Netflix Isn’t Against Offline Viewing

Netflix is a huge company, with price increases to help cover the increased traffic that people use with the HD streaming experience. In a recent call though Netflix may look at helping you watch those movies on the go while avoiding the data usage costs that come with offline viewing.

CEO Reed Hastings responded to questions about the possibility of letting its subscribers watch shows offline by saying that they would “keep an open mind on all this”. Part of the reason Hastings gives for this open approach is the “uneven set of networks” that Netflix is noticing as they expand to new areas of the world.

With Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, Neil Hunt, stating last year that they wouldn’t add the feature thanks to the “complexity [it brings] to your life”, directly followed by “with Amazon Prime”. Amazon Prime lets you download and stream shows, and with a new pricing model offering monthly subscriptions, Netflix may be changing their tone to help fight off the competition in the media streaming market.

With services like Sky Go, Amazon Prime and even BBC’s iPlayer letting you watch content offline, Netflix is one of the few services that doesn’t offer offline viewing, something that can often put people on or off services when their internet cuts out mid-show.

Kanye West Being Sued Over Promises of Tidal Exclusive Album

Kanye West is not a new face when it comes to news and digital issues, with his latest album, the life of Pablo, pirated over half a million times while it was still an exclusive at Tidal. The problem for many was that Kanye had offered the album as an exclusive for Tidal, the online streaming service that he has invested in. The so-called exclusive has now led to Kayne West being sued over promises that it would be a Tidal exclusive album, promises that didn’t last very long.

Justin Baker-Rhett is a fan of musician Kanye West, but he is now at the center of a lawsuit targeted towards both Kanye West and S.Carter Enterprises (SCE), the company that owns the Tidal music streaming service.

The lawsuit alleges that the rapper mislead his fans into buying and supporting the streaming service by falsely promising that his album, the Life of Pablo, would only ever be available on Tidal. A month and a half later the album appeared on both Apple Music and Spotify, leading many to believe that his claims about the album being an exclusive were nothing more than false advertising to boost Tidal’s falling sales figures.

Tidal promises greater control and royalties to those that use it to share their music so it’s hard to see West’s tweet as nothing more than an attempt to get people to buy in and listen to it on the platform before realising that he might not get the following on Tidal, whose subscription numbers are reported to have jumped from 1 million to 3 million following the announcement.

Amazon Prime Opts For Monthly Subs to Compete With Netflix

When it comes to video streaming service, there is currently a debate over which is best for you, Netflix or Amazon prime. With Netflix recently raising its prices, Amazon Prime looks to be a large contender thanks to some of the original content it now produces, but many are put off by the large upfront cost for the service. This could change as US users of the service could switch to a monthly service.

Previously Prime users had to pay a yearly subscription of $99, offering access to not only their fast delivery options but also Prime Video and Prime Music, the media providing aspects of the Prime service. The monthly subscription costs $10.99 a month if you wanted to keep all the benefits while if you only wanted Prime Video you could opt in for the $8.99 subscription.

With the yearly total costing you $131.88, a 25% increase overly the annual membership, users may want to take the monthly bundle around times like Christmas or large concentrations of birthdays, rather than using it as a go to package over the yearly service. It should also be noted that if you were to select the monthly subscription you won’t get the 25% prepayment discount that annual members of prime benefit from.

Netflix to Increase Prices For 37 Percent of US Customers

Netflix has rapidly become a legitimate rival to traditional Television broadcasts and revolutionized the way we all watch video content. Instead of having to view your favourite programmes based on their pre-arranged listings, you can instantly access a huge library without adverts. Furthermore, exclusive programming such as House of Cards showcases the quality content, and value when subscribing to Netflix’s service. While there is competition from Amazon Instant Video, Hulu and others, none of these really compared to Netflix’s ability to offer a massive range of blockbuster films.

Unfortunately, price increases have been occurring on a regular basis which might deter some users from continuing their subscription. Furthermore, the company recently clamped down on users accessing the US library with a DNS or VPN. Annoyingly, consumers outside of the US often have to put up with a fairly restricted selection of TV shows which is down to licensing agreements. Once again, this is another reason why certain long-term subscribers might feel inclined to cancel.

Some time ago, Netflix announced that they would be increasing prices gradually and freeze the cost for current users for a limited time. The ‘grandfathering’ period has now expired which means that almost 17 million US subscribers protected by this scheme will face a price increase from $7.99 a month to $9.99. This follows a 50p price hike in the UK and it looks likely that the company will continue with this strategy especially for those purchasing the HD tier. Of course, acquiring the broadcasting rights to expensive programming is bound to cut into Netflix’s profit margins. It’s clear they want to offer the best possible library and form the new instant form of Television.

However, if the prices continue to rise and eventually cost more than a cable service, I’m not sure how many subscribers they will lose. In the USA, I don’t think it’s likely, but disgruntled customers outside of the US market might feel they’re receiving poor value due to the smaller library while paying a similar price.

