Sunday, September 19, 2021

Roku and data caps

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Settings > Network > Bandwidth saver > On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Upgrading Plex server

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 17, 2021

Hockey Streaming for 2021-2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 16, 2021

I don't pay for Prime Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Changing TV habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Sports frustration

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

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

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

Except for sports, and that generally means college football.

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

To get a new streaming device, or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Cutting back even more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

NFL season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBS is also available as part of Paramount+.

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

ESPN requires a live streaming service. That means:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Sometimes it's okay to keep cable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Hulu price increase

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Did I pick the wrong live streaming service?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 6, 2021

Local news via streaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 5, 2021

New Roku? So what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Ad-supported TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Locast ruling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Watching college football, 2nd weekend

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

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

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

ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN3

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

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

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

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

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

ESPNU/ESPNews

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

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

ESPN+

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

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

  • Standalone subscription ($7)

Fox

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

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

ABC

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

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

Fox Sports 1 (FS1)

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

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

SEC Network

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

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

ACC Network

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

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

Big Ten Network

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

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

Pac-12 Network

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

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

CBS Sports Network

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

The Kitchen Sink

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Apple TV Siri Remote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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