Sunday, August 14, 2022

Pi Hole testing

Let me first say that I don't have a problem with ads. There are ads on this Website, for instance. And, I subscribe to ad-supported Hulu. I also watch content from many free ad-supported television (FAST) services. I'm fine with ads.

If I don't want ads, I'll pay to remove them. For instance, I've subscribed to YouTube Premium to eliminate ads on that service. I will visit Websites that have ads -- my own had ads, so I'm okay with ad-supported Websites -- and if I think the ads are too obtrusive, I will simply stop visiting the Website.

You won't find me leading the charge for ad blockers or network filters. However, I am currently testing Pi Hole. And that may need some explanation.

First, if you aren't familiar with Pi Hole, it's an application that can run on Linux devices that blocks ads and trackers. So why am I, who claims to be fine with ads, running an ad blocker? Well, it's not the ad blocker I'm interested in. It's the tracker blocker feature.

I'm actually planning to test a few different processes to block trackers. I'm not really interested in blocking ads. Well, with one exception, which I'll come back to in a bit.

Blocking trackers is actually functionality that is built in to many Web browsers. However, I'm looking for a network wide solution to blocking trackers. That's where Pi Hole comes in.

It's a multiple stage process I'm going through. First, I want to see how easy it is to set up and run in general.

Next, I am researching how to block trackers on the network without impacting ad services (well, most; I said there's an exception, and the details are still to come).

Then, I want to confirm how well the process works on the network.

I've just set up Pi Hole this weekend, so I'm still doing the first step. It is blocking trackers, but it's also blocking ads. As I'm still in the setup phase, the blocked ads are collateral damage, and I'll work to reduce that. I don't mind ads, after all, and I think those that put forth a product for free deserve the compensation of the display of ads, if that's the cost of using the service.

I've begun the research into how to use tracker blocking without blocking ads, as much as that is possible. Heck, I may find it's not possible, and if that's the case, I'll then make the best decision on how to proceed if it comes to that. But, my goal is to block trackers, not ads.

I'm running Pi Hole on a Raspberry Pi, though it will run on many Debian and Fedora based systems (Raspberry Pi OS is Debian based). I actually had a problem setting up the system, as I found one of my Raspberry Pi devices was damaged by a recent store (lots of stuff was damaged by that storm). But, I set up another one and it actually went well.

I've configured it to run over the entire network for this initial testing. I don't know if I'll keep it that way or not; I'll see how it goes. And, so far, it's going well. I just need to figure out how to limit the blocking to trackers and let legit ads through.

And that's the other point I teased. I found a type of ad that I do want to block. There was a Website that I heard had been hacked, but when I went to it on my laptop, didn't have a problem. Then I went to it on a mobile device, and sure enough, the redirect to a malware site happened. Turns out there is code on the Website that redirects mobile devices to a software installation page. That's not good.

So, after doing some testing, I found that two domains that are included in ad-based code on the Website can cause the redirection. I blocked those two, and the redirection stopped.

That tells me that Pi Hole's default scripts aren't perfect, as they weren't blocking two domains that contained ad content, and that those ad servers had been compromised. So, if I keep using Pi Hole after this testing is done, I'll use it to block domains that are compromised. They may be considered legitimate ad servers, but if they can't keep them safe, then I don't consider them legit and will block them.

I'm okay with ads in my online and Streaming Life. I'm not okay with my usage being tracked, and I'm not okay with malware. I'll find a way to stop it, if I can.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Getting my Sci-Fi fix

I've been a fan of science fiction movies and TV for about as long as I can remember. Watching first run episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, as well as the original Star Trek, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and so many other TV shows was something I really enjoyed. I have watched them all many times, having purchased those shows and more.

Science fiction movies such The Thing (the 1950s, as well as the fantastic 1980s film), When Worlds Collide, War of the Worlds, Them, Forbidden Planet, The Angry Red Planet, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Amazing Colossal Man, The Time Machine, The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and so many other films, good and bad, were movies I could watch over and over again. And have watched each of those multiple times, having purchased each of them.

I really have enjoyed my sci-fi, and continue to watch the shows and movies. But, I don't limit myself to movies I own. I still watch newer movies, or old movies I haven't seen previously, or even have but for one reason or another don't own.

