The New Roku Stick…it up your arse!

The new Roku Stick just came out.  The Roku 2 & 3 are better than the stick though, so I don’t get it.  I guess it’s just for people that don’t want the extra little box, and don’t mind a sluggish Roku.  Now, if it were as good or better than the Roku 3, I’d drool over it.  I could plug it into any TV as easy as a flash drive and it’d be fairly portable! But it’s just not there yet.  Plus, they hide the fact that it still needs POWER.  You either have to run a wire from the Roku stick to a USB port on your TV (if your TV has USB ports) or run it to a USB-to-AC adapter and plug it into the wall.  So, when you get right down to it, they just scrunched it down to a smaller package without the HDMI cable–sorta–you still need the same two connections to it–HDMI and power.  It’s the same as gluing a sluggish “Roku 1” to the back of your TV!  Yeah, now there’s an idea!  Don’t get me wrong though, I love Roku–I have several.  I just don’t see the point in releasing something NEW that’s–according to their own website–5 times slower than their best model!

Subscriptions. A rant.

I am so frustrated with how things are these days with tech, services, and just about everything else.  For one example video games.  Back in the day, you could buy a video game and that was it–you could play it normally, privately, or play it online, if the game offered that feature.  There was no fee to play online, no “online pass” you had to own, and no other fees other than the purchase of the game itself.  It was the same with movies.  Buy a DVD, and you could play it anywhere, on any DVD player, on any TV.

Today, things are quickly changing.  Luckily, you can still buy DVDs, but I know that’s going to go away eventually.  The same with video games.  Everything is “going digital” and you’ll eventually only be able to obtain games, movies, and music digitally.  All of your purchases will only be for a “license to download” things, so you’ll never really “own” anything.  Stop paying a subscription fee, and you lose access to everything you had access to with that subscription.   We will soon “own” none of our media, and we’ll only have a temporary license to play it.

Whether that’s a good thing or bad, I guess, is up to you.  Maybe I’m “old school”, but I prefer to have something physical for what I pay for.  Whether that’s a DVD, a Blu-Ray, a Music CD, or a game disc.  As far as I’m concerned, I own that disc, music, or game, and I can install or play it wherever and whenever I want, and not have to pay anything for it ever again.  At this point in this “revolution”, however, I’m a bit stuck in the middle with this stuff.  By that, I mean I now prefer the convenience that comes with having everything digital, but I hate the idea of having to pay a constant monthly fee for the right to access them.  To this end, I have found an efficient way to extract–or, as they call it these days, “rip”–all of my CDs, DVDs, and BluRay discs to media files, so I have everything readily-available, all the time, from my computer, and I can move any of them to any of my portable devices as I want to, without having any extra fees to pay. Ever.

I took this convenience one step further recently after discovering “Plex”, an awesome media platform that allows me to have ALL of this media on a “server” of my own, then stream it, totally free, to any device or other computer I want–even to my TV.  Plex works great, supports all the major formats for music and movies, has apps for all of the smartphone types, and even has apps for all of the set-top boxes like Roku, Google TV, etc.

The latest generation of game consoles (Playstation 4, X-Box One) recently took a very bold step into the fee-based cesspool:  They released both systems as non-backward-compatible!  This means that everyone who has a Playstation 3, or X-Box 360 (the generation of consoles that came out right before them) will no longer be able to play their previously-purchased games on the new consoles.  All of the money that I–and hundreds of thousands of other people–spent buying great PS3 games before, will basically be wasted when our PS3 consoles eventually die or break down.  If we’re lucky, when that happens we might be able to dig up an old, working PS3 somewhere just to keep our came collection viable.  But we know, soon enough, it’ll all be gone.

Now, if a particular game you like was popular enough on the PS3, and the developer is still around and developing for the PS4, you might see a PS4 version of your game made available, but you can sure bet you’ll be paying for it again if you want to play it!  It might have a “cheap $9.99 UPGRADE fee”, but you’ll be paying for it again, regardless.  Games of this type can be found in the “PS3/PS4” section of the Playstation Store on the PS4…And this is a very small section.  The titles here are games that are PS4 versions with equivalent PS3 titles.  If you own one of the PS3 versions and upgraded to the PS4, you’re lucky enough to be allowed to pay for your game again!  I guess we’re supposed to feel good about having to pay for our games a second time…?  You bought the game once though, why should you have to pay ANYTHING for it again?!?!  I know, I know, the developers worked hard to provide the new version, and they have to get paid, etc., etc., But don’t they get enough from the users who buy the game new, who obviously pay double or triple the price of the “upgrade”?  Obviously, the “upgraders” are getting the same version of the game, so the developers can afford to sell a copy of the game for the lower price if they want to.  Ah, but remember now, that “upgraded” copy of the game is now only a “license” to the game… it’s not a physical disc copy of the game.  So you can never re-sell it to anyone else, and I’m sure, by the time the NEXT generation of consoles comes out, it’ll be completely worthless.

Movies are also moving quickly toward this path.  Services like Netflix, Hulu and Redbox already off vast collections of thousands of great movies and TV shows, with everything they offer available to you all at once, for just a low monthly subscription fee.  It’s like having your very own Plex server, except with thousands more movies (but no music–those would be another, completely different subscription service), except that, as soon as you stop paying the monthly fee, it’s snatched away from you completely, and you have nothing.  You own nothing.  I know, I’m old-school.  I’m just ranting.

