Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Dish going after pirate's house

Dish Network won a large lawsuit against a pirate TV service, and is trying to get the house of the pirate running the service.

Back in 2021, Dish sued Nitro TV, a pirate IPTV service, and won a $100-million judgement. After the banks complying with the judgement reported little of the money the pirates made, Dish decided to go for the service owner house. 

Torrent Freak reports that the pirate is fighting the seizure, citing a Texas law that protects homes:

In a motion to alter or amend the judgment "to prevent a clear error or manifest injustice," counsel for Alex Galindo explained that his client bought the house in Friendswood in March 2020 and declared it his home.

"The Texas Constitution provides special protections for the homestead separate and distinct from protections afforded other types of property," the motion reads.

"Because constitutional homestead rights protect citizens from losing their homes, statutes relating to homestead rights are liberally construed to protect the homestead."

DISH evidence linked 99% of the house purchase price to sales of illegal IPTV subscriptions. The company argued that homestead protection is not available when a property is purchased with wrongfully acquired funds.

It's unclear how this will shake out. But for a streamer, it's another reminder that IPTV services are often, and probably, illegal. Keep the out of your Streaming Life.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Fire TV Sticks need lots of attention

I like the current batch of high end Amazon Fire TV Sticks (commonly called "Firesticks"). I don't like all the current ones, but the higher end Fire TV Sticks are pretty good.

My biggest issue with the previous Fire TV Sticks, and the low end current models, is that they slow down and are practically unusable after a while. Of course, there are ways to fix that, but to me, it shouldn't have to be fixed. The newer higher end (meaning more expensive) models don't need that much attention. That is, not as often.

That has to do with the specs, and a little bit with how the operating systems works. You can't do much about the OS -- I'll talk more about that in just a bit -- but the specs require some attention on the user's part more often. Tablo has an article that explains about this:

 Unlike many other streaming TV platforms, Fire TV devices require some periodic maintenance to keep them running at peak efficiency. This is due to a buildup of cached data which can clog the device's already small amount of storage.

Regularly clearing the cache of apps giving you trouble and removing old apps you don't use anymore is a good start. If that doesn't do the trick, a factory reset can also help.

If the device is more than 3-5 years old, go ahead and get a newer one, and a higher end one. They go on sale often enough that if you keep an eye out, you'll find a bargain and save some money.

The other issue that you can't really address is the operating system. The way the Fire TV Sticks (and every other device except Roku) handles onboard storage means you can run out of space if you have many apps installed. You have to choose which apps to remove to install new ones, after a period of time. Roku doesn't require that. It has a good way of managing the apps that the other devices don't.

But for the issue of slowing down performance, that tip should help improve your Streaming Life.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

De-Googling your phone

Along my journey in My Streaming Life, I have found things unrelated to streaming that have surprised me. And, along the journey, I was reminded of things that I knew, but that weren't commonly realized.

One of the main things relates to privacy. It came about in a round-about way. I was looking to build a streaming device based on a Raspberry Pt device, and became reacquainted with Linux. That led me to considering more privacy, as Linux is a very secure and private operating system.

That eventually led to me consider privacy when it came to my cell phone. I spent a few months testing various devices and operating systems for phones. Which means you don't have to settle for iOS or Google's implementation of Android.

That last phrase seems odd, since Android is a Google project. However, the very basic Android operating system is open source and secure. It's the extra things that Google didn't make open source that complicate things.

Security expert Naomi Brockwell has a good video -- about a year old -- that covers de-Googling a phone.

[YouTube]

It's an interest study, and I used it when I tested privacy phones. I thought sharing it might be something worthwhile.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Newsmax free service ending

Newsmax isn't shutting down, but it will cost to watch the service soon.

There has been a carrier dispute with DirecTV, which includes U-Verse and DirecTV Stream, which has resulted in the conservative news channel being removed from those platforms.

DirecTV has added a new conservative news service, The First, to the lineups of those three platforms, softening the blow to conservative viewers.

Now, days after the dispute resulted in the loss of the service, Newsmax is ending its free streams, taking everything behind a paywall:

It should be noted that while the free version has been readily avaialable for Newsmax customers without said pay-TV partners the pay services have been paying Newsmax retransmision fees for the right to have the news feed built into its official channel guide along side other cable news channels like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. The free feed may well have made the fees paid feel like too high a demand since they were unlikely to drive subscribers who were specifically looking for Newsmax.

Newsmax says that its service is the 4th highest-rated cable news channel in U.S. and a top 16 cable channel though according to Variety Newsmax TV is tied for No 72. Indie Wire had a similar story that placed Newsmax as the number 52 most popular channel in cable channel according to Nielson ratings. And just to fend off any accusation of “libberal Bias” Indie Wire acknowleged Fox News as the top cable channel as far as prime time viewers and Nielson Ratings.

Is this the break that The First was looking for? Or will this actually benefit Newsmax in the long run? How will DirecTV come out of this?

I have no idea. And it doesn't really impact me as I never watched Newsmax free service, nor use the DirecTV platforms. However, this may be of interest to some of you. In that respect, I hope you end up with a better Streaming Life as a result.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Bye bye Bally Sports?

A report came out this week indicating that Bally Sports was in serious financial trouble. The company is preparing to file for bankruptcy, according to the report. That would include the Bally Regional Sports Networks (RSNs).

The company called Diamond Sports Group LLC, which runs Sincalirs sports channels, is reportedly $8.6 billion in debt. Sinclair is hoping to strike a deal to help them keep the channels operating thanks to bankruptcy.

In total, Sinclair owes $55 billion in sports-media rights, according to Bloomberg. A bankruptcy could put payments to the NBA and NHL at risk. It is being reported that Sinclair will skip a $140 million interest payment due in mid-February, starting a 30-day grace period for the company.