Streaming has been a great way to watch many sci-fi movies and TV shows. And some of the streaming apps and services I use are free.

Sure, there's Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, and many other pay streaming services, but there are also many free ad-supported television (FAST) services that offer good, and bad but enjoyable, sci-fi.

Comet TV, which you may be able to watch locally over the air, has a free streaming app that allows you to watch a stream of the TV network. If you don't have a Comet station locally, you can still enjoy Comet TV with the app.

Pluto TV has channels dedicated to science fiction. One of my favorites is the Mystery Science Theater 3000 channel, but there are other sci-fi channels where you don't hear a janitor and two robots making fun of the films. Doctor Who is also a favorite, as I'm a big fan of the classic show.

Tubi, Sling TV Free, Plex, and Xumo also have science fiction channels available. Roku Channel, available on Roku and Fire TV, also has channels with sci-fi content.

For more on-demand content, FilmRise Sci-Fi has lots of sci-fi movies available for viewing.

Fawesome is a rarely talked about app, but you can find plenty of sci-fi on the Science Fiction Movies & TV app by Fawesome.

There are many ways to watch science fiction movies and TV for free on your streaming device. If you want free sci-fi in your Streaming Life, you have many many options.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Still finding storm damage

Earlier in the week, I mentioned about damage to some of my electronics from a storm this past weekend. I had found three items that were damaged, and had replaced two, with a third ordered.

Well, the third arrived and now things are back to normal. Almost.

Turns out there was a fourth item that was damaged. I mentioned that the primary switch on my network had gone out and I had replaced it. Well, in another room, there's a switch that had been damaged as well. It was a five port switch, and I use it in conjunction with my KVM switch. The KVM switch allows me to use a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse on up to four computers. It doesn't also switch network connectivity. The five-port switch handles that. I have a single feed to the switch, and could run up to four devices on the network. That was damaged as well in the storm.

Turns out that two of the ports were bad, and three were good. My main Linux computer was running, as was my Windows device. However, some test project devices, particularly a Raspberry Pi, lost connectivity. I hadn't tested them, as the KVM switch made it difficult. However, the bad switch needed replacing, so I replaced it. I put in another 8-port switch, meaning I can connect the devices for the KVM switch, plus run the network printer on it, rather than have a direct feed for it. It keeps the number of cables running from one room to another down to just one now.

I'm still not sure if there is any more damage. I may find some, and will deal with it as I run across it.

If there is any more damage, it's not on devices I use regularly, so it hasn't been a big deal, at least not yet. I'm hoping that's the extent of the damage, and that my online and Streaming Life isn't interrupted any more than it already has been.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Streaming NFL pre-season games

The three week pre-season of the NFL starts tonight. There are two games on the schedule this evening, with five tomorrow, eight Saturday, and one Sunday. Of course, there was a game last weekend, when the Raider and Jaguars played in the Hall of Fame game. Both those teams are in action this weekend, the first official week of pre-season play.

If you're a streamer -- and of course you are -- you may wonder how you'll watch the games. It won't be hard at all, though it won't be free.

Several games are going to be carried nationally on NFL Network, which is available on some cable services, but is also available on several streaming services.

  • Sling TV (Blue, $35/month; Orange+Blue, $50/month). If you are an Orange plan subscriber, you're out of luck. NFL Network is only on the Blue plan. But, if you're Orange plan, you can add Blue plan, upgrading to Orange+Blue, for an additional $15/month.
  • Vidgo (Plus, $60/month). The cheapest Vidgo plan gets you NFL Network. You don't have to spring for the higher Premium package.
  • YouTube TV ($65/month). Google's top notch streaming service include NFL Network in its standard package.
  • Hulu+Live TV ($70/month). The live TV offering from Hulu also includes Disney+ and ESPN+, in addition to the live TV and the standard Hulu service.
  • Fubo TV ($70/month). The cheapest Fubo TV plan includes NFL Network.

Note that DirecTV Stream does not carry NFL Network. That surprised me, but that's why you have to check to see who carries what.

