Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Onn Streaming Stick testing didn't last long

I posted recently that I was testing the Onn Streaming Stick from Walmart. When I test a new device, I always intend to give it at least a week of exclusive use, getting familiar with the device, and settling in on using it. Sometimes, though, it doesn't take a week. And, when it doesn't take a week, that's not a good thing.

You see, if something starts out really well, say I get my hands on a device I really like, I won't stop testing. I'll let the love affair run the full week, maybe even longer, before deciding on how much I'll use the device. I want to give it plenty of time for the ugly bits to appear. I want to experience the device under all circumstances. So, if I'm liking the device, I'll keep testing for at least the full week. Using the device daily, and I do use a streaming device daily, lets me get a good feel for it.

The testing of the Onn Streaming Stick didn't go a full week. That's a bad thing. The first issue was how sluggish the device was. To be fair, I'm used to using a higher powered Roku device, but have also used the Chromecast with Google TV recently, plus a few others I tested. My normal TV setup is just Roku and Chromecast with Google TV.

Setting up and downloading updates was actually pretty smooth. The device is an Android TV powered unit, and included the option to use an Android phone to set it up. However, I don't use an Android phone. Still, manual setup was easy enough. The only problem came when running apps for the first time. I had to configure each, signing in with my account, and then the app would run a bit sluggish. I wondered if it was because it was still running updates, so I waited, then restarted the device. It seemed to respond better, but it still seem sluggish compared to ChromecastGTV and Roku.

I ran into issues with the device hanging up. I wasn't sure if it was the device, or the service. I've used enough devices for long enough to know that sometimes it's not the device that's at fault, but network, Internet, or service that can cause problems. So, to troubleshoot, I eventually switched to Roku to access the same app and move or TV show. No problems using Roku. So, I'd restart the Onn Stick and try again. Sometimes, it would work for a bit then start acting all silly again, and sometimes the issue didn't reappear. If it was problematic again, I'd try Roku again, and if the issue wasn't there, I chalked it up to the Onn device, or the particular stream the Onn device was using.

Let me take a side trek for that point. Not everyone realizes that different devices can, and often do, use different streams from different servers. For example, if you are using Roku to stream Netflix, you may connect to one server (or set of servers). But, if from the same location, you use an Apple TV to watch Netflix, you may connect to a different server (or set of servers). And a different server/set if you use Fire TV. So, using an Android TV box, I could be getting my source content from a server/set that's acting up, while the Roku is getting it from a server/set that's working better. So, what looks like a device issue may actually be a service issue. That's why I'd try different apps. And, since this was an Android powered device, I'd try YouTube a lot for testing. As a reminder, Google owns both Android and YouTube. An issue with Android and YouTube could be a Google issue, but it seems more likely to be a device issue. And, I treated it as such in my mind.

So, back to the testing. As I said, I used YouTube a lot in the testing, and I would have issues, particularly on fast forward and rewind. No such issues when I switched to Roku for the same video.

I also tested with Movies Anywhere. The experience was not as great as on Roku, because of how sluggish the device seemed, but the playback did work well.

Paramount+ was a problem. Fast forward and rewind would occasionally lock up the device.

Tablo was okay. I watched both live and recorded content without much issue.

Manually launching the screen saver didn't always work. I used the Backdrop screen saver, which is a bunch of pictures from Google. Landscapes, etc. Pretty high def images, so I'm thinking the underpowered device was the problem.

The other thing I tried was using the Chromecast feature. That was something I didn't really expect, but makes sense thinking about it. I was hoping it would work well. It didn't. The switchover went okay, but the control was the problem.

As a reminder, or if you weren't aware, the "casting" via Chromecast functionality uses the apps on the device. For example, the app on the phone actually launches the app on the streaming device, then loads the video, and moves to the same point in the playback. You could even turn off your phone, and the streaming continues, because it's not really using the phone anymore. Except you can use the phone to pause, rewind, or fast forward.