Sinclair is facing the perfect storm of paying a very high price for the old Fox Sports RSNs just as cord cutting was exploding. Now payouts from cable networks are reportedly drying up as companies are refusing to pay the high price Sinclair wants for its Bally Sports RSNs.

This is not good news. Well, it certainly seems like it's not. Perhaps the long term effect of losing Bally Sports RSNs will be positive, but that remains to be seen. I was going to try the Bally Sports streaming package during baseball season, if the Braves are available that way. Now, I'm not sure how I'll get the Braves back into my Streaming Life.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Choosing a live streaming service

Many people who cut the cord want to keep cable, or the familiarity of cable. This isn't something that I care about, as when I cut the cord, there were no live streaming services that mimicked cable.

However, there are several such services available today. As a result, several will choose to use a service to ease their entry into streaming. So, how to choose which one?

Antenna Man Tyler has some thoughts:

[YouTube]

Tyler offers lots of good advice on streaming, with a focus on over the air antenna. He is the Antenna Man, after all. He offers good advice on ways to improve your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Comcast and Charter struggles

One of the things about the recent re-acquisition of Cord Cutters News by Luke Bouma is his passion and knowledge about cord cutting was lost. Even though those running things did a good job (for a while) it wasn't the same in certain aspects.

Recently, Mr. Bouma ran an article where he talked about the things he saw as a big thread to Comcast and Charter (Xfinity and Spectrum) in 2023. The biggest challenge is inflation:

The number one reason new cord cutters cancel cable TV has always been to save money. With inflation making almost everything more expensive, especially many of the everyday necessities like food, gas, and utilities, more expensive cable TV has become a luxury many cannot afford anymore.

Now, many cable companies, including Comcast, have announced price hikes for 2023.

As inflation continues to grow, it has left many Americans looking at their cable TV bills and asking if they are really worth it. For many of them, the answer recently has been no and more are likely to say no.

I find that a big interesting, as inflation has really taken off in the past two years, after politicians supported by Comcast and Charter have taken office. I don't like to get political here, but you can't deny the facts. Inflation has taken off since the White House changed parties and that party controlled those two branches of the government. Those companies are well known supporters of that party. And now it's biting them in the ass. I take no pleasure in it, because it's impacting me as well.

Another interesting thing is that Comcast and Charter are joining together to launch Xumo branded venture.

Mr. Bouma has other reasons for the challenges in 2023, and you can read more there. The insight and analysis offered by Cord Cutters News is a good resource for those with more than a passing interest in their Streaming Life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Netflix buffering?

The focus of this is Netflix, but the ideas are applicable to all streaming services.

With that out of the way, I wanted to point you over to the TV Answer Man by Phillip Swann. He covers a question about Netflix buffering pretty well.

A reader of his Website asks about why there is so much trouble with the picture on Netflix so often. And Mr. Swann's answer is a good one.

There’s an obvious reason for this problem. Your Internet service’s speed varies and sometimes it will dip below the minimum requirement for a high-def or 4K picture.

(Netflix says you need a minimum speed of 5 Megabits (Mbps) to watch high-def and 15 Megabits to watch 4K programming.)

When this occurs, Netflix may post an on-screen message asking if you want to change the HD setting to SD, or the 4K setting to HD. I would not advise doing this very often. You are paying for HD and/or 4K and you want to watch your show or movie with the best picture quality possible.

He also points to another article he wrote about improving the situation regarding buffering.

I'll jump in and tell you how I solved the problem. I got a good network setup. You see, many times the equipment that ISPs provide is not good quality, and can impact the wireless signal. I got a good mesh network setup and solved all my problems. Good coverage means good coverage. No, it's not cheap. But it works, and my Streaming Life is the better for it.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Music streaming

I've not done a lot of music streaming. When I bought a new Chevrolet several years ago, it came with XM Radio. Later, XM and Sirius Radio merged to form SiriusXM. I've had XM Radio/SiriusXM Radio ever since.

In the last several years, there have been many music streaming services to emerge. I've tried a few, but have been happy with none of them. Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, LiveXLive, YouTube Music, Idagio, iHeartRadio, and Pandora are among the most popular. Oh, and SiriusXM has a streaming service as well.

I only listen to a few SiriusXM channels, and $15.77 is not a bad price. Sure, it's possible to get a lower price with a retention plan, and I might try that one day, but I'm pretty much okay with the price. Of course, if there's a cheaper service I like, I might change. But for an automobile radio, SirusXM is a convenient way to go.

Perhaps one of the streaming music services would be a better option. Of course, that would mean using a mobile device, and that would mean data usage. I don't have an unlimited data plan on my phone, but I never run over my plan. Then again, I don't do a lot of mobile streaming.

I'm thinking about using YouTube Music for a while. You see, I really don't like the commercials that YouTube has, and have tried YouTube Premium before. I like it, but it's kind of expensive. But, it does include YouTube Music, making the price a little better. So, for the price only a couple of dollars more than some streaming services, and less than some others.

That means I could get YouTube without commercials, and an unlimited music streaming services at a relatively good price. So, I think I'm going with that. YouTube Music, as included with YouTube Premium. Whether or not I stick with it, I don't know. But I do want to find a good music service to add to my Streaming Life.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

TV Antenna scams

Back when I was a child, it was easy to watch TV using an antenna. I say that because, well, I was a child. I didn't have to deal with all the adult things. Everything was easier when I was a child. For me, that is.

Somewhere along the way, cable TV took over as the way to watch TV. Along with that way, many TV antennae came down and that technology was considered old technology, from the past. It was, but it wasn't dead technology.

Today, as cable TV use shrinks, more and more people are streaming, and are finding out that they can save money. I save money by not subscribing to a live TV streaming service -- essentially cable services delivered via streaming -- and a TV antenna helps.

