Thursday, March 31, 2022

Finding Fire TV apps on Fire TV

One of the most frustrating things about Amazon's Fire TV devices are the fact that it's extremely difficult to find the apps you want in the device. I've taken to just going to the Amazon Website and searching for the apps, then adding them from the Website.

Oh, sure, there are apps available, but honestly, I do not find it a pleasurable experience. Quite the opposite.

Perhaps I'm just experiencing holdover from my general dislike for the Fire TV interface, along with the difficulty browsing Fire TV content on the device or on the Website.

I always hated that each season of a show was listed as a separate entry. I'd be scrolling through the content, and there would be Star Trek Season One (for example). Then more stuff, then Star Trek Season Three. More stuff, more stuff, Star Trek Season Two.

Don't get me wrong, I like the original Star Trek. I have since September 1966. But each season as a separate entry only junked up the browsing of content. Because it wasn't just Star Trek. It was every show. If a show ran 10 seasons,  there were 10 entries. If another show ran 7 seasons, there were 7 entries. From these three shows alone, what should be three entries would be 20 entries. Like I said, just junking it up.

My takeaway from that was that the Amazon interface was full of stuff it didn't need to have. It was overcrowded, making things harder to find. And maybe I still carry a grudge.

I find searching for apps on Fire TV to be a bother. I hate the interface. Maybe I shouldn't, but I do. And I'll take the blame for being unreasonable. But I want Amazon to take the blame for being cluttered and crowded. That's why I will occasionally use a Fire TV device, but it's not a regular part of my Streaming Life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Meet the new Roku, same as the old Roku?

There was a brief bit of excitement recently because Roku accidentally published a piece of content that listed a Roku model number that didn't exist. Of course, that began the whole "Are new Roku devices coming??!!?!" kind of thing.

I like Cord Cutters News. Luke did a great job with it, and since he sold it, they've carried on doing good work. They are a great go-to resource. But, they are in the business of making money, so they gonna clickbait, or make things out a little more than necessary.

That may be a little harsh, partly because I think we all do that from time to time, and they really are not nearly as bad as most Websites. And, perhaps they don't even intend to do it, but it does creep in. Or, it appears to me that it does.

Specifically, CCN had an article recently that covered a listing of a previously unheard of Roku model:

The model, 4802X, doesn’t correspond to any currently available devices within Roku’s lineup, which includes the top-end, 2020-era Ultra (listed as model number 4800X) and the Walmart-exclusive Ultra LT (listed as model number 4801X). The blog post has since been updated to remove the mention of the mystery model number.

This was probably an error by Roku, but a real model number. The error was likely it being listed when it shouldn't have been, as it's not been released. At least, not yet. I don't think it was an incorrect model number, just an accidental spilling of the beans.

But is this really a big deal? Isn't a new Roku device supposed to be a big deal? Well, not always. Sometimes Roku releases a new device that it already released. Let me explain.

I first encountered this back in, oh, I don't know, 2011 or 2012; before the Roku 3 was released. I had a Roku 2 XS, model 3100, that I had purchased in June 2011. I liked it. It wasn't my only Roku, as I had bought it to replace an older device I had purchased in 2010. I was new to streaming, and was very interested in what Roku offered. I wanted to learn all I could, and added Roku devices to other TVs by buying newer ones and moving the older ones to other TVs.

Along then, I decided to try the device that was a step down from the Roku 2 XS, the Roku 2 XD (model 3050). Roku offered a refurbished one, so I bought one. Turns out, it was simply a Roku 2 XS with a different model number, and a lesser remote. I shut down my Roku 2 XS and paired it remote to the Roku 2 XD. It worked. I then bought a Roku 2 XS remote and when it arrived, I had effectively two Roku 2 XS devices. Internally, these were the same device. The only difference was the remote that was included in the package. Oh, and the XS or XD molded into the top of the casing. Same device, two different model numbers.

Next time I encountered that was when I bought a Roku 2. Not the model 2720 -- I never owned one of those -- but the updated model 4210 released in 2015. The specs on it looked really good, comparable to the Roku 3, so I bought one. And, sure enough, it was a Roku 3. I already had a model 4200 Roku 3, and the new 4210 Roku 2 was the same device on the inside. The only difference was the 2 molded into the casing, and the included remote. In fact, someone could buy a Roku 3 for $99.99, or buy a Roku 2 ($69.99) and a Gaming Remote ($29.99) for a total cost of $99.98. That would mean they would have the same Roku device (despite the different model numbers), the same remote, and a spare IR remote for 1¢ less than the cost of a Roku 3.

Not only were the 4200 and 4210 the same device, but I later found out the updated Roku 3 model 4230 was the same device, just with a better remote. Both Roku 3 and the last Roku 2 were al the same device, just with different remotes and model numbers.

And, again, Roku did this in 2018. The previous year's Roku Ultra model 4660 got an upgrade. The device didn't change, but they put a better set of earbuds in the cardboard box and changed the model number to 4661. That was the only change. The 4660 and 4661 were the same device.

There are actually a couple of examples more. Maybe more than a couple. I'm not doing a research paper on this, I just ran across this in my everyday life.

So, this new Roku Ultra model 4802? I expect it's the same as the 4800, but some accessory will be different. But, I don't have any way of knowing that. And, I could be wrong.

You see, there also exists a Roku Ultra LT model 4801 that Walmart carries. It's a little different than the 4800 model Ultra. Yes, the remote is different, but the 4800 has a USB port (3.0) and Dolby Atmos support, which the 4801 does not have.

And, if you look at other devices, particularly the "+" version of devices, some are the same with the only difference being the remote, but some have true differences with the devices, even though the model numbers are nearly identical.

This difference in devices with such similar model numbers seems to invalidate my general approach. However, overall, it's a good guide. And, I'm expecting the 4802 to be the same as the 4800, if it's a new addition to the Roku lineup. It could be another retailer exclusive.

So, no I don't really know what this new 4802 Ultra will be. I expect it's nothing really new. But it may be something special, and something that I'll want to include in my Streaming Life. But it may be a bit before we find out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

MeTV to Frndly.TV

I've been a fan of MeTV for some time. I'm in the demographic, so that makes sense.

Now, I don't watch it a lot. I don't just put the TV on any channel and watch. But, I know many that do, and MeTV is what they are after.

For cord cutters, putting up an antenna has been the only way to get MeTV. Until now.

Frndly.TV, which I'm also been a fan of for some time, finally secured MeTV in it's lineup, according to a post on Facebook.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added two new channels – MeTV and Story Television! MeTV is one of the most requested channels! We’re excited to bring this to our all of our customers, without raising our prices :0)

That's good news. Now, if you have an antenna, this doesn't bring anything new to the table. But, if you don't have an antenna, and you want to watch classic TV, this is a big deal. And, considering that Frndly.TV has plans as low as $7/month for 30 family friendly channels, it's an even bigger deal.

