View your media anywhere using Plex

View your media anywhere using Plex

I bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick a few months ago and love it. It is ultra fast, starts most shows instantly without having to buffer, and was super cheap.

The one thing I was missing was the ability to watch my other media, like DVDs and videos of my kids. The solution I settled on is called Plex. I also used Handbrake to get all of my DVDs onto my hard drive.

Plex is awesome. It works on everything: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, and more. It automatically determines if your media file is in a format that your device can understand, and if it isn’t Plex will transcode it to an appropriate format for you.

The first step is to install the server component. My desktop is always on so I just installed it there. This part is always free. Once the server is installed, you tell it where your media is located. This was also easy, but mainly because I hadn’t picked a folder structure for my files yet. It was easy to organize them in the way best suited for Plex. If you need help, check the step by step quick-start guide.

Plex automatically downloads media information for your files, such as the cast, director, artwork, MPAA rating, synopsis, etc… It even found info for most of my old church films.

Next you install the client app on whatever device you’ll be using. The client apps typically cost a few dollars, depending on the platform’s marketplace. For example, it is $4.99 in the Apple app store. It is often free in the Amazon app store, so you can get it for Android or Fire TV without paying anything.

There are also some premium features that you can choose to pay for on a subscription basis. The only premium feature that I find compelling is the ability to sync a file for offline viewing. We paid for a single month of Plex so we could sync a few movies to our iPad for a recent trip. Totally worth it.

Read More

Anna’s YouTube channel

Anna’s YouTube channel

A few weeks ago Anna was having a blast teaching her mom how to make a necklace with some paper and string. It was so cute seeing her explain things that we decided to make a video of it. This quickly led to us making several videos, and deciding to make a whole YouTube channel.

She loves making videos! At least a few times a week she’ll randomly say her signature “Hi, I’m Anna!” as if she is making a video. She puts a lot of work into learning about our filming locations and topics so she can teach her viewers.

I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to mix video clips together, fix audio problems, do a bit of grading, and use my camera more effectively. I have a ton to learn, and a million dollars of equipment I’d love to buy, but it has been so fun so far. I’m using the Adobe Creative Cloud. It always amazes me at what can be done with just a few mouse clicks.

Her latest video was filmed at the Congaree National Park in South Carolina. We ran into problems with the weather (it was cold!), crowds, and noisy family members. But I think it turned out alright. Check it out on YouTube.

cover

Read More

Netflix: Complain and Get an Account Credit

I watch a lot of TV and movies. According to FeedFliks, I watch about 75 titles per week on Netflix, and I probably watch another 5-10 titles on Hulu every week.

Watching so much Netflix has given me the opportunity to experience all the pros and cons of a Netflix membership. Overall I’d say my $7.99 per month is well spent: I get access to thousands of titles and I don’t have to watch commercials. However, there are a few things that drive me crazy.

First, Netflix doesn’t work on Linux. Some may say this is because of platform that Netflix uses to serve its videos, but in reality it is a anti-consumer choice meant to prevent Linux “hackers” from cracking their DRM. If they can get videos playing on:

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. PlayStation 3
  4. Wii
  5. Xbox 360
  6. Apple TV
  7. Google TV
  8. Roku
  9. Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  10. Sony Dash
  11. WD TV
  12. A pile of Blu-ray players
  13. A pile of TVs (with no special attached hardware)
  14. TiVo
  15. iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

…then they could get it working on desktop Linux without much trouble. They choose not to, and I’d appreciate it if they’d stop pretending it is an insurmountable software limitation.

So instead of running it natively, I have to run Linux, which runs VirtualBox, which runs Windows XP, which plays my Netflix videos. Frustrating.

Second, Netflix frequently crashes. On my desktop (Linux) and laptop (Windows 7), Netflix dies part way through shows all the time. It happens even more frequently when I pause a show. To make it worse, when the page is refreshed to bring it back to life, it often forgets where I was at in my show.

So I complained. It didn’t solve any of the problems, but it felt good to vent to the company and maybe hopefully raise a tiny bit of awareness that Linux people are frustrated at the lack of support, and that I’m annoyed that my videos crash all the time.

A few days later, I got an email apologizing for my troubles watching instantly. The interesting part of the email was a link that provided a 3% statement credit on my next bill. While I appreciate the gesture, I can’t help but thinking to myself: Really? 3%? As I said, I watch a lot of TV, so I suppose it makes sense that my patronage is only worth 25 cents to them, but a credit of 25 cents just seems.. well.. tacky? rude? pointless? a backhanded apology?

