Monday, June 21, 2021

How I solved my network issues

I frequent some help forums for different things related to streaming. One common complaint across almost every help forum is people losing network connection. Related to that is when people have an issue that can be explained by network issues.

Most of the time, people don't like the suggestion that their network is at fault. That is akin to saying they wasted money in setting up a poor network, and nobody likes to be told they wasted money or otherwise made a bad decision. The thing is, people do waste money and make bad decisions. I do. You do. We all do. We just don't like being reminded of that.

So, rather than tell you that you made a bad decision about your network, let me tell you a good decision I made about mine. Oh, and if your network is working just fine and you have no issues with your streaming devices, then you made a good decision. Working is the goal, and if it works, you met the goal. You did good.

However, I had network issues that it took me a while to solve. Actually, I didn't have the issues. My mother had the issues.

Her house was built in the 1950s. And the 1960s. And the 1970s. You see, it was expanded and added on to many times over the years, and in none of that time was the thought of its 21st century layout and accounting for wireless networks considered. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, all that was science fiction.

However, the 21st century did roll around and my mother had network issues. There were spots in rooms where one person was able to use a laptop on her wireless network, and in the same room, sitting in the next chair, another person couldn't keep a stable connection. The house, with it's weird wiring and rewiring and former outside walls that are now on the inside, was a wireless network nightmare.

So, how did I fix it? Let me tell you what didn't work first.

I got a bigger, more powerful wireless router (okay, access point, but it was all in one and we're calling it a router). That helped a little, but only a little. There were still some dead spots.

WiFi extenders were tried. They didn't really work. Maybe it was the location of them, but we never noticed a continued improvement.

We thought about running network cables and connecting additional hotspots, but didn't.

Finally, I replaced her network with a Google WiFi network. That cost a little bit of money because a set of three was around $300 on sale. And, as it turned out, three wasn't enough. There are now seven of those in that house. But, you know what? There's good network connectivity in every room.

Google WiFi was the one I tried, and it worked. This isn't to say you must get Google WiFi devices to make your network run properly. Rather, it's a suggestion that a mesh network, such as Google WiFi, Amazon Eero, Netgear Orbi, or one of any other such may be the way to go if you are having issues.

How well does it work. During her last year or so, the only time she ever mentioned the network was when I asked. She always responded that she hadn't thought about it because it simply worked. And, when family came over, there were no more questions or complaints about her wireless network.

In my and my family's experience, a mesh network works well. To my mother, she said "It just works." And it made her Streaming Life much simpler and easier.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Ripping a DVD to Plex - TV Show

I mentioned before that Plex is a good way to stream your DVDs. Actually, I don't stream my DVDs, but rather the content of my DVDs. I mentioned that it's not that hard to do, and that's true, unless tedium is hard. Tedium isn't hard, it's tedious. And those aren't the same thing. If you think tedium is hard, you really won't do well with hard. But, yeah, it's tedious.

My statement that "it's simply a matter of launching Handbrake, inserting the DVD, picking the format (I used MP4) and starting the conversion" did not sit well with me. So, I decided that the next time I ripped a DVD, I'd document it and show what's involved. If this seems complicated, it's really not.

For some time, I've been looking for streaming episodes of Police Squad. I've not been able to find it. So, I finally decided that I wanted it more than I wanted to wait for it to ever show up in a streaming format, so I bought the DVD intending to rip the show into Plex.

For no particular reason, I chose Wondershare UniConverter for Windows to rip this series. There are several applications will work as well, and while the particulars may vary slightly, the overall process is the same. I have other Windows apps, and I have a couple of Mac apps, but this is what I did this time.

To start, I put the DVD into the computer's DVD drive, then launched the app.

I told the app to use my DVD drive and it started reading the drive, finding content. Since this was a TV show and there are more than one episode on the disc, I told it to use all the videos it found.

It chugged along for a while...

... and found a lot of videos.

The disc contained six episodes, so I had to find the videos that were not part of the show and remove them. What would those videos be? Those are the DVD extras you find. Sometimes, they're episode length, and sometimes they're short videos.

After removing the unwanted videos, I picked the format I wanted. I always pick MP4, but you can use whatever works better for you.

After all that is done, I told the app to start the conversion.

That can sometimes take a while, so either wait it out or go do something else. I did something else. I took a nap.

After the conversion is done, I opened the destination folder and found the converted files.

You can't really see from these images, and this doesn't always happen, but sometimes you end up with more videos than you need. Why? Well, remember I said the DVD extras were sometimes full length? How do you tell the difference? You can't look at the names of the files, because that's not based on the content. You have to launch the video and see which episode it is. I did that, and found they were in order, and was easily able to rename each file according to Plex standards.

After moving the files to a directory (folder) structure that Plex likes, I moved the overall TV show directory (folder) into the final destination for Plex to read.

It took Plex a little while to read the directory and file names, look up the data in its database, and get all the little data bits that you need to know just what episode you're watching.

When it was done, it automatically had all the show images and episode descriptions in place, ready for watching.

Yeah, it's a little tedious. But it's not hard. The key things when it comes to naming the files are to follow Plex standards, and everything works well.

I use the TV show name for the show directory (folder), to include the debut year. Since Police Squad debuted in 1982, I named the directory "Police Squad (1982)" even though there isn't another show called Police Squad. Sometimes, it's very important, particularly on movies. But if you always do it, things will be easier.

For the next directory (folder), I follow the standard of the season number. Even though Police Squad had only one season, I still put a Season 01 directory (folder) under the show parent. Inside each season folder, I put the files.

Naming the files is easy enough. I use the longer method, but the shorter method is just fine. It's using the show directory (folder) name, a space, a dash, a space, then the season and episode number in the following format: sXXeXX. So, season 1, episode 1 would be s01e01. The 6th episode would be s01e06. You see how it goes? Good.

I said I use the long version. After the sXXeXX I put another space, a dash, a space, then the episode name. This can be helpful if you ever need to refer to a file and would find it easier to know the episode name. But, it really doesn't matter for Plex. Either way works the same in Plex.

And that's it. I now have Police Squad episodes to watch to make My Streaming Life more fun.. I know, you may still find this daunting, saying "surely that can't be easy." Well, it is easy. And don't call me Shirley.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

My problem with MLB TV

Every baseball season since I started streaming -- maybe not quite that long, but for some time -- I get offers and notifications about MLB.TV and how I can watch my team. Well, I can't.

You see, I'm a Braves fan. I've been a fan of the Braves for many years. I remember the excitement of watching Hank Aaron's chase of Babe Ruth's home run record in the 1970s. I remember the Braves losing to the Mets in three in 1969. I remember when Milo and Ernie were the broadcasters. And, of course, the classic broadcast team of Skip, Pete, and Ernie. And Don. And Joe. Those broadcasters were as big stars as many players.

I listened to the Braves on radio, and every so often, watched them on TV. Then came Ted Turner and WTCG. That became WTBS and it made it to cable systems, allowing me to watch nearly every Braves game. During the days of cable, it was easy to watch the Braves. But now I'm streaming.

I can subscribe to live streaming services and get many of the Braves games, but not all. Certainly not to the degree I was able with cable and WTCG/WTBS. But there is this thing called MLB.TV that says you can watch all the games. That's perfect right? Not qutie.

You see, there's fine print, as listed here. I added the bold for emphasis.

Except for certain MLB regular season and Postseason games as described below or in certain MLB Club home television territories for which MLB may offer in-market subscription services, all live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club's home television territory.