Frndly.TV actually added another channel, Story TV, to the lineup as well. And three other channels that are part of the same ownership group will be added soon.

In addition to MeTV and Story TV, the streaming service will also add Heroes & Icons (H&I), DECADES, and Start TV to the lineup, with the rollout happening over the next several weeks.

I've been happy to have Frndly.TV as a part of my Streaming Life for a while now. And they've making it an even better value now.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Plex on Raspberry Pi deployed

I mentioned before about managing a Plex server for a family member. It went out, and was in need of replacing. It was serious. So, rather than buy or put together a Frankenstreamer, I decided to do a little of both. I decided to use a Raspberry Pi as a Plex streaming server.

Well, I ran into some troubles, and combined another project I was trying with resolving my family member's Plex issues. I decided to try an Nvidia Shield as a Plex server. It went well. At first. Then it began to need to be booted every three days or so.

Along this time, I resolved my KVM switch issues, so I was able to run both Nvidia Shield and Raspberry Pi in parallel. And I resolved the Raspberry Pi issues (actually, an update to Ubuntu fixed it).

When everything settled, the Raspberry Pi turned out to be the way I went. Whatever was causing instability with Nvidia Shield may be worked out, but for now, Raspberry Pi, running Ubuntu, is the Plex server I'm using.

And I'm happy with it. I think she'll be happy with it. She was surprised to see the size of it, but a little excited to have it back. Of course, setting it up was easy. Well, I had to move everything from my house to hers, but I did bring everything except the monitor. I got the official Raspberry Pi keyboard, mouse, power supply, case, fan, everything. I used her existing monitor from the dead Windows machine and didn't set up the Raspberry Pi monitor (yes, there is one of sorts).

No, I didn't use the existing keyboard and mouse, because the Raspberry Pi one stands out, being white and red. I wanted it to be clear what was what. The monitor wasn't an issue, just the keyboard and mouse, so that's how I resolved that. It didn't cost that much more to go that route, and having the entire setup (except the monitor) being Raspberry Pi branded made it look really official. So, it wasn't necessary, but it's how I went.

So, how's it going? Well, I set it up Friday, and it ran fine through the weekend. We'll be keeping an eye on it to ensure it works as expected. But so far, her Streaming Life includes a working Plex server again, and that was the goal.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Major League Baseball still doesn't want my money

I've been streaming regularly since 2010, with occasional streaming in the years before that. While many have only recently become streamers, I've been doing it for a while. And my son even longer, as he's the one who got me looking into it as a serious alternative back in 2008.

The point is that streaming is not a new thing. It's bigger than it used to be, and will be even bigger as time goes on. Since it's not a new thing, there really is no good reason for the major sports leagues to not accommodate streamers. But that's where we are. And for years, I've been wanting to give Major League Baseball my money. But they don't seem to want it.

I'm a fan of the Atlanta Braves. I've been in Georgia longer than they have, but I've come to appreciate those newcomers to my state. And if I want to watch a Braves game, I have to either go to the game, or have a pay TV service that carries them. As a Braves fan, I'd like to be able to watch them streaming via a service such as MLB TV. But, the games are blacked out in my area. Doesn't matter if the Braves are at home, or on the road, even on west coast, I can't watch a Braves game live via MLB TV.

And it's not just me. A lot of people in a large area can't watch the Braves live on MLB TV.

If I could, I'd watch the Braves with an MLB TV subscription, but blackouts means I can't. So, ever since I started streaming, I've wanted to subscribe and watch. And since MLB TV streamed its first game in 2002 (yes, 2002), they've know about streamers and how much we'd like to watch our teams live. And 20 years later, blackouts still top that.

I know there are business decisions that are locking down the games to pay TV services, but the bottom line in that nobody in five full states, most of another, and half of another still, can't watch Braves games live with MLB TV.

I suppose I could use a VPN on my network to get around such things, but I won't. The terms of service are what the terms of service are. And if they don't want me to watch the games streaming, I won't. I won't watch them any other way, either.

And that's how it's been for the last few years. I've not watch much baseball, because they don't want me to watch it the way I want to watch it. They want to make my Streaming Life difficult. So, I'll keep my measly $140. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Roku 11 is here!! New and unimproved!.

A few days ago when Roku announced the new OS 11 had been released. And, within a day of the announcement, I had it on one of my devices. I didn't find out until later, because it was on a device in a spare room, and because Roku doesn't send the updates out all at once, even to the same user. As is normal, one of my devices got it early (though never before this early) and the other ones will have to wait.

So, for that one device that's running OS 11, how is it you might ask. No, really. Go ahead and ask.

Well, since you asked, here's what I found different: nothing.

Yep, absolutely nothing different.

What the ...???

Well, as it turns out, all of those fancy dancy changes that will come with OS 11 will come later to OS 11. So, all this hype about what Roku OS 11 brings is ... just hype. Nothing rolled out with the update. No new features. Those seem to be updates to the interface. And what rolled out was the behind the scenes changes that are needed to support the features. So, yeah, technically, Roku OS 11 is on one of my Roku devices, but none of the promised features are there.

If you recall, last April, when Roku announced OS 10.0, Roku promised "Improved convenience of the Live TV Channel Guide." Remember that? The Live TV Guide Customization feature? Well, it never rolled out with 10.0. It finally showed up later, in 10.5. Now I'm wondering how much of the new features that run under OS 11 will roll out soon. I'm not holding my breath.

Now, it could be that Roku rolls them out today. It could be they roll them out next week. Or next month. Or late in the year. Or next year. But, sure, yeah, the features promised will arrive. Eventually. Probably.

Roku has been a valuable part of my Streaming Life for many years. But doggone it, they sure can be aggravating at times.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Starlink satellites and monthly are going up

As Starlink expands its coverage with more and more satellite launches, one other thing is going up: it's subscription cost.

Starlink launched with a $99/month cost. The company recently announced that the monthly cost is going up to $110, an increase of over 10%, according to reports.

SpaceX sent notices on Tuesday to Starlink users and deposit holders noting the higher prices, according to a copy of the email obtained by CNBC.

“The sole purpose of these adjustments is to keep pace with rising inflation,” the Starlink email said.

Starlink’s baseline monthly service price will increase by 11%, to $110 from $99 per month, effective May 21. The price of the baseline Starlink hardware will jump by 10%, to $549 from $499, for users who placed a deposit but are on SpaceX’s waiting list for service.

For new orders, the company increased the base hardware price by 20%, to $599 from $499.

My sister has the service, and while she's not happy with the price increase, she's not exactly grabbing her pitchfork either.

She was in a bad situation regarding Internet service. Two separate Internet Service Providers served houses in her neighborhood, but neither would serve her house. The house next door to hers has Internet service from a major provider, but they won't extend the service to her house. She had to get traditional satellite Internet, and satellite TV service, but now she has Starlink and streams everything. And she's taking the price increase in stride.

Yeah, but it’s still a great price based on what we were paying and for the coverage we have. Stormed all night and day and have not lost service.

