Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter (2024)

Luke 24:1-9

  1. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
  2. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
  3. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
  4. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
  5. And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
  6. He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
  7. Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
  8. And they remembered his words,
  9. And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Phone network privacy

Sometimes on weekends, we take a moment to look at security or privacy (or both). It doesn't always relate to streaming, at least not directly. But with so much data collection and people using and selling your data, which can include online advertisements, including streaming, I feel it's worth doing from time to time.

Today, we're going to look at a video from Rob Braxman about phone network privacy. Or lack of privacy.


We make decisions and compromises regarding privacy and security every day. Sometimes, without knowing. It's good to know. My Streaming Life isn't fully private or secure, due to the nature of Roku, Amazon, Google, Apple, and others. But at least I'm more knowlegeable about such things than I used to be. It's good to understand just what the situation is, even if I don't always like it.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Streaming local channels (well, some of them)

I'm fortunate in that I have an antenna to watch local channels. Not everyone is in such a situation. I wasn't, for a while, and it cost me a bit to get where I could.

I bought an antenna, pole, and paid to have it put up. Then bought Tablo to make the channels available on all my TVs. Altogether, it cost a few hundred dollars. But there has to be a cheaper way, right?

Well, there is. Maybe. Kinda.

Of the vMVPD services that carry locals -- YouTube TV, Sling TV (limited markets), Hulu+Live TV, DirecTV Stream, Fubo -- the cheapest that carries them in all markets is $73 YouTube TV. But can't it be obtained cheaper?

No. But maybe.

If you only want CBS, you can subscribe to Paramount Plus for $12/month. You'll get your local CBS station live.

If you only want NBC, you can subscribe to Peacock for $12/month. You'll get your local NBC station live.

So, for $24/month you can get CBS and NBC, Plus a lot of other content. That's not bad. But what about ABC and Fox?

There is no comparable option for those channels live. If you are willing to get them on-demand -- think of it as if you always used a DVR for those channels and never watched live -- and are only concerned about prime time shows, then you have an option with Hulu, for $8/month.

That means $32/month gets you two local channels and two other prime time channels. Not exactly what you get from, say, YouTube TV, but not too bad.

Of course, if you can get locals with an antenna, do that. It's a lot cheaper in the long run, especially if you live close enough to get them with an indoor antenna. My Streaming Life enjoys local channels with an antenna. But, if that wasn't an option, Paramount Plus, Peacock TV, and Hulu would get me close enough for my purposes.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

MLB still doesn't want my money

In the 22 years since MLB TV launched (yes, it launched in 2002), Major League Baseball has continued to black out games to fans willing to pay good money to watch them.

Even if I don't start counting until I started streaming full time, it's still been over 13 years that MLB doesn't want my money.

I enjoy watching baseball games, and would love to watch the Braves play ball this year. The season starts today, but, as it's been every year since I dropped cable, I can't watch Braves games live. Major League Baseball blacks out the Braves in my town, even though we're over four hours (and nearly 250 miles) away from the stadium.

The usual explanation is that the rights are part of contracts with sports networks. And while it is true that the blackouts are part of the contracts, those contracts aren't 22 years long. They aren't 13 years long. The contracts have expired but been renewed with the restrictions still in place. MLB has kept it. It's not that they are prevented by contract, it's that they chose to have contracts like that. MLB is to blame, not the regional sports networks.

I'd like to stream baseball, but it won't happen this year. Maybe in the future, but I'm not holding my breath. My Streaming Life would be better if there was baseball, but I've done without it for all these years. Until they lift the blackouts for streamers, I'll continue to miss the games on TV. But I got radio, so I can still enjoy the games.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Most popular paid live streaming services

I'll say up front that I don't normally use a paid live TV streaming service. At least, I thought I didn't. Turns out I do.

Recently, a survey by Cord Cutters News revealed that by far, YouTube TV is the paid live TV streaming service that most respondents use, with all the others far behind.

YouTube TV, according to our survey, has more subscribers than Sling TV, Hulu, Philo, and Frndly TV combined.

Here is a breakdown of the live TV streaming services results according to our readers.