How big is the Braves home television territory? Five and a half states. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and most of North Carolina.

Source: NBC News

And the blackout covers all live games, not just home games. So, Braves play in New York, or in California, or Canada, or anywhere, and the game is blacked out for everyone living in that section of the United States. And I'm in that area. So, no live Braves games for me via MLB.TV ever.

If I was a Cardinals fan, like many in this area were before the Braves moved down from Milwaukee, I'd be fine. But I'm not a Cardinals fan. I like them fine, but they just aren't "my team." The Braves are. And MLB.TV won't let me stream the Braves games live.

So, I'm sure the service is fine for many, but before you plop down any money for the service, make sure you can watch the games you want to watch. Go here to see what games and team you can watch.

This service has, and for years has had, the potential to be a great service. For now, it is of no use to me or My Streaming Life.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Hockey here tonight

I've rarely watched hockey. Growing up in southeast Georgia, ice hockey wasn't big around here. A friend of mine went to some hockey games when he went off to college and loved it, so it's not like we were unable to enjoy the sport, we just didn't have much opportunity to attend.

The only way to watch a hockey game was on TV. In fact, around here, that's still the only way to watch a hockey game. As a streamer, what are my options? Well, not bad, really. Because NBC Sports is carrying the NHL playoffs, and they've made the semifinal games available to streamers via Peacock TV.

Yes, I'm kind of late on this, as the semifinals are already underway. But, as each matchup is a series, the games will go on for at least another week. Peacock is carrying the games:

Peacock announced the service will stream all remaining Stanley Cup Semifinal games, starting Monday, June 14 at 9 p.m. ET with Game 1 in the Semifinal between the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights. As previously announced, NBC Sports’ coverage of all Stanley Cup Semifinal games will also air on NBCSN or USA Network and NBC Sports digital platforms.

If you're an Xfinity Internet customer, you get Peacock Premium included. If not, the $5/month price is pretty good. Peacock is a good service, and if you're a hockey fan, its value is that much more.

I'm glad to see more and more sports available streaming. It makes our Streaming Life so much more enjoyable.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Tablo to the forefront

I mentioned a few weeks back that deciding between an Air TV or a Tablo to replace TiVo would be  a tossup. I'm not sure I feel this way any longer. The more I use Tablo, the more I like it better than Air TV.

Part of it is the interface. I don't think I am particularly enamored by the Tablo interface, but I really don't like the Air TV interface.

Actually, the Air TV interface is Sling TV. Don't get me wrong, I think the Sling TV service is a good service. Of course, you don't need a Sling TV subscription to use Air TV. You can use the free Sling TV service and it will add the antenna channels right there.

The thing is, I really don't like the Sling TV interface. Again, that's not to say I really like the Tablo interface. It's more like I dislike Sling TV's interface so much more.

That's a little unfair, but I'll go into all the details later. I'm not sure when. The point of this post is to share that I'll be doing a deeper look at Tablo and report back on that later.

I mentioned that I managed a couple of household setups, and that I ran Air TV at one and Tablo at the other. Well, I'm going to focus on Tablo for a bit and see if I really do like it better. I mean, I already think I like it better than Air TV, but I want to actually use it for a bit before I say for sure.

I do think I know how this will go, though. Me and My Streaming Life are so predictable. I'll post my thoughts on Tablo after using it for a week or so. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Classics no more?

I've been a fan of Hulu since the days it was a free Website service, and had a streaming box sister called Hulu Plus. If you don't know about that, briefly there were two related Hulu services. One was, as I said, free and watchable in a Web browser. The other was a paid service and you could watch it on a streaming device, such as on a Roku. In fact, Roku and Apple TV were the only major devices with a Hulu Plus app. Amazon Fire TV didn't even exist. There was no Chromecast.

Anyway, the point is, I've watched Hulu content for a long time. And I just noticed that Hulu has made a change that I find significant. Well, I do now that I discovered the change. Perhaps it's not all that significant to me, despite my thinking it is. Let's find out.

Hulu has long had categories for its content, both TV and movies. Adventure, Comedies, Drama, Family, Kids, Mystery, and so on. There was also a category called Classic. Maybe it was Classics. Yeah, let's go with Classics. Well, Classics isn't there anymore. Well, it is for movies, but not for TV.

In fact, for movies, there are only, as of this writing, 13 movies in the Classics category. Only about half of them, maybe just over half, are what I would call classics. The others are simply older films, with the newest from 1989.

In the TV section, though, there is no Classics category. Now, there are TV shows that would fall into that category: St. Elsewhere, Taxi, Cheers, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Golden Girls, and others. But, those and the others that you'd call Classics are scattered across other groupings such as Sci-Fi, Comedy, Award Winning, and others.

When did Hulu make this change? I have no idea. And that's probably the reason they made the change. I hardly ever went to Hulu and looked up Classics under the TV section. Not just me, but probably others didn't do it either. And, if it's something nobody is using, why have it.

So, yeah, I suppose it makes sense that they'd drop a feature or grouping that nobody used. That doesn't mean I like it. I wanted and expected it to be there for when I used it. Even if it's been over a year since I used it.

My Streaming Life changes, and not always in ways I like. I'll get over it, just like I do with things in real life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

My YouTube conversion

When I first began streaming as my sole source of TV, back in 2011 when I cut cable, my primary sources for watching TV were Hulu and Netflix. I also was an Amazon Prime subscriber, but never watched it. I was an Amazon Prime subscriber for the shipping benefits, and had been for years, before they launched their streaming video. Amazon Prime Video was a later add-on and I never really watched it.

So, apart from Hulu -- called Hulu Plus at the time because Hulu was something a little different; yes, streaming was different back then -- and Netflix -- that was a lot cheaper back then -- I didn't watch much else.

Well, that's not exactly true. I probably spent 40% of the time watching Hulu or Hulu Plus, 40% of the time watching Netflix, and 25% of the time split among several small services or services in their early days. And yes, I know that adds up to 105%, but I watched a lot of streaming TV back then. Also, I just made those numbers up, but they feel about right.

Today, that's no longer the case. I still subscribe to Hulu, as it's now known since they merged Hulu and Hulu Plus. I dropped Netflix some time back. I found that I never watched it. I do watch a little Amazon Prime Video, but still not a lot, and not as much as I used to watch Netflix (back when I watched Netflix).

The various apps that made up the made-up number 25% are pretty much taken up by Pluto TV. Well, not entirely, but I do watch a lot of Pluto TV. I love Pluto TV, as I've mentioned before. But, more than any other app, is one I used to never watch: YouTube.

No, not YouTube TV. I've subscribed to YouTube TV in the past, but I don't maintain a subscription. It's not of that much value to me. No, I'm talking about regular old YouTube. The one with the cat videos.

Actually, you can find a lot of cat videos on Pluto TV, if that's your thing. It's not mine. Sure, I'll watch a cat video every now and then, but it's not a regular thing for me. No, I watch other stuff on YouTube.

I used to not, because it was a bunch of cat videos. If you were using YouTube 15 years ago, you know what I'm talking about. But, it did become more than that just a few years after Google bought it. Now, it's one I watch a lot. Educational videos, Brits solving Sudoku puzzles, bad movie reviews, and much much much more.

If I want to watch a TV show or a movie, I probably won't do the YouTube thing. But, if I want short form videos, it's YouTube.

