Sunday, July 31, 2022

Privacy phone, part 4

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a new SIM from a different carrier in order to set up and test a privacy phone. That is, a phone that doesn't share all of my data with some big company that sells it to advertisers.

The latest company I'm trying is Good2Go (they style it "good2go") and it has stuff I like and stuff I don't like.

What I don't like is that it's running T-Mobile, though they indicated it ran AT&T. Well, it says it can run AT&T, but I can't get it to connect to AT&T -- yes, there is a setting on the phone for that -- so it picks T-Mobile automatically.

The good news is that this is the best T-Mobile reception I've ever received at home. I've used T-Mobile in the past, many times over the years, and reception at home has always been spotty. That includes recently, with a couple of previous SIMs I tried with this phone.

So far, it's working. I'm cautiously optimistic about this. Perhaps T-Mobile has improved their reception in my area. I really don't know. But so far, the texting and phone service works on cellular. GPS works. Apps that require Internet connectivity work on cellular.P

I have to say, I'm surprised that it works. This may actually be my solution. However, there are a few things I have to keep in mind.

First, if it won't connect properly to a cellular network, it's no good for me. So far, this setup works.

Next, there are the apps. I need to find apps that do what I need to do but respect privacy. That means that apps that depend on Google Services won't work. There are alternatives, and I'm looking at those, but the fact is that many apps won't work, although my understanding is that most will.

I'm going to try open source apps initially, rather than proprietary apps, where possible. I mean, if I go through all this and some proprietary app is sending my data to the big companies or selling it themselves anyway, what have I accomplished? Open source apps reduce this likelihood greatly.

For now, I suppose I'll keep taking this phone around with me and see if it actually works in regards to privacy. I enjoy my Streaming Life. I'd like to have a private life to go along with it.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Buffering issues when streaming

One complaint I see on support forums is about streaming devices buffering. You know, you're watching something on your Roku or you Fire TV device (or whatever) and suddenly the image stops, the circle appears, and after a few to several seconds, things pick up again.

Why does this happen? Well, there are a variety of possible causes. And the one that most people jump to most often isn't always the actual reason.

For many, the default response is to increase the Internet service speed. That may or may not be the problem. And, to make it more confusing, even if speed isn't the cause, it may be the solution, though not the best solution.

If you are experiencing buffering, it could be that your Internet service speed is too slow. So how do you find out? Well, that depends on how you stream. For example, I'm not an Internet gamer. No online games for me. It's just not something in which I have an interest. But, if you are a gamer, you want to get as much bandwidth as you can.

But if you are not a gamer, you should ask  yourself how much streaming does your household do? One stream at a time? Two? Three?

Generally, 25 Mbps is sufficient to stream. Sure, you'll find some that say you must have 200 Mbps or 1000 Mbps or some other high number. But, that's not so. If you are a simple streamer, with one stream, you can stream 4K video quality with 25 Mbps. But there's a catch. There's always a catch.

The catch is that you must have a good quality network delivering the 25 Mbps to your streaming device. If you network is sub-par, then you'll get sub-par performance. Your router can be getting 100 Mbps, but a wireless device may not be getting 25 Mbps consistently if your network isn't delivering it consistently.

All of the pieces involved in streaming -- your streaming device, your wireless network, your service speed, the Internet connections between  you and the source -- all are a part of the chain. And whichever link is the weakest is the strength of the chain. If your network can't provide proper coverage in your location, then it doesn't really matter how fast your service speed is if it can't maintain a connection to utilize it.

The TV Answer Man has an article recently about a similar topic, and he offered four solutions. I think what he offered was good, and covered many aspects of it, but I did want to expand a little on something I think needs more stress.

At the high level, here are his suggestions. Click the link to see the details on each.

  1. Change the channel or show.
  2. Reset your home WiFi network.
  3. Upgrade your Internet plan.
  4. Delete and reinstall the app.

Here are some thoughts I have on what he offered.

  1. Change the channel or show. This will help determine if it's a problem at the source. If the originating stream has a problem, there's nothing you can do about it. If changing fixes it, then it's probably the source. And switching back may allow you to skip whatever in the stream was a problem and the stream will be clear going forward.
  2. Reset your home WiFi network. Not that by "reset" he's not saying "factory reset." He means turn it off and on again. Sometimes your network my simply need that. All networks run into issues on occasion and simply turning it off and on again may fix it. It's cliche, but it's cliche for a reason: it often works.
  3. Upgrade your Internet plan. This is the last resort in my mind. Don't spend money if  you don't need to spend money. Besides, if the problem isn't your Internet speed, you will still have the issue. But his thoughts on 25 Mbps are in line with mine, so no disagreement there.
  4. Delete and reinstall the app. This is a more drastic version of "turn it off and on again." And I will add that it's a good idea -- and for Roku a requirement -- to reboot the machine after removing the app and before reinstalling the app. A lot of people skip the reboot, or do the order differently, but the order matters. Remove/Reboot/Reinstall is not the same as Remove/Reinstall/Reboot or Reboot/Remove/Reinstall. Do it as Remove/Reboot/Reinstall every time.

Again, I don't really disagree with him, but I do think that your local network should receive some scrutiny, especially if your Internet speed is already above the recommended speed. Going higher isn't really the best answer. Getting a good network is the best answer.

If you are having streaming issues, give the suggestions the TV Answer Man had a try. But if your speed is sufficient, look at upgrading your network before you increase your plan's speed. It will be better in the long run for  your Streaming Life.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Large push for ViX

I've seen articles recently touting the availability of ViX or ViX+ streaming service. It's a Spanish language service that contains a variety of content, including TV shows (including some original content), movies, and sports.

Amazon has promoted the availability of ViX+ through its Prime Video channels. Sling TV has a press release about it, promoting the sports coverage:

ViX+ is the premium tier of ViX, the first large-scale global streaming service created specifically for the Spanish-speaking world, featuring more than 10,000 hours of entertainment programming and 4,000 hours of premium live sports coverage in the U.S. in its first year. ViX+ is the only Spanish-language streaming service in the U.S. with coverage of the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League matches.

The service has been around less than a year and a half, premiering in March 2021 as PrendeTV, and changing its name to ViX in March 2022. It is owned by TelevisaUnivision, which has a large broadcast and cable footprint already in North America. The push of ViX seems to signal an effort to get a foothold in the streaming market.

ViX content is available with the Sling TV app, and according to the news release, the Vix+ service is available for $7/month.

If you're wanting a Spanish language entertainment source in your Streaming Life, ViX may be something to consider.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Bad antennae with good reviews

You may or may not know that many of the antennae that you find for sale at Walmart, Best Buy, or other retailers, are ... well, junk.

Oh, not all of them to be sure. But some are simply junk. That is, they may work, but so might a paper clip. And no, I'm not exaggerating or engaging in hyperbole. There are situation where a paper clip will work just as well as some fancy TV antenna.

