Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Turn up the fire

The Kindle Fire 7” tablet is one of the cheapest tablets out there. With the newer 8” version dubbed “Kindle Fire HD” out and about, you can score the previous model for less than $80. Despite the small size, when held by the hands (say, while lying in bed), it provides a screen-size equivalent to that of a 50” TV, which means it’s an excellent way to watch your favorite shows.

If, like me, you have a home network with your favorite shows and movies stored on a central computer, you might be interested in streaming the shows from it to the kindle. With the Kindle being an Android device, it’s not designed for this, but with a little bit of work, it can be done.

The first step is to gain access to your Windows Network, so you can view the files on the file server over the network. For this, a simple and free application exists – ES File Explorer, which you can find and install from the Kindle app store. Once installed click on Local on the top-left, and change to LAN. Define your shared folder and you’re ready for the next step.

Next, you need a movie player that would be capable of playing as many possible formats. A good tool for this is RockPlayer. The challenge with RockPlayer is that it’s not a free application, and it’s also not available on the Kindle App Store, so it requires “side loading”.

Side-loading is not difficult, and even though it might sound like it, it’s not jailbreaking or hacking. To Side-load the app you need to do the following:

1.      On the Kindle, go to settings

2.      Go to Devices

3.      Change the option Allow installation of applications to On

4.      Go to the Rockplayer website http://www.rockplayer.com/index_en.html and to the download page

5.      Touch and hold on the download link to download the file to the kindle

6.      Using ES File Explorer you got earlier on, navigate to the download folder

7.      Touch the app to install it

Now, to play a movie, use ES File Explorer to navigate the network to where the file is, and touch the file to open it. The Kindle might ask you which app to use to open it, so simply select RockPlayer, and the file should start playing.

When RockPlayer is opened like that (by association), it will work straight away without any nags. If, however, you open it from your app menu, it will display a purchase window and ask you to buy it. You can do so and pay with PayPal, and the cost is just $10, which is really low for something as useful and reliable. Please consider paying it to support the application developer!
And lest I forget...the kindle fire is great, but an even better solution for this sort of thing is the Microsoft Surface RT tablet series. With Windows built into them, you can connect to your network and watch movies without any apps, side-loading or configuration. It's definitely a better, albeit expensive solution.