Thursday, January 19, 2023

Plex streaming overtakes Plex media server

A recent article and recent news release shows that Plex, which is my choice for a home media server, is now more of a streaming service than media server. And that worries me in a way.

First, let me say that I've seen nothing from Plex that makes me want to switch to a different media server platform. I really like having all my movies available on Plex.

However, according to a recent article, which included comments from Scott Hancock, Plex’s vice president of marketing, Plex is fully aware of the shift in usage, and may be focusing more on the streaming platform going forward:

While Plex's ambitions now stretch well beyond the media server, Hancock said the company hasn’t abandoned the server side of its business.

"We have resources dedicated to both, I guess I'll put it that way," he said. "It's not that we're not focused on one or the other."

To that end, users should expect some improvements to Plex Pass features such as downloads this year, along with a greater focus on Plexamp, Plex's standalone music player for folks who have their own music collections. (It also serves as an alternative interface for Tidal.) This year, the company plans to bring Plexamp to more devices while also refining its existing apps for iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows.

It is encouraging that Plex isn't abandoning the media server in favor of its live streaming platform. I hope that remains the case. Plex has been a part of my Streaming Life for some time, and I really enjoy the Plex media server.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Antenna range and outrageous claims

A few times, I started to write about the range some TV antenna brands and stores claim for their products. Many times, more than most people realize, the claims are out and out lies.

However, I haven't actually written about this to the degree I wanted, mostly because it's a lot of work and I'm lazy, but also because there are many other resources that provide good information. Why should I write something that is no better than what someone else wrote?

One good resource for this kind of information is actually a Website that doesn't sell TV antennae, but is dependent on a good TV antenna in order for their product to work well. I'm talking about Tablo.

Tablo is a good quality DVR that records over the air TV from an antenna, and can put the TV signal, as well as its DVR content, on your network. I'm a fan of Tablo.

Earlier this month, Tablo posted another article on TV antenna range claims. It gives some good information, and posts links to other good information.

Antenna mileage ratings are at best an estimation of how far away you can be from your local broadcast towers and still get a signal. At worst, they're lies told by disreputable antenna manufacturers to dupe consumers into purchasing lower-quality products. The Tablo article lays it out well:

A general rule of thumb is that beyond 70-80 miles, the curvature of the earth will limit ANY antenna's ability to 'see' your local broadcast towers. The larger and the higher up your antenna is, the more likely you'll be able to push those mileage limits. Anything more would be breaking the laws of physics.

If you didn't realize that TV antenna claims are often bogus, hopefully you now know. If you've been looking at getting an antenna, do the work and make sure about what it is you get. You don't want to spend any money and get nothing for it, or even less than you could for the money.

A TV antenna is a great addition to just about anyone's Streaming Life, and with a little work, it can make a world of difference.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

New Chromecast with Google TV?

I said last Spring that I so wanted to like Chromecast with Google TV, but had a hard time liking it.

When I first tried it out, I did like it. However, it didn't remain a favorite for long. After a few months use, it became apparent that the device didn't match up to Roku in a couple of ways.

Most prominently was the fact that the storage for apps was small, even though it was larger than Roku devices at the time. The main difference is the way the two platforms handled apps.

On Roku, if you run out of space, Roku will remove the oldest app (in terms of how long it's been since you launched it) to make room for the newer app. Only, they still left a shortcut on your device, meaning that if you went to run the older app again, it acted as if it was still there, removed the oldest remaining app, and re-downloaded the app again for you to use it.

The effect was that it seemed as if the storage was never full, because it managed the storage space so well.

Other devices, including Chromecast with Google TV, don't manage storage well. They won't let you download apps if the device is full. You have to remove an app, which takes it from your menu. It's a pain, and the way Roku handles it, it's not a pain at all.

The device could use a bump in storage. And it could use a couple of other improvements as well, but the storage is the big thing.

Good news may be coming down the pike soon. According to 9to5Google, a new Chromecast device is in the works.

In the latest preview update to the Google Home app, the company includes early preparation for a new Google TV device, referred to as “YTC.” Elsewhere in the code, it’s directly confirmed that this is indeed a “Chromecast with Google TV” — alongside previous models “YTV” (Chromecast with Google TV) and “YTB” (Chromecast HD).