Ten years ago, I never would have thought that. I was still stuck in the "nothing but cat videos" mindset. Now, I watch it more than anything. I don't usually count it as my most-watched app, even though it is. I'll still tell you it's Hulu, because that's my most used app for real TV. For mindless junk, even fun or educational stuff, I know that I watch YouTube more than any app.

When did I become aware it was my most-used app? As I wrote this. I will only admit it now. When I post this, I'll go back to lying to myself and saying "Hulu" as my most watched app. But you and I know the truth.

It's the dirty little secret about my Streaming Life.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Flag Day 2021

The flag of the United States means a lot to me. I grew up in this great nation, and for a period of time, had the honor of wearing my country's uniform.

Today is Flag Day, the day that recognizes the anniversary of the first flag of the United States in 1777, as well as the anniversary of the formation of the first Army, in 1775. This is a special day indeed.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Why I don't subscribe through Roku

I'm a Roku fan. While I do like Apple TV, and Chromecast with Google TV, I really like Roku. I've mentioned this before, I'm certain. But, I don't like everything about Roku. One of their biggest features they promote is one I really really do not like. I will not subscribe to any service through Roku billing.

Now, if I'm such a fan of Roku, why would I refuse to use one of their most promoted features? Simple. It's not what it does that I don't like, it's what it doesn't do.

First, here are the good things about subscribing to content through Roku.

All of your streaming billing is in one place. It's easy to find the stuff to which you have a subscription, and it's easy to cancel any subscription. You don't have your credit card on a bunch of different services. When you rent or buy something, in addition to subscriptions, it's really simple to do on a Roku device. It's super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Except...

There's one thing about Roku subscriptions that I really really really don't like. If you subscribe through Roku, you can only use that subscription on Roku.

"What's the big deal?" you might ask.

Here's the big deal. Do you have anything other than a Roku that you might want to watch the content on? For example, a Roku in the living room, and a Fire TV or Android TV (smart TV) in the bedroom? Guess what? You can only watch on your Roku.

Your iPhone or Android phone? Nope. Not watching Hulu though the Hulu app if you subscribed through Roku.

Your iPad or Fire tablet? Same problem.

Your laptop? Again, same thing.

Do you have multiple Roku accounts? For instance, you have a Roku for the kids, but don't want to have certain apps available to them? You can set up a separate Roku account that you control and limit what apps are available there, without impacting your Roku. Well, if you do this, and you subscribe to Netflix through Roku (for example) you can only watch it on your Roku (or others on that same account). Subscriptions are limited to Roku, and only Roku devices on your own Roku account.

What if you are visiting relatives for a few days? You can't use your Roku subscription unless you brought your Roku.  Well, yeah, you could have them put the Roku in Guest Mode, but that can be problematic if it's their main TV.

If you subscribe to Netflix or Hulu or any service directly, you lose the simplicity of Roku billing. I do like its simplicity. But, you are then limited to only watching on your Roku.

I really really really don't like that limitation. So much so, that I not only do not recommend Roku billing, I recommend not using it, but subscribing directly.

Sure, it may be exactly what you need. And, if that's the case, fantastic. It is easy to use and has some good points. But, it's not what I want in my Streaming Life.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Removing copy protection from movies

There's a problem I have with removing copy protection from movies. It's not that I can't do it, or find it difficult to do. I do it all the time, in fact. But, there's an ethical problem that I have.

You see, there's copy protection for a reason. The reason is: people are awful.

Okay, I don't mean all people are awful. Obviously they aren't. I'm not awful. You're not awful. But there are a lot of people that are.

Awful people would, if they saw you drop a $100 bill, simply pick up the bill and keep walking. They know it's yours, but they don't care because they're awful. There's no different between that and not paying for a movie contrary to the owner's rights. They make up reasons to justify it, but the real reason is, they're awful.

Awful people are the reason it's difficult for decent people to have a proper library of movies. If you have DVDs, how to you add it to your streamer? You have to break copy protection, which is something that awful people do.

In the U.S., you have the right to have an archive of your movies you buy. You can add it to your streaming device for use in Plex or some similar setup, but you have to remove copy protection.

Now, you and I will use that capability to make legal copies and use them for our own private purposes. Awful people will use it to do wrong things. Even though I know my usage of software to break copy protection is legal, it bothers me.

If you're expecting me to recommend some copy protection removal software, I won't. I actually use a couple of different ones. I have a Mac that I use sometimes to remove copy protection from DVDs or iTunes. I also have a Windows device that I used for the same purpose. And, they are different software packages. They both work rather well for those purposes.

What about purchases from Amazon? Well, I have another software package I use for that. I'm not a great fan of it, but it does the job, just takes a little more work. I'm certainly not going to mention this package, because it also removes copy protection from Netflix, which is a no-no as far as I'm concerned. However, it's the best I've found for adding my Amazon purchases to my local library.

That piece of software kinda sums it up. Removing copy protection from Netflix movies, letting you download and keep them, is a violation of the agreement you enter into with Netflix when you subscribe to the service. I won't do that, even though I have the software. If I want the content to keep, I'll buy it. You'd do the same.

But those other people? No, they don't care about the same things you and I do. And that's why companies work so hard to copy protect their content. And that makes our Streaming Life more difficult,

Friday, June 11, 2021

Philo price increase, still a bargain

The cost of live streaming services continue to rise. That's not really a surprise, is it? Of course it isn't. Or it shouldn't be.

If you didn't know that prices were going to rise, you haven't been paying attention. Prices always rise. Sometimes, things go a while before the price increase, but the price increase will come.

Recently, Philo finally increased its price to $25/month, which is its second price increase ever, since its launch in 2017, nearly four years ago.

Philo launched with a $16/month package, and later added a larger $20 package. A year and a half ago, Philo dropped the $16/month package for new subscribers, essentially increasing prices. Now, the $20/month package is rising to $25/month.

Even at the new price, Philo is still one of the best bargains for those wanting a live streaming service. Currently, the lineup is:

  • A&E
  • AccuWeather Network
  • AMC
  • American Heroes Channel
  • Animal Planet
  • aspireTV
  • AXS TV
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • BET
  • BET Her
  • CLEO TV
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Cooking Channel
  • Crime + Investigation
  • Destination America
  • Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Family
  • Discovery Life
  • DIY Network
  • Food Network
  • FYI
  • Game Show Network
  • getTV
  • Great American Country
  • Hallmark Channel
  • Hallmark Drama
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • HGTV
  • History
  • IFC
  • INSP
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Law&Crime
  • Lifetime
  • LMN
  • Logo
  • Motor Trend
  • MTV
  • MTV Classic
  • MTV Live
  • MTV2
  • Newsy
  • Nick Jr.
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nicktoons
  • Oprah Winfrey Network
  • Paramount Network
  • PeopleTV
  • REVOLT
  • Science Channel
  • Sundance TV
  • Tastemade
  • TeenNick
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel
  • TV Land
  • TV One
  • UPtv
  • VH1
  • Vice
  • WE tv
  • Bloomberg Television
  • Cheddar News
  • Crackle
  • Revry

You can also add premium channels from Starz ($9/month) and Epix ($6/month).

I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of live streaming services. But, for those in my family that do insist on it, this one fits the bill. It's cheap, at least compared to others, and does have channels almost everyone can appreciate.

Not having sports channels means it doesn't have everything, but if that's not important, it has plenty to make your Streaming Life enjoyable.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Streaming your own content: iTunes movies

A few days ago, we talked briefly about setting up a Plex or similar server to play movies from your DVD collection. However, there's another way that you may be able to play local movies that is a little bit easier, if you have iTunes movie purchases and an Apple TV.

