Easy Access to US, UK Streaming Services From Anywhere

Netflix Canada, Hulu Canada, iPlayer Canada, iPlayer US, Spotify Canada | UnoDNS

I love being from Canada — but due to licensing issues and the imaginary line I live on the wrong side of, I’m blocked from or limited in using streaming media services that my global neighbours rave about. Fortunately for those of us so geographically challenged (or those of you travelling outside the US or UK and missing your favourite music and video streams), there are services out there that try to solve this problem.

The best one I’ve come across so far, in terms of ease of use and quality of delivery, is UnoDNS. READ MORE

A Geek Interpretation of Fifty Shades of Grey

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve heard of Fifty Shades of Grey. Half of your female friends on Facebook have probably posted about it. Recently, fans of the NSFW podcast on the TWiT network banded together to write a novel, in the spirit of Fifty Shades of Grey. From discussions that I’ve heard on other shows on the TWiT network, it sounds like they viewed it as a social experiment of sorts. The results were surprising.

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First Netflix Original Series, Lilyhammer: Fun and Worth a Look

First Netflix Original Series, Lilyhammer: Fun and Worth a Look | 40Tech

Netflix has been making big moves lately, spreading its goodness to countries around the world, making television networks nervous, and generally growing its subscriber-base despite annoying a large portion of its American users. One of its most intriguing steps forward has been to launch its own original series, Lilyhammer, starring Steven Van Zandt of Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen Fame. The series is quirky, fun, and well-written enough to keep you coming back for all eight episodes — which Netflix smartly released all at once. None of this “wait a week or month” business! That’s a thing of the past! We’re all about marathons, now, baby.

Lilyhammer takes place in Lilehammer, Norway, where mobster Frankie “The Fixer” Tagliano decides to go when he winds up in the witness protection program. Why Norway, you ask? Because Frankie has a romantic side, and fell in love with the place when he happened to catch the ’94 Winter Olympics. “Clean air, gorgeous broads…” — hey, why not, right? The ensuing culture shock, combined with Frankie’s base nature and… er… life experience, make for some interesting plot lines that I found really enjoyable. Those of you expecting a return to the Sopranos are expecting too much. This is a mobster show, and it has its dark moments, for certain, but the vibe lends itself more to black comedy than hardcore HBO. That said, there’s not a lot of censorship going on, and its definitely not something you want to watch with the little ones.

There are a lot of subtitles in Lilyhammer, but they flow in and out without distracting or annoying the viewer. There is also has some great music, which is unsurprising considering Steven Van Zandt is also the Music Director (and executive producer and sometime writer). Springsteen fans may recognize him as a member of the E-Street Band, and he uses his talent to great effect on the Netflix series.

Lilyhammer Trailer

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Netflix also has a a remake of House of Cards on the docket, as well as the much anticipated Arrested Development Season Four (which my wife is simply giddy about). Personally, I find their move into original — and quality — productions to be a fantastic one. It’s another one of those ever-increasing moments in which new technology sets old media companies on its ear and potentially signifies something new and better. Well, unless the old media companies get it in their heads to destroy them, of course. That’s never pretty.

What do you think of Netflix’s move into original programming?

Netflix, Starz Battle Ends with Netflix Down Disney and Sony Content on February 28, 2012

Netflix, Starz Battle Ends with Netflix Down Disney and Sony Content on February 28, 2012 | 40Tech

Recently, Netflix angered a large amount of its US subscriber-base by announcing changes to its pricing model. It used to be that, if you wanted to do the Neflix videos-by-mail thing and stream content as well, it would only cost you an extra couple of bucks per month. Now (as of two days ago, in fact), if you want both, you need to pay double — $7.99 for each service. While the Netflix move may be understandable, and part of a potentially larger plan to phase out physical delivery altogether, the customer backlash was also unsurprising — and significant.

To make matters worse for Netflix, on the very day that the new pricing came into effect, Starz, the distributor of Sony and Disney content decided not to renew their contract with Netflix. This is probably going to hurt Netflix customer relationships even more, but believe it or not, it happened as a result of Netflix attempting to preserve their pricing model, and, presumably, to keep their customers from imploding.