If NFL pre-season games are something you want in your Streaming Life, you have lots of options.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Discovery+ on Sling TV

There was an announcement this week about a new feature coming to Sling TV. Discovery+ will be available for Sling TV as a $5/month add-on.

That's the same price as the standalone service with the Discovery+ app, but for Sling TV users, it will have the convenience of already being in the Sling TV app. At least, I suppose that's a convenience.

As one who got into streaming in the early days, I'm used to using separate apps, and not just staying in a single app all the time. I'll hop apps in a heartbeat. In fact, to me, it's easier to switch apps rather than find a channel within an app such as Sling TV. But, that's me. I'm not the typical user, I suppose.

So, for those that like the idea of a single app for everything, the Sling TV app addition of Discovery+ is a big deal.

Oh, and you don't have to subscribe to Sling TV to use the Discovery+ app. You do have to subscribe to Discovery+ through Sling TV, but the $35/month plan for Sling Blue or Sling Orange is not a requirement.

All SLING users, including users of SLING Free or any SLING subscription, may customize their viewing experience by adding discovery+ as a premium a la carte streaming service.

"Providing our customers with the best entertainment experience has always been our number one priority at DISH and SLING," said Gary Schanman, group president, SLING TV. "The addition of discovery+ on our platforms offers iconic and acclaimed content for the a la carte experience our customers love. We offer more than 50 premium a la carte services to enable our users to customize their viewing experience, all with a single account login so they can easily manage their services in one place."

Since Sling TV free tier is a pretty darn good deal, with the availability of Discovery+ as an add-on, as well as other recent additions to the free channel lineup, which now totals over 200 free live and on-demand channels.

Sling TV, the first live streaming service, continues to be a worthy consideration for including in your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Sling TV Free adds Pluto TV content

One free ad-supported television (FAST) service that doesn't seem to get a lot of talk -- at least, I don't see a lot about it -- is Sling TV.

Now, you may be saying, "But Sling TV is $35/month, which is most certainly not free." And that's true. But, Sling TV offers a free tier. And it's actually a pretty good free service. And it just got even better.

Sling TV Free (I don't really know what else to call it) is, like the name I'm calling it, free. And it's comparable to Pluto TV, Xumo, and Tubi insofar as a free ad-supported television service. In fact, it even picked up some Pluto TV channels recently.

An article in Cord Cutters News brought it to my attention.

These are the Pluto TV channels now streaming for free on Sling:

  • BET Pluto TV
  • CMT Pluto TV
  • Comedy Central Pluto TV
  • MTV Biggest Pop
  • MTV Pluto TV
  • MTV Spankin’ New
  • VH1 I Love Reality

I had not noticed the new apps, but sure enough, they're available. And that brings the number of live channels offered by Sling TV Free to 164. The service also has 38 on-demand channels, meaning over 200 channels of content is available.

That's pretty good. And that's why I keep Sling TV on my devices, even though I don't subscribe to the Orange service year round.

In case you forgot, Sling TV offers a $35/month Orange service as well as a $35/month Blue service. Blue has more channels, and focuses on NBC and Fox sports, while Orange, though with fewer channels, offers ABC/Disney/ESPN content and sports. The Orange+Blue combination package is $50/month.

But, if like me, you only need the live sports channels during part of the year, keeping the app and watching the free tier the rest of the year may be a good addition to your Streaming Life. It certainly helps me enjoy mine.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Stormy Weather

I love Stormy Weather. The version by Lena Horne is a favorite, although it's hard to beat the earlier recording by Ethel Waters.

Having said that, I'm not all that big a fan of stormy weather. You know, the actual weather where it storms. The song is wonderful. The weather phenomenon, not so much.

I bring this up because yesterday, there was some stormy weather, and it wreaked havoc at the house.

There was damage to electronics, but nothing more than that. No limbs through the roof. No trees uprooted. Just a close by lightning strike that cause the lights to briefly go out, a large pop from where the Internet connection comes in, and then my network not coming back up.

So far, I found three things that the lightning took out. My network router didn't exactly die, but it stopped working. Lights came on, and the wireless network allowed connections, but it would not connect to the Internet.

I have a separate modem, and was worried that had gone out, but connecting a computer directly to that showed that the modem was not the issue. It was the wireless router.