Although I had DVDs before I bought any Apple iTunes movies, I did purchase movies after I got my first video capable iPod several years ago. And, I kept buying iTunes movies after I bought my first Apple TV.

It wasn't aware -- or at least, I didn't think about it -- when I first began purchasing iTunes movies that I could download them to my computer. Then, it hit me that I could do that, so I did.

On my MacBook, I downloaded several movies I had purchased, then launched iTunes, and it showed up on my Apple TV. I was also researching Plex at the time, and tried to see if Plex would see my iTunes movies. It did. However, Plex wouldn't play them because of Apple's copy protection. But, they played fine from the Apple TV device using the built-in process.

So, iTunes was running as a server on my network and was able to play copy protected iTunes content on my Apple TV. No setting up Plex and building a library. iTunes did that automatically. And, if I did rip out content from my DVDs, I could add them to iTunes and watch them too. Even better!

So, for a while, that's what I did. Yes, I eventually moved everything over to Plex, because I wanted to do a couple of things that iTunes couldn't do, but for years this method worked just fine. The few benefits from Plex were countered by needed to remove copy protection from my iTunes downloads.

No, I won't go into how to do all that, because that's not really the focus at the moment. It is time consuming and a lot of work. And, if I didn't really want to do the few things I would need Plex to do, I'd still be doing it that way.

Sure, Apple no longer has iTunes for Mac, so it would be the Apple TV app for Mac to use. Or, with Windows, iTunes is still there and does the job fine.

Using iTunes with Apple TV was a quick and easy way to set up a local streaming server. It may be a good solution for you, too. If so, it will make your Streaming Life easier.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

No Internet, no TV? Not really.

You're watching TV on your streaming device when the unthinkable happens. Your Internet service goes out. You have power, the lights all work, your network is still up, but there's no Internet connectivity. Now, you can't watch TV, right?

Well, maybe you can. I know I can.

If your Internet service goes out temporarily, you do have two or three ways to still watch TV. One is to watch from an antenna. If you have an antenna connected to your TV or to a network device -- Air TV, Tablo, TiVo or such -- you can watch TV that way.

Another similar way is that if you have a DVR, you can watch content you recorded earlier. This would be from an antenna, of course, so it's a lot like the first. The only difference is the time-shifting of the content.

And, there's your local library. If you've taken your DVDs and ripped them to Plex or some other local server setup, you can watch movies and TV from your local library. Actually, if you purchased downloads that are not copy protected, you can include them in your local library, too.

Of course, if you don't have a DVR, or an antenna, or a local streaming library, then you may be completely out of luck. You might have to resort to reading a book, or even talking to family members. And that's not a bad thing.

I really enjoy my Streaming Life. I just need to make sure it doesn't replace real life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Xfinity Flex

Imagine if you will, a world where you are a Comcast/Xfinity TV subscriber. You suffer through the periodic price increases, channel changes, channel removals from your subscription tier, and the constant nagging that things could be better. However, you know that "better" involves that scariest of monsters -- Change.

You are someone who either grew up on cable, or have been with cable so long that you can barely remember without it. What can you do so that you keep the monster known as Change at bay?

Believe it or not, Comcast/Xfinity comes to your rescue and helps you drop cable.

No, this isn't the Twilight Zone or some alternate universe where Spock has a beard. This is here and now.

This is a pretty simple streaming device. There's no app store like you'll find with Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, or Amazon Fire devices. Rather, similar to the early Apple TV devices, there are a limited number of apps provided, and you can use them or not.

It comes with a remote that looks similar to the ones which an Xfinity cable user would already be familiar.

Not a lot of options, an Xfinity standard remote, and an Xfinity style interface. All of this may appeal to someone who is an Xfinity customer and wants to move to streaming. And did I mention that it's free?

Yes, it's free to Xfinity Internet customers. Well, one is. Additional ones are around $5/month if you want one. Trust me when I say you don't want additional ones. I'll explain why shortly. Oh, and if you're not an Xfinity Internet customer, none of this matters.

To cut the cord as an Xfinity customer, simply let them know that you want the Flex box. If you're unsure if you want to cut the cord, they'll still give you a box. Get one and try it. And make sure you get Peacock Premium. As an Xfinity Internet customer, you get the $5/month Peacock Premium service included.

As I said, Xfinity customers will recognize the interface, and the remote will feel familiar. Try it and see how you like watching TV that way. It won't cost anything, and as I said, it works in a way with which you are already familiar.

The down side of Xfinity Flex is the small number of supported apps. It didn't contain Disney+ when it launched, but it is supported now. So, yes, many of the bigger services are supported, and they do add new ones. However, don't expect any new ones, and you won't be disappointed if they take a while to arrive, or if they never arrive.

Oh, I mentioned not getting a second or third device, but didn't explain why. Well, here's why. They're $5/month. If you are actually into streaming, get a serious streaming device, such as a Roku, an Amazon Fire TV device, a Chromecast with Google TV or other Android/Google TV device, or an Apple TV. For six months rental of an additional Flex device, you've spent as much as a Firestick or an entry-level Roku device. If you know you want to stream in multiple locations, go ahead and get a full featured streaming device.

However, if you're testing the waters, and you're an Xfinity customer, this is an easy and free way to try out the world of streaming.

No, the device isn't perfect, but it is a good transition device. Comcast/Xfinity has really done something to help someone just starting their Streaming Life.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Streaming your own content: DVDs

The focus here is, of course, streaming. To many, that means content from sources such as Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and so on. But, what about content you already own?

If you've collected many DVDs over the years, how do you watch them? Pop them into a DVD player? Sure, you could do that. And that works as long as every TV has its own DVD player. And you don't mind getting the DVD from your library case, taking it to the TV, switching inputs, putting it in the player, switching to the DVD player remote, and watching the movie that way.

I prefer to grab my streaming player remote and launching an app that accesses my DVDs, then pick one and watch it. Same for TV shows I own on DVD.

How is this possible? Well, it takes some setup. And, initially, some work. A lot of work, or at least a lot of time, if you have a lot of movies.

There are different applications that allow you to do this -- KODI, Servlio, Emby, and others -- but my choice is Plex .

Whichever service you choose, you have to do setup of the server, and you have to rip the DVDs to a format the server can utilize. There is no avoiding that work, but once you get it done, it's really easy to watch the movies.

Let's take the first part, setting up the server. You'll need a computer to sit and run to deliver the content. Essentially, you'll put the movies on one computer, connect that computer to your network, and have it set to run the server software.

As I said, I chose Plex, but you can use any you want. The general steps are pretty much the same, with differences in setting up the software. Pick one you like. Most are pretty simple to set up, and walk you through it. Don't get fancy, not at first anyway, but use a standard setup, if this is all new to you. The main thing is for it to work, and the default settings will make sure that happens.

You can use an existing computer, or even an old computer, to run Plex (or whatever you choose). It can be a Windows, Mac, or Linux setup. Mac will probably cost more, unless you have a spare Mac laying around, so go with Windows or Linux. And, if you're not that comfortable setting up Linus, go with Windows. The main thing that might be an issue is the size of the hard drive on which you'll place your movies. Get the largest you can afford that will work with whatever computer you choose.

Once you have the computer set up, you can add and launch the corresponding app. For Plex, just add the Plex app to your streaming device. It should find your server, even though you don't have any content loaded. And that's the next step.

