Posts Tagged ‘TV’

I’ve been using TvMobili for a while now to get digital media off my Mac wirelessly to my DNLA TV, (even wrote a blog post about it here) that is until it started acting up last week and either not connecting or not letting me see my media.  Seems to be related to the amount of media being shared due to a cap on the free monthly allotment, although i’m certain I haven’t streamed that much and only on my own home network.  Something goofy with the way it is monitoring streaming i think, or possibly the fact it seems to be always running in the background regardless if anyone is actually watching anything.

An email to the developer got me the answer.  It doesn’t matter if you are streaming over the web or on your home network, the cap is the same: 10GB per month is free.  It’s no problem as long as you don’t mind shelling out some cash to share you media if you go over that.  Me, I’m not digging that idea, last thing I want is another monthly expense, especially when it comes to watching my own media on my own devices over my own network.  There is the option of shelling out a one time fee of $30, but thats a bit too steep as far as i’m concerned.

Along comes Twonky. It’s not free either, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.  Aside from the silly name, I really wasn’t sure what I needed to install since the website leaves a little to be desired, but throwing caution to the wind and grabbing the TwonnkyManager App was the right call. http://www.twonky.com/

First things first, the install is one that seems to put “stuff” everywhere.  Not very Mac-like in that respect, since we mac-users are used to the program being self-contained and only having preferences to worry about other than the main file.  That being said, using the default settings and letting the installer do its job resulted in an install that just works right out of the box.  No silly settings to guess at, no tweaking of ports on the router, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. (yeah, not sure where that came from, too many kids shows being watched on tv perhaps?)

Within minutes of installing, I had changed the default “shared” folders (it shares your user/movies, user/photos and user/ music by default) to those I wanted to actually share and had connected my AllShare-capable TV to the TwonkyManager and was watching a TV show wirelessly with no streaming issues, no jittering and no fuss.

start/stop/settings

One of the great things is the ability to easily shut down the TwonkyManager too.  Just click on the icon in the menu bar and select Stop Twonky 7.0.  Thats a feature I like since, as mentioned previously, TvMobili seemed to stay running all the time whether I was actively using it or not, and due to that it seemed to want to connect to my TV whenever it was in its proximity resulting in an annoying pop-up on the corner of the TV screen.

There is a Free app for iPhone/iPod/iPad that allows you to control and connect to your Twonky library remotely and select where to present the media.  Basically you can use your phone to tell Twonky to play a video on your TV.  In theory you can also play the same media on your iDevice but that function is no working for me.  Something not quite right in the setup.  I just keep getting the message “unable to start playback”.  This might be a function of the fact I have not registered or purchased the server program running on my Mac either.  It might only work with a fully licensed version and I’m still just testing it out before buying.

The TwonkyManager which is the server software is a paid program.  $19.95 which is better than TvMobili, but still, not quite the free solution I was hoping for.

So far its working like a charm mostly, although, so was TVMobili for a while too, so we’ll see how this solution fares in the coming weeks.  I’ll be giving it a good workout since being at home in the summer with kids we tend to want to share more media around the house, especially into the basement to beat the summer heat.

Now if I can just train the dog to bring me a beer down here…

tcg.

Say what you will about big business, about them not being in touch, not listening to the people who actually pay their bills and allow them to survive, etc.  Some are hard to get a hold of, and some even if you do get in contact with an actual person could care less.

Thankfully, it seems Netflix Canada is not like that.
For the second time this year, I’ve gotten an email from them apologizing for poor quality streaming and offering a credit for the day of the problem.
All without complaining.  Or without me even mentioning it to anyone, not even a comment on Twitter and you all know how vocal I can be on there when it comes to being wronged.

Even better is the way you get the credit for the day (3% being equivalent of one days worth of your monthly bill) is just by clicking the link in the email.  No forms to fill out.  No logging in to your account.  No waiting.  No fuss, no muss as the saying goes.