First, understand there is no such thing as an HDTV antenna. HDTV is a recent thing. Well, at least, I consider 1998 recent. That's less than a quarter century ago, and people have been watching TV a lot longer than that. And the TV antennae that we used to use back in the 1960s -- I don't or can't remember before that -- will pick up today's HDTV signals.

The HDTV is part of the content that is being broadcast, not the broadcast frequency. The antenna will pick up signals on certain frequencies, and it's the same channels that have been used all along, within the Low VHF, High VHF, and UHF bands. The antennae that picked up the signals 60 years ago will pick up the signals today. The antenna has nothing to do with the picture being HD or not.

An antenna is nothing but a piece of wire. Sometimes it gets all fancy and such, but when you get right down to it, it's nothing but a piece of wire. So is a paper clip.

That's not to say you will pick up all the channels you want with a paper clip. But, under certain conditions, you actually could. Those are rare, but possible.

And that's why it's so hard to find a good quality TV antenna for a reasonable price. Some people are in a situation where just about anything -- yes, maybe even a paper clip -- will pick up stations. I'm not, but some people -- those that live close to a TV tower -- are in that very position.

So, what do you do?

Well, honestly, if spending money on some piece of junk TV antenna gets you the channels you're after, there's nothing really wrong with that. The goal was to pick up the channels, and if that was the easiest or most expedient way to get the channels, then fine. You got what you want and that was the goal.

However, if, like me, you live several miles from a TV tower and an indoor antenna won't pick up a good reliable signal, then you have to go with an outdoor antenna. That's where the antenna being junk really matters.

So, what do you do?

You can do some research -- checking various Websites regarding the virtual channel number of the stations you want, the actual (RF) channels of those stations, the distance, your elevation of you antenna, and the relative signal you'll get from those stations at your location -- or you can let others do the work for you.

I did my research, then tried out The Antenna Man. Turns out he came up with the same results I did, which confirmed that it was possible for me to do the research properly -- and for you as well; if I can do it you can do it. Still, I was happy enough to pay him the money he asked, as I know he did a good job. He even found someone to put up the antenna, which was something with which I was having difficulty.

So, while I paid him to do the work I already did, and did well, I also found I was happy with his results, and had I simply paid him to start with, could have saved myself some real aggravation. The research wasn't easy, after all. But, it wasn't hard enough to make it impossible.

Circling back, why do bad antennae get good reviews? Because there are circumstances where they will actually do the job requested. But again, so will a paper clip under some circumstances.

If wading through all the nonsense if too much, then use someone to help you. The Antenna Man is a good option, but no the only option. Whatever method you use to get the local TV channels you want is a good method. But using a reputable source is always a better option, but no the only option, in your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Tablo dropping new lifetime subscriptions

Being a fan of Tablo, I took notice when I got the email last week that the service was no longer selling new lifetime subscriptions to the user guide.

What they're talking about is the 14-day live TV guide that tells you what is coming up on the various channels.

They're not dropping the guides, to be sure, but they're only offering them as part of a monthly or yearly plan.

This week, we announced that Lifetime TV Guide Data Service plans will no longer be offered starting August 30th.

If you CURRENTLY have an active Lifetime TV Guide Data Service subscription, these changes DO NOT AFFECT YOU.

Customers who already have a Lifetime TV Guide Service subscription can continue to use it on their existing device and/or transfer it to a different Tablo DVR model at any time using the account portal at account.tablotv.com.

New and existing Tablo customers who own a network-connected Tablo DVR and are considering a Lifetime TV Guide Data Service subscription have until August 29th, 2022 to purchase one from the account portal. This service plan remains unavailable for TV-connected Tablo models.

For more details, including answers to frequently asked questions, check out the Tablo blog.

I already have the lifetime plan, so I am not impacted. I have network connected Tablo DVRs, and have used the plan since I first bought mine over a year ago.I never bought the HDMI connected devices, which are single-TV devices, and I don't plan to buy one, as I like the idea of having it available across the entire network.

If you have a network connected Tablo device, or are thinking of getting one, a lifetime subscription, which is equal to less than four years subscriptions, might be the way to go. But you have to do it by the end of August. But, if you don't, the $50/year price isn't a bad price for the two-week guide. It's something I'm glad I have as a part of my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

NFL+: A streaming service that is not for streamers

The NFL finally launched NFL+ this week, and, as I feared, it isn't really a service for streamers. However, it is something that fans can otherwise use.

Now, when I say "not for streamers," I mean streamers will not be able to watch some of the content that is available for non-streamers. You'll be able to watch games on your mobile device that you won't be able to watch on your Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, or Android/Google TV devices.

Here is what the service offers, according to the NFL:

NFL+ offers access to live out-of-market preseason games across all devices, live local and primetime regular season and postseason games on mobile devices, live local and national audio for every game, NFL Network shows on-demand, NFL Films archives and more.

Notice that the only live games that will be available on all devices, which means your streaming device, are out-of-market pre-season games. No regular season games will be available on your streaming device, regardless of market.

Back in May, we worried that this would be the case. Our worries were well founded. You won't be able to watch other live content on your Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, or Android/Google TV devices.

Looking at the bright side, it is more than existed before. So there's that. But is it really an improvement to your Streaming Life. Not much of one, that's for sure.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Why I didn't buy a Roku TV

Recently, I purchased a new TV. As I'm a Roku fan -- it's my streaming platform of choice -- I bought a Roku TV, right?

Nope.

I bought a Sony TV that runs Google TV. So, have I switched to Google TV as my primary streaming platform?

Nope.

I still use Roku. Well, primarily Roku. I use it most of the time, as I did with my old TV. No more, no less.

So why is that?

Simple. I don't feel I need to limit my TV purchases to platforms I like. I want a TV that has the features, the picture, the reliability that I want. The streaming platform doesn't matter. Well, not that much.

If it came down to two or three sets, and they all were equal apart from the streaming platform, then I would let the streaming platform be the deciding factor. Since it's so easy to add a streaming device to any TV, and since I already had a good quality streaming device, it was easy for me to not care what platform the TV had, or even if it had one.

So, when I bought my new Sony TV, it was a highly rated device -- I used Consumer Reports to help with that -- that I found at a good price, and with free shipping. The image looks great, and it's a really good TV. The only thing I would rather it have is a Roku platform. But, as I said, it's easy to add a Roku device to my TV.

If I was a huge fan of Fire TV, I could just as easily have added a Fire TV device. Or Apple TV device. And, in fact, I have added those. So I have the best of all worlds. I have a TV that I really like, and I have all the major streaming platforms available for it.

Should you shop the same way? Sure. It's a valid way to shop. However, if you really want a built-in platform, you can get Google/Android TV, Roku, or Fire TV built in, and get the best TV you want for that platform, that's an option too.

