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.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

What if you have a smart TV already?

I'm a fan of streaming devices. I think Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google/Android TV devices are good options for streaming. But what if you already have a smart TV? Suppose your TV already has apps. Should you get a Roku or Fire TV device? The answer to that question is easy: maybe.

More and more, smart TVs include one of the above-mentioned systems as the "smarts" of the smart TV. You can find Roku TV devices. Those are TVs that include the Roku software. You can also find TVs with Fire TV or Android/Google TV built in. You turn then on, and there is the Fire TV or Android/Google TV menu.

If you have one of those TV -- Roku TV, built in Fire TV, or built in Android/Google TV -- then you really don't need a streaming device attached. Unless of course you want to. More about that in a minute.

If your smart TV doesn't use one of those platforms, then I'm going to suggest that you look seriously into adding one of those platforms to the TV. That doesn't mean you should use, say, a Roku device on your TV. If the proprietary smart TV interface included with your TV does everything you want it to do, then no, you don't need to get a Roku or Fire TV to attach.

On the other hand, I don't know the last time I bought a TV that wasn't a smart TV. 20 years ago? Longer? Something like that. On the last non-smart TV I had, I put a Roku and Apple TV device. That was in 2010. The last few TVs I bought all had built-in smarts. I tried them, but didn't really like them. 

You see, I had used Roku and Apple TV, so I knew just how good a streaming device could be. I had experience with a faster, more robust system, and the built-in system didn't come close. If I had not had Roku or Apple TV experience, I may have been satisfied, but since I was familiar, I wasn't going to put up with it, so I kept using Roku, Apple TV, etc., bypassing the build-in systems.

Depending on personal preference, and the abilities of the family members, you may want to consider buying a device even with one of the top tiers platforms on your TV. If your family members prefer, or if you prefer, something like Amazon Fire TV above all else, and if your TV has Google TV built in, then sure, go ahead and add a Fire TV device to it. Or if you really like Apple TV, put that on your TV, even if it's a good quality Roku TV.

Essentially, do whatever makes your Streaming Life run better.

Friday, May 21, 2021

YouTube TV

Over the years, I've tried different live streaming services. I want to be up front that I don't use live streaming services year round, so if you're looking for a fanboy of those services, you're not gonna get that from me. What you will get is my honest thoughts and opinions about whatever I'm writing about. And today, that's the live streaming service YouTube TV.

I've made an effort to use all the major live streaming services, at least a little of them, say a month or two each, from various services. I've tried them, not just for a free trial, but actually paying money from my wallet to these companies. One of the best is YouTube TV.

Why am I calling it "one of the best" instead of simply "the best" live streaming services. Patience, young one. All will become clear.

The selection of channels available from YouTube TV is top notch. If you're a sports fan, you'll get the major sports channels. You'll find the ESPN channels in the lineup, as well as the Fox sports channels. There are NBC sports channels, MLB Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and more.

Oh, by the way, don't confuse "Fox sports channels" with "Fox Sports channels." You see the difference? One means channels of sports from Fox, the other refers to channels that no longer exist that were sold by Fox to others, and are now Bally Sports channels. And Bally sports channels are not part of YouTube TV.

How can I say that YouTube TV has the major sports channels if they don't carry Bally? Well, those are regional channels, while the ones YouTube TV carries are national. That's the difference. But it's an important difference. You'll only find Bally sports on AT&T TV service, at least, at this writing. So, if that's a requirement, then YouTube TV isn't for you.

For a lot of people, YouTube TV would be a great choice for a live streaming service. My question as always is do you really need a live streaming service? If your answer is "yes" then keep reading. YouTube TV might be for you.

For news junkies, there are the major channels from NBC, Fox News, CNN, BBC, ABC, plus some regional news.

