Tuesday, May 31, 2022

NFL streaming, but not to streaming devices

Reports of the new NFL Plus streaming package don't seem to do much for streamers.

NFL fans (and I know there are lots of you out there) that are also streamers (and I know there are more and more of you out there) don't really gain anything from this announcement.

The service will allow fans to watch in-market games on mobile devices. It will not be available for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, or Android/Google TV.

This is different from NFL Sunday Ticket, as that's for out of market games, and is carried only on DirecTV, the satellite service. Sports Business Journal says he price is cheap, as $5/month.

Live games on mobile phones and tablets will be the content centerpiece of NFL Plus, which will sell for about $5 monthly, though a source cautioned the pricing structure may change. It will likely include other content as well; possibilities include radio, podcasts and miscellaneous team-created content.

The live mobile/tablet games will be limited to what fans could otherwise see in their local TV markets. Until this year, those games were distributed to tablets and laptops via Yahoo and on mobile phones through major carriers, deals that have since expired.

No TV streaming, which to me means that it's not for streamers.

Will this change? Yeah, probably. One day. In the future. Maybe I'll live long enough to see it. Or not. I'm not holding out any hope.

The NFL isn't a part of my Streaming Life, as I don't watch their games, but it is important to a number of sports fans. And more and more of those are streamers. It would be great if the NFL recognized that.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day (2022)

I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering works on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept; plighted faith may be broken; and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot.

Excerpt from the first Memorial Day proclamation, May 30, 1968, by President James A. Garfield.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Linux is still on the radar, but no closer

I mentioned as recently as last weekend that my plans to spend time working with Linux have gone slowly. They've gone slower since then.

For one thing, I needed to focus on a new TV. And I ordered a new TV and am installing it this weekend. I didn't install it the day it arrived because another issue arose. An issue with either my phone or Google app on my phone caused me to no longer be able to control my network as I like. Additionally, smart control of lights, air conditioners, and such are not not working on all devices.

After a few attempts to resolve that had the opposite effect, I decided that since I needed to disconnect a lot of stuff to hook up the new TV, I would reconfigure my network. It's a nightmare of switches and cables as it has grown over the years with stuff being added and removed. So, by taking the old TV down, I've had access to everything. And this is a good time to re-do it all in a much nicer and more organized fashion. You can't do that while tinkering with setting up a Linux device.

I'm actually setting up two. One is already set up: a Raspberry Pi. The goal is for that to be a Plex Media Server. It's been set up and running basic Raspberry Pi OS (nee Raspbian) for a bit. I has installed Plex Media Server, but haven't added an expansion disk (will need over 10 TB) yet. Once I do that, I'll be able to copy the content over and try that as my server for a bit. Whether its feasible long term, I don't know. I know I'll need another computer to prepare content for moving into Plex, as the Raspberry Pi can't really handle that. So it's sitting by, just chugging along, 

I actually looked in on the Raspberry Pi this weekend. It's been running through a KVM switch with my other project devices. It's sitting there quietly, awaiting my doing something. And letting me about updates that are available. So I updated and left it sitting there, awaiting the day it gets my full attention.

But my new Linux project is actually converting an older Windows PC to run Linux, as well as converting a older MacBook Pro to run Linux. And no progress there, either. I had hoped to get the desktop set up, but the TV and network re-work takes precedence.

This weekend hasn't been the day to start my Linux desktop, even though I have the new SSD drive I'll set up as the boot device. It's just awaiting me actually doing it, as all the parts are in. But, as I said, it had to wait. My new TV and my Streaming Life take precedence for now.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Never read the comments, or trolling the trolls

The old adage in online blogging and social media is "never read the comments." That's because that's where the trolls and jackasses hang out. Not everyone there, to be sure, but it sure attracts them.

I don't have that problem. I do get the occasional spam comment, but the overall commenting process here doesn't lend itself to trolls. I mean, sure, some can drop by and be total jerks, but that really doesn't happen. I require authentication to comment, meaning a commenter must have a Google account, or some other authentication measure that Google accepts in order to comment.

Why does that make a difference?

Friday, May 27, 2022

What happened to all the Fox News app complaints?

As you may know -- and if you didn't, you do now -- I frequent the Roku Community Forum and will occasionally offer help to those with issues, user to user.

One app that always received a lot of complaints was the Fox News app. No, I'm not talking about some lefty complaining that it exists -- that has happened because awful people gonna awful -- but users of the app complaining that it didn't work. Mainly, it logged them out constantly and they had to log in again and again.

To be fair, I never used the app. I don't watch Fox News. I also don't watch MSNBC, ABC News, CNN, CBS News, or any of the other talking head services. I use other news sources and news aggregators, plus some subscription services, to stay abreast of things. Streaming talking head apps aren't how I do it, whether from the left or right.

But, the app has generated lots of complaints over the years, mostly because of it never working correctly. Sometimes, I wonder if it's someone not understanding how the app works. That's an offshoot of the people who think a Roku is a magic box that gets you all the TV ever for free. It's not. And the Fox News app isn't a full Fox News source, live and free 24/7. It's an app that will get you access to some content that you may have to pay for.

Anyway, since early April, the complaints have died down. I don't know why that would be the case, but if Fox did fix the issues with their app, or change the interface to make it easier to use, then great. And it's about time.

I still won't watch it. Nor the other talking head channels. My Steaming Life is good. I don't need excitable people in suits to mess with that.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Time for a new TV

One of the reasons I cut the cord was to save money. In fact, that was the overriding reason I cut the cord.

I admit I was fascinated by the prospect of watching TV without cable when my son showed me how he was watching content back in, when was it? 2008? Around that time. Anyway, I was fascinated and wondered if it was the way to go.

He didn't really have a choice. He had moved to a new residence, and cable wasn't a priority. He had internet service, however, and either knew or found out he could use a device to stream (Xbox, I think). And liked it, so he stayed with it.

I spent two years researching the cost of equipment and comparing the cost of the content before I was able to show that it was cheaper for me.

All that to say I don't want to spend money if I don't need to spend money. However, right now, I need to spend money.

My TV has been having problems lately. I've had the device about five or six years, and it's been having problems for the last year or so. It will suddenly turn itself off. I don't like it when a TV does that. And this past weekend, it did it several times. I really don't like that. So, I think I need a new TV. And that means spending money.

I've actually been researching for a while, ever since this behavior started. And it wasn't doing it more than a couple of times a week. Now that it's up to a couple of times a day, I decided to get really serious about my research. And I think I've come to a conclusion.

My son has an LG TV, and it has worked well for him. One of my sisters really likes her Samsung TVs. But several years ago, I bought a Sony TV for one residence, and that TV has been rock solid. Great picture, very reliable. It's a good TV. Check that. It's a great TV. So, despite the good results from my son and my sister, I'm going to get a new Sony TV.

