Sunday, September 19, 2021

Roku and data caps

I'm a Comcast/Xfinity Internet customer, and have had to deal with data caps for years. Comcast had a 1 TB limit for a while. Several months ago, they upped the limit to 1.2 TB, making things a little better.

Now, I've not exceeded my limit but one time, and that was not due to streaming. Well, not really. I had accidentally configured iTunes to download all my movies and didn't realize it, and this happened before I went out of town. So, it sat and downloaded a shipload of movies for a few days, and that put me over my 1 TB (at the time) data cap. But for actual streaming, I've never exceeded the data cap.

I have always ensured that I never turn off the TV with my Roku device streaming. It could continue to stream. Many people don't realize that, and some have a hard time understanding that. If you don't get it, keep this in mind. The TV is simply a viewer and listener for a Roku box. The Roku device is a separate device, and turning one off doesn't impact the other.

Think about connecting a DVD player to your TV. Play a DVD. Then turn off the TV. The DVD keeps playing, right? You just can't see or hear it, but the player keeps playing the DVD. It doesn't pause it. Turn the TV back on, and the DVD is not where you last saw it, because it kept playing. Same thing with a Roku device.

So, I always hit the Home button on my Roku when I was done watching it. And, when Roku introduced the Bandwidth Saver feature, I made sure it was enabled.

Go to Settings > Network > Bandwidth saver > On

That way, if there is no interaction from the remote for four hours, the Roku will put up a message at the bottom of the screen. You can dismiss it, or let it count down and end the stream, returning to the home screen.

There's one other thing you can do to help with data caps. Well, two things, actually. Many services, including some Roku apps, have settings for limiting the bandwidth. It's usually under Settings in the app --- when it's in the app -- and you can sometimes tell it how much bandwidth to use.

Some services also have settings you can access in your Web browser that let you limit bandwidth usage. Some that have profiles, have separate settings for each profile.

The other, which is related in a way, is to use the Roku itself to limit bandwidth usage. There is a "Secret Screen" that lets you set that. Roku doesn't officially support it, so use at your own risk. I'm letting you know about this, but if you choose to use this feature, and it screws something up, it's your fault. Got it? Good.

To access the Bit Rate Override screen, press HOME five times, REWIND three times, and FAST FORWARD two times.

From there, the Manual Selection will let you pick from a list of bandwidth limitations, from 12 Mbps down to 0.3 Mbps.

One other thing to know, apart from you do this at your own risk, is that not all apps will recognize and honor these settings. Some apps automatically use whatever bandwidth gets the stream started, then move up or down (usually up) to provide the best quality it can, ignoring the Roku device settings. For those, you have to go to the service or app to change the settings, as described earlier.

Oh, and one more thing you can try. You can adjust your Roku display settings. Settings > Display type 

From there, pick 1080p TV is your device is a 4K/UHD device and TV. Or, 720p, if you really want to cut back.

Or, do all of the above. That way, you'll have a greater chance of ensuring you don't go over your data caps.

I don't use the Bit Rate Override settings, because my streaming has never been such that I needed it. I have tried it, and it worked for some apps, and not for some apps. I don't use any of these tips, because my streaming habits and data caps haven't caused a problem. But, if they do, I know what to do.

If your data caps worry you, try these things to help limit your Roku data usage, and stay under your limits. You want to enjoy streaming, but you don't want to spend money you don't need to. You want the best bargain you can to make your Streaming Life enjoyable and affordable.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Upgrading Plex server

A few years ago, I moved my local video streaming from iTunes to Plex. iTunes worked well enough. It allowed me to add MP4 files, including those I ripped from DVD, to the library. The problem was it only worked with Apple TV, and I wanted a solution that worked with all my devices. So, I moved my MP4s to Plex, then ripped my iTunes downloads and moved them to Plex. I've not regretted my decision.

However, the computer I used to run iTunes and then Plex is an older Windows device. It's actually a powerful device, but has some age on it. It's nearly eight years old and is beginning to show its age. It has an Intel Core i7 fourth generation processor. I added a second hard drive, and upgraded a couple of times, now with a 10 TB drive. But, I'm ready to upgrade. So, I ordered a new device.

I ordered another Dell, but instead of an Inspiron, I got an XPS, which is a little bit of a step up. I got an i7 processor, but it's an 11th generation processor, so I'm expecting some good things from it.

What will I do with the old computer? I don't know. Maybe I'll set up Plex at one of the other places I manage. Or not. I'll figure it out.

I'm excited about the new computer. New toys are always fun. Will it make my Streaming Life easier? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'll be happy, and isn't that important too?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Hockey Streaming for 2021-2022

If all goes as planned, this will be the first time in the past three seasons that the National Hockey League will play a full schedule. Last season, the NHL scheduled a shorter season of 56 games for the 31 teams in the league. The previous year, the season was stopped after around 70 games were played (some played more, some played less) due to the pandemic. The playoffs were held without fans well after the season was normally over.

This year, the NHL is trying to get back to normal. An 82 game season is scheduled for the 32 teams -- the Seattle Kraken start play this year -- and the league has changed broadcasters. For the last ten years, NBC carried NHL games. Streamers were able to watch the playoffs on Peacock TV. But not this season.

Disney/ESPN and Turner Sports will carry NHL games starting this year as part of a seven-year agreement. ESPN+ will carry several games, as will Hulu. TNT and TBS will also carry games. The networks will alternate Stanley Cup finals, with the Disney side carrying this season, and the Turner side carrying next season's finals, and so on.

This year, that's good news for hockey fans, as streamers have more access to the Disney sports channels that are carrying NHL games. ESPN+ and Hulu are both available as standalone packages, meaning for as low as $7/month, you can watch several NHL games, plus the playoffs. Turner channels, TNT and TBS, don't currently offer standalone packages. Right now, the cheapest streaming package that includes TNT and TBS is Sling TV at $35/month. YouTube TV and Hulu+Live TV are $65/month, and DirecTV Stream is $70/month.

If you really want all of it, your best bet may be Sling TV Blue ($35) and ESPN+ ($7) for $42/month, as it would get you the NHL games on the Disney sports channels, as well as the games on Turner Sports channels.

Perhaps Turner networks will be available to sports fans for a better price in the future. Whether a standalone Turner Sports app -- I like that idea -- or a package that includes TNT and TBS programming, something with streamers in mind would be good. In the meantime, there are at least ways of including NHL games in your Streaming Life.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

I don't pay for Prime Video

I get Amazon Prime Video service, but I don't pay for Amazon Prime Video service.

No, I don't get it free. I do pay for Amazon Prime. But, I don't pay for Amazon Prime to get Prime Video.

I've been an Amazon Prime member (that's what they call it, right?) for years. In fact, since before Prime Video existed. Back then, it was for shipping benefits. We discussed it and said we'd try it for a year and see if it was worth it. It was. So, we kept the Amazon Prime membership

Later, Amazon added the video service known as Prime Video. That was a bonus, as far as we were concerned. And, quite frankly, it still is.

I don't watch a lot of Prime Video. The primary reason is the interface is all jumbled up. There's little organization or order to it. It's like when you go to Walmart and see that big bin of DVDs with some really good stuff and some really bad stuff, but it's all mixed up and you have to look through everything to find anything? Prime Video is like that.

I've watched some of the originals on Prime Video. The Expanse and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are a couple. And maybe I'll watch more. But it's so messy that I don't like using the interface.

So, I don't use Prime Video a lot, but there is some good stuff there. It's just a mess and I don't feel like dealing with it.

I don't subscribe to Prime Video. I do subscribe to Amazon Prime, and will continue to. I just with the Prime Video interface wasn't such a mess. I'd love to include it in my Streaming Life to a much greater degree.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Changing TV habits

I don't watch TV like I used to. And, yes, as a cord cutter, I'm aware that statement can have many meanings. So, which do I mean? All of them.