Anyway, it wasn't nearly as smooth as an actual Chromecast device. Not a terrible experience, but not a good experience.

Would I use this device regularly? No, not at all. It's already back in the box and ready for a shelf or drawer. I'll pull it out every month or so to run updates just in case it's a software problem and not a hardware problem. I don't expect that to actually make a difference, but just in case, I'll keep a check on it. For now, though, I don't plan on using the device.

Would I recommend it? Not really. I think a similar priced Roku Express would be a better option. But, will it do? Maybe. But no. This isn't a device I want in my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Watching cable

I cut the cord in 2011, at the end of the college football season. Since then, I've watched cable ... not at all.

Well, that's not true. I actually watched cable this past week. Only, I didn't really want to. Let me tell you about it.

I took one of my grandson out of town to a baseball game, and stayed the night to visit an attraction in that city the next day. That night, when we got to the hotel and got ready to call it a night, my grandson, who is six, wondered what was on TV. Being a good Papa, I found the remote and turned on the set.

He asked me to find the kids shows. That makes sense, as he is used to the Apple TV that my son uses, and knew that the remote wasn't the same, and the display wasn't the same. So, he wanted me to find them. He really didn't know nor care that it was cable. It was TV, but it wasn't Apple TV, but he figured Papa knew how.

Well, yes Papa did because I remember the days of cable. It was different, using the cable guide, and only vaguely familiar. The remote wasn't exactly set up for it. Or there were no arrow buttons, but it was an Xfinity remote and the little Xfinity box, so yeah, they go together. Just not a good experience.

I didn't recall any issues with the Xfinity cable setup that long ago. Maybe it was awful the whole time, but I didn't know any better. Or, maybe this hotel just had same-branded but mismatched equipment.

So, assuming the equipment was mismatched and it should have had a remote with arrows to navigate the menu, how was the experience apart from that? Not good.

I am used to on-demand content. Sure, live sports, I get it. You're going to watch any live event in real time. But non-live content? A TV show? I don't want to join in the middle. But, with cable, that's what I had to do. And I didn't like it. That's why, way back when, I used a VCR to record shows, then replaced that with a TiVo. Then, I could watch a show in full if I didn't drop everything and turn on the TV to that show when it aired.

Now, with Hulu, Tablo, Air TV, and other I can watch on-demand, including not even having to set up the recording with Hulu.

Now, there are lots of people that like cable, and if you're one of them, and if you're happy with it, then you have exactly what you want. But, it's not for me. And that is something that I never really thought about when I decided to cut the cord.

You see, my goal was to save money. That's it. Nothing else. And when I ran the numbers and concluded that it was more cost effective to stream without cable TV, that was all I cared about.

Yes, I already was doing on-demand because of TiVo, and hooking up an antenna let me keep doing that, I never really considered how much on-demand would become important to me. It is. I really don't like the idea of having to watch content at a time others set. Yeah, live sports or news is one thing, but there really is no way to control that without a TARDIS, and I don't have one of those. No one does. They don't exist. Except on TV.

For regular TV shows, I don't want someone setting my schedule. If I can set my own schedule, I want to. Streaming lets me do that.

This whole thing about using cable in a hotel hasn't come up before because I don't go to a hotel to watch TV. But, I did this time because my grandson, the reason for the trip, wanted it. So, I finally watched cable.

Next time I go to a hotel and make the decision about cable -- that is, the grandchildren aren't wanting it -- I won't be watching cable. I won't be streaming either, because I don't go to hotels to watch TV. But, if I did want to watch TV, I'd put a Roku Stick or a Firestick in the suitcase. I'm not doing cable if I can help it. It's so last century.

My cable TV life is behind me. I'm living a Streaming Life, and I'm loving it.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Streaming news

When you have cable, it's really easy to watch news. Or what passes for news these days. You can tell I don't think much about cable news services, can't you?

When I want news, I want news, not some silly propaganda outlet that spouts one political party or the other's agenda. It's hard to find real news, with facts, and with all the facts. They're all bad about presenting unsupported statements as news, about leaving out any information that doesn't fit their agenda.

