Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Calculating your savings

One of the reasons many people cut the cord and start streaming is to save money. That was my motivation. And I have saved a lot of money by streaming.

Saving money may not be the only reason you would switch to streaming, but if you can in the process, why not? Today, I'm going to look at how to calculate the amount of money you'd save if you switch to streaming.

What Do You Have Today?

You probably have Internet service, and you probably have cable TV. You may have a home phone, also. Why is home phone important? Well, sometimes that's part of your overall package. Comcast/Xfinity offers a package that includes Internet, cable, and phone. If you decide to cut the cord, you still need Internet, but you can easily find replacements for cable, both live streaming and on-demand, but what about phone? Do you want or need your home phone?

Sure, you could keep the phone service through your Internet provider, and that may be the thing to do. Just be aware that most services give discounts if you bundle packages. If you have a three-service package, you probably have a larger discount than a two-service package. Changing your plan may mean the discount isn't as great. You need to watch for that.

So, write down the services (two or three) that you have today, and the total bill, with all fees and taxes included. That's what you're paying for those two (or three) services.

Splitting The Service

Dropping a combo service means you need to replace multiple services.

Internet

To stream, you'll need Internet service. If you have only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) available, then it's easy, though far from ideal. If you have more than one ISP from which to choose, shop around for a service that will meet your needs. 

How fast does your Internet service need to be? If you are a gamer, or have one in the household, get really fast service. If you don't have a gamer in the house, then 25 mbps service will do the job. Get the price for the service you need or want, and write that down.

Phone

Next, if you need a home phone, you need to find a replacement service. If your ISP was your provider, check the price on keeping the service. That would probably be simplest, but not necessarily cheapest.

Look into other services, such as Ooma, Vonage, or others, and get the pricing there. Don't forget to calculate fees and taxes, as almost every service will have those. Write that down.

TV

Finally, the really hard part. You need to determine what services you need. If you already have some services, ignore them, as their cost is the same regardless of any changes you make. Perhaps your existing streaming services are enough. If so, that's awesome. You've saved a lot of money, because this part is $0.

However, if you do want to get a new service, or group of services, figure out those and add up the cost of them all. Write that down.

Compare

If have figured all the services you'll need, and written down the totals, all that remains is to add them up. Compare that number to what you're paying today.

Are you saving money? If not, you may want to re-think a few things. Do you really need the services, including phone or all the streaming services you've selected? If so, then consider if streaming is really for you. It's not for everybody.

If you are saving money, though, you now have an idea of how much you'll save as you enter this phase of your Streaming Lefe.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Troubleshooting Roku apps

As I've mentioned before, my go-to streaming device is Roku. It's the device of choice for most people, according to most of the reports I've seen. However, being the most popular -- at least the most used -- streaming platform comes with some baggage. The number of issues with apps is greater than most other streaming platforms, but that's expected because of the larger number of Roku devices in use.

So, when problems develop, what do you do? Well, it's hard to contact Roku. It's not impossible, but it's really frustrating. Apple, Amazon, and Google each have their own problems when trying to reach someone for help. Roku has a community support Website that can offer help. I've received help from those there in the past, and have helped others with issues. Most of the time, the issue can be resolved by performing some simple steps.

The software equivalent of "try turning it off and on again" is "remove the app and reinstall it." And while that is the solution most of the time, there is one special difference with Roku apps: the reboot. And not just a reboot, but when you do the reboot.

Here are the proper steps to remove and reinstall a Roku app:

  1. Remove the app.
  2. Reboot the Roku device.
  3. Reinstall the app.

There are three steps, as you can see. Many people will omit step number two. Or, they will do the reboot before removing the app. Or, they will do the reboot after reinstalling the app. Both of those are wrong. You should remove the app, then reboot the Roku device, then reinstall the app. That is the only correct order.

Why is this? Well, sometimes, the issue is some stray or corrupt data stored in the app or for the app. Rebooting the Roku will clear out any left over data if the app is removed. So, remove the app. That takes it off the Roku device, but doesn't clear out stray/corrupt data associated with it. That data will clear out eventually, the next time the device is rebooted. So, go ahead and do that; reboot the device. Now, with the corrupt data gone, reinstall the app.

If you simply remove the app, then reinstall the app, the corrupt data may still be there, and the problem will continue. Think of it as if a spill has occurred. You remove the item that was damaged by the spill, you wipe up the spill, then you place a new item in its place. If you pick up the damaged one, then immediately place it on the spill, then wipe up the spill, you've not fixed the situation. That's what it's like: the reboot is the wipe up of the spill.

