|Posted on July 22, 2012 at 2:40 PM|
While many of us depend on streaming media players like Roku, or our gaming console, blu-ray player or internet-connected TV set to stream content, there are a large number of us who love to watch TV right on our computer screen. When troubleshooting streaming issues on your PC, one thing that many people don't take into consideration is the media player software that the streaming services uses. While this article is not meant to be all-inclusive in terms of troubleshooting, it is meant to help you gain ideas for how to search further for solving problems in streaming. We will also mention the amount of data that these streaming services eat up in case you are concerned about data caps.
For instance, as many Linux users will attest to, in order to watch Netflix (which runs on Silverlight), you must reboot because Netflix has not yet addressed the glitches that Silverlight encounters with Linux. However, Silverlight successfully streams on the largest number of devices, and you can expect to use between 0.3 to 2.3 GB per hour when you stream via Netflix. Fortunately, Netflix allows you to manage your data caps through your account settings.
Most people find that streaming Netflix is a snap . . . but if you have long-term streaming problems, read this article:
Since we made mention of Netflix bandwidth usage, and how to adjust it, we'd like to mention Hulu's usage is estimated to be about 0.7 GB per hour.
To watch on your computer, Hulu Plus videos currently require Adobe Flash Player 10.1.53.64 or above. If you have problems with audio and tweaking the settings doesn't help, you may need to uninstall Flash, regart your computer, and then reinstall the latest version of Flash. Below is a great chart from Hulu's website:
Amazon Instant Video
You will need the current version of Adobe Flashplayer in order to view video on your PC. This particular piece of software is very widespread and well-known; chances are you already have the most current version. It's not perfect - occasionally you will need to revert to an older version because certain videos (e.g. YouTube) won't be accessed by buggy software.
Amazon provides a sample HD button that allows you to check out HD playback on your computer. According to the frequently asked questions on Amazon's website, the video quality will depend on your internet connection. They say "We'll automatically detect your connection speed and send you the highest quality stream your connection can support." Watching HD requires an HD capable setup and a very fast internet connection. Make sure you are aware that HD can consume up to 2 GB per hour, if you are worried about data caps. Netflix gets a big thumbs up for allowing consumers to manage their data caps the most efficiently. With Amazon, I have to be careful. I have adequate speed (6 Mbps), but I don't have a huge data cap (only 150 GB per month, which over the summer I have now exceeded twice by streaming).
I had a tough time verifying Vudu's media player technology. However, they are very clear when it comes to the quality of streaming - standard definition (480p), high definition (720p) or, super high definition (1080p) were available for either rental or ownership of several different titles. Keep in mind that the higher the definition, the more the data will be munched through. Check out our article on broadband speed requirements to determine how much data 2 hours of streaming consumes.
Some streaming services, like Skitter TV, have their own proprietary hybrid over-the-top / IPTV platform that actually have enhanced functionality, but that may not yet work on a wide number of devices. Skitter currently runs only on Roku and WD TV Live; as well as their own set top box called The Skitter Box. The functionality is quite impressive. Their interface enables you to access a variety of entertainment options from one integrated screen, including local television, YouTube videos, movies on demand, local or internet radio. Local programming is currently limited because Skitter must forge relationships with local telecom companies in order to rebroadcast content. But watch out for this service in the future to be very flexible and family friendly, with all members of your household being able to set their own personal list of favorite channels in a unique viewing queue, with full-feature parental controls.
One thing that consumers need to understand about Skitter, however, is that their media player is higher end - which is great news if you value sharp, crystal clear picture quality. But - if you have a lower broadband cap, you'll want to be aware that Skitter uses about 2 gigabytes of bandwidth per hour. The broadband industry is currently in a state of flux surrounding this issue right now, including being scrutinized by the Department of Justice for unfair practices. In the meantime, going over your bandwidth cap could end up costing you dearly.
Categories: How To