Sure, their service was a bit wonky for a day, and maybe it was an annoyance for some, but its not like its a necessary service or left you stranded without service, say for instance, your ISP or celphone provider, and i’m sure you all know how hard it is to get any kind of rebate or credit out of them when something goes wrong on their end.
Netflix better be careful.  With service like this, people might expect all companies to treat their customers better and then where would we be?

tcg

People don’t like to be told what’s going to happen to their services, they like to be asked and have the option of making decisions for themselves.

best intentions?

Netflix should have realized this.  They sent out a blanket email that i’m sure they thought was a good idea but seems to just be creating an uproar from those that use the service.  Basically they are saying they are downgrading the quality of the movies and shows that you are watching in order to save bandwidth.  I’m sure the thinking was that since so many people have limited monthly data caps that by reducing the quality they can help reduce the overages that many people are experiencing.  Sounds good in theory.

The trouble is they are making a blanket decision to change the default quality that affects everyone.  What about those people that have no problems with their quotas?  People who only watch a couple of movies a week for instance.  That seems to be the part that people are missing and getting up in arms about.  If you read the email completely, Netflix is saying you have the ability to manage how much data you use.

manage your settings

When you sign into your account, you now have a new option to ‘Manage Video Quality’.  Within that tab you will see the three qualities offered.  Just choose the one that best suits your needs and try it out.  You can always change it later if you find the quality to be less than desirable, or conversely, better than you need. I set ours to the middle, figuring it should give the best of both worlds, a reasonable quality as a reasonable data usage rate.

set your preferred default quality

Remember this is  the maximum resolution you want to receive.  I say maximum because it will adjust up and down from this level depending upon available bandwidth you have at the time you are watching.

Quite often when the internet is being taxed heavily at our house the quality of the show adjusts automatically to compensate.

I can always tell when my kids are browsing the web or playing Club Penguin as I am trying to watch a movie since I get the “your network bandwidth has changed and we are adjusting video quality” message from Netflix.

I think it was a good move by Netflix to give us Canucks the ability to manage our usage a little better, it may just have come across as being a little heavy handed in the way they did it, but I do believe they had the best intentions.

The often misquoted… “the road to hell is paved with good intentions“… may be a bit harsh for this instance, so maybe Sitting Bull said it best… “I was very sorry when I found out that your intentions were good and entirely different from what I supposed they were.”

As I said before, the service is new and there are going to be bumps in the road, give it time and they should get fixed, and as Canadians we should be used to bumps and potholes in any road.

tcg

I signed us up for Netflix shortly after it was available in Canada, mostly due to a well played advertising campaign that allowed me to try it for a month free.  (you can check it out here) It was nearing Christmas time and I knew the kids would be around looking for things to amuse them, and typically they have a lot of time off to do absolutely nothing. Personally i’m all for making the kids go to school right up to the day before Christmas if for no other reason than to give them something to do other than drive parents nuts, but i digress.

We used Netflix a lot that first month.  I mean, TONS.  It was on all the time, whether it was on iPod/ iPhones/ Apple TV/ laptops/Xbox360 or the Wii, it seemed somebody somewhere in the house was watching something on it – if not more than one. Being able to start watching a show on one device and then switch to another and pick up right where you left off is genius.  The programs available may be a little behind the networks, but the list seems to be getting better and more current all the time.  Its not as good as what they offer in the USA but give it time, it is still in its infancy up here in the frozen north.

One of the things I love is the personal experience you seem to get.  I’ve had numerous emails asking about quality of programs we’ve watched and most recently an apology for the bad service one day.  In all fairness,  the picture didn’t seem overly bad that day compared to others, but many times that is due to our lousy internet out here, but i’m not going to get into that since I think i’ve beaten that topic to death over the past few years.

They offered a refund for 3% which basically amounts to a day free since the service wasn’t up to their standards.  I’m all for free.  The fact they offered it up without having to contact them to complain goes a long way in my books.  Its nice to deal with a company that is proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the service they are providing.  The little things like alerting you there is a problem with the billing for instance (I had changed credit cards associated with my paypal account), and then sending you an email informing you it is fixed, makes you feel like they actually care about you and are listening and responding.   Some of the bigwigs in the telecom world could learn a few things from them I say.