Having dropped cable in early 2011, and streaming most everything since them -- watching over the air antenna channels isn't really streaming -- I certainly don't watch TV like I used to. I watch it a totally different way.

But, the other meaning applies, too. I don't watch as many TV shows as I used to. I'm not sure if that's because my personal tastes in TV have changed, or if the stuff they're putting on TV these days just doesn't appeal to me.

I do watch some current shows. I'm awaiting the return of The Orville and Better Call Saul, for instance. And maybe some other shows, but those two are the first to come to mind. I'm hoping Doctor Who gets good again, but I'm starting to lose hope about that. And there are a few other shows I watch. So, I do watch current shows, but I still don't watch as many as I used to.

I still use my Roku regularly though. I find that I watch a lot of YouTube videos. Bad movie reviews -- Dark Corners, Cinematic Excrement, etc. -- are a favorite. There are a lot of other things too, such as science videos, history videos -- I love The History Guy -- and more.

The commercials on YouTube are getting more and more annoying. And, that's someone who normally doesn't mind about commercials saying this. But still, I've enjoyed watching YouTube.

So, I don't watch TV like I used to. But I watch TV like I want to. That's what streaming does for me. I didn't cut the cord for this reason, but rather to save money. I'm saving money, but my viewing habits are changing, and they're changing to suit me. My Streaming Life is good.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Sports frustration

In the 10+ years that I've been streaming as my primary method of watching TV, there have been little frustrations along the way. The biggest frustration for me has been accessing sports.

Now, I know, for college football it's not that difficult to watch a game. But, if I want the ability to watch every game that's available, I have to pony up a bit of money each month. I looked it things regarding watching last week's games, and the total to get access was at least $87/month. That seems like a lot.

You see, I don't want access to a bunch of live streaming channels. Hulu is $6/month and gets me the regular TV shows I want. No, not live, but I don't care. A few hours later, just like as if I recorded it with a DVR, gets me what I want. I don't need the channels from a $25/month Philo package, which does not include sports. For me, the content from the free TV services -- Pluto TV, IMDB TV, The Roku Channel, Stirr, Crackle, Tubi, Xumo, among others -- get me what I want. Maybe not the same channels, but the same kind of content. Throw in my over the air antenna, and I can watch what I want.

Except for sports, and that generally means college football.

ESPN does not have a standalone sports service. No, ESPN+ doesn't count, because it's a supplement to ESPN, not a replacement for the service. Standard ESPN content is not included with an ESPN+ subscription.

Then there is CBS Sports Network, and the other conference networks, to deal with, and the cheapest way to get them are through a large live streaming service.

You remember the days when you had cable? Of today, if you still have cable? You have a lot of channels, and you only watch a few. That's me with streaming. If I pay for a live streaming service to get a handful of sports channels, I'm doing the same thing. I don't want or need the rest of those channels, because the free ad-supported or over the air content gets me what I want.

I do so wish there was a way of getting just the sports services I want. The closest is Fubo, which is a live streaming service. I may end up switching from Sling TV to Fubo because of this. But if the sports channels were available standalone, that would make my Streaming Life so much easier.

Monday, September 13, 2021

To get a new streaming device, or not?

Recently, Amazon announced the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max. That's supposed to be an upgrade to the high end stick.

Also recently, there was speculation that Roku was about to release new devices. There has been no official announcement, but the September/October time frame is when Roku normally releases upgraded devices.

I'm waiting to see about Roku, and not relying on speculation when it comes to getting a new Roku device. My gut tells me I won't, but I'm waiting to see what actually happens.

What about the new Amazon device? If I need to get a new Amazon device, I expect I'll get one of those. But just to get one? No. Just like Roku, I need to see a compelling reason to get one.

That doesn't mean I won't get one. I might. I always like to have the latest and greatest device, but I won't just to say I have one. There needs to be something about the device that grabs my attention.

Right now, I'm happy with the devices I have. My current Roku device works great. The Fire TV Stick 4K (not the brand new one, but the one that was the latest before the "Max" version) is good. The Chromecast with Google TV is good. The Apple TV is good. The others? TiVo Stream, Onn Stick and Box, and whatever else I have? They're in the box. And they'll stay there.

I'll keep those top devices ready for use. But I am excited about new devices that are coming out -- yes, only the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is official, and the Roku is just speculation -- so I may be upgrading. I'll make a decision like that ... later. My Streaming Life is good right now, and I'm not looking to make any changes. But I might.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Cutting back even more

The primary reason I cut the cord back in 2011 was to save money. As the years have gone by, there are now more and more options for watching streaming content. And while there are a lot of free options, there are a lot of subscription services that have come along.

I've tried many over the years. The first was Hulu Plus, now simply known as Hulu. I have been an Amazon Prime subscriber for years, before they offered Prime Video, so when that came along, I already had it. Then, Sling TV came along. Then more and more services.

Free trials for extended periods of time for Apple TV+, Disney+, and more added to the list of services. You may have experienced the same thing. You look around one day, and you have more subscriptions than you realized.

So, I recently cut back, mostly because I wasn't watching the content. Oh, and one for a reason I talked about recently.

I've canceled Hulu, since none of the shows I watch are on right now. I'll subscribe later when the shows return.

I've canceled Apple TV+. I had an extended free trial, but that's over now, and there's not enough to keep my attention. I don't watch it, though I did enjoy some shows. I'll probably subscribe later, binge, and then cancel again.

I canceled Netflix years ago. I subscribed again to watch new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but canceled when I was done. Which was one of the first apps/services where I canceled, and resubscribed temporarily to watch something specific.

I recently dropped Frndly.Tv. I haven't been watching it lately, so I dropped it. It is the one live streaming service I've kept, but if I'm not watching it, I'm wasting money.

I have used Paramount+ during football season in the past. It was known as CBS All Access back then. I subscribed recently to watch some shows, but I finished and canceled. I have an antenna with DVR, so watching college football doesn't require CBS through Paramount+.

I kept Peacock TV, even though I rarely watch it. It's free, since I'm an Xfinity Internet user, but if I wasn't, I would have canceled.

And I canceled Sling TV. Yes, I just recently subscribed, in order to watch college football. But, I'm not sure I picked the right service, as I said the other day. When the subscription ends, I'll decide what service to use for the following 30 days.

The only subscription I currently have are Amazon Prime, which included Prime Video. All the rest have been canceled, with one continuing until the end of the current subscription. I'll probably keep Amazon Prime, for the Prime benefits. The Prime Video library is simply something that is included.

Oh, and I do have PBS Passport. I support PBS, and that allows me to have PBS Passport. I'm keeping that, as I will continue to support PBS.

You may want to consider if you're really using all the apps and services to which you're subscribed. If not, you may want to do as I did and cancel any you aren't really using. You can always resubscribe when enough content you want is available on the app/service, then cancel when you're done.

It's a way to save money, and knowing that helps my enjoy my Streaming Life even more.

Friday, September 10, 2021

NFL season

A few weeks ago, I wrote about watching NFL games this season. But, some stuff has changed. Not much, but one change that impacts about half the country.

Locast shut down. That was a way that many users -- around half the U.S. -- could watch local channels via a streaming device. That's no longer possible. So, what to do?

Let's start by reviewing the ways the games are available.

  • CBS carries AFC games on Sunday afternoon.
  • Fox carries NFC games on Sunday afternoon.
  • NBC carries games on Sunday night.
  • ESPN carries Monday Night games.
  • NFL Network carries some Thursday night games.

There are other services that carry games, but those are generally limited to mobile devices, not standard streaming devices.

CBS, Fox, and NBC are available from local network affiliates. With Locast gone, you have two options:

  1. A TV antenna, which would be the cheapest way over the long run.
  2. A live streaming service that include local channels. Those are
    • Hulu+Live TV
    • YouTube TV
    • Fubo TV
    • DirecTV Stream

CBS is also available as part of Paramount+.