The lineup of entertainment channels is large, but not everything is included:

  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • BET
  • BET Her
  • Bravo
  • Cartoon Network
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Comet TV
  • Cozi
  • Dabl
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Junior
  • Disney XD
  • E!
  • Food Network
  • Freeform
  • FX
  • FXM
  • FXX
  • GPB
  • HGTV
  • ID
  • IFC
  • MotorTrend
  • MTV
  • MTV Classic
  • MTV2
  • Nat Geo
  • Nat Geo Wild
  • NewsNation
  • Nick Jr.
  • Nick@Nite
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nicktoons
  • OWN
  • Oxygen
  • Paramount
  • Pop
  • QVC
  • Smithsonian Channel
  • Start TV
  • SundanceTV
  • SYFY
  • Tastemade
  • TBS
  • TeenNick
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • Travel Channel
  • truTV
  • Turner Classic Movies
  • TV Land
  • Universal Kids
  • Universo
  • USA
  • VH1
  • VOD ONLY
  • WE tv
Note that A&E Network channels aren't there: A&E, History, Lifetime, and the other channels from that family of networks. That's a notable omission, but the list that YouTube TV carries is pretty darn good.

What about local channels? YouTube TV does well in most areas. I'm in the Savannah, Georgia TV market and I get the local affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS (GPB here), and Telemundo. While that's good, it doesn't compare to what's available over the air via antenna, if you are close enough to a TV tower.

Missing from YouTube TV, but available on antenna in my area are local stations that carry programming from Bounce, CW, multiple PBS stations, multiple Court TV channels, Laff, Circle, Grit, Ion, MeTV, Antenna TV, Comet, TBD, Cozi, and Quest. You may get more via antenna. 

If you have an antenna and can pick up several stations, you may not need to have the local channels from YouTube TV.

What about DVR? Well, YouTube TV has one of the best insofar as the amount of content you can store. It's unlimited storage, but not unlimited time to store. Content rolls off after nine months.

What about device compatibility? YouTube TV runs on most of the major devices. Right now, there's a spat between Google and Roku, so if you don't already have YouTube TV installed, you can't download it to your Roku. It's also available on Apple TV, Fire TV, and of course Chromecast with Google TV, as well as the major gaming systems such as Xbox One and PlayStation.

If you need a live streaming service, and if you need local channels, YouTube TV is a great choice. If you can get live stations from an antenna, you may want to look into other, cheaper services such as Philo if you don't need news or sports, or either Sling TV or Vidgo if you want news and sports.

Even if you don't need local channels, you may find the YouTube TV interface much easier to use. It's really good, and better than most. You may find that YouTube TV helps make your Streaming Life so much simpler.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Testing TiVo Stream

I've recently added another streaming device to my arsenal. I recently obtained a TiVo Stream device and am testing it out.

It's an Android TV device, similar to the Chromecast with Google TV. The interface is more like what you would expect from TiVo than from Google TV.

I got my first TiVo DVR in 2006, and upgraded a couple of times along the way. All of the TiVo devices I've owned since 2006 have all been DVRs with some streaming capability. This is the first solely streaming TiVo device I've owned.

A lot of people have said some good things about TiVo stream. With Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Fire TV devices, I never bothered to try the TiVo. My most recent experience with TiVo, trying to replace a defective device for my mother's setup, soured her and me on TiVo. But, I'm going to try their streaming device anyway.

It arrived this past week, and I set it up, but didn't use it so I could complete my testing of the Chromecast with Google TV device I wrote about recently. And now it's TiVo Stream's turn.

I'm going to spend the next several days using it exclusively. Well, that's the plan anyway. Of course, Robert Burns wrote "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men Gang aft agley" ("The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”). Or John Lennon's "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Either, or both, could apply.

Let's see how this goes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Using Chromecast with Google TV

Last week, I said I would spend time using Chromecast with Google TV. I actually wrote that a few days before you read it. I began using it, and wrote the post, but scheduled some other posts ahead of that one. So, I've actually spent a lot more time than you might think using Chromecast with Google TV. I've used exclusively for the last several days. I wasn't sure how I would like it. I knew the device was a good device, and is one of my top three devices, behind Roku and Apple TV. After using it, I now wonder if it would have been number two if I had used it as long as I have Apple TV. Chromecast with Google TV is a good device.