FCC Says Netflix Throttling Itself Isn’t Against Net Neutrality

Recently the popular streaming service Netflix admitted that when it comes to mobile phones accessing their system, they reduced the video quality on most mobile networks to help avoid excessive data usage. This caused an uproar given Netflix’s stance on the topic was to support the concept of Net Neutrality (the idea being that all traffic on the internet is equal and, therefore, shouldn’t be prioritized or capped based on its content). It nows seems that the FCC have stated where they stand on the matter.

The FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler stated that the Federal Communications Commission had no intention of investigating the service for throttling its own streams. Critics of Netflix agree with the idea that the FCC’s ruling on net neutrality applies to internet service providers, those that provide the entirety of the internet to you rather than just a service within the internet. Even with this agreement, they want the company investigated, with Wheeler clarifying that they “do not regulate edge providers”. An edge provider in this case is what the FCC title online content providers, the ones that actually use the internet to provide a service rather than provide access to the internet itself.

This comes at a time when the FCC are openly investigating mobile providers for their internet usage systems, with companies like TalkTalk offering their Binge service, a service which allows you to stream unlimited amounts of content from select providers that have partnered up with TalkTalk.

Where do you stand? Should companies be allowed to reduce quality to ensure you get a smooth service without additional costs? Should they be allowed you provide you with “unlimited content” from select providers?

Sony To Offer 4K Streaming Service ‘Ultra’ From April

Rumours have recently been spreading saying that Sony would be working on a 4K variation of their PS4. Sadly it would seem those rumours were overblown but you could soon be watching 4K Videos on demand with Sony offering its streaming service from April.

The 4K films featured as part of ‘Ultra’, their streaming service, will retail at $30, including a selection of special features and will be available through Sony’s new 4K screens. Alongside their new films, people will be able to upgrade films they’ve purchased from Sony’s online store 4K versions at a “discounted” price.

Those with Ultraviolet movies will be able to enjoy them alongside their new films with the ability to link to their UV collections meaning that all those UV codes you’ve been adding to that account may finally see some use.

With 4K players costing upwards of hundreds of powers on their own, $30 a movie doesn’t seem that bad when you compare the prices. The limited collection of movies that will include the likes of The Walk, Concussion and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, may put people off but with it building upon Ultraviolet and other systems people may decide to skip the discs altogether and stick to streaming 4K content in order enjoy the latest quality in movie experiences.

The Music of David Bowie to be Streamed via Skype

Earlier this year David Bowie passed away. In tribute to the legend, Michael Dorf has created a tribute show, “The Music of David Bowie”. Due to interest in the project, you could now enjoy the show via Skype for a small charitable donation.

Teaming up with both Skype and ammado, the show at Radio City Music Hall on April 1st will be streamed online across the world for all the share in the memory. With a suggested minimal donation of $20 or £15, the show will feature 18 different artists paying tribute to the man himself.

The confirmed artists for the show include:

  • MUMFORD & SONS
  • BLONDIE
  • PIXIES
  • MICHAEL STIPE
  • J MASCIS
  • RICKIE LEE JONES
  • ESPERANZA SPALDING
  • RON POPE
  • JHEREK BISCHOFF, AMANDA PALMER & ANNA CALVI W/KRONOS QUARTET
  • ANN WILSON OF HEART
  • THE ROOTS
  • THE POLYPHONIC SPREE
  • PERRY FARRELL
  • JAKOB DYLAN
  • HOLY HOLY
  • DONNY MCCASLIN GROUP W/ MARK GUILIANA, JASON LINDNER, AND TONY VISCONTI

The donations will go to a range of charities such as the Melodic Caring Project (MCP)Grammy in the SchoolsFor Music & Art named as just a few. With 100% of the proceeds going to charity, you get a great show and help an amazing cause all in the memory of a historic figure. You can find out more and contribute to the show here.

YouTube Looking To Go Live With YouTube Connect

YouTube is the name people think of when they hear about videos on the internet, and while social media like Facebook and Twitter have added video support, many still prefer to upload to YouTube and then share the video. One thing Facebook and Twitter do that YouTube can’t is to create live videos such as when someone decides that they want to start streaming straight to their audience. This may change though with reports about the new service: YouTube Connect.

VentureBeat may have stumbled across the new service, which seems to be targeted towards creating a live streaming platform for YouTube users. The feature is based around the ability to start streaming from your mobile phone, but there are other features such as the chat ability and even the ability to tag people and other accounts in the stream. A news feed will allow you to feature the latest clips from friends and subscriptions.

The live videos won’t just be locked to the app, with them simultaneously streamed to their YouTube channels as well, all the while they are saved so that in future someone can come back and catch up on your videos.

While YouTube does currently have live streaming the feature is noted as being in beta and limited as to who can access it, so maybe YouTube Connect will be their way of bringing the feature to the masses in the near future.

NVIDIA Ramping Up GeForce Now to be “Netflix of Gaming”

NVIDIA is expanding its GeForce Now game on-demand service, which streams PC and console games to the NVIDIA Shield set-top box. The service currently has over 100 games available, for a monthly subscription fee, and has plans to not only expand its library, but also improve the quality of streamed games when it moves its cloud data centres to Maxwell-based GPUs, replacing its old Kepler-based units, later this year.