NBC games are available on Peacock TV Premium. That's $5/month, free for Xfinity Internet subscribers.

ESPN requires a live streaming service. That means:

  • Sling TV Orange
  • Hulu+Live TV
  • YouTube TV
  • Fubo TV
  • DirecTV Stream

Note that Sling TV doesn't include live local TV, but the others do. An antenna makes Sling TV more feasible.

So, are you ready for some football? Oh, yeah, college football is already underway.

Are you ready for some pro football? Oh, right. CFL is well underway.

Are you ready for some NFL football? If so, well, the season started last night. Get ready to include that in your Streaming Life, if the NFL is your thing.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Sometimes it's okay to keep cable

Yes, I'm a proponent of cutting the cord. Make no mistake about that. But, the reality is that sometimes it may be okay to keep cable.

Can you keep cable and still be a cord cutter? Yes. And no.

If you have cable TV service, you really aren't a cord cutter, are you? No, you're not. But, what if you think about it like going to the barber, or hair salon. Sometimes you get a trim, right? Well, if you cut back on your cable TV package, that's like a trim.

So, no, cutting back on cable TV service isn't cutting the cord, but it is trimming it, which may be what you need to do. Let me give you an example.

I manage more than household when it comes to Internet, TV, and the like. And one in particular is located where it's nearly impossible to put up a TV antenna. This house is located far from the major TV affiliates, so an indoor antenna won't work. So, what are the options in that case?

Well, there's do without local channels. I didn't like that option at this one location.

There's subscribe to a live streaming service. Right now, that means a $65/month service. When I first set up that location for streaming, it was less, but still more than I wanted. I wanted local channels year-round, and certain other channels during certain times of the year (ESPN during the fall). This was a solution, but an expensive one.

Then there's that other option: keeping cable, sort of. This is the one I chose.

The TV provider was Comcast/Xfinity, and I had to ask about a local channels only package. They didn't advertise one, so I had to hunt for it. And, I found it.

The local channels package was pretty cheap, at around $10/month. It was actually more, but having it and Internet service meant qualifying for a two service discount. Figured in, it worked out to $10/month. But, of course, there was a catch. Fees. All kind of silly little fees.

There was a broadcast fee that goes to the local stations, or so it indicated. And, I don't recall all the details, but there were other fees. So, it worked out to more than $10/month, but still less than a live streaming service.

So, if you are in a situation where an antenna isn't feasible, if your ISP is also the local cable company, you may find that getting a locals only TV package will get you what you need, and cheaper than a live streaming service.

It's not ideal, but sometimes a compromise like that is the best option in your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Hulu price increase

Last night, I got a surprise. I saw that Hulu was increasing their price. "Hmm," I said. Not out loud. And if I had, no one would have heard it. I was by myself when I saw the notice.

I had logged in to Hulu, because I've notice I've not watched Hulu for a bit. Nothing new has aired that I really felt like watching. So, I wondered if I should pause my Hulu subscription and resume it when a show I want starts up again. And when I logged in, I saw the notice.

Am I upset about it? No. I wish the price wasn't going up, but I've been with Hulu for a long time, and I remember when it was more. It actually went down in price a couple of years back, or so. That surprised and delighted me when it happened. And while I'm not all that happy with a new price increase, it's okay, and Hulu is still a good deal.

So, yeah, I'm okay with it. Like I said, I've been a Hulu subscriber for year, and will likely be one for years to come, assuming I don't get hit by a bus or something. Hulu is a great deal, in my mind, and even with the price increase, it'll still be a great deal.

Hulu has been a part of my Streaming Life for years, and will continue to be for years to come.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Did I pick the wrong live streaming service?

Now that football season is underway, I subscribed to Sling TV with the Sports Extra. But now I'm wondering if I did the right thing.

I watched a lot of football this weekend. And, like my calculations showed, Sling TV Orange with Sports Extra, along with ESPN+, got me all the content I wanted to watch. That is to say, everything I tried to watch, I was successful.

Well, not exactly. I accidentally clicked on the wrong game in the ESPN app once when switching between games. One gave me an error, stating I wasn't authorized to watch it. I don't recall which game it was, but it wasn't one I cared to watch, as my clicking on it was an error. So, it's true that everything I wanted to watch, I was able to watch. But will that always be the case? Maybe not.

During my research into a post I wrote about watching the games this past weekend, I concluded that to watch everything, Fubo Elite ($80/month) and ESPN+ ($7/month) would allow someone to watch any nationally broadcast game.

Why didn't I go with that package? Well, looking over the games I thought I'd like to watch, Sling Orange with Sports Extra ($46) and ESPN+ ($7) got me what I wanted for $53. And $53 is less than $87.

So, why am I second-guessing myself? The easy answer is, that's what I do. I always check, double check, then after the fact, check again. This is that part of the process. I'm checking again.

For this past weekend, Sling Orange with Sports Extra and ESPN+ got me every game I tried to watch. But will that be the case for next weekend? I don't know.

I've looked at the schedule for next weekend, and a couple of games that I'm interested in, enough to watch at least part of the game, don't show a network, meaning it either isn't available streaming, or the network hasn't been finalized.

I'm hoping it's the latter, and when it's finalized, I'll be able to watch with the services I've chosen. If not, well, I'll either do without those games this weekend, or I'll subscribe to a different service. Yes, that would mean paying for two services for a period of time. And I don't like the thought of that.

My Streaming Life is complicated, and it's of my own doing.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Local news via streaming

Cutting off cable service meant -- and still means -- losing local channels. And that means no local news. Unless...

If you have a TV antenna, you can watch TV that way. Just hook it up to your TV and watch. It's that simple.

Now, if you have multiple TVs, and want to watch local channels via antenna on more than just one TV, then you have a couple of options. One is to run antenna leads to the TVs you want. Another is to use a networking device that has a TV tuner, such as (for all major platforms) Tablo, Air TV, or (for Fire TV only) Fire TV Recast. Then, you just use your Roku, Apple TV, Google/Android TV, or Fire TV to watch local channels from your antenna.

If a TV antenna isn't possible, or isn't feasible, then you'll want to find a streaming solution. One is a live streaming service such as Hulu+Live TV ($65/month), YouTube TV ($65/month), Fubo ($65), and DirecTV Stream ($70/month), which carry all four major network stations,:ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Vidgo ($55/month) carries local ABC, and Paramount+ ($10/month) carries local CBS.

All of those services get you more than just local TV, so you may find one a better selection than another.

For CBS, you do have the $10/month plan from Paramount+, which skips commercials from on-demand content, as well as getting you a live feed of your local CBS station.

For ABC, Fox, and NBC, you have to subscribe to a more expensive live streaming service. ABC can be viewed with Vidgo ($55/month), while ABC, Fox, and NBC can be viewed with Hulu+Live TV ($65), YouTube TV ($65), Fubo ($65), and DirecTV Stream ($70).

If it's just local news you want, there are some free options that might work for you.

NewsON carries clips from local news stations. It will try to automatically detect your location and present you with options from where it thinks you are. It will let you edit that, so if it gets it wrong, you'll still be okay.

Haystack News is another option for local news clips. I found that it didn't have as many local options for me as NewsON, but it still offered local content. The app also has many news categories apart from local news, if you are interested in that.

Local Now is more focused on local weather, but does have some local news mixed in. Local Now also has some on-demand ad-supported movies and TV, giving it a distinct difference from the other apps mentioned.

And, finally, you may find that your local news station has an app. Search your device for the specific local station, or look at the local station's Website and see if an app is listed there.

If you've been missing local news and weather from your Streaming Life, you have options. Perhaps one will fill the bill for you.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

New Roku? So what?

