Service Profiles
Articles on different streaming services and the related software software.

Downon Abbey fans now have a new home
The PBS app will add a lot of popular free content.

In the continuing punching match between Apple TV and Roku, Apple TV has added PBS and Yahoo screen to their growing list of apps available on their industry-leading set top box. The PBS a

pp provides next day viewing of the major titles such as Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and Sherlock. The series are not available on the site permanently but fans of PBS series will have ample time to watch any given episode.   In addition the app gives Apple TV users access to archives of some of PBS’s most beloved programs like the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Before launching the app users can also register their Apple TV’s in order to link their account with their local PBS station which will also provide access to more regional based programming. The app is built in the same fashion as the popular PBS channel for Roku.

The Yahoo Screen app builds off of the already established Yahoo Screen app available for Apple’s mobile IOS products. A portal to pop culture, Yahoo Screen has a multitude of categorized clips from  sources ranging from Comedy Central and the Onion to ABC News. Yahoo screen at the moment is not available on any other set top device including the Roku line of products.

Both Apple and Roku have been stepping up their games as the holiday shopping season and the all-important “Black Friday” sales loom.

Play cast requires a subscription to the PlayOn service.
The PlayCast app may be the first step in a new direction.

Ryan Michael Downey

Roku is taking a step towards full mirroring from computers and other devices on its products via its new integration with PlayOn and its new PlayCast app.  The extension allows users to send videos that can be viewed on a windows computer to a Roku in order to view them on their TVs. In order to use the application a PlayOn media server must be installed and running on a windows based computer and the PlayCast app and the PlayOn app must be installed on the Roku. Once PlayOn is fully installed a PlayOn icon can be added to the users preferred browser. Feature Not Free PlayOn is not a free service but it has many pricing options from a onetime fee to monthly charge.  As a special bonus to Roku users, owners of the set top device can sign up for PlayOn’s lifelong membership for only $29.00 Upon loading the PlayCast app to the Roku and opening it users are provided with a special code that can be redeemed at PlayOn’s site. A full review of the new service’s capabilities will be coming soon. More To Come This development is likely far from the last we will hear concerning Roku and mirroring as there has been persistent reporting concerning Roku and DIAL (Discovery and Launch) the protocol that enables the Google Chromecast as well as Miracast a separate second screen protocol developed to provide a service counter to Apple’s Air Play, primarily working with Android devices and laptop computers. There has even been reporting that indicates development of an extension to allow full mirroring from Mozilla Firefox.  Both Miracast and DIAL are expected to be widely adopted as more people understand and embrace the wireless transfer of video and audio content. Roku stands to be at the forefront of these developments going forward and may well be making more related announcements going forward.

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People have different tastes and hobbies. Some people love to do puzzles, paint by numbers or build model cars. Some love digital media or even putting together their own streaming options to replace or even to augment set top boxes like Apple TV or Roku.

A program utilized by many who do this is called XBMC. XBMC is a program that was originally designed as the X-Box Media Center in order to allow users to play stored digital content on their X-Box game consoles. It has since grown past the game system into its own freestanding program complete with hundreds of apps, some of which cannot be found on any other platform. XBMC has capabilities both as a media aggregator (a program that gathers media apps into one place) and as a home theater front end. Because of its multiple configuration options it is easily the most customizable streaming option there is.

Available on Multiple Plaforms
XBMC is not limited to PC’s. It can be used on Android tablets and smart phones, Android based mini computers, mini Linux computers and even older versions of Apple TV or on an iPad provided they have been rooted (edited so that outside programs can be installed on them).

Is there an Apps Store?
XBMC does not have an app store like IOS or a channel store like Roku. Apps for XBMC are created by dedicated software developers and placed into small libraries of apps called repositories. Most of the repositories have 2-10 apps depending on an individual developers’ interests. The repositories can be found in a number of places. A new copy of XBMC from the XBMC foundation home page www.xbmc.org includes a repository of over 200 media apps readily available to add. This includes many popular mainstream apps and is the most similar feature to an official app store. Apps can be added seamlessly from the video section by clicking on add more. This pulls up a list of preinstalled apps. There are also communities of developers constantly working to produce media apps for consumers. In some cases these communities have even designed downloader links that can be integrated in to the program settings for easy access. These include the Fusion easy addon installer and the Xfinty talk downloader. With these two “downloaders” installed as well as the XBMC.org repository it is quite easy to access a majority of the programs apps. Click here to see a video about how to utilize them. One of the most popular apps is Hulu. The Hulu app for XBMC accesses the free version of Hulu as well as the pay version, Hulu “Plus”. If you have a configuration set up on a television and have no need for the extra features provided by Hulu Plus then you can chose to access Hulu on a TV for free and save 7.99 a month.

