Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Teaching your Kindle Fire Stick or Kindle Fire TV new tricks

[Interested in the quick-start program? Jump to the bottom.]

Disclaimer: DO NOT use this to watch illegal content.  Only watch things you're licensed to watch.

As of today, April 10, 2017, Amazon is selling the standard Kindle Fire Stick for $30 and its big brother, the 4k-compatible Kindle Fire TV, for $50.  Those are the best prices I've seen on these clever, little devices so if you've been considering one for a while now is a good time to commit.

"But Jason, I already have a smart TV, why do I need another device with another remote for my already-crowded table?"

Good question, inquisitive one.  First of all, it's cheap, light, simple and portable.  I have one in my travel bag so when I'm out of town I can plug it into the hotel TV and watch what I want, not the limited and/or expensive options the hotel offers.  I can't remember the last time I saw a hotel TV without an open HDMI port and if you can tolerate slow wifi this blog is likely to bore you to tears.  It'll do all of the usual smart TV stuff in one spot: Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, etc. But much better than that you can install applications like Kodi, which makes it easy to access a media server - Plex, for example.

"But Jason, I'm not a mega-nerd like you are, so I don't have Plex or any other media server!"

Ok, but isn't that part of the reason you're here.  That reminds me: must write a blog post on building a simple media server with that old computer sitting in your closet.  (spoiler alert: FreeNAS).  Then again, even with a full-on media server you still will only have access to the content on that media server.   (well, no - FreeNAS has plug-ins too, so keep an eye on the blog for info there.)  What if you want access to pretty much everything you can think of?  For that, you install an add-on to Kodi, like Covenant or Neptune Rising, after which you can watch almost anything: current TV shows, old TV shows, new movies, old movies.  I use Covenant and Neptune Rising.  Occasionally they're spotty so this gives you a backup when one decides to be difficult.  If you know of others please post a comment or email me!

"But Jason, isn't that complex and nerdy?  Do you have to, you know, type stuff?"

Yes, but only a little, and it's easy enough that you can do it.  Yes, you.  Seriously.  I know someone who did it without help and if that person can - ANYONE can.  Rather than writing instructions from scratch then keeping them up to date, here are some of the better ones I've found.

Step 1: Install Kodi.
Step 2: Install Neptune Rising, Covenant, or similar.

Optional but highly recommended: Get a VPN service.  That's out of scope for this post but if you're interested, let me know and I'll do one of these walk-throughs.  I did find this post on installing the VPN client directly on Fire TV but I haven't tried it myself so YMMV.

Usage is pretty simple so all I can add is be patient.  It can take several minutes to start playing but it's worth it.  

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