“We are still on the path of being the Netflix of gaming,” Phil Eisler, General Manager of GeForce Now cloud gaming at NVIDIA told VentureBeat. “The cloud gives us good analysis and data. About half of our customers are millennial gamers, and half are parents who enjoy playing games with their children.”

“Gamer dads who are 35 and older struggle to find time to play games with their kids. They like the convenience of the system and the retro content. The millennial gamers, meanwhile, are very impatient and like to get their games quickly,” he added.

Following the data centre upgrade, “[GeForce Now] will be the highest-performing system that you can get access to in your living room by the end of the year,” Eisler said. “Our focus is getting games to work in 30 seconds and we are working on ways to cut that in half. Other services may take minutes. So we focus on the most convenient way to play.”

ASUS RP-AC56 Dual-Band Wireless AC1200 Range Extender Review

Introduction


When you invest in a wireless network repeater in order to increase your range and cover dead spots in your home, you can either go for a run-of-the-mill unit that provides you with the basic functionality or you can go all out and get a device like ASUS’ RP-AC56 wireless dual-band AC1200 range extender and access point. The ASUS RP-AC56 is anything but ordinary and today I’ll take a closer look at everything this little device has to offer.

The ASUS RP-AC56 can extend your existing 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi network with speeds up to 1167 Mbps and thanks to its two external antennas it will have a great ability to enhance Wi-Fi signal coverage and boost your Wi-Fi everywhere. But it does a lot more than that, it also comes with a Gigabit Ethernet LAN port for even more connectivity as well as a 3.5mm audio jack for music streaming.

The dual-band repeater supports both the legacy 2.4GHz band and the newer 5GHz band for AC1200 speeds. The two external antennas support MIMO for the best connection even when multiple devices use it at the same time. With speeds up to 867 Mbps on the 5GHz band you can get close to what a wire connection has to offer, at least with the proper signal strength and isn’t that just the reason that we want a device such as the RP-AC56.

ASUS made sure that the setup is as easy as it can be, all it takes is a push of a button thanks the easy WPS setup. Hit the button on your router and then on the repeater, wait for a little bit, and the connection will be established. And that really is all you need to do, but you can do more. The LEDs on the front don’t just show which network band is being used, they also show the signal strength in three steps (Red, Yellow, Green) which in return allows you to find the perfect position for maximum coverage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf-0m-BMyo0

As previously mentioned, the RP-AS56 comes with a convenient Gigabit Ethernet LAN port built-in and the function of it depends on the usage of the RP-AC56. The flexibly designed device can work as a normal repeater, but it can also work as a wireless access point or as a media bridge. In access point mode it can be connected to any wired network and create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. In media bridge mode it can be connected to any Ethernet-compatible device to give it Wi-Fi capability where it didn’t before.

The LAN port can also be used for easy access to the web-based configuration menu without the need for any driver disc or application, but it isn’t something that is needed. You can naturally also set it up wirelessly from devices such as your tablet or smartphone.

You can also connect speakers directly to the RP-AC56 wireless repeater and stream your favorite music direct from any mobile device that has the ASUS AiPlayer app installed. It is compatible with a wide range of multimedia formats and delivers a smooth and effortless streaming experience. The AiPlayer app is available from the App Store and Google Play and it also works for streaming without extra software when used from a Mac and iOS device.

Additionally, the RP-AC56 also supports ASUS’ ExpressWay feature that uses the dual-band capabilities to create an efficient connection with improved reliability. In normal mode, the repeater uses the two bands simultaneously for connecting to devices for the widest compatibility. ExpressWay can dedicate one band for connecting to the router and the other band for connecting to the device as long as one of them supports the 5GHz band. It also features the hassle-free Roaming Assist technology. With this enabled, you never have to switch connections manually between RP-AC56 and your ASUS router as you move around the home. Your device will connect automatically to the strongest Wi-Fi signal whether it’s from the router or the repeater.

Features

  • Extend your existing 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi network with speeds up to 1167 Mbps.
  • Two external antennas enhance Wi-Fi signal coverage and boost your Wi-Fi everywhere.
  • Quick and secure setup with just a press of the WPS button.
  • Smart LED signal indicator helps you find the best location for optimum Wi-Fi performance.
  • Rotating mains plug for flexible positioning in any power socket. (Not in all regions)
  • ASUS AiPlayer app for streaming music, with multi-protocol support.
  • ASUS ExpressWay uses full-speed device connections to boost performance.
  • Roaming Assist helps you to get a stable connection everywhere in the home or office.

Packaging and Accessories

The ASUS RP-AC56 comes in a great looking retail box that shows how the device looks on the front where it also shows the main features and highlights the Android and iOS support.

The rear of the box explains what the device does and how you can utilize it. It also showcases the AiPlayer for wireless streaming and more details on the features. Overall it’s a great box where you shouldn’t be left with any questions as to what the device you’re holding in your hands can do.

Inside the box, we find a quick start guide and ASUS VIP Member Warranty Notice in multiple languages as well as a 3.5mm audio cable to connect the repeater to an amplifier or speaker set.