Apps For XBMC Are Unofficial
Because XBMC has a reputation as a program used for file sharing/“Pirating” XBMC has never been embraced by the established media companies like Netflix. Many of their apps, even the ones for well-known services like Hulu, C:Net or YouTube are not officially licensed apps. Despite this, the apps allow users to sign in to their accounts from the XBMC apps in the same manner as they do their official apps. The only snag is that you can’t call customer support about a problem with an unofficial app. Sometimes there are ups and downs from the software. Sometimes an app can become inactive or disappear altogether. More information about apps for XBMC can be found at the XBMC Wiki.

The XBMC Wiki
Like anything with millions of fans XBMC has a wiki. The site is built off of the official XBMC site. The wiki acts almost as an unofficial user manual for the program.  It explains the many uses and capabilities of XBMC and provides detailed profiles of many of its most popular extensions and apps. The Wiki includes an exhaustive listing of the repositories with descriptions of each, basic instructions, a listing of compatible products and platforms and much more. It is anything and everything one would want to know about the program.

Community Built And Supported
XBMC forums are a great way to find out more about an individual app and are often hosted by the developers of the app themselves. This provides a very unique opportunity for consumers. Between the developers and other visitors to the forums most if not all questions about apps and other features can be answered. This is pretty substantial support considering that the program and apps are free to download and install. Many companies rely on the same method for communicating with customers even when they charge for the service in the first place. Three major XBMC forums are the official forum from the program creators, the XBMC hub forum  and the Xunity talk  Forum. Between these three communities one can learn a great deal about XBMC the good and bad.
Not For Everybody
XBMC is not a program recommended for those looking for a simple streaming solution. It is for the tinkerer who has seen everything that other products have to offer and wants a more customizable experience. A typical XBMC user is someone with a higher degree of computer understanding and the patience to trouble shoot various issues that may arise. XBMC is almost as much of a hobby as it is a tool, but for those looking to learn and explore it XBMC is a great option.

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Ryan Michael Downey

Fall Shows Promise to Disappoint
ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS have released dozens of shows and spent millions of dollars on programming that will crash and burn. Projects that looked so promising throughout the summer will be labeled busts and would be careers will be over before they can start. Network executives will say that they are disappointed and critics will play I told you so. It is often difficult for network television and even cable television producers to know exactly what an audience will embrace even though sometimes like in the case of “Work It” it should have been obvious from the start.

New Kids on The Block
Outside of the established giants of broadcasting and the cable networks there are some new networks producing shows that are really taking off. Those networks are Netflix and Amazon and to a lesser extent Hulu. Three Emmy wins for Netflix’s House of Cards including best director for a dramatic series may signal a seed change in the television industry. They are starting to make a transition from simply being excellent streaming services to becoming the first true Internet Networks. The world wide web is the new superhighway of communication and with the advent of streaming through game consoles, set top devices or DMR’s, phones, tablets laptops and even HTPCs, computers connected to TVs steaming is becoming a major TV viewing option.

Redefining Networks
Networks??? These aren’t networks they are services right? Let us take a second to look at what a network does. TNT is popular cable network. TNT features some great original content, syndicated series as well as live NBA basketball games. Here are the shows listed on TNT’s schedule for Thursday September 17: Angel, Smallville, Charmed, Supernatural, Bones Castle, Rizzoli & Isles, CSI NY, Cold Justice, the Mentalist, the Closer, and Cold Case. Of those programs only two are original series Cold Justice and Rizzoli & Isles.

TNT like any other network decides which television programs will be broadcast as well as the order in which they will appear.
Netflix has original shows including House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and Hemlock Grove among others. If these shows were to be strictly scheduled throughout a week while being sandwiched between 7-9 other shows in syndication it would be seen no different than AMC or A&E. The difference is the viewer has all the control to dip into Netflix’s library and create their own syndicated content.

No, Netflix does not offer every movie ever made or every TV in the history of the medium but does it offer more than 10 to choose from per week like a typical network does? Amazon in similar fashion has been producing its own content and will roll out Alpha House, Betas, Annebots, Creative Galaxy and Tumbleaf and like Netflix has redistribution rights to thousands of television shows and movies. Hulu through its pay service Hulu Plus has a multitude of exclusive series from overseas to pair with its own foray into original programming which includes shows like the quirky Western, Quick Draw and the Awsomes, Web series like Booth at the end and its forte next day availability of shows from every single major broadcast network besides CBS and many next day availability of even numerous cable shows not to mention full show runs of many.

The TV We Were Promised
These are not just networks, they may be the most customer friendly networks in the history of television. They provide the kind of TV experience that proponents of the Internet were promising at a time when an MP3 took 20 minutes to download. In a time when apps like Watch ESPN and HBO Go are blurring the lines between what we perceive as traditional television services and apps Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are positioning themselves as the new Big Three a distinction that CBS, NBC and ABC held before the emergence of Fox as a major player in the industry. Time will tell how the more traditional model will be effected but on demand services/Networks look to be the future.

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