I'm fortunate that I have at least one option with Comcast/Xfinity, and I'm paying less than half of what she was paying. I suppose I am fortunate in that respect. And while she's not happy her new Streaming Life is costing more, she knows it could still be a lot worse.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Roku 11.0 is coming, sooner or later

I got a surprise a couple of days ago. On Tuesday, Roku announced that Roku OS 11.0 had been released. I had actually communicated with someone on Monday who had received the update, so I knew it was coming. Neither I nor he had participated in the beta release of OS 11, so when he got it, I knew it was out, and the next day, Roku announced it.

Normally, it takes a while for me to get it. But late Tuesday night, I got it. One one device. I checked four devices, and only one of them had the update, but that's normal. Some people expect to get the update the day it's released. I've never got it that early. Once, I got an update within a week or two after release, but this is the first time I got it the day they announced it.

And, of course, it's only on one of my devices. That's another thing some people don't understand. You probably won't get the update to all of your devices at the same time. At least, I've never received updates to all my devices at the same time. There's no pattern to when it will arrive. It's not by Roku account, it's not by geographical region. It's not by model number. It's not by anything we can tell. It just is, whenever it is.

So, let's recap.

If you get the Roku OS 11 on one or more of your devices, then that's normal.

If you don't get Roku OS 11 on one or more of your devices, that's normal too.

If you get Roku OS 11 on one but not other devices, that's normal.

If you don't get it for a month, that's normal.

If you don't get it for two months, that's normal.

If you don't get it for three months, that's normal.

So, when will you get it? When you get it. You might not like that answer, but that's the truth. Your not liking doesn't matter.

Roku updates don't have any discernable rhyme or reason to when it happens, and if you have more than one Roku device, you may not get them all at once, or even close together. It's how it is. If you have Roku, that random update rollout process is now a part of your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Roku 11.0

The new Roku 11.0 operating system was released this week. I don't have it yet. They never send it to me in the first few days. Sometimes, I'll get Roku OS updates in the first month, sometimes in the second, and if not by the third month, it will come some time then.

The new OS is focusing a lot on sound. I listened to a lot of loud music in the 1970s, and was attached to an artillery unit for a brief time during my time in the Army. My hearing isn't the best, so I'm not sure how these new features will benefit me. But if it benefits you, that's a good thing.

They're adding some new Live TV features to the Home Screen of the main menu. Yeah, I don't care. But you might, so yay?

They have some new photo screensaver sharing feature. I can see some people liking that. Not me. But yay for those who do.

There will be a What To Watch section on the Home Screen. The other devices that offer things they suggest for me to watch usually get it wrong, so I expect Roku to get it wrong as well. However, a lot of people like features like this, so another ho-hum yay.

Additional language support for voice-enabled keyboard functionality is added.

Voice-enabled keyboard – Roku Voice simplifies device setup and channel login for supported apps by allowing you to enter email, password, and PIN information with your Roku voice remote. Voice-enabled keyboards are now available in Spanish, German, and Portuguese in OS 11.

While that brings nothing for me, it's good that they're expanding support in countries they support. Or half-ass support. This is better for those. So, actual yay.

Mobile app search improvements are included.

When you search for TV shows or movies, new visual elements with OS 11 highlights which channels are streaming the TV for free or where it can be streamed with your existing subscriptions. The new content details on the mobile app also show visual images of the cast and crew to assist with choosing what to watch. All of these updates are the perfect match to the recently added Save List, which allows you to save movies and TV shows while on the go so you can stream them when you’re back home and ready to watch.

I don't use mobile app very much at all, so nothing I care about. But yeah, I understand that many like to use the app. So yay for them.

All in all, Roku OS 11 brings nothing for me. But, it will improve the Streaming Life of others. So, yay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Getting an antenna? Maybe an indoor will work. Maybe.

When it comes to cutting the cord, many believe it's a good idea to have an antenna for over the air channels. I'm one of those that believe that. However, I'm also aware that it may not always be easy to put up an antenna. Power lines are dangerous, running cable can be difficult, and paying someone to do it can be expensive. But does that rule out the possibility of having an antenna? No it doesn't.

Some people have good success with an indoor antenna. They're small, and are easy to install. Well, mostly.

Part of the installation process is to install it where it picks up the most channels. If the location of the antenna doesn't pick up channels, then it's not good location. Sometimes, it's trial and error. But there's a step you should try before you get an antenna.

There are Websites that can assist in determining where the nearest stations are, and how far away the stations are located. An indoor antenna doesn't have the range of an outdoor antenna, so if the towers are very far away, an indoor antenna won't do the job. But how do you know for sure?

The only way to be absolutely certain is to try one. But, that can be a lot of work that you can avoid. Those Websites I mentioned? Go to one, or more, and search based on your location. One good one is actually the FCC Website: https://www.fcc.gov/media/engineering/dtvmaps

This example shows what someone at Fort Stewart would find if they searched the FCC Website for nearby stations. In this example, the closest station is 20 miles away. There is actually a tower that's closer, but it's a different direction. It's the public TV tower in Pembroke. The image is showing the major broadcast networks. They're 20 miles or more from Fort Stewart.

Will an indoor antenna work in this example? Maybe. But maybe not. You may find an indoor antenna claiming it will work for a large number of miles. I'm not saying the claims are false, but I am saying don't be surprised if it doesn't work. 20 miles may be close enough, and a good indoor antenna may indeed cover that distance. Environmental factors may interfere, but there's one other factor to consider.

Not all channels operate on the frequency you might think. In this example, notice the Band entry. That's important.

In this example, the stations are in the UHF or High VHF bands. So what are they?

Low VHF is the range of channels 2-6. High VHF is the range of channels 7-13. UHF is the band of channels 14 and above.

Notice, however, that WSAV, channel 3, is listed as UHF. But we just said that channel 3 is Low VHF. What's up with that?

As it turns out, not every channel is on the actual channel for which they identify. WSAV, for example, was indeed channel 3 and a Low VHF station for years. However, the channel repacking had stations moving to different actual channels. WSAV moved to channel 16, but kept the channel 3 identifier.

What that means is if you scan for the channels, you'll find WSAV channel 3. But it's actually channel 16. But on your TV, you'll go to channel 3. Because that's how it works.

So, when you go to get an antenna, it's a good idea to know what frequency bands you'll need. Not all antennae pick up all bands. If the antenna doesn't say on the box or in the description, it's probably UHF only. And that may or may not pick up the channels you want.

So, to recap, if you want to use and indoor antenna, you need to first find what stations are in range. You need to be skeptical of any range claims by an antenna manufacturer. (Some are reliable, but many make BS claims.) You need to know what bands you need, and the antenna needs to support those bands.

You know, all this should be easy. But then, a lot of things should be easy. Instead, things are sometimes complicated. But if you can sort through it all, an antenna may be a great addition to your Streaming Life.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Getting an antenna? Consider what channels you get and what you don't.

