Sunday, July 25, 2021

College football prep

Recently, there's been some major sports news with the possible (at this writing) move of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference. This is big -- heck, it's huge -- in college football, but has major implications in other sports as well.

So, I've been thinking about college sports lately. I don't watch lots of sports except during the fall, when I take time out for football. So as August and the start of the college football season approaches, I'm planning out my sports channels.

Being a fan of SEC football -- there are teams I love and teams I hate -- I'm looking for CBS, ESPN, and SEC Network. I'll need to look at the live streaming services that carry those channels. I'll even look at multiple services if it will save some money.

Looking at the schedule, the national championship game is January 10, so I'm planning to have service through January 11, just to be safe. Since subscriptions for the live streaming services are for 30 days at a time, I need to do some calculations.

Now, it's not as simple as saying, "Okay, I need to subscribe on August 11th" because the subscriptions aren't for a month, but rather 30 days. So, a subscription starting August 11 actually will need a renewal on January 8, 150 days later, in order to cover through January 11th. That means subscribing on or after August 15 means 5 months of service. Subscribing between now and the 15th means 6 months of service. I'm cheap, and I'm going with subscribing on August 15th.

Which services? Well, I have several options.

First, I have an antenna, so I can pick up the local CBS affiliate, giving me the SEC game of the week. I'm not opposed to a streaming service with CBS included, it's just that I don't need that. But you might.

Next, I want ESPN. That's where the games are. Well, most of the games. The ones I care the most about will be on ESPN or CBS. But not all.

I also want SEC Network. You may want ACC Network, PAC-12 Network, Big Ten Network, or some other sports network. That can complicate things. I'll go into how to pick your poison some day soon, but for now, I'm just giving a rough idea of what you'll need to do, just to get you to thinking about what you'll finally do come mid-August.

Right now, for ESPN with SEC Network, the best price is for Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra. That's $46. Here's the breakdown.

  • $46 - Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra.
  • $55 - Vidgo
  • $65 - Hulu + Live TV
  • $65 - YouTube TV
  • $75 - Fubo Starter with Fubo Extra
  • $92 - AT&T TV Choice

If I didn't have an antenna, and needed to stream CBS, the list would change slightly, by needing to add Paramount+ Premium to Sling TV or Vidgo. The others already include CBS locals.

  • $56 - Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra, Paramount+ Premium
  • $65 - Vidgo, Paramount+ Premium
  • $65 - Hulu + Live TV
  • $65 - YouTube TV
  • $75 - Fubo Starter with Fubo Extra
  • $92 - AT&T TV Choice

As we approach mid-August, I'll go over in detail what's necessary to watch college football in the most cost-effective manner.

Planning this far in advance may seem silly, but I want to ensure I have the best bargain for the sports I want. And, you don't have to drop everything and do this now. Just be thinking about it over the next three weeks, then, when it's time, you can start the services to make the sports fan in your Streaming Life happy.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Fixing a sluggish Chromecast

While Roku is my streaming device of choice, I do like the Chromecast with Google TV device. It's currently holding the Number Two spot in my hierarchy of streaming devices. I like the device a lot.

However, it has one little issue that helps keep it from rising to the top. The device is a little sluggish at times. That was unexpected. Here's why.

According to my online research, the Chromecast with Google TV has specs similar to a Roku Ultra. Both have an ARM Cortex-A55 processor and 2 GB RAM. For that reason, I assumed they would be similar in responsiveness. Silly me.

The Roku Ultra is a very responsive device. When I press an arrow button the response is fast. When I press the OK button, it's fast. It's like I would want and expect from a quality streaming device.

However, sometimes the Chromecast/GTV has a noticeable delay between the button press and the associated acton. Not long, but enough for me to notice. And that doesn't happen on my Roku device.

So, what's going on? Well, one difference is the operating systems. Roku uses a different OS than does the Chromecast/GTV device. That's not a criticism of Chromecast/GTV or Android, just an acknowledgement of the differences. Bottom line is the Chromecast/GTV is a little sluggish.