You should get whatever TV you like, and if it doesn't have the platform you want, you can add a device that gets you what you want. And, if you don't know what platform you want, you can rest easy knowing that whichever of the major platforms integrated into TVs you get -- Roku, Fire TV, Google/Android TV -- you'll have a good platform on which to base your Streaming Life.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

A Linux laptop

Before we begin, let me start by saying when I mention Linux in context with a desktop or laptop computer, I'm talking GNU/Linux. If that distinction doesn't mean anything to you, that's okay. It's not all that important for the purposes of the discussion here. But I know how some Linux people are, and this is to shut them up. So, now I'll begin...

I've mentioned before that I finally got a Linux desktop computer running and had begun using it to write the posts here. And that has been true since then. Well, mostly true.

I'm not writing this post on my Linux desktop. I'm writing on my Linux laptop.

I had mentioned about having converted an old Dell laptop to a Linux device, but was not happy with the results. Not the Linux part, but the Dell part. It was a decent but cheap Dell laptop. And while Linux OS is a great way to extend the life of many computers, it doesn't do anything about the hardware. Cheap hardware is cheap hardware. So, I wanted something better. And I mentioned having a MacBook Pro that I wanted to use, but was having a time with updating or replacing parts.

Those concerns are no longer concerns. I'm writing this on a MacBook Pro running GNU/Linux. It has a 1 TB SSD I put in and that works great. All of the hardware is excellent, which you know if you've used a MacBook Pro. The only trouble I'm having is retraining my fingers for the Control and Command buttons.

When I'm on a Windows device, I have no trouble hitting CTRL+C for copy, CTRL+V for paste, and so on. When I'm on a Mac I have no trouble hitting COMMAND+C for copy, COMMAND+C for paste, and so on. However, using the default configuration, I need to use Windows key combinations when using Linux. That means CTRL+C not COMMAND+C for copy, and so on. And, for those that don't know, Mac keyboards have both Control and Command buttons, so keeping them straight can get confusing.

Still, I like using a MacBook for a laptop, so I'll be doing more writing on my laptop, as I used to do. I can now use either desktop or laptop and achieve my goal of trying to use Linux exclusively for my computer use.

There are still some things that require Windows or Mac -- nothing to do with what's written here, but other stuff I either need or want to do -- so I will use a Windows or Mac device when necessary. But I'm still trying to focus on using Linux, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

I'm quite comfortable writing about my Streaming Life using devices that run the GNU/Linux operating system. I just need to get more comfortable using it with other things as well.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Free Live TV

There are two big ways to watch TV for free. And you can watch a lot of TV for free.

What do I mean by that?

Free Over the Air

Well, one way to watch TV for free is using an antenna. Of course, you have to buy an antenna, so that's not free, but once you do that, you're good to go. Depending on how far you are from the TV tower, you may be able to pick up a lot of TV channels. They're free over the air broadcasts, and you can watch it for free.

You can add DVR devices, multiple tuners that can be shared across your network, and several other things to improve your over the air (OTA) experience. You can even configure things so that you can watch OTA TV from home while you're away from home. I use Tablo devices to accomplish this, and can watch TV from my antenna when I'm traveling, if I want, using my phone or tablet.

Watching TV free over the air is a great option. And you can use it along with other options.

Streaming

One other way to watch free TV is by streaming. Of course, you have to have Internet access, and that's not free. But if you have Internet access anyway, then there is no additional cost. But how do you watch TV for free?

There are several options. One that Roku users will often avail themselves of is Roku Channel. There's also a Roku Channel app for Amazon Fire TV platform devices. There are over 300 live TV channels available through that service and app.

Pluto TV is another good way to watch hundreds of free TV channels. Likewise, Xumo, Tubi TV, and even Sling TV, which has a free tier.

Not Everything

Does this mean you can watch anything you want for free? No, it doesn't. These free channels are not the same channels you'll get when you pay for cable or satellite TV. There are paid live streaming services that can get you those channels -- Sling TV (Blue and/or Orange), YouTube TV, Hulu+Live TV, Fubu TV, Vidgo, Philo, Frndly TV, and more -- but you can't get them for free.

However, you can get a lot of similar channels. No, it's not the same, but for some people, it may be close enough.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't subscribe to a streaming service, but it may mean you can get a lot of that type of content for free, and keep costs down. Check out the various free ways of watching TV. It may be a great addition to your Streaming Life.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Philo or Discovery+

Philo has been one of my favorite live streaming services for some time. It offers a good selection of content for a reasonable price. However, there are a two major types of programming that you won't find on Philo: local channels and sports channels.

Philo has some news channels: BBC News, Bloomberg TV and Cheddar News, but that's it.

Philo does offer 73 live streaming channels for $25/month. That's pretty good. But, you need to ask, does it offer the services you want?

For example, if the Discovery networks are something that you're after, you may find that the $5/month Discovery+ service might be a better deal.

Is Live Required?

The first thing you have to ask yourself is: Do I need a live streaming service? Will an on-demand service get me what I want?

If it's not important to have a live streaming service of the channels available on Discovery+, then it's till an option.

However, if live streaming is a must, then you have your answer: Philo. You see, Discovery+ is an on-demand service, with no live streaming option.

The Channels

Next, if on-demand is okay, then it comes down to the actual channels. Look at this list of channels:

  • A&E
  • American Heroes Channel
  • Animal Planet
  • Cooking Channel
  • Destination America
  • Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Life
  • Food Network
  • HGTV
  • History
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Lifetime
  • Magnolia Network
  • Oprah Winfrey Network
  • Science Channel
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel

Are those enough? If so, then Discovery+ is the answer. Those 17 channels are available on both. Philo has them live, and Discovery+ has them on-demand.

Discovery+ Only Channels

Discovery+ also has three channels that are not available on Philo:

  • Planet Earth
  • The Dodo
  • Discovery+ Originals

If those are important, then Discovery+ is (again) the answer. Or an answer (more about that in a bit).

Philo Only Channels

Philo has a large list of channels that are not part of Discovery+. There are 56 channels that you won't find on Discovery+ but are in the Philo lineup:

  • AccuWeather Network
  • AMC
  • aspireTV
  • AXS TV
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • BET
  • BET Her
  • Bloomberg Television
  • Cheddar News
  • CLEO TV
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Crime + Investigation
  • Decades
  • Discovery Family
  • FYI
  • G4
  • GAC Family
  • GAC Living
  • Game Show Network
  • getTV
  • Gusto TV
  • Hallmark Channel
  • Hallmark Drama
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • IFC
  • INSP
  • Law & Crime
  • LMN
  • Logo
  • Motor Trend
  • MTV
  • MTV2
  • MTV Classic
  • MTV Live
  • Nickelodeon
  • Nick Jr.
  • Nicktoons
  • Paramount Network
  • PeopleTV
  • PlayersTV
  • pocket.watch
  • REVOLT
  • Revry
  • Ryan and Friends
  • Start TV
  • Sundance TV
  • Tastemade
  • TeenNick
  • TV Land
  • TV One
  • UPtv
  • VH1
  • Vice
  • WE tv

If those channels are something you want, then Philo is the answer for you. Or an answer (again, more in a bit).

