Sunday, November 12, 2017

It is Obvious and it Should be Simple, Part 9,364,585

OK, it's one thing that Amazon and Google are both angling for dominance in the world of streaming video and that therefore I can't just easily use my Fire TV stick to watch movies rented or purchased via Google Play. I get it. Both companies want me to buy my device from them, and then buy the content I stream over the device from them as well.

I'm given to believe that Google is the more aggressive party here, i.e. that Amazon would let me stream Google content over Fire TV if Google wasn't being dumb about it. But Google IS being dumb about it. Even though I can access YouTube (owned by Google) on the Fire TV, and even though I can access the movies I rent or buy from Google over YouTube, I can't access them over YouTube on the Fire TV YouTube app.

All of that is very annoying, but like I say, I get it.

What I don't get is this:

Early on, the Google Chromecast worked with a Chrome extension, and within that extension there were user-controllable settings. Which meant that if I didn't want to stream at HD quality, I could set the thing to 480p.*

But then, Google decided to do away with the extension business and just back "casting" into Chrome itself. And I cannot find a settings panel in Chrome to control stuff.

So now, Chromecast (at least the original Chromecast -- I haven't bought the newer model) does what Amazon Fire TV used to do**, which is detect what kind of device it's connected to and stream at the highest quality that device can handle.

Some Google Play movies can be purchased in SD quality (that is, 480p) video, but others are only available in HD, which was the case with a movie I bought yesterday.*** So if I want to watch it in SD, I have to find a display that will only handle that video quality.

When Google changed "casting" from an extension to a a built-in capability, they should have created a user-accessible settings panel in Chrome for stuff like this. Since they didn't, they should go back in and take care of that now.

* I prefer 480p because it uses much less bandwidth than 720p or 1080p. If my family watched all our stuff in HD, we'd bust our ISP's bandwidth cap halfway through the month.

** I complained about that some time back here on the blog in a post that I won't bother to link to. Shortly after I did -- I'm sure it was coincidental -- Amazon updated its Fire TV OS to include user control of video bandwidth levels, which correlate to video quality. I set mine to SD. Problem solved.

*** So why buy movies from Google instead of from Amazon, meaning I have to switch sources to Chromecast (or mess around with weird un-supported sideloading schemes on the Fire TV)? Simple: I buy them for "free." There's a little app on my Android phone that lets Google hit me up to complete short surveys, for which I am paid in Google Play credit. I can buy apps, books, songs, movies, etc. with that credit. I decided I'd rather spend $4.99 in Google Play credit to buy Lawless from Google than spend $4.99 in cash to buy it from Amazon.

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