it's an 11th generation processor, so I'm expecting some good things from it.

What will I do with the old computer? I don't know. Maybe I'll set up Plex at one of the other places I manage. Or not. I'll figure it out.

I'm excited about the new computer. New toys are always fun. Will it make my Streaming Life easier? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'll be happy, and isn't that important too?