Yeah, I don't care much for cable news. So, I don't really miss it. I did, when I first started streaming and dropped cable. Watching the talking heads was a regular thing. So, when I dropped cable, that went away, and I went through withdrawal.

I got over it. I didn't have a choice. I could either do without, or subscribe to cable again. There was no Sling TV, no YouTube TV, no Fubo, no anything like that. So, I did without, and got over it. And I'm better for it.

However, I'm not one to avoid news. I do read news on the Internet. I subscribe to some news services, but they aren't streaming services. I read the news online. I read from a variety of sources, not just those that fit my personal political leanings.

That doesn't mean that cable news services are not worthwhile. I choose to avoid them, for the most part, but many people find them worthwhile.

For the big news services -- CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and such -- you have to subscribe to a service such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, AT&T TV, Vidgo, Fubo, and such. But, if you want other news services, there are plenty of options. Of course, those services don't just carry those major news names, but they carry other news services too. However, you can still get a lot of news from streaming without spending a lot of money to hear loud people shouting.

One source is one of my favorite sources for free streaming content: Pluto TV. There are nearly two dozen news channels, ranging from left to right.

The Roku Channel has nearly as many news channels. Stirr offers some news channels, too, including local news. Even Sling TV's free service has six channels in the News category.

There are also hundreds of apps from various news sources, ranging from local TV stations with their own apps to international news services. 

All of these are available streaming, meaning that dropping cable doesn't mean you lose access to news. Unless you want that. You can spend some money and reconnect with the talking head channels, or you can utilize free services that offer a wide range of news sources.

However you want to incorporate news to your Streaming Life, you can probably find a way.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Keeping Flex

Earlier this month, I talked about Xfinity Flex. It's a decent first streaming device, particularly for an Xfinity cable customer who is switching to streaming. For those customers, it will make the transition very smooth. For experienced streamers, or really anyone who has streamed for any period of time, it's an okay device, but nothing more than okay.

If you get Xfinity Flex service on your account, the Flex device is included, and you get all the benefits, including free Peacock Premium service.

The thing is, Xfinity/Comcast expects you to actually use the Flex device. And that makes sense. If you aren't going to use it, return it and let someone else use it. In fact, I got a couple of emails about my not using the box, and Xfinity/Comcast saying they wanted it back.


Thank you for trying Xfinity Flex

Flex box serial number: XX0000XX0000*

This is just a reminder that it's been a while since you’ve used Xfinity Flex. If streaming with Flex isn't for you, please return your equipment using one of these free and easy options:

  • Drop off your equipment at your local Xfinity Store
  • Schedule a free and contactless at-home UPS pickup at xfinity.com/returns

We're always adding to our entertainment library

Before you return Xfinity Flex, you may want to explore the new streaming apps and entertainment we've recently added, including Disney+, Paramount+, and ESPN+. And don't forget, Peacock Premium comes included with Flex at no additional cost.

If you have any questions, visit the Xfinity app. If you've already returned your equipment, please disregard this message.

As always, thank you for being an Xfinity customer.

So, this past week, I drove to the nearest Xfinity office to return the device. Everything went smooth, until right at the end, I asked a question.

"Um, by the way, even with turning this in, I'll still get Peacock Premium right?"

The nice customer service people froze. They looked at each other, then at the manager, before one said "Hold up on taking that device off the account."

They conferred for a minute, then said, "If you want to keep that, you'll need to keep the box. If we take the box off your account, you'll lose Flex."

"I want the box."

Then, to the trainee that was working on my account, "You need to cancel that."

So, to keep Peacock Premium for free, I have to keep a streaming device that I don't really use. And that's okay. I have a shelf that will house it just fine. It's already back in the box, so it'll be easy to just put it on a shelf somewhere.