I also have a separate network switch to which I had several devices connected via Ethernet to the network. That switch went out as well.

And, my expensive fancy KVM switch that I used to connect multiple computers to a mouse, keyboard, and monitor also went out.

Correcting the wireless was easy enough. I bought a new wireless router. Two nodes, actually, as I replaced the mesh network with another mesh network. I could have purchased a replacement for the single device that was fried, but that was not available locally, and I could replace the entire network (two access points) for around the price of the single bad device. So, the wireless network was replaced, and configured with the same SSID and password.

Correcting the switch was easy enough as well. I bought a new switch. It was a simple 8-port switch that I use to connect devices, and an exact replacement was available locally. So, the switch was replaced and the Ethernet connected devices began working again.

The KVM switch is more of a problem. Part of it works -- the video monitor, the V part, works -- and part doesn't. So, I connected a mouse and keyboard directly to each of the main computers I use -- the Windows device runs Plex, and the Linux device is what I'm using for day to day use -- and I'm back running. I've ordered another KVM switch, and will replace it when it arrives in a couple of days.

I really hate when nature conspires against me. And I really didn't like that three pieces of the network went out, but I should be thankful that only three pieces were damaged. It could have been a lot worse, I suppose.

The storm ended shortly after putting my network down, and I was able to then order the two parts from Walmart and have them delivered. Yes, I waited until after the storm passed.

I was down a few hours, but after Walmart delivered the parts to get me back up and running, I once again resumed my online, and Streaming, Life.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Privacy phone, part 5

I've mentioned before that I'm looking into using a phone that provides more privacy than most standard phones. And, of course, since nothing is simple, I've run into all kinds of issues along the way.

The options, as previously laid out, boiled down to:

  1. Using a modified Android version on an existing phone.
  2. Getting a phone with a version of Android installed.
  3. Getting a phone with a mobile version of Linux installed.

So, which way did I go? All three.

I'm currently weighing usage of three different setups.

I have a Google Pixel 4a running Lineage OS.

I have a Teracube 2e running /e/OS, a modified version of Lineage OS.

I have a Pine64 phone running a mobile version of Manjaro Linux.

This past week is when I finally got all three setups running, and I have some initial thoughts, though these may change over time.

First, the Linux phone isn't working all that great. I don't know if it's the phone or if it's the mobile version of Manjaro Linux that is the problem, but it's a problem. It reminds me of when BlackBerry tried to launch a touch-screen interface. You may not remember that, but it was a very bad experience.

I loved my regular BlackBerry at the time, and when I they launched a touch interface, I considered moving from Android back to BlackBerry. However, I had the opportunity to try it out ahead of time, and it was a terrible experience. It was buggy, it was sluggish, and it was not going to get my business.

I never knew if it was the hardware wasn't good enough, or if the software wasn't good enough, but the overall package wasn't good enough. That's how I feel about this Pine64 phone setup. Maybe the phone hardware is inferior. Maybe the software isn't where it needs to be in regards to a touch interface. Whatever the issue is, I'm not liking the Pine64/Manjaro setup. But, I'll keep using it and seeing how it does.

The Teracube 2e running /e/OS is running well. I've had this setup the longest, and the only problem has been finding a carrier that works. There have been no issues with the usage of the phone and interface, though. Right now, though, the current carrier is working, so that's a good sign. It's light years ahead of the Pine64/Manjaro setup.

The most recent setup is the Google Pixel 4a running Lineage OS. I had some issues setting it up, but finally found a solution to the issue I had. And, it's going okay so far. I've had no trouble with a carrier supporting the phone, and so far the OS is working well.

So, for the next month, I'll be using all three phones and making a determination on which is the best. Then, I'll have to weigh it against my current phone setup, and decide if I want to actually make the switch or not.

I really like the idea of a phone that doesn't send all of my data back to some source that sells my data to others. Or even keeping it for themselves. It just doesn't sit well with me. But, that's a decision I'll make later. Right now, I'm going to be comparing these three phones and their setups and deciding which works best for me.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Can you really save money by streaming?

Years ago, I looked into streaming because I was fascinated by the idea of it. I didn't know about such a thing until I was visiting my son and saw that he was streaming content on a gaming device. I think it was an Xbox. Anyway, I was fascinated. So, I decided to look into it.