There has been speculation that Roku is about to introduce new devices to their lineup. Roku has most of their streaming players on sale -- all except the Roku Express and the Streambar Pro -- and it's September.

Roku has traditionally released new devices in September or October. In fact, except for 2014, they've release at least one new device in September or October of each year beginning in 2012. So, with almost their entire lineup on sale from $10 to $30 off, speculation is that new devices will be released.

Do I care? Well, not really. Not yet anyway.

Lately, Roku has updated devices with newer processors and more memory and storage, but nothing has been a big enough of an update to warrant my upgrading my devices.

In the past, I would upgrade, because there was often a noticeable improvement in performance or features. The first time I skipped an upgrade was in 2015, when the Roku 4 was released. I saw early reports of issues with the device, and decided to wait on that one. The issues continued to be reported, and I never got one of those. 

Oh, and while there was no September/October 2014 update, there was a new Stick released in March 2014. I got one of those. I wasn't impressed. That disappointment with the responsiveness of the model 3500 Stick may be part of the reason I waited on the Roku 4. The reviews were the reason I didn't just wait, but never bought one.

But, about this year. I can't speak as to what may be coming down the pike. I don't know. If I was participating in a hardware beta release program, I'd know, but I'd keep my mouth shut. In fact, I wouldn't even be writing this post. Which tell you that I have no knowledge about upcoming devices. I'm as in the dark as anyone.

So, what do I think will happen? I expect all of the items on sale will be impacted. They'll either be dropped entirely or upgraded. That's a shocker, right? In other words, the same thing that happens every year.

Even though I'm a huge fan of Roku, I'm not going to automatically run out and get a new device just because there is a new device. But, I am expecting new devices to be released, and I will be looking at the reviews of them, deciding if I want to replace any of my current lineup.

If I find something intriguing about a new device, then sure, I'll get one. But if not, I'll stick with what I have. After all, my current lineup of devices supports my Streaming Life just fine.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Ad-supported TV

I'm a fan of free TV. Whether that means over the air (OTA) channels you watch via an antenna, or streaming services such as Pluto TV or others, I like the fact that I can watch TV without paying a monthly fee to a cable or satellite service.

This is how I used to watch TV when I was younger. It was how everyone watched TV back then. When I was young, there was no cable TV service, at least, not in my area. There was cable in the U.S. as far back as the late 1940s, but cable didn't really catch on big until the 1970s. That's how Ted Turner made his fame, when he made his Atlanta TV station WTCG (later, WTBS) and his baseball team (the Atlanta Braves) available to cable systems across the country.

Cable became a big deal, and many people switched to cable because of the extra programming available that wasn't available from the local stations via antenna. Of course, you went from watching free TV with commercials to paying for TV and still getting commercials.

I won't go into all the history of cable and changes in TV over the years, but as more and more people are cutting free of cable and satellite services, many are putting antennae up to watch local stations. It only took 50+ years, but some of us are back where we were five decades ago. We're getting TV for free, and still getting commercials.

Streaming services such as Pluto TV (along with many others) offer live streaming television that includes ads. Just like with an antenna.

Many services, including Vudu, Crackle, Plex, IMDB TV, The Roku Channel, and many many more offer on-demand movies and TV with ads.

This is a good thing. Some people hate commercials, and I get that. I have a super power. I can ignore stuff I don't like. But you know what? Some commercials are actually helpful. I may find something advertised that I actually care about. And, if it's something I don't care about, I'm cable of ignoring it. Comes from being an adult.

Watching commercials doesn't bother me. Watching TV for free is something I like. Sure, if I have to pay for a service to watch something specific, I'll do that if I want to watch it bad enough. But most stuff I want to watch, I can find, or find something comparable, on a free TV service. That's why these free TV services are, and will continue to be, part of my Streaming Life.

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Locast ruling

I'm not in an area served by Locast. Well, actually, nobody is anymore. But Locast was offering service to around 55% of the people in the United States. The service ran in 35 markets, including the 22 largest in the U.S. But that was before a court ruling earlier this week that effectively shut the system down.

So, I'm not impacted, but maybe you are. And, if you are, what do you do to get local channels? Well, you gotta do the same thing the rest of us do.

I use an antenna. Now, since I'm some distance from the major four network affiliates, I had to spend more than most on a large antenna, and have a decent antenna pole, but not a tower. I may add a tower later, but for now, I'm good. It works.

But what if you're in a situation where an antenna isn't feasible for you? If you're waning live local channels, you gotta subscribe to a service that carries it.

For CBS, you do have the $10/month plan from Paramount+, which skips commercials from on-demand content, as well as getting you a live feed of your local CBS station.

For ABC, Fox, and NBC, you have to subscribe to a more expensive live streaming service. ABC can be viewed with Vidgo ($55/month), while ABC, Fox, and NBC can be viewed with Hulu+Live TV ($65), YouTube TV ($65), Fubo ($65), and DirecTV Stream ($70).

If you're looking for content from the networks but don't need to watch live, then Hulu carries many of the TV episodes from ABC, Fox, and NBC within hours of the live broadcast. CBS shows, as mentioned, can be viewed with Paramount+.

If you go the antenna route, as I did, you can add local channels to all your streaming devices with Tablo or Air TV, as they work with all the major streaming platforms: Roku, Google/Android TV, Apple TV, and Fire TV. You can also use Fire TV Recast if you have Fire TV devices.

The shutdown of Locast doesn't impact me. I was hoping they were staying within the law with their actions, but if the judge's ruling is correct, they weren't. That's a shame. I would like to see a quality legal means of watching live local TV via streaming devices, without having to put up an antenna. Until that day comes, we'll have to make the best of thing with the current options for including local TV in our Streaming Life.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Watching college football, 2nd weekend

I've posted a couple of times recently about watching college football, including my choice for a streaming service to get me the services I want, plus what I'd need to do if I wanted to watch all of the games from last weekend's opening of the season.

As you may know, there are a lot more options for watching football -- insofar as services are concerned -- and it's not all that easy to watch everything you want. But, it is possible. And, since there are a lot more games this weekend, more sports channels are necessary.

Here are the different services you'll need to watch the games this weekend. Note that this is for national broadcasts, not small regional sports networks. Always check your favorite team's Website or other information, regarding where it might air.

ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN3

The self-proclaimed world wide leader in sports is actually the service/channel that carries the most games. Well, kind of. Many of the big games will be on ESPN during the season. If you're going to watch a lot of college football, you'll need ESPN. I've included ESPN2 in this, but there is only one game on ESPN2 this weekend. Note that all services that include ESPN also include ESPN2. They are essentially a package deal. You get one, you get the other.

ESPN3 is an odd duck. You may have it for no additional cost, or you may have to subscribe to a service to get it. This weekend, there are FBS/1-A, FCS/1-AA, and Division II games (including a game with an NAIA team).

With ESPN & ESPN2, you'll get access to FBS/1-A and FCS/1-AA games this weekend. So, how do you get ESPN & ESPN2? Through one of these live streaming services:

  • Sling Orange ($35)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70)

Getting one of those also gets you ESPN3, but your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may also get you ESPN3 without needing an ESPN subscription. Not all ISPs are that way, but some are. And, since there are so many ISPs, it would be a near impossible task to list them all. Well, I'm not even going to try. To find out if you can get ESPN3 without an ESPN subscription, meaning your ISP get you the service, the way to find out is to try. If you get it, great. If not, you know what you need to do.

