streaming

When I moved out of the US, one of the things I missed was Netflix. I considered keeping my subscription and streaming via VPN, but decided I needed to cut down on TV anyway and so canceled the subscription. I do have friends in similar situations who opted to keep subscribing, signing up for VPN services so they can watch in countries where Netflix is not present.

Unfortunately, according to TorrentFreak, it appears Netflix is now cracking down on customers using VPN to watch its shows. Note, that they are in fact customers.

This is in likelihood due to pressure from studios, who often have geography-focused licensing schemes. So if you’re in Australia, for example, that show you saw on Netflix via VPN was likely paid for by an Australian operator to show in Australia. I.e., it presents a lost profit opportunity for the Australian operator.

So Netflix cracking down on VPN use is perfectly fine, in my view. It’s their prerogative to structure their business however they see fit. What I do take issue with is these same Australian operators calling customers who watch via VPN as “pirates,” as if they are criminals breaking the law.

Highlighting how the TV networks view these people, an article this morning in News Corp-owned The Australian went as far as labeling subscribers as “pirates”, even though they are paying for the service.

It’s a little offensive if you think about it, and I’m not even part of the group being slandered.

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That Adobe and Google are working to bring Photoshop to the Chromebook as thin client computing is big news. It works just as how you might imagine: the Chromebook receives inputs and displays outputs; servers elsewhere do all the heavy lifting.

The cloud is going to be a big deal. Photoshop Streaming is one small step towards that future.

Ironically, image editing may not be the best app example to start with. It’s unlikely that pro users will find this solution good enough. Is that artifact inherent in the image or a flaw in the streaming? Is color reproduction faithful? Is the experience going to be fast and stable enough? I still find Google Docs unworkable for complex presentations and spreadsheets.

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Apple shared a few more details about how the Apple Watch will work — see this excellent Verge article for a good summary. The most interesting part is Apple’s intention next year to enable fully native apps on the watch. This does not necessarily mean the Apple Watch will work without an iPhone, but it certainly makes that a possibility. The question though is…why?

The way Android Wear and Apple Watch (in year 1 at least) generally works is that the phone does most of the heavy lifting while the watch is merely a display that also receives inputs. It’s not unlike thin client computing, where the cloud does the work and the thin client handles output and input. This arrangement makes sense, because then the watch doesn’t need powerful chips or enormous batteries to get a good experience. This controls costs too.

The weakness in cloud computing is that a fast, consistent connection is required. Fortunately, because the phone is usually always with you alongside the watch, and because connectivity is via Bluetooth, smartwatches don’t have that issue.

So why would Apple move to a future where watch apps are standalone? Is technology progressing so rapidly that streamed computing is unnecessary? That can’t be right. Smartphones haven’t yet crossed a threshold where performance gains are unnecessary, and smartwatches are way behind smartphones.

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When Google announced its new Nexus line of products, I was most excited about the Nexus Player. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Google succeeded in creating a breakthrough product. Yet anyway.

Ars Technica has a great review which you can read here. The summary:

Unfortunately for Google’s living room ambitions, the Nexus Player isn’t very good. Despite the company’s experience with Google TV, the Nexus Player and Android TV are first-gen products with lots of first-gen problems. The hardware/software combo flops on many of the basics—such as playing video smoothly—and doesn’t deliver on any of the compelling experiences “Android on your TV” would seem able to provide. Apps and games are presumably supposed to be the big differentiator here from the Chromecast and Apple TV, but the Play Store interface is clunky and, instead of 1.4 million Android apps, you get access to about 70. It’s also pretty buggy.

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I have the Chromecast and some things are awesome on it. Unfortunately, it’s a limited device in that strictly speaking, the Chromecast doesn’t mirror content, it streams from the web. This means that outside of a few phones, you can’t project games to your TV, which I’ve argued could disrupt the games industry. It also means you can’t project your PowerPoint presentation to the TV.

That changes with Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter (awful, awful name). It uses the Miracast standard to mirror your Windows and Android devices to the TV so you don’t even need Wi-Fi to make it work. Check out the video to see how Microsoft wants you to use it:

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I purchased the Chromecast eons ago, partly out of curiosity and partly because the price was low enough to be an impulse buy.  I haven’t used it much as my PC is directly connected to my big screen TV so the Chromecast’s raison d’etre doesn’t apply in my case.

Recently, I discovered a killer app for the Chromecast – all you hardcore people probably know about this already; I was late to the party because of the iPhone 5S – and it changes everything for the dongle.

It’s called Popcorn Time for Android.

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So Nvidia announced its Shield Tablet, an 8-inch, 1920×1200 display with two front-facing speakers priced at $300.  But the real cost is $400 as you’ll want to get the $60 controller and $40 kickstand cover; both specifically made for Shield.

What’s special about this tablet is that it has a beastly Tegra K1 processor, which on paper destroys the iPad Air and other Android tablets.  As you might have guessed, this is a tablet made for gaming.

Should you get it?  I guess if you like games and in the market for a small Android tablet…sure?  The price is fair for what it can do.  The endorsement is not ringing however because I’m not sure what problem this solves — most high end tablets today are plenty powerful for games — and because I think the 8-inch screen size is just too small for a gaming tablet.

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