Netflix Over The Net

Netflix Logo

Netflix Logo

One of the things that I like to do here, aside from how-to articles, scripts, tips and tidbits, etc., is to share things that I have run across that I find useful or fun, a good value, and so on.  One such thing recently has been Netflix.  Now, unless you have been living in a cave somewhere, I am sure you have heard of Netflix before.  Their claim to fame is DVD rental by mail with no late fees.  It works, works well, I have used the service in that capacity and been quite happy with it.  However, that is not what this post is about.  No, in this day and age of instant gratification, this post shows off a new feature that Netflix offered up, which is the ability to watch movies and TV shows instantly, over the ‘net.  Bing!

You can do this a couple of different ways, using your computer (this is how I do it) and streaming the content via your web browser, or using a special device that connects to your TV and streams directly to your set.  I haven’t used the special TV device, and I don’t know anything about it, I will just be talking about the browser based service.

For a nominal fee, ($8.99/month) you can get both DVD by mail service and unlimited instant service (over the Internet).  To me, this is a pretty good deal.  That’s a rental or two and you can watch all you want, nice.  What’s the catch, you ask?  Well, naturally you have to have some type of broadband connection.  I haven’t actually tried it on dial-up, but I can’t imagine it would be fun.  The other thing is that their instant content selection isn’t near as vast as their physical DVDs, something like 12,000 instant viewing titles versus over 100,000 DVDs that they can send via mail.  That being said, I haven’t had any trouble finding something to watch.  Yeah, I have found a few things that was only on DVD or what not, but there is still lots of good stuff to choose from and they are adding more all the time.

All in all, I think this is a good deal if you spend a lot of time at your computer (check), and like to watch TV and movies (check), and want the versatility to change it up and watch one thing one day and something else the next without having to buy a truck load of DVDs (also check).  For the record, I am not affiliated with Netflix in any way, I get absolutely nothing if you go sign up (although, Netflix, if you want to send me gifts feel free! :]).  I simply wanted to share something I found to be good with my audience.  Feel free to post your own thoughts and/or experiences in the comments.

SmoothWall 3.0 Released

Also known as, the best little firewall in … well, anywhere! I have been using SmoothWall (the free, open source version) for years. I have used it with modems for dial-up access, as well as with cable and DSL connections. It’s a great product that is robust, feature rich, easy to manage and above all, very secure.

Not familiar with SmoothWall?

I used to run an ISP and the majority of our customer base were dial-up customers. Even now, there are a majority of dial-up users out there still. SmoothWall is a great tool for dial-up users because it is essentially a hardened Linux distribution built solely to be a firewall/router. The IP stack in Linux is more efficient and much faster than Windows, so even on dial-up, you will get a performance boost running SmoothWall, plus the added security of a top notch firewall.

For all of the broadband users out there, you will get a tremendous performance boost when comparing it to the White Box store Linksys products. I am not knocking Linksys or anything like that, but in my own tests, I got almost double the throughput from my SmoothWall box versus my Linksys router. Plus, the SmoothWall box has loads more features and version 3 has even more piled on.

With built in features like this:

  • Bandwidth usage graphs
  • Transparent caching proxy server
  • VPN support
  • Anti-virus scanning of incoming pop3 email
  • Dynamic and static DNS support
  • QoS and more

There are really tons more features than I can list here, the ones listed above are just some highlights. Best of all, this wonderful product is free. Yep, that’s right, free. They do have commercial versions if you have a need for that, but they still maintain the open source GPL release that is absolutely free. So, all you have to invest is the cost of an old low powered pc that has been laying around the house anyway! 🙂 I very highly recommend you check it out if you have a need for a good firewall product.