Consumer Reports gives it a rating of 84 and a "Recommended" rating. And one nearby retailer has that very model for $500 off. So, yeah, I've decided on the device I want.

I've made the purchase already, and it will be delivered in the next couple of days. I should be a happy TV watcher very soon. I'm not happy about spending the money, because Sony is an expensive brand. But, I'll spend the money where necessary. I'll save money where I can. And I'll be back to enjoying my Streaming Life in short order.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

What's with the button hate?

Lately, I've seen a lot of hate for the app buttons that Roku puts on their remotes. There has always been some dislike by some users over the buttons, but it seems to have ramped up lately.

Most of the complaints are that Roku won't allow users to reprogram them. And some say they'll go buy a Fire TV because of it. Fire TV doesn't have any shortcut buttons, by the way. Meaning that if they can't get four out of four buttons they like, they'll take zero buttons.

One was unhappy that he couldn't be guaranteed that he would get a particular button, so he just wouldn't buy a Roku. Again, see the bit about Fire TV devices not having any buttons.

Some Android/Google TV devices have a Netflix shortcut button, but that's it. Fire TV and Apple TV don't have shortcut buttons. Roku has four, but there's no guarantee what they would be.

Roku sells the buttons to companies. Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Hulu, and others will buy buttons for the device. They'll pay Roku good money to get a shortcut button on the device. And those four I listed are the ones on the Roku remote I use the most. Sling, Vudu, and ESPN+ are on other Roku remotes. The five Roku remotes I use the most have a total of seven different apps. So there's no guarantee of anything.

However, people get really ticked off about them. Another common complaint is that they keep hitting the buttons. Apparently not hitting the buttons is too hard.

I don't understand it. If I don't want to launch Apple TV+, I don't hit the Apple TV+ button. If I don't want to launch Netflix, I don't hit the Netflix button. This ain't rocket surgery.

But, people are different. And they get all bent out of shape about things like that. Rather than high gas prices. But me? I hate high gas prices. But I'm quite capable of not hitting buttons, so there's that. Of all the things going on that are wrong, my Streaming Life is surprisingly calm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Watching everything, but cheaper

For some time I've been promoting the idea of hopping around with streaming services in order to save money.

Many "news" stories have taken the approach over the past couple of years saying that in order to watch everything you want, streaming is actually more expensive. And the data they give is quite compelling.

They list how much it costs each month to subscribe to the various services.

I recently ran down a list of 11 top subscription services:

  • Netflix ($15/month; $10, $15, or $20 depending on tier)
  • HBO Max ($15/month; there is a $10/month package)
  • Disney+ ($8/month)
  • Paramount+ ($10/month)
  • Discovery+ ($5/month)
  • Apple TV+ ($5/month)
  • Hulu ($7/month)
  • Prime Video ($9/month; $12/month package includes shipping benefits)
  • Peacock TV ($5/month; there is a free tier that has about half content, and a $10 ad-free tier)
  • AMC+ ($7/month)
  • Starz ($9/month)

That totals to about $95/month. But I watch those services for around $10-15/month. How? I don't subscribe to all services every month. This month, for instance, Starz is ending. I'll pick it back up later this year, or early next year, whenever it has something that's of interest to me or family members. I'm subscribing to AMC+ and will catch up on Better Call Saul, then drop it for a period of time. Netflix may follow, or HBO Max. Perhaps Disney+ will have something. Or maybe Hulu will have a bunch of episodes built up and I can binge them.

I'll figure something out, but I won't subscribe to them all. Or to more than one. (There is a caveat I'll go over in a little bit.) Maybe two cheap ones.

And I'm not the only one suggesting this method of doing things. Ryan Downey over at The Streaming Advisor suggests something similar.

The thing that’s great about streaming is that there are no contracts. Maybe you took a step back and realized that maybe you were not actually watching a lot of your services very much. But when you thought about what you enjoy you realized you wish you had been. Are there tons of shows you meant to watch on HBO Max that you never got around to? Have you been meaning to catch up on The Handmaids Tale? Pick a month get one major service at a time and jump in eyes wide open and fully embrace the content of one thing. When you wrap up the month do the same with something else. That way you really enjoy what is out there fully and spend $10.00 on one service instead of 45 on six. Any service with at least a couple of series you enjoy probably has 80 hours of entertainment whether it’s Paramount with all the Star Trek stuff, Netflix with the Comedy specials and original series, and so on. But a deep dive will give you an appreciation for what you are spending on.

He has a few other tips and suggestions, and they can save you some change -- or some big bucks -- if you modify your streaming habits just a bit. Yes, it's work. But you're getting paid for it with the money you save. It's a way I keep the costs down in my Streaming Life, and a way you can as well.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Return to cable? It is to laugh

You ever read something and then wonder for a moment if the person is serious, or just writing clever satire? If so, you understand what I went through recently.

I saw an article on Kim Komando's Website that offered suggestions on when it might be time for a cord cutter to return to cable.

Albert Khoury actually wrote the article, and he was serious about it. Now, perhaps you're wondering if you should return to cable. Well, let's look at what was written, and I'll give you my thoughts on this.

Your combined streaming services are more expensive than your old cable bill

If you're paying more for streaming than you are for cable, you might be doing something wrong. First, do you really need a live streaming service? Don't just say "of course" because you don't. Well, probably don't. I certainly don't. Rather than pay $70 for the ability to watch Hulu+Live TV tonight, I'll pay $7 and watch the show on Hulu tomorrow, at a time of my choosing.

And, when it comes to a bunch of streaming services, well, we've covered before that. You can subscribe to a single service per month. If your streaming bill is higher than cable, rethink how you're doing things. The Streaming Advisor has a good article on that.

You only watch shows on network TV or cable channels anyway

I watch some network TV. I have this thing called an antenna, and there's no monthly bill for it. Of course, not everyone can do that, but more can than realize it. But if you watch that content live, there are streaming services that carry most things.

While we're talking about it, remember that time the cable channels changed and you stopped getting that one channel? Sure you do. Yeah, that one. So, cable doesn't always have everything either. Unless you want to pay for an even bigger package. And you only watch it because you got used to it. I found out real quick that I could easily get used to something else, and you know what? I like it better.

You won’t be subjected to price hikes between contracts

Yes, the article actually mentioned price hikes. Because cable prices never go up. You always paid the same amount for cable all the time. Didn't you? No. Huh. Imagine that. It's like someone wanted to write a disingenuous article.

Some streaming services might come included with a cable subscription

Did they really write "stop streaming so you can stream?" And the example given was along the line of if you subscribe to HBO, you'll be able to stream it too. Sure, pay $200 for cable and get HBO Max included. Or don't pay for cable, and get HBO Max for $15.