If you're a cord cutter, or thinking about becoming one, it may very well be worth looking into getting an antenna for watching local TV channels.

Sure, you can get a live streaming service that includes local channels, but those cost more. You may be able to spend a little extra money up front for an antenna and save money overall in the long run.

It's a little hard for me to make good comparisons for what you may want in a live streaming service, because I don't want a live streaming service. But, not everyone is like me. Some absolutely want the content they get from a live streaming service.

For this, I've decided to break things out a couple of ways. I'm using the Nielsen ratings for the most-watch networks. I'm looking at them two ways: overall viewership, and overall viewership excluding news and sports.

I'm breaking out the ones available over the air, as an antenna would cover those. These include:

  • CBS (1st overall)
  • NBC (2nd overall)
  • ABC (3rd overall)
  • Fox (4th overall)
  • Univision (8th overall)
  • Ion (13th overall)
  • Telemundo (14th overall)
  • CW (21st overall)
  • Me TV (23rd overall)
  • UniMas (29rd overall)
  • Grit (38th overall)
  • Others available in many markets

Broadcast networks and local affiliates adds a lot to the cost of a live streaming service. According to one recent study, it's at least $12/month, and as high as $20/month. Every month. Taking those networks out, I'm looking at overall viewership, which covers a variety of networks, and may be the best overall for many households. The top ten in viewership are:

  • Fox News Channel (5th overall)
  • ESPN (6th overall)
  • MSNBC (7th overall)
  • HGTV (9th overall)
  • Hallmark Channel (10th overall)
  • CNN (11th overall)
  • TNT (12th overall)
  • TBS (15th overall)
  • TLC (15th overall)
  • History (7th overall)

News and sports channels add a lot of cost to a live streaming service. The most recent study I found is two years old, and it was $9//month, just for ESPN. Removing news and sports channels from this, the top ten becomes:

  • HGTV (9th overall)
  • Hallmark Channel (10th overall)
  • TNT (12th overall)
  • TBS (15th overall)
  • TLC (15th overall)
  • History (17th overall)
  • Discovery Channel (18th overall)
  • USA Network (19th overall)
  • Food Network (20th overall)
  • INSP (22nd overall)

This makes it easier to pick the live streaming service you want. If you get an antenna, you get a lot of content. If you want more, consider what it is you want, and how much you feel good paying for it.

Life isn't simple. Your Streaming Life isn't either. But it doesn't have to be expensive either.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Dealing with idiots

Roku's recent revamp of their app system removed non-certified apps as they existed. The whole new process no longer has a Private Channel, or Non-Certified Channel, repository. By the way, Roku doesn't call them apps, but calls them channels. They're apps.

In the process, they also revamped their app development process. The paperwork I've seen -- it's publicly available -- allows for apps to be marked as "Adult."

Roku removed all non-certified apps. The app developers had the opportunity -- still do, by the way -- to code their app to standards and submit for certification. Most didn't.

However, what many adult services -- they're really porn, but call themselves adult, even PornHub -- have done is claimed that Roku targeted their apps. Roku didn't, but the facts don't matter to certain people.

And they've fired up their base. And "base" is indeed the correct term. One definition is "the lowest part or edge of something." And it's evident that some of their users are the lowest of the low.

Now, before you think I'm picking on porn Websites and services, what I just wrote is also true of many users of VidAngel. That's a service that operated illegally to edit movies to make them more presentable to family audiences. VidAngel lost a $62-million judgment for violating copyright of Disney and Warner Bros.

Some -- not all, but some -- of their users were fired up by mis-statements (lies) told by their respective services. And they descended on the Roku support forum.

I frequent the forums and have been able to help some people, and to provide information to some people, about their questions. Some of the users of apps that were removed had legitimate questions about what happened. And, I answered their questions. Others did too.

However, some people got it in their head that they were being targeted. Or they were crusaders for some noble cause. What the actual situation is, some of them are just plain nuts. One user described them as needing professional help, a padded cell, or both. I agree.

I've worked around people with mental issues. Most of the time, it's a result of physical or physiological trauma. Sometimes, they're just wired wrong. The end result is people that can't play nice. They often end up in jail, or in a mental facility, or both, often bouncing from one to the other.

Not all of them wind up in a system, however. Some get computers and get on the Internet. It's scary to think that they may be around people, possibly even children, and causing damage to others. I'm grown. I don't give a rat's ass what they say to me. But the thought that they may be around other people is sobering. And they could be potentially damaging the lives of younger ones.

That topic is one that our society hasn't addressed. Mostly because most of us aren't in a position to encounter those people on a regular basis. Well, except in the comment section of various Websites.

Calling them idiots is possibly an unfair thing. To actual idiots, that is. Some of these people are truly unhinged. They may respond to professional help, or they may be too far gone. I've seen a variety of people with mental issues of various degrees. And I see so much of the same thing in the comment sections and support boards.

I'm not worried about nuclear bombs. I'm not worried about Russians. I'm not worried about a lot of things. I am worried about what will happen if these people don't get help. Or those that are beyond help are left out in public. I'm not trying to be cute or funny. What I've seen on these boards is a small part of a larger problem we have in society.

We need a better awareness of mental illness, and a way to help these people if we can. And, sad to say, for those we can't, we need to keep them away from the rest of society if necessary. It's a shame we've allowed this to happen. We should be better than that.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

TV antenna scams

I saw a post on Tablo's blog recently that talked about the scams some TV antenna manufacturers try. Now, this post is originally from a while back, but was updates about a week ago, and I saw it then. It has some good information.

You might already know this, but if you have friends or family that don't, Tablo' blog post does a great job of highlight some of the warning signs from these unscrupulous companies.

If you see an ad on TV or online for an OTA TV antenna and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

We often get asked about products like the Magic Stick, Clear TV, and LiveWave antenna. These products are about effective as a paper clip and should be avoided, especially since you can purchase much better options at similar price points.

It's good information for anyone looking to add an antenna to their setup. If you're a cord cutter, or looking to be one, an antenna may be a good thing to consider. I wanted to put one up for some time, but circumstances prevented it. However, I was eventually able to add an antenna to my setup, and I've been happy with it.

While I do suggest you look into adding an antenna to your setup, be sure you have good information about antennae and the ups and downs of it. An antenna may be a great addition to your Streaming Life, but do research before adding one.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Nvidia Shield testing postponed. Kinda.

I mentioned recently that I was getting an Nvidia Shield device. I had held out for a while but finally decided to give one a try.

Well, it arrived, and I set it up, which went very smoothly. However, I'm not going to talk much about that. That's because, I'm not using nor testing the Nvidia Shield as a streaming device. I have something else in mind.

If you saw my earlier post, you may have noticed that I had a second reason, above and beyond testing, for getting an Nvidia Shield device.

There's one other reason for getting the Nvidia Shield, but I'll talk about that another time. And that's the reason that tipped the scales. Yes, I'm ending on a teaser. But the truth is that without that other reason, it would still be a thing I should do, if I'm going to consider myself an expert on using streaming devices.