ESPNU/ESPNews

ESPNU carries several games this weekend, including FBS/1-A games, involving both Power 5 and G5 conferences. There are no FCS/1-AA games, but there is a Division II game. ESPNews caries few games. None are scheduled this weekend, but depending on how games go, particularly involving overtime games, some may be shifted to ESPNews at the last minute. I'm including the two services together since every service that carries ESPNU also carries ESPNews. To watch ESPNU or ESPNews, its almost the same as ESPN, except for Sling TV, which includes ESPNU and ESPNews in an add-on package, and DirecTV Stream, which requires a larger package:

  • Sling Orange with Sports Extra ($46)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream Choice ($85)

ESPN+

ESPN+ is a standalone service that is designed as a supplement to ESPN. You don't need to subscribe to ESPN in order to subscribe to ESPN+.

One thing that some people still don't get after all this time is that ESPN+ does not include ESPN. It's not the same thing. Subscribing to ESPN+ does not get you ESPN, or any other ESPN service. Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that the ESPN app is used to access all ESPN content, but it only lets you watch the content to which you are subscribed. How do you get ESPN+? Easy:

  • Standalone subscription ($7)

Fox

Some games are available from your local Fox affiliate. If you have an antenna, you're covered. If not, and you decide to go with a streaming service, you have some options:

  • Antenna (free)
  • Sling Orange, select markets only ($35)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($70)

ABC

Some games are available from your local Fox affiliate. If you have an antenna, you're covered. If not, and you decide to go with a streaming service, you have some options, including more than Fox:

  • Antenna (free)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($70)

Fox Sports 1 (FS1)

Fox Sports 1, also known as FS1, carries a number of games, all involving FBS/1-A teams. Some of the teams playing this weekend will be FCS/1-AA teams, but they're playing FBS/1-A teams. I'm listing two Sling TV packages, since many of the teams carried by FS1 will be carried by ESPN channels later in the season. If you only care about FS1, the smaller Sling TV package is the one to consider.

  • Sling Blue with Sports Extra ($46)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Sling Orange+Blue with Sports Extra ($65)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)

SEC Network

This could have been included with ESPNU and ESPNews, as the same services apply. However, as this is one of the major conference networks, I'm listing it separately.

  • Sling Orange with Sports Extra ($46)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream Choice ($85)

ACC Network

Like the SEC Network, the ACC Network is included with the same package as ESPNU and ESPNews. And, like the SEC Network, I'm listing the ACC Network separately because it's a major conference network.

  • Sling Orange with Sports Extra ($46)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream Choice ($85)

Big Ten Network

I was surprised to find that not all of the major live streaming services carry the Big Ten Network. Specifically, DirecTV Stream doesn't offer it in any package. I'm listing two different packages of Sling TV, but the larger package is only needed if you want ESPN channel services as well. Many Big Ten teams will play on ESPN, so listing both packages seems the thing to do.

  • Sling Blue with Sports Extra ($46)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Sling Orange+Blue with Sports Extra ($65)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)

Pac-12 Network

The Pac-12 Network is available on some of the live streaming services. This channel carries many Pac-12 games that are not on one of the major broadcast networks or on a major sports service such as ESPN or FS1.

  • Sling Blue with Sports Extra ($46)
  • Vidgo ($55)
  • Fubo Elite ($80)

CBS Sports Network

  • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
  • YouTube TV ($65)
  • Fubo ($65)
  • DirecTV Stream Ultimate ($95)

The Kitchen Sink

If you want to be able to watch everything, there are some ways to do that. The simplest and cheapest way to watch everything is Fubo Elite ($80/month) and ESPN+ ($7/month). There are other ways to combine services and get it all, but the $87 for Fubo and ESPN+ gets you everything.

That actually surprised me. I thought it would require several services, but it turns out that if you want to watch college football, Fubo is the one live streaming service that gets you the most big games. Adding ESPN+ gets you everything. Well, everything that's available streaming.

There may be a cheaper way to get what you want, depending on what games you want. But if you want everything, this is the way to go. If college football is a part of your Streaming Life, Fubo may need to be as well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Apple TV Siri Remote

I have the new Apple TV 4K device. I use to use Apple TV all the time. It was my go-to streaming device.

I've been a fan of Roku since I bought my first one in 2010. I bought an Apple TV device for the first time in 2010 also, just days after purchasing a Roku device. Back then, there was stuff one did that the other didn't. That's still true to a small degree, but today, essentially, they do the same thing.

Back then, Apple TV was intended to play music through the sound system that was connected to the TV. Since all the music was in iTunes, that was the easiest way to play that content through that system. It worked well. And, though I normally used Roku for streaming, I would use the Apple TV device -- a second generation Apple TV -- to stream on occasion.

Apple TV took over when I began using iTunes and Apple TV for playing local content. I ripped my DVDs into iTunes to go along with iTunes purchases that I downloaded, and iTunes was the server that, well, served them up.

What frustrated me the most about Apple TV was the remote. The touch remote was frustrating. I could use it, I just really didn't like using it. Eventually, Roku went from sharing time with the Apple TV to taking over completely from the Apple TV, solely due to the remote.

The new Apple TV 4K comes with the new Siri remote, which is a hybrid of sorts. It still has some touch capability, but the button pad works a lot like the older silver Apple TV remote, which I liked. The remote is, in my mind, a huge improvement, getting back to an easier to use remote, but still offering some touch capabilities for that that want such a thing. I don't.

There is still some frustration to be had with the touch capabilities. I never want to use them, but it is easy to accidentally activate the functionality. So, it's not perfect, but it is an improvement.

By the way, when I went to set up the new Apple TV, it wouldn't let me use my iPhone to speed up the process. That's the first time I couldn't use my iPhone to set up an Apple TV. I have no idea why, but a manual setup isn't that difficult, so it wasn't a deal breaker for me. It was frustrating, though.

Apple TV won't replace Roku as my go-to device, but the new Siri remote makes it a device that I will use on occasion. I like having it back into my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Switching networks

I saw online that the NBC show Manifest is being picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final season. The show ended its first season in the top ten, with over 12 million viewers on average. Manifest has steadily dropped in the rating since then, finishing the most recent season in 54th place, averaging 5.34 million viewers. It was canceled by NBC in June 2021 after the conclusion of season three, but now it has new life.

This is simply the latest of a large number of TV shows that have switched networks over the years. The first one I remember doing this was Get Smart, which began on NBC, but switched to CBS for its fifth and what turned out to be final season.

I don't remember The Joey Bishop Show changing networks in the early 1960s, but it did. I never watched the show, so it didn't register. Leave it to Beaver had switched from CBS to ABC, but I only ever saw the CBS episodes first run. My Three Sons went from ABC to CBS when it went from black and white to color episodes. Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour -- many years before American Idol, America's Got Talent, and other shows like that -- jumped networks several times between 1948 and 1970, airing on Dumont, NBC, ABC, NBC (again), ABC (again), and finally CBS. Wagon Train ran on NBC from 1958-1962, when it jumped to ABC until it ended in 1965.

More recently, Matlock jumped from NBC to ABC over its time on the air. Mystery Science Theater 3000 switched from Comedy Central (formerly The Comedy Channel) to Sci-Fi (now SyFy), before being revived on Netflix. JAG began on NBC, then spent a decade on CBS. Taxi aired on ABC until its final season on NBC.

Many many other shows have switched networks over the years, some successfully, some not. Manifest is simply one of the latest. I watched and enjoyed the first season, but was extremely disappointed from the second season on. I don't know if the final season will be any good. I enjoyed the revival of MST3K, so moving to Netflix isn't a bad thing. Whether or not Manifest will be any good, I don't know.

I'm happy that fans of shows that are canceled have options. And, with streaming services such as Netflix now in the mix, more have that opportunity. Fans of Manifest will look forward to another season of the show in their Streaming Life. And that means possibilities for us all.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Fire TV Recast

credit: panbo.com

I've used a few different DVR systems over the years. I've used TiVo (cable and OTA), Simple.TV (cable), Tablo (OTA), and Air TV (OTA). I can now add Fire TV Recast to the list.

