Why Plex? - Part 2

17. September 2019 13:09 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments

The online TV streaming market is becoming more fragmented as each company introduces their own service and gets exclusivity to several of our favorite TV shows that we used to watch on cable TV. I fully expect traditional cable to TV to be replaced by streaming in the next 5 to 10 years. The idea with streaming services was to "cut" the cord from the big cable companies. However, the reality is, the amount of money we pay hasn't really changed; It's just a matter of who we pay now.

With all of the new streaming services popping up to grab a piece of what used to be dominated by cable TV, I am glad to have my own Plex library which I have been slowly adding box sets of my favorite TV shows. It has become a bidding war of who gets to stream which show and it becomes too much to manage if you only subscribe to a couple of services. If it weren't for Netflix original content, I would probably drop them completely and continue building up my own TV library.

One of my favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, is available on Netflix, but only in the UK. I have watched some of the show while visiting the UK, but while back in the US I've been using a VPN to get access to the show. Now that The Big Bang Theory is finished airing on live TV, I can purchase the box set for $200 on Amazon and not worry about who has the streaming rights to a particular show. If you usually pay $12-$15/month for Netflix, this works out to be about $144-$180 for the year. Yes, $200 for one show might seem like a lot, but it will save you the decision making of whether to keep a service or add a new service should the show you like switch streaming providers. Beginning next year, The Big Bang Theory is leaving Netflix to go to HBO Max streaming service. You will also be able to see it on TBS. However, I am just glad I won't have to worry about where I can watch going forward.

In the end, it's all about how you consume media. If you still have cable, then you can probably find the shows you like on your favorite networks. If you subscribe to streaming services, you can pick and choose which ones work for you for a given time frame. For me though, I mostly like to just subscribe and forget and not have to actively manage which ones to stay.

Why Plex?

2. August 2019 14:45 by Cameron in Plex  //  Tags: , , , , , , ,   //   Comments

In the modern age of streaming movies and TV, we are faced with a growing problem of media fragmentation. No longer can you watch all of your desired shows under one subscription as all of the big studios seem to be fighting for a piece of the pie when it comes to licensing movies and TV across streaming services. The challenge too is that at any given moment, a publishing company can revoke these licenses from a particular service and switch to another service. Also, if the new service is something you don't subscribe to, you then need to make a decision of whether the cost of a new subscription is worth it for still having access to your show.

All of these subscription services add up. You might not think much of one or two services, but if you subscribe to several services, then you are likely paying close to if not more than a comparable cable subscription. The only difference here is that everyone is getting more money for their content by bypassing cable licensing fees. Streaming has changed the way we consume content by cutting out the middle man and allowing us to watch on our own time. However, don't be fooled that it is always cheaper than cable.

If you enjoy certain TV series but don't want to pay a monthly subscription to watch, you can opt for Plex and purchasing box sets of your TV series. There is more of an upfront cost by getting compatible hardware for Plex, but the good thing is that you can start small and plan for expansion as your budget allows. The box sets tend to be pricey up front too, but one series box set (~$200) will have paid for itself in about a year's time.

With the digital codes that are distributed with new movies, they used to be redeemed with Ultraviolet, but has shifted to Movies Anywhere. With the recent closure of Ultraviolet, I'm reminded why I don't like DRM. I'm a huge fan of buying physical movies and ripping them to my Plex server. While I like the concept of Movies Anywhere, how do I know that this won't ultimately have the same fate as Ultraviolet? With my own library, I maintain the original discs in boxes and I have access to my hundreds of movies with a click of a button. I don't have to worry about a service going defunct.

I'm not boycotting streaming services altogether, but I don't like having content I enjoy watching tied up in DRM platforms. I plan to keep my streaming service subscriptions to a minimum. Of the few, I will stick with Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime (I mostly use for shipping) and probably Disney's streaming platform. As long as I can still buy physical media, that will be my preferred way of building a library for many years to come.

Small HTPC Build

16. December 2017 17:19 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments

I recently have had the itch to build a small PC that can fit in my entertainment center. This is mainly so I can play games that require wired controllers without having to provide 30ft long USB extension cords to my main desktop. To fit this need, I considered getting an Intel NUC based on the new Apollo Lake Atom processor, but ultimately I decided on an HP Pro 6200 SFF PC. The Intel NUC in the cheapest configuration isn't well suited for all of my current needs. I would have needed a NUC with an i5 or better for decent performance in more graphically demanding applications.

I bought the HP from eBay for a small $30! The original purchase from eBay included an Intel i3 2100 clocked at 3.10GHz and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. I just had to purchase a hard drive separately and then the computer was ready to use! This was an incredible deal which I couldn't pass up. After receiving the PC, I installed my 1TB HDD, upgraded the CPU to an Intel i5 2500 clocked at 3.30GHz, and installed an ASUS NVIDIA GT 1030 2GB low profile GPU. In total, the build cost me about $150 which is just a little more than the Intel NUC I had originally considered.

I wanted the PC to be powerful enough emulate everything from Atari to Wii/PS2/PSP so getting the GT 1030 was a must. I didn't get great performance on the Intel HD 2000 alone. It is important to note that if you're going to do this yourself, you need to consider power consumption and that these OEM PCs don't have standard upgradeable ATX or ITX PSUs. The HP Pro 6200 has a 240W PSU which is below the NVIDIA recommended 300W for a GT 1030. However, I haven't had any issues where the PC struggles with power delivery. The specs for the GT 1030 indicate that the card draws around 30W and my i5 draws around 95W. This leaves ~100W for the other components which should be sufficient. Because the GT 1030 is a low power card, it is also important to mention that it will only run at PCI Express x4 speeds, but this is plenty for light gaming, emulators, and video streaming. If you need full x16 speeds, you should consider building a mini ITX PC or micro ATX PC instead.

The advantage to going the route of old OEM PCs instead of starting from scratch is that you have less costs to get a base PC up and running. To build a similar configuration from scratch, it would easily cost 2-3 times as much, but you do have more options on CPU/mobo than OEM.

I still maintain my primary desktop PC for gaming/work that requires a beefier GPU, but this is a nice secondary PC that fits my needs for multimedia within my entertainment center. I will be creating some captures from the HP soon demonstrating performance of this build in terms of light gaming, Steam in-home streaming, emulators, and video streaming.

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