Media player (software)

The Best Video Player for iPhone

A long time ago, Apple made it difficult for third-party developers to make a good media player for the iPhone. Thankfully, over the years they’ve loosened their restrictions, and now you can get a really solid video player with PlayerXtreme.

Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: Free ($4.99 for Pro features)
Download Page

Features

  • Supports plenty of video and audio formats: 3gp, asf, avi, divx, dv, dat, flv, gxf, m2p, m2ts, m2v, m4v, mkv, moov, mov, mp4, mpeg, mpeg1, mpeg2, mpeg4, mpg, mpv, mt2s, mts, mxf, ogm, ogv, ps, qt, rm, rmvb, ts, vob, webm, wm, wmv
  • Simple, familiar folder-based interface that feels a lot like Finder, which also includes multiple ways to view and sort your library
  • Various ways to search through your files
  • Supports streaming over SMB, UPNP, and Wi-Fi
  • Download files to the app over your local network
  • Open files from directly from email attachments
  • Great control over the look of subtitles
  • Supports HD playback
  • Change playback speed
  • Hide folders that guest users of the app can’t see but you can
  • Support Chromecast and AirPlay (Pro version only)
  • Boost the volume of soft audio (Pro version only)
  • Passcode protection to lock away files (Pro version only)

Where It Excels

PlayerXtreme can handle just about any file format you throw at it, which means that it can easily become your main video player without much effort. It does just about everything you need a video player to do: you can create playlists, add your own subtitle files, play audio in the background, play files from a variety of sources, and customize playback in tons of ways. If you buy the Pro version of the app for $5, you can stream videos to your Apple TV or Chromecast.

Beyond being just a solid media player, PlayerXtreme also makes it easy to transfer files from your computer to your iOS device using a ton of different methods. PlayerXtreme will automatically search your local network for shared folders, where it can then download or stream any video files it finds. You can…

How to Download and Sync Media from Your Plex Media Server Offline Viewing

Streaming content from your Plex Media Server is great, but sometimes—like when you’re going to be offline or stuck with cruddy internet speeds while traveling—there’s no substitution for having a copy of the media stored on your device instead of in the cloud. Fortunately, it’s easy to grab your media and go.

Downloading, Syncing, and the Premium Difference

With Plex, there are two ways to approach this issue, dependent on whether you’re a free Plex user or a Plex Premium user. Both free and premium users can download content from their Plex Media Servers, but this download functionality is 1) manual action only; 2) simply downloads a copy of the media to the computer or mobile device you are using; and 3) does not automatically transcode your media (to make it smaller and more mobile-storage friendly).

The upside to this technique is that you get a copy of the media to do whatever you want with (like give to a friend) and that copy is in the original quality. The downside is that it does not automatically sync, you have to manually transcode if you want smaller file sizes, and you have to load the media in a third-party player (e.g. if you download a movie to your iPhone using the manual download method, the movie won’t load in the Plex app but it will load in any media player on your iPhone capable of playing it).

The other method, available only to Plex Pass premium subscribers, is the sync method. While the download method might be great for a one-off download (like grabbing a movie or two to copy to your laptop before you head to the airport), the syncing method is vastly superior for consistent use (like keeping the most recent episodes of your favorite TV show synced to your phone and ready for viewing on the commuter train). The upside to the syncing method is that it is fully automated and highly customizable, thanks to flexible syncing rules. You can sync files from your Plex Server to any Plex app that is registered to your Plex account, including Plex for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows desktop.

Let’s take a look at how to download and sync content, respectively, using a season of the TV show Archer as our sample media.

How to Download Content from Your Plex Media Server (Free or Premium)

To download a couple one-off videos from your Plex Media Server, you simply need to be logged into your Plex account and access the web interface. You can do this either while your’e at home or while you’re away from home, as long as you have a good internet connection. The only real restriction on downloading is that you must be the owner of the Plex Media Server—this means you can download everything from your own server, but you can’t download content from a server someone has shared with you, nor can they download from a server you share with them.

From that web interface, it’s super simple to download content. First, navigate to the media you’re interested in. We’re interested in grabbing a few episodes from Season 1 of Archer to watch away from home, so we’ll head there now. Here in the Season 1 entry, we need to select Episode 1 and then click on the “…” menu icon, as seen below.

In the context menu, click “Download”.

The file will be downloaded, in it’s full original file size and resolution, to you computer or mobile device. Additionally, you can also click on the full detailed entry for any media item (individual TV episodes, movies, songs in your music library, etc.) and click on the “…” menu in the left side navigation bar to also select “Download”. You cannot download entire seasons of TV shows at one time and will need to repeat this process for every episode you wish…

How to Download and Sync Media from Your Plex Media Server Offline Viewing

Streaming content from your Plex Media Server is great, but sometimes—like when you’re going to be offline or stuck with cruddy internet speeds while traveling—there’s no substitution for having a copy of the media stored on your device instead of in the cloud. Fortunately, it’s easy to grab your media and go.