One thing I do not like about it is the name. "Chromecast with Google TV" is way too long a name for a device. Sure, Chromecast is taken, as that's the current version of the original Chromecast that was released as a stick in 2013, and converted to the current form of a dongle (yes, I know a stick is a dongle, but this isn't a stick). That device, which uses a mobile device as a remote to launch and control apps, still exists, now in its third generation (released in 2018). The Chromecast with Google TV, released in 2020, adds an interface and remote to the package, making it a complete, full fledged, stand-alone streaming device. It's just that the name is too long.

The name doesn't impact how it works, though. I mean, it does describe it, sure. It's a Chromecast, and it has Google TV built in. How does it work? Actually, it works great. The interface is different from Apple TV's and Roku's, but there are similarities too.

Setup

I didn't set the Chromecast with Google TV up again. I had done it when I got it, and it was easy. The on-screen prompts make it a breeze to set up. The only people that would have trouble setting one up are those that can't remember their Google password. 

Responsiveness

The most important thing to me with a streaming device is when you press a button, does it do what you want it to do, and is quick about it. I've used devices that have a noticeable lag between button press and action. This isn't one of those. Chromecast with Google TV responds like I want a device to respond.

App Selection

Having access to the Google Play store means that Chromecast with Google TV has a huge library of apps. But not all. I looked at 35 major cable alternative apps and other major popular apps. Most work with Chromecast with Google TV, including:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • YouTube TV
  • Sling TV
  • Philo
  • Fubo TV
  • Vidgo
  • Frndly TV
  • Prime Video
  • Apple TV
  • Disney+
  • Discovery+
  • Paramount+
  • Peacock TV
  • YouTube
  • HBO Max
  • ESPN
  • Bally Sports
  • Acorn TV
  • BET+
  • Crackle
  • Fandango Now
  • IMDB TV
  • Locast
  • Movies Anywhere
  • Plex
  • Pluto TV
  • Tablo
  • Tubi
  • Vudu
  • Xumo

Not all those I checked work with Chromecast with Google TV, however, including:

  • AT&T TV
  • Britbox
  • Stirr
  • The Roku Channel

Still, a pretty good representation. By the way, Roku has all but one, YouTube TV, and that's because of a contract dispute that's underway as I write this.

True, this is not a full representation of everything. I didn't even look at apps that work with cable systems, but rather focused on apps that don't require cable. I focused on the cord cutting end of things.

Interface

If the device isn't responsive, it's not one I'll use. If the device doesn't have the apps I want, it's not one I'll use. Chromecast passes both of those tests. But there's one other test: the interface. If the device is difficult to use, I won't use it.

Unlike Roku, Google TV doesn't limit the home screen to a listing of your apps. Your top apps are there, but not all of them. You can drill down to them in a few clicks of the remote, but they aren't all available form the home screen.

On the home screen are recommendations. Apple TV and Fire TV do this also, so if you have used those devices, you'll be familiar with that. Apple TV makes all your apps available on the home screen though. However, Google TV is not like Amazon, which rearranges your apps for you. With Google TV, you control which 12 apps show on the home screen, and the order of the apps, both on the home screen and on the apps screen.

Oh, and while I'm calling it the home screen, Google TV calls the screen "For You." It includes recommendations from your apps.

There's a selection of five highlighted items at the top. Of the different one it game me (5 at a time) I would only click on one or two of the five. Mostly stuff I didn't want, but still there was stuff I did.

There's a Top Picks line that includes movies from your apps or your Google Play library. 

There's a line of Your Apps, which contains, you guessed it, your apps. Well, 12 of them. Plus a link to the rest.

The home screen includes a line of popular movies and TV shows, plus many lines of movies and shows from various genre and categories.

Since it's Google TV, it promotes YouTube, which is owned by Google. There are YouTube video recommendations.