So what happened? Well, if you recall, I've been setting up another Plex server for a family member, and ran into some issues trying to use a Raspberry Pi device. I don't know if I misapplied an update, or what, but it went from working great to becoming a brick.

I was reconfiguring it, heck, I was actually using multiple physical devices -- I have more than one Raspberry Pi device -- and nothing was working. So, back to the drawing board. But before doing that, and since there is no rush on the Plex server, I decided to start testing the Nvidia Shield.

Getting it all set up, I saw the Plex server reference. You see, an Nvidia Shield also can be a Plex server. It comes with the server software, you just have to enable it. So, enable it I did. I put the external drive on it that I was using for the Raspberry Pi Plex testing, and everything started working great. Little bit of configuration of course, but it all worked quite well.

I immediately stopped my plans to do streamer testing of the device and went into Plex server testing mode. And I'm still there. So far, it's been great. So I'm focusing on that for now. I may have found my Plex solution. Wouldn't that be something.

I still plan to do testing on Nvidia Shield as a streaming device. But for now, using it as a Plex server is the focus of my Streaming Life.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

How to Suppose.TV

First, let me state that I don't need or use a live streaming service most of the time. My viewing habits are such that if someone gave me free cable, I wouldn't watch it. I'm not exaggerating. I have had cable available free for extended periods of time and didn't watch it. But, those are my viewing habits. When I started streaming, I found a whole new world of content, and found that I didn't need a cable service at all. But that's me. However, I do mention it just in case it's something you haven't thought about.

But, what if your situation is that you have cable, want to cut the cord, but haven't because you want the ability to watch the channels cable offers. And you're not comfortable with finding alternate content without those specific cable channels? What do you do then?

I suggest an online tool called Suppose.TV. Now, I am not affiliated with them in any way. I simply find the tool useful. Very useful, in fact. If someone asks me how they can watch certain channels streaming, this is my go-to tool.

So, to use the tool, go to https://suppose.tv

Next, pick your TV market. Enter your ZIP code, or the nearest TV market, if you already know that. If you use your ZIP code, it will pick the appropriate market. Savannah is my closest. I could pick Jacksonville, which is the next nearest large market, but it's not really accurate. My ZIP code will choose Savannah, which is where the local channels will actually originate if I choose a live streaming service. So, ZIP code will pick the appropriate market.

Next, enter the channel you want. For example, if you want ESPN, enter that.

From the available list, pick the correct channel. A listing of various services will display, but it might not be right.

Next, pick the device you'll be using. If you want to use Roku, pick Roku. If you want Fire TV, pick Fire TV. You can pick more than one.

If you do, you'll get services that work on at least one of the devices you picked. Since most apps and services work on most platforms, this won't make a huge difference. But, if you recall when YouTube TV wasn't available on Roku, it would not have appeared if you picked only Roku. But if you added Fire TV, it would have shown up, because it would have been on one of the devices.

You can continue to pick more channels. However, if you pick a channel that one of the services doesn't support, then it will either go away, or move to the far right of the list of services.

Note you can make a channel a "must have" by clicking the heart icon.

Doing this actually removes any service that doesn't carry all of the "must have" channels.

This is where you have to actually think about if you really need the channel. How bad do you really want it? You may find similar content on other channels, some free in other apps. But whatever it is you want, this tool is useful for helping you find it.

Oh, one other thing. Don't trust the pricings listed. They are, for the most part, correct. But they seem to get the price of DirecTV Stream wrong. I don't know why. So, once you get it narrowed down to a few services, go to the actual services pages and verify the information and the pricing.

This tool isn't perfect, but it puts you in the right direction to find what you want. And for people new to streaming, direction can be a huge help. This has been a very helpful tool in my Streaming Life, and I think it could be helpful to you as well.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Fees!!

I'm not going to do a plug for Consumer Reports. I'm a member, so I guess I could, but that's not really a streaming topic. Well, it can be, but not right now. Well, okay maybe a little, with what I'm going to talk about right now.

Recently, Consumer Reports collected responses from members about router fees. The Television Viewer Protection Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in 2019, restricts certain fees, including router fees.

A report by ARS Technica says that some cable companies have continued to assess the fees, and many have stopped, have simple rebranded the fee as something else.

Congress subsequently passed the law banning such bogus charges. Complaints included in the Consumer Reports filing indicate that Frontier has complied with the law but is still annoying customers with other fees.

"Frontier FiOS used to charge me a router fee, although I have my own router. Now they don't have that explicit fee, but they do charge an 'Internet Infrastructure Surcharge' ($6.99) and a 'Frontier Secure Personal Security Bundle' ($5.99 after 'discount')," a customer in Torrance, California, wrote.

"After the router fee was made illegal by the act of Congress, I quickly called up Frontier to have the fee removed, which they did going forward," wrote a customer in Flower Mound, Texas. "However, a few months later, Frontier increased their infrastructure charge (another bogus fee) about $3 or $4 if I recall correctly. So in my mind, Frontier did a bait and switch and is just trying to play the bogus fee game but not calling it a router fee any longer."

This is why people hate cable companies. This is why I hate dealing with them. And the thing is, that's who many of us have to use for Internet. All those fees for things that don't mean anything are being assessed because they know new and different words to use. The bottom line is that they are assessing fees for nothing. Why? Because they can. Even when they can't, they call it something else, some fee that didn't exist and wasn't needed before, and are doing it anyway.

They do it, and many people just accept it. Sometimes, there's nothing they can do in response. Well, almost nothing. Things like this make me perfectly willing to pay more money to another company in the hopes that at least they're being open and honest with me. Like my sister did.

But would I really pay twice the money to Starlink instead of Comcast? Well, not right now. Because Comcast isn't charging me a bunch of fees. I have my own modem, my own router and switches, and it works great. And no extra fees. But if they do start up with nonsense fees for things I'm not using, then you bet your ass I'll switch and pay more.

I have to admit, though, that Comcast has been a good Internet Service Provider. I have no real complaints about that. They'll remain in my Streaming Life for the foreseeable future. But I understand if you want to drop your ISP.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

March Madness streaming

Credit: Brian Spurlock

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is and has been one of the biggest sports events in the USA for some time. It's not as big as other events, even college events, such as the College Football Playoffs and New Year's Bowls, but that simply says how big football is. March Madness, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is big. Really big.

This year's tournament begins today, and many many people want to watch the games. Not just the games involving their favorite team, but many of tournament games. It's a big deal. So, if you're a streamer, how do you watch the games?

Some of the early games are on truTV. You may know that truTV used to be known as Court TV, before changing its name a few years ago. And, if you have a local station that carries Court TV, that's not the same thing. Court TV did relaunch a couple of years or so back, but it and truTV are separate channels. If you want to watch basketball games on truTV, you need truTV.

