What is Popcorn Time, and is it Better than Streaming?

What is Popcorn Time, and is it Better than Streaming?

You might have heard about Popcorn Time, an app that lets you download and watch movies free. Free movie downloads? It sounds too good to be true. How does that work? Is it legal? Is it ethical? And how does it compare to movie streaming services like Google Play or Netflix? Grab some popcorn, pull up a chair, and read on to learn all about it.

What is Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time is a BitTorrent client with an integrated media player. What that means, is that it’s a piece of software that allows peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of media files. In addition, users can use the software to view those files on their devices. Peer-to-peer means that users post media files, like movies, and other users can download those files and watch them with Popcorn Time. Many consider Popcorn Time a free alternative to subscription-based video streaming services such as Netflix.

Popcorn Time was developed by a group of people in Argentina as an antidote to what they perceived was a flawed system of streaming services there. Its ease of use quickly made it popular. There were versions for Linux, macOS, Windows, and Android. On top of that, it was free, open source, and had a larger available library than Netflix.

But legal troubles plagued Popcorn Time. First, several governments blocked access to the site, citing copyright violations. Then lawsuits ensued. Then, in 2014, developers took down the official website and its GitHub repository. A year later, different user groups resurrected the software. The current version of Popcorn Time is available at this website, but take caution as it may be illegal to use where you are. Below, we have the best ways to stream free, if Popcorn Time is illegal where you are.

How Does it Work?

Popcorn Time uses the BitTorrent protocol. The BitTorrent protocol allows users to join a group of hosts who upload to and download from each other simultaneously. This allows the files to transfer effectively using lower bandwidth, and makes file transfer faster than it would have been, had users tried to download from a single server. The diagram below illustrates the idea of distributed computing that makes software like Popcorn Time work.

How free movie downloads work through Popcorn Time and other BitTorrent apps.

Image CC by SA 3.0, by Scott Martin, via Wikimedia Commons

How Can Movie Downloads be Free? Is that Legal?

That depends on where you live. The BitTorrent protocol itself is perfectly legal. Many users employ it to transfer their own content, for example, to other users. Because the technology makes it easy to share other people’s copyrighted material, though, the potential to violate copyright laws with a BitTorrent client is always there. And downloading free movies can get you into trouble.

Several governments have blocked high profile BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay and Supernova because users violated copyright laws in those countries. In addition, sites like Supernova, TorrentSpy and yes, Popcorn Time, have received lawsuits from the MPAA over shared movies. Many of these lawsuits resulted in the sharing site shutting down, or worse. Two of The Pirate Bay’s founders even received prison sentences in their home country of Sweden for copyright violations.

Popcorn Time app may not be legal in your country.

Image CC by 0, by lechenia narkomanie, via Pixabay

Yes, you can get in trouble too

And it’s not just companies that find themselves in hot water. In the United States, more than 200,000 individuals have been sued since 2010 for sharing copyrighted material using the BitTorrent protocol. And fines can range from $2,500 to $150,000 — that’s a lot more than a year of your favorite streaming service.

The upshot is if you want to torrent, check the rules of your country very carefully. Some countries, like Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, and the Netherlands, have permissive laws about downloading copyrighted works of art. Others, like the United States and the United Kingdom, are much stricter. In addition, read the fine print of your user agreement with your Internet Service Provider. Some ISPs frown on torrenting and may come after you themselves. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and on the side of the law.

User safety

The BitTorrent protocol is not anonymous and is not necessarily secure. The tracker function within the software allows interested parties like law enforcement to obtain the IP addresses of current and past users. This means that users are vulnerable to lawsuits, legal prosecution, and cyberattack. So if you want to share something you created with other peer users, that’s great. But if you’re thinking about sharing someone else’s copyrighted creation, think again.

Users have faced fines and jail time for free movie downloads that weren't legally obtained.

Image CC by 0, by Clker Free Vector Images, via Pixabay

Ethical concerns

And if you think sharing artists’ copyrighted work is a victimless crime, try telling that to an artist. The Recording Industry Association of America has found that pirating music has cost over 71,000 jobs in the music industry. Book piracy causes authors to lose sales, which is not only lost money but may also cause their publishers to drop authors’ hard-won contracts. The average author’s earnings dropped by nearly $16,000 between 2009 and 2015 due to piracy. As for movies, experts estimate that pirating causes the film industry to lose around $750 million per year.

That’s a lot of income and a lot of jobs. Some may argue that artists should be happy people are interested enough in their work to steal it. But the fact is, every sale an artist loses due to piracy puts that artist one step closer to not being able to afford to continue making art. So think it over.

So, Is There a Way to Legally Watch Movies Free?