If there was no streaming service benefit, yes I would certainly have returned the device. But, even though $4.99/month is a good price for a streaming service such as Peacock Premium, free is even a better price. So, I have a device I don't want, and that they don't want me to have. But I'm keeping it.

My Steaming Life should not be this complicated.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Walmart's streaming stick

I got a new toy to play with. It's Walmart's onn. FHD Streaming Stick. 

Yeah, it's weird that the brand name has a period in it. So, I'll call it Onn or ONN from now on. Or at least, for now.

Anyway, I got the Onn FHD Streaming Stick. Why? Because I wanted it. I like to check out other devices, even though I always know I'm going to go back to Roku. Maybe one day I won't. 

I do like to know about the different devices that are out there. And, the price for the device is pretty good at $25 (actually, $24.88).

This isn't a review. I'm going to be using the device for the next week or so, exclusively, so no jumping back and forth between it and Roku. It's the Onn Stick for the next several days.

Okay, I actually began using it exclusively on Thursday. Got it Wednesday, but I'm not counting that day. Full exclusive use began Thursday. So, for the next few days, it's that device, and that device alone. Then I'll tell you what I think.

Well, unless the device is absolute trash and unusable, in which case I'll tell you about that experience. I hope and expect it will be a good experience. I'm particularly curious to see how it stacks up against the Chromecast with Google TV.

In a few days, I'll know how this device will impact My Streaming Life.


Friday, June 25, 2021

Streaming Braves baseball

Around a week ago, I talked about my problem with MLB.TV in that it won't let me watch Braves games live. It finally occurred to me a couple of days ago that I never told how I do watch Braves games, since MLB.TV is a no-go.

Here's how I watch Braves games.

I don't.

If I'm a Braves fan, why not?

Well, simple. It's expensive, and I'm not willing to pony up the money to watch Braves games streaming. But I could. But I won't.

But what if a streamer does want to watch Braves games, or some other team's games? It's possible. Just expensive. How expensive? $85/month. That's how much AT&T TV Choice package costs.

That's $20/month more than YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Fubo TV live streaming services, which isn't really a lot. Unless, of course, you don't normally subscribe to a live streaming service. And I don't use a paid live streaming service. So, switching to AT&T TV during baseball season wouldn't change my monthly cost by $20/month; rather, it would increase it $85/month. And I'm not wanting to pay that.

During football season, I'll pay the extra $35/month for Sling TV to get college football. I wouldn't pay $85/month for it, though. And I won't pay it for Braves baseball.

Yes, I'm a Braves fan, but I'm not gonna pay that much to watch them. I want to watch the Braves, but I'm not going to pay that much for it. My Streaming Life is just fine doing without.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Tablo as my DVR

Last week, I said I'd be focusing on using Tablo as my DVR rather than Air TV. I have both, running at different households for which I manage streaming. So, for the last week, I used Tablo rather than Air TV.

I said I thought I would like Tablo better, and that has proven true.

But did my preconception impact my results? Maybe. But I think not. After all, I came to this preconceived notion from somewhere, right? Well, it came from my use of the two different systems, albeit briefly.

Well, I've now used Tablo a lot more. And the more I use, it the more I like it.

Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot to like about Air TV. If you're a Sling TV subscriber, it's really nice to have it all in that one interface, rather than having to launch a separate app. But, for me at least, the integration isn't as important as to how well the DVR works.

They both record content as expected. The respective interfaces are both easy to use, but there's one thing about Tablo that makes it my DVR of choice, and that's the quality of the tuner.

When I put up the Tablo device in place, I simply removed the Air TV device and put the Tablo there. Nothing else changed. Same antenna, same antenna cable, same everything except the actual DVR. So, how did it do?

The Tablo DVR had better recording quality than the Air TV. On the Air TV device, I would get little skips as if it lost the signal every so briefly. I didn't get that with Tablo. That indicates the tuner is better. Or at least something is better. And when you're watching TV, or recording TV, through a TV tuner, that's important. That's most important, in my book.