So, if you have an issue with a Roku app, try removing the app and reinstalling it. But don't forget the reboot in the middle. It will make your Streaming Life so much easier.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Flagged, deleted, and restored

We had an issue with the Website this weekend. On Friday, I noticed I had spelled a word incorrectly. Actually, I used the wrong word altogether. It was the post about Air TV that went up Friday morning. I intended to write "no subscription required" but instead wrote "so subscription required," which is the exact opposite meaning.

I noticed it Friday evening, and decided to edit the post and re-word the end of the sentence completely so I not only used the correct words, but different words to clearly indicate you did not need a subscription to Sling TV to use the Sling TV app to watch Air TV content.

That is when something really weird happened. The post completely disappeared. I was using my phone to edit the post, so I figured I had hit some incorrect key or touched some incorrect part of the screen that ended up deleting the post. So, I was trying to figure out how I wanted to deal with it. Then the email came.

The email to which I refer is one from Google that said the post had been reported and they found it violated the Blogger terms of service. 

Your post titled "Air TV" was flagged to us for review. We have determined that it violates our guidelines and deleted the post
Now, if you don't know, Blogger is the blogging platform upon which this little Website launched. Google, who owns Blogger, determined the post was a violation. I was confused about that. Rather than fire off an email in a knee-jerk reaction, I decided I would take a bit more time and think about it, and look into if there's anything that could have been interpreted that way.

Then, I read the email a little closer.

Why was your blog post deleted?
Your content has violated our Malware and Viruses policy. Please visit our Community Guidelines page linked in this email to learn more.

Now that really confused me. And it really ticked me off. I'm not going to do anything that would in anyway cause the spread of viruses or other malware. And to say that I included something such as that in a post on this Website was, quite frankly, insulting.

I recognize that I can be a bit of a jerk at times. We all can, and some of us can be a jerk more often than others. So, yeah, I'll accept that, but to do anything to cause anything malicious to be installed on someone's computer. Never, ever would I be a part of that.

So, how did I finally deal with it? I didn't. Google wrote me back the next morning saying:

We have re-evaluated the post titled "Air TV" against Community Guidelines https://blogger.com/go/contentpolicy. Upon review, the post has been reinstated. You may access the post at http://www.mystreaminglife.com/2021/05/air-tv.html.

I didn't have to do anything. I have no idea what brought the post to their attention to even review, and I have no idea why it was originally deemed in violation. However, Google did look at it again, and decided that either the original estimate was incorrect. Or maybe someone hit the wrong button. That still doesn't explain the original flagging. Maybe I ticked somebody off somewhere. 

After all, I am a bit of a jerk.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Do you really need a live streaming package?

The question many people ask when they cut the cord or start streaming is "How can I still watch TV like I'm used to watching it?"

The answer is, you can't. You almost can, but it won't be the same.

Is the difference difficult? For some people, it is. But for most people, it's really not that difficult.

How do you determine how difficult it will be? Well, how upset do you get when the cable company changes the channel numbers, or drops a channel and replaces it with something else? If you throw a hissy fit, well, you go worse problems than trying to watch TV. But I know people like that. If you're like that, be better than that. If you're not like that, I suspect you know people like that. Bless their hearts.

But, let's say you're a reasonable person that can deal with the stuff that happens. You're a functional adult, or on your way to becoming one upon reaching a certain age. You'll be fine then.

Have you ever moved? I mean, really moved? To a different city? Or to a different place that didn't have the same cable service? That took some getting used to. Finding out where the old channels now were. What new channels you have. What old channels you lost. But you dealt with it, right?

It's not exactly the same when you go to streaming, but it is different. But a lot is the same. Just like when moving to where there's a different cable system. Different, but the same.

What you really need to ask yourself is do you need live streaming? How much do you have to watch when it airs? How much can not wait until a few hours later? Just how big of a deal is that?

If you already DVR most of the stuff you watch, you are already not using your live TV setup. Your DVR is functioning as an on-demand service.

Why does this matter? Well, what's the difference between $6 and $65? That's the difference between Hulu standard service, which includes a lot of current season TV content available hours after airing (like a DVR) and Hulu + Live TV service, which has that, plus live TV.

Yes, Hulu + Live TV also has some programming that's not part of standard Hulu. But is it worth $59/month. Every month? That's $708/year.

Even if you decided that you needed live streaming during certain times of the year -- say during March Madness, Bowl season, or some other specific time of year -- you could easily add a live streaming service during that part of the year. The savings won't be as great, but it will be significant.

