Plex For Everyone

By Manesh Lad - @gadgetlad, @maneshlad

Plex is a piece of software that allows you to easily stream you media from your home computer to all of your connected devices both inside and outside the home.  For example this means you have access to all your photos, music and video when your away from home using your iPhone or iPad.  Here’s how to get started:

Server Setup

You install Plex Media Server software (free) on you windows or mac pc and tell it where to find your media.  Then you signup for a free MyPlex account and that’s it.

Client Setup

* Obtain the Plex client software for the device of choice (free to $5)

* Sign in with you MyPlex client

* That’s it, your done!

Plex clients are available on the following class of devices:

* Computers - Mac or Windows using Plex Media Center software

* Mobile - iPhone, iPad, Android Phones, Tablets and eReaders

* Connected Devices  - TVs (Recent LG Smart TVs, Google TV’s)

* Connected Devices  - Streaming Boxes from Roku (as a Beta Private Channel), Apple TV (jail Broken), LG Smart TV Upgrader

Go to www.myplexapp.com to get more details and download the software.

Cutting the cord

By Manesh Lad - @gadgetlad, @maneshlad

Note the services are are primarily US based.

More and more people today are dumping expensive cable TV packages and cutting the cord.  Not only are they saving money but they are getting access to a wider variety of content. Cutting the cord is where you eliminate expensive cable and satellite packages and watch your video content using free over the air TV broadcasts and online services without using a computer.  The focus of this post is how to get the online services portion.

What you need to get started:

* Wireless Internet (WIFI), preferably 802.11n for better performance otherwise 802.11g should work fine.

* Purchased or reuse a Streaming Video Device

* Subscribe to one or more Streaming Video Services, many offer free trials

Streaming Video Services (or Apps)

These services or apps as they are more commonly known as apps deliver video content over the internet to your television and are offered by various companies.  There are 3 basic types of services, 1)  Subscription, 2) A la carte, 3) Free

Subscription based services where for a monthly fee you can watch unlimited.  Netflix offers unlimited streaming of movies and tv shows for $8 per month.  Hulu Plus for $8 a month primarily gives you access to current TV shows and some movies.  If you are an Amazon Prime customer ($79 a year membership program that gives you free 2 day shipping on most items) you now have Prime Instant Videos included which gives access to unlimited streaming of TV Shows & Movies, like Netflix but a smaller selection.

A la carte services allow you to individually purchase or rent movies & shows.  Both Amazon Instant Video & Cinema Now (a best buy company) allows you to do this.  Sony and Microsoft also offer services on their respective consoles and blu ray players.

There a couple of free noteworthy apps.  Crackle is an ad supports Sony service that offers free access to quality movies and tv shows.  Youtube gives you access to all manner of video content and is especially handy for watching music videos.

Some advantages of internet based content:

* Available on multiple devices for one monthly cost per family.  Streaming Players, Phones, Tablets, Computers & Game Consoles

* Watch what you want on your schedule

* No advertisements on some services

* Access of foreign content such as British TV & Bollywood movies on Netflix.

* Eliminate the DVR since everything is available on demand 24 hours a day.

Streaming Video Devices

There are 3 main types of devices that allow you to watch internet content, 1) Game Consoles, 2) Media Streamers, 3) Internet Enabled Blu Ray Players.

If you already have a game console, both the Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 offer video apps such Netflix, Hulu Plus, Cracke, YouTube.

Media streamers are a relatively new category of device but basically content you your WIFI network and offer access to not only online video but also have music and photo playback capability.  If you have a lot of content from iTunes then the Apple TV might make sense, it let you stream your content from you computer to the living room including photos and has access to Netflix, YouTube and iTunes content for $99.  The other popular device is the Roku box which starts at $49 and has the widest variety of internet content of any device out there.  This is the device I recommend the most.

Blu Ray players from leading manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung and Panasonic on some models offer internet apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, YouTube.  Sony and Samsung model seem to offer the widest variety of apps.  Be careful with Samsung models since not every internet blu ray player supports every app.  Whereas the Sony players, if they support apps they will support all of them.

In conclusion the device is not as important as what services you want to use.  If you have nothing and are starting from scratch then I highly recommend the Roku box which is has the lowest cost and widest variety of internet apps starting at $49 for the Roku LT.

References - Streaming Video Devices

Apple TV, http://www.apple.com/appletv/

Microsoft Xbox 360, http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/partners

Panasonic, http://shop.panasonic.com/shop/blu-ray-dvd

Roku, http://www.roku.com/

Samsung, http://www.samsung.com/us/video/blu-ray-dvd

Sony, http://www.sony.com

Sony PS3, http://us.playstation.com/ps3/features/

References - Streaming Video Services

Amazon Prime & Prime Instant Video, http://www.amazon.com/prime

Amazon Instant Video, http://www.amazon.com/video

Crackle, www.crackle.com

Cinema Now, www.cinemanow.com

Hulu Plus, www.hulu.com

Netflix, www.netflix.com

YouTube, www.youtube.com