Other games will be on CBS, TBS, and TNT. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will be on CBS and TBS. Final Four and Championship will be on TBS.

So, how do you watch those channels if you are streaming? Well, it's pretty easy, but not cheap.

truTV

The First Four play-in games are on truTV, as are some First and Second Round games. turTV is available from four services.

  • Sling TV (Blue) ($35/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70.month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

CBS

The Tiffany Network is carrying games from First Round through (and including) Elite Eight games.

  • Antenna (free)
  • Paramount+ (Premium) ($10/month)
  • Fubo ($65/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70.month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

TNT and TBS

TNT is carrying games from the First and Second Rounds. TBS is carrying all rounds after the play-in games, including the Final Four and Championship.

  • Sling (Orange or Blue) ($35/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70.month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

The cheapest plan that carries everything is either:

  • Sling TV (Blue) ($35/month) if you have an antenna.
  • YouTube TV ($65/month) if you do not have an antenna.

However you choose to watch the games, you have options, lots of options, to include March Madness in your Streaming Life.

Monday, March 14, 2022

At the mercy of Comcast

Comcast is my Internet Service Provider. That's not really a bad thing. The service, branded as Xfinity Internet, is actually reliable. I never have to call with issues, and unless my electricity is out, it's always there. Well, nearly always.

There have been situations where Internet went out, but that has always been a tree falling and taking out a line. Never Xfinity Internet service just going out. It's been an external force acting upon it, and they do a good job getting back up and running. I have no complaints about my Comcast service in regards to Internet service.

So what's the problem? They're the only feasible option I have.

Oh, to be sure, there are other options, just not any good options. AT&T is available, right? Wrong.

That was a surprise, as AT&T Internet had previously been available here. However, what was available was the 3 Mbps service. Now that's not even an opttion.

Satellite is an option, but HughesNet, ViaSat, Windstream are options, but they have really small data caps. They would actually be good enough for anyone who isn't a gamer or a streamer. I'm not a gamer, but I am a streamer. The data caps would make it cost prohibitive.

Then there's the new kid on the block, the other satellite service called Starlink. Elon Musk's service is available here. There's a long wait for it, but it's available.

My sister and brother-in-law use that service, and they're happy with it. They said setup was easy, and service is fast and reliable. They're paying twice what I'm paying for Comcast, but that's because I'm only paying $49/month, which is less than many pay. I'm not special, I'm just not paying for faster service than I need.

So, I do have one reasonable option when it comes to an alternative to Comcast. And it has a long wait.

I haven't pursued Starlink for a couple of reasons. First, Comcast does provide reliable service. I have no problems with their service at all. 

Second, the price isn't bad. Whenever I'm talking with someone about Internet service -- they bring it up, I don't -- most around here are surprised that I am only paying $49/month. They all have higher and faster plans.

Third, that long wait. Now I could cut down on the wait by getting in line. But that's $99 to get in line, then another $500 when I get to the front of the line and the equipment is ready to ship. And that's to replace a reliable, relatively cheap service.

It all adds up to the cost of alternatives meaning that Comcast is my only feasible option. And I don't like that. But as much as I don't like not having any other feasible options, the option I have is actually a good one. Comcast makes my Streaming Life possible, and at a good price. I just don't like not having a choice.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Subscription news

Recently, CNN confirmed the March 29 launch date of the CNN+ (pronounced CNN Plus) service. I'm not so much focused on the launch date of the service, as I am the fact that the service is launching at all.

According to Nielsen, CNN, Cable News Network) is the third most watched cable news network.

  1. Fox News (5th overall)
  2. MSNBC (7th overall)
  3. CNN (11th overall)
  4. HLN (59th overall)
  5. Newsmax TV (77th overall)

CNN also recorded the largest drop in viewership over the previous year, down 38%. All news networks were down, except Newsmax. So, with viewership down, is it a good idea to offer a subscription service Maybe. Maybe not. Let's dig a little deeper.

Live streaming services such as Pluto TV carry live news channels. I did a count. Now, keep in mind that news, weather, and business focused channels are lumped together. Pluto TV calls their category "News and Opinion" which is an honest description, as many news outlets don't focus so much on facts as they do opinion. But that's not the focus of the discussion, it's CNN's launch.

I did a count of the number of news channels in six of the larger free live streaming services.

  • Pluto TV: 20 channels. Most are solely news/opinion focused.
  • Xumo: 19 channels, plus 9 local news.
  • Roku Channel: 21 channels. I noticed that Roku Channel has removed the News category from the home page, where it was one quite prominent.
  • Tubi: 16 channels, plus 46 local news feeds.
  • Plex: 13 live news channels, plus 11 local news feeds.
  • Sling TV Free: 13 live streams.

Add to that the standalone apps for news services that are free. Note that some are on-demand news clips only, while others have a live stream:

  • CBS News
  • Fox News (limited live stream)
  • ABC News Live
  • Newsmax
  • NBC News
  • Newsy
  • Real America's Voice
  • Sky News
  • Aljazeera
  • Bloomberg Media
  • France 24

There are more, but you get the idea. You don't have to pay to get news. So, is a CNN+ service a good idea? I don't think so, but I've been wrong before. I'm not trying to promote or denigrate CNN, but if a live news service did succeed, that may be good for streaming overall.

Right now, the top news network, Fox News, doesn't offer full live streaming of their service without a subscription to a cable-like streaming service. It will cost you at least $35/month to get Fox News. Prior to launch of CNN+, the only way to get live CNN is via the CNNgo app, which requires a similar subscription to Sling TV or a more expensive service.

If CNN+ succeeds, perhaps more news services will be available to watch with a standalone subscription. For example, while there are many people that watch more than one news/opinion service with cable or a live streaming cable-like package, I suspect most probably have a favorite, whether it be Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, or another. Today, that person would have to pay at least $35/month for streaming services to include news. With CNN+ or something similar, that person could get by for less.

Philo doesn't carry news, sports, or local channels, and is $25/month. Frndly.TV is $7/month. A standalone news service with one of those is cheaper than the cheapest of the larger live streaming cable-like services.

We'll find out soon enough if CNN+ is something that will be around for a while, and if this opens up new opportunities in my, and your, Streaming Life.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Finally trying Nvidia Shield

I've tried a lot of streaming devices over the years. Most have been Roku devices, and many have been Apple TV devices. I've tried a few Amazon Fire TV devices. I've also tried several different Android/Google TV devices. However, one Android TV device I never tried was the Nvidia Shield.

People have talked about how great the Nvidia Shield is, and I have no reason to doubt them. However, I've never tried one. That's about to change.

I've held out as long as I can, and now I'm going to get an Nvidia Shield device to try. Why has it taken so long? Well, the darn thing is expensive. There are two models, and the cheaper one is $150, and the more expensive is $200. I'm going with the bigger device. Go big or go home, right?

