One of those things that I’m always looking for is a better media streamer. I need Netflix. Amazon Prime is a plus. Local streaming is a necessity, and for that I use Plex and PlayOn running on my media server in my basement. It all hooks into my Roku XD. And now this afternoon (my time) Google announced the Chromecast and priced it at $35 and included three free months of Netflix. After it went up on Amazon with Prime shipping, I gave in and picked one up. I’m a sucker for Google products, what can I say?
The path I stumbled getting to where I am now started with a Mac Mini. It ran Boxee, which was a great application and a way to really dip our toes in the water of streaming but it eventually fell by the wayside.1 I could never get happy or comfortable with the interface, even when I was using what was (and I think may still be) the best keyboard remote of all time. Shortly thereafter I switched over to the Apple TV. Only thing is, I have no interest in the Apple ecosystem. It wasn’t long before I was actively seeking a way to move beyond the tiny bit of Netflix (and NHL Gamecenter) that I could get out of the aTV. I moved on to jailbreaking it and installing FireCore’s aTV Flash (black) and after installation2 there were a slew of options I could get my dirty, techy fingers into.
The next thing I know, I’ve installed XBMC and Plex side-by-side on the aTV and you know what? Plex was amazing. I already had the media server downstairs, all I had to do was jump on it via Remote Desktop and install their server and in a few short minutes I had a pretty ten-foot interface that even transcoded things on the fly. I’d played with stuff like TVersity before but always came away frustrated. Plex was just easy. Nothing to worry about and everything worked with it. And holy crud they had mobile apps!
There was a short romance with a Patriot Box Office media player. It could stream a lot of codecs, but it was ugly and crashed a lot. A little while later I picked up a Logitech Revue when they went on fire sale for $99. Great little box, but really poor at transcoding local content. Netflix? Sure. Search? Absolutely. Tell me everything about anything I want to watch. But if I wanted to goof with something I downloaded or ripped, no dice. And then boom, there’s a Plex app on Google TV. Things are going swimmingly, we have Plex upstairs and downstairs, and then I just get frustrated with the Apple TV.
Like any Apple product there’s a constant chess match of updates and jailbreaks with it, and I reached the end of my rope with the ‘scene’. But I stuck with Plex. Why? Well, I also subscribe to Dish Network, and they offered me a free Roku XD with which to watch The Walking Dead while they were fighting with AMC over carriage rights.3 I took it, and I was hooked. Plex, freely available. Netflix, already there. Amazon Instant Video? Got that too. What a snazzy little device it was (and is). Turned out it had a PlayOn app as well; I’d added that at some point in the past because it allowed my Dish 922 (and its successor, the HOPPAH!) to stream Hulu. All the better for me, because now the Roku could do everything I wanted.
And where does that leave me today? Addicted to the next cool thing for streaming. I’d happily cut the cord but without football I’d be lost. I’m addicted to NFL RedZone, and I can’t get a streaming subscription for that. I get NHL Gamecenter and when there’s a deal, MLB.TV but football? DirecTV’s got that locked up and there’s no way I’m ever getting my dirty fingers on it. Unless, of course, I can Chromecast a window from my browser…that happens to have a stream running…from certain websites…aHRM. And also, guess who’s very interested in developing for the device?
And then what do you know? I could be very, VERY happy. I look at it this way: I was paying for Netflix anyway. $8 a month, times 3 is $24. I’m spending $11 and inching closer to cutting the cord. And I’ll be happy to report back about the thing on Friday.