There are several rows of these, in all sorts of categories, and the suggestions are okay. Some are spot on, others miss the mark entirely. Overall, though, the selections aren't too bad. I'm hard to shop for.

Conclusion

It didn't take long to get used to the different (not all that different) remote. The interface isn't difficult to navigate. While I prefer a list of apps, I can see why some would like the recommendations. I usually go to the apps, and though I have a few dozen apps, I only use a handfull regularly. I like that Google TV doesn't rearrange your apps, unlike Amazon's Fire TV.

The device is a good little device. Check that. It's a great little device. It hasn't replaced Roku as my device of choice, but I can see why others would make it their device of choice.

It's a great way to take control of, and enjoy, your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Calculating your savings

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

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

What Do You Have Today?

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

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

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

Splitting The Service

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

Internet

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

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

Phone

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

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

TV

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

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

Compare

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

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

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

Monday, May 17, 2021

Troubleshooting Roku apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Flagged, deleted, and restored

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

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

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

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

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

Then, I read the email a little closer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all, I am a bit of a jerk.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Do you really need a live streaming package?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 14, 2021

Air TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Chromecast testing


I'm going to test the new Chromecast device. This is going to be difficult, I can tell.

Don't misunderstand me. I've used Chromecast before. It was my go-to device for casting from a Chrome browser tab for many years before Roku added that capability.

I used the old stick style Chromecast. I used the newer dongle style (yes, I know, technically a stick is a dongle, but you know what I mean). And I've used the new Chromecast with Google TV. So, no, Chromecast isn't new to me.

Google has two versions available: the standard Chromecast device is $30. That's the traditional device that required you to use a mobile device as the control and launcher.

The other version is Chromecast with Google TV (they really need to work on that name) which has all the functionality of the standard Chromecast, but also includes a Google TV interface. It's $50 and has a remote. It's a full featured device. It doesn't require any other device to operate. 

Well, a TV, but that's a given for any streaming device.

I've used the Chromecast with Google TV and I like it okay. So why am I testing it? Well, I used it, tried it out for a day or so, but then went right back to my Roku. I'm going to spent the next couple of weeks acting as if the only device I have is Chromecast with Google TV.

I'm not a fan of the Google TV interface; I like Roku's better. But I'm going to force myself to use it for a while.

I am okay with the remote, but I like Roku's better. But I'm going to force myself to use it for a while.

I'll even try out the Google Assistant features, although I don't use Roku's voice features. I'm just not a fan of that. I do use voice control from Google Home devices on occasion, so I'm not opposed to them. It's just that using a remote control is easier for me than trying to tell it what to do.

So, it's Chromecast with Google TV for this Roku fan for the next several days. In fact, I already started.

How will this end? Probably by my going back to using my Roku. But maybe not. Maybe Chromecast with Google TV will become my device of choice. I kinda doubt it, but let's see if this experiment makes a change in My Streaming Life.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Sling TV

With the dispute between Roku and YouTube TV in the news recently, live streaming services are getting more attention. Not a while lot more, because they have probably been one of the major reasons for the large increase in the number of streamers and cord-cutters over the last few years.

I'm not going to focus on YouTube TV nor Roku specifically right now. There is a lot that people are saying, and I talked about that briefly the other day.

Today, I want to talk about the granddaddy of live streaming, cable alternative services: Sling TV. 

I subscribed to Sling TV when the service was launched in February 2015. The service was, and remains, essentially a small cable TV-type package of channels. Over the years, the number of channels offered has increased, as has the price. Still, at $35 (as of this writing) Sling TV remains one of the cheaper options for cable alternative streaming services.

Sling TV offers two packages. The Orange package is the successor of the original package and today includes ESPN, AMC, CNN, HGTV, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network / Adult Swim, Disney, History, ESPN2, ESPN3, TNT, Food Network, TBS, BBC America, Freeform, IFC, A&E, Viceland, Fuse, Lifetime, Travel Channel, AXS TV, Newsy, Cheddar, Bloomberg Television, Local Now, and Tribeca Shortlist. Users are allowed one stream. Regular price (as I write this) is $35.

