How to Escape from Roku, Apple and Amazon's Walled Gardens

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How to Escape from Roku, Apple and Amazon's Walled Gardens

Post by Admin » Tue Apr 02, 2024 7:21 am

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Media Streamers: A Shift in the Landscape

Media streamers played a pivotal role in the early days of cord-cutting, helping us break free from the grip of Cable TV. However, their relevance may be waning. Media streamers early on played an important role. They helped cord-cutters and TV Streamers break free from Cable TV's iron grip on our television viewing. But their time too may be quickly coming to an end.


The Shift in the Market

When media streamers first entered the scene, they were eager to gain market share. Companies soon realized that the hardware alone wasn't profitable, leading them to become content providers, competing directly with cable TV.


The Rise of Walled Gardens in Media Streamers.

Initially, platforms like Roku and Apple and Amazon were content-friendly, allowing access to content from various sources. However, they soon built walls around their platforms, restricting content to only what they wanted users to see. These restrictions continued to grow, limiting the use of consumer purchased hardware. When media streamers first arrived on the scene, they were highly incentivized to quickly gain market share. Because streaming companies quickly learned they could not profit from the hardware alone, so they all moved on pretty fast to becoming content providers. This let them compete more directly with their number one competitor, cable TV. And consumers flocked to these devices in droves.

Initially, streamers were easy to use to watch content from many alternative sources other than what they controlled on their platforms through propietary app stores, it did not take them long to build walls around their platform only allowing you to watch what they wanted you to see.

And these walls just kept getting bigger and stronger until soon consumers could not use the hardware they bought the way they wanted. And could only use it according to ever-changing terms forced upon them by the hardware manufacturers.


Workarounds and Their Limitations

Streaming your content through AirPlay on Apple and Roku or Casting on Android and Fire TV are still working options to slip across the wall. It's an added hassle and requires the use of a phone or tablet with a Web Browser to start watching the content on another device, to then use the media streamer as an intermediary to watch the same content on your TV. For the most part, this works pretty well, but it still requires additional hardware and extra time to implement than watching the content directly.

The Resurgence of Home Theater PCs (HTPCs)

Before media streamers, many cord-cutters used home-built Home Theater PCs otherwise known as HTPCs. These small computers, running software like KODI or Plex, functioned as media streamers without restrictions.

The Advantages of HTPCs

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HTPCs offer several advantages over media streamers. They require more setup but offer unrestricted access to content, the ability to block ads and complete customization. They represent the best way to stream content today. One of the best platforms is a Mac mini, these were built like tanks and 2014 models can be found on eBay all day long for less than the cost of an Apple TV. The best models are from 2014 or newer and already come with an HDMI output so they can be directly attached to a TV. 2014 models even had IR ports built-in so they can be used with a remote control on Kodi or Plex. This was removed in 2018 and newer, so a USB remote control Sensor would be needed on these later models.

In case you're wondering, yes, for $10 you can add a USB IR receiver dongle to a 2018 or newer Mac Mini to enable the use of an IR remote. Although the Mac Mini (Late 2018) and newer models do not have a built-in IR sensor, a USB IR receiver can provide similar functionality.


Here's what you need to do:

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1. Purchase a USB IR receiver dongle: There are various options available on the market, such as the Flirc USB IR Receiver or the Pulse-Eight USB-CIR0. Make sure to choose one that is compatible with macOS.
2. Connect the USB IR receiver to your Mac Mini: Plug the dongle into one of the available USB ports on your Mac Mini.
3. Configure the IR receiver: Depending on the IR receiver you choose, you may need to install additional software or drivers to configure it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for setting up the device.
4. Pair your IR remote: Once the IR receiver is configured, you can pair your IR remote with the receiver. This process may vary depending on the remote and receiver you are using.

After completing these steps, you should be able to use an IR remote with your 2018 or newer Mac Mini. Keep in mind that the functionality of the remote may be limited by the software and applications running on your Mac Mini. Some remotes may work better with specific media center applications like Kodi or Plex.


Drawbacks of HTPCs

1. Control: You'll need to control it from a laptop or tablet using Microsoft Remote Desktop (free on Windows) or Remote Desktop/Screen Sharing built into Mac settings.
2. Setup: A PC requires some additional setup time.
3. Connectivity: Your PC or Mac needs an HDMI output to connect to your TV. If your PC only has a Display output, you'll need an adapter.


Overcoming Connectivity Issues

Connectivity issues can be easily resolved with adapters that convert Display Port Output from a graphics card to HDMI to plug into your TV. Older Mac minis often found on eBay for $100 or less, work great for Kodi, Plex, or even browsing content directly from websites.

The Future of Streaming

Once you've set up your HTPC and learned to navigate it, you'll be free from the limitations imposed by media streamers from Roku, Apple, or Amazon. So, consider building and using an HTPC. We believe they're poised for a significant revival in the coming months and years as more people escape from media streaming companies walled in gardens.


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