One Other Option

There is still one other option you have that we haven't talked about. Simply put, why not both?

Philo is only $25/month. It comes with a good selection of 73 live streaming channels. Discovery+ is only $5/month. It comes with a good selection of 20 on-demand channels, including 17 of the live channels from Philo.

For only $30/month, you get it all. You get your live channels, and you have your on-demand service.

One Other Option, Variation

There is a variation on the "get 'em both" option. Get them both, but not at the same time. Remember, all this is month to month. You can subscribe to one of the services for a month, maybe longer. Then cancel and subscribe to the other.

Of course, if you absolutely must have live streaming, then you'll want to keep Philo year-round. But you can occasionally add Discovery+ every so often for a month at a time. Or, you may find that there's nothing on the live service that you need to watch live -- say, when your favorite series ends and you're watching reruns -- in which case you could drop the live service (Philo) for the on-demand service (Discovery+).

However you decide to do it, you may find that either Philo, Discovery+, or both, are a way to improve your Streaming Life.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Roku Security PIN

Short version: Go read this.

Long version: Read all this, then go read that.

As one who provides user support (as a Roku user) on the Roku Community Forum, I see a lot of the issues that users run into from time to time. It's often the same ones over and over.

Prepare for rant, in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

So many people that go to support forums (not just Roku forums) don't bother to look for their issue. There's a good chance any issue someone encounters has been encountered before. And solved before. But do people bother to search the forums? Nope. They may go so far as to see a post with a title that describes their issue, and then simply post their question without reading to see if there is an answer.

I cannot tell you how many times I've seen a post on the Roku support forum asking a question, and that question is immediately following the answer from someone else's earlier asking of that same question. They didn't even bother to read the answer that was already on the page when they posted their question. And, after they posted their question, they didn't bother to look again, because that answer was still there, right above their question. It's frustrating. Really frustrating.

Okay, rant over.

I bring this up because every so often I find a topic on the board that I decide to write about here. And today was going to be one of those days. I say was, because I also saw another posting on another Website that actually did a very good job of answering it. So, I'm not going to answer it, but rather point you to the excellent job of answering that was done by Ryan Downey of The Streaming Advisor.

The question is most often posted in the form of "How can I find my Roku Security PIN?" But here's the thing: a user will not get prompted for a Roku Security PIN unless the user has set up a Roku Security PIN. If the user never set one, the Roku device will never prompt for one. So what the user is asking is: "What did I set as my Roku Security PIN?"

The bad news is that Roku can't tell them. The good news is that they can reset it to whatever they want to. And The Streaming Advisor has a good write-up on how to accomplish that. Go read it, if you want to read a really good step-by-step description on how to do that. It's a good write-up and may help you with your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Streaming on the road

When you travel, how do you handle streaming TV? There are a couple of different ways to do this. I'll give you two of the more popular ones, then how I do it. And if that seems to indicate that I don't do it in one of the more popular ways, that's correct. But first, the popular ways.

Most of the support Websites when discussing streaming and traveling usually offer suggestions about using a Fire TV Stick or a Roku Stick. The reason is that those devices are small and easy to pack. And for many people, the Fire TV Stick is the easiest to use when it comes to setting up a streaming device in a hotel.

The problem that you run into is that many hotels force you to agree to terms, or require you to enter your room number, or otherwise require input from you when you connect to their WiFi. With Roku devices, you have to have a computer or smart phone to complete the process. It's a little more complicated and not as easy as a Fire TV Stick, according to many that have used both methods, but generally both work well.

If you have a Roku device, you can use any current model. All the current Roku devices support this functionality. Fire TV Stick has supported this longer, and it seems that most people like it better.

So, I said that I don't use either of those ways. So how do I stream when I go on vacation? Easy. I don't. You see, I don't carry a streaming device with me. It's not what I want to do on vacation. I want to focus on where I am, who I'm with, and what we're doing. None of that means a streaming device.

I did see something unexpected recently, however. I was traveling last weekend, and one of the hotel rooms in which I stayed had a setup where you could stream from the TV. It had a tablet set up to control lights, TV, and other things in the room, as well as access to restaurant menus. So, had I been interested in streaming Netflix, Hulu, or something, I could have used that.

Now, not all rooms are set up that way. So, if you want to stream and you don't get a room with a built in streaming setup, a Fire TV Stick or a Roku Stick may be the perfect thing for you when you are traveling. Vacation and traveling aren't the same thing. Some travel for work, or short trips for personal that really isn't a vacation. I get that. But, I'm fortunate enough that I haven't been in that situation.

But, I do know that if I was a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick user, I'd be comfortable taking one. If I was all-in on a different device, I'd want to pick up a Fire Stick or Roku for travel.

Sure, there are travel routers and such that make this easier, but the easiest thing for Fire Stick or Roku users is to simply pack a device and take it with you.

Don't forget the remote. You will need the remote. If you use a smartphone app to control your device, you'll still need the remote. Trust me on this. Or don't and find out the hard way. You can't use the smartphone app until you're connected to the network. And you can't connect to the network without a remote.

If you want to stream while traveling, there are only a couple of good options, but those that use them are happy with them. Whatever your preference, do what you need to make your Streaming Life an easy one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Price hikes, and this time it's ESPN+

If you've used the ESPN+ service, there's a good chance you're about to pay more for it. If you have it as part of the Disney Bundle -- Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ -- then nothing is changing. But, if you subscribe to the service standalone, you're about to have to shell out an additional $3/month.

Yes, the price for ESPN+ is going up from $6.99/month to $9.99/month. And in case you haven't done the math, that's an increase of nearly 43%.

This is the third year in a row that it's gone up. The last two years, it went up $1/month. But this year, it's $3/month increase hitting subscribers.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the annual subscription is going up as well. It was $69.99/year. That's going to $99.99/year.

Will I keep my subscription? That's easy. I don't have a subscription, so no. But, I may subscribe later in the year, during college football season. Three subscriptions ought to get me through the season. I can live with that.

I do hate that more and more prices are going up. This won't hit me hard, since, as I said before, I do not subscribe year-rout. But, it will has a slight impact on my Streaming Life, as well as for others.

Monday, July 18, 2022

PBS free and paid

If you're a fan of PBS content, you'll be happy to know that PBS has streaming apps available for several devices, including the Big Four: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android/Google TV.

You can watch PBS content on demand for free. Not all for free, but a lot of PBS content is free.

You know how they always say that it is supported Such And Such Foundation, and "viewers like you?" Well, they mean viewers like me. I donate monthly to PBS. And watching more PBS content is a bonus.

In the PBS app, you'll find that some items are marked with a little compass, indicating it's PBS Passport content.

The content that doesn't have the icon is available for watching for free. The PBS Passport content requires you to have a PBS Passport membership. How do you get one of those? Donate to PBS at a certain level.