The Blue package is similar but adds FOX News, MSNBC, HLN, Fox (select markets), NBC (select markets), Fox Sports, NFL Network, FX, USA, Bravo, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, NBC RSN, FXX, SyFY, Nick Jr., Tru TV, BET, National Geographic, and Nat Geo Wild while taking away ESPN, Disney, ESPN2, ESPN3, and Freeform. Users are allowed three streams. The Blue package is the same price as the Orange package.

The packages are the same price, but you can get a combo package that includes both Orange and Blue for a discounted price of $50 (at this writing).

Many of the more expensive services offer local channels, which drive the price higher. Sling TV does not offer local channels, except Fox and NBC in select markets. That's why Sling TV is around $30/month cheaper than, and nearly half the price of, some other services. If you require local channels to be part of a streaming package, Sling TV will not be the choice for you. However, if you don't need local channels, or if you can pick up local stations via an antenna, then Sling TV is one of the most affordable options for cable alternative streaming.

As I've mentioned before, I don't use a live streaming service year-round. I do subscribe to such a service during college football season, strictly for watching games live, usually on ESPN. Unless one of the other services offers a great deal, or some bonus equipment or content, I will subscribe to Sling TV, canceling after the season.

There is one other aspect of Sling TV that I need to mention. Sling TV offers a free live streaming service. You won't find the big cable channels, but you will still find a lot of content. You can try it out. It's free. Seriously. Not a free trial, but free. https://www.sling.com/deals/sling-free

The final thing about Sling TV that I want to mention is that it works with Air TV. I mentioned that Sling TV doesn't include local channels. That's true, but if you have an antenna, you can add an Air TV device and make the local channels available on your network through the Sling TV app. You don't need a Sling TV subscription for that. It works with the free portion of Sling TV.

I like and recommend Sling TV, as it has many things that many users want. It certainly has what I want, when I want it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Live streaming services are vastly different

There are several services that can be considered live streaming services, and they aren't all the same. The phrase "live streaming" can mean a variety of things.

If you consider live streaming to be actual live, real time, as it happens, then there aren't that many services available. But, if you consider a service that performs similar to traditional TV, then there are many. Let me offer a couple of examples of that varied difference.

Services that are intended to be and act like cable replacements fall under the category of live streaming. They are, as mentioned, replacements for cable TV and act pretty much like cable TV services. They also usually have a larger cost involved, although at this writing, the prices range from less than $20/month to around $80/month, with most in the $65/month range. Some of these include Sling TV, YouTube TV, Philo, Frndly TV, Vidgo, Hulu + Live TV, Fubo, AT&T TV, Univision Now, and more.

There is also another group of live streaming services that aren't generally thought of as cable replacements, but still are much like the other ones mentioned. These include Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Xumo, Stirr, and others.

The primary difference between these services are the selection of channels, but not necessarily the type of content. For example, Pluto TV -- I'm choosing this because it's the biggest of the similar services -- has a wide variety of movies and TV shows playing all day, much like the "superstations" of days past. You go to a particular channel and watch a movie. If the movie is already underway, you can watch it to conclusion, then watch whatever comes on next. This is similar to watching cable channels such as TCM in how it operates, and even with some of the content.

For Sling TV -- I'm choosing this service as it's the oldest of the major services -- you can go to TNT, History, AMC and the like, and watch it.

A main difference is that you won't find first-run content on Pluto TV like you will on Sling TV. But, if you enjoy reality TV, movies, classic TV shows or cartoons, news, and other content, you can find similar, but not the same, content on each service. One may be better, or newer, but the overall type of content is the same. 

The other difference is price. Sling TV and the other services cost a monthly fee. Pluto TV and other similar services are free, ad-supported services. And, you will still see commercials on Sling TV just like you do on cable.

Which do you need? That's easy: which do you want?