Some sports are ONLY included in cable/satellite packages

Okay this is actually valid. But if you're in such a situation, you probably didn't cut the cord anyway. Or if you did, you found out quickly that your team has a TV package straight out of last century.

Regional sports are part of DirecTV Stream. And Bally Sports is launching a standalone streaming service this summer. So, yeah, this one doesn't hold water either.

I get it. Kim Kommando appears as a guest on a lot of cable channels. So, I suppose "America's Digital Goddess" is throwing them a bone. Or maybe she agrees with Albert Khoury. Either way, I'm not giving up my Streaming Life. Well, under one condition. But I don't think that Hell will freeze over any time soon.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Linux goes slowly

As a side effect of my building both a streaming device from a Raspberry Pi, as well as building a Plex server from a Raspberry Pi, I got reacquainted with Linux. I haven't done anything with Linux in years, but did tinker around a few years back.

I haven't progressed much on this, even though it's something I want to do. The reason is that I'm working a project at work that involves a Linux server, and that is totally unrelated to what I'm looking to do at home. In fact, working on the Linux server project at work is what helped me decide to proceed with a home project as well. However, as I'm playing catchup on Linux, I don't want to have my work goals and home goals to interfere with each other.

If I was researching an issue for work, and ran across something that I could apply at home but not at work, I don't want to take work time away from work. Yes, overall, I would increase my Linux knowledge, but I want to ensure that it's targeted where it needs to go.

What's actually holding me up is locating a full-time Linux laptop. I have a desktop I could use for that, and the KVM switch would make it easy to hop from Windows to Linux. I don't want to dual boot either my MacBook or my Surface, but rather, I want a standalone Linux desktop. And I have a computer set aside for that. I'm refurbishing an older retired MacBook Pro, but it needs some work. Replacing the keyboard, the hard drive (it's older, so an SSD will be in), and battery is slow going, mostly because I'm taking my time, trying to do one thing at a time. Plus, MacBooks are notorious for being difficult to work on. And it is. They keyboard is slow. My eyes aren't as good as they once were, and the inside of a MacBook Pro is for the young.

Still, the project is proceeding, and I'm trying to do it as cheaply as I can. The expense of an SSD is not what I want to do, but I want to keep the old drive intact in case the whole project is a bust. I'll at least have an older but working MacBook Pro running Mac OS, if I keep the old hard drive.

I did install Ubuntu Linux on an old Dell laptop, but the graphics on the device is really inferior, and the device is heavy. It was an older, cheaper Dell Inspiron 15, but it works. But I want the MacBook converted, as the superior trackpad will make using it a whole lot easier.

This doesn't really impact my Streaming Life, but my Streaming Life did lead me to this. So, I'll see where this journey takes me. As, as frustrations arise, at least I'll be able to take a steaming break and get my mind of the silliness. By watching different silliness.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Bally Sports still on target for June

I've been a Braves fan for years. The way I, and many other Braves fans my age, were able to follow the Braves was on radio. But the Braves ended up on TV with WTBS (later just TBS) and that eventually became the primary way I followed.

Over the last few years, though, it's been harder to follow the Braves on TV. Cutting the cord certainly put a crimp in it, and the Braves going from a single TV source (WTBS) to multiple (regional sports networks) made it more and more difficult.

With MLB TV being around for a couple of decades, you'd think it would be easy enough to watch them on a streaming device. You'd think wrong.

Blackout rules mean I cannot watch the Braves live. And unless I want to pay the big bucks for a streaming package with regional sports -- I don't -- then I'm not able to watch them streaming. At least, most of the time.

When they show up on Peacock, or one of the broadcast networks such as Fox, I'm able to watch the games. Otherwise, unless I subscribe to a large expensive streaming service, I'm out of luck. And like I said, I'm not going to pay that kind of money.

However, there is hope on the horizon. Bally Sports, who owns a bunch of regional networks, is launching its own service and app next month. And Bally is negotiating contracts with teams to begin streaming their games. The catch is, if you're in market, you can watch the games. For example, if they carried the Braves, since I'm in market -- the reason I can't use MLB TV to follow them -- I would be able to watch on Bally Sports.

Here's the catch. They have contracts with five teams so far, and none of those five are the Braves. But, for fans of the Tigers, Royals, Marlins, Rays, and Brewers, you're in luck. You'll be able to watch in-market games for those teams.

If you don't live in those markets, you won't be able to get those teams. But you could get MLB TV, so there is, and has been, a way for fans in that situation.

My situation won't be changing next month. No Braves. Yet. But, I'm holding out hope that the service launch is successful, and that they'll expand to cover my Braves. I'd like to finally get their games into my Streaming Life.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Free content from Disney?

An article on The Streaming Advisor this past week suggested that Disney may expand Disney+ with a free tier. But, there's a catch.

There's always a catch, isn't there?

Well, this take by Ryan Downey was worth a read. He mentions FASTS, or Free Ad-Suported-Streaming Services (I know, the letters don't match, but oh well):

There is constant hand wringing about subscription fatigue, which is the idea that people are reaching the breaking point in their willingness to sign up for more subscription streaming services. This is coupled with the rise in the popularity of FASTS.

Only a few years ago Pluto TV was an independent startup company with curated YouTube channels. Now it is a key part of Paramount Inc after first being bought by Viacom. XUMO too started as an independent company with an aim to bring valuable brands together on Smart TVs and streaming platforms. Ir is now under the auspices of the largest cable provider in the US and a large part of its future as seen with its integration into the XClass TV infrastructure.

He suggests that Chicken Soup for the Soul might be acquired by Disney, due to its contracts for content with several content providers. Which is an interesting idea. Give it a read.

If it does come to pass, would it be a good thing? Well, maybe. Maybe not. But these kind of things do happen. If it makes my Streaming Life better, then great. But I have my concerns.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The PGA Championship

I'm not a golfer. My son is, however. He enjoys it, and does it in his spare time, when he can mange to get some spare time. A lot of people golf, and seem to enjoy it.

A lot of people watch it, as well. And one of the big events in golf is this weekend. It starts today, in fact.

The PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma is one of the four major tournaments in the USA. The Masters was in April, and Scottie Scheffler took the Green Jacket. The U.S. Open is next month, and the British Open (properly, The Open) is in July.

The PGA Championship starts today, and if you're a streamer, you can watch coverage of the event.

CBS, ESPN, and ESPN+ will carry various rounds of the PGA Championship.

Today, ESPN+ coverage starts at 8:00 am and wraps up at 2:00 pm. ESPN continues from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Tomorrow's 2nd round schedule is the same.