Anyways, if you have a problem with Netflix, maybe it is worth 10 minutes of your time to call and complain. Who knows, you might get a 3% credit, too!

Read More

Hulu Ad Failures

I watch a lot of Hulu, and generally I don’t really mind an ad or two. However, I hate untargeted ads. For example, ads for Monostat or birth control pills. I’m a guy. Hulu knows I’m a guy (I checked, its in my Hulu profile). Why in the world are they showing me commercials for these things? Have I watched too many chick flicks or something? Does anyone else have this problem?

Read More

Stargate Universe

Just found Stargate Universe on Hulu.

How did I not know this show existed?! I love Stargate! I’ve seen every episode of Stargate SG-1. I watched Stargate Atlantis before vampires were cool. This is my show!

Anyways, the show seems okay so far. Lots of time is being spent in character and story line development, which is a huge improvement over Atlantis.

Check it out on Hulu.

Read More

Random stuff that I feel like writing about

So uh. Yeah. Random stuff. Lets see:

Some lady wants to put my Ideal Mate list in a book. Neat. I said sure. Her page is at http://www.todolistblog.com if you are curious what it is all about.

Got an email from Rachel today! Haven’t heard from her in FOREVER. Like seriously. Its been.. uhh.. probably around 1 1/2 years since I last talked to her. Was starting to get worried that something had happened to her, being in the Marines and all that.

Hmm. Oh! The Simpsons! Up to season 8. I’m skipping the episodes I know I’ve already seen, of course. Its kind of weird because some seasons I’ve seen all but one or two episodes, and then some seasons I’ve only seen one or two episodes. Of course, it is sometimes hard to remember if I’ve seen the episode or not because the plot tends to shift quite a bit throughout an episode of the Simpsons.

Other than that, just been working on the Fake Name Generator. It is still making enough to pay for itself. I’ve been trying to add in more phone number support for the countries that I have available. And I finished Germany a few days ago! Woohoo! Now I just need to start work on India. Oy. That will be time consuming. Oh well. I’ve had a lot of requests for it, and if it helps boost revenues, then it is definitely worth it (on a side note, I’m proud of myself for finally learning how to spell definitely without having to use a spell checker! :o). And the matching name set should be easy. “Mohammed”. I’m just kidding.. Don’t freak out.. Here, I’ll let you poke fun at my religion for a moment: “Hah those Mormons have a big families! HAHAHA!” There see… I’m fair…

For the past week or two we’ve been getting at least one phone call a day where nobody says anything when I answer the phone. It is so freaking annoying. Its like: idiot! WRONG FREAKING NUMBER! If you keep calling the same number it isn’t magically going to change to the correct one! Of course, thats assuming that is the reason for the hang-ups. Perhaps thats not it at all, and someone is stalking us or something. Or trying to find a time when no one is home so they can rob the place. Hah! Joke would be on them! There isn’t anything valuable here, unless they want a box of 30 PS/2 mice or some surplus Dell mousepads!

Speaking of mousepads, I ordered a new keyboard! Hurray! My current keyboard is the Microsoft Natural MultiMedia Keyboard. I like it a lot but it is PS/2, and the little PS/2-USB adapter I have doesn’t carry over all of the functionality for some reason. The new one is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. Its a black/silver keyboard so it will match my computer better, and it is USB so it will actually work consistently. Plus I got a great deal on it! $47.99 – $25.00 GC from Stamps.com – $10.00 rebate + $0.00 2-day shipping (free Amazon Prime trial) = $12.99. Not too bad.

I’d love to buy a second monitor, too, but it would cost nearly $400. So no go there. I’d almost be better off buying another computer with the monitor and using the second computer as a file server of web server or something server. And anyways, the need for a larger hard drive is more urgent. I want to get a couple 300GB drives and RAID them so that if one dies I don’t lose everything cause that would suck.

And a cell phone clip would be nice.

And a remote control for my computer. (Should’ve bought it with the computer.. dang being cheap…)

And a TV tuner.

And a graphics tablet.

And.. umm… Thats about it I think.

Oh oh! One of those nifty USB turn tables. That’d be cool.

And a spinthariscope!

And a FrogPad would be nice.

And a Canon EOS20D digital camera. With CF card.

In fact, most of what I want is listed here.

Read More