But what about someone for whom a TV antenna is "new" technology? How do they navigate all the claims about a TV antenna and cheaply, freely, watch local TV? Well, Tablo, a quality OTA DVR has some suggestions:

Modern, quality antennas are designed to focus on today’s broadcast TV spectrum and limit interference from adjacent frequencies.

Older or lower quality antennas can still capture signals but may be less effective, so try to deal with reputable companies that specialize in TV antenna technology like Mohu, Antennas Direct, Winegard, and Antop.

Questionable TV Antenna Marketing

The more mainstream cord cutting gets the more TV antennas we’ve seen with wacky, and even all-out false claims on their packaging or in their marketing materials which can potentially lead consumers astray.

Avoid TV antennas with the following bogus claims...

It's a good article worth reading if you are looking to get a TV antenna. I'm glad I knew a little of this when I was shopping for mine. I certainly didn't know it all, because when I grew up, I didn't have to deal with it. My parent did, and then cable took over. But a TV antenna is an important part of my Streaming Life, and could be a part of yours.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Worst live TV streaming service?

I don't use live TV streaming services regularly. During football season, I use a service -- most of the time it's Sling TV -- to get access to ESPN. But for the majority of the year, I don't use a live TV streaming service.

Does this mean I'm not qualified to offer opinions on them? No. In fact, my low opinion of them is part of the reason I don't use one regularly. If I thought I got good value for the product, I'd use it more often. But, I can find the content I want without such a service.

When I recently saw a video on YouTube about the worst live TV streaming services, I was curious. And, after watching it, I gotta say, I have no disagreement with their thoughts and conclusions. I may have picked things in a slightly different order, but I think the opinion expressed is worth considering.

[YouTube]

I don't know how many people have one as part of their Streaming Life. If you use a live TV streaming service, I'd certainly be curious as to your thoughts.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Netflix wants to charge more for password sharing

Netflix has a problem. People have, for years, been sharing their Netflix password with others.

Now, before you say "so what?" you should keep in mind that Netflix only allows password sharing for those in the same household. That means that sharing your password with your parents (or grandparents) who live separately from you is a violation of Netflix terms of service (ToS).

Of course, it's often that the parents (or grandparents) are the ones actually paying for the service that the adult children (or grandchildren) are using. Both happen, but it appears that it's the younger ones who are freeloading, not the older ones, more often than not.

Regardless of which generation is paying the bill, the mere fact that multiple households are sharing the same Netflix account is a violation of Netflix ToS.

So, what does Netflix do about it? Well, nothing. At least, so far, they have done nothing. But they do want to do something.

According to a recent report, Netflix said that they want to charge more for password sharing.

"While our terms of use limit use of Netflix to a household, we recognize this is a change for members who share their account more broadly," Netflix said in a statement. "As we roll out paid sharing, members in many countries will also have the option to pay extra if they want to share Netflix with people they don't live with."

In short, Netflix wants you to pay more in order to share your subscription with other people who do not live with you.

This is not new, as Netflix has been busy working to stop the free sharing of passwords between friends and family members. Now instead of stopping it, Netflix is hoping you will just pay a little bit more to be able to share passwords.

In South America, Netflix has already started to test this by promoting users they suspect of sharing their passwords with an option to buy an extra sub-account. However, it has reportedly not been going well, as many have not opted to pay the extra fee voluntarily.

Most people simply won't pay if they aren't forced to. That's because most people are awful. Now, if that hits you, then that's your problem, not mine. I don't use Netflix a lot, so I am not impacted by this. But when I do use Netflix, I'm still not impacted by this. I don't share my password with others.

I did share it in years past, but I stopped doing that. It's not that I'm not nice -- I am actually a nice person -- but that I don't believe in violating ToS. If Netflix does what they did in South America and roll out a voluntary fee for password sharing, and if I were a regular subscriber, I would pay the fee if I were to share with family.

I'm all about saving money. That's the reason I started streaming and dropped cable over a decade ago. But I'm not going to violate ToS and essentially steal from Netflix. It's a matter of doing the right thing. I'll save money where I can, but I won't steal from others. My Streaming Life doesn't include the cost of my character.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Plex streaming overtakes Plex media server

A recent article and recent news release shows that Plex, which is my choice for a home media server, is now more of a streaming service than media server. And that worries me in a way.

First, let me say that I've seen nothing from Plex that makes me want to switch to a different media server platform. I really like having all my movies available on Plex.

However, according to a recent article, which included comments from Scott Hancock, Plex’s vice president of marketing, Plex is fully aware of the shift in usage, and may be focusing more on the streaming platform going forward:

While Plex's ambitions now stretch well beyond the media server, Hancock said the company hasn’t abandoned the server side of its business.

"We have resources dedicated to both, I guess I'll put it that way," he said. "It's not that we're not focused on one or the other."

To that end, users should expect some improvements to Plex Pass features such as downloads this year, along with a greater focus on Plexamp, Plex's standalone music player for folks who have their own music collections. (It also serves as an alternative interface for Tidal.) This year, the company plans to bring Plexamp to more devices while also refining its existing apps for iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows.

It is encouraging that Plex isn't abandoning the media server in favor of its live streaming platform. I hope that remains the case. Plex has been a part of my Streaming Life for some time, and I really enjoy the Plex media server.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Antenna range and outrageous claims

A few times, I started to write about the range some TV antenna brands and stores claim for their products. Many times, more than most people realize, the claims are out and out lies.

However, I haven't actually written about this to the degree I wanted, mostly because it's a lot of work and I'm lazy, but also because there are many other resources that provide good information. Why should I write something that is no better than what someone else wrote?

One good resource for this kind of information is actually a Website that doesn't sell TV antennae, but is dependent on a good TV antenna in order for their product to work well. I'm talking about Tablo.

Tablo is a good quality DVR that records over the air TV from an antenna, and can put the TV signal, as well as its DVR content, on your network. I'm a fan of Tablo.

Earlier this month, Tablo posted another article on TV antenna range claims. It gives some good information, and posts links to other good information.