Sony Brings PS4 Remote Play Streaming to PC and Mac

Streaming is becoming ever more a necessary feature and Sony is expanding the number of compatible devices for the PS4. Starting with the PS4 System Update Version 3.5, PS4s will now be able to stream to PC and Mac devices access an in-home network. The new feature will hit beta very quickly and will roll out to the rest of the PS4 install base by the end of the month.

Before this update, Sony had only allowed PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV as well as certain Xperia phones, all Sony made, to utilize the streaming feature. By expanding to all PC and Mac devices, Sony will be able to counter Microsoft’s move last year that enabled streaming Xbox One games to Windows 10 and Valve’s own Steam streaming. In fact, Sony’s system is more flexible than Microsoft as it is not limited to just Windows 10, but all PCs and Macs assuming they can run the application.

With the big 2 console makers already in on the streaming game, one could expect that the Nintendo NX will probably allow for streaming as well. Of course, streaming still requires a robust home network with good WiFi speeds and high-speed router. What application that playing device needs remains to be seen.

Popcorn Time Returns Despite MPAA Shutdown

The most popular fork of Popcorn Time, which was subject to a shutdown by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has announced its return, using the new Project Butter streaming platform. The use of Project Butter to revive Popcorn Time is ironic, since the app was developed as a ‘legal’ alternative, free of copyrighted content.

The rejuvenated Popcorn Time fork was the one associated with PopcornTime.io, which was closed in October 2015 following a lawsuit filed against the Canadian developers by the MPAA. The fall of the PopcornTime.io fork triggered a cascade which caused a number of other forks and contributors to fall away.

Last week, though, those with the Popcorn Time software still installed received a notification. Just two words: “Hail Hydra”. Soon after, Popcorn Time appeared to be working again. Now, the team behind the resurrection have officially confirmed its return in a blog post. The team responsible, who understandably wish to remain anonymous, is thought be different to the original Canadian developers who were targeted by the MPAA, but were associated with Popcorn Time in some capacity, though using the Project Butter software built by the Canadian team:

“After the “MPAA incident”, we’re a little diminished, and we’ve chosen a new direction: we’re shifting from an active development of Popcorn Time to a more or less resilience-driven development. We will keep an eye on the bug tracker (Github) and fix the most urgent ones, but you have to understand, once more, that we are a community offering an application for those without access to a real Streaming platform and a real catalog, for free, without ads

The last four months have been chaotic. We’ve seem [sic] some forks keeping up the good work and others who just wanted to attract users into a trap of adwares & malwares. We would like to take a moment to thank the Reddit Community for taking things over while we were in standby.”

 

The Pirate Bay Introduces In-Browser Streaming

The Pirate Bay, despite losing the ‘heads’ of its Hydra domains faster than it can grow them back, has introduced embedded streaming, so at the click of a button you can watch the latest torrents in your browser. Using the Torrents Time browser plug-in, The Pirate Bay now features a “Stream It!” button for every torrent it carries.

Torrents Time – built by the people behind the notorious “Netflix for pirates”, Popcorn Time – is not exclusive to The Pirate Bay, designed to work with any torrent site, and allows in-browser streaming through Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome, in both Windows and OS X. While the plug-in is experiencing the teething problems expected of a beta release, its use and application is quite simple. Users only need to download the Torrents Time plug-in, and pick a torrent with a suitable number of seeders to maintain a reliable stream.

“By harnessing the incredible abilities of torrents, you can transform your website, in a matter of seconds to an amazing, simple to use streaming website,” the Torrents Time site reads. “With Torrents Time you’ll be able to […] generate more revenue than with any other monetization company while putting a stop to annoying ads.”

Torrents Time is soon to be adopted by Torrentproject.se, Videomax.is, Online.porntime.ws, and KickassTorrents.

“We are certain that in no time we’ll be embedded in all torrent sites who care to move-on with this evolution,” the Torrents Time team told TorrentFreak. “We will allow everybody to watch any movie they wish from torrent sites who embed us, when they want, without having to store someone’s file on their hard disk. It’s ‘watching together’ or ‘Co-Watch’ technology, made possible by Torrents Time.”

Super Bowl 50 Sets a New CBS Streaming Record

The Super Bowl is one of the most popular sporting events worldwide and continues to attract very large audiences. This year’s event was hosted at Levi’s Stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area, and contested between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. According to broadcaster CBS, the average cost of a 30-second commercial during the game was a staggering $5 million. Unlike the majority of NFL games, the Super Bowl manages to create interest from new viewers outside of the US who aren’t overly versed with the rules. Perhaps, they want to see the half time show, adverts or simply intrigued by the spectacle. As a Brit, I don’t really follow American football, but the Super Bowl is always an interesting watch!

In terms of media coverage, the Super Bowl 50 was a resounding success and managed to attract a “record audience” streaming the game. Unfortunately, there’s no specific numbers from CBS to judge how many people tuned in, but it’s clearly broke last year’s figure of 800,000 viewers per minute. Even if you really dislike American football, this is an extremely impressive and exemplifies the importance of digital media. Part of this success is down to CBS encouraging streaming through various devices including the Apple TV, Roku Stick and Xbox One. It’s not unreasonable to think that streaming could take over from traditional TV broadcasts in the next 10-15 years. Technical problems during the stream might deter people from using it in the future, but organisers are becoming more aware of how to build the correct infrastructure for more viewers.