One thing I was not going to do was to move to streaming if it cost more to watch TV that way. The idea of paying more for the same thing didn't make sense to me. I didn't know about all the other benefits of streaming, but the deciding factor, if it came down to it, was the bottom line. Would it save me money?

So, here's how I figured out if it would save me money. And this is a good way for you to make the same determination.

What am I paying today? And what am I getting for that?

Depending on what services are available, you have to figure out what you're paying for those services today, and what you'll pay for the services if you switch to streaming. The services I had to consider were TV, Internet service, and home phone.

There could be other services to consider, depending on what your current lineup of services are. For instance, you may have a security system tied in with your setup. Or, you may not have a home phone. Or, your new ISP may offer discounted cellular service (Xfinity does this). So it may come down to:

  • Internet
  • TV
  • Home phone
  • Cell phone
  • Security system

Take out any that don't apply to you, or won't be affected by a change. In my instance, home phone, cell phone, and alarm system were not in the mix. Actually, Internet wasn't either, as at the time, my ISP was not my cable provider, and wasn't immediately after the change. So, all I had to figure was TV. That was simple. You may have to figure all of these, an possibly even more. But do tally up what you pay each month for those services.

What goes up and what goes down?

Sometimes the price of one service changes if it's bundled with another service. For example, if your ISP is also your cable TV provider, you may be getting a discount for having two services. If you drop cable TV, you may lose the discount.

For example, if you're paying $150 for Internet and TV, it may break out into $100 for cable, $70 for Internet, with a $20 bundle discount. In this instance, if you dropped cable, you would subtract $100, but you'd have to add $20 because of losing the discount. That's still a savings, but not as much.

Faster Internet?

Another question you need to consider is if you need faster Internet. My default answer is "probably not."

Many people think you need really fast Internet service to stream. You don't. Now, you do need at least 25 Mbps to stream UHD/4K video, so if your speed is less than that, you may want to bump up to at least 25 Mbps. But do you need 100 Mbps? 200 Mbps? 1 Gbps? No, probably not. If you don't need it today, you won't need it tomorrow. As long as you have enough to stream UHD/4K, you have plenty of speed.

Those numbers, by the way, are for one stream. If you plan on streaming on multiple screens, then you'll want to multiply accordingly.

How do you replace cable TV?

There are a different options you have when it comes to what to replace cable TV. What service should you use to get the channels you want?

One thing to consider is an antenna. If you can put up an antenna, do so. In the long run, it's a cheap way to watch broadcast TV. That's your local network affiliates -- ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC -- plus the other channels that carry content that many households watch -- MeTV, Antenna TV, Court TV, Circle, Laff, Bounce, Grit, Ion, Cozi, True Crime, Get TV, Comet, H&I, and others -- giving you a wide selection of content.

That may be enough. Add to that some free ad-supported television (FAST) services such as Pluto TV, Xumo, Roku Channel, Tubi, and others, you may have enough TV to watch. But, if not, you have lots of options, ranging from Frndly TV at $7/month, Philo at $25/month, Sling TV starting at $35/month, YouTube TV at $65/month, Hulu+Live TV at $70/month.

On demand services such as many of the FAST services listed, plus basic Hulu at $7/month, may be all you need.

What you need depends on you. What I need depends on me. I go for less, using antenna, on-demand, and FAST services to fill my TV needs. But you may need more. So, use a service like Suppose TV to find the services that suit your watching habits.

What about other services?

Another thing to consider are the on-demand subscription services such as Netflix, Hulu (already mentioned), Disney+, Apple TV+, Discovery+, HBO Max, Prime Video, Paramount+, AMC+, Starz, Peacock TV, and others.

Do you need all of these services? Maybe, but you don't need them all at once. You can subscribe for a month at a time to any or all of these. Pick one this month, a different one next month, and so on, from the ones that interest you. You get a lot of content for a lower price that way.

What does the comparison show?

Looking at what you were paying before, along with the numbers regarding what you'll pay each month. Keep in mind that if you already have any of these streaming services -- Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc. -- then you don't figure them in. Or, if you do, you figure them in the current and the future. They cancel out -- you had the service before and after, so it's a wash -- meaning you can leave it out of the calculations if that makes it simpler.