Why would I do such a thing? I'm perfectly happy with Roku, right? Well, yeah. I mean, sure, there are things unrelated to the performance of the device that I don't like about Roku, but those things are pretty well common to all four of the major streaming platforms. My choice of streaming platform comes down to how I like using the actual device and interface. And since I started using Roku, it's been Roku.

So why am I getting an Nvidia Shield device? I have two reasons. I think there are two. One is that I like to know about the various devices, not just the platforms. After all, I did try out the TiVo Stream device, the Onn Stick and Onn Streaming Box, the Mi Box, Google Chromecast, and Chromecast with Google TV. Those are all Android TV or Google TV devices. Same interface. Same platform. I wanted to know about them, because they were popular at the time, and I couldn't recommend for or against an item I didn't personally use.

I have used enough Android/Google TV devices to know about the platform, and whether or not it's a worthwhile platform. I know about the positive and negative things regarding the platform. I've used enough devices in the platform that I can talk about it with authority from the user perspective. And as I've purchased and used the devices, I'm able to speak about all of those I listed. That's all the major devices on the Google/Android TV platform. Except one.

I've been unable to speak about the device that's considered the best of the Android/Google TV devices: Nvidia Shield. So, after all these years, I'm getting one. And, as I indicated, the reason I tried those instead of Nvidia Shield is price. The others all cost $50 or less -- well, the Mi Box cost a little more, but not a lot more -- and the Nvidia Shield is three to four times the cost of a Chromecast with Google TV.

So why spend that amount of money? Well, I've spent that amount of money for Apple TV. Why hold off with a comparable device on the same platform. Yes, I'm in the Apple ecosystem, but I can also be considered to be in the Google ecosystem as well.

There's one other reason for getting the Nvidia Shield, but I'll talk about that another time. And that's the reason that tipped the scales. Yes, I'm ending on a teaser. But the truth is that without that other reason, it would still be a thing I should do, if I'm going to consider myself an expert on using streaming devices.

If I want to be give anyone advice on their Streaming Life, I need to have the proper experience. This is one major glaring omission from my list of devices with which I have experience. I'm fixing that.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Plex on Raspberry Pi troubles

Recently, I decided to run Plex on Raspberry Pi for a couple of reasons. And it went well. At first.

To briefly recap, I maintain a Plex server for a family member. It went out, and I gave them access to some of the content on mine while I work on theirs. Well, it turns out their computer is toast. Not sure what happened, but we have a situation that will be expensive to replace.

As I said, they have access to some of the content on my Plex server, so they're up and running, relieving pressure while I deal with this in my spare time. And, since I recently did a couple of Raspberry Pi projects, I thought I would try it as a Plex server. And the initial results were promising. Now, I've run into some issue. And some weird issues, at that.

First, I'm new to Raspberry Pi, so I'm not as familiar with all the peculiarities of what can go wrong. And since it's been years, close to two decades, since I've even touched Linux, I'm finding that catching up is harder than I thought it would be. And, throw in that this is the first time I've tried something like this, and I'm not sure when things go wrong, that my troubleshooting is up to standard. I'm treading slowly, because I'm learning and troubleshooting at the same time, not troubleshooting with what I already know. I'm not always clear what results to expect, since I'm a little outside my element. But hey, that's half the fun, right?

Anyway, after a couple of days, videos began to crash. I had loaded videos from my Plex server on to the external drive so I could do some testing. I put full length movies, some short films (Looney Tunes, etc), and TV shows. After initial testing of a movie or two, I decided to set up a series to autoplay. That is, when one finishes, the next starts. I don't normally do it this way, but for testing purposes, I thought it a good idea. I let it run while I didn't watch, just listened for audio so I knew it was playing. Stress testing it, if you will.

Well, videos started crashing. Then the device itself wouldn't play after an update. So, back to the drawing board.

I've got to do some serious study of this and figure out what's going on. If a Raspberry Pi can be a reliable Plex server, that's a big deal to me. But I'm not sure if that is something that can be a part of my Streaming Life.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

USLF schedule announced

I'm still trying to decide if I care about the USFL. The startup league seems to be banking on a nostalgia factor with some football fans, although that really doesn't make much sense.

The original USFL played for three seasons in the 1980s and included some players that were later NFL or CFL stars, such as Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, Doug Flutie, Reggie White, and Steve Young, among others. Since Jacksonville was close by, the Bulls, which existed during the league's final two seasons, were my team, and I enjoyed the hours I spent in the Gator Bowl watching them play.

But am I really anybody's target audience any more? Probably not. But this new USFL seems to be banking on that old league to at least some degree, with all eight teams using names and logos from the old league.

I won't spend much time wondering why. I'm still undecided on whether or not the league is something I care about, but it is something somebody cares about. And when the league announced their opening week schedule recently, I was quite remiss in not covering it. I don't know how important this league will be, but I should have covered that. I'm fixing that now.

The USFL schedule for the first week of the season was announced, and there will be a Saturday night game, and three Sunday afternoon games. All games will be broadcast on either Fox, NBC, Peacock, USA, or FS1.

The inaugural season will kick off Saturday, April 16, when the New Jersey Generals face the Birmingham Stallions at 7:30 p.m. ET in a game that will be simulcast nationally on FOX, NBC and Peacock.

The USFL will then showcase a tripleheader on Sunday, April 17, with the Houston Gamblers meeting the Michigan Panthers at noon ET, the Philadelphia Stars playing the New Orleans Breakers at 4 p.m. ET and the Tampa Bay Bandits battling the Pittsburgh Maulers at 8 p.m. ET.

It would be nice to see the league succeed, if for no other reason than more games will be available for sports fans. And, all of the games will be available streaming.

Now we know when this new league will enter my, and maybe your, Streaming Life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Are these deals good deals?

Everybody likes to save money. Well, maybe not everybody, because I don't know everybody. But I don't know anyone who doesn't like a good deal.

Sometimes, the deal is on something we've been thinking about anyway. Sometimes the deal is about something that never crossed our minds, but now they have our attention. Which was the idea, after all. So a deal will catch our eye.

However, since many of the people I know are older -- the ones that are still alive, that is -- have been around the block a time or two, when we squint our eyes and wonder what's really going on.

We know there's a reason for the deal, and it's probably not that they are just giving stuff away. There's a reason. They know it. We know. They know we know it. And we know they know we know it. It's a game. Well, kinda. And there will probably be a winner. Best outcome is both are winners. That doesn't always happen, as you know. And if you don't know, you'll eventually find out.

So, when this game is played, it usually involves some company offering a really good price on something. And some of us wonder what's really going on, and we squint our eyes.

There are actually two reasons for us squinting our eyes. First, it's a reaction to someone telling you something you're not sure you believe. You probably do it. And if you don't, you will. Trust me. (You that doubt me just squinted your eyes, didn't you? Told ya so.)

The second reason? To read the fine print. There's always fine print. And that's where this really good deal turns out to be for someone else. We don't quality for some reason. "Offer valid only days that do not end in 'Y'" or something like that.