I've talked about all of these before, and my DVR of choice lately has been Tablo, followed by Air TV. But what about Fire TV Recast? Well, it's a good system, too. It has one drawback.

First, the cost of the Fire TV Recast system is not bad. It costs about the same as the high end Tablo or Air TV devices. And it's comparable to them.

Setup of Fire TV Recast is similar to that of Tablo or Air TV. You use the mobile app to set it up and scan your antenna channels, and then it just kinda works.

But here's where the limitation kicks in. Fire TV Recast is only for Fire TV devices. It won't work with Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, or any other smart TV system that isn't Fire TV. If you're all in with Amazon, and intend to stay that way, it works rather well. Otherwise, it's a waste of money, as there are other good options that work with the other platforms as well as with Fire TV, including Tablo and Air TV.

Let's say that Fire TV is your platform of choice. If so, once you set up Fire TV, the content just shows up on the main Fire TV page, under Live. There is the last channel you watch, displaying what's currently showing on that channel, as well as the Fire TV Recast program guide, called simply "Guide." Other live streaming channels you watched will show there too, but those two Fire TV Recast items will be in the mix, led by Guide.

The Guide itself is easy to use. It's a standard programming guide like all the DVRs and most cable systems have. You can see what's on, what's coming up, and record content if you wish. You can mange the channels, if you want to hide some.

Recording a show is easy, although I had to search to find the recordings. I found them under Library. That makes sense, but I would have liked to have seen a DVR listing under Live TV. However, since some apps and service include DVR functionality, I could see some people getting a crazy about their Sling TV or YouTube TV recordings not showing there. I won't argue with Amazon's decision to put the Fire TV Recast recordings under Library. Once I figured out where to find it, it wasn't really a problem.

All in all, it's a good DVR. The only issue I have is that it only works with Fire TV. To me, that's a killer insofar as it being my DVR of choice. But, if you are all in with Fire TV, it's a good option that integrates well with that system. It won't be the go-to DVR in my Streaming Life, but if you decide to make it yours, it's a good choice.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Roku Channel

I've seen many sing the praises of The Roku Channel since the service first launched in 2017. I've not really bought into it, because nothing stood out to cause me to want to give it a try. Well, recently, I decided I would give it a try.

Well, I've given it a try. And I'll use it some, certainly more than I did, but I won't use it a lot.

The Roku Channel offers live streaming TV, which I can get from other sources. It also offers on-demand movies and TV shows for free (ad supported), which I can get from other sources. It also allows me to subscribe to premium services, which I do directly, because I hate Roku Pay. So, the three big features are all features I can get elsewhere.

Is that a reason to not use the service? No, actually. There are many different apps and services that offer similar content and features as other apps and services. Bringing nothing new to the table isn't a disqualifier in and of itself.  No, what does it for me is how it works; that is, the user experience.

I have a problem with autoplay content. The Roku Channel doesn't do it to the degree that Peacock TV does, but if there is a TV series, it automatically plays the next episode unless I manually intervene. There's no way to turn off Autoplay, or Play Next. I never want Play Next or Autoplay turn on. Never. So, forcing it on me is not a user friendly experience. And if the experience is not user friendly, I won't subject myself to it.

As I said, it's not as bad as other apps/services, such as Peacock TV. But, it does the Play Next thing, and that's a deal breaker for me.

If it offered the capability to turn that off, I would use the app/service more. Really. There is some good content on The Roku Channel, and I will use it on occasion, but not for TV shows. Live streaming? Sure. On-demand movies? Sure. TV Shows? No way, because I don't want Play Next.

Do I recommend The Roku Channel? Well, no I'm not going to recommend something that I don't like. But, I will say that if Play Next doesn't bother you, then there's no downside to The Roku Channel. It won't be a large part of my Streaming Life, but it will be a small part. So there's that.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

College football season underway

The 2021 college football season starts this afternoon. I've already planned my streaming service to use for the teams I follow, but not everyone follows the same teams I follow. And, I may decide I want to watch other games. Saving money was the primary reason I dropped cable and started streaming, but I've also come to appreciate the flexibility I get from streaming. So, if I decide I want to watch something else, I want to be able to do that.

My teams aren't playing this weekend, but maybe your team is. Or maybe you just want to watch a game that's interesting. So, what do you do?

Looking at the schedule for today's games, there are a few things that I'd need to do if I wanted to watch everything -- or be able to watch everything.

There are four major divisions of college football: FBS (Division 1-A), FCS (Division 1-AA), Division II, Division III.

Division II/III

Let's get Division II and Division III out of the way first. This weekend, no games are scheduled for broadcast in those division. There are no Division III games, and only one Division II game, and it's not being broadcast.

FCS/1-AA

To watch all the FCS/1-AA games, you'll need ESPN, ESPN+, and CBS Sports Network.

ESPN+ is a $7 standalone service. Some people still think it includes the ESPN service. It does not. ESPN+ is an service that is best used as a supplement to ESPN, but you do not need to subscribe to ESPN in order to subscribe to ESPN+. It's totally separate. But, again, ESPN+ does not include standard ESPN service.

FBS/1-A

If you want to watch FBS/1-A games this weekend, you'll need ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and Fox. Some streaming services include Fox, but not all. If you have an antenna, you can subscribe to one of the cheaper services.

The Streaming Services

To watch games this weekend, you'll need some of these:

  • ESPN
    • Sling Orange ($35)
    • Vidgo ($55)
    • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
    • YouTube TV ($65)
    • Fubo ($65)
    • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($76)
  • ESPN+
    • Standalone subscription ($7)
  • CBS Sports
    • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
    • YouTube TV ($65)
    • Fubo ($65)
    • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($76)
  • Fox
    • Antenna (free)
    • Hulu+Live TV ($65)
    • YouTube TV ($65)
    • Fubo ($65)
    • DirecTV Stream, formerly AT&T TV ($76)

So, depending on what you want to watch, those are ways to watch college football this weekend. I'm ready for my games. Are you ready for yours? If not, get to planning, so your Streaming Life isn't missing the games you want to watch.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Getting ready for some football

As a fan of college football, every year at this time I'm excited about the upcoming season. Now, I've not had my team win a national championship in several years. Either team. Yes, I've got a couple of teams I follow.

About an hour away is a Division 1-A/FBS school that used to be a Division 1-AA/FCS powerhouse, winning six national championships. They made the jump to FBS/1-A several years ago, but I've remained a follower of the team. Then, of course, there's the other team that I follow that has been a 1-A/FBS power for many many years, but while they've won their conference several times, they haven't won a national championship but once in my lifetime.

So, despite the odds that I won't be one of those strutting around bragging about how "my team" -- either one of them -- won the national championship, I'm still excited to watch the teams play. And that's something that was hard to do in the early days of cord cutting.

Sling TV launched in 2015, the first live streaming service for cord cutters. That was a welcome service, as the 2011-2014 seasons were pretty much unavailable to me as a cord cutter, apart from what I could watch via antenna.

As the season approaches, I'm ready to subscribe to Sling TV in order to watch college football. Sling isn't the only option I have, but its the best priced option for me. You may choose another service, depending on what you want to watch.

I'm interested in SEC and Sun Belt football. That means I'm wanting ESPN and SEC Network, with some ESPN+ thrown in some time during the season. With Sling TV, the SEC Network is part of an $11 add-on service. I'll subscribe to that when I'm ready to watch something on SEC Network. If I go the season without it, great. But I'll probably want it somewhere along the way.

Same thing with ESPN+. If there's something airing there that I want to watch, I'll subscribe. Otherwise, I won't.

Since I have an antenna, I'll be able to watch some of the major games, include the Georgia-Clemson game that features two highly ranked teams on September 4, without a subscription.

What about you? What service do you need?