The level for PBS Passport is $5/month or $60/year. If you donate that amount, you can log in to the PBS app and watch PBS Passport content.

I suspect most people will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Ooh, look at all the free stuff. Oh, and if I donate, I can get even more stuff. Cool!
  2. Oh look. They make you pay for the good stuff.

I'm more of the first category. But, however you fall there, the end result is the same: PBS content on your streaming device. How much is up to you.

I don't watch PBS content regularly, but when I do, I'll spend hours there. To me, it's worth the $5/month -- and I give more than that -- to get the content. I also simply like supporting PBS. No, I don't like everything PBS does. My political stance and theirs often conflict. But I do think that, overall, PBS is a good thing. So, I donate. I prefer people supported stuff, not government supported stuff, which is about as political as I'm going to get.

PBS apps, with or without PBS Passport membership, offer a lot of good content for your Streaming Life.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Privacy phone, part 3

I'm beginning to wonder if this whole "privacy phone" experiment is worth it. If you're not quite sure what I mean, here's the deal.

I'm looking for a cell phone that doesn't capture all my data and sell it to companies, who bombard me with emails, ad, and other nuisances. I'm not looking to go off the grid. I'm not looking to sneak around. I just want to use as much of what current technology offers without giving my data for others to sell. I will pay my way.

To achieve that goal, I need a phone that offers things I can use, that's easy to use, and that isn't always reporting back to the mothership (Apple or Google). I love using an iPhone. I don't like my data being shared by Apple. Now, Apple says they don't sell my data. So maybe I already have a privacy phone. If that's the case, why am I doing this whole experiment?

Well, there is more than just iOS. And there are iOS apps that sell data.

First, let's stay with iOS and take Apple at its word. My data is still getting out there. So how? If it's not Apple, it's the apps. Another recent report -- there are always reports, this is just one recent one -- indicates that many app developers keep coming up with loopholes to gather and share (sell) your data.

It’s common for app developers to embed SDKs to add features to their apps without having to build them from scratch, but these SDKs specifically were designed to send app user location data to brokers.

But experts and location data industry workers tell The Markup that the moves have been insufficient; there are plenty of loopholes in Apple’s and Google’s policies that allow location data to still be collected, even without using those SDKs.

“The challenge, and this is a challenge with data brokers in general, is that you’re playing whack-a-mole, where these companies have many different vectors through which they get people’s sensitive information,” Justin Sherman, a cyber policy fellow at the Duke Technology Policy Lab, said.

So how do I find apps that don't do that? With iOS, it's hard. That is a closed system with proprietary apps. There is no way to know. So what to do? Trust them? Go open source?

Open source apps are, well, open source. It's easier for the community -- that's you, me, and other users -- to find if an app is doing nefarious things.

That's where a non-IOS phone enters the picture. And that mean either Linux or Android.

I'm considering a Linux phone to test, but there are several "de-Googled" versions of Android available. That's what I've been trying.

Android is an open source OS. But Google's distribution is not. All of the data is reporting back to the mothership (Google servers). And Google sells your data.

These versions of Android I'm trying don't have Google Services. They have alternate services that allow many phones to work, but these services don't report the data. Now, from what I can tell, some apps won't work without Google Services. But most will (though they need an alternate service). And they offer open source apps.

There are still going to be some problems, of course, as not all apps will work. But, from what my research is showing, the apps that do work, plus open source alternatives, give the user a good experience.

So, I have a Teracube 2e phone running /e/OS (a version of Lineage OS). The problem I'm having is that I can't find a carrier that will work here. I've found T-Mobile carriers that will work, except that T-Mobile service at home is not good. I've tested the phone when traveling using a T-Mobile MVNO (mobile virtual network operator: a cheap carrier that rides a major carrier network). If I had good T-Mobile service at home, I'd be set. But, I don't. And Teracube 2e doesn't support Verizon. So, that means I need to find an MVNO that runs on AT&T.

Cricket does, and works on my Google Pixel 4a, but I can't place calls on the Teracube. Maybe it's the phone? Well, it works on a T-Mobile MVNO. And, it took a while to get Cricket to work on the Pixel, so Cricket works, but setup can be problematic.

I've tried Red Pocket, but that was the same thing. And it had issues with the Pixel, but I didn't want to put all that much time into it. I want something that works. So, now I've ordered a SIM from Good2Go (stylized as "good2go"). That's another AT&T-riding MVNO. I'm going to try all the ones I can before going with AT&T because of the cost. And yes, I know I'm wasting money on a month of service from crappy MVNOs. Well, crappy insofar as my phone is concerned.

I'm occasionally wondering how I got down this privacy phone rabbit hole. And it was because I was reacquainted with Linux after setting up a Raspberry Pi as a streaming server. But this privacy phone monster has taken on a life of its own. But, I'm still able to enjoy my Streaming Life, and as long as it doesn't interfere with that, I'll stick with it. Maybe that's why it's taking so long. If I focused on it, I may have it solved quickly. But no, I'm taking it slow. I have some streaming television to watch. And I think I'll go do that now.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Pub-D-Hub is one of my favorites

I've talked about this before, but I'm going to talk about it again. One of my favorite apps that nobody seems to know about is Pub-D-Hub. It's all public domain content, and all stuff you can find elsewhere, but they do put a lot together in easy to find categories. It's available on Roku and on Amazon Fire TV devices.

The service is free, which you might expect for public domain content. They also have a Gold and a Gold+ plan. They offer more content with those plans, and the price is really cheap. The Gold plan is $4/year. Not $4/month, but $4/year. That's cheap. I suppose it helps cover their server costs, and I'm fine paying a little to help out. I get a lot of enjoyment from the service, and it's well worth it to me, even if they didn't offer more content. I'd certainly pay $4/year to help keep it going.

The Gold+ add-on, which is about another $2/year, for Gold subscribers lets you add more devices to the account, and includes access to some live streaming content, plus some parental controls.

I love to watch the old commercials they have. Some are things I've never seen before about products I've never heard of before, but some are some that bring back memories. You may be too young to remember any of the commercials, but they are still fascinating to see. And, if you are too young to remember them, perhaps your parents or grandparents will remember them. Play them and watch the smiles.

Pub-D-Hub carries a lot of old moves, as you would expect. They add five movies to the lineup every week, occasionally skipping a week or two around holidays. During those times, they add special holiday-themed movies and TV shows.

If you used to watch the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show, you'll remember the shorts they'd riff. Many of those original uncut versions are available, as well as others that could have fit right in.

If you're a fan of military history, you'll see many old military training and news films from the 20th century.

Early space exploration films are a favorite of mine as well. It's fascinating to see the pioneers of the space program, not only of the U.S., but of the U.S.S.R. as well. During those years, we didn't know much about the Soviet cosmonauts, and the occasional Soviet film is fascinating to those that lived during that time.

There are many things I like about Pub-D-Hub, and not just the free price. As I said, I think the Gold and Gold+ plans are worth it.