Considering Google has already released a lower-end model of Chromecast, we believe the company is on schedule to release something with a higher set of specs to replace its current flagship offering. For now, though, we’re not able to confirm any specs of Google’s next Chromecast.

At a bare minimum, we’d like to see Google include more storage on the next Chromecast with Google TV. The processor should also see an upgrade, as Android TV somewhat recently changed its hardware requirements.

We’d also love to see the next Chromecast include a second USB-C port for plugging in accessories or additional storage. To do this today, you need to purchase a USB-C dock/dongle with passthrough power, and this also prevents you from using Google’s official power adapter with Ethernet.

It would be great if the Chromecast got an upgrade, and got it soon. I so want to like the Chromecast with Google TV, but it just gets annoying after a bit. Some upgrades would make it something I would use, and recommend, for both my and your Streaming Life.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Streaming but not cutting the cord

Recently, The Streaming Advisor's Ryan Downey caught some flack online for his article Why Cord Cutting Is Not A Real Thing.

Do I agree with what he wrote in that article? No. And yes. And that may be his point. We're calling what people do "cord cutting" but is it really? Yes. And no.

I had cable TV from a local provider in 2011. Then, I canceled cable. But I kept service with that provider because they were my Internet service provider (ISP). So I didn't really cut the cord, I just cut one of the services that came in on that cord.

My mother began streaming in the last few years of her life. She was fascinated by the different content, and way of watching all content, that streaming offered. But, she kept her Comcast service until the last year of her life. She did cut back on her Comcast cable TV service, but didn't drop it all together.

It wasn't until the year she passed that the full "cutting of the cord" happened. I didn't pressure her to do it. She asked me what could be done to cut her Comcast bill, so we sat down and looked over all the content she still used Comcast to get. We went through every channel in her package, trying to see if there was a smaller package that carried what she wanted. We also looked at her streaming services -- mostly free services -- and looked for options there that allowed her to mark it off her Comcast "must have" list.

When we finished that, we double checked it to make sure, and we found the Comcast cable TV plan that worked for her: No cable. Everything she watched was available through a streaming service, mostly for free, but any cost was a cost she already had. That's when she decided to cut Comcast cable TV altogether.

My mother's situation for the last few years isn't really all that uncommon, according to another report that The Streaming Advisor mentioned recently.

For instance numbers from a new study show that for instance the rise in streaming popularity does not mirror the rise in people canceling pay TV services. A report by one of our favorite research firms MoffettNathanson shows that 82% of US homes use streaming services. But broken down in those numbers is that only 44 percent of those streaming customers do not have cable.

Too often writers in the tech world have tied the popularity of services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and HBO Max to the need to replace cable with a streaming service, but it turns out that millions of people out there just want more to watch along with the content in their big bundle.

When I cut the cord (still using that phrase) back in 2011, I cut the cord. The cable TV part. But for a month ahead of that, I did stream and have cable. In fact, I streamed for more that that, with TiVo's limited (at the time) streaming capabilities. But when I got a Roku device and an Apple TV device in late 2010, I started streaming all serious like. And a month later, cable TV was gone.

With me, it was only a month. With my mother it was for years. For others, it could be an ongoing thing. I think that in most circumstances, most people could save money by cutting cable and streaming, but I realize not everyone can. But streaming brings options to almost everyone.

My Streaming Life means I don't need any cable TV service. Others only use cable to a smaller degree. Others stream and do big cable bundles. The point is that they are able to watch what they want how they want. That's the real upside. Well, for many. Mine is saving money along with that extra freedom. I really enjoy my Streaming Life.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Privacy: Word processor concerns

This isn't streaming related. Maybe I shouldn't be posting this, since streaming is the focus here. However, this is something that I think is important.

I'm a privacy advocate. I don't like the idea of my information being collected by, well, anybody. That includes streaming. But, today, I'm talking about non-streaming privacy.

As a privacy advocate, I'm sharing this, and hope that you find it useful. I'm not trying to change your mind, or anyone's mind, about things. I'm wanting to provide information you may not have, and some thoughts that you may not have considered. Then, make up your own mind. If your opinion doesn't change, at least you have rethought things with more information. And I think that's a good thing.

Here are Naomi Brockwell's thoughts on security, privacy, and word processing.

[YouTube link]

This may give you information you didn't have before, and it may give you pause. It did me.

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