Antenna mileage ratings are at best an estimation of how far away you can be from your local broadcast towers and still get a signal. At worst, they're lies told by disreputable antenna manufacturers to dupe consumers into purchasing lower-quality products. The Tablo article lays it out well:

A general rule of thumb is that beyond 70-80 miles, the curvature of the earth will limit ANY antenna's ability to 'see' your local broadcast towers. The larger and the higher up your antenna is, the more likely you'll be able to push those mileage limits. Anything more would be breaking the laws of physics.

If you didn't realize that TV antenna claims are often bogus, hopefully you now know. If you've been looking at getting an antenna, do the work and make sure about what it is you get. You don't want to spend any money and get nothing for it, or even less than you could for the money.

A TV antenna is a great addition to just about anyone's Streaming Life, and with a little work, it can make a world of difference.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

New Chromecast with Google TV?

I said last Spring that I so wanted to like Chromecast with Google TV, but had a hard time liking it.

When I first tried it out, I did like it. However, it didn't remain a favorite for long. After a few months use, it became apparent that the device didn't match up to Roku in a couple of ways.

Most prominently was the fact that the storage for apps was small, even though it was larger than Roku devices at the time. The main difference is the way the two platforms handled apps.

On Roku, if you run out of space, Roku will remove the oldest app (in terms of how long it's been since you launched it) to make room for the newer app. Only, they still left a shortcut on your device, meaning that if you went to run the older app again, it acted as if it was still there, removed the oldest remaining app, and re-downloaded the app again for you to use it.

The effect was that it seemed as if the storage was never full, because it managed the storage space so well.

Other devices, including Chromecast with Google TV, don't manage storage well. They won't let you download apps if the device is full. You have to remove an app, which takes it from your menu. It's a pain, and the way Roku handles it, it's not a pain at all.

The device could use a bump in storage. And it could use a couple of other improvements as well, but the storage is the big thing.

Good news may be coming down the pike soon. According to 9to5Google, a new Chromecast device is in the works.

In the latest preview update to the Google Home app, the company includes early preparation for a new Google TV device, referred to as “YTC.” Elsewhere in the code, it’s directly confirmed that this is indeed a “Chromecast with Google TV” — alongside previous models “YTV” (Chromecast with Google TV) and “YTB” (Chromecast HD).

Considering Google has already released a lower-end model of Chromecast, we believe the company is on schedule to release something with a higher set of specs to replace its current flagship offering. For now, though, we’re not able to confirm any specs of Google’s next Chromecast.

At a bare minimum, we’d like to see Google include more storage on the next Chromecast with Google TV. The processor should also see an upgrade, as Android TV somewhat recently changed its hardware requirements.

We’d also love to see the next Chromecast include a second USB-C port for plugging in accessories or additional storage. To do this today, you need to purchase a USB-C dock/dongle with passthrough power, and this also prevents you from using Google’s official power adapter with Ethernet.

It would be great if the Chromecast got an upgrade, and got it soon. I so want to like the Chromecast with Google TV, but it just gets annoying after a bit. Some upgrades would make it something I would use, and recommend, for both my and your Streaming Life.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Streaming but not cutting the cord

Recently, The Streaming Advisor's Ryan Downey caught some flack online for his article Why Cord Cutting Is Not A Real Thing.

Do I agree with what he wrote in that article? No. And yes. And that may be his point. We're calling what people do "cord cutting" but is it really? Yes. And no.

I had cable TV from a local provider in 2011. Then, I canceled cable. But I kept service with that provider because they were my Internet service provider (ISP). So I didn't really cut the cord, I just cut one of the services that came in on that cord.

My mother began streaming in the last few years of her life. She was fascinated by the different content, and way of watching all content, that streaming offered. But, she kept her Comcast service until the last year of her life. She did cut back on her Comcast cable TV service, but didn't drop it all together.

It wasn't until the year she passed that the full "cutting of the cord" happened. I didn't pressure her to do it. She asked me what could be done to cut her Comcast bill, so we sat down and looked over all the content she still used Comcast to get. We went through every channel in her package, trying to see if there was a smaller package that carried what she wanted. We also looked at her streaming services -- mostly free services -- and looked for options there that allowed her to mark it off her Comcast "must have" list.

When we finished that, we double checked it to make sure, and we found the Comcast cable TV plan that worked for her: No cable. Everything she watched was available through a streaming service, mostly for free, but any cost was a cost she already had. That's when she decided to cut Comcast cable TV altogether.

My mother's situation for the last few years isn't really all that uncommon, according to another report that The Streaming Advisor mentioned recently.

For instance numbers from a new study show that for instance the rise in streaming popularity does not mirror the rise in people canceling pay TV services. A report by one of our favorite research firms MoffettNathanson shows that 82% of US homes use streaming services. But broken down in those numbers is that only 44 percent of those streaming customers do not have cable.

Too often writers in the tech world have tied the popularity of services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and HBO Max to the need to replace cable with a streaming service, but it turns out that millions of people out there just want more to watch along with the content in their big bundle.

When I cut the cord (still using that phrase) back in 2011, I cut the cord. The cable TV part. But for a month ahead of that, I did stream and have cable. In fact, I streamed for more that that, with TiVo's limited (at the time) streaming capabilities. But when I got a Roku device and an Apple TV device in late 2010, I started streaming all serious like. And a month later, cable TV was gone.

With me, it was only a month. With my mother it was for years. For others, it could be an ongoing thing. I think that in most circumstances, most people could save money by cutting cable and streaming, but I realize not everyone can. But streaming brings options to almost everyone.

My Streaming Life means I don't need any cable TV service. Others only use cable to a smaller degree. Others stream and do big cable bundles. The point is that they are able to watch what they want how they want. That's the real upside. Well, for many. Mine is saving money along with that extra freedom. I really enjoy my Streaming Life.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Privacy: Word processor concerns

This isn't streaming related. Maybe I shouldn't be posting this, since streaming is the focus here. However, this is something that I think is important.