You have options, plenty of options, to help you enjoy your Streaming Life.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Roku vs Google

As I write this, Roku and Google are in a pissing contest with each other. The result is that for now at least, YouTube TV (a Google product) isn't available on the Roku platform.

Well, it is, but it isn't. If you already have the app, you can keep it and use it. Roku warns that if you remove it, you can't get it back.

If you already have YouTube TV installed on your Roku device, you will continue to have access to the channel unless Google requires us to remove it. Note that you should not remove the channel if you plan to use it. New installations and reinstallations will not be possible at this time.

So, what's it all about, Alfie? That depends on who you believe.

If you believe Roku, Google wants changes to force certain Roku searches to limit to Google's apps. If you believe Google, they want things to remain the same and it's Roku that wants to change things.

Who's lying? Neither. Or both. I don't know. I suspect it's one of those "depends on what the definition of 'is' is" type of things. No outright lies, just partial truths on both sides.

Google has emailed people asking them to pressure Roku. Roku has emailed people asking them to pressure Google. I've done neither. Why? Let them fight it out.

Now, why would I take such a stance? Easy. I'm not dependent on YouTube TV, and I'm not dependent on Roku. 

I don't use a live streaming service throughout the year because I can watch what I want without one. Sure, during certain times of the year, I do subscribe to one -- I love college football -- but the rest of the year, it's not important enough to spend the money for something I barely, and rarely, watch. But even if I did, there are other options.

Yes, YouTube TV is one of the best live streaming services. The interface it top notch, the selection of channels is superb, and it's very reliable. But it's not the only one there is. If I want to keep using Roku, and if I want a live streaming service, I can easily do just that. There are plenty of other options than YouTube TV. 

Likewise, if I decide I want to watch YouTube TV, I can do that. I have more than just Roku devices. I can use Apple TV, I can use Amazon Fire TV (once I get it out of that drawer I put it in), and I can use Google's own Chromecast With Google TV. I don't need Roku.

Neither of the parties in this fight own me, or my loyalty. My preference for a streaming device is Roku. But if that was suddenly untenable, I'd be just fine with another device. And I agree that YouTube TV is the best live streaming service, but I certainly don't need it.

I expect they'll eventually work it all out. Maybe today. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. 

And maybe never, but if that's the case, I'm good no matter what. 

The moral to this is don't lock yourself in to any company. Keep your options open, and keep control of your Streaming Life.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mother's Day

My sisters and I lost our mother last year. This is the first Mothers Day without her. I won't spend a lot of time talking about things, but I will mention this. During the last few years of her life, she enjoyed much of the benefits of cord cutting. 

She was a fan of technology up to a point. She loved her iPhone but never used it to its fullest extent. However, she used it to do things she had never done before: texting, video chats, Web surfing, and the like. She was fascinated by that, and enjoyed being able to stay in touch with family with greater ease.

She enjoyed her M*A*S*H videos, her Murder She Wrote videos, and the like. I ripped out all of her DVDs, both movies and TV shows, to place on a Plex server for her to watch. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll explain it like I did to her. Launch this app called Plex, and there are all your movies and TV shows you can watch on any of your TVs, any time you want. She loved that.

Watching her excitement about the things she could do with technology made me understand that I may have inherited that fascination and interest from her. In more ways than the obvious, she made me who I am today.

It's Mothers Day. Enjoy it with your mother if you're able. If not, we can all miss our respective mothers together.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

My device of choice

I've said time and again that I think anyone would do well choosing either Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Chromecast With Google TV as a streaming device of choice.

My personal choice is Roku, but I am not exclusive to Roku. I have Apple TV devices connected to TVs, and I have Chromecast With Google TV on multiple TVs, but I have Roku on every TV.

Why do I have multiple devices? Well, as streaming gains in popularity, more and more of the problems with mainstream TV come to streaming. As I write this, Roku and Google are having a pissing contest about YouTube TV, and probably about YouTube also. At the moment, YouTube TV isn't available on Roku, unless you already have it installed. 