To extract the movies from your DVDs to a Plex server, you'll need software that can read the DVDs and convert the content to a usable format. Handbrake is a good choice, but not the only choice. It's free, and works most of the time. I use some commercial software that has a few extra features that makes it easier and quicker, but my library is over 1,600 movies, plus hundreds of short films and TV shows, so it was worth it. But, I started with Handbrake and was happy with what it did.

You'll need to follow the instructions for setting it up, perhaps even downloading some extra software to help with the conversion, but once you do that, it's simply a matter of launching Handbrake, inserting the DVD, picking the format (I used MP4) and starting the conversion.

Once you have the MP4 (or other format) file, move it to the correct directory (or folder) that Plex (or other software) expects and it will read it into the system.

Check your streaming app, and the movie will appear. Every time you add a move to your library, it will show up, and you can watch it from any streaming device.

Yes, the setup takes some time, and ripping each movie takes time, but you'll have easier access to moves, and that will make your Streaming Life much easier.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Pub-D-Hub

One of my favorite apps that nobody seems to know about is Pub-D-Hub. It's all public domain content, and all stuff you can find elsewhere, but they do put a lot together in easy to find categories. It's available on Roku and on Amazon Fire TV devices.

The service is free, which you might expect for public domain content. They also have a Gold and a Gold+ plan. They offer more content with those plans, and the price is really cheap. The Gold plan is $4/year. Not $4/month, but $4/year. That's cheap. I suppose it helps cover their server costs, and I'm fine paying a little to help out. I get a lot of enjoyment from the service, and it's well worth it to me, even if they didn't offer more content. I'd certainly pay $4/year to help keep it going.

The Gold+ add-on, which is about another $2/year, for Gold subscribers lets you add more devices to the account, and includes access to some live streaming content, plus some parental controls.

I love to watch the old commercials they have. Some are things I've never seen before about products I've never heard of before, but some are some that bring back memories. You may be too young to remember any of the commercials, but they are still fascinating to see. And, if you are too young to remember them, perhaps your parents or grandparents will remember them. Play them and watch the smiles.

Pub-D-Hub carries a lot of old moves, too, as you would expect. They add five movies to the lineup every week, occasionally skipping a week or two around holidays. During those times, they add special holiday-themed movies and TV shows.

If you used to watch the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show, you'll remember the shorts they'd riff. Many of those original uncut versions are available, as well as others that could have fit right in.

If you're a fan of military history, you'll see many old military training and news films from the 20th century.

Early space exploration films are a favorite of mine as well. It's fascinating to see the pioneers of the space program, not only of the U.S., but of the U.S.S.R. as well. During those years, we didn't know much about the Soviet cosmonauts, and the occasional Soviet film is fascinating to those that lived during that time.

There are many things I like about Pub-D-Hub, and not just the free price. As I said, I think the Gold and Gold+ plans are worth it.

Check it out. You may find it a welcome addition to your Streaming Live.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Belmont Stakes

Today is the scheduled running of the Belmont Stakes. As I'm not a fan of horse racing, it's not that big of a deal to me, but there are a lot of people that enjoy the activity, so let's look at how to watch today's race.

NBC is carrying the race, so if you want to watch the race, find NBC in your area.

If you have an antenna, tune to the local NBC affiliate.

If you are in one of the 33 markets served by Locast, you can view through that app.

If you don't have an antenna or Locast, you can use a live streaming service that carries NBC. Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and Fubo are each $65, while AT&T TV is $75/month. Vidgo doesn't carry NBC. In some markets, Sling Blue, which is $35/month, will have NBC, though not all areas.

If you are a fan of horse racing, you're probably already excited about today's race. If you are a casual fan, or not a fan, watch this and see if it doesn't make you just a little excited. It's the fastest Belmont Stakes ever (at least, at the current distance), and one of the most amazing feats ever in the sport.

[Direct link to YouTube]

I recall watching that live, and was totally amazed by what I saw. I still am.

I don't expect anything like that today, but you never know.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Amazon Oscars

This past week, Amazon announced it was buying MGM. Okay, they're calling it a merger, but it's Amazon buying MGM. That gives Amazon a lot of movies, and some pretty darn good ones, including a lot of Academy Award winners, many of which won Best Picture.

MGM claims credit for twelve Best Picture winners:

As a company, MGM boasts more than 177 Academy Awards® in its vast library. Among those are 12 Best Picture Winners. These films include; Hamlet (1948), Marty (1955), The Apartment (1960), West Side Story (1961), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Rocky (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Platoon (1986), Rain Man (1988), Dances With Wolves (1990), The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Maybe I need to do some more research, but there are more Best Picture winners that MGM won over the years, either as the studio, who took the award prior to 1950, or from it's acquisition of United Artists:

  • The Broadway Melody
  • Grand Hotel
  • Mutiny on the Bounty
  • The Great Ziegfeld
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Those are some pretty good films. Well, most of them. I don't think all of those were necessarily the actual best movie of that particular year, but they are some pretty good films. And dare I say it, Prime entertainment.

Variety calls the deal "a way to supercharge its Prime Video service with a slew of well-known entertainment titles." I'm sure that's the case, but I do wonder if there are agreements for MGM movies on other streaming services. But, yeah, they'll show up there.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, you'll eventually get more of those movies. If not, maybe this will push you to consider it. It shouldn't. Nothing's going to change for a while. Still, Amazon Prime is a good way to get lots of viewing options and make your Streaming Life a more enjoyable one.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

YouTube TV is offering specials

While I'm not a fan of year-round use of a live streaming service, I do believe that YouTube TV is one of the best of those type of services. It's really popular with those weaned away from cable, possibly because it works so much like a cable service. Lately, though, it's been offering some specials, and I wonder why. I'll speculate. But first, here are some of the specials they've been running.

Website Cord Cutters News reports that YouTube TV has been running a three-week trial period for new subscribers.

YouTube TV is giving away three week free trials from their Twitter page today. The streaming service asked followers to tag friends in response to a tweet and is sending out promo codes for new users.

If you don’t manage to score a three week trial from the party happening over on Twitter right now, YouTube TV is also offering a two week free trial for all new users, a week more than the regular 7 day free trial. The offer ends on June 15.

From the YouTube TV Website, you'll find an offer for $10 off for three months. It's still $55/month, but that is a decent savings from the regular $65/month price. And, that currently makes it cheaper than Hulu + Live TV and Fubo.

Why is YouTube TV running a couple of different specials right now? I don't know. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the loss of the Roku platform. After all, Roku is the most popular, most widely used streaming platform. Is the loss of Roku impacting YouTube TV? Maybe. Maybe not.

It could just be that YouTube TV is running specials that are unrelated to any impact for Roku. After all, if the thought they were being impacted to a great degree, they'd drop their demands and re-sign an agreement with Roku.

Perhaps if these special deals work, they'll get by without Roku just fine, and Roku may give in. Or, they may find it doesn't compensate enough to make the loss of Roku worthwhile, and YouTube TV will give in.

I really don't care one way or the other. I can get by just fine without YouTube TV. I'm getting by just fine, in fact. And, I have multiple streaming devices, so I can do without Roku just fine. However, I always prefer there be options, because competition helps foster innovation, and that's good for your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

More streaming, more free streaming

According to a couple of reports, more people are streaming -- no shocker there -- and more streamers are using more free live streaming services. That's the result of a study by Tubi, a free live streaming service.