Speaking of which, Bell our current TV provider, may be in for a ‘So long and thanks for all the fish’ letter from me soon.  Quite frankly i’m tired of paying a ridiculous amount of money for “packages” that really don’t work for us.  Being forced to get 4 or 5 packages just to get the 20 or so channels we actually ever watch is just annoying.  If you could pick “a la carte” as the saying goes and create a custom package of channels I would be happier than being stuck with about 100 or more we never watch just to have the few we do want.

a welcome breath of fresh air

As for their lack of caring, when you have to call up and complain about the costs before they offer you any kind of deal, if at all, just goes to show they really don’t care about the customers.  Sometimes they will offer you ‘great’ deals if you sign a contract for a few years, but even at that, you have to basically tell them you are leaving before they offer anything remotely close to a reasonable price.  Probably because they know you only have one other place to go and there are as many unhappy customers over there switching back, so the overall numbers stay more or less the same.  That’s the great thing for them about having a duopoly, Especially one that likes to price fix rather than compete.  They really don’t even have to pretend to care.

As a matter of fact, my daughter and I were watching Jeremy Wade’s “River Monsters” on Netflix as I was writing this.   I love learning about places I could never afford or have the opportunity to go to, and seeing my kids watching them too instead of the repetitive drivel that is so prevalent on satellite or cable TV, or watching crap because “there is nothing good on” at the moment makes it all that much better.  The ability to see what you want when you want is the way all media should be.  Sure, you could pay for On Demand programming, but when you are already shelling out a ton of money each month for so many channels, should you really have to pay more?  Why not just offer more customizable programming packages and include the On Demand part of the service in the basic cable/satellite package?

The writing is on the wall Bell.  And for you too Rogers.  You need to start to act like we are your customers and that you rely on us, instead of treating us like we need you and will put up with whatever crap you are dishing out.  We need more competition in the Canadian market place and hopefully Netflix is just the type of thing to shake it up a little, and inspire others to follow suit.

tcg

On thing that i have always found annoying was the way the US televison stations advertise that you can catch missed episodes online at http://www.enter-station-id-here.com. it always bothered me because as a resident of Canada we get to see all the US stations on cable (which we pay an increasingly ridiculous amount of money for – but that’s a topic for another day) but if we want to catch a missed episode we are out of luck, unless of course you want to try one of the peer-to-peer apps, that’s if you don’t mind wading through all the crap out there to find what you are actually looking for.
We’ve kicked the idea around at work a few times, trying various ways to “spoof” the network web sites into thinking we are in the US but no such luck until a colleague found a link somewhere pointing him to HotSpot Shield. Being a little dubious about such programs, what with all the spyware and viruses out there, he mentioned it to me to be the guinea pig so to speak. So after reading all about the way the program works i took all the necessary precautions and downloaded the app for my Mac and installed it. The app is built for Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Mac OS X. Its nice to be included, so many of these types of apps are designed and built Windows only.

Its a pretty simple install on Mac OS X as usual and relatively painless on Windows XP as well. Drag and Drop for Mac, Easy Install for Windows with very little info or interaction needed. I am using the free version but if you want there is a paid-for ad-free version available if you don’t like to see ads at the top of your browser window.

Once you have the app up and running – don’t be alarmed if you get an error message or a window that shows disconnected, not set, etc. the app will keep trying until it navigates a working I.P. address for you and will then launch your web browser. From there its a simple case of going to the site you want, knowing your real I.P. address is being safely hidden. On my mac i had issues with Gmail not working, i would get a
Disconnected
message while running HSS, but this was not the case on my windows XP machine, Gmail and Gtalk continued to work fine.
I’ve used it to view TV shows on NBC, CBS and ABC without any trouble whatsoever. It certainly is handy for that purpose, but that is not entirely its purpose. The app creates a VPN (virtual private network) between your computer and the internet to protect your private information, you are effectively surfing anonymously, so no email, instant messages, credit card info etc is out there ready for clever hackers or snoopers to steal.
When you are browsing you will have a small ad banner like band across the top of your browser window, but this is a small price to pay for safety and security and the ability to view what you want on the web, without having to cross the border.

TCG