So these days, as we work hard to earn the money to pay down and eliminate all of our debt, finally getting financially stable, and able to pay our mortgage, gas & electric, cell phone and property taxes to keep living normally, we can add to that a half dozen or even a dozen perpetual subscription fees that will never end, for all kinds of things that we’ll never own.  For me, I’m trying to get by with as few subscription services as I can, as most other people probably are, but as the new game consoles prove, it’s only going more and more–quickly– in that direction.

If you do the math for the subscription scenario, then compare it to the math to actually buy all of the DVD, BluRays, and Music CDs as well as the hardware required to build your own streaming server, sure, you’re going to find that paying the monthly subscription fee will end up costing you thousands of dollars less in the long run, and will take tons less time to build, maintain, and keep up than your own server would.  But then again, I’m a geek who enjoys such things, so taking that time and extra effort is something I’d rather do with a chunk of my time instead of just being twice the couch potato and watch movies for two-thirds of my day.

Rant complete.

Influx – Audiobook

I just finished an awesome new audiobook by Daniel Suarez called “Influx“.  It’s a story about a secret government agency known as the “BTC” – The Federal Bureau of Technology Control.  This secret agency has been in existence since the 60’s, making sure that our civilization doesn’t create technology at a pace faster than we can handle.  Basically, they “hoard” these technologies, keeping the public unaware of their existence.  We’re talking about technologies like the cure for cancer, cold fusion, and gravity mirroring that would allow humans to fly.  Much of which has been discovered for decades, but locked away (and perfected) by the BTC!  I don’t want to spoil any more of the story in case you want to read/listen to it yourself, so I’ll keep it short.   I thought it was great though, right up there with “Daemon“, another one of Daniel Suarez’ excellent books.

Facebook, G+, Twitter, Blog… Where should I post?

I’m torn.  All these different places to post things in, with different people preferring different sites for posting… I would really love to stop using all but one.  But which one?  If I only post to my own website, I enjoy it, and it lives forever here, but very few people read it.  If I post on Facebook or Google+, a ton more people see it and respond to it.  I guess it all comes down to: Why do I post something?  For me, or for others?  Maybe I’ll just put my daily ramblings here (like this) and post the “good stuff” on Facebook and/or Google+, and/or Twitter.  Nah, that doesn’t work.  Either way, I end up with a partial record of history.  And I hate the “post in one place and then link to that post on all the other sites” technique.  But maybe if that could be somehow fully automated… I’ll have to look into a WordPress plugin or two or three that might just be able to do that…

Socks on a Mailbox

I think my dog is getting senile.  Today, while we were walking, he lifted his leg to pee on someone’s mailbox post and he stood there and pooped.  It was like he totally forgot which one he was doing.  He just pooped as if he was peeing extra long, then lowered his leg and was ready to move on.  No more squatting for him I guess…he’s beyond that.   No more burnouts, kicking up the grass and dirt every time he’s finished…doggie CRS,  I guess.

Doing PC work again

Ok, I’m back.  Before the end of last year, I had “retired” from doing home PC work.  My full-time job, along with my family and other activities was plenty to keep me busy.  But very recently, my full-time employee forced everyone to go to a 32-hour work week.  Everyone is being forced to take a day off every week.  This hits me hard, especially after having stopped my side jobs completely!  So, I’ve started taking side work again.  If you know of anyone needing PC work (or if you do), I’m available.  Still one of the cheapest prices around ($30/hr), and I have over 25 years of experience.  Phone or Text: (262) 818-6376 – E-mail: service@jimtrottier.com.  More details are in the right sidebar on this site.

 

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Checking in

Today I finished reading/listening to Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” for the third time.  I can’t get enough of this stuff.  I think it’s all the nostalgia.  Though the story takes place in the future, the book focuses on everything from the 80’s that I loved.  The games, the movies, and everything else.  From the videogame Joust & Pac-Man to the movies “WarGames” and “Monty Python & The Holy Grail”, it’s all there.

I’ve been playing Ingress lately, as usual, which is a blast, but unfortunately since any details I post here are fully public, and I hate to provide any “intel” that could (and always is) used against our faction, I can’t say much about my gameplay.  Suffice it to say that I’m a member of the Resistance (Blue) faction.  There are two factions in Ingress — The Enlightened (Green) and The Resistance (Blue).   We “battle” for controlling areas of the real world using GPS and Google Maps by aquiring “portals”, which are usually landmarks,  works of art, murals, statues, or other “places of interest” in the real world. Resist Greens are nicknamed “toads” or “frogs” and Blues are nicknamed “smurfs”.  You aquire portals for your team by finding them on your Ingress “scanner” when you travel (preferably by walking) to them, attacking them if they’re owned by the opposite faction, and taking control of them for your team.

In our area (Kenosha) we are currently overrun, a.k.a “infested” with toads.  Since I am a smurf, this provides a lot of options for attacks without having to travel far.  There are hundreds of portals in Kenosha alone, not to mention the thousands all around the world.  If there’s a landmark that isn’t a portal yet, you can submit it, and after it’s accepted (usually within a few weeks), the landmark then becomes a portal you can use in the game.  So anyway, it’s very fun, but we could use more smurfs (BLUE).  If you have an Android phone (soon it’ll be released for iPhone as well), please consider joining The Resistance and joining in on the fun.  We could really use your help.  And, if you join our faction, I’ll be glad to help you level up as quickly as possible, so you can help us “Keep Kenosha Blue”, instead of being covered in green toad slime, as it is now.