Okay, now if you're like me, you're thinking, "well, of course a free live streaming service would have a press release promoting free live streaming." On the other hand, I don't suppose Xfinity, Sling TV, or any service other than a free live streaming service would issue a press release about that. So...

The report shows U.S. viewers has a pretty big jump in viewing:

The latest research from Tubi’s audience report The Stream revealed video streaming consumption skyrocketing with 70% of Americans participating in the study watching more TV now than they were in March 2020. Among that group, the average person is streaming three additional hours each day since that time. Tubi has seen this upward trend with its viewers over the last year, recently announcing a record-setting Total View Time (TVT) of 798 million hours during the first quarter this year, up 54% year-over-year, and a platform-best 276 million hours of TVT in March.

And, it's not just in the U.S. but also in Canada that the numbers are up:

Full Stream Ahead found that 54% of Canadians streamed more over the past year, with Adults 18-34 citing the most significant change. Additionally, Canadian streamers’ average daily streaming consumption has increased by 2.4 hours per day. In Canada, Tubi is the most popular ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) service (20%) behind YouTube (34%) and saw a 107% year-over-year increase in total view time (TVT) from January 2020 through January 2021.

I know this is true for me, but I'm not sure I'm a typical streamer. Maybe I am typical, or maybe typical is changing to become me.

Now, let me state that while I have increased my free live streaming -- or linear streaming, I suppose -- it really hasn't been more Tubi viewing. It's been Pluto TV. But, I do think Tubi is a great option, just not one I use as much as Pluto TV. I'm also liking Xumo, for what that's worth.

So, maybe you'll want to consider Pluto TV, Tubi, Xumo, or another live streaming service, just to check it out. Maybe you'll find alternatives to what you've been watching.

If you haven't cut the cord yet, then I strongly suggest trying out the services. If you have a smart TV that has one of those apps, or if you have or want to pick up an inexpensive streaming device -- Roku, Firestick, Chromcast, something -- and try them out, you might find some content you enjoy.

Using free live streaming services is one way I improve my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

One month in

Just over a month ago, this Website launched. I'm here to offer tips and thoughts about streaming to those that might want a perspective from someone who has been doing this for a bit.

No, I'm not arrogant enough to think you should ignore everyone else and listen to me, but I do think I have a decent amount of experience with streaming, and can help those that are new to streaming.

If you are new to streaming, or thinking about adding or moving entirely to streaming, I do think I can offer help or suggestions. Notice that in the sidebar is an "Ask a question" form. If you have a question, submit it and I'll follow up with you personally, and here on the Website. After all, if you have a question, someone else may have the same question. We can all help each other enjoy or Streaming Life by sharing our experiences. This is my little way to try to help.

Over the last five weeks, I've talked about some streaming devices, some streaming services, and some thoughts in general that relate to streaming. I've tried to share my thoughts and opinions about things, and do have my own prejudices for or against certain devices and services. For example, I'm a fan of Roku devices, and really don't like Amazon Fire TV devices. However, I recognize that there are many people who think Fire TV devices are the greatest thing since ordering sliced bread online. That's a valid opinion, of course, just not mine.

I generally try to take a positive approach to the items or topics about which I talk, but that's simply a reflection of me. Even things I don't like -- I just mentioned Fire TV devices, for example -- may still hold great value to others. I know people that absolutely love the TiVo Stream 4K device. I don't like it. However, I will not suggest you avoid it, just that you be aware of the issues I had and have with the device so you aren't caught off guard. It may be the device for you.

I've mentioned many many times that I don't use live streaming services, or at least not the paid ones. I find I can watch what I want, or what satisfies my wants when it comes to watching TV, without spending that amount of money. But, that's just my perspective. You may not understand how I can possibly find streaming fulfillment without such a service. Well, I can. And if you need such a service, then you need such a service, and I'll help if I can.

Am I accomplishing what I started out to do? I have no idea. If you're here and reading this, I invite you to look around at other posts here and see if the topics covered might be helpful. If you are helped by any of this, then yes, I'm accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. If not, then no, I'm not doing what I wanted. I just need to get better. But then, don't we all?

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Today is Memorial Day in the United States.

"We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue."

-- James A. Garfield May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sports streaming: The Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600

When I cut the cord, the biggest problem I encountered was how to watch sports. Remember, this was 2011 and a full four years before Sling TV launched. There were no live streaming services. Maybe that's why I don't have any problem doing without one and think they really aren't necessary.

But anyway, we're talking about sports and how a streamer can watch sports. In particular, there are people that want to watch the Indy 500 or the Coca-Cola 600. If you're a streamer and you want to watch a race, what do you do?

You do have options. One is to use an antenna. For the Indy 500, find your local NBC affiliate, while for the Coca-Cola 600 you need to find your local Fox affiliate and watch that way. If you have an Air TV, a Tablo, or a TiVo DVR, you can even record the races. Or if you live in one of the 32 markets served by Locast, that's an option. You can also watch the Indy 500 on Peacock Premium.

For the live streaming services, Sling Blue is $35/month, Vidgo is $55, and Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and Fubo are each $65, while AT&T TV is $75/month.

Ten years ago, there was one option: antenna. Okay, there was go to a sports bar, which you still have today. But today, you have a lot more options in your Streaming Life.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Cord cutters, you are not alone

When I cut the cord in 2011, there were 101 million cable TV subscribers, an all time high. There are now 50 million cord cutters, or streamers who never had cable, which is an all time high, according to a report in Forbes.

Of course, this means that once I cut the cord, everybody wanted to.

Okay, maybe that's not what it means. Maybe it just means more and more people see advantages in streaming over cable.

If you've made the jump to streaming, you're leading the charge in breaking away from traditional cable. And, you're not alone, as those numbers show.

Cable offered a lot in its time, but its time is passing. Cable still leads streaming by a large number, but cable is losing over a million and a half subscribers every quarter. I'm not taking joy in this, because lost subscribers could mean lost jobs. However, every advance in technology impacts the older tech, and always has. It's the nature of progress.

I don't like the thought of lost jobs for cable employees, but I don't like the limitations of cable, both technical and otherwise. I'm not giving up my Streaming Life.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Traveling and streaming

I've seen a lot of people ask questions on support Websites about how to set up devices to use while traveling. I want to let you know up front, that I haven't actually used a streaming device while traveling, so I never chime in on ways to do it, but I'm going to give my thoughts on this topic now.

Most of the support Websites concerning streaming and traveling offer suggestions about using a Firestick or a Roku Stick. The reason is that those devices are small and easy to pack. And, to my understanding, the Firestick is the easiest to use when it comes to setting up a streaming device in a hotel.

The problem is that many hotels force you to agree to terms when you connect to their WiFi. With Roku devices, you have to have a computer or smart phone to complete the process. It's a little more complicated and not as easy as a Firestick, according to my understanding, but both work well.

If you have a Roku device, you can use any current model. All the current Roku devices support this functionality. Firestick has supported this longer, and most people like it better.

If you're a Chromecast user, if the hotel uses a Web page agreement setup, you can't connect. Same with Apple TV. You're pretty much limited to Firestick or Roku for connecting to hotel WiFi.

Which do I use? Neither. When I go on vacation, I don't carry a streaming device with me. It's not what I want to do on vacation. I want to focus on where I am, who I'm with, and what we're doing. None of that means a streaming device.

Of course, it may be the perfect thing for you when you are traveling. Vacation and traveling aren't the same thing. Some travel for work, or short trips for personal that really isn't a vacation. I get that. But, I'm fortunate enough that I haven't been in that situation. Or unfortunate enough. Either way, since the situation doesn't apply to me, I've not made a priority of doing it, so I haven't done it.