This is much like the arguments with cable carriers and certain stations that happens from time to time. You know the deal, "Call your cable company and tell them to keep WPXLY-TV available" kind of thing. Now it's Roku and Google sending emails asking you to bombard the other one with emails and support posts threatening to take your ball and go home.

I'll rant more about that whole thing later. Right now, the point is just because a service or app you want is available on a device, there's no guarantee it will always be available. Amazon Fire TV has lost apps from time to time. Apple TV has too. And now Roku. All devices will be subject to this.

So, what's a person to do? Well, I have more than one device. I have two: Roku and Apple TV. 

No, wait, I have three: Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. 

Okay, I have four: Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV. Yes, the Fire TV device is not connected, but it's available if I need it.

My device of choice? Pick any two.

Sure, start with a single device, if you're just starting your Streaming Life. But do pick up a secondary device some time. They're relatively cheap, and different family members may prefer different interfaces.

Whatever you pick, have a backup. Just in case.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The perfect streaming device is ...

Image: NBC/Universal

I've spent over a decade streaming, using a variety of devices over the years. I've tried a variety of devices over that time, and I've spent a lot of money trying to get it right.

I've not tried every device on the market, but I have tried the major players: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, TiVo, and others.

So, what's the perfect streaming device? Well, that's not an easy question to answer. You have to consider several things. 

  • Does the device carry the apps you want?
  • Is the device easy to use?
  • Is the device reliable?

So, with those things in mind, what's the answer? That's easy. The perfect streaming device is ... non-existent.

Oh, sure, some devices come close, but no device carries all the apps. There are some that aren't available on Roku, but are available on Apple TV, for instance. There are some that are only on Roku. Some are on Fire TV, but have a different, inferior version on another platform. 

Sure, there is a difference between a device carrying all the apps and a device carrying the apps you want. For example, if all you want is Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video, then any of the Big Four -- Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast -- will do that. 

But what about apps you don't know about? There may be some perfect app, a niche app, that has something that is just up your alley. But that app may only be available on Roku. If that's the case, Roku is your perfect device. But what if another device has a different app that is another service that is for you? Then it's that device. And what if these other two perfect apps are on two different devices? 

What if all the Big Four carry all the apps you truly do want? Well, is it easy to use? One thing I live about Roku and Apple TV is that the menu layout is consistent. Amazon Fire TV devices move things around on the menu, though. If you use an app, it moves it to the front of the menu so you can easily use it again. That's fine, if you like that, but if you prefer everything in its place all the time, that will drive you crazy.

And what abut reliability? The Big Four are reliable devices. Well, sort of. Apple TV is certainly a great device. And the upper tier Roku devices are fantastic, but I'm not that big of a fan of the lower, entry-level devices. And I've previously mentioned that I consider Amazon Fire TV to be underpowered devices, almost to the point of planned obsolescence. Chromecast has been good, but as they are the latest entry into the mix (of the Big Four) they're still working out the bugs. But I do like them.

If you had asked me five years ago, I would have said Apple TV was the closest to perfect device. More recently, I would have said Roku. Next year, who knows?

I have multiple devices hooked up to my TVs. I have Chromecast on some, Apple TV on some, but I have Roku on them all. So, no matter what I say, my actions say that I'm in Camp Roku.

I'm okay with that. But if Apple TV, or Fire TV, or Chromecast is your device of choice, you've made a good choice.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Replacing TiVo

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for TiVo. It was the first streaming device I had, even if I didn't know it.

Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, now that I think about it. I'm trying to recall just when I upgraded my first TiVo. It may have been after I bought the first Apple TV and Roku. It was around that time, though. And, that first TiVo may have had streaming capabilities, even if I didn't use them.

Regardless, I mentioned before that using TiVo helped me make the switch to streaming. I really liked TiVo, but after I stopped using it, TiVo faded from my thoughts, even though the devices were still connected.