In an ideal world, I’d love to know the exact figures, because the Super Bowl provides an extreme example of consumers adopting streaming on a mass scale. Still, TV will reign supreme for some time, but people are now more open to streaming content online.

Image courtesy of TheAtlantic.com

Popcorn Time to be Revived in the Browser

Popcorn time has been blocked, banned and taken down over copyright issues a number of times. It seems that the popular movie streaming service just refuses to die. Despite the seizure of its popcorntime.io site by the MPAA, Popcorn Time is set to return as Popcorn Time Online. It claims to offer all of the functionality and features that made the original Popcorn Time widely used, this time, delivered directly to the browser.

This new revival of Popcorn Time will also be fully open source, explaining on their blog that it makes use of the new Torrents Time technology in order to deliver its real-time streamed movies via torrents. This means that even should the main site hosting the Popcorn Time Online service be taken down, it would be incredibly easy for anyone with the technical skill to set up a web server to deploy a fully functional version of the streaming site on their own server or PC.

Popcorn Time Online even finds space to add some new features to their service, firstly allowing true streaming of torrents that were previously incompatible thanks to Torrent Time. Other new additions include support for multiple languages, higher quality video streaming than ever before and even the ability to stream to Chromecast, Airplay, and DLNA with subtitles, right from the website.

While the original creators or Popcorn Time are hard at work on Project Butter, a Popcorn Time derived service only providing non-copyrighted content, it will be interesting to see how that unfolds compared to the new release of Popcorn Time Online. It is anyone’s guess how long this rendition of the service will remain available and whether the MPAA will truly be able to shut it down due to its open source nature. For those avid users of the original, this new service will surely be appreciated, but the legal battle surrounding such services will definitely rage on.

Successful Streamer is Using a Pirated Copy of The Witness

Jonathan Blow is one of the most recognizable names in the indie development scene and best known for creating the hit puzzle game, Braid. In addition to Super Meat Boy, Braid showcased the kind of creativity and unique experiences players could expect from independent studios. Clearly, Braid’s wonderful aesthetic and captivating level design made it a huge success story. To build on the success of Braid, Jonathan Blow decided to work on a brand new title called, The Witness set in an open world enviroment with dozens of locations to explore. Furthermore, the game has over 500 extremely challenging puzzles and offers a lengthy single player experience.

Unfortunately, The Witness has fallen victim to extremely high piracy numbers and already become the most downloaded game on an unnamed pirate site, (most probably The Pirate Bay).

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/692831051845083137

Arguably, the game’s $39.99/£29.99 price tag could be a root cause of this very high piracy rate as people feel it’s overpriced for an indie puzzler. Please remember piracy doesn’t always mean the individual in question simply wants the game for free. Perhaps, the price is a concern, and it’s downloaded as a form of testing. Although, it’s clear many pirates have this intention and never buy the game. On the other hand, much cheaper titles including Grey Goo suffered from similar piracy rate which discredits the idea of pricing being the single cause. It’s probably a contributing factor though.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/692831910179971074

Unbelievably, a very successful streamer with 3 million views has been broadcasting the game using a pirated copy. This is absolutely astonishing because the person in question is clearly going to make at least $40 back from donations, or other means. It’s extremely stupid for someone with a small channel, but when you’re so influential and making an impressive amount of money, it shows a complete lack of respect for game developers. Jonathan Blow didn’t name the streamer, but it’s certainly something which almost defies belief.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/693202768136253442

Matt Groening to Create Animated Comedy Show For Netflix

Simpsons co-creator, Matt Groening revolutionized television and made it acceptable for adult audiences to watch cartoons. The Simpsons became renowned for its lovable characters, emotional storylines and remarkable comedy. While the show hasn’t been that great in recent years, older episodes still hold up remarkably well. Of course, the incredibly talented writer, and artist went onto produce, Futurama, which is one of my favourite programmes of all-time. I particularly enjoy the obscure mathematical references and over-the-top characters like Calculon! According to Deadline, Groening is set to create a brand new animated comedy for Netflix in addition to working on The Simpsons.

As you might expect, details are pretty sparse, and no-one currently knows what the new show will entail. However, this is just another example of Netflix expanding on their exclusive line-up and attempting to procure more subscribers. During the last couple of years, streaming video content has posed a legitimate rival to traditional television broadcasts especially among the younger demographic. It’s always going to be an impossible task to produce a show which comes close to matching the impact of The Simpsons. Nevertheless, Groening’s history is flawless despite Futurama being cancelled far too many times.

Are you looking forward to seeing something new from Matt Groening?

Image courtesy of Redditer stupidsexystartrek

Australian Netflix Users Threaten to Cancel Accounts over VPN Crackdown

Following the announcement by Netflix that it will begin cracking down on VPN ‘piracy’ to bypass geoblocked content, a number of Australian users have threatened to cancel their accounts with the video-on-demand platform, citing sub-standard native content, news.com.au reports.

