Update: Amazon’s Fire TV

Three years ago I wrote a post about watching local content on Amazon’s Fire TV via Plex. At that time, we watched content via Mac minis connected to LED TVs. The main problem with this approach was the accessibility to online services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. You had to wrangle a keyboard and mouse from the couch, and that was just cumbersome (and not kid-friendly).

I expressed my desire in that post for Amazon to release a stick version of their Fire TV, similar to Roku’s Streaming Stick. I had tried out Roku’s stick, and didn’t like it much. Well, they did eventually release a Fire TV Stick, but I opted to purchase the full boxes instead.

Since that post, we have converted to watching content via Fire TVs connected to those same LED TVs. We still have those Mac minis connected (although they mainly serve their purpose as Plex Media Servers and OTA DVRs). These Fire TV boxes are great, and fairly stable. We mainly watch Plex content on them, but they are also an easy way to consume Amazon’s video and music library, while also providing easy access to YouTube (a service I thoroughly enjoy watching vlogs [and the occasional fail compilation] on).

Since purchasing those Fire TVs, we delve even deeper into the Amazon ecosystem and purchased Fire tablets for the boys. I was hesitant to adopt the Android platform (being so firmly in the iOS camp), but it works great for the boys (who also have their own iOS devices to keep them grounded in truth). Don’t get me wrong, I will always be loyal to iOS, and I would never buy an Android phone. But for cheap tablets, these things are great.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Watch your local content on Amazon Fire TV

A few days ago Amazon released their offering in the streaming box arena (what is sometimes referred to as a set-top box). It’s called Fire TV, and it’s creating quite the buzz.

Fire TV

The competition is fierce in this area, with solutions from Apple, Roku and Google already established as the go-to guys. At $99, the price matches Apple TV and Roku 3, and to be honest we really can’t compare it to Google’s Chromecast at $35. Not a cost comparison, but the lack of Chromecast’s features.

But to me, the game changer here is Fire TV’s support for existing Android apps (from Amazon), and most importantly, Plex, which is supported right out of the gate. Apple TV has no officially supported Plex client, and Roku’s UI gives me a splitting headache. The Plex client for Fire TV is Plex for Android, and it’s already been around for a while, and the UI is excellent. Not Plex Home Theater excellent, mind you, but better than Roku.


For a while, Roku has been the easiest (and cheapest) way to get Plex on your TV. I purchased Rokus for my father and father-in-law, which allows them to see the content I share with them via Plex. I still prefer to run Mac minis on my TVs, but I am seriously considering this Fire TV as a future Plex client when my minis can’t cut it anymore (seeing as how they are pushing 5 years old).

The majority of 1-2 star reviews for Fire TV complain that you cannot access your local media (via DLNA or otherwise). I would imagine that the vast majority of Fire TV users are obtaining their content from providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, etc. But, for those individuals that have local content, Plex is the answer. All it requires is that you install Plex Media Server (free) on your supported Mac, Windows, or NAS device, and purchase the Plex for Android app for the Fire TV. Once you setup Plex Media Server with all of your media, it presents itself beautifully on the Fire TV Plex for Android app.

Now, if I can gripe for just a moment here.

I recently tried out the Roku Streaming Stick. It’s a great little device, but again, the interface is horrible. Netflix looks pretty good on it, but that’s about it. Amazon Instant Video and Plex channels share the same common look and feel. It’s difficult to browse content, and it’s plainly not fun to use.

The positive, however, is that it’s a stick. It plugs right into your HDMI port, with the power being drawn from the TV’s USB port. If your TV doesn’t have a USB port, you can plug it into a regular power outlet with the included adapter. I would love to see a similar solution from Amazon. I’m all about less clutter. If I can have a TV hanging on the wall with no devices dangling from it, or power cords junking up my living room, I’m a happy camper. I’d be fine with giving up ethernet, optical audio and USB if I could have a Fire TV stick.

All this being said, I’m going to hold off a bit longer to see what Apple’s answer will be. If they release an Apple TV stick that supports iOS apps (including Plex), with a remote and game control via iOS devices… that… that would be awesome.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Who do you recommend?

Creating a unique and eye-catching design for your print work is only part of the overall project. We’re constantly asked who we recommend when it comes to offset printing. In this digital age, you would assume that the need for physical materials would be diminishing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A typical “branding” piece that is created after the development of a business identity and logo design is business cards. A business card is an affordable way to get the word out about your business. The quality of this card should reflect the service or products you offer. If your card looks cheap, so does your company. It’s important to choose the right printer – this is not a time to skimp. That’s not to say that it’s going to break the bank… just don’t choose the first “good deal” or “free” offer you see. For just a little bit more you can have amazing business cards.

Business Cards

For business cards, and any other full color printing, I recommend PrintRunner. They are based out of California, and offer incredible prices for immaculate quality. Of special note is the 14pt UV Coated or 14pt Gloss (AQ) Coated stock. Either of these options will provide a shiny, glass like surface – which will really make your colors pop. Of course they offer the typical Matte or Recycled paper options, which are great when you are trying to promote an earthy, “go green” feel.