But, I do know that if I was a Roku or Amazon Firestick user, I'd be comfortable taking one. If I was all-in on a different device, I'd want to pick up a Firestick or Roku for travel.

Sure, there are travel routers and such that make this easier, but the easiest thing for Firestick or Roku users is to simply pack a device and take it with you.

Don't forget the remote. You will need the remote. If you use a smartphone app to control your device, you'll still need the remote. Trust me on this. Or don't and find out the hard way. You can't use the smartphone app until you're connected to the network. And you can't connect to the network without a remote.

If you want to stream while traveling, there are only a couple of good options, but those that use them are happy with them. Whatever your preference, do what you need to make your Streaming Life an easy one.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Stick, Box, or TV?

When you decide to start streaming, you have a few ways to go when it comes to getting a streaming device. There are three main types of streaming devices: stick, box, and TV.

If you have a standard TV, or a smart TV that doesn't work the way you like, you can add a stick or a box very easily, and use that as your streaming device. And that's the way many many people stream.

Most people that purchase and Amazon Fire TV will pick up a Firestick. It's a stick, as the name says, and is a very popular choice for many. It fits behind the TV, plugged into an HDMI port, and you don't usually see a cord protruding from behind your TV. Roku Stick devices and Google Chromecast devices are also like this. I know the current Chromecast isn't really a stick, but for this discussion, it acts like a stick. Or sticks act like it. Either way.

Another option is to get a set top box. The Roku devices such as the Express or Ultra models are this type of device. Apple TV devices are too. And, Amazon makes set top boxes, though most think of the Firestick when thinking Amazon.

My first streaming device was a Roku XDS, and I've always had a Roku set top box operating since then, even though I've also purchased and used -- still use, in fact -- a Roku stick device.

The upside of a set top box is that they are usually more powerful than sticks, often much more powerful. However, many modern sticks are powerful devices, so there's often not an advantage along that line in using a set top box over a stick.

The final way we're talking about today is a new TV. It's hard to find a TV that has no apps at all. Most have a small selection, unless they are a Fire TV set or a Roku TV device. You can find Android TV or Google TV devices too.

If that's the kind of TV you already have, you probably don't need to get a new TV. Maybe you do, but probably not. If you decide to forego the smart TV interface and add a streaming device, replacing the entire TV may be the way to go.

So, which is the best way to go when it comes to getting your first streaming device. The answer is simple: it doesn't matter, Get whatever you want. It'll work.

If you need a new TV anyway, a Roku TV or a Fire TV device will get you a good quality device and have all the smarts of the platform, Roku, Amazon, or Android/Google.

No matter which way you go, you'll be set to enjoy your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Switching live streaming services

If you're new to cord cutting, and you're having a hard time picking the right live streaming service, allow me to suggest that you don't let that slow you down. Why is that? Well, quite simply, it's easy to switch streaming services.

Unlike cable TV or satellite service where you have a long-term contract, your live streaming service is a month to month proposition. And, they offer free trials. Some only offer three days, some offer a week, and sometimes, you'll find longer trial periods.

Let me suggest that you not try multiple streaming service free trials at the same time. You may not have time to focus on more than one during the free trial period. So, I suggest you pick a service, do the free trial, and don't forget to cancel before the free trial ends.

Oh, about canceling the free trial, you need to be aware that the service may stop it immediately. After all, from their standpoint, they're letting you watch for free until you make a decision. Once you tell them "no" you've decided against them. You aren't entitled to the service any longer. That's not the same as canceling after subscribing and paying. In that situation, you've paid, and are entitled to the service to the end of the term. Not so on a free trial. Some services may let you keep using the free trial after you've canceled, up to the end of the free trial period, but if the service cuts you off immediately, don't fuss about it. You weren't paying for it, after all.

Once you've picked a service and begun paying for it, what if you decide you really don't like it. That's easy. Cancel and get another service. I'd suggest waiting until the end of the time you've paid to try a new service, but if you really want to go ahead and try a new service, go ahead. Do what's best for you.

The main thought, though, is unlike some places where you don't have several options for cable or satellite, you have a lot of streaming options. If you pay for, say, YouTube TV and decide it's not for you for reasons of cost, channel selection, interface, or any reason or no reason, it's easy to cancel and switch to another. And, you can try the new service free trial immediately. No scheduling a technician to come by between the hours of noon and 5 pm.

Switching live streaming services is quick and easy. It helps you get more control of the stuff you watch. And that's a good thing.

Of course, I'm always going to ask if you really need a live streaming service. Do consider whether or not you do. You might be surprised. But, if you want one, it's really easy to try them out and switch them out if the one you try doesn't work for you. Don't hesitate to switch services if you want. It will help you get control of and enjoy your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Using TiVo Stream


I mentioned recently that I would be testing the TiVo Stream device. Well, I did that. And I'm a little disappointed.

The TiVo Stream is an Android TV device. The interface is fine. It's not quite the same as the Google TV interface of the Chromecast with Google TV. As I mentioned earlier, I like the new Chromecast/GTV device. The interface of the TiVo Stream is definitely TiVo flavored, and that's fine.

Anyone who has used a TiVo DVR will be familiar with the remote and the interface. You know you're using a TiVo. And that's a good thing. 

I've used TiVo DVRs, starting in 2006 and continued until just a couple of years ago. As a DVR, it's top notch. As a streaming device, it lacks something: reliability.

I took about a week to use the TiVo Stream as my primary streaming device, and it worked great -- most of the time. I had the occasional hiccup with YouTube, but that's not unheard of with any device. I had connection issues with Hulu, and that was frustrating.

I'm not currently using Hulu + Live TV, but instead the standard Hulu service. The cheap plan with commercials. I mention that because it seems to me that overall, Hulu + Live TV has more issues than Hulu standard service. Of course, every service does, but it seems that Hulu's live service has more issues than its on-demand service. In other words, I use the more reliable Hulu. Unless my impression is wrong.

Hulu would have connection issues and while it didn't crash the device, it was frustrating to have to restart the video, or even restart the app, from time to time.

After the first few times it did that, I would then grab my Roku remote and try the service. No connection issues. Never once did I experience a connection issue with Roku during that week, but I did at least once a day, sometimes more.

Of course, it could be that the Android TV app for Hulu is simply a poorly designed or written app, and the TiVo Stream works otherwise great.

The only complaint I have with the remote is the TiVo button. However, it is where a TiVo user would expect it to be, so it's not a major complaint.

The integration of the TiVo style interface was well done, and a TiVo user would feel right at home. And any new user would get used to it really quickly. Someone who is more familiar with other devices might have a little adjustment with the TiVo button and the OK button located where they are, but as I said, it's not hard to get used to it.

If the Hulu app issue didn't exist, I'd be writing more positive things. But my purpose isn't to give positive reviews of devices. It's to share my thoughts and tips as a long-time streamer. And if you're looking at the TiVo Stream as a choice, it's pretty good one. It's moved in to the number five slot, behind, in no particular order, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast with Google TV, and Roku.

I'll go back and use the device from time to time, so I'm not packing it in a box and putting it on a shelf. I'm keeping it hooked up, at least for now. If you get one, I expect you'll be happy with it. It's generally responsive and mostly works.