Others argue that the move, in the absence of legitimate options, will only encourage illegal downloading:

https://twitter.com/SpaceCrazy/status/685873122260705280

While Netflix’s original shows – including the likes of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos – is available in all territories, independent of its geographical locks, it marks only a small fraction of the company’s content, much of which is tied to regional licensing agreements.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” David Fullagar, Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix, wrote in his announcement of the VPN crackdown. “We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

“We are delivering Netflix to 190 countries around the world. Our diverse slate of Originals and licensed programming should provide a service members find valuable no matter where they’re watching,” a Netflix spokesman told news.com.au. “As we continue to strive towards licencing content on a global scale, along with our slate of originals which launch globally simultaneously, the use of VPNs will become redundant.”

Netflix Begins VPN Crackdown

Netflix has announced that it is beginning its first widescale crackdown on VPN ‘piracy’ to view geoblocked content in other countries. David Fullagar, Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix, revealed the move on Thursday evening (14th January) via the Netflix blog.

Fullagar blames existing territorial licensing agreements for the move, but expresses the hope that, one day, Netflix will be able to offer the same content to all users on a global scale. Until that happens, though, it will no longer turn a blind eye to customers that bypass global content locks using VPN services.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” Fullagar writes. “We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

“Some members use proxies or “unblockers” to access titles available outside their territory,” Fullagar adds. “To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.”

The move comes in the wake of Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix, claiming at CES 2016 last week that it was “not obvious” how to block VPN usage to sidestep geoblocking.

Netflix Debates Geoblocking and VPN Use

Following its global rollout to over 130 countries, Netflix has been discussing the reality of its users bypassing geoblocked content via VPN services, admitting that it’s “not obvious” how to prevent it, The Globe and Mail reports. The technique of using VPNs, proxies, and DNS spoofers to access Netflix content in other countries has become widespread, especially in territories like Canada, citizens of which have access to only limited Netflix TV and movies, for which Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix, blames “sliced and diced” territorial rights deals.

“Our ambition is to do global licensing and global originals, so that over maybe the next five, 10, 20 years, it’ll become more and more similar until it’s not different,” Neil Hunt, Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, during CES 2016 in Las Vegas last week. “We don’t buy only for Canada; we’re looking … for all territories; buying a singular territory is not very interesting anymore.”

Netflix in Canada also has to deal with cable providers such as Bell Media, which ‘protects’ its content to a fault, with CEO Mary Ann Turcke shopping her own daughter for bypassing Netflix’s geoblocking with a VPN, accusing her of “stealing”.

“We do apply industry standard technologies to limit the use of proxies,” Hunt added. “Since the goal of the proxy guys is to hide the source it’s not obvious how to make that work well. It’s likely to always be a cat-and-mouse game. [We] continue to rely on blacklists of VPN exit points maintained by companies that make it their job. Once [VPN providers] are on the blacklist, it’s trivial for them to move to a new IP address and evade.”

Netflix, however, hopes that users bypassing its geoblocks will become a thing of the past with global licensing deals. “When we have global rights, there’s a significant reduction in piracy pressure on that content. If a major title goes out in the U.S. but not in Europe, it’s definitely pirated in Europe, much more than it is if it’s released simultaneously,” Hunt said.

Video Startup Leaves T-Mobile Binge On Service

T-Mobile didn’t have a great year last year, after having their customer records stolen. After such a public fiasco, they didn’t have too much luck with their data policies. First the CEO confirmed that their unlimited data plans had restrictions, and then at the end of last year, it was revealed that their new service Binge On was throttling videos. The problem being is that 4Stream.TV, a video startup, has left T-Mobiles Binge On service over recent concerns for the service.

4Stream.TV’s creator, Slidefuse, has left the service citing the comments recently made on John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, on his twitter account.

When Legere was asked by the EFF what Binge does to alter video streams or if it just limits the bandwidth used by the video, his response was that it used “proprietary software” and then began to ask “who the **** are you, anyway, why are you stirring up so much trouble, and who pays you?”. After being so defensive against the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a charity known for promoting equal access and rights to internet users, Slidefuse retracted their name from the 38 providers currently assigned to the Binge On service.

The controversial service would see that the listed providers such as Hulu and Netflix, would not count towards a user’s data use. The problem that has been found, by the EFF, is that once you are signed into the service, all your video content are throttled, resulting in a limited speed affecting all video streams, including those which you are downloading to watch offline later.

The service has got so bad that the company soon will meet with the Federal Communications Commission to discuss whether Binge On violates the net neutrality, a principle in which traffic on the internet cannot be prioritized or restricted over a different piece of content on the internet.

Sony Try to File a Trademark for “Let’s Play” Videos

Let’s Play videos are everywhere these days, with many of the top channels on Youtube being dedicated to such videos and a growing number of people making their living from creating them. Enter Sony, who are now attempting to file a trademark for this popular community term.