After you've added up what you're paying today, and comparing it to what you'll pay going forward, is it worth it?

It may not be. You may already have the best bargain for your viewing habits. And that's fine.

Or, it may be cheaper to switch to streaming and drop cable. That way you'll save money from now on.

However you decide is the best way for you, whether it's moving from cable to a Streaming Life, or remaining with cable, doing what's best for you is always the goal.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Where have all the users gone?

NextTV had an article recently talking about the number of losses by traditional pay TV service. But, it wondered where those viewers went.

I'm inclined to say they went to streaming or over the air antenna, or both of those, but there is no data to back that up.

That's not to say data contradicts my suggestion, just that there isn't data to say one way or another.

Have people quit watching TV? I don't think so, although it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if they did.

I used to watch TV when I traveled for business or pleasure. But, I haven't done that in years. Oh, I've traveled, but I rarely turn on a TV if I'm away from home. So in some respects, I'm watching less TV, though I'm streaming more.

Is this what's happening to others? I have no way of knowing, as the data isn't there.

The article by  Daniel Frankel, which was published last week, mentioned that traditional pay TV services were losing large numbers of viewers:

Three of the five largest traditional bundlers of pay TV channels in America delivered second-quarter earnings reports this week, and each revealed marked increases in the number of customers ditching linear video service. 

However, there's no evidence they're going, well, anywhere.

Essentially, Comcast's entire portfolio of app-based, beyond-footprint video experiences is going behind a wall, so we won't be able to necessarily trade a clean line between customers, say, ditching the traditional Xfinity X1 Full Monty and adopting X1-like app-based viewing via an XClass smart TV.

Indeed, there are more dark places to hide in the video business than not these days. That starts with the vast market capitalizations of the tech giants, who rarely drill down on the quarterly usage metrics of their video apps and CTV device platforms.

While revealing a net loss of nearly $2 billion in the second quarter on Thursday, Amazon didn't come close to drilling down on how many folks use Amazon Prime Video worldwide, or its connected TV platform, Amazon Fire TV.

Likewise, Apple hasn't once revealed a subscriber -- or even active user -- metric for Apple TV Plus. How many active users does the Apple TV 4K CTV ecosystem have? Outside of research company estimates, we have no clue. 

Companies aren't reporting the data needed to understand what's happening. Whether that's because they don't want to have the data spun to reflect poorly on themselves, I don't know. Remember that streaming is a new thing, and there is no long history of reporting these numbers.

Until the companies start sharing the data, we can only speculate where the viewers are going. I went to streaming, and likely you did too, or are thinking about it. My Streaming Life suits me just fine, and I suspect others feel the same way.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Chromecast features worth considering

Google introduced the Chromecast device back in 2013. It's gone through some upgrades since then, including the newest version, introduced in 2020, Chromecast with Google TV.

The original Chromecast, and its successor, the 3rd generation Chromecast, was and is a basic dongle that works in conjunction with a mobile device for streaming content. It also allows casting of a browser tab from a Chrome browser.

The Chromecast with Google TV is all that, plus had an actual user interface and remote, like a full-fledged streaming device. And not just like a full-fledged streamer; it IS a full-fledged streamer.

I like bits about the Chromecast, though Roku remains my preferred streaming device. But, I certainly understand why some prefer Chromecast, or Chromecast with Google TV.

Recently, the Chromecast Blog listed 9 things about the Chromecast that make it worth considering as the streaming device of choice. At a high level, they are:

  • See who’s at your door.
  • Mirror your Android screen or Chrome tab to the big screen.
  • Show off your photos on a TV with Chromecast.
  • Cast your meetings to the big screen.
  • The control is yours with Chromecast.
  • Continue casting even when you leave the room.
  • Let your friends and family join in on the party with a shared queue.
  • Move your media from room to room.
  • Cast with Android, iOS or Chrome on PC and Mac.

On the Chromecast Blog, you can read more about why it just might be the streaming device of choice for you. If you have been thinking about Chromecast, particularly Chromecast with Google TV, you may find it's a good way to begin or improve your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Deals! Deals! Deals!