Well, that's an involved topic, and there are a lot of variables. We'll talk about that another time. Right now, I've decided what works best for me, and that is Sling TV. You might want something different. After all, my Streaming Life isn't the same as your Streaming Life.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Cell phone service

Okay, what does cell phone service have to do with cutting the cord? Well, maybe nothing. Unless it relates to why you cut (or are thinking about cutting) the cord. If it's to save money, why stop at dropping cable and moving to streaming? Why not save money in other ways, too?

Here's my answer: I do.

I've tried a few different cell phone services and am paying less than I used to pay for cell phone service. My cell phone bill got way up there for a while. Of course, it included financing new cell phones, which will run up a bill, but even without that, the service was pretty expensive.

I have used T-Mobile and Verizon as my primary services. Actually, I think I used what's now AT&T, but it wasn't back then. It was Cingular, I think. Now, sure, that was a long time ago, so maybe my experience with that company isn't the same as it would be today. I don't know, but it really doesn't matter. The service was fine then, and I know lots of people that use AT&T today, and they like the service just fine. So, I have nothing against AT&T. However, things can get expensive. But that's true for AT&T, Verizon, and other services.

Today, I'm using Verizon prepaid, because they ran a special and I got a great plan at a great price, and I keep a pre-paid balance on the account, so everything is good. It's not unlimited, but I come nowhere close to using the 16 GB monthly allotment, so it may as well be unlimited. If it was unlimited, I'd pay more and still not get any better service, so I'm going to keep the 16 GB plan and pay $35/month and be happy.

There are cheaper plans, and I've used some different plans. Some were recommended by friends or family members, and some I just tried to see what would happen. The end result of what happened is that I still have my Verizon prepaid plan, because I've not found enough incentive to move to a different plan or service.

I'm not going to urge you to run out and get Verizon prepaid, even though that's what I have. What I will urge you to do is to see what prepaid plans there might be that you can use, and what all the little details are.

Here's my deal. I have an 8 GB plan for $50/month. That's all well and good, except that doesn't match what I said I'm getting. There are multiple reasons. One is that Verizon ran a special where I could get double the data. So, my 8 GB plan actually gets me 16 GB/month.

They also had an online special running where I could get $5/month off by signing up with some code or something. That changed 8 GB for $50 to 16 GB for $45.

Then, by going paperless billing and having autopay set up, I could get another $10/month off. All those together turned the 8 GB/$50 into 16 GB/$35.

Oh, and there's one more thing. I can use a particular credit card to get 5% cash back, and that includes buying Verizon prepaid cards. Meaning my plan works out to 16 GB/$33.25. And I'm good with that.

So, if you do want to save money in addition to cutting the cord, look at your cell phone plan. Shop around. You may find some deals, or a series of deals you can combine, and save some real money.

While cell phone savings isn't actually a part of my Streaming Life, it's a part of my real life, and that's real savings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Peacock TV

From time to time I go over my viewing habits and look at what apps I actually use. Part of the reason for that is that on my  Roku device, I have 47 apps installed. I don't use 47 apps with any regularity at all. I doubt there are a dozen that I use more than once a week. Heck, once a month, if that often.

Why do I have these apps installed? Just in case. Costs nothing to have them, and many of them cost nothing to use. I like free.

But, looking over my apps, I see that I have Peacock TV near the top of my Roku menu. I'm not really sure why it's so high on the list, since I don't use it that much.

So, why don't I use Peacock TV? Is it that I don't like the service? No, that's not it. I think the service is a good bargain at $5. But, I still don't use it.

I'm not paying for Peacock TV, so I'm not losing any money by having the app or the subscription. I'm an Xfinity Internet customer, and have an Xfinity Flex box (in the box) which give me access to Peacock TV. Only, as I said, I don't really watch Peacock TV. But why not?

Peacock TV has live TV channels, as well as lots of on-demand content from Universal. And Universal has a long history of making popular movies, so why am I not watching them?

Well, let's look at the first 10 "Featured Films" that showed up recently in the Peacock TV app.

  • Field of Dreams
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Harry Potter Collection
  • Fries! The Movie
  • The Boss Baby: Family Business
  • The Croods
  • The Goonies
  • Apollo 13
  • Marshall

I've seen three of these movies. I own two of those three, and can watch either any time I want. So, the other seven? Only one is of any interest. The rest? Meh. Don't care.

Now, maybe I would enjoy some of those other six movies -- actually more, since I've not seen nor care to see the Harry Potter films -- but right now, I've no intention of watching a movie I'm not interested in watching.

The "Latest Episodes" of the TV Shows section showed a bunch of late night TV (no interest), game shows (no interest), soap operas (no interest), and a couple of things I've never heard of (no idea).

I did watch Debris, but I watched it on Hulu. I watched War of the Worlds on Peacock, since I've liked that story for some time. I liked the book, the 1938 radio drama, the 1953 film, and some of the 1988 TV series. So, I decided to watch the 2019 British three-part series on Peacock. I didn't like the experience.

Here's what I didn't like. When I highlight a TV show and am considering watching it, Peacock starts a bit of autoplay. I hate autoplay, and there is no way to turn it off. So, the bad user experience.

Then, after an episode plays, it autoplays the next episode. I don't want that, either, and there's no way to disable it. Again, a bad user experience.

When I go to watch TV, I don't want a bad user experience. And Peacock TV gives me that. So, I don't watch Peacock TV. And, I probably want, unless it's something I really really really want to watch and there's no other way to watch it.

Peacock TV won't become a regular part of my Streaming Life as long as they present me with an experience I don't like.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Meet the new Plex ...

I've been a big fan of Plex lately. Well, for a few years, actually. When I started streaming, many of my digital movies were purchased via iTunes, and I used iTunes to stream them locally. But, I decided to expand beyond that functionality and rip out all my digital movies and DVDs and stream them via Plex. I looked at a couple of different ways to do this, but I bought in to Plex as the way to go, and I'm glad I did.

I've liked the updates they've made to Plex, including adding live streaming and on demand, but to me, the bread and butter has been the local streaming -- and remote streaming. I normally only use Plex when I want to watch my local content, which is sometimes a lot, sometimes not.

The other day, I launched Plex and it looked different. And a little more so than I expected, but not enough to make me wonder if I had launched the wrong app. So, what was going on? Turns out Plex has introduced something they call "Modern Layout."

First, we explored a large number of layout options, eventually landing on a new “Modern” layout that would showcase artwork from the title and provide some additional context when a poster is in focus: genres, parental ratings, and brief synopsis of the title without having to first click. We combined this rich data with a background color extraction process with a goal of providing a more immersive and streamlined experience when you’re sitting down at the couch and trying to figure out what to watch. Since posters generally have the movie or show title contained in the artwork, this layout also forgoes duplicating the (often truncated) text titles and additional information below the poster in favor of displaying that information in the “inline metadata” section at the top. Importantly, we wanted to involve the Plex community in the process and invite you into the lab.

So, what do I think? Actually, it's fine. I'm not one who embraces change for the sake of change. I like familiar and comfortable. But, I don't shy away from improvements, either. And, I like the new Plex layout.

Is it better? Really better? Well, that depends on the person. I happen to be one that likes it. Part of the reason is that it's not a huge change. Not really. There's a lot familiar to it, not a huge change, but enough of a change to make me like it better.

It's a welcome addition to my Streaming Life. Perhaps to yours, too.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Roku Streambar

As you may be aware, I have several Roku devices on several TVs across multiple locations that I manage. One device I've only mentioned a time or two is the Roku Streambar. It's currently on the TV I use the most. I made that change a little while back and have left in in place. But maybe not why you think.

I am currently using a TV with non-Roku smarts as my main TV. Of course, I have a Roku and other devices attached to it: Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV. The Roku attached to this TV is the Streambar, model 9210.