Downloading, Syncing, and the Premium Difference

With Plex, there are two ways to approach this issue, dependent on whether you’re a free Plex user or a Plex Premium user. Both free and premium users can download content from their Plex Media Servers, but this download functionality is 1) manual action only; 2) simply downloads a copy of the media to the computer or mobile device you are using; and 3) does not automatically transcode your media (to make it smaller and more mobile-storage friendly).

The upside to this technique is that you get a copy of the media to do whatever you want with (like give to a friend) and that copy is in the original quality. The downside is that it does not automatically sync, you have to manually transcode if you want smaller file sizes, and you have to load the media in a third-party player (e.g. if you download a movie to your iPhone using the manual download method, the movie won’t load in the Plex app but it will load in any media player on your iPhone capable of playing it).

The other method, available only to Plex Pass premium subscribers, is the sync method. While the download method might be great for a one-off download (like grabbing a movie or two to copy to your laptop before you head to the airport), the syncing method is vastly superior for consistent use (like keeping the most recent episodes of your favorite TV show synced to your phone and ready for viewing on the commuter train). The upside to the syncing method is that it is fully automated and highly customizable, thanks to flexible syncing rules. You can sync files from your Plex Server to any Plex app that is registered to your Plex account, including Plex for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows desktop.

Let’s take a look at how to download and sync content, respectively, using a season of the TV show Archer as our sample media.

How to Download Content from Your Plex Media Server (Free or Premium)

To download a couple one-off videos from your Plex Media Server, you simply need to be logged into your Plex account and access the web interface. You can do this either while your’e at home or while you’re away from home, as long as you have a good internet connection. The only real restriction on downloading is that you must be the owner of the Plex Media Server—this means you can download everything from your own server, but you can’t download content from a server someone has shared with you, nor can they download from a server you share with them.

From that web interface, it’s super simple to download content. First, navigate to the media you’re interested in. We’re interested in grabbing a few episodes from Season 1 of Archer to watch away from home, so we’ll head there now. Here in the Season 1 entry, we need to select Episode 1 and then click on the “…” menu icon, as seen below.

In the context menu, click “Download”.

The file will be downloaded, in it’s full original file size and resolution, to you computer or mobile device. Additionally, you can also click on the full detailed entry for any media item (individual TV episodes, movies, songs in your music library, etc.) and click on the “…” menu in the left side navigation bar to also select “Download”. You cannot download entire seasons of TV shows at one time and will need to repeat this process for every episode you wish…

Microsoft, Please Stop Breaking My PC With Windows 10’s Automatic Updates

Hey Microsoft, could you please stop breaking my PC? The latest WPD driver update released on March 8, 2017 is just the latest in a long string of bad updates. If Windows 10 is going to force these updates on my system, the least Microsoft could do is test them properly first.

Don’t get us wrong: automatic updates are very important for security reasons, and we believe they are a good thing. The problem is that Microsoft isn’t just releasing security updates. They’re making major changes to Windows, and not testing the updates properly. They need to do better.

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Microsoft Just Released a Bad Driver Update, and I Have to Fix It

The latest and most obnoxious update—at least for me, personally—was the “Microsoft – WPD – 2/22/2016 12:00:00 AM – 5.2.5326.4762” update released on March 8, 2017.

Microsoft removed this update from Windows Update, but not until after my and other PCs installed it. As a Microsoft representative explained in a discussion post on Microsoft’s community forums:

“An incorrect device driver was released for Windows 10, on March 8, 2017, that affected a small group of users with connected phones or portable devices. After installation, these devices are not detected properly by Windows 10”

That’s right: Microsoft released a bad driver update that broke the MTP drivers in Windows. MTP is used to access files on connected Android phones and tablets, media players, Windows phones, and some other types of portable devices.

This update seems broken for everyone, so how did it get onto Windows Update in the first place? Driver updates are supposed to be tested through the Windows Hardware Quality Labs before they’re allowed onto Windows Update. Apparently that isn’t happening properly.

Microsoft caught the problem, so that should be the end of the story, right? Nope. Microsoft isn’t going to release an automatic fix through Windows Update to correct the problem. It’s my job to fix what Microsoft broke on my PC, and it’s your job to fix it on your PC if Windows 10 automatically installed the same update for you.

As this is a driver update, there’s no way to “uninstall” it like you would a normal update. Instead, Microsoft recommends you use a system restore point, something that won’t be possible on many PCs, as Windows 10 seems to sometimes ship with System Restore disabled. If you can’t do that, Microsoft invites you to follow a 13-step process involving the Device Manager and several commands run in an Administrator Command Prompt window.

That’s absurd. Worse yet,…