I don't normally write about deals, but will if I think it's a big enough of a deal. And, there are a couple going on that might be of interest to cord cutters. But, they are short-term deals and will likely end today or tomorrow.

First, if you're looking for a streaming device, the Fire TV Cube is a great choice. And Best Buy is currently running it for half price, $59.99. And yes, that's the current device, not a refurbished or older stock item.

That's a very good deal. If you've been looking at getting a Fire TV device, there is none better than the Fire TV Cube, and half price is the best price I've seen on that device.

Another good deal is a streaming deal. Sling TV is offering 20 days free. That's for new or returning customers. 20 days free.

That's hard to beat.

Meaning if you used both these deals, you'd have a top notch streaming device, and a very good live streaming service, at the best price I've ever seen.

Like I said, I don't often post about deals, but this seems too good to be true. But it is true. And worth a look if you're wanting to start, or improve, your Streaming Life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Picking the wrong live streaming service

If you're new to cord cutting, or thinking about cutting the cord, there are some decisions you have to make regarding what streaming services to use. However, since that decision is something with which you don't have a lot of experience, how do you know if you made the right decision?

There are two answers to this, and they both apply:

  1. You won't know if you made the right decision.
  2. It doesn't really matter.

What? It doesn't matter? Of course it matters! Except, really, it doesn't. Well, as long as  you subscribed for a month, it doesn't really matter.

You see, with streaming, if you don't get it right the first time, so what? You still get streaming content, so it's not like you spent money and can't watch TV. Rather, if you picked a live streaming service that isn't quite what you wanted, you can change it. The service is only for 30 days at a time. If during those 30 days, you decide the service isn't all that, then cancel at the end of the term -- be sure you know the renewal date and cancel ahead of time -- and subscribe to a different service.

Streaming isn't like watching cable. No long-term contracts. It's easy to switch. And you have several choices when it comes to services.

Oh, and of course I'm going to throw out my usual nonsense: Do you really need a live streaming service? Can you find what you want on a free ad-supported television (FAST) service?

Don't feel pressured to get it right first time when you pick a live streaming service. If you find you don't like the service, it's easy to change to a different service. Having a Streaming Life give you options you never had before. I enjoy mine. You should enjoy yours as well.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Ads on your streamer's home screen

One complaint that several users mention on support forums regards ads on the streaming device home page.

For some reason, some people get all bent out of shape about this. Some complain about the content of the ads. For example, Roku support forums have lots of complaints about mature themes in ads on the home page that children can see.

Some complain about the existence of the ads. That is, they don't want to see any ads whatsoever.

Now, understand that these ads are actually ads for apps, services, movies, or TV shows that can be watched on the platform. There might be an ad for The Expanse, which is a show you can watch on Amazon Prime Video. Or an ad for Hulu, which can be added to your apps and subscribe and watch.

You won't find -- or at least I've not seen -- ads for Chevrolet, Bank of America, Ford, Viagra, or other non-streaming products. Everything is actually a promotion of streaming content.

So, is it possible to not have ads on your streamer's home screen? Well, yes, but there's a catch. You have to have an Apple TV device.

Apple TV is the only device that doesn't actually include ads on the home screen. If you have a Roku device, a Fire TV device, or a Google/Android TV device, you'll see ads. But you won't on Apple TV.

Is that the only way to stop ads? Properly, yes. The terms of service of the devices allow them to put ads there, and any hardware or software you have that blocks the ads is actually a violation of that. I've not gone into how to block ads, and don't plan to. I agreed to the terms, and I'll follow the terms or not use the device. Plus there's one other thing: ads don't bother me.

I suppose it's my super power. I can completely ignore an ad for something I don't care about. The only time an ad really irritates me if it's an ad for something I'm personally opposed to. I despise political ads, for instance, but the ads on streaming device menus are not that type. Within the content, yes, I've seen the ads, and I will get irritated by political ads there, but generally, they don't bother me.

If you insist on removing ads from your streaming device menu, the only proper way is to use an Apple TV. And, using an Apple TV device is actually a good user experience. I've used them in my Streaming Life for years, but not because of the lack of ads. But if ads are a deciding factor for you, Apple TV may be the way to go.