I'm a privacy advocate. I don't like the idea of my information being collected by, well, anybody. That includes streaming. But, today, I'm talking about non-streaming privacy.

As a privacy advocate, I'm sharing this, and hope that you find it useful. I'm not trying to change your mind, or anyone's mind, about things. I'm wanting to provide information you may not have, and some thoughts that you may not have considered. Then, make up your own mind. If your opinion doesn't change, at least you have rethought things with more information. And I think that's a good thing.

Here are Naomi Brockwell's thoughts on security, privacy, and word processing.

[YouTube link]

This may give you information you didn't have before, and it may give you pause. It did me.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Cable TV fees up to $800/year

You know how high fees are for cable TV, right? Well, maybe not. I knew the fees were high, but it didn't hit me how high until I saw an article online this week.

According to a report from Cord Cutters News, the fees Comcast charges, above and beyond the regular cost of services, can total $800/year!

Recently it was announced that Comcast would be raising the fees on a wide range of plans. Comcast’s Xfinity Broadcast TV Fee is going up 11% this year to $21.30. Back in 2016, these fees were just $5 a month. 

RSN fees are also going up in Philadelphia to $13.35 a month, a 5% jump. This is up from just $3 a month back in 2016.

The cost of a TV box and remote will now be $10 a month, a 17% increase from $8.50 just a month ago.

Modem rentals for internet customers will now cost you $15 a month.

All of this is on top of your base package that can cost as much as $99.99 a month just for TV, according to Seniorliving.org.

All of these fees over the course of a year will add up to $715.80. It could be even higher as this assumes you are only paying for one TV box. If you have two TV boxes, your yearly fees will top $835. That is also before you pay for taxes and other fees imposed by the local, state, and federal governments. In total, the cost for TV and internet from Comcast could top $2,000 a year for some customers with these fees.

That's a lot of money that Comcast -- and other cable TV services, so let's don't just pick on Comcast -- get above and beyond the normal service customers expect to pay.

This is just one of the reasons that my Streaming Life makes me happier than my cable TV life ever did.

Friday, January 13, 2023

HBO Max price increase

The latest round of streaming service price increases is still going on. Maybe it's not a round, but a trend. Maybe it's just a thing. Regardless, along with everything else that's gone up in price over the last two years, you can add HBO Max to the list.

On yesterday, the streaming service announced a price increase, effectively immediately.

It's not a large increase, and it's only for one of the two plans, but it's still an increase, and not something any of us want.

Effective Thursday, Jan. 12, the price of a new HBO Max no-ads monthly subscription in the U.S. will increase from $14.99 to $15.99 (plus applicable taxes). That’s a nearly 7% increase. Existing HBO Max subscribers who are currently paying $14.99/month will see their monthly rate increase to $15.99/month effective their next billing cycle on or after Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023.

"This price increase of one dollar will allow us to continue to invest in providing even more culture-defining programming and improving our customer experience for all users," the company said in a statement.

While it is effective immediately for new subscribers, existing subscribers won't see it until February 11, four weeks from now.

Not news we wanted to hear, but it could have been worse, and it's only for the higher priced plan. HBO Max is still a pretty good bargain, and a service that I have in my rotation of services as a part of my Streaming Life.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Cord Cutters News is back!

I've been a fan of Cord Cutters News for some time. I was a reluctant fan at first, but I got over that quickly and became a big supporter of the Website.

Years ago, when I first decided to start writing about streaming and cutting the cord, I tried to do something like Cord Cutters News. I didn't know about Cord Cutters News, and I quickly realized how much work was involved in trying to cover all the things people wanted to know. Having a full time job made that impossible.

I tried to create a how-to Website, and quickly realized how much better others did that.

Finally, I realized that I was facing an uphill battle, and decided to simply share my thoughts and feelings about cutting the cord, so here we are.

Cord Cutters News became a regular place to visit, as they covered things very well. Then, around two years ago, things changed. Luke Bouma sold the Website and others took it over. They did a good job. For a while.

Philp Palermo was the face of the Website and YouTube project for a while, but last year, things changed. Those changes were not Mr. Palermo's fault. Family issues, including a seriously ill family member, caused Mr. Palermo to focus on those things and not some silly Website.

The other staff at Cord Cutters News carried the ball for a while, but it was a losing battle. And that was a very unfortunate thing for the Website and YouTube channel.

Now, Luke is back, and running things at Cord Cutters News.

[YouTube link]

I'm glad to see Luke back. I hate the circumstances that led to that, and wish Mr. Palermo's family the best during these trying times.

If you've missed Cord Cutters News, know that it's back. Reading it has been a part of my Streaming Life for some time, and I'm glad it's back to doing what it does best.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Xumo app is now Xumo Play, and I don't like it

Xumo is the new name of the joint venture between Comcast (Xfinity) and Charter (Spectrum), with a little Walmart thrown in. And prior to this week, it was the name of the free ad-supported television (FAST) service that Comcast owned.

With the Xumo name now applying to the project, OS, and devices, the streaming service has been rebranded as Xumo Play.

There are not a lot of changes to the app and service, apart from the new name and modified logo. There is one recent change that I really don't like, though. And I really don't like it.

When you launch the Xumo Play app, your live stream starts playing. And there is no option to stop that.

Let me first explain that Xumo Play, like the Xumo app before it, is similar to Pluto TV. The main difference in what the two apps/services do is mostly cosmetic and who owns them. Pluto TV is owned by Paramount. Xumo Play is (and has been) owned by NBCUniversal.

Previously, the Xumo app didn't autoplay. Now it does. And there is no setting to stop that.

Let me be clear that I absolutely hate autoplay and never use it. I hate it in every form it appears. I don't like content playing before I press Play. If I don't press Play, I don't want things to play.