Check it out. You may find it a welcome addition to your Streaming Live.

Friday, July 15, 2022

The best type of streaming device is ...

When you decide to start streaming, you have a few ways to go when it comes to getting a streaming device.

If you're looking for a new TV anyway, whatever you get will probably be a smart TV. It will have the ability to play apps and let you stream content.

If the TV is a Roku TV, a Fire TV, or an Android/Google TV, it will be a good streaming device. Quite honestly, though, I would focus on getting the best picture and not worry so much about the type of TV. If you narrow it down to two or more that are equally acceptable, then the platform should be the deciding factor.

Why is it not important to get a Fire TV powered device if you like Fire TV? Because if it doesn't have the platform you want, you can add it.

If you have a standard TV, or a smart TV that doesn't work the way you like, you can add a stick or a box very easily, and use that as your streaming device. And that's the way many many people stream.

Suppose you want the Amazon Fire TV experience, but your TV is some other streaming platform. Simply pick up a Fire TV device, perhaps a Fire TV Stick. It's a stick, as the name says, and is a very popular choice for many. It fits behind the TV, plugged into an HDMI port, and you don't usually see a cord protruding from behind your TV. Roku Stick devices and Google Chromecast devices are also like this. I know the current Chromecast isn't really a stick, but for this discussion, it acts like a stick.

Another option is to get a set top box. The Roku devices such as the Express or Ultra models are this type of device. Apple TV devices are too. And, Amazon makes set top boxes, though most think of the Fire TV Stick when thinking Amazon.

The upside of a set top box is that they are usually more powerful than sticks, often much more powerful. However, many modern sticks are powerful devices, so there's often not an advantage along that line in using a set top box over a stick. 

So, which is the best way to go when it comes to getting your first streaming device. The answer is simple: it doesn't matter. Get whatever you want. It'll work.

If you need a new TV anyway, a Roku TV, a Fire TV, or an Android/Google TV device will get you a good quality device and have all the smarts of the platform, Roku, Amazon, or Android/Google.

No matter which way you go, you'll be set to enjoy your Streaming Life.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Streaming the British Open

The British Open, properly called The Open Championship, is one of the four major golf tournaments. The British Open starts today. If you're a golfer, this it's quite likely you're interested. Many non-golfers follow the majors. It's a big deal.

If you're looking to watch the British Open, you have plenty of options, including streaming options.

The British Open, as all major golf tournaments are, will be broadcast by NBC, and carried by to additional networks that are owned by NBCUniversal: USA and Peacock.

So, how can you watch the 150th Open Championship?

NBC

If you have an antenna, you can watch NBC for free. If not, there are streaming services that carry local NBC broadcasts.

  • Sling TV (Blue) ($35/month) (11 markets only)
  • Vidgo ($55/month; $67/three months)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

USA

  • Sling TV (Blue) ($35/month)
  • Vidgo ($60/month)
  • YouTube TV ($65/month)
  • Fubo TV ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month)
  • DirecTV Stream ($70/month)

Peacock

This standalone service is $5/month for Premium (the free tier doesn't get you all the sports). It's also free to Xfinity Internet customers.

The British Open schedule is available on the Peacock Website. If the U.S. Open is something you want in your Streaming Life, you have plenty of options.


NOTE: Sling TV carries NBC in 11 markets only:

  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Hartford/New Haven
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami/Fort Lauderdale
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose
  • Washington, DC

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

IPTV cautionary tale

I haven't written about pirate TV services in quite some time. Now, am I about to call all IPTV services pirate TV services? No, not really. But I am calling many of them pirate services.

But how can you tell? Well, here's how I can tell.

Does the service offer thousands of channels for a very low fee? If so, it's probably a pirate service. Notice I said "probably." Here's why. There are services that offer legitimate content, and there are a lot of legitimate content services out there. However, you've probably never heard of most of them. If the ones offered are major cable channels, and the fee is low, then it's a scam. It's piracy.

Are all the premium channels included? HBO, Showtime, etc? It's piracy.

Do they offer a special box to pick up the channels? While this sounds reasonable to someone who is used to having a cable box in the house, with streaming, you don't have to buy a certain box. You need a streaming device -- unless your smart TV has all the apps you need -- but you can get  your own. Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, etc.

Okay, those last two are tricky. They run Android/Google TV. And, the pirate TV boxes that are sold by pirates are often modified Android boxes. That can make it seem legit. And, the fact that there are many legitimate Android TV boxes available makes it hard for new streamers to know if it's a legitimate box, or a box modified for piracy.

If you run into any of those things, it's a pirate trying to sell you something.

So, where's the cautionary tale?

Last year, or probably the year before, there was a local store that was selling pirate TV boxes. I knew about it, but I didn't take up pitchforks or torches about it.

Then, some Facebook friends (people I actually knew, not people you are only friends with in the Facebook sense) asked questions about streaming. I would mention Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast as some things to consider. But, inevitably, someone (usually someone I didn't know) would chime in and refer them to this local retailer who was selling pirate boxes.

I would respond to be wary of pirate TV boxes and "too good to be true" services. That usually got a hostile response.

I understand that they quit selling those boxes, but I haven't been back in to very that. I meant to, but didn't.

So why haven't I? Well when I could, I just never bothered. But now, I can't. They are closed. I don't know if that's a permanent thing, but it sure seems that way.

They sold wireless Internet more recently, and got a shipload of complaints when all of a sudden all of their customers' Internet service stopped working. There were questions raised about why the carrier cut them off. Most seemed to indicate they wouldn't pay the bills to the carrier. People paid them for the service, but the service stopped working. Some say the local company didn't pay the carrier for whom they were reselling. I don't think that to be the case. I think service he was using may have gone out of business. However, if he was using the service I think he was using, they are still in business, but he was reselling in an area they don't officially serve. Either way, a lot of people got screwed.

Am I saying the guy is a crook? That's one option. Another is that he doesn't properly research the companies with whom he does business.

If you are dealing with a company that sells pirate TV service or devices, then you may find their unethical behavior (intended or otherwise) doesn't stop with streaming.

Stay away from piracy. And stay away from pirates. It will ruin your Streaming Life. And more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

What can Roku users teach Fire TV users?

A lot of people, including some family members, absolutely love Amazon's Fire TV platform. Me, not so much.

Now, to be fair, it's a good platform. But, I prefer Roku. But, Fire TV is a really good platform. And, by good platform, I'm referring to the interface.

The reality is that the Big Four platforms -- Roku, Fire TV, Android/Google TV, Apple TV -- are all good stable platforms with a lot of features and apps/services. Only in very rare circumstances would the platform make a difference apart from the interface. So, in general, get the interface you like.

As I said, I'm on Team Roku, but I'm not going to trash the others. They're good. And there's one other thing that makes the differences between them almost meaningless -- except for the interface. Almost any streaming tips will apply to any platform.