We’re so glad you asked that! In fact, there are several.

Watch movies free and legally from these websites and apps.

Image CC by 0 Creative Commons, by JESHOOTS, via Pixabay

Free downloads

There are a number of free, easy to use, and completely legal download services where you can watch free movies. How are they legal? Well, some services are owned by movie distribution companies that make their films available to users. Others provide movies that are in the public domain. And some are advertising supported. Have a look.

Popcornflix

Popcornflix is owned by Screen Media Ventures, a film distribution company. They have a library of over 1,500 full-length feature films — that’s a lot of movies. And they make it available to users at no charge. You can enjoy new films and classics, in all the popular genres, and all for free.

Public Domain Torrents

Public Domain Torrents allows you to download movies that are, you guessed it, copyright free and in the public domain. Choose from a number of genres, including action and adventure, comedy, science fiction, and more. This is a great place to find classics, but you’ll find some more recent movies as well.

Free streaming services

It's Popcorn Time! Time to watch your favorite free movies!

Image CC by 0, by Stocksnap, via Pixabay.

Some people prefer downloading to streaming because sometimes, streaming can glitch. But there are a number of high-quality streaming services that are not only free but address the glitching problem as well. You may have to put up with some advertising from time to time, but it’s a small price to pay for free, legal, high-quality content.

Crackle

Sony Pictures owns Crackle.com, which means two things. First, the content is fresh. There’s a continuous flow of new TV, movies, and more, from a major studio. Second, since Sony owns the content, it’s perfectly legal for them to give it to users for free. Their free app works with the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry phone, Nook tablet, Kindle Fire tablet, and the Windows Phone. It’s easy to get started, so why not get started today?

Viewster

If you like foreign films and anime, you’ll love Viewster. They have other content, too, of course. Some of it you will have heard of, and other content you might not have heard about. It’s a great place to discover something new. And it’s legal! Viewster pays a licensing fee for each of its films, which allows them to provide the films to you for free.

Cut, and That’s a Wrap

Everyone loves free movies. What’s not to like? And today, you have so many ways to get them. Some, like torrenting with tools like Popcorn Time, may or may not be legal in your area. If you’re going to go that route, make sure you know the risks and the rules. And make sure you’re prepared to deal with the possible consequences. If you’d rather skip the risk, then lucky you. There are so many ways to get your hands on free, legal, high-quality movies, videos, and TV shows — without the risk of lawsuits or legal prosecution.

So fire up your popcorn popper, put your feet up, and get ready to find your next favorite movie — for free.

 

Featured Image: CC by 0, by dbreen, via Pixabay

How to Choose a Great Party Theme: Entertaining 101

How to Choose a Great Party Theme: Entertaining 101

A party with no theme compounds social worries and leaves guests unsure of themselves. A good party theme provides a built-in icebreaker and an automatic topic of conversation. A recipe for success.

Think back to the last party you hosted. How did it go? Were your guest relaxed and having fun, or did interactions seem forced and awkward? If you were one of your guests, would you want to attend your next party? The difference between a party and a great party comes down a good theme.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of online social media, more people than ever before are suffering from social anxiety. The problem is compounded in real-life interaction. What should they talk about? How will they fill the gaps in the chatter? Consider the following party themes to choose one that’s sure to be a hit.

Holiday Parties

The holidays are a time to gather together with one’s family and friends to eat, drink and be merry. What does that sound like? A party! Hosting holiday parties is an excellent way to get more comfortable with hosting gatherings. Holiday parties come with a built-in theme, which makes them the easiest to put together. Pick a holiday and think of all the traditional foods, drinks, and activities attached to it. Instant theme.

Winter Holiday Parties

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or something else entirely, there are wonderful parties to be had during the winter holiday season. Get out the decorations, turn on the holiday tunes, brew some hot cocoa, and consider the following themes:

Cookie decorating party theme

Cookie decorating as a group makes a great holiday party theme.

Image: CC by 0, by rawpixel, via Pixabay

Bake several batches of your best sugar cookie recipe. Whip up (or buy) some colored icing. You have yourself a cookie decorating party theme! You can go traditional with holiday shapes like angels, Christmas trees, or menorahs. Or, shake things up with ugly holiday sweater cookies. You know your audience, so choose what you think they would enjoy most. Don’t forget the eggnog!

Sledding or snowman party theme

Outdoor fun is a favorite of all the party themes, especially for kids.

Image: CC by 0, by Daren Mehl, via Pixabay

If the climate in your area provides an abundance of snow during the holiday season, take advantage. Bundle up and head outside for some fun building snowmen or sledding down the nearest hill. Playing in the snow brings out the kid in even the staunchest of adults. Just be sure to let your guests know the theme in advance, so they know they’ll need their winter gear. Also, throw together a batch of hot chocolate in the slow cooker before you head out into the cold. Your party guests will thank you when they come in to thaw out.