I suppose it's there way of being helpful. It's not helpful. It's simply them forcing the playing of content on the customer so they can pad their playback stats. And those playback stats are used to justify their advertising fees.

I have no problem with autoplay being the default action of any app/service. Well, I do, but I can deal with it, as long as there is a way for me to turn it off. I prefer to play content when I want it to play, not when they decide. It's arrogant for them to decide that when I want the content to play, rude for them to not allow me to stop it, and deceitful for them to pad the playback stats in order to charge advertisers more.

The content of Xumo Play is great. The app itself is one that I will not use. I used to recommend Xumo Play as a great service, when it was simply Xumo. The rebranded service is one I'll not use until they either turn off autoplay or allow me that ability. Until they do, it's no longer a part of my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

How to shop for a TV antenna

If you are thinking about cutting the cord, or just putting up a TV antenna for any reason, it's not really a simple process.

It should be, of course. After all, that used to be the way everybody got TV signals. In the days before cable and satellite TV, that was how you got TV. People in the 1940s and 1950s could watch TV by putting up an antenna. Why can't people in the 2020s do the same thing?

Well, people can. But many people face a couple of drawbacks on this.

One, people are lazy. Technology has made so many things easy, that anything that requires work or some thought is often ignored by an easier way to accomplish the same thing. But with that convenience comes expense. To save money, you have to put in some effort. Keep reading for tips on how to accomplish this.

Two, there are more liars and cheats than there used to be. Part of that is because there are a lot more people overall. We're at 8 billion today. In 1950, there were around 2½ billion, less than ⅓ of today's total. More people, more liars and cheats.

What do liars and cheats have to do with anything? Well, they're the ones that will sell you a piece of trash for you use to watch TV. Or not watch TV, as it often turns out.

So, what's a body to do? Well, one good thing would be to find a reputable source for information. I'm not claiming to be one that can answer all your questions, but I can point you in the right direction.

Let me tell you about Tablo. That's an over the air DVR system that only works properly if you have a good antenna. If your antenna is trash, their system doesn't work worth a darn. They want you to watch TV using their equipment. Part of that is having a good antenna.

Here's the secret: you don't need to purchase a Tablo in order to get good information about TV antennae. Tablo regularly posts tips on finding a good antenna. They put out a good article around three years ago that covered shopping for a TV antenna. Actually, about how to NOT shop for an antenna. It's good information:

  1. DON'T Just Buy the First TV Antenna You Saw Advertised
  2. DON'T Just Buy the Same TV Antenna Your Brother/Cousin/Coworker Bought
  3. DON'T Just Ask for a Basic Recommendation
  4. DON'T Just Google 'Best TV Antenna'
  5. DON'T Just Search for 'TV Antenna' on Amazon

Those are actually the titles of sections of a large article, and they give the reasons they make those suggestions. They're good suggestions. And they list three different antenna manufacturers that make quality antennae and provide good online tools to research things.

Let me offer you two reasons -- well, two versions of the same reason -- that you need to do some research.

A good friend lives a few miles away from me -- different county, in fact -- and she has a difficult time picking up TV signals. Simply getting the same antenna I got wouldn't work for her. Her setup, based on her location and terrain, would mean she would need a much higher antenna. Even then, she wouldn't pick up the same stations I get.

My mother's residence is only a couple of miles from mine, but even at that close distance, terrain means reception at her house is than reception at my house.

It's a little bit of work to find the right antenna, but the savings could really add up to make it worthwhile. I'm glad I did it. It's made my Streaming Life so much easier.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Watching the college football national championship game

There are 42 college bowl games and playoff games this year. The bowl season kicked off December 16 and concludes with the national championship game tonight. In all, 82 schools have played games this post-season.

Streamers college football is a lot easier than it used to be -- legally that is -- and today you have many options options when it comes to watching the bowl games.

January 9, 2023

The national championship game is tonight. Top ranked Georgia and 3rd ranked Texas Christian are the two teams left in the playoffs and battle for the crown tonight.

Georgia claims three national championships, although the NCAA recognizes only two of the claims. Last year, Georgia won the CFP. In 1980, Georgia was recognized by the major polls. Georgia claims 1942 as well. Te final AP poll, before the bowls, had Ohio State number one and Georgia number two. However, Georgia was the east representative in the Rose Bowl and won that game, while Ohio State didn't go to a bowl. Several other polls proclaimed Georgia as number one, and the school recognizes it. The NCAA does not.

Texas Christian claims two national championships, although the NCAA recognizes only one. In 1938, AP ranked them as number one after the season, and the Horned Frogs won the Sugar Bowl. The school also claims 1935, in which they finished 12-1 including a win the the Sugar Bowl.

Officially, this will be either Georgia's third title, or Texas Christian's second.

National Championship Game
7:30 PM on ESPN

University of Georgia (1) (14-0)
vs
Texas Christian University (13-1)

How to watch

To stream the game, you need one of the following service.

ESPN/ESPN2

  • Sling Orange, $40/month.
  • Sling Orange+Blue, $55/month.
  • Vidgo Plus, $60/month.
  • YouTube TV, $65/month.
  • Fubo TV, $70/month.
  • Hulu+Live TV, $70.
  • DirecTV Stream Entertainment, $70/month.

If watching the college football national championship is something you want in your Streaming Life, you have plenty of options.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Is an iPhone safe?

Recently, this video popped up in my suggested list, and I watched it. It's pretty informative.

If you're an Apple hater, you won't like it. If you're an Apple lover, you won't like it. Although you won't hate it as much as Apple haters hate it.

[YouTube link]

This has given me something to think about. I hope you learned something as well.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Xumo TVs announced

Comcast and Charter -- meaning Xfinity and Spectrum -- are going big into they Xumo partnership with a recent announcement. The two companies recently said that Element Electronics would build the new Xumo TVs, which will run on Comcast's global technology platform.