On Saturday and Sunday each, ESPN+ covers from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, then ESPN from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and CBS has coverage from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

ESPN+

The standalone service is $7/month, or can be bundled with Hulu and Disney+ as part of the Disney Bundle for $14/month

ESPN

You can find ESPN on several streaming services.

  • Sling TV (Orange) ($35/month)
  • Vidgo ($55/month; $67/three months)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month; includes Disney Bundle, meaning ESPN+)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

CBS

You have a few ways to watch CBS, including one free way.

  • Antenna (free over the air)
  • Paramount+ ($10/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month; includes Disney Bundle, meaning ESPN+)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

You have options to include championship golf in your Streaming Life this weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Chromecast isn't what it should be

I so want to like the Chromecast with Google TV device. I really do. But Google really makes it difficult. They really do.

Google has a troubled history with streaming devices. They entered the market with the Nexus Q and Nexus Player in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The Nexus Q never really launched. It was doomed from the start, with its $300 high-end price and its low-end specs. It ran Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and required an Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) device to use as a remote to control the device. Like the original Chromecast. They ended up giving them all away and canceling the product. The $300 Nexus Q was replaced by the $35 Chromecast, which also requires a mobile device to control it, although it's not limited to Android devices.

The Nexus Player did a little better than the Nexus Q. It was actually in production for a year and a half. It was an actual streaming player, with a remote control and access to the Google Play store. And, it had the features of a Chromecast as well. However, in 2016, Google stopped selling it, and support ended in 2018.

For a while, Google had only the Chromecast as its streaming device. It's a current product, though it has undergone some hardware updates along the way. It's a pretty good streaming device, if you can deal with needing to use a mobile device to launch and control content.

Chromecast is great for casting from a mobile device or a Google Chrome browser. As an everyday streaming device, it leaves much to be desired, at least for me.

Enter Chromecast with Google TV. It's a Chromecast, and more. It has a remote and access to the Google Play store. It's a full featured streaming device, as well as having all of the functionality of the basic Chromecast. And it's a great little device. Almost.

I say "almost" because the Chromecast with Google TV (Chromecast/GTV) is a little light on the specs. While it has more onboard storage than Roku devices, Roku can offload apps and just keep running. Chromecast/GTV requires you to remove apps if you run out of space. It does not have good storage space management.

Here's why that's such a problem.

With Roku, if your device is full, and you launch an app that you already own but isn't on your device, your Roku device will move off older apps and install the newer app. There's a delay of a second or two (usually no more than that) while this happens automatically. It's a pretty decent user experience.

With Chromecast/GTV, if you own an app that's not installed on your device, you are prompted to install it. Once you do that, if you're out of space, you get an error message telling you that. It's up to you to find the apps that you have installed and how much space they have, then determine which one or ones to remove, then go back to the app you wanted to run, install it, then launch it. That's not a good user experience.

The solution is to either increase onboard storage, or have an app manager to handle all these things for you. And if you have ever used an Android device, you know that it doesn't really manage apps this way.

Could it be done? Sure. But it would take some work. Both Roku OS and Android/Google TV are built on a Linux core, so they're cousins in a way. However, they are different enough that this wouldn't be an easy thing to accomplish.

Still, when you cast an app to Chromecast devices (basis or GTV) the Chromecast does actually run the app. How they go about it, I'm not all that clear. But the fact you can launch many apps, cast it to Chromecast, then turn off your phone and it keeps running shows clearly that the content is playing from the Chromecast device. It certainly seems as if there is some kind of app management going on. Why it's not in Chromecast/GTV user interface, I have no idea.

Chromecast with Google TV could really be a good device, if it was a more powerful device and the app management was a lot smoother. I have found myself using the device less and less over time, and that's disappointing. I really want to like the device. But as it stands now, I can't recommend it over other devices as the thing on which to build your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Fire TV devices on sale, but is it worthwhile?

I saw where Amazon has their Fire TV devices on sale this week. And it looks like some good prices. But is it really? Let's take a look.

The Amazon Fire TV Cube is currently on sale for $70. I'm going to cut right to the chase. If you've been thinking about one, get this deal. That's a very good price for a very good device. And, just in case you haven't been following along, I'm firmly in Camp Roku. But the Fire TV Cube is good, and this price is more than good. It's great.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is also on sale for $45. This is a top notch streaming stick, and while the discount isn't as deep as that of the Fire TV Cube, it's still good deal.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is discounted to $35. That's a good price on a decent stick. It's not quite as good as the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, but it has been a reliable device for me.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is on sale for $25. While that's a $15 discount, that's too much in my opinion. Likewise for the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite. Even though it's marked down to $20, it's not a reliable device over time. For both of these, they work fine when you first take them out of the box. If your experience is like mine however, in a few months, though, it'll seem sluggish. I would skip them unless you really want a really cheap stick. It's better than the similarly prices Onn Stick from Walmart, but it pales to the the Roku sticks, and to the Fire TV 4K and Fire TV 4K Max devices. In my opinion, the higher priced Amazon sticks are worth the money. Not so much these cheap ones.

Let me offer another take on this. If you're looking to start streaming, these two cheapest Amazon Fire TV Stick devices are a good way to start cheap. But plan on upgrading in a year. If you can accept that, then sure, go for it. There are a lot worse ways to begin your Streaming Life. But, as I have indicated, a lot better ways too.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Selecting Live TV channels for Amazon Fire TV

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I liked the On Now section of Amazon Fire TV. They call the section "On Now" and it includes a Live TV Guide.

If you're like me, you have multiple free live streaming services. Among the ones I have are Pluto TV, Xumo, Plex (which I use for local streaming as well as live TV), FreeVee (formerly IMDB TV), Sling TV (which has a free tier that doesn't get enough promotion), and Tubi TV. I have others on my Roku device, but that's all I have on my Fire TV, as those are the ones I use the most.

Fire TV will work with your live streaming apps/services and let you pick which ones you want to include in your Live TV Guide. In fact, it's better than that. It lets you pick the channels you want from each service. You can pick all of them, or you can pick a few, or all but a few.

It didn't take me long to realize that simply turning on access to those six apps put a lot of live streaming channels in the guide. More than I wanted to deal with. That's one of the drawbacks of these large live streaming services. If you don't want to watch a hundred or more streams, then you have to wade through a lot. Fire TV has solved that problem. At least, what's a problem for me.

If you only want to watch live content from one service, it's not that big of a deal. Add that service, hide the others, and you're set. But, I like content from each of them. Well, from most of them. But only a few from each.

The way I handle that is to hide all the apps/services, then unhide certain channels, only the channels I want. Then I pick my absolute favorites and Favorite them. It's actually easy to do.

First, you go into the Settings section and select Live TV.