The TV sound is okay, but I wanted to improve the sound, so I was looking at a sound bar. I decided to consider the Roku Soundbar but waited to make a decision. Until it went on sale. So, when I found it on sale, I bought one, and installed it, replacing the Roku Streaming Stick+ that was on the TV.

The Streambar works about as well as the Streaming Stick+, which is pretty good, but it's not quite as good as a Roku Ultra. The difference isn't much though.

The sound is better than the TV's native sound. I know that's not a ringing endorsement, but the fact is my ears aren't perfect; loud music in my youth, being around artillery when in the military, things like that take a toll. If you want to compare it to other sound bars, I can't really offer a full comparison. That's simply a limitation of my physical abilities. So, if you read a review that compares it to others, I won't offer any counter or conflict regarding such reviews.

I will tell you that the TV sounds better with it than without it. I stand by that. The degree is the issue, and one I can't honestly address. But, it's better, and it's a Roku.

Can I recommend getting this as your only Roku device? Well, honestly, no. I would rather you listen to one if you could before you bought one. But, I will have no problem buying another one. I have another TV that needs a sound bar, and I'm getting a Roku Streambar for it. When it goes on sale. I know what I want, but I'm going to save money when I get it.

The Roku Streambar has been a welcome addition to my Streaming Life. I hope that if you decide to get one, you'll be happy with yours as well.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Finding the time to stream?

I've been streaming for over 10 years. I mean exclusively. Even before I cut cable, I streamed content, Netflix mostly, Amazon a little. My TiVo had limited capability and worked better for downloading non-Netflix content. Still, I was a little familiar with streaming.

When I cut cable in early 2011, I streamed content when I watched TV, and loved it. I didn't have to find time to stream. When I watched TV, instead of firing up the TiVo, I fired up the Roku. I just watched stuff through a different device.

And that's the thing, why do I suddenly think that the situation of "finding the time to stream" even exists? It shouldn't. Where did I even come up with the concept?

Is it the same thing as "finding time to watch TV?" If so, then that really doesn't make sense either. Why on earth would anyone need to find the time to watch TV? If TV is that bog of a deal, it's too big in my life. Or yours, if the case apples to you too.

TV is nothing but entertainment. Sure, I put a lot of money into that device hanging on the wall. Or in the bedroom. Or bedrooms. TV should never be the center of anything, apart from being centered on the wall or over the fireplace. It definitely should not be the center of anyone's day or life.

TV is a distraction, like all other forms of entertainment. A book. A hobby. Anything that isn't what you need to focus on: your family, your health, your career. TV is just entertainment. You should find time to relax, but it doesn't need to be TV.

I really do enjoy watching TV, whether TV shows or movies, and I enjoy the variety I can find via streaming. But it's just TV. I do enjoy my Streaming Life, but I (and you) should never let it interfere with real life.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Good streaming news, but...

The Academy of Country Music awards program will be moving to streaming in 2022. That's kind of a big deal.

The ACM has aired since 1972, first on ABC, moving to NBC in 1979, then to CBS in 1998. This year, CBS has announced that it will carry the CMT Music Awards starting in 2022. CMT is owned by ViacomCBS.

Amazon Prime Video has picked up the show starting in 2022.

Amazon Prime Video [August 19, 2021] announced that they will be the home of the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards, which will livestream on the platform in 2022. The 2022 ACM Awards, produced by MRC’s dick clark productions, marks the first time a major awards show has livestreamed exclusively.

First held in 1966, the Academy of Country Music Awards has honored and showcased the biggest names and emerging talent in the industry, and is the longest-running country music awards show in history. The 2022 live show will bring together iconic artists for exciting collaborations, surprising moments, and an unprecedented number of world television-premiere performances, all of which will be announced in the coming months. The date and location will be confirmed at a later time.

This is kind of a big deal. But then again...

Ratings for awards shows are dropping. So, maybe that's not that good of a thing after all. It's a good thing, just maybe not that big after all.

Why are rating dropping? That's a loaded question. I think it's because people want to be entertained and not lectured, and you can't swing a dead cat in a room of celebrities without hitting someone lecturing you. I haven't watched award shows in years. I don't care if the politics leans my way or away from me, I don't want to listen to that in an awards show.

Will I watch it on Amazon? Nope. I didn't watch it on CBS, or on NBC. When it aired on ABC, I didn't always control the remote -- when I wasn't the remote -- so I didn't get a say in the matter. I haven't watched a lot of award shows over the years in fact.

If awards shows are your thing, though, then now you know where to find this one next year. These shows may be getting more entrenched in your Streaming Life.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

I've not been a fan of Amazon's Fire TV devices almost since the devices first launched. To be clear, I have purchased many over the years, and have given them all away. Until now.

Here have been my complaints about the Amazon Fire TV devices:

  • The devices are underpowered
  • The interface is too In Your Face regarding Amazon

My complaints are now tempered ... somewhat.

The interface is not really any better. I suppose the fact that more and more devices do this makes it not stand out as much.

Roku is the least intrusive, although the ads on the menu screen do promote Roku devices and services. Chromecast with Google TV does promote Google a lot. Apple TV is not as obnoxious as Chromecast or Amazon, but that's because Apple is more subtle, but still promotes itself as much; they're just better at it.

So, having accepted that it's going to happen, I'm putting less emphasis on that aspect. But that still leaves the underpowered device as an issue, and that's a big deal.

I have to say, I've been very happy with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K insofar as responsiveness is concerned. Had I purchased a lower end device, I might not feel this way, but with a sale on the top end Firestick, I got a good device.

This makes me wonder if someone has done nothing but purchased low-end Roku devices over the years, would they feel the same way about Roku? Maybe so. That makes me wonder if I've been unfair to Amazon.

Let me state that some years back I did purchase a Fire TV box. Of course, it was in 2014 -- I just looked that up and was surprised it was that long ago -- but comparing it against my, at the time, Roku 3, it was an inferior device. So, I stand by my complaint about the underpowered device. Well, until now.

I gotta admit that the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a good device. There used to be a huge gap between my number 3 and number 4 device, with Amazon being number 4, far behind the others. That's no longer the case. Amazon, at least the Fire TV Stick 4K, has risen in my eyes.

I've used the Fire TV Stick 4K almost exclusively for a couple of weeks. I have no complaints over the device itself. It works well, and joins the other devices as a recommended device.

Will I convert to Fire TV? No. But it's now an option I'll have on at least one TV at all times, rather than something stuck in a box somewhere, like I've done with my TiVo Stream and Onn devices. While it won't be my top device or go-to device, at least not yet, it's now a part of my Streaming Life. If you choose to make it part of yours, it's a good decision.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Sling TV update

It finally happened yesterday. My current primary Roku device received the latest Sling TV update.

I may have some Roku somewhere that hasn't received the update, but I'm not going to pull everything out of their boxes and check. My Ultra, my Stick+, but not my Roku TV, which is an older device. I have a Stick+ on that Roku TV, so I normally wouldn't know that unless I checked. I checked.

So, since I don't use the Roku portion of my Roku TV, but rather the Stick+ attached to it, that means that all of the Roku devices I normally use now have the updated Sling TV app.

What do I think of the new app? Well, I've seen it before. Remember, it has been on the Stick+ for several days. And, it's on other devices, such as Fire TV Stick 4K and on Chromecast with Google TV.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the new app.

That's the front page. Next is the grid.

I do like the new appearance. Many don't. I'm not sure why. The old interface worked okay, and I'm not a fan of change for the sake of change. This isn't that. It's an improvement on the front page. I don't normally use the front page of the Sling TV app, but always go to the grid. But, this front page is better. The change to the grid isn't wonderful, since it loses some ground overall, but it does match the new theme, so it is a change that makes sense.

While it's currently only used for local channels, I'll be adding Sling Orange to the mix as I get ready for football season. I'm going to be happy with the new Sling TV app as I use it more and more. My Streaming Life just got better.