That means that the operating system that powers the Xfinity cable boxes, and the Flex TV streaming boxes, will be the operating system for the new lineup of TVs.

Walmart is involved in the mix, but the recent announcement did not mention the retail giant. Some may be under the impression that Element makes Walmart's ONN brand of TVs, but that's not the case, although Element does handle warranty repair for ONN brand TVs.

The announcement said that the TVs would hit the market before end of the year.

Element Xumo TVs will be built on and powered by Comcast’s flexible and scalable global technology platform, which currently powers tens of millions of entertainment devices. The smart TVs will join a growing portfolio of products soon to be made available under the new Xumo brand, including XClass TV and Flex, a 4K streaming device Xfinity offers to its broadband customers.

Element Xumo TVs will launch in select U.S. retail locations in a range of sizes and price points later in 2023.

I expect Walmart will be one of the "select U.S. retail locations" because of the earlier announcement that Walmart was a part of all this, but the way the press release was worded indicates other places than just Walmart would be selling them. My guess is that Best Buy, and any other place that sells Element TVs would be included in that.

My biggest -- well not exactly point of contention, but you'll get what I mean -- is that the "global technology platform" is the basis for this. I've used it. At least, I've used Comcast cable boxes at family residences, and the Flex TV streaming boxes, since I have one.

How did I like it? Well, my Flex TV device is in its box in a drawer. I don't like it. And I don't think I'll like it as a smart TV platform. But, I'm willing to be wrong.

To me, anything that offers more options to people is generally good. And maybe Comcast is going to improve the interface. But I won't be running out and buying one, at least nor before I get a good look at it. It's unlikely to be a part of my Streaming Life, though it may be just familiar enough to some people to make this successful.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Rotating services

Glancing around some Websites in the streaming world, I have seen a few articles that mention canceling certain services this month. There are a couple of reasons for this, and these are reasons that many don't think is all that important.

More and more Websites that promote or support streaming will mention what's coming to certain services or leaving certain services during a particular month. This may bear some explanation to those that aren't as familiar with what's going on.

Services such as Netflix or Disney+ (and most all others) don't always create their own content. They'll reach licensing agreements with content creators who actually own the rights to the show. The agreements will allow the services to carry certain content for a particular period of time. Sometimes, it's an exclusive agreement, meaning that only one service has the content, and the other services are out of luck. Sometimes, the content is shared across multiple platforms.

After the license agreement is up, the content will either be renewed or an agreement with a different service will be reached. Or, if the content turns out to be not very popular, then it simply won't be available anywhere.

What some viewers don't understand is that just because that particular viewer may enjoy a show, often not enough enjoy the show to justify the expense of continuing to carry it, at least not enough justification for a particular service.

So, content moves around. And many Websites will post articles about whats new to this service or leaving that service. And for the streamer that's looking to save money, that's important information to have.

The most cost-effective way of streaming is to only subscribe to a few services. Well, that's the second most cost effective way. The most is to subscribe to nothing. There is plenty of free content out there, and for some, that's enough. They are willing to wait until a free ad-supported television (FAST) service picks up certain content to wait. That usually takes longer, but if the wait is worth the savings, then that's a good decision for them.

For others, they don't want to wait, so they subscribe to services. This is me, to a degree. I subscribe to one service. Which one? All of them. Just one at a time.

I rotate around services. This month, it might be Paramount+. Next month, it might be Disney+. The following it might be HBO Max. The next, Netflix. And so on.

That seems like a lot of work, but it isn't. I subscribe when I want to watch something, then set a calendar reminder to cancel at a later date. During that 30 day period of time, I watch all I want on that service. Then, during the next cycle, based on what the services are carrying or what I want to catch up on, I'll subscribe to something else.

I get to watch all I want, and only pay for one service at a time. It's really easy, and not a lot of work. It is a lot of savings.

How much savings? Well, add up all the subscription services you use, and see what the total is. Now, compare that to any one of those services. See the difference. Now, spread that out over a year. If you have six services, for example, and you subscribed to only one a month, you'd be able to watch the same content over a year for 1/6 of the amount of money in a year. That's a chunk of change.

These Websites that tell what is coming and going to the various services are useful. And they can help you save money in your Streaming Life, if you take just a little bit of time and rotate your subscriptions.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Roku TV, for real

Over the years, there have been different iterations of Roku TVs.

Ten years ago, there were Roku Ready TVs, which were TVs with an MHL port. If you don't know about MHL ports, they are variations of HDMI that include more power, and worked with Roku Sticks model 3400. You could buy the TVs that essentially had sticks installed. Some had the sticks visible, and some had the sticks behind the rear panel, hidden from view.

Roku later licensed their software to TV manufacturers to build TVs branded as Roku TVs. That's the current situation. But it's not the future situation.

Roku recently announced a new line of Roku TVs, that Roku itself will make.

A smart TV made by Roku just makes sense. When we combine our streaming leadership with our hardware expertise, it progresses the overarching ambition to innovate across the TV experience, benefiting all streamers with a Roku TV.

Available in 11 models ranging from 24” to 75”, the new Roku Select and Plus Series TVs will focus on the features that streamers have come to love, including access to free live TV, news, and sports, plus fan-favorite features like Find My Remote and Private Listening. All Select Series TVs include the Roku Voice Remote with push-to-talk controls, and all Plus Series TVs include the Roku Voice Remote Pro featuring hands-free voice commands. Additionally, the all-new Roku TV Wireless Soundbar offers simple and wire-free home theater setup.

I don't know if the third-party Roku TVs will remain. I've not been particularly fond of the Roku TVs I've used. I've never purchased one, but I've used one -- or more than one -- and they're okay, but just okay.