Then you go into the Manage Channels area.

From there, hide all the Sources. Then, go into a Source that has channels you want to include in the Live TV Guide.

Next, find a channel you want to include and unhide/show it.

Repeat that for each Source that has content you want to include, and for each channel you want within each Source.

Again, if you want everything, simply unhide the Source. If you want almost everything, unhide the Source, then hide the channels to remove.

Since I only want a handful from each, I hide the Source, then unhide the specific channels I want.

There's also a section for Favorites. Going into that lets you select Favorite channels.

Those Favorites will appear at the top of your Live TV Guide.

The Live TV Guide and the ability to configure the Sources and individual channels within them is one of my favorite features of the Fire TV devices. It makes my Streaming Live easier.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Don't get me wrong about YouTube TV...

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I didn't need YouTube TV because it didn't bring enough to the table. That may sound a little harsh. But the truth is, I'm not going to get $65 worth of entertainment from it. Well, at least, most months.

As you may know -- and if you don't, you're about to find out -- the only time I really feel that I "need" a live TV streaming service is during college football season. But the rest of the year, no, I don't really need any such service.

That's not to say that YouTube TV doesn't bring anything to the table. It does. In fact, I consider it the best of the live streaming services. I just don't need one. But you might. I think you should put some serious research and thought into whether or not you need one, but if you have and concluded you need one, or even if you haven't but just want one anyway, then I think that YouTube TV is an excellent choice.

YouTube TV is the best priced of the premium live streaming services. Let me explain what I mean by that.

These cable alternatives come in a couple of flavors. Some have local channels, and some don't. Some have sports programming and some don't.

With neither locals nor sports are the budget services such as Frndly.TV and Philo. Those are $7 and $25 respectively. If you don't need or care about local channels or sports, these are the ones to look at. There is some overlap, but compare the packages and see which works better for you.

If you don't need locals but do want sports, there are Sling TV and Vidgo. I should note that Vidgo does have ABC and Fox, but none of the other local channels. Still, I'm including it in the mid-tier group. Sling TV and Vidgo run from $35 to $55 respectively.

If you want locals and sports, in addition to the other cable type of programming, you have YouTube TV, Hulu+Live TV, and DirecTV Stream. They run $65, $70, and $70 respectively.

As you can see, YouTube TV is a top tier service, with a lot of programming, including sports and local channels. It works well. Very well. The Google infrastructure behind it is probably the most trouble free of any service. It's the cheapest of the top tier packages, and my pick if I was to choose one of these.

I know it sounds like I'm Friend Zoning the service: I like you, just not that way. But it's the truth. And if I were to go that way, it's one that's at the top of my list.

I don't need a service like that. I'm able to find the content I want a lot cheaper, with an antenna and watching on-demand rather than live. But you aren't me. If you need a top tier live streaming cable alternative, YouTube TV is a good choice to drive your Streaming Life.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Can you put up an antenna?

If you want to cut the cord, or watch free local channels, an antenna is a good way to get you free local content. But can you put up an antenna?

Maybe you can. Maybe you can't. Let's find out.

A few things to keep in mind. You may be able to use an indoor antenna, if you live close enough to a TV tower. If not, you may be able to pick up stations on an outdoor antenna. And, then you need to get the right kind of antenna. That may not mean what you think. We'll come back to this.

First, are there stations close enough to pick up? And if so, will an indoor antenna work?

I like to go to AntennaWeb.Org to check. There are other places you can use, but that's been a good one for me.

Location, location, location

Put in the address you want, then either check or don't check the box regarding antenna height.

Then press GO and look at the results. Look at the results and see what antenna it recommends. 

In or out?

If the station is close enough, an indoor antenna may work. In my experience, within 10 miles usually means you'll pick up the station, if the antenna is the right type (we'll talk about that in a little bit).

If an indoor won't cut it, then an outdoor antenna may be needed. And that's a good time to take a break. And think.

If you think an indoor antenna will do the job, get one. Just make sure you can return it. They're fairly cheap, but if it won't do the job, make sure you can take it back. And, with that in mind, be careful when opening the box and using the parts. Don't tear anything up. Be good and be careful. And if it works, yay! But if not, take it back and think about getting an outdoor antenna.

If you need an outdoor antenna, first think of where you'll put it. And how high you can put it.

If you want to do it yourself, keep powerlines in mind. After all, our goal is free TV viewing, not a casket viewing. If you can't put an antenna up safely yourself, hire a professional, or do without. It's not worth the risk.

With that out of the say, if you can put up an outdoor antenna, get one that will pick up the stations you want.

HDTV, UHF, VHF, alphabet soup

First, there is no such thing as an HDTV antenna. They're TV antennae. That's all. Which means that all TV antennae are HDTV antennae. Or, more simply, a TV antenna is a TV antenna.

Only it's not quite that simple. There is an actual difference in antennae, but it's got nothing to do with HDTV. Rather, it's the channel.

Channels 1-6 are Low VHF. Channels 7-13 are High VHF. And channels 14 and up are UHF. So, which do you need? Well, look at the channels, right?

Not always. In that results image above, notice WSAV channel 3. That's Low VHF, right? Nope. Notice the RF Channel shows as 16. That means it's actually broadcasting on channel 16, so a UHF antenna is needed. Sane with WTOC channel 11. It's actually on channel 23 now. And look at the PBS station. WVAN channel 9 is on channel 8, so that's High VHF.

Confusing? Sure. But look at the RF Channel, which is the actual channel on which the station is broadcasting. That's what's important.

Confused yet?

If this is all confusing, you can actually pay people to do an analysis and recommendation for you. While I did my own research, and got my own results, I decided to compare against Tyler the Antenna Man, who runs a YouTube channel out of Pennsylvania. It was around $40, and he suggested an antenna and an installer. The downside is the installer he found for me was nearly an hour away, meaning it would cost a bit more to use that one. But, if you don't have a local installer you know about, then he at least will pick out a good one. Tyler does seem to know his stuff.

But do try it yourself first. If you're not sure, and $40 (it may be more now) would make you feel better, reach out to Tyler. Either way, check out his videos if you're thinking of an antenna. He has some great tips, and may save you some aggravation in the process.

If you don't really care about streaming, but just want to watch local channels, you may not need cable. An antenna might get you just what you need. And if you want to save money for local channels in your Streaming Life, then an antenna might help with that.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Trying YouTube TV again

A month ago, I decided to try YouTube TV again. So I subscribed.

How did that go? Not too good.

Almost every night after work, I came in, sat down, fired up the Roku device, and went right past the YouTube TV icon on the Roku menu. Same for when I fired up the Fire TV Stick or the Nvidia Shield.