Gift exchange party theme

Image: CC by 0, by rawpixel, via Pixelbay

We all want to give gifts to our friends and family during the holidays, and receiving a present or two doesn’t feel too bad, either. There are many different methods to organize a gift exchange party. You could have your guests draw names ahead of time, play a game like white elephant, or narrow down the theme by asking that all gifts be ornaments (or any particular item you think your guests would like to exchange with each other). If you’re not into consumerism, you can require that all gifts be handmade by the giver. If you’re an Eco-warrior, ask that all gifts be used/recycled. You can tailor every party theme to you and your specific guests’ interests.

Halloween Party

Halloween makes the perfect Party Theme

Image: CC by 0, by M. Steven Cox, via Pixabay

Who doesn’t love an excuse to dress up, have a drink, and eat candy? Host a fabulous Halloween party by decking the place out in scary decorations, playing creepy music, putting out gruesome snacks and drinks, and holding a costume contest. You’ll be shocked at how much fun people have crafting the perfect getup, casting their votes, and taking advantage of all the spectacular photo ops.

Pro tip: Put out a pile of cheap masks for those who thought they could get away with showing up to your party without a costume. This keeps it festive without directly calling out the party poopers.

Birthday Party

Save time with a birthday in a box.

Image: CC by 0, by diapicard, via Pixabay

The king of all parties is most certainly the birthday party. Birthdays are a bit different than other holiday parties in that the occasion itself doesn’t provide much of a theme. The only thing all birthday parties seem to have in common is cake. If you want to throw a hit of a birthday party, you’ll need to dig deeper for a theme. Find out the birthday boy or girl’s interests. Are they obsessed with a certain show, band, or sport? Use it as their party’s theme. If you’re stumped on how to make a theme happen, it is now possible to purchase a birthday in a box kit and have the work done for you.

Decade Party

People love a blast from the past. A decade party is a fun, affordable theme that your guests can run wild with. Choose a decade, send out your invites, and watch how creative everyone gets. Vintage clothes and accessories are available at thrift shops and consignment stores for great prices, which makes this theme perfect for those who may not be rolling in extra money. Just be sure to choose a popular decade and maybe provide examples, so your guests know the vibe you’re going for.

’30s party theme

A 30s party theme is fun for dressing up.

Image: CC by 0, by GORBACHEVSERGEYFOTO, via Pixabay

The era of the gangster. Think pinstripe suits, suspenders, fedoras, pin curls, and silk or leather gloves. This theme pairs best with scotch in rock glasses or martinis, and jazz or old movies playing in the background. Bonus points for giving out cigars as party favors.

’70s party theme

The 70s is one of the easiest party themes to organize.

Image: CC by 0, by Bru-nO, via Pixabay

Everybody needs a chance to dress up like a hippie once in their lifetime. Bell bottoms, tie-dye, denim vests, patchwork, and peace signs. The best part about a ’70s party theme is the music. Put together a playlist of legendary artists of the time, like Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you won’t be able to go wrong.

’80s party theme

The 80s gives your party theme some ultra fun changes to dress badly but listen to great music.

Image: CC by 2.0, by Jamie, via Flickr

Bring on the neon, spandex, shoulder pads, and Aqua Net. An ’80s party is all about the absurdity of the decade’s fashion choices. Put on a Brat Pack movie and watch people reminisce about their own embarrassing memories. Or, get really creative, and build this giant Jenga game. From acid-washed jeans to mile-high bangs, the ’80s is a decade for revisiting, if only to remind ourselves never to repeat our fashion mistakes.

Movie or Game Party

Movie watch parties is an easy party theme.

Image: CC by 0, by Pavlofox, via Pixabay

The best party theme for someone nervous about hosting is easily a movie or game party. Human beings love to be entertained. Choose a movie (preferably one with a sequel, or even a trilogy, to last the entire night) to show. Or choose a multi-player video game to play. Dig out the cards or board games (or even giant Jenga, like we mentioned above). Just make sure you have adequate seating and abundant snacks. Done. You don’t have to worry about whether people are getting along or facilitate conversations. Everyone will be busy watching or playing, and that takes the pressure off of you.

Food and Drink Party

Special foods make a great party theme to highlight your cooking skills.

Image: CC by 0, by MaggiePoo, via Pixabay

Are you passionate about cooking or baking? Wine? Margaritas? Food and drink pairings? If so, a food and drink party theme is definitely the one for you. You can go as big or small as you want with a food and drink party. Offer a simple DIY taco bar with margaritas from a jug. Go big and prepare a multi-course meal with a different wine pairing for each course. You can even make the cooking or baking part of the party. Give your guests aprons and bake different varieties of cookies or brownies together (possibly while sampling wines). There is really no messing up a party with good food and drinks.