I went without local channels often, because I didn't have cable and I didn't have an antenna. However, I eventually did put up an antenna and used it with TiVo. But, as I said, I rarely used TiVo.

Still, I wanted to have the capability of watching local channels, even if I didn't watch them. When my mother had a problem getting warranty replacement for a defective TiVo device, she decided she was done with them and canceled her service. I had lifetime service, but decided the old TiVo company I had known and loved was officially no more. I took my devices down.

So, what did I replace it with? I narrowed down the list to two separate devices and services: AirTV and Tablo TV.

They both have their good points and bad points. They both cost around the same for their top end devices. and the pricing for the services are comparable, though not identical.

AirTV is from Dish. They own Sling TV. I'll talk more about Sling TV in the future. For now, it's important to know that the Sling TV app is how you watch AirTV. You hook the antenna lead up to the AirTV and the content will show up in the Sling TV app. And, you don't have to have a Sling TV subscription. You can watch the free content, and the over the air (OTA) programming will appear in the menu and on the program guide.

Oh, and AirTV offers a free two-week program guide. So that's great. The only cost is the antenna and installation, plus the AirTV device. I went with the $200 one that has a large storage drive for DVR.

Tablo TV is similar in that you buy the equipment -- I got the one that's around $200 -- and hook the antenna to it. You add the Tablo TV app and use that to watch TV. The program guide is one day for the free one, or you can pay $5/month for a two-week guide. That's more than AirTV, but less than TiVo.

I like the Tablo TV interface better than AirTV's, but that simply means I'm not that big of a fan of Sling TV's interface, because, as I said, that's what it uses.

So, which do I use? That's easy. I use both.

At one house -- the one I co-own with two sisters -- I put up AirTV. It works great.

At the other house, I put up Tablo TV, and paid for a lifetime subscription.

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

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Cold on Fire

As I continued my journey through this Streaming Life, I used a variety of streaming devices over the years. Roku, Apple TV, TiVo, Simple TV, Chromecast, Mi Box, and more. The most notable one I haven't listed is Amazon's Fire TV devices. This doesn't mean I haven't used them. I have. I've purchased several Firesticks. Today, I still have one. In a box somewhere. The others I gave away.

Why did I stop using them? Simple. I don't like the Fire TV devices. They're all much slower than the other devices I've tried.

Well, that's not really true. The Simple TV device was quite slow. TiVo devices, at least the older devices I used, were kinda slow. And the first Roku HDMI Streaming Stick (model 3500) was slow and sluggish.

It was particularly because the Firestick and the Roku Stick 3500 were so slow and sluggish that I didn't think much of sticks overall. I just figured they were underpowered devices. When I got a Roku Stick 3600, it was a little better, but not much. That sealed it for me: sticks were trash.

I eventually did purchase a Roku Streaming Stick+ model 3810, and was very happy with its performance. So that let me know that it wasn't that sticks were poor devices, it was that certain sticks were poor devices. The early ones were underpowered, both Roku and Amazon. My experience with Amazon hasn't changed, though. 

Maybe it's because I always had top of the line Roku devices that I was comparing against. Apple TV held up well, of course, because Apple makes really good, and expensive, devices. Amazon's Firesticks were cheap, both in price and in quality, at least in my experience.

You may have a Firestick and love it. And if you do, great. You're happy with your purchase. But my experience is not that. I've always found the Fire TV devices to be underpowered and underperforming compared to my Roku devices.

The other thing I don't like about Firesticks isn't really Amazon's fault. Well, maybe it is, but I blame them less for it. Firesticks are the device of choice for pirate TV services. They're easy to crack in order to load software that will allow illegal streaming services to operate. I'm highly opposed to pirating content, and the fact that the devices are so often and so easily used for that purpose leaves a bad taste. If you're not sure what I'm talking about with illegal streaming services, I'll talk about them one day. Right now, it's just another reason, rightly or wrongly, for me to no like Firesticks.

Maybe I'll buy another Firestick one day and try again. But that day isn't today.