For example, recently, Roku Blog published "The best cord cutting tips according to Roku customers." Most of the tips can apply to Fire TV. And to Android/Google TV. And to Apple TV. Of course, they played up the Roku aspect, but Fire TV (and other) platform users can learn from Roku users. And Roku users can learn from other platform users. Any streamer can learn from other streamers. Here's an example:

Saving money

  • "Never look back at those horrible cable bills. I’ve saved so much money. Wish I did it sooner!"
  • "Take your cable listing. Figure out how many channels you actually watch. Divide that by how much you pay for cable and work out the price per channel. Realize how much more you are paying for channels you never actually watch."
  • "Rotating services will save you money. Subscribing to every service every month just isn’t necessary."
  • "Paying for cable is like buying $200 worth of groceries, but $150 of the items you don’t eat.
  • "Our bill went from over $200 to just $99. Absolutely worth it!"

None of that is Roku specific. Any streamer, regardless of platform can learn from that. Particularly the third one.

There are more tips that go beyond saving money, and focus instead on finding content you like. Overall, the tips are good for any streamer who is looking to improve his Streaming Life.

Monday, July 11, 2022

If you like your movie purchase, you can keep your movie purchase

You can tell by the title of this exactly where this is going. Turns out Sony is removing some movie purchases from some customers who, yes, purchased the movies.

You read that right. Sony is removing access to some movie purchases from people that purchased the movies.

The details, according to Variety (tip: The Streaming Advisor), Studiocanal movies purchased by users in Germany and Austria are being removed.

The move comes a year after Sony’s PlayStation group stopped offering movie and TV show purchases and rentals, as of Aug. 31, 2021, citing the rise of streaming-video services. At the time, Sony assured customers that they "can still access movie and TV content they have purchased through PlayStation Store for on-demand playback on their PS4, PS5 and mobile devices." But clearly, that didn’t mean forever.

PlayStation posted notices about the impending removal of the Studiocanal content for German and Austrian customers on its website.

"As of August 31, 2022, due to our evolving licensing agreements with content providers, you will no longer be able to view your previously purchased Studio Canal content and it will be removed from your video library," the notices read. "We greatly appreciate your continued support."

This doesn't impact me. I've never purchased from Sony's PlayStation Store. And I'm not in Germany or Austria. But the precedent it sets is alarming. This isn't some fly by night video company. This is Sony. The same company that owns Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, and TriStar Pictures. This is a big player. And now, they're about to piss of some German and Austrian customers.

If the 1920s and '30s taught us anything, it's don't piss off the Germans and Austrians.

Seriously, this is a bad thing. A very bad thing. And I certainly hope that the people who purchased the content in good faith are not cheated out of their purchases. I don't want some big studio interfering with my Streaming Life.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Privacy phone, part 2

I posted last weekend about my foray into a privacy phone, trying to use a Teracube 2e phone running /e/OS I bought from Murena. And it didn't go well with the first two carriers.

Briefly, I put a working Tello SIM in, and it worked for texting and phone calls, but the data didn't do well, because I'm in an area where T-Mobile is very weak. I need Verizon or AT&T.

Next I tried Cricket, since that runs on AT&T. Data worked, but it wouldn't send or receive calls or texts.

So, I tried an AT&T carrier that their Website says will work. Yeah, I shoulda done that to start with, right? Well, I didn't. But now I did. Only, that didn't go well either.

Red Pocket runs on AT&T and says they are supported. Red Pocket support says the phone works with their setup. Only, it didn't. Data? Fine. Texts? Fine. Calls? Not so good. In fact, it won't send or receive calls.

I worked with Red Pocket a couple of days on this. The testing went poorly. I ended up putting it in a Google Pixel 4a device I have, and the same thing happened. I then put it in an iPhone 12. Same thing. Everything worked except sending and receiving calls.

Red Pocket's solution was to change the GSMA SIM (AT&T network) to a GSMT SIM (T-Moble network). Well, T-Mobile service here is awful. And the phone I'm wanting to use doesn't work with Verizon.

So what's next? Honestly, I don't know. I'll try another AT&T carrier, other than AT&T -- the cost of AT&T is the problem -- I think. But heck, I might just try AT&T itself just to see. I mean, it could be that the phone is bad. But the fact I'm getting similar results on a Google Pixel 4a and an iPhone points to the carrier, or the SIM.

I'll try another AT&T carrier, maybe even AT&T itself, and try again to get it to work. But, if it doesn't, I still have two other options.

I have been considering a Pine Phone. Those run a mobile version of Linux. Yes, I know, Android is built on Linux, an iOS is built on BSD, a cousin of Linux. But an actual Linux phone may be something I want to try.

There is one further option, and that's installing an OS, such as LineageOS, on my Google Pixel 4a phone. Not sure if I'm comfortable with that. I'll kick that can down the road a bit and try another carrier or two before I risk that.

I'll end up with a privacy phone when it's all said and done. I just hope it's worth all this aggravation.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

TiVo to launch its own streaming platform?

A story kinda went under the radar recently. At least, I didn't notice it until late this week. And it may be a big story. We'll see. So, what is the news?

Xperi has purchased Vewd.

Okay, I can hear the collective "huh" right now. So let me explain why this might matter.

Xperi owns a company called TiVo. Yes, TiVo. You certainly know who that is. And TiVo is more than just a DVR for antenna or cable. The TiVo Stream is an Android TV based streaming device, though the interface looks like TiVo.

What about Vewd? Never heard of them? Well, maybe you have. And maybe you've used it, but under its old name of Opera TV.

I've used Opera TV with some early smart TVs. A lot of smart TVs used to use Opera TV. At one time, Sony, LG, and Samsung used Opera TV. My new Sony now uses Android TV. LG now uses webOS, and Samsung uses Tizen. So Opera TV lost a lot of TV brands it was on. I must say that I was never particularly impressed with Opera TV. Whether it's the hardware or the OS, I don't know. The overall experience was poor. Roku was a welcome change for me.

Well, Opera TV is now Vewd and Vewd is now owned by the same company that owns TiVo.

Does this mean that TiVo will be dropping Android and moving to its Vewd OS? I don't know, but unless there's simply some technology it wants to get to by gutting Vewd, I expect they'll try to launch a fifth major platform. Or more accurately transform Vewd into one of the top five streaming platforms. I think they'd do better to attempt to get on equal footing with Tizen and webOS first, then shoot for the stars.

If TiVo does decide to move to its own Vewd platform, I'm not holding out hope it will be a success. TiVo Stream is an inferior product to Chromecast with Google TV, despite running essentially the same OS. They may be better serviced getting it on a better piece of hardware.

Either way, I'll give it a look when it comes out. Whether or not it turns into anything more than "a look" I don't know. If it succeeds, I'll have another option in my Streaming Life. If it doesn't, then it's business as ususal.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Grubhub for free? Well, kinda.

I saw a promotion that Amazon is running that really caught my eye. They're including a year of Grubhub+ with a Prime account.