Netflix has been doing well, business-wise, of late. They opened up content streaming in Canada — which I use all the time, even though we don’t get the coolest content up this way — and they have plans for world internet-streaming domination that could be very viable. Unfortunately, their content and entire business is dependent on their relationship with content license owners. Starz Entertainment apparently insisted that Netflix put their content behind an additional pay-wall, making customers pay more to access it. Netflix offered them in excess of $300 million per year for the content, but that wasn’t good enough for Big Media, who initially asked for more than 10 times what Netflix paid them in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a press release, Starz cited the usual spiel regarding “protecting the premium nature” of their brand and “preserving the appropriate pricing” of their “exclusive and valuable content.” The bottom line here, however, is that Starz holds all of the cards here. Disney and Sony content is good content. It is sought after. In a statement to Business Insider, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings maintains that it only marks 8% of their overall audience views, and that the content would have likely gone down to 5-6% of domestic views by Q1 2012 anyway, but as we all know, it takes less than 8% of pissed off people who perceive that they’ve lost something they felt they paid for to make 80%-sized noise about it.

One also has to wonder if other Big Media groups will follow Starz lead. To many of them, Netflix is likely more of an experiment that they tolerate to see if it will pay out big in the long run. Now that the dollars are coming in, naturally, they are going to want a bigger cut — one that makes them feel more like they are returning to their original business model that made them a money hand over fist — you know, before the advent of broadband and the explosion of extremely easy content piracy.

Speaking of piracy… it has been proven that consumers, by and large, are willing to pay a subscription price for content. If they weren’t, Netflix would never work; neither would Hulu Plus, Rdio, Sirius, pay-to-play MMORPGs, or any of the other premium-based multimedia providers out there. However, those prices need to be reflective of the general feel of pricing online — pricing that Apple was the baseline for with iTunes and apps taking over the online world as we know it. That is to say, the pricing needs to be low-ish. If all of the major license holders start clamouring “premium subscriptions for our content or else,” Netflix and their sizeable customer base will be threatened. When a media consuming customer base is threatened, they jump ship — and they have a tendency to land in a submarine that stealths its way into a dialect punctuated with “yo ho ho’s” and the occasional “Aaargh!” Not to beat the pirate metaphor to death or anything…

So what do you think of Starz demands for a Netflix pay-wall for their content? What about their decision to pull out? Should Netflix have given in?

Get an Invitation to the Google Music Beta

Google Music Beta.jpeg

THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

NOTE: AS ONE OF OUR READERS HAS POINTED OUT, GOOGLE MUSIC IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN THE U.S. ONLY

While Spotify is the music service that is getting all of the press these days, Google’s own music service is up and running. In typical Google fashion, Google Music is currently in beta. Google Music is not a subscription service, and doesn’t offer a catalog of music. Instead, it is a free service to which you upload the songs that you already own. You can then stream them to a web browser, or to the free Android app. The app also caches music, to support offline play. We’ve got 4 invitations to give away. Read on for details on how to score one.

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Free Stuff! Review, Giveaway of ScreenDr & SkipDr Products by Digital Innovations

Giveaway of ScreenDr & SkipDr Products by Digital Innovations | 40Tech

Every once in a while, we get the opportunity to offer you guys something for free. We don’t always do it, mind you — we get a lot of solicitations, and only care to post about the products we think will be most useful to you. Well, a few weeks ago I was contacted by a representative of Digital Innovations. They make products for cleaning LCD screens, repairing discs, that sort of thing. I’ve seen their products before, or others like them, but honestly never considered buying them. I tend to roll on the cheap, as you know, and didn’t want to spend money on things that I wasn’t sure would even work.

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New York Times Paywall – WAY More Expensive Than the Competition

New York Times Paywall

The New York Times erected its paywall on March 28 in the U.S. While it is a fairly permeable wall (links from various sources will provide you with free access, and your first 20 visits each month are free), the Times’ subscription model is way out of whack with the rest of the industry. Head on over to The Understatement to see a chart showing just how much more expensive the Times will be than any other online source.

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