I’ve used PrintRunner for postcards, business cards, letterhead, catalogs, banners, trade show booths – pretty much everything. We are not affiliated with PrintRunner, and make no profit for referring them. They are just that good.

So, when you are ready to get some physical materials printed – let us help design… then let us help you get it on over to PrintRunner. You’ll be happy you did.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Photograph vs Picture

iPhoto IconIt seems like I use the terms photograph and picture interchangeably, and with little thought. Today I was really pondering the difference between these words, and whether there is a simple explanation between the two, or if it’s much deeper… much like the difference between house and home.

Technically, a photograph is “an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image such as a CCD or a CMOS chip.” We usually associate photograph creation with cameras, either analog film or digital files. But using the above Wiki definition extends beyond cameras. Can we not also take photos with our light-sensitive eyes (and minds)? What if a very skilled individual created an extremely realistic digital illustration? Would we call that a photo or a picture? I would assume we could only go off the information we were given. I would call that a picture – knowing that the original creator drew it. Consumers would likely interpret it as a photo.

Beyond that, does the quality or content of the image allow us more freedom in our use of photo or picture? To me, where actual photographs are involved, it seems like I tend to use photo for high-end images, or images where the content is extremely rich, and picture for images that are so-so, or don’t really deserve the term photo. That may seem strange, but it’s almost like I am putting photo on a higher level than picture. Am I crazy, or are others doing that as well?

And while we’re at it, let me touch on another (possibly sensitive) subject. A camera does not make a photographer – at least a good one. A really great photographer is capturing photographs, while everybody else is taking pictures. Maybe this is the root of my photo vs picture conundrum. I dunno. Don’t kill me.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

The best TV shows you aren’t watching, but should

No CBSI have very interesting viewing habits when it comes to television shows. For the life of me I cannot understand why shows like The Bachelor or How I Met Your Mother are so popular. Don’t get me wrong, I love reality TV – but The Bachelor? And pretty much anything on CBS is horrible. From the various flavors of CSI/NCIS to Two and a Half Men. I have such a distaste for CBS that I cannot even watch football games that are broadcast on their network. I had to make an exception for this year’s Big Game.

I hardly watch anything on broadcast TV. If I do, it’s likely an NBC comedy (think NBC Thursdays). ABC doesn’t get much love either. I think I have discovered that I don’t care for sitcoms with laugh tracks (or filmed in front of a live studio audience). The exception here is Seinfeld. Yes, I know it ended 15 years ago, but when it pops up in syndication I’ll invest 25 minutes in it.

So, what do I watch? Check it out…

Boardwalk Empire
Airing on HBO, Empire is a period drama focusing on Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, a political figure who rose to prominence and controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition period of the 1920s and 1930s. This show is full of suspense, and as you would guess, lots of violence. Steve Buscemi, who plays Nucky, is excellent. He is surrounded by an excellent cast, all of which provide outstanding performances which drive the drama.

Breaking Bad
It’s likely that you are watching this. This is another one of those AMC gems. I started watching this back when AMC was heavily promoting it with a “Making of Breaking Bad” special. I thought, how could the dad from Malcolm in the Middle portraying a cancer-ridden school teacher-turned-meth cook be bad? If you like suspense, this show is for you.

Game of Thrones
At first, I was not sure if I would care for this. A fantasy television series? Not really my cup of tea – but then again, I don’t drink tea. I must say, however, that if another character references the looming winter (after a decade-long summer), I just might drop this from my schedule.

A fictional representation of comedian Louie C.K.’s life, this is a great show to keep on hand when you have that real-life comedy itch. I understand that C.K. is likely a very wealthy celebrity, but this show really makes him relatable. He struggles to manage his career as a single father, caring for his two girls. This show presents real world situations and finds the humor in them. While this would likely be classified as a comedy, there are portions, or entire episodes, that are very dramatic.

Mad Men
Yes, you’ve heard of this – how could you not with all of it’s award nominations and eventual wins. I won’t go into a huge explanation – only to say that you should give season 1, episode 1 a chance, and then try to not watch the entire first season.

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
The only show on my list that is a web-only series. Produced by, and starring Jerry Seinfeld, it features the popular comedian picking up his celebrity friends in extremely rare cars and heading out for coffee and/or a meal. The episodes are short, but the guests are icons in the comedy industry. I really want to believe that this is a typical activity for Seinfeld – cruising around Los Angeles or New York and lounging at hole-in-the-wall eateries. Give the Brian Regan episode a chance, then waste a few hours watching all the others.

You might think you have no time to add any of these fine productions to your already swapped viewing schedule. Might I suggest dropping the hours you invest in American Idol or The Bachelor worthy of something substantially more fulfilling.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.