Switching to NordVPN

Recently I found a new deal on Mashable about a service called NordVPN for a 2 year subscription for $69. That’s a pretty decent deal in my book. I have been using Private Internet Access for the last 2-3 years as my VPN provider which I used on my NAS, computers, and iOS devices. I was generally happy with PIA but the one thing that totally sold me was that I could be on NordVPN and also watch Netflix. To me that was one of its greatest weaknesses, that and I could never get the OpenVPN protocol to work right on my NAS for some reason. After some initial hiccups with the setup on my NAS and getting my account set up, everything seems to be working pretty well.

I’ve noticed that my iPhone 7 will always stay connected to the VPN now rather than the VPN stopping on its own. That’s definitely a nice feature. I don’t necessarily need to be connected all the time to the VPN but its nice that it doesn’t turn itself off. The speed with which the VPN works is about the same as PIA, apparently my connection goes through a double VPN so if one VPN server fails, its already on a backup server too so my connection never drops. Since its a seamless thing, its not something that I can see or review. Using the app is a cinch on all my devices, its not specific really on what city I’m connecting to but for the most part I’ve been running some Whois queries on the web about my IP address and I seem to be connecting to the closest server to my current location, that’s probably to ensure that my speed isn’t really hindered by distance. I can select a specific country but not the server. The place I do that is with my NAS which requires an OpenVPN profile to be imported.

Overall I would say that I like this service more than PIA so far. I’ve only had it for about 2 weeks but I’m locked in for 2 years so if I’m ever dissatisfied I’m going to be stuck with the service for a while. I’m sure more features will come to the service to keep things nice and fresh but the most important part for me is keeping things secure. Oh and one of the best parts that I’ve discovered about the service? I can access my banking website just fine now through the VPN rather than being blocked. Now that to me is a game changer on not only keeping myself secure but able to do my personal business while using public hotspots.

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Downloading shows from Netflix and Xfinity has changed my plane trips

Not really recently but pretty recently for me anyway, I started to use the download feature for Netflix and Xfinity so I can be entertained while I’m flying around the US for work.  I knew that these services were available but never took advantage of them until very recently.  Netflix has a ton of shows that I only watch there and the ability to download 12 episodes is totally awesome.  Granted I don’t need to download that many at a single pop but its nice to have them offline so I don’t have to worry about finding a wifi hotspot or something and then the streaming quality is bad.  What also helps a lot is that I normally have a 128GB iPhone with at least 30 gigs of storage left to download all this goodness.

Xfinity is somewhat the same but I download the DVR versions of shows that I want to watch.  There are shows that my wife and I watch together so I don’t download those, I wait till I get home.  The problem I have with downloading the DVR shows is all of the commercials that come with it!  I have to spend time fast forwarding through commercials that just repeat and repeat when there are breaks and it just kind of ruins the viewing experience for me.  Even using apps like the ABC app have commercials in them and that just turns me off to downloading them.  However there are new seasons of my favorite shows like Mr. Robot and South Park and those must be watched!

I haven’t checked out Amazon Prime yet but I’m pretty sure they have this feature as well. The thing with Amazon is that there aren’t a lot of shows that I like there that would warrant me downloading and watching on a plane. It also doesn’t hurt that American Airlines has a ton of movies on their in flight entertainment system that just are out that I need to see and the screens aren’t half bad really.  The challenge is staying up long enough to watch them and not running out of time before the plane gets to the gate.  Thats happened a few times where I have 20 minutes left and then I have to wait until my return flight to finish the movie!

I just went ahead and downloaded all of Season 4 of Voltron to my iPad, now I have something to watch on the plane tomorrow to Cali.  Ahh that makes things so much easier!

Netflix on Chromecast is a terrible experience

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I have 2 Chromecasts, one for my home and one for work.  The second one I won while at a conference so I decided to make it the travel one.  I’ve never had good luck streaming Netflix to Chromecast while traveling for work and I thought for the longest time it was the Chromecasts fault or the fault of the network at the hotel.  I’ve mostly dispelled that by trying to use Netflix with my Chromecast at home where I know the network connection is reliable and the TV is supported and doesn’t have any funky software on it because it is MY TV after all.

