Plex – A Fantastic Media Server

August 25, 2012

I’ve come across a cool free media server called Plex which manages and facilitates streaming my video files and music files to my connected devices. I remember looking at Plex a few years ago and didn’t think too much of it, but the version they have now is fantastic. Here’s some of it’s features:

  • Can automatically identify your videos by titles and will pull down poster art and episode/movie descriptions automatically from common database servers
  • Has many grouping options such as “Watched”, “On Deck”, etc.
  • Has the ability to stream video and music across a network (either internal LAN or external WAN) from your home PC, at different transmission speeds.
  • Will transcode videos on-the-fly when necessary based on the network connection speed to the client app.
  • Very easy to use interface on the server and client
  • Client apps available for Android, iOS, and PC devices
  • Media Server program available for Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux systems

I normally take my recorded TV shows (from EyeTV) which are stored on my iMac system and stream them to my Acer A500 Iconia Android Tablet or Google Nexus 7 Tablet in my house. I have been using the streaming capability of the ES Explorer Android app (which simply plays a selected video using its video player), but the Plex system is much more robust. It seems to work great, and what’s even more cool is that I can stream transcoded video to my Android Smartphone or Tablet while on travel from my home iMac even on a slower network connection. Pretty cool stuff. In addition, the Server Interface on my iMac looks great. Read the rest of this entry »

Mourning the loss of Palm, Inc.

August 12, 2012

Palm, Inc. was a great company, in that they gave us the Palm Pilot PDA. This was the front-runner to the “Smartphone”, as they took their Palm device and integrated a cell phone to create the Palm Treo. The problem with Palm, is that they became stagnant in technology development after the Treo which allowed others to catch up and surpass them. Microsoft, Apple, and Google just picked up the ball and ran with it to create several highly successful devices (which we can’t seem to live without these days), while Palm floundered on the side lines for whatever reason.

I’ve visited the Palm headquarters in Sunnyvale three times now for WebOS developer conferences and they seem like a group of sharp people. So what was the problem? Why didn’t they flourish during the infancy of the Smartphone era which they helped to start?

All I can think of, is that their management languished and couldn’t move the ball forward. Maybe it became a game of keeping the stock price up and not a game of developing new technology. Who knows. It’s just a shame that a once great company gets bought out by HP, and then shutdown. I know there’s still a grass root effort to keep WebOS alive with some support by HP and the developer community, but I don’t think it will last very long considering there are no new commercial devices being released with the WebOS operating system running them.

What happened to PDAs?

August 12, 2012

I remember the days when a cell phone was just a phone. It might have a basic calendar app built into the system, or a very crude game or two, but it was just a phone. Then you had the “Personal Data Assistant” devices (or PDAs) first created by Palm with their Palm Pilot which was a stylus-based electronic device for storing appointments, contacts, and was the originator of the “Apps”. The Palm Pilot really took off, followed by Microsoft trying to copy them with their version of the “Palm PC” followed by “Pocket PC” devices. I personally had a series of Palm and Pocket PC devices which co-existed with my basic Nokia cell phone.

Then one day, Palm merged the PDA and cell phone together to create the Palm Treo series which again took off like a shot. Eventually, Microsoft followed suit again with their Windows Mobile OS devices, Apple with their iPhones, and Google with their release of the Android OS for phones. Thus, the birth of the smartphone era began.

So as I hold my latest HTC EVO LTE 4G smartphone in my hand, I ponder: Is it a phone first and a PDA device second, or is it the other way around? I postulate that my smartphone is actually an Internet-connected device first, and a cell phone second. I personally hardly ever use it as a phone to make phone calls. My EVO is used primarily for constant email access, instant messaging, and checking for internet content. I use my EVO for reviewing my calendar (which syncs with Google calendar in the cloud), and for navigation while driving in my car. I also stream music via Google Music in the cloud to my Ford Sync system while driving. In fact, I can connect with my home computer while on the road if I have a fast enough Internet WiFi connection with my phone.

So, this device that I carry around in my pocket is not a phone nor a smartphone, but rather a internet connected device which has the ability to make phone calls as a secondary function. Maybe we should stop calling them smartphones, but rather data devices?

Google Play Music

August 5, 2012

If you’re a Google Android Smartphone or Tablet user, you can take advantage of a service called Google Play Music which allows you to stream your music from the Internet to your mobile device. It’s like your own personal Pandora app, where you can upload all your music to the Google Servers and have it streamed down to your phone or tablet. So if you have unlimited data (like I do with my Sprint cell phone service), streaming music is great since it eliminates the need to store the music files on your mobile device’s local storage.

So I’ve been using Google Play Music while driving in my car, with my music being streamed from my Google account to my phone and through my bluetooth connection with Ford Sync. Works very nicely!


August 5, 2012

HBO has a video streaming service called HBO GO which allows current HBO subscribers with certain Cable providers to watch their content on-demand from the Internet. Yesterday, I realized that I am an HBO subscriber with Comcast through a special Cable-TV-Internet package deal I have with my home service. So, I decided to give HBO GO a try.

First, the service is on-demand so you can watch HBO shows whenever you want. They don’t have everything available that they show on their regular schedule, but they do have a lot of content. For example, they have most of their own HBO Series available (old and new stuff), as well as lots of different movies and popular shows. Also, you can watch these programs either on a PC or Laptop via a Web Browser or on a portable device like an Android phone or tablet (I haven’t tried on the Apple devices, but I’m sure they have it also).

The interface is actually pretty easy to use, and the videos I watched stream well if you have a fast Internet connection. I haven’t tried to stream a video to my Android smartphone using a cellular connection, but I imagine it may stutter a bit depending on the actual cellular signal. In any case, this is a great way to watch a movie or show on your iPad or Tablet at home or on the road (with a WiFi Connection) if you’re an HBO subscriber.