The filing was discovered this week by members of the NeoGaf forums, despite apparently having been originally filed back in October 2015. The filing describes “Electronic transmission and streaming of video games via global and local computer networks; streaming of audio, visual, and audiovisual material via global and local computer networks”. Sound familiar? This seems to almost perfectly describe the existing idea of a ‘let’s play’ within the gaming community. It would appear then, that Sony is trying to claim ownership of a venerable community term, using the system of trademarks as a means.

Let’s play is hardly a new term either, with the term’s origin able to be traced back to the Something Awful forums in around 2007, with the term possibly even older. These early let’s play forum threads were far simpler than the now-common videos, taking the form of forum threads filled with screenshots from the game and captions, with the player sometimes offering community members choice on in-game decisions between updates. Over the years, they have slowly moved to the video and vocal commentary form that is well known, with a site dedicated to archiving Let’s Plays in either form and Youtube channels containing only Let’s Play videos. It is doubtful that the community will go silently should Sony try to appropriate the term.

It is unclear what Sony intend to do with this trademark, with some theories including usage in an advertising campaign or as part of a streaming application for their gaming systems. For now, the trademark process seems to be stalled in the status of “non-final action”, which means an examiner has found issues in the application and sent it back. It is certainly concerning that Sony is trying to take this term from the community, a move that may prove to be an unpopular mistake should the trademark be acquired.

Roku Announce 4K Smart TVs And HDR @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Streaming various forms of video content has revolutionized our viewing habits and provided a more convenient, legitimate alternative to traditional TV broadcasts. Roku’s ability to offer over 100 video channels has made their devices a popular choice for consumers wanting a flexible and no compromise viewing experience. During CES 2016, the company unveiled their plans to integrate streaming functionality into 4K TVs and already working with TCL, Haier, Hisense, Insignia and Sharp to launch nearly 60 new Roku TV models.

Additionally, Roku is releasing the TV HDR reference design to partners which enables them to utilize HDR technology in upcoming 4K smart TVs. Not only that, the system is based on the HDR 10 standard and should contain Dolby Vision support.

Tablo DVR Brings Local TV Broadcasts to Streaming Devices @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Tablo is a DVR which allows users to access traditional TV broadcasts through streaming hardware like Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Apple TV. During CES, the company announced that an official app will be coming to LG’s smart TV webOS 2.0 operating system. From this spring, Tablo customers will also be able to enjoy broadcast programming using both a live TV grid guide and recordings screens. Tablo is planning to release software updates on a regular basis and aiming to be the primary choice for Apple users wanting to access local broadcasts.

The majority of US residents can watch high definition TV for FREE simply by plugging in an Over-The-Air (OTA) HDTV Antenna. This makes the device a great choice to expand programming options beyond traditional streaming. Furthermore, you can record footage and watch these programs on any piece of hardware. It also saves you money because the viewing experience is free and doesn’t require a hefty cable bill.

Do you still watch TV shows via normal programming or prefer to watch content on demand?

Synology DiskStation DS216play 2-Bay Multimedia-Optimized NAS Review

Introduction


Synology’s 2-bay play series has been very popular among users due to its great features and functionality coupled with a low asking price. Today I’m taking a closer look at the newest model in this series, the DS216play, a NAS featuring a powerful dual-core CPU with hardware H.264 and H.265 transcoding support and floating point unit.

Let us dive right into the hardware on this little NAS. The CPU is an STM STiH412 32-bit dual-core processor with 1.5GHz and floating point unit. The hardware transcoding engine is capable of the H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-2, and VC-1 codecs and it can work with a maximum resolution of up to 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at up to 30 frames per second. It allows you to transcode 4K videos to 1080p, making them suitable for all screens and bandwidths whether they are local media players or remote mobile devices. In addition, you can also stream original 4K resolution videos to your multimedia player or 4K TV within a local network environment. The CPU is backed by 1GB DDR3 memory which should be sufficient for its area of operation.

With those hardware specifications, the DS216play is able to deliver an average speed of 107 MB/s when reading and 91 MB/s when writing on a RAID 1 configuration from a Windows environment. The built-in floating-point unit enhances the overall capability of the main CPU and it is particularly advantageous in speeding up thumbnail creations when uploading a lot of photos or videos.

One of the main features of a NAS like this is to stream media files to a whole lot of devices. The DS216play can act as a DLNA certified DMS (Digital Media Server), allowing you to stream multimedia contents, such as music, photos, and videos, to DLNA compliant devices. It can also stream to pretty much any other device such as mobile phones and tablets, TVs, and stereos. Synology also offers support for Samsung TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku players.

Three of the official and very popular apps on the DS216play are the Photo Station, Video Station, and Audio Station. They provide a streamlined and sleek interface that turn your NAS into an entertainment hub. The Video Station allows you to browse and manage all your movies, TV shows, and home videos and build up a smart video library with those. The Photo Station is the same, just for still pictures, and it also allows you to create web albums or blogs to record and share the exciting moments of your lives with others. The Audio Station can create your own audio streaming service where you can build a personal music center and stream music directly from your Synology NAS to other devices. You can rate your songs and sort music into smart playlists according to the rating. Plus, sharing a playlist with others is as simple as creating a sharing link and sending it to your friends.