I also don't know if I'll purchase a Roku TV Select or Plus series TV (the ones Roku will make), since I don't need a TV. But I am looking forward to getting my hands on one. It's won't be a part of my Streaming Life any time soon. But I'm not opposed to it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Revisitng Netflix ad-supported service

Back in November, I tried Netflix with Ads. It went well.

I was very happy with the service, as I everything I watched played without issue, and the ads were inserted in a odd, thoughtful way. That is to say, at breaks in the action, and not in the middle of a scene or sentence as some services have done.

Netflix did ads right.

I recommended it as a cheaper alternative to regular Netflix Basic. However, I didn't realize that my testing was incomplete.

Some Netflix content, including some original content, is not available on the ad-supported version. I didn't run across this in my testing, but it came to my attention recently.

So, I subscribed for another month, and sure enough, some content was not available. Once I knew what content specifically to look for, I found that to be the case.

That means I take back my recommendation. Well, kinda. I still suggest Netflix with Ads as a cheaper alternative, because, like me, you may not have any unsupported content that you want to watch. But, if you do, it's easy enough to switch to the Basic plan, then switch back. Yes, there will be a little bit of a cost involved, or at least, a delay in switching back, but that strategy can save you some money.

When I do Netflix, I'll do the ad supported version, then upgrade to the Basic plan if there is content I want to watch that requires it. I'm no aware of what I need to do.

That may be too much work for some people, but it's really not too much for me. I don't mind doing a few extra steps once a month in order to save some money in my Streaming Life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Fubo to add Bally Sports networks

Somehow, during Christmas, New Year's, and bowl season, I missed a pretty big announcement. Fubo TV is adding Bally Sports networks to its lineup.

You may recall that many live streaming services carries Fox Sport networks. Fox and some carriers didn't renew agreement, and Fox eventually sold off their regional sports networks (RSNs), which were rebranded as Bally Sports networks.

For a while, DirecTV Stream -- and all its earlier names, such as AT&T TV Now, DirecTV Now, and others -- has been the only way to get Bally Sports. Bally did launch a direct to consumer service, but only five of the RSNs go so far as to carry major league baseball, though others expected to join.

During the latter part of December, Bally and Fubo TV announced that they had an agreement to carry Bally Sports RSNs on the streaming service. This is a big deal, as Fubo hasn't carried Bally Sports, or actually its predecessor Fox Sports, in three years. But that will change soon:

While a firm date is not yet known, Bally Sports Networks will be available in the coming weeks. We will update this page when a confirmed date is available.

If you are in a region eligible to receive Bally Sports Network programming, you will not need to make changes to your subscription. The channel will automatically be added to your Fubo TV Pro, Elite, or Ultimate English channel package.

Note that the $70 Pro plan is part of the deal. Unlike DirecTV Stream, Fubo will carry the Balls RSNs on all plans. With DirecTV Stream, you have to get the $90 or higher plan for the RSNs.

Fubo has promoted itself as THE place for sports, but missing the RSNs has been a huge gap in programming. The deal with Bally Sports makes Fubo more of what they claim to be, and possibly an important part of your Streaming Life.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Watching the bowl games, Day 15

There are 42 college bowl games and playoff games this year. The bowl season kicked off December 16 and concludes with the national championship game on January 9. In all, 82 schools will be playing games this post-season.

Streamers college football is a lot easier than it used to be -- legally that is -- and today you have many options options when it comes to watching the bowl games.

January 2, 2023

Four games are scheduled today. Two are between two ranked teams, and two games involve one ranked team.

ReliaQuest Bowl
12:00 PM on ESPN 2

Mississippi State University for Agriculture and Applied Science (22) (8-4)
vs
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (8-4)

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
1:00 PM on ESPN

Tulane University of Louisiana (16) (11-2)
vs
University of Southern California (10) (11-2)

Cheez-It Citrus Bowl
1:00 PM on ABC

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College (17) (9-4)
vs
Purdue University (8-5)

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential
5:00 PM on ESPN

Pennsylvania State University (11) (19-2)
vs
University of Utah (8) (10-3)

How to watch

To stream the gameS, you need one of the following service.

ABC

  • Antenna, over the air, free.
  • Vidgo Plus, $60/month.
  • YouTube TV, $65/month.
  • Fubo TV, $70/month.
  • Hulu+Live TV, $70/month.
  • DirecTV Stream Entertainment, $70/month.

ESPN/ESPN2

  • Sling Orange, $40/month.
  • Sling Orange+Blue, $55/month.
  • Vidgo Plus, $60/month.
  • YouTube TV, $65/month.
  • Fubo TV, $70/month.
  • Hulu+Live TV, $70/month.
  • DirecTV Stream Entertainment, $70/month.

If watching college football bowl games is something you want in your Streaming Life, you have plenty of options.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

It's 2023

Are you a streamer?

I don't know the answer to that question, but it's either yes or no. Even then, it's not quite that simple.

If you aren't a streamer, then you aren't taking full advantage of the technology available to you. But, that may not be a bad thing. Using technology simply for the sake of using it shouldn't be a thing. You should use the technology only if it makes it a better situation overall.

If you still have cable, and if that works for you, then you're happy. You'll have to deal with people like me suggesting you switch to streaming, but we're really telling you what works for us. Some of us -- not me -- insist that you change because they can't imagine that any way other than the way they do it can be right.

Me? No, I'm not going to insist you change. I will tell you that I'm happy with my change. It was 12 years ago this month that I dropped cable, and I've never regretted it. But, that may not be the way for you to do.

However, if you've wondered about it, considered it, but weren't sure how to start, or check it out to see if it's what you might want, today is as good a day as any to try it.

On the other hand, any other day is just as good. There's nothing special about January 1. Yes, it's a new year, and that represents a new beginning, a starting over, and all kinds of things. But all those things can be done any time.

If you choose to pick today, or this week, or just 2023 in general, as a beginning of a Streaming Life, then you may find it to be quite satisfying. I have.

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