Don’t let your next party be a dud. Your guests need a gentle push in the right direction when it comes to socializing and having a good time at your gathering. A good party theme provides that push by setting them up with fail-safe activities and conversation starters. Choose a theme, invite some guests, and become the successful party host you always knew you could be.

 

Feature Image: CC by 2.0 by Pawel Laj via Flickr

8 Unique Smart Home Devices and Automation Accessories

8 Unique Smart Home Devices and Automation Accessories

Everyone’s home could use a few high-tech home automation upgrades, right?

 

There are so many options out there. How do you know which Google Home accessories you need and which gadgets are a waste of money?

 

Chances are, you might regret splurging on that automated washing machine or refrigerator in a few years.

 

Yes, everything seems super cool when it hits the market. However, not all cutting-edge smart home devices are worth the splurge.

 

8 Home Automation Devices and Accessories to High-Tech Your Life

 

The purpose of smart homes and home automation accessories is to make your life easier, right?

 

The goal isn’t to spend a bunch of money to impress your friends.

 

Well, maybe it is. But that’s probably a waste of cash if you can’t actually use the smart home devices on a regular basis.

 

These devices and accessories can get pretty pricey, but they’re very useful. The only question is: what will you splurge on?

 

1. Neato Botvac Connected Robot Vacuum

 

If you’ve been waiting for the price of robot vacuums to come down, it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen anytime soon. You might as well spend your money on something high quality like the Neato Botvac Connected.

 

This robot vacuum works well so you can be sure it’s not just a novelty device. Plus, you don’t have to chase it down because the app offers complete control.

 

2. Alexa Echo

 

At this point in the game, a multi-purpose utility speaker is nearly a staple item in many smart homes. Not only is the Alexa Echo affordable at just under $100, but it’s also compatible with other smart home devices like lighting options, security gadgets, and thermostats.

 

3. Google Home Accessories

 

Just like Amazon’s Alexa Echo, Google Home offers a full suite of compatible devices for connecting your entire home. Whether you want voice-activated speakers, Wi-Fi-infused outlets, or lighting for smart homes, Google Home accessories have you covered.

 

4. Security Lighting for Smart Homes

 

There are so many options here it’s hard to narrow down one featured product. You really need to take the size of your home and needs into consideration before making a final decision on security lighting.

 

Smart lighting offers major advancements to improve your home’s safety – and not just from intruders. The BeOn bulbs, for example, work during power outages. You can also program them to turn on or off on a schedule or based on an event like when the doorbell rings.

 

5. Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

 

If you spend a lot of time away from your home or just have a large house, a smart thermostat can help save your money and the environment by reducing energy consumption.

 

Not only is the EcoBee4 Alexa compatible, but it contains its own Alexa Echo speaker for optimal efficiency. Beyond Amazon, you can integrate this thermostat with other brands like Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and Samsung’s SmartThings.

 

6. WeMo Wi-Fi Smart Plug

 

Smart plugs may seem like a novelty device, but they’re really worth the money – mostly because they don’t cost very much (about $30) and are extremely versatile.

 

The WeMo Wi-Fi smart plug is compatible with most smart systems (besides Apple or Siri) and provides home automation on a large scale: you can automate just about any device. Plus, it’s safe and small so it won’t block other outlets.

 

7. Remote-Controlled Shades

 

Most smart shades don’t come cheap. If you know someone with a disability or medical condition that affects their mobility (or you just want to treat yourself) this is a great item.

 

These are also an excellent solution if you have a home with shades in hard-to-reach places. Although they’re expensive, smart shades are super easy to install and control with an app or remote.

 

8. Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock (2nd Generation)

 

This is the coolest smart lock for average folks. You’ll never need to fumble with keys while your arms are full of groceries ever again: just touch the lock.

 

It unlocks the door based on close-range authentication like many car key-fabs. You can choose from a regular key and lock, keyless touch, or app control. This smart lock also lets you give your friends or family eKeys for easy sharing and access when needed.

 

What You Should Know About Smart Home Devices

 

Although it’s tempting to splurge on the latest and greatest everything, it’s best to wait until these smart home devices and home automation accessories have been on the market for a while.

 

Why?

 

Because you can read reviews and give the companies a chance to work out all the kinks. (There are always kinks or glitches in first generation devices.)

 

This means if you wait to buy a second or third generation device, you’ll get something improved and tweaked based on customer feedback.

 

After all, you want these devices to make your life easier, right?