I was trying to stream Jessica Jones from my iPad Mini 2 and for some reason it would just choke and not stream or load for the longest time.  I tried using my Apple TV 3 and it streamed the content like a champ with no problems at all.  This leads me to believe either that the Netflix app is poorly written for casting to a Chromecast or the Chromecast itself isn’t capable of handling Netflix streams.

I’ve started to take my older Apple TV 2 with me on my trips since some of the places I stay have HDMI ports that let me hook it up so I can watch Netflix and also stream local content from my iPhone or my iPad. I still take the Chromecast with me but its only used if I don’t feel like packing my Apple TV (it takes up way more room and is kind of heavy).

YouTube seems to be streaming just fine on my Chromecast but maybe its because the hardware and software are both made by Google so they ensured that it would work correctly and more than 50% of the time.  I know I’ve unplugged the Chromecast out of frustration more than once during a hotel stay and just resorted to using my iPad to watch my videos.  That habit might actually push me to getting a newer iPad (hopefully they’ll come out with an iPad Air 3 that can use the Pencil) and that might be my next tablet upgrade although I am still quite happy with my Mini 2.

I’m not going to worry too much about not being able to watch content on the big screen in my hotel if Chromecast doesn’t work, I’ll always have my iPhone or my iPad to fall back on and frankly the app on the iPad for Netflix is pretty good so I actually watch Netflix on my iPad more than I do on my TV even at home and especially not on a computer since the interface isn’t the best.  I guess Netflix really is more for mobile than for home viewing.

Netflix Original Content is Quite Good

This weekend I started watching House of Cards which is a Netflix exclusive show, much like Lilyhammer which I just finished a few months ago. I have to admit that the show is very good and in only 2 days I’ve already gone through 6 episodes which is a lot for me in only one weekend. I won’t delve into a review of the plot or acting since I’m not good at deciphering that sort of thing. There are tons of shows and movies that I consider awesome but that the general public probably thinks is trash.

Anyway, I think Netflix is on to a good model for the future. They remind me of when I started watching HBO for The Soprano’s. I was glad at the time that the community where I lived provided HBO but it would have been very compelling to pay for HBO to continue to watch The Soprano’s. I like the Netflix model a little better than HBO. They release entire seasons for their original content so I don’t have to wait to see the next episode like regular TV. I was able to get through Lilyhammer in a couple of weeks and I’m almost half way through House of Cards.

I hope that Netflix continues to generate great content like the first two shows they produced. That will definitely get more people on board with the service and they might even forget the silly notion they had a year ago of splitting the DVD and Streaming services and increasing the prices at the same time.

Still loving Anime

I’ve been watching anime for some time and to me it still never gets old. What’s really great is that the amount of anime available these days in increasing as more cartoons from Japan are being imported and dubbed in English. Some of the earliest anime I recall watching was Robotech. I have all the episodes that were aired on TV and some that weren’t that were released later. I have the books too but they’re a little frayed after years of me adding them. What I like about most of the anime I watch is that it’s big robots kicking each others butt. Most of the ones I watch seem to be that way lately although the comedy ones are pretty good too.

Netflix has been very helpful in keeping my instant library stocked with great anime to watch. I’ve been watching Gundam again lately since they keep on releasing new episodes or new story lines. What I really want to see are some new Macross episodes (it’s called Robotech here). Unlike most other companies, Harmony Gold who has the rights to Macross distribution in US, hasn’t released any of the follow up Macross sagas like Macross 7, Macross Zero, or Macross Frontier. I’ve been able to find them online in Japanese but it would be great to see them in English.

While Netflix doesn’t have the selection of a service like Rent Anime, it has most of the main stream stuff which is what I’m interested in. As long as they keep it coming, I’ll be watching anime for a long time.