Is Netflix Worth It Anymore?

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber from damn near day one.

I’ve certainly appreciated having the service there as an entertainment alternative long before video streaming was a remote possibility. I’d have three DVDs out at a time and often forget I was holding onto them for months on end. You could say that I’ve wasted a lot of money on Netflix – far more than I would have spent at a local video rental store.

So, last year, I decided to drop the 3-disc option and go with the 1-disc plan plus the on-demand streaming – even though the streaming selection was seemingly stunted (though nowhere as bad as Hulu’s lackluster movie library). For the most part, that’s worked out well – but I still feel like I’m overpaying for media that I’m not remembering to digest.

This morning, news came down the pike (yes, pike – not pipe) that Netflix is staging new subscription plans for us. Yippee? Nope.

There are now 2 DVD-Only plans:

  • $8 a month for one disc at a time
  • $12 a month for two discs at a time

Now there’s a separate option:

  • Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $8 a month

They think that this change “is a terrific value.” I think it’s a load of shit. This is “forcing” me to drop their disc-only plan altogether (based on my patterns). When I want to rent a DVD, I’ll simply make an online reservation for my local Redbox station. I’d be tempted to drop the Netflix streaming plan if there were a viable alternative elsewhere – but judging by how many documentaries my girlfriend loves to watch, that’s not practical.

I guess at the end of the day, I’m going to be spending less money with Netflix (by $2). Thanks?

Where are the Thunderbolt Devices?

Thunderbolt was announced by Apple some time ago. New Apple computers are featuring the port in their design. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a big rush for manufacturers to produce products that support the platform.

Storage devices including the LaCie Little Big Disk and the Sonnet Fusion RAID have joined the slow-growing list of devices that support Thunderbolt. At up to 864 MB/s, the data transfer rate offered by Thunderbolt is lightyears ahead of other standard currently on the market.

Even so, it appears manufacturers are opting once again to support the latest USB standard with its backwards compatibility over a faster technology. This is almost directly reminiscent of the competition between FireWire and USB that resulted in a divide between convenience and performance.

I brought this question to the community to get their take on why Thunderbolt seems to be taking so long to get off the ground. Here is what they said:

Sean Cooper – I might also note that Thunderbolt is the new Firewire. Give it two years, somebody will come out with a cheaper faster standard.

Blake Sabatinelli – On Apple’s enterprise RAID servers, where they belong. Does the average user really need 10 Gbps?

John Thompson – Thunderbolt devices will come much quicker when more companies adopt the technology. It’s a numbers game; USB 2.0 was/is more popular than Firewire 800 not because it’s the better technology but because it’s in every consumer laptop out there, so companies are bound to target the market where they can have the most impact.

There’s no doubt that Thunderbolt is great technology, but if it isn’t adopted by more manufacturers apart from Apple and Sony, then it will only lead to (i) less adoption by manufacturers of peripherals such as external hard drives and (ii) higher prices of those products when they hit the market.

Speaking of higher prices, $50 for a Thunderbolt cable from Apple is not going to win many fans, either. Just my two cents!

Max Huijgen – Thunderbolt is the Firewire of the future. Limited to Apple only environments where there is a need for high throughput otherwise know as the lower grade video editing world.

The masses will live with USB 3.0 which serve their needs for a lot less money and the serious people and the Linux and Windows world will go for the External PCI solution because it will be an open standard. No licenses to be paid, no manufacturer tie-in and a clear future. Check for instance this, or one of the many other sources of info.

Thunderbolt and PCI External will both need to wait for optical cables to deliver a revolution in speed instead of an incremental upgrade over USB or external SATA which is already available. The good news is that Intel already integrated PCI external in their newer chipsets so even they didn’t fully commit to Thunderbolt so it will go the Firewire way: a limited number of external devices with the connector mostly targeted at the smaller sized video editing studios.

In addition to my earlier comment I agree with +John Thompson that there needs to be a killer application to reach critical masses. USB 3.0 will find its way as it´s already on your new PC/notebook/tablet and is backwards compatible. PCI External´s killer application will be the gamers market.

The PCI-E connector is smaller than the Thunderbolt so will fit in the new generation of Thinbooks and tablets. It will enable external graphic cards to be connected to every laptop. No longer being restricted to a PC box just because you are into serious gaming. Getting rid of the super heavy weight Alienware notebooks which get hot, eat batteries for lunch and are a nuisance to carry around.