Why? I mean, I paid $65 to Google to use YouTube TV for a month. So why didn't I use it?

Well, I did. Twice. No, three times. I watched some USFL games, but that was is. Nothing else.

Why not?

That's easy. There was nothing I wanted to see. I get local channels via antenna, with DVR from Tablo. That takes care of one of the things services such as YouTube TV offer. I can watch more local channels without YouTube TV than with.

Sure, there's Better Call Saul, right? Well, I bought the season, so I get the shows early the next morning anyway. And I don't have to watch live to find out if Lalo is targeting Jimmy and Kim. That can wait a few hours.

So, with live local channels not needed, and serial TV shows that I like not needed, what do I need it for?

Exactly. Which is why I won't be subscribing again. Well, not for a while. I'll consider it during football season, in order to get live ESPN, but until then? I'm fine.

I'm not saying YouTube TV isn't a good service. I'm saying I don't need to spend $65 for what it brings to my Streaming Life each month.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Microsoft Streaming Stick?

I've seen news reports this past week about a Microsoft streaming stick coming to market in the next year. The thing is, Microsoft announced a streaming stick in June 2021.

"We're also developing standalone streaming devices that you can plug into a TV or monitor, so if you have a strong internet connection, you can stream your Xbox experience," CVP of gaming experiences and platforms Liz Hamren said. There's no word on when to expect the smart TV app or streaming hardware to hit the market, but neither seems too far off.

So why is it in the news again? The best I can tell is that a reporter said it will be in 2023 before the device arrives. Only instead of "it won't be" the article was "as soon as" in tone.

In the next 12 months, Microsoft plans to release an Xbox cloud-gaming streaming device. This will likely look like an Amazon First Stick or perhaps a small, Roku-like puck. And like a Roku, the Xbox streaming device will enable you to access movie and TV services in addition to a library of games through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Is this a big deal? Maybe. I kinda doubt it. While much of the Microsoft hardware I've seen has been good quality stuff -- I really like my Microsoft Surface Laptop, for instance -- good hardware doesn't mean it's something the consumer wants.

The focus of the Microsoft streaming stick seems to be gaming. Now, if it's a full-featured streaming stick that has additional gaming functionality, then it might have a market. But if its focus is gaming, with streaming as an afterthought or limited -- looking at you Xfinity Flex -- then it'll go the way of Microsoft Kin.

Do we need another streaming device? Sure, why not. If Microsoft can bring a good quality streaming device to the market, that's a good thing for consumers. But I do worry about the interface Microsoft will design. Remember Vista? And Windows 8? And Windows Me?

If a Microsoft device brings something good to market, that will be something to celebrate. Whether or not it would become a part of my Streaming Life will have to wait a year. Then we'll see.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

What a Roku isn't. Same for Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android/Google TV

I saw a question on the Roku support forums the other day where the person complained that he couldn't get live local TV on Roku. He said the salesman -- assuming he bought it in a store based on this -- told him he could watch live local TV.

Now, either the salesman lied, or the person misunderstood. I'll go either way. The person also complained about there not being a CBS app. There is a CBS app, so the person will certainly get things wrong, meaning it could have been the salesman said something that the person interpreted that way.

Either way, that's not what Roku does. Nor Fire TV. Nor Apple TV. Nor Google/Android TV.

If you are looking into streaming, be aware that a Roku -- or any streaming device -- does not in and of itself get you live local TV. You get that from an antenna. Or from a subscription to a live streaming service that costs $65/month or more. But just taking a Roku and hooking it up to a TV? That won't get you live local TV.

Now, you can get live TV. There are news feeds. There are streams from other channels that work like cable; you use the remote to launch the app with the channel, then select the channel from those listed inside, and just watch. Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Xumo, and others have content like this. So, while you can find live TV, you won't find live local TV.

You can find apps that carry your local news after it airs. So that is local, but it's not live. It just plays on loop.

And if you want CBS, as our intrepid user wanted, there is Paramount+, which as part of the $10/month plan, gets you live local CBS.

If someone told you that you can add a Roku, or Fire Stick, or other streaming device to your TV and pick up live local channels, you may want to check again. You can't. They either told you something wrong, or you misunderstood.

You can certainly use these streaming devices and get a lot of good content, but just having them won't automatically get you live local TV as part of your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Streaming more content with fewer services

According to research that Tubi commissioned, a majority of U.S. streamers are looking to stream more content in the next year. The same poll shows that streamers are also looking to cut the number of streaming services.

How can that be reconciled. Fairly easily. I've been doing it, and suggesting that others do it for a while now. And it seems more and more people are coming to that conclusion. They may not be doing it the same way I'm doing it, but still, taking charge of your streaming budget while enjoying what you stream is a very good thing.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Tubi, the survey found that seven in 10 cited changes to their financial situation as a reason to reevaluate their streaming service spending.

Aside from budget respondents cited other factors that would make them pull the plug on a streaming service, including a limited selection of titles (49%), lack of a user-friendly interface (34%) and poor customer service (33%).

Forty-four percent said they’d stick with an unsatisfying streaming service for only a week before canceling it.

What would keep people loyal to a service? Affordability (45%), a wide selection of content (44%) and a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to discover movies and shows (43%).

So what many are looking to do is to cancel certain services and stay with just a few. And if that works for them, great. It works. They are paying less, and watching more. That's good however you do it.

But I do it a different way. I subscribe to several of the services that people are considering dropping. Why? They have good content, that's why. But, I'm not sticking to the services year round. I'm subscribing for one month only.

Here's how it works. I'll list several popular services, and explain a way of using my method to watch all the services, and save money. First, here are the services and the prices.

  • Netflix ($15/month; $10, $15, or $20 depending on tier)
  • HBO Max ($15/month; there is a $10/month package)
  • Disney+ ($8/month)
  • Paramount+ ($10/month)
  • Discovery+ ($5/month)
  • Apple TV+ ($5/month)
  • Hulu ($7/month)
  • Prime Video ($9/month; $12/month package includes shipping benefits)
  • Peacock TV ($5/month; there is a free tier that has about half content, and a $10 ad-free tier)
  • AMC+ ($7/month)
  • Starz ($9/month)

These are 11 top services. Here's how you do it.

January, pick one or two of the services. If you want two, stay away from two higher priced services. At the start of the month, pick the one or two services for that month, and subscribe. Then, during the month, watch all you can from those services. Cancel before the 30-day renewal.

Then, when those subscriptions end, subscribe to one or two more. Watch for 30 days, and cancel before renewal.

Then, when those subscriptions end, subscribe to one or two more. Watch for 30 days, and cancel before renewal.

You see how this goes? If  you picked two services each month, you would go all the way through the list in six months, and never pay more than $20/month for streaming services. Yet, during the year, you watched all of the services, and had access to all of the content.