Playback is easy. The recording quality is great. And none of the skips that I got with Air TV. Well, almost none. Certainly a lot fewer with Tablo than with Air TV.

It would be nice if it could interface with other apps, if one used a live streaming cable replacement service. I don't, so Tablo being a separate app doesn't matter with me. Regardless, the quality of the watching and recording makes it my choice.

Tablo makes My Streaming Life so much easier. Perhaps it will for you, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Why the Hulu "no ads" streaming plans may still have ads

One of the most popular streaming services is Hulu. I've subscribed to Hulu ever since there were two Hulu plans: free and paid. Way back then, the free Hulu plan was for watching content in your Web browser. The paid plan was for watching Hulu Plus via a streaming device such as Roku. The catalog of shows was different for each plan, at least at first. Shows were either part of the free Hulu service, or they were part of the paid Hulu Plus service, but not both.

That eventually changed, and Hulu became just Hulu. Did that simplify things? Not really. Hulu no longer has a free plan and a paid plan. Hulu has four different paid plans. Two of the plans are "no ads" plans. And even the "no ads" plans can have ads.

It's complicated. Probably more complicated than it needs to be. But, here's what's going on, and why.

There are four plans. The first is...

Hulu. Plain old Hulu. It's the classic service of on-demand content of current TV shows and some older stuff too. There are ads with this plan. It's like watching TV shows on cable or over the air that you recorded. Only, you can't fast forward through the commercials. You gotta do the commercials. But there are fewer commercials than you get on cable or over the air.

The next plan is Hulu (No Ads). As the "no ads" part says, there are no ads. Except when there are. You see, there are some content that's excluded from not having ads. That is, there will be ads regardless on certain shows. Actually, certain show. There were around six that were excluded from no ads, but the list is now down to one: Grey's Anatomy. If you don't watch the show, this won't matter. Other than that, yeah, it's no ads.

Hulu also has a service called Hulu + Live TV. As the name implies, it's the regular Hulu plan, plus a live TV service. Hulu will have ads. Hulu's Live TV service will have ads. It's live TV, and live TV has ads. There is also a catalog of other on-demand content from the networks that you don't get with regular Hulu. Those will probably have ads. You can pretty much bank on it.

There's one other service that causes the most confusion. Or, more properly, a lot of people get confused about the plan. It's Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV. Pay close attention to the name. It's the Hulu (No Ads) service, plus the live TV service. The Hulu portion won't have ads (well, Grey's Anatomy sill has ads). However, the Live TV portion will. It's live TV, remember? There is no TARDIS circuit to skip you into the future past the commercials. It's the same live TV service that comes with Hulu + Live TV. It's the Hulu (No Ads) service, which we talked about earlier, plus the live TV service. 

And, the extra network on-demand content? Still has ads. The "no ads" only applies to the Hulu on-demand service. That's all.

So, is this confusing? Well, yeah, some get really confused about it. And sometimes they fuss and complain, probably because they don't understand that the "no ads" doesn't apply to everything in the overall service.

Now that you know, you will go into your planning for Hulu based on better information. Assuming of course that  you are considering Hulu as a content provider.

As I've said, I use the standard Hulu service and have for years. It works well, especially if you are used to watching shows you recorded. The on-demand service experience is much like a DVR service. Except for skipping commercials. If the no ads option is something you want, just keep in mind where the "no ads" applies and where it doesn't. That'll ensure no nasty surprises in your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Watching YouTube TV on Roku

With the dispute between Roku and Google over the YouTube TV app, what do you do if you don't already have the YouTube TV app installed? Are you out of luck?

No, not really. You can still watch YouTube TV on Roku without the YouTube TV app. You do it through the YouTube app.

 Scroll down to the bottom of the menu on the left and select the YouTube TV item.

 Click that.

 Go to YouTube TV. It will load.

 Then the splash screen.

 And there it is. To sign in, click Sign In.

Congratulations. You're now watching YouTube TV through the YouTube app on your Roku device.

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 its 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.