To resolve it, there's not a lot you can do. But you can at least restart the device.

From the main menu of the Chromecast/GTV, move to the account icon at the top left. Then, drop down to Settings. Select that.

From the left side of the menu, scroll down to System, then select that.

From the resultant menu, scroll down to Restart and select that. You'll be prompted with "Restart now?" and a Restart or Cancel option. Choose Restart and the device will restart.

You'll have to wait for it to restart. It takes several seconds for the screen to fully resolve, so be patient.

Oh, one other thing. You may want to ensure you have the latest update. Before you scroll down to Restart from the System menu, stop at About, then pick System update. That would, ideally, ensure that any bugs in the system that are contributing to any sluggishness are fixed in an update.

In fairness, it wasn't a really irritating sluggish behavior, but it was enough to be noticeable. Now, it's better.

Sometimes, restarting a device will resolve an issue. That's true for Chromecast/GTV, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, anything.

It's a running gag, but there's a lot of truth to it.

Sometimes the simplest things make your Streaming Life easier. And your regular life, too.

Friday, July 23, 2021

I don't care, but others might

In the last few days, I've seen posts and notices online about a new Olympics portal being available for Roku. According to a blog post by Roku:

We’ve partnered with NBCUniversal to bring you an all-new, immersive Olympic experience to your Roku device. Our Olympics hub makes it easy for you to access NBCU’s Olympic coverage and Olympics-related entertainment on supported Roku devices.

Only, here's the thing. Well, two things. Well, three things.

Three days now after the rollout, it's still not on my Roku devices. And, yes, I have current Roku devices. I mean it's not like I am using a Roku XDS from 2010 to stream. I have a 2021 device that I'm looking at as I type. Got all the updates. Just don't got Olympics portal.

The second thing is, I really don't care. You see, I'm a firm believer that sports and politics shouldn't mix. Hitler tried to use the Olympics to prove the superiority of the German race. That blew up in his face. In my mind, people that use Olympics for political purposes are pulling a page from Hitler. Don't be like Hitler. And, since the Olympics have themselves gone all in on politics, when the games themselves are supposed to be outside of politics, I don't give a rat's ass about the Olympics. Hitler was wrong for trying to use the Olympics for political purposes, Jimmy Carter was wrong for the 1976 U.S. boycott of the Moscow games for political purposes. The U.S.S.R. was wrong for boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1980 in retaliation. And the Olympics themselves are wrong for getting into politics. I stopped watching the Olympics years ago for that reason.

But here's the third thing. Roku doesn't know that I don't care about the Olympics. Roku should make the Olympic portal available on my devices. If the rollout didn't come to me, that means it didn't come to others, including some that do care about the Olympics. And that's unfair to those fans of the games.

When will it be resolved? I dunno. If it does appear, I'll be ticked if there's not a way to turn it off. But it should be available to all users, even uses that don't want it (as long as we can turn it off).

Roku is falling down on the job. They need to fix this. They are adversely impacting the Streaming Life of some users. And that's a bad thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

PBS and PBS Passport

Way back in the 1980s, or maybe the late 1970s, I first contributed to PBS. I think I was liking some British sitcom (Britcoms) or other. Anyway, that's when it started. I think I got some silly dollar store bling as a thank you. I don't recall. Maybe even a mug. I just don't remember.

Anyway, the point is that contributing to PBS still has some benefits, and today, they're a little better than a dollar store mug. Unless you're a pessimist, in which case you think they're extorting money from you. I'll give you the details and you decide.

PBS has streaming apps available for several devices, including the Big Four: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android/Google TV. You can watch PBS content on demand. Well, a lot of PBS content.

While a lot of content is avaiable on the PBS app, some items are marked with a little compass, indicating it's PBS Passport content.

The content that doesn't have the icon is available for watching for free. The PBS Passport content requires you to have a PBS Passport membership. How do you get one of those? Donate to PBS at a certain level.

The level for PBS Passport is $5/month or $60/year. If you donate that amount, you can log in to the PBS app and watch PBS Passport content.