And you don't have to stick to a rigorous schedule. If a service is one that you don't watch a lot, repeat one of the services that you like better. Just keep it to one or two a month. You'll watch a lot of content, and save a lot of money.

If you subscribed to each of them each month, that's around $95/month. But you can knock that down to an average of around $20/month if you cancel and skip around.

If this is too much work for you, that's okay too. You know how much time and effort you can put into your streaming infrastructure. Do whatever works best for you. If that means cutting down to three or four services, then you've cut your bill in half, or more. If you have the time and effort to put into managing it more closely, you can save even more. But however you save, just by saving, you've made your Streaming Life a better deal.

Monday, May 9, 2022

What was three channels is much more now

When I was younger, we got three TV channels. Actually, two. Or five. Or six. Let me explain.

The nearest TV stations were in Savannah, and way back when I first started watching TV, we were able to pick up two stations out of Savannah. WTOC Channel 11 was the CBS station, and WSAV TV 3 was the NBC affiliate. What about ABC? Well, WSAV also carried ABC programming, but they went with the NBC programming most of the time. Sometimes, they did carry the ABC show, such as The Avengers or The Time Tunnel, instead of the NBC show, but most of the time, NBC programming was offered live, with ABC shows broadcast on a tape delay basis.

So, two stations. But there were three if you counted the PBS station. We didn't.

Of course, in the evenings, we could pick up the stations in Jacksonville. Well, two of them. WFGA, later WTLV, Channel 12, was the NBC affiliate in Jacksonville. WJXT, Channel 4, was the CBS affiliate. We couldn't pick up the UHF stations from Jacksonville.

Oh, there were also WUSN, now WCBD, Channel 2, in Charleston, South Carolina. When the weather was right, at night, we could pick that up.

So, depending on how you counted, we didn't get a lot of channels. We got one or more CBS, one or more NBC, and one or more ABC. So I'm going to say three, counting just the different networks. And that was it.

Many people today have no idea what that was like. To us, it was just how it was. And I kept that mindset, to a huge degree, after I dropped cable. I did put up an antenna, and hoped to pick up the ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, and NBC stations. So five.

I get a lot more. I get five times that. There are 25 reliable stations I can pick up. Actually more, but there is some duplication on some, so I'm counting 25 unique networks of content I can pick up free over the air. All out of Savannah. I point the antenna that way, and don't turn it to Jacksonville. Could I pick up Jacksonville stations? I don't know, but I'm not going to try to find out. I'm happy with 25 different networks.

Oh, and I live over 40 miles from the nearest stations. So, if I lived closer to the stations, I would likely pick up more. I can get other stations with different content, but the signal is weak, so I don't even bother. Like I said, 25 is good.

A lot of people get more. Some get a lot more. Maybe you can get more. If you put up an antenna, you may find that you can watch enough live TV to suit your tastes, time, and budget. And while I don't watch over the air TV exclusively, I do know some people that do. They don't stream, they just watch free over the air TV.

I stream, of course. And together with over the air TV and streaming content, I have a pretty good selectin of content. My Streaming Life is good. A TV antenna may make yours better too.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Digital ads

I saw an article on AFTV News this week about Amazon inserting digital product placement in movies. Huh, was my first thought. Then I read the comments.

There's everything from "now everyone's going to be doing it" to "everyone is already planning to do this" to "I'm throwing all my stuff away" to ... well, everything.

The actual product placement in the article was a bag of M&Ms.

... presumably, the M&Ms on the counter did not exist when the scene was shot and have been digitally inserted after the fact to advertise the candy. The program is currently in open beta and already being used in Amazon’s own original content, such as Reacher, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the Bosch franchise, Making the Cut, and Leverage: Redemption

The funniest, or silliest, or most knee-jerk reaction was one that said:

I can’t believe they have went this low I am sorry Amazon but this just makes me want to ditch all my streaming device’s 8 in total

Think that one through. They want to ditch their Amazon streaming devices because of this. Then what? Not stream? Go back to cable? I don't think so.

Let's suppose this fellow did toss his Fire TV devices in the trash. Then what, he goes out and buys some Roku devices? Maybe some Chromecast devices? And do what? Launch Amazon Prime Video and watch the content anyway?

And some of the comments make it look like they've never heard about product placement. The outrage over commercials within a TV show! That's never happened before in the history of TV ever!

[YouTube]

I think keyboards make people stupid. And, yes, I realize I'm saying this from behind a keyboard. I stand by what I wrote.

Let me tell you my thoughts on this. I don't care. Maybe I should, but I don't. If they didn't put a digital bag of M&Ms in the movie, what? They'd put a real bag of M&Ms in the movie?

It gives Amazon, who is the content creator in this instance, the ability to rake in some money from product placement without having to wait on the product placement agreement to film the scene. (I know, they aren't using film, but you know what I mean.)

And if they don't have an agreement in place when it airs, then they can put in a generic brand of candy, then update it with M&Ms when they finalize the deal.

Like I said, it doesn't bother me. And, yeah, maybe it should. But it doesn't. I only care that there's some good content to make my Streaming Life more enjoyable. And it doesn't matter if it's M&Ms or an Apollo bar, as long as the TV show or movie is enjoyable.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Streaming the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is this afternoon. And yeah, it's kind of a big deal. It's been a big deal for a while now.

I never really cared for horse racing, whether Thoroughbred or other horse racing, mostly because I didn't come up around it. Maybe if I was from Kentucky, I might care. Well, care more.

I do have a passing interest in the race, and if I'm able, there's a better than even chance I'll watch it. And I realize I'm not sounding like I'm drumming up excitement about the race. That's because I'm not. Some people are interested in it a lot, some a little, and some not at all.

If you are interested, and if you are a streamer, you will probably want to know how you can watch it. Or even if you can watch it if  you're a streamer. Well, you can.

NBC is, again, carrying the race. While USA carried the Kentucky Oaks yesterday, the Derby is on NBC and Peacock. Coverage begins at 2:30 pm, with the actual race a few minutes before 7:00 pm.

The fastest time in the Kentucky Derby was set by Secretariat in 1973, at 1:59.4. The second fasted time in the Derby was Sham, at an estimated 1:59.8. Why was Sham's time an estimate? Because they don't normally keep as accurate records on second-place horses. Sham set his time in 1973, when he lost to Secretariat. Had Sham run that time, and Secretariat not run in the race, Sham would be the record holder. That was quite a race.

Will any records be set today? Find out. Watch the Kentucky Derby on NBC or on Peacock TV and see for yourself.

Here's how to watch:

Peacock TV

  • Subscription is $5/month for the Premium service. It's $10/month for ad-free. But ad-free doesn't include not having ads in live TV. The ad-free applies to on-demand only.