Thanks to Synology’s QuickConnect, you can easily access all the NAS functions no matter where in the world you are, as long as the NAS and you both have an internet connection. It is a very simple DDNS service that takes care of all the settings for you. All you need to do is log in. This allows you to create your own personal cloud service where you don’t need to rely on costly monthly plans or storage limits. You can still connect your NAS to public cloud offerings such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, hubiC, and Baidu Cloud as well as Amazon S3, Glacier cloud service, Microsoft Azure, SFR, and hicloud.

The Synology DS216play supports plenty of backup methods for both Windows and Mac users with the use of Cloud Station. Whenever you modify a file, the changes are backed up to the DS216play automatically. Mac OS users can also use Apple Time Machine. Backups to and from another Synology NAS is also supported, just as rsync servers, external drives, and cloud services can be used as backup targets.

Speaking of external devices, the DS216play has one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port for external storage devices, printers, or wireless adapters. There is one Gigabit Ethernet port for the network connectivty and the entire unit is cooled by a 92mm fan.

So far I have talked a lot about the media capabilities on the DS216play NAS, but we shouldn’t forget that NAS stands for network attached storage. The DS216play naturally supports everything it needs to here from Samba (SMB2) for Windows and Mac OS users as well as AFP and NFS. Should you use WebDAV for your credentials, then that is supported too. AFP, CIFS, File Station and WebDAV also support network recycle bins for extra safety. An FTP service is also included by default, one of the oldest and most universal file transfer protocls around.

The File Station is a fast and secure feature for sharing and managing your files stored on DS216play. Just drag and drop to upload data from Mac or PC. Advanced filters make it easy to search for documents, photos, or videos and it also has a built-in FTP and email client. IT lets you organize and share files through an advanced web application and you can even share files and folders with others by simply sending a link. Files can be reached on mobile devices via the companion mobile app DS file. Both HTTPS and SSL/TLS encryption are featured for secure transfers and you can even set link expiry dates.

Synology built the DS216play in the well-known two-piece chassis, this time in black. It is simple yet effective with the only downside of not having front-accessible drive bays. On the other hand, home users are the intended market for a NAS like this and it is not like they’re switching and swapping drives all the time.

Feature Highlights

  • 4K Ultra HD video transcoding on the fly
  • Powerful dual-core CPU with H.265 codec support
  • 107.7 MB/s Reading, 91.47 MB/s Writing
  • DLNA certified for media streaming
  • Powered by Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM)

Packaging and Accessories

The Synology DiskStation DS216play comes in a simple brown box with a sticker highlighting the NAS model and its features.

The physical characteristics are detailed a little bit more on the rear where it also lists the hardware specifications.

Inside the box, next to the NAS itself, we find a power cable and AC/DC converter, a LAN cable, screws for the drives and the chassis itself as well as a Quick Installation Guide to get you going.

YouTube Claims T-Mobile’s ‘Binge On’ Plan is Throttling Videos

T-Mobile has won a host of US customers due to its liberal policy towards internet data usage, selling itself as the nation’s “un-carrier”, with particular plaudits aimed at its Binge On data plan, which allows free streaming of online videos (but at lower resolutions) without eating into customers’ data allowances. YouTube, however, have blamed the policy for throttling its videos down to 480p, despite the service not being an affiliate of Binge On, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled, via BGR and MacRumors).

“Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent,” a YouTube spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.

This assertion has been corroborated by The Internet Association, which says that T-Mobile’s Binge On “appears to involve the throttling of all video traffic, across all data plans, regardless of network congestion.”

When asked for comment, T-Mobile did not address the issue directly, choosing instead to boast how its customers enjoy “free streaming video that never hits their data bucket” and “the quality of their video experience and the complete control they have.”

T-Mobile’s Binge On plan is currently under investigation by the FCC to determine whether it adheres to the new net neutrality laws in the US.

12-Month PlayStation Now Subscription Discounted to $99.99 For a Limited Time

The PlayStation 3’s cell architecture is extremely complicated and difficult to emulate on X86 systems. As a result, Sony has relied on the PlayStation Now streaming service to offer backwards compatibility of its previous generation titles. While this is far from ideal, it’s probably the only sensible measure and works well providing you have a decent internet connection. Although, the current pricing model isn’t that affordable at $19.99 per month. However, Sony has decided to reduce a 12 month subscription to $99.99 for a limited time only. This is a significant saving and brings the price down to $8.99 per month.

PlayStation Now currently includes more than 400 games, and the library is being expanded on a regular basis. Clearly, value is a subjective matter and down to the individual’s wage. At $19.99, the service does not represent good value for me, and I’d personally prefer to purchase a used PlayStation 3 instead. On the other hand, $8.99 is a step in the right direction and pretty decent value if you spend a great deal of time playing games on the streaming service. Personally, I think the perfect price point is $5.99 but once again you might disagree with this. Sadly, it seems the promotion is only available to US customers at this time. In theory, you could try to purchase the subscription using a US account and access the service via a VPN, but this is not recommended.