I suspect most people will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Ooh, look at all the free stuff. Oh, and if I donate, I can get even more stuff. Cool!
  2. Oh look. They make you pay for the good stuff.

I'm more of the first category. But, however you fall there, the end result is the same: PBS content on your streaming device. How much is up to you.

I don't watch PBS content regularly, but when I do, I'll spend hours there. To me, it's worth the $5/month -- and I give more than that -- to get the content. I also simply like supporting PBS. No, I don't like everything PBS does. My political stance and theirs often conflict. But I do think that, overall, PBS is a good thing. So, I donate. I prefer people supported stuff, not government supported stuff, which is about as political as I'm going to get.

PBS apps, with or without PBS Passport membership, offer a lot of good content for your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Figuring the cost of cutting the cord

Here's a little bit of math that many people forget. If you have an equation, and the same value appears on each side of the equation, you can remove that value and the equation still holds. Here's an example in the form of a math problem.

You have two rooms. There are a bunch of boxes of stuff in each room. Each box of a certain color contains identical items. For instance, all blue boxes contain the same thing and weigh the same. All red boxes contain the same different item, and they all red boxes weigh the same, but not the same as the blue boxes. And so on. 

Each blue box weighs 10 pounds, each red box weighs 5 pounds, and each green box weighs 8 pounds.

In room 1, you have:

10 blue boxes.

7 red boxes.

12 green boxes.

In room 2, you have:

8 blue boxes.

7 red boxes.

12 green boxes.

What is the difference in weight between the content of the two rooms?

One way to solve this is to say that 10 blue boxes weigh 10 pounds each totaling 100 pounds, 7 red boxes weight 5 pounds each totaling 35 pounds, and 12 green boxes weigh 8 pounds each weighing 96 pounds, making room 1's total 231 pounds. In the other room, 8 blue boxes total 80 pounds, 7 red boxes totaling 35 pounds, and 12 green boxes total 96 pounds, making room 2's total 211 pounds. That makes room 1's total 20 pounds more than room 2's.

Another approach would be to see that both contain 7 red boxes, so you could take them out of the equation all together. Both sides have 12 green boxes, so they can come out of the equation. You're left with 10 blue boxes vs 8 blue boxes. That's a difference of 2 blue boxes, or 20 pounds.

Both ways get you the same answer. The first means you have to add up all the different numbers. The other way takes the parts out that are the same on both sides, leaving only a few things to add up and compare.

And that's how to figure our the cost or benefit of cord cutting. Here's how it worked for me.

Before I cut the cord, I subscribed to Amazon Prime and to Netflix. After I cut the cord, I was still subscribed to Amazon Prime and to Netflix. When I calculated the difference, I could add the totals for each, or I could leave them out of the equation and only focus on what changed. I did the latter. Fewer numbers to deal with. Think of that like the 7 red boxes in each room: the same before and after.

Before I cut the cord, I had TV and Internet service. After I cut the cord, I had only Internet service. Here's the complication: most cable companies offer discounts by having two services, and if you drop one, you lose the discount. Think of that like the blue boxes: the totals from before and after are different, just like the total of the blue boxes in the two rooms are different.

I bring this up because I've seen many Website and YouTube videos talking about how to calculate the cost of cord cutting. They'll include Netlfix or Amazon in the calculations, which is only valid if you weren't already a subscriber. If you don't do Netflix, but then cut the cord and subscribe, then yes, count it. If you were a subscriber already, don't count it. Or, if you do count it, count it as part of your current costs, too.

Those Websites and YouTubers don't always have you do that. They'll act like you've picked up an expense you already had. If you had a service before you cut the cord, and have the same service after you cut the cord, you can leave it out. If you don't, you have to include in both the before and after.

If saving money is the reason, or even a reason, that you're cutting the cord, it's good to get an accurate total of the amount of money you save, or that it costs you.

Totaling the expenses before and after can be confusing, but if you do it right, you'll know just how much you save, or what it's costing. It's good to know how much you're saving in your Streaming Life.