Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cutting out Cable with PlayOn!

As you may have gathered from my previous post, Finally HBOGo Without Cable.. sort of..., we do not subscribe to cable television and have not for almost 5 years.  99.9% of the time we don't miss it at all.  Sure, there is the occasional event that comes up that we'd like to see live, but they are few and far between.  Watching the ball drop on New Years Eve was one of those things for the first two years.  Now, UStream has their own New Year's Eve show -- problem solved!  We can watch just about anything we want, any time we want on our mix of AppleTV, Roku, PlayStation 3 and iPads.  But this post isn't about our set up -- I'll do one on that at a later date -- this one is about one of the best things that we have in our set up and why we'd be a little lost without it!

That is PlayOn!

What is PlayOn! exactly?  I call it the glue that binds all of our devices together!  Why?  Simple... We are Apple people as a rule.  My wife and I have MacBook Pros, everyone in the family has an iPhone and we have 3 (going on 3) iPads in the house. Biiiig Apple people.  That means that we are heavily invested in iTunes and have been for years.  In fact, several years ago (perhaps as many as 8) we began copying our DVD collection into iTunes and ditching DVDs when we could (you know, if we didn't think we needed them for the car -- but that's another post, too!).  So, with that being said -- we have chosen iTunes as our defacto media database location.  All our collected music and video is housed within our gigantic (over 500GB) iTunes library.  Initially we were using a Windows Media Center PC that I built, and it worked to play videos and music via iTunes.  A little clunky, but it worked.  But when Microsoft killed support for WMC and we had no need to record shows off cable TV any longer, we wanted to ditch the huge PC that was sitting in our living room.  So naturally, we purchased an AppleTV.  It had Netflix and we could easily stream our movies and music from iTunes.  But then we wanted one for the bedroom, too.  And we didn't want to shell out another $99 for an AppleTV.  So we bought a Roku instead at half the price to see how good it was, figuring if we didn't like it we would return it and buy another AppleTV.  Well, we loved it.  There were hundreds of channels -- many free -- and we discovered new things to watch content on.  One big problem, though.  You couldn't stream from iTunes to it...  that was sad.  We kept it anyway because there was enough content to justify it, we just couldn't watch any of our movies on it.  

And then we discovered 
PlayOn!  Playon! allowed us to stream (almost) any digital media file directly to our Roku.  Now, we can watch anything out of our iTunes library (by pointing PlayOn! Server to the folder with our iTunes library in it).  Our viewing and listening experience on our Roku has expanded exponentially -- and as a bonus -- it works seamlessly with our PlayStation 3!  So the kids can watch the movies in our library on the PS3 without any hassle at all.  PlayOn is compatible with any iOS device, Roku, XBOX 360/One, PlayStation3/4, Android and dozens of other devices.  They have a page that details supported devices here.

PlayOn! requires that you have a half-way decent PC (Yes, Windows only) running on the same network that your Roku or other device is on.  Once you have the software installed, you simply need to download the PlayOn app onto your device and it simply works from there.  Once you have it all set up and installed you will notice that how I use PlayOn isn't all it does... it does so much more.  It takes just about all the television media content on the Internet and puts it all in one place!  That means that any website that streams its video content may be in PlayOn!  This includes Hulu and Netflix, sure, but also SyFy, ABC, NBC, FOX, History Channel, MLB.TV, YouTube and so much more!

If you are serious about "cutting the cord" from cable, you have to take some time and investigate PlayOn! for yourself.  It's well worth the investment!

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

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