Grubhub+ is normally $10/month, so that's a pretty darn good deal. Well, for those in a service area. You see, I am not in a service area. Well, my house isn't. I can't get Grubhub to deliver to the house. Door Dash, yes. Grubhub, no.

But, if you are in an area served by Grubhub, and if you are an Amazon Prime member, you get that benefit for a year.

You have to activate it. It's not automatic. But, it's easy to activate. Here is a link.

By the way: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I just want you to be know that. But, it's still a good deal. If I didn't think it was, I wouldn't post it.

So, why would i be promoting something I won't take advantage of myself. Well, I will take advantage of it. I said my house isn't in a Grubhub service area, and that's true. But, there are places I am that are served by Grubhub. So I will be taking advantage of it. Just not every day.

What does this have to do with your Streaming Life? Apart from the fact that Prime Video is also a benefit of Amazon Prime? Well, not much. Except now you don't even have to go get food to eat while you watch your streaming television. You already had options for ordering food. Now you have another. And pretty darn good one at that.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

More free family friendly content

GAC Media, a family friendly media company, has added a free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) service. Great American Adventures is GAC Media's first foray into FAST content. They have other channels that are available via some pay services.

GAC Media has GAC Family and GAC Living, both of which are available on Frndly TV ($7+/month), Philo ($25/month), Sling TV (Orange [$35/month], Blue [$35/month], Orange+Blue [$50/month], with Heartland Extra [+$6/month]). GAC Family is also available on Hulu+Live TV ($70/month plus Entertainment Add-on [+8/month]) and DirecTV Stream Choice ($90/month).

This new service, Great American Adventures, as noted, it is the first venture of GAC Media into FAST programming.

"Great American Adventures is a perfect fit as a FAST channel on XUMO," noted Stefan Van Engen, SVP of programming and partnerships at XUMO. “It’s always the right time to enjoy and celebrate the kind of everyday American traditions we all know and love. Great American Adventures delivers the high caliber content that allows us to engage millions of viewers across our network.”

Great American Adventures joins GAC Family and GAC Living as part of GAC Media’s growing stable of media brands.  The new FAST channel will continue to roll out with additional apps and connected devices in the coming months.

Xumo has long been a favorite of mine. While Pluto TV is still king of the FAST services, Xumo is a great alternative. This is a big win for Xumo in the family friendly TV market. For those of us that want quality family friendly content in our Streaming Life, this is a big deal.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Why people stay with cable or satellite

Every now and then, I get reminded that my experience and ways of looking at things is way different than others. This week, a big reminder happened.

I was talking with a coworker. She's a streamer --- sort of. Well, yeah. But she's not exclusively a streamer. She streams some content, but also has satellite TV.

She lives in an area that is serviced by Windstream, Comcast/Xfinity, and AT&T. Windstream isn't available where I live, but Comcast and AT&T are.

I mentioned that I had a conversation recently with a technician from Windstream, and she asked about their pricing. I didn't know, and told her that. I mentioned the speeds and prices of Comcast and AT&T, and she mentioned how much she was paying for Dish network. It was a lot.

We talked about getting local channels via antenna, and some live streaming services, and the costs involved. It was simply curiosity on her part. We've actually had these discussions before, and she said each time that she would save a lot of money by dropping Dish and streaming content instead. But, she hasn't. I never pressed her for way. I'll give information, and will help in any way I can, but I'm not going to presume to tell her "You need to do this" or "You need to do that."

She did finally mention why she hadn't and probably wouldn't make a change. There is a family member that really likes Dish and is used to that. She's putting that family member's wants above the financials. It's not like Dish network is causing them to go hungry or anything. She can certainly afford it, but she would to pay less money if she could.

She can, but she won't, because family member would be unhappy losing Dish. And, to her, she'd rather just sick with Dish for now.

I understand that. She's a nicer person than I am, because I would make the change. Heck, I did make the change. But, she's not me, and I'm not her. She's making the best decision she feels she needs to make. I did that too, though my decision was a different one.

She still enjoys her Streaming Life, limited as it is. I believe she'd enjoy it more if she went full streaming, but she's doing what she feels she needs to do. And that's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Support forum expert, but why?

I've been a Roku user for years. And I've frequented the Roku support forum for almost as long. Less than a year after I bought my first Roku device, I logged on the Roku user support forum. The reason was that I had an issue. I don't recall the details, but it was that an app worked on other platforms, but not on Roku. That much I recall. And that was when I began to learn more and more about how things work.

I've always been fascinated with technology. Perhaps the idea of living with technology that sounded like it came from Star Trek was the thing. Maybe not. I don't know. But, I've always been fascinated by it, and Roku was my first venture into the world of streaming, back in 2010.

Since that first request for help, I think I may have asked for help with a couple of other issues in 2011, and maybe in 2012. But that was it. If that much.

However, I've been a frequenter of the support forums for years. Often I'd just read and learn, but occasionally, I'd chime in with responses. In the last few years, my time on the Roku support forums has increased greatly. And the number of people I've helped has increased as well.

In the last four years -- that how far back the stats go -- I've been credited with 275 solutions. That's official credits, either by the user with the initial issue, or by Roku staff. Additionally, others have stated that my answer solved the problem but they didn't officially mark it as such. And, lots more times, the answer I gave was right but there was no acknowledgement of it. But officially, I have 275 solutions provided.

I like that. I like the idea that I was able to help someone solve a problem. So, is that why I do it? Yeah, probably. Maybe I'm guilty of wanting to be the smartest person in the room. Well, on the Roku support forum, that's hard to do. Some of the Roku Community Experts really know their stuff. Every one of them that have that bestowed upon them by Roku really know their stuff. Including me.

Now, I still learn stuff, and I in no way think that I know everything. If I don't know the answer, I won't respond with "I don't know." Well, not often. But I have done that, but it was to help summarize the question posted. Sometimes, the person posting has no idea what's wrong or even know how to ask the question. So, sometimes, if I think I understand what's being asked, but aren't entirely sure I understand the question, I'll respond in an attempt to restate the question. Or ask the person posting to restate. That's not to put anyone down, but an attempt to elicit information.

Sometimes, I've discovered that I had no idea what the question really was, and once I found out, backed away. Sometimes, if it's outside an area with which I'm extremely familiar, I'll post some general steps, with requests for additional information. Sometimes, those general steps actually resolve the problem. That's usually the old "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" kind of troubleshooting step.

So, do I do Roku support to stroke my ego? Maybe. I do enjoy challenges. And it's fun. Sometimes. But not all the time.

It does offer the chance to learn something, but I really do enjoy the thought that perhaps I've helped someone improve their Streaming Life.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Independence Day 2022

One of the most important documents in world history is the United States Declaration of Independence. If you've never read it, it may be worth reading. It gives you a glimpse into history, as well as the Unites States overall.


In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

As a proud citizen of the United States of America, I still get chills every time I read it.

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