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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

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Hard Candy, V for Vendetta, Dodgeball, and the US Movie Rating System

Let’s start with the US movie rating system. For those of you unfamiliar, there are a few basic ratings:

  • G – General Audiences. Suited for people of any age. Normally like mellow historical movies or documentaries. And Disney movies (although most Disney movies nowadays are PG or PG-13).
  • PG – Parental Guidance Suggested. Kids should have an adult with them. In practice, this is about the lowest rating a normal movie can get. These are like little kid movies though.
  • PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned. This is your average movie. Might have a bit of violence or language, but not much.
  • R – Restricted. Anyone under 17 has to have an adult with them. Most theatres only enforce this by keeping minors from purchasing tickets. These movies range from a bit of violence and language, to downright awful movies filled with sex and gore.
  • NC-17 – No One 17 And Under Admitted. Porn.

So I don’t like watching movies that are, to me, offensive. This includes movies with gratuitous nudity, language, and gore. I say gore instead of violence because violence is a part of life. If a guy gets shot in a war scene, whatever. If for no reason two main characters decide to have sex, thats kind of dumb. Even if there is a reason, there really isn’t any point in SHOWING them having sex. It doesn’t add to the story line. It’s just there in a pitiful attempt to draw more viewers.

But anyways. My point. So two movies I watched recently: V for Vendetta and Dodgeball.

V for Vendetta: Rated R. Basically the government is horribly oppresive and a crazy masked guy decides to blow stuff up and kill some bad guys in order to fix things. Had a fair amount of violence, but for the most part pretty minor. People getting shot and stuff. Buildings blowing up. Also had a bit of language. I honestly don’t remember very much foul language at all. Perhaps a bit here and there where appropriate, but nothing gratuitous. No nudity. No sex. Overall, a very enjoyable movie.

Dodgeball: Rated PG-13. Basically, the employees of a local gym decide to compete in a dodgeball tournament to win the prize money so they can save their gym. This movie was filled with foul language, sex innuendoes (including blow-up genitals and bisexuals), and violence (although a lot was comical, like a guy throwing wrenches at people). I really didn’t like the movie. Would’ve been funny if they had cut the crap out and just had some clean humour.

So my issue here is why the crap is a movie like V for Vendetta rated R, and a movie like Dodgeball rated PG-13? I don’t have kids, but when I do, I hope the avoid movies like Dodgeball. There isn’t any value in them. Not even much comedy. I’d rather they go see rated R movies like V for Vendetta where at least the movie has a purpose, teaches some morals, and doesn’t have sex interlaced throughout it.

Just another wonderful contribution to society by our beloved MPAA.

Okay quick note: Just finished watching Forest Gump again. Anyone notice that Dorothy Harris, the bus driver, looks the same even after all those years? Dorothy drives the bus for Forest Gump, Sr. and Forest Gump, Jr. Maybe Dorothy #2 is Dorothy Harris, Jr. or something. I don’t know…

So now that I got my bit out about the rating system and how I think it is dumb and shouldn’t govern ones views on movies, but rather the content of the movie should cause a person to decide whether to watch it or not, I’ll talk about Hard Candy.

I found Hard Candy on a newsgroup the other day, and watched it. What an amazing movie! Definitely not for little kids as it covers topics that require a more mature understanding of things, but a great view for the average adult IMHO. The story is this:  Hayley is a precocious 14 year old girl who takes it upon herself to punish Jeff, an older man and a photographer, for pedophilic tendencies. She does this by hooking up with him on the internet and then taking him hostage in his own home. Filmed in only 18 days, this movie shows deep insight into the minds of two disturbed individuals, and accomplishes this without showing any nudity whatsoever. Pretty impressive for a film about a pedophile. This movie does have a fair amount of language. However, this is understandable in the circumstances that the characters are placed in. I don’t mind bad language as much when it is used in realistic situations. It seems like some movies only use language to get an R rating.

But seriously. Watch this movie. It is AMAZING. Honestly one of my favorite movies. Again, not good for kids, but good for anyone who likes a movie with a bit deeper meaning, a few good twists, and a minimum amount of offensive content. Unfortunately, looks like it is out of most theatres and not on DVD yet, so unless you download it, you are out of luck. Sorry.

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