However, saving money isn't the only reason people stream. Some simply like the benefit of having more control of their TV, watching content on their own schedule.

Whatever your reason or primary benefit there is for streaming, you should always be able to make the best decision about what's right for you. Is it extra work? Yes, at first. But is the benefit worth the extra work? Maybe.

If replacing cable with a live streaming service is the thing for you to do, then get the best one that meets your needs. But if you find that you can save more by going with on-demand packages, and that's what's best for you, to that. I'm not suggesting you not use live streaming services, I'm just bringing up that it's possible to have a great experience without it. You know what's best for you. I'm trying to make sure you know your options.

Do whatever works best for you, and take control of your Streaming Life.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Air TV

I replaced my TiVo devices with a couple of options. I manage TV at two locations and I put Tablo TV at one and Air TV at the other. Why? Well, both are great options. You remember my recommendation that either would be a good replacement for TiVo?

They're both great. They work a lot alike, but have some small differences.

Which one would I recommend? Well, I'd say check for special deals on service bundles. If you already use Sling TV, go with AirTV. If you don't, go with whichever you can get a better deal on. You'll be happy whichever way you go.

I truly meant that. And I went with both. But today, I'm going to talk about Air TV. I'll deal with Tablo TV later.

Hooking up an Air TV device is pretty simple. Or it seems so. There are actually several options that can impact how you do it, and I'll talk about those, and about what options I chose and why.

Here's how Air TV works. You hook up an antenna to the Air TV device. You add the Air TV device to your network. You watch the content through the Sling TV app, and no you do not need a subscription.

That seems fairly simple, right? Well, yes, but there are some options you have, and that can complicate things. So let's work through it and come up with the best decision for you.

First, you really need to figure out where to put two things: your Air TV device itself, and the antenna.

If you use an indoor antenna, make sure it can pick up a good signal. I went with an outdoor antenna because I'm far enough away from TV towers that it's really the best decision for me. If you're close enough that an indoor antenna will do the job, great. If not, it becomes a little more complicated.

Where should you put your Air TV device? Well, you really should put it close to your router. It would be better if you can connect the Air TV device to your network by Ethernet cable. If you can, and if you can place an antenna close by, then that's the way to go.

If it's hard to put an antenna near your router, you need to determine if you can run an antenna lead/cable far enough to reach, or if you have to connect your Air TV device to the network wirelessly.

You always want to use Ethernet connectivity if you can. Air TV supports wireless connectivity, but that's one additional connection that can go wrong and that would need to be checked if things don't work like you expect.

So, location of Air TV and antenna? Close to the router, if possible. If not, do the best you can and connect Air TV wirelessly.

Once you do that, you use the Sling TV app to set up the connection and the TV channels using the "Over the Air Channels" selection under Settings. Scan the channels and follow the prompts. It's really easy.

Using Air TV is easy, too. You launch the Sling TV app and the antenna channels show up with the rest of the stuff. You don't need a Sling TV subscription. It works with Sling TV free, and of course, with the subscription service. It's as if the local channels were part of Sling TV's package.

What about DVR? Well, that depends on a couple of things. Currently there are two major Air TV devices: Air TV 2 ($100) and Air TV Anywhere ($200). I went with Air TV Anywhere. The differences?

  • Air TV 2 has two tuners, while Air TV Anywhere has four.
  • Air TV 2 required a separate USB hard drive to be able to record and store DVR content, while Air TV Anywhere has a 1 TB drive built in.

That's really it. If you don't need but two tuners, and you have your own USB hard drive already, you can save money with Air TV 2.

There is another device called Air TV Mini, but that's actually a limited streaming device, not something to which you can connect an antenna. Your options are Air TV 2 and Air TV Anywhere.

How well does it work? It works okay. There are a couple of things that are an irritant. Every so often, not that often, but occasionally, the stream will buffer. This happens mostly on the hard-to-get stations. However, it also happens on DVR playback. If it was recorded that way, I'd understand, but it happens on content that was recorded without issue.

I've played content back and tested the playback when that happens. I've rewound the content and played that section of the recording again and it didn't buffer there. So, that tells me it's the playback that has issues, not the recording.

That tells me that my network isn't always running at 100% efficiency. Or maybe it's my Sling TV app. Or maybe the Air TV Anywhere device can't keep up.

And that's one of the things about streaming. You do have the occasional issue and it's not always so simple to determine the cause. A lot of people automatically assume it's one thing, when it's actually something else.

What's the problem with using Air TV? Nothing really. It works fine. It does what I bought it to do. And I stand by my recommendation.