NBC

  • Antenna (free) over the air.
  • Sling TV ($35 Orange) ($35/Blue) ($50 Orange + Blue)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo ($65/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

If watching the first jewel of the Triple Crown is on your agenda for the day, you can enjoy streaming it on one of those services. It's nice when you can enjoy your Streaming Life so effortlessly.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Data collection

In case you haven't noticed, there are ads on this Website. Yeah, I know. You noticed. You can't help but notice. And that led into my thinking about data collection.

You see, those ads may be customized with you in mind. Oh, I'm not doing that. Google places the ads, and Google picks what the ads are for. I do have the option to request certain ads not be shown, or suggest other ads that may be shown, but I don't do that. I leave it entirely up to Google. Why? They do this for a living, and are making a shipload of money doing it. They're the professionals, and I'm fine with them handling all the ads.

The cookies and other data that Google collects along the way is part of how they determine what ads to show you, but I don't get that data. I don't know if it's available to me, but I don't really care. I'm not in the data collection business.

If you leave a comment, the form asks you to log in with a Google account. And that's stuff that Google collects.

If you use the "Ask A Question" form, it does ask for a name and email address, but that isn't in any database that I have access to. I do get an email with the information, and when they arrive, I read them, and if I want to address what they wrote, I'll write up a post, then I'll delete the email. I don't store the data.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, I have a notice about being an Amazon affiliate. That means that if I link to something on Amazon that qualifies for commission, and you use the link and make a purchase, I'll get a small commission. But I don't get the data. Amazon does. And they keep it. I'm not in the data collection business.

Sure, if the ads on the Website show something in which you have an interest, and if you make a purchase, I'll get a little bit of money. And if the products to which I link earn a commission (not all do, by the way), I'll get a little bit of money. I like collecting money. But I don't collect data. Google does and Amazon does.

Data collection is not my interest. Streaming is. I'm here to share my experiences, thoughts, and suggestions about how to improve your Streaming Life. That is my my interest.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Roku and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad USB Power Cable with Long-range Wi-Fi Receiver

I've been a Roku user for quite some time. In the early days, there was no Roku stick. They eventually introduced one that connected via an MHL port. That's another long story that we won't cover today, but just know that you couldn't take that stick and expect it to work on most TVs today.

In March 2014, Roku introduced their model 3500 HDMI Streaming Stick (to differentiate between the MHL-based stick for the old "Roku Ready" TVs, which is another long story). I got one of those, because I liked the idea of a stick. It was kinda meh. Heck, it was a lot meh.

In April 2016, Roku upped their game with an update, the model 3600 stick. It was better than the 3500 by quite a bit, but by then, I was used to the speed of a Roku 3, meaning the 3600 stick, while an improvement, was still kinda meh.

In October 2017, Roku released the 3800 Streaming Stick and the 3810 Streaming Stick+. Finally, Roku had a good stick. At least the 3810 Streaming Stick+ was good. I never used the 3800. But I liked the 3810 so much that I replaced all the Roku 3 devices, which were beginning to show their age, with the Streaming Stick+. I didn't replace any Roku Ultra devices, just the older ones.

In 2021, Roku introduced the 3820 Streaming Stick 4K and the 3821 Streaming Stick 4K+. I didn't run out and buy one, but decided to see how well they worked based on others. My Streaming Stick+ devices were good and didn't need replacing, so I was in no hurry.

Research showed they were actually the same device, but came with different remotes in the box. Same processor, same memory, same storage, same everything except the remote. I got my hands on a Streaming Stick 4K+ and tested it. I really liked it, so I bought a Streaming Stick 4K for my own use, replacing a Roku Premiere+ (3921).

So, all is well, right?

No. Not by a long shot.

It turns out that the stick I love so much has good WiFi because of a fancy-schmancy cable that has a WiFi receiver built in. And some of them are going bad. Well, a lot of them. High number, but likely a low percentage. But enough to make it a pain for a lot of people.

Roku sells replacement cables for the 3800/3810. And they're out of stock. And have been out of stock. And no estimate on when they'll be back in stock. If ever.

Roku has really dropped the ball on this one. Now, sure, most of the sticks work fine. Only a small percentage have issues. But a small percentage of a large number can itself be a large number. And that's what seems to be going on.

If you have a Roku stick, and it works, and you're happy, great. If you are thinking about getting a stick, I can say that mine all work great. But that cable issue really bothers me, enough so that I won't recommend a stick.

Yes, I bought a stick recently, and like it. But I don't have a problem spending my own money and dealing with a bad decision. I don't want to cause someone else to spend their money based on my recommendation then they regret the decision. I want your Streaming Life to be free of trouble. Roku is making that difficult.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Live TV streaming on Amazon Fire TV

Recently Roku added a Live TV section to their main menu. While it does bring something that Roku users haven't had before, it pales in comparison to what Amazon Fire TV has with their setup.

Roku's is pretty much content from the Roku Channel, along with selections from some live streaming services. Yeah, that's a description of what Amazon Fire TV offers, but the details are different.

The only real live TV guide is actually within the Roku Channel. If you have Pluto TV, or Xumo, or Sling TV Free, or any of a number of other free live streaming apps, you won't find them in one place. And where it does have links to other services, it's simply links to those apps, whether or not you have them installed. You'll see in a minute why I bring this up.

Again, Roku's Live TV section is not as useful to me as Amazon Fire TV's. So let's see what I like about Amazon's setup.

The Fire TV section for live TV is called "On Now," which actually is a good description when you think about it. There is a guide that brings in many channels (not all) from services you have, not services they suggest.

Remember when I said that Roku has links to apps whether or not you have them installed? Amazon only lists content from apps you have installed, and have configured to work with the On Now functionality.

After you launch the On Now guide, pressing the Menu button on the remote lets you configure the service. You can add or remote services (actually hide or show the source) and arrange them. And within each service, you can pick and choose which of the available channels show up in the On Now guide. I like that approach much better.

You can even select favorites, and they'll be listed at the top, regardless of the order of the services selected. The favorites will still show up within the sections for each service. Oh, and if you pick a channel as a favorite in two different services -- there is some overlap on these services, after all -- they will show up twice.

When you select the content to view, it does open the corresponding app, but unlike Roku, it only picks from installed apps. And with content from multiple services all in one place, it is far superior to Roku's offering.

If you've read many of these posts, you know I'm in the Roku camp when it comes to a primary streaming app. Regarding this type of feature, however, Fire TV is far ahead of Roku. If this is important to you, and you have a hard time deciding between Fire TV and Roku, this may be the factor to push you to the Amazon Fire TV camp, and have that platform as the basis of your Streaming Life.

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