Every now and then, though, there is no fine print that removes the offer from us. We "qualify" for the offer. So what then? Is this good deal, that actually is for us, a good deal? Well, yeah, sometimes. But sometimes not. And in streaming, you really have to be careful.

Of course, you should always be careful, but streaming is still relatively new. Ten years ago, I was a veteran streamer. But I was also part of a very small minority of people: streamers. Put it this way. When I started streaming, Netflix was primarily a DVD service. Think about that.

In the last few years, streaming has really taken off. But it's still a new landscape. Not a virgin landscape, but not a slutty one either. But there are people who will offer wonderful opportunities that aren't all that wonderful.

Here's one I saw recently, and I'll use it as an example. I'm not picking on them, but ... well, okay, maybe I am.


So, what's the problem? Well, this is from Amazon. It lets you subscribe to Epix from within the Amazon app, or on your Amazon Fire TV device.

Still not seeing the problem? Here's what you're not seeing. This subscription can only be used on an Amazon device or within the Amazon app.

So, why is that a problem? Well, it may not be. If you are only going to use your Amazon Fire TV device to watch Epix, then fine. Or if you are only going to use the Amazon app to watch Epix, then fine. But if you try to use the Epix app on your Roku, then you are out of luck. You're also unable to watch on Apple TV, on Google/Android TV, on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, Web browser, and so on. You are locked in to Amazon to use the subscription.

Now, if that's not a problem, then that's not a problem, and that means it's a very good deal.

Oh, and while I used Amazon and Epix in this example, this is also true for deals through Roku, to include the Roku Channel. This isn't directly solely against Amazon. This isn't actually directed against anyone. It's simply a reminder to look at all the details and thing it all through.

Sometimes these deals can indeed be great deals, and make your Streaming Life easier. But not always.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

AMC+ again

Some months back, I looked at subscribing to AMC+. I was undecided about it. They were running a really good special that worked out to around $2/month for a one year subscription. Regular price is around $9/month. I considered it because three months at regular price is more than one year at the discount. But, I couldn't decide, which means I actually did decide, because the special went away, meaning I decided no.

Fast forward to this month. A family member likes Outlander, an AMC show that is apparently a big hit. The only thing I know about it is a lead character is a Scotsman during the Jacobite Rising, and he's named after a Doctor Who character and actor. Yes, Jamie Fraser is named for Fraser Hines' character of Jamie McCrimmon, who met the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) at the Battle of Culloden. Jamie was one of my favorite Doctor Who characters, so when some other TV show named a character after him and the actor who played him, I became aware.

Anyway, she likes the show, and I said I would subscribe. Well, I went to subscribe, and I couldn't. That wasn't really a bad thing, because it turns out I had already subscribed. Remember when I said I couldn't make up my mind and then waited too late? Yeah, that's how I remembered it, but that's not how it happened. Turns out I had subscribed for a year for $24. So, I didn't need to spend $9/month for the next three months to have Outlander for her to watch. I had it all along.

Which means that I had it all along. I could have been watching it and trying it out. Well, last weekend, I did. I started watching Ragdoll, a British series. It's interesting. I'll watch some more, just to give it a full examination.

I'm not sure how I'll like it overall. I mean, I've had it for about four months and didn't remember. So now I have some catching up to do. I'll watch it for a bit, and decide if I want to keep it after November. I doubt that I will, simply because of the way I rotate subscriptions, but it is something I will consider.

All these months, my Streaming Life could have had AMC+ in it. Boy do I feel silly.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Roku and Private Channels

For a while, Roku allowed a group of apps that didn't go through Roku's app certification process. They still do, but with enough restrictions that you can say that they don't. Let me explain.

First, understand that Roku doesn't refer to apps by the term "apps." Roku calls them "channels," but they're apps. You call them apps. I call them apps. Roku calls them channels. In Rokuland, channels = apps. Mostly.

Roku allowed Private Channels, also called Non-Certified Channels, on the platform. But here's the thing. Private/Non-certified Channels/Apps were not supposed to be forever and ever. You see, Roku wants to do this little thing called making money.

Apple makes a lot of money from services and subscriptions. Most of their money isn't from selling Macs or iPhones. It's from the services that come along with that. Apple gets a cut of any sales or subscriptions purchased through their App Store. And that is the source of most of Apple's money.

Roku is similar in that it makes money from sales and subscriptions through its system. Roku Pay, as they call it, allows you to easily purchase or subscribe to content. It also makes it easier for Roku to get a cut of that sweet sweet subscription money.

To get an app in Roku's Channel Store, the developer must offer purchases and subscriptions through Roku Pay. Now, this does not mean the user can only subscribe via Roku Pay. The user could still subscribe directly to the service using their Web browser, for instance, and use those credentials to log in to the app and use the service on Roku. But, Roku requires them to include Roku Pay as an option. Private/non-certified apps don't go through the certification process, and Roku gets nothing from them.

So why would Roku even allow private/non-certified apps? Well, now they don't. Not really. But they did in order to allow the developer to put the app out there and work all the bugs out before getting it certified and into the Channel Store. It was a huge unrestricted beta app program.

Here's where it all fell apart. App developers would develop apps (duh) and put them into the private/non-certified app library. Users could enter a code and install the app on their system. That's great, right? Well, not for Roku. Remember, Roku is in business to make money. Same reason everyone in business is in business. And these private/non-certified apps don't generate money if they never get certified and moved into the Channel Store.

So, why didn't these developers move their apps into the Channel Store? Three main reasons.

  1. Laziness. They didn't go through the trouble of coding the app to the standards Roku set forth. Some private apps actually caused problems for some Roku devices. Some couldn't be removed from the devices. Standards reduced the threat of apps causing problems. Plus they ensure Roku Pay works and Roku gets its share of subscription money.
  2. Greed. If the app is moved to the Channel Store, they have to include the ability to use Roku Pay. That means Roku gets a cut of the subscriptions. If the app isn't in the Channel Store, then Roku doesn't get a cut. The developer gets around it, mooching off of Roku's platform.
  3. Incompetence. Some app developers simply can't code well enough to get their app into the Channel Store. If coding was easy, everyone would do it. But it's not. And for some, it's too hard. Sometimes, the developer doesn't want to go through the trouble (see Laziness) but sometimes the developer just isn't good enough of a developer to make it happen. The tough word for this is incompetence.
  4. Other. Probably other reasons too. So more than three, but I only went into three. Sue me.

What Roku did was to revamp their system. They still allow non-certified apps, but they call them "beta apps" and there are a lot of restrictions.

  • Developers can have only 10 beta apps at a time.
  • Only 20 users can have any one beta app at a time.
  • Each app has a life of 120 days, then *poof* it goes away.

I personally think the 20 users restriction is too low, but it is what it is.

So if your precious app that you need or your entire world falls apart and you find yourself on the ledge of a building, now you know why.

Oh, and if your Streaming Life depends on non-certified Roku apps, you're doing it wrong.

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