No, the future is a thin and slick portable, be it a thin book, a netbook or a tablet with keyboard with an external box which only leaves home for a gaming party connected by PCI-E. The bandwidth is sufficient, the market is for grabs and people will happily buy the latest and greatest video card in a box which can be upgraded separately. Gamers have an above average spending pattern so there are your numbers to warrant implementation of a new standard connection.

Apple Digital AV Adapter for the iPad

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The Apple Digital AV Adapter allows you to mirror anything on your iPad 2 screen to an HDTV or computer monitor with HDMI input. Use this compact little cord to show your apps, presentations and more right on your big-screen television or computer monitor. While most displays render in full 1080p, movies will play at up to 720p.

Watch your movies and slideshows simply by connecting your iPad, iPhone 4 or iPod touch 4th gen using this av cable. A second 30-ping adapter allows you to charge and sync your device while it is connected to your HDMI display.

As you can see in the video, I can view nearly everything on my iPad right on that television. Audio and video both come through very clearly. My device is not jailbroken in any way: I simply used the av adapter. Being able to output your files onto a much larger screen is nearly priceless in some instances. It has certainly made the iPad even more useful than it already was!

I’m sure by now you’re wondering why – exactly – you would even care to do something like this. After all, you bought the iPad because it is small, light and portable. However, there truly could be instances where you would want or need to see what’s on the device on a much larger screen. Perhaps you have put together a presentation you need to share for work. Instead of praying anyone other than the person next to you can see it on the iPad screen, why not plug it in to an external HDMI display?

Use your iPad to create a slideshow for your parent’s anniversary dinner and share it on a bigger screen with everyone gathered together. Shoot a video on the device to propose to your significant other and broadcast it on the television when she (or he!) least expects it. There are so many things you could do with this one tiny little white cable that it boggles the mind.

Go ahead – grab one for yourself and watch as I grin quietly instead of saying “I told you so.”

Set-Top Debate: Boxee vs Roku vs Apple TV

Streaming content in your home is quickly becoming much more than just a fad. People are cutting the cord in favor of set-top boxes such as Roku, Apple TV and Boxee. Using a device such as this gives the consumer more control over the content they can watch as well as being more cost-effective than traditional cable or satellite television connections. The question is, though, which box is right for your home? The three major players – Roku, Boxee and Apple TV – have many things in common. However, you’ll be surprised at how the differences between them can sway your purchasing decision.

Both the Roku and the Apple TV boxes can be purchased for under one hundred dollars, while the new Boxee model will set you back two hundred smackers. However, the Boxee alternative has quite a bit more to offer. At this point in time, Apple and Roku have some catching up to do in the content delivery department. Boxee now offers both Netflix and Vudu for your viewing pleasure. With Vudu, you can purchase movies on-demand – the same day they are released on DVD even – at a cost of $2.00 for two nights. Stream your favorite Internet content and connect with your Twitter and Facebook account in order to get suggestions from your friends. Additionally, personal recommendations will be sent straight to your television, based on your previous viewing choices. The unit is Flash 10.1 compatible, another feature the others don’t offer. There are more than 400 apps at this time, offering you third-party content distribution choices you haven’t even begun to think of. The remote control is double-sided, offering both a browsing experience and a full QWERTY keyboard. There’s an SD card slot and two USB ports built in.

The Roku box offers Netflix and Hulu, movie rental and purchases and even popular sports packages. There are more than fifty channels at this time – including Amazon video service. Stream your iTunes collection without a computer connection or tune in to your favorite online radio stations such as Pandora. The unit is capable of viewing YouTube and Flickr content, much as the others are. There is also a USB port which allows you to view media on your favorite USB stick.

Apple TV has a partnership with both FOX and ABC, allowing you to access your favorite shows for .99 per episode. If you want to watch an entire season, though, it could end up costing you quite a lot. This unit also offers Netflix, YouTube and Flickr access. Movies will cost you $2.99 or $3.00 for HD versions. There is one Micro USB slot and the cool remote allows you to access your iPod touch, iPad or iPhone with the press of a button. That in itself is seriously cool. Have you tried playing Angry Birds on the big screen yet?

Even though the Boxee set-top box has more to offer at this point in time, don’t count the Roku and Apple TV out just yet. I’m sure we will be seeing revisions to both machines sometime this year. Competition in this market is fierce, and I have a feeling that we’ll see even better features coming in the new versions.

Are you using a set-top box in your home? Which model do you own, and what do you prefer about it?