If you are thinking of getting one, I'll suggest Chromecast with Google TV as a better Android style device. If you already have one, don't beat yourself up. Use it and enjoy it. You may find it gives you the experience you want, and your Streaming Life will be a happy one.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Finding the perfect live streaming service

There are a bunch of articles online that cover reviews and comparisons between different streaming services. The idea is to give the reader enough information to make a decision.

Am I going to do that? Maybe. Not right now, but I might one day.

So, what is this about? Well, there's actually a Web tool that I really like. I'm not sure how easy you would find it to use, but I find it very easy to use. Of course, I may have a different approach to finding live streaming services than you might.

To me, if I want a live streaming service, it will depend on a few things: channel selection, device availability, and price. Everything else? To me doesn't really matter, at least not that much. And the Web tool to which I refer does what I need it to do, in a simple and easy to use manner.

I don't know who's behind the company. I suppose I should look into that, but I haven't. I will say that the Web tool does a good job for me. 

It's called Suppose, or Suppose.TV, and the Web tool is located at https://www.suppose.tv/ which kinda makes sense, right?

Anyway, go to https://www.suppose.tv/ and set your location in the box at the top left. Your ZIP Code will be sufficient. Depending on your location, you may be presented with a couple of different markets. Mine simply offered Savannah, but if you are close to multiple markets, you may be presented with multiple choices. Pick what you consider local, in that case.

Next, select the channels you want. Here's the most difficult part, really. I suggest you pick the channels you really really really want, not just "hey, this would be nice." You can select those, but I'm going to suggest you only pick the most important channel or channels first. You can add the others later.

Once you have your channels selected, you'll see a listing of services that carry them. But, that list might include satellite services, which isn't what you're looking for. So, here's where you pick your device.

In the top right there's a dropdown for device. Pick your favorite device or platform. If you have a Roku TV device, for instance, pick Roku. That will probably make some of the services listed disappear, and that's okay. In fact, that's what you want.

Next, prioritize your channels. Those that are absolutely must have channels, select the little heart icon on it. If you change your mind about a channel, or if you accidentally add the wrong one, you can remove it with the little X icon. You can also drag them one over the other, prioritizing them that way. You don't have to, but you can. And, you can temporarily remove one by clicking the little slider on it. That way you don't remove it, then try to find it to put it back. It's just a quick way to do "hey, if I don't really need this one, I can save a bunch of money" thing.

There's another thing you'll want to check. At the top center is a Refine section. That way you can pick if you really need a DVR or more than one stream. If you need three streams, for instance, you can pick that. Or if saving money overall is more important than cost per channel, you can use that slider.

As you make changes, the listing of services may change, so expect that. Continue to add or remove or disable channels as you think about it. Move the most important ones to the top. Check different devices if you are still shopping for a device. If it takes a few minutes to get it just like you want, that's okay. The money you save will make up for those few minutes.

The Web tool will display the service that meets the criteria you set. Or... it may display multiple services. For example, if you selected Discovery and CuriosityStream as "must have" channels, it will show combos. As of this writing, it will display the single service Vidgo for $45, as well as combos including Philo and Frndly.TV for $26.


You can determine if the single service, which is more expensive, is actually a better option for you than the two services Philo and Frndly.TV. In this example, Vidgo costs more, but it's all in a single app. You can save money by using the two services Philo and Frndly.TV, but you have to use two separate apps to watch the channels. You can choose whichever you prefer.

There are some times that a Website that lists services and channels in a grid, with indicators of which carries what, is what I need. But, the Suppose.TV tool works well for me too. It's kept updated more than those Website lists.

I find Suppose.TV to be a useful tool. I hope you are able to determine if it works for you. If it does, it may help your Streaming Life to be much easier.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

IPTV

There are a lot of IPTV services available to stream a lot of content online. However, most of them come with some really major issues. For someone new to streaming, there can be some difficulty in determining which services to use and which services to avoid. I'll try to offer some thoughts and tips for picking which services to consider and which to avoid to help you make the most of your Streaming Life.

What is IPTV?

First, let's get the definition of IPTV out of the way. IPTV is the abbreviation for Internet Protocol Television. So, what does that mean? That depends on who you ask. One accepted definition is:

“IPTV is defined as multimedia services such as television/video/ audio/text/graphics/data delivered over IP based networks managed to provide the required level of QoS/QoE, security, interactivity and reliability.”

 Keeping it simple, it's TV over the Internet.

What are IPTV Services?

Again, depending on how technical you want to get -- I'm not going to do that; if you want all the details, use a search engine and spend the next several hours having fun -- you could call any online streaming service IPTV. I won't argue that, but the major legal services aren't generally considered IPTV services, but rather OTT (Over The Top) services. 

There's another long complicated definition involved here, but for our purposes, we'll go along with the standard usage of calling Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and all of those familiar services OTT television, and avoid calling them IPTV services. If you want to call them IPTV services, I'm not going to call you wrong. I'm simply going to use a different term, the more common OTT.

Is IPTV Legal?

Yes, IPTV is legal. However, most services that define themselves as IPTV or IPTV services are not. How can this be? Because legal reasons.

When you create something, write something original, build something, you are entitled to the benefits of your labors. Your work and creativity are not the property of others; not the community, not the state, nor anyone, unless you choose to voluntarily donate it. If your political philosophy is different, well you know where I stand, and we won't spend time debating. Well, I won't.

Accepting that you are entitled to the fruits of your labors, that applies to others as well. Everyone, in fact. Which means that if someone builds a house, it's theirs. You don't have the right to simply move in and live there. 

If someone writes a book, it's theirs. You don't have the write to print them up and sell them and keep all the money. The author has ownership rights. That usually involves a publisher to ensure this happens.

If someone makes a movie, it's theirs and you don't have the right to make it available to others without consent. That usually involves a movie studio and distributor agreements to ensure this happens.

Most of the services that identify as IPTV don't bother with going through distribution agreements. Netflix does, Hulu does, all of the legitimate services do. Services that call themselves IPTV generally don't.

Putting all that together, yes IPTV is legal, but most content from IPTV services isn't, because most IPTV services don't secure the rights to the content. They're pirates.

Other Reasons?

There are other reasons for avoiding self-identified IPTV services, to include that the software they sometimes require may contain malicious code. It could compromise your system.

There have been instances where authorities have shut down IPTV services, then turned the customer database over to the content owners, who then sued the customers for theft of services. I'm not going to debate whether or not this is proper. I'm simply passing it along so you're aware this has happened.

What to do?

I avoid using services that call themselves IPTV services. I avoid any service that requires the installation of any special software. I'm not talking about an app from the Amazon, Google, Apple, or Roku store. I'm talking about where you must download special software that lets you install other software. Doing what is commonly (though not always correctly) "jailbreaking" a device.

If you can't find the app for a service in a legitimate app store, there's usually a reason, and not a good one.

If the number of moves and TV shows is an incredibly high number for a really low price, if there are promises of the ability to watch any sporting event for free or no additional cost, if there are any promises of something that seems to good to be true, it probably is an illegal service.

For me, I think "What if I was the content owner? Would someone using this service deny me what's due to me through the contracts I've signed?" If so, then the user would be stealing. If I'm the user, I'd be stealing. That makes it an easy choice for me.

I haven't tried to make your life any more complicated than it already is. However, I did want to talk about this so that you had an idea of the things that are out there that you should avoid. Stick with the major services and you'll be okay. Use the services that have apps in the legitimate app stores and you'll be okay.

Yes, it can get complicated, but that's life. Perhaps we can all work together to help keep things simply and let you enjoy your Streaming Life.