  • YouTube TV 27.4%
  • Sling TV 8.7%
  • Hulu with Live TV 7.5%
  • Philo 6.5%
  • Frndly 2.9%
  • Fubo 2.9%

Clearly, YouTube TV is connecting with cord cutters in a way that is helping it stand out. Yet many cord cutters do not subscribe to a live TV streaming service. According to our survey, 41.7% of our readers do not pay for one, which is a slight increase compared to the same period in the fall 2023. This lines up with what the Leichtman Research Group found: almost 7 million Americans canceled a satellite or cable TV service in 2023 but only 1.9 million switched to a live TV streaming service.

Of that number of new subscribers to a live TV streaming service, the majority picked YouTube TV. YouTube TV added 1.9 million subscribers in 2023. Hulu + Live TV added 100,000 and Fubo only added 173,000 subscribers. Sling TV lost subscribers in 2023.

Those services, called vMVPD (virtual multichannel video programming distributors), are essentially streaming cable platforms. I don't use them. Except, I do.

I subscribe to Frndly TV, but it's not exactly the same as YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu+Live TV, or DirecTV streaming. Those have local channels -- Sling has some local channels in some markets, while the others have all the major local channels -- while Frndly and Philo do not. But, in reality, Frndly and Philo are otherwise just like those services, except missing local channels, major news services, and major sports networks.

My Streaming Life doesn't use the big services except during college football season. I like Frndly TV because of its family friendly content. But, if  you are a fan of YouTube TV, you are not alone. Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

How many pay services?

A recent poll indicates that most streamers use four or fewer paid streaming services.

That's surprising to me because I was under the impression that most streamers subscribed to a lot of services. That was true at one time, but it has dropped to a smaller number faster than I thought it would.

The poll, conducted by Cord Cutters News, says that nearly 2/3 of streamers use four or fewer services:

According to our readers, 63.3% pay for four or fewer streaming services, 47.3% pay for three or fewer streaming services, and 27.3% pay for two or fewer streaming services.

While most cord cutters still pay for four or fewer streaming services, the number of cord cutters paying for five or more is up slightly since October 2023. Last October 66.2% of cord cutters paid for four or fewer services. Now that number is down to 63.3%. Part of that number may be the growth of sports across multiple streaming services like the NFL airing a playoff game exclusively on Peacock back in January.

So, what would four streaming services cost every month for the average cord cutter? (Why with ads? Because cable TV has ads.)

  • Disney+ $7.99 with ads.
  • Paramount+ $5.99 with ads.
  • Discovery+ $4.99 with ads.
  • Netflix $6.99 with ads.

Total Cost: $25.96 a month.

I use two services  myself. The only one of those four I use is Paramount Plus, and I don't really pay for it, as it comes with Walmart Plus. I'm not counting that.

I have Prime Video, but that's only because I pay for Amazon Prime for shipping benefits. I rarely watch anything from Prime Video.

I don't pay for Peacock, as it's included with my Xfinity Rewards.

I do pay for Frndly TV ($9/month). I also pay for Pub-D-Hub ($6/year, works out to 50¢/month).

And, right now, that's it. For under $10/month, I have all the pay services I want. The other pay services I have are free. If you counted Prime Video, I would still pay less than the poll indicates, so I would still feel I'm doing well.

My Streaming Life doesn't include a lot of pay services. I'm able to watch what I want with little expense. I like it that way.

Monday, March 25, 2024

The top free streaming services

Recently, Tom's Guide had a list of their top free streaming services for Roku. Using Roku's naming convention, they called it "The best free channels on Roku."

Most of the items on the list are correct, in my opinion. But, I'm not agreeing with the entire list.

The list is of eight services:

  1. The Roku Channel
  2. Tubi
  3. Pluto TV
  4. Crackle
  5. Newsy
  6. PBS Kids
  7. TED
  8. The Bob Ross Channel

I don’t really have a problem with any of their items. The items in positions 1-3 would be on my list as well. I will say that I consider Xumo Play is more deserving than Crackle, but I'd probably have Crackle in my top ten. Maybe top eight.

I agree with PBS Kids being on my top ten/eight.

The CW -- the app now just says "CW," having dropped the "The" -- should be on the list as well. It has all of the CW network shows available on demand, including current season shows.

My list would also include Hoopla or Kanopy, both which provide free content provided by your local public library. Well, if your library has an agreement with one of the services.

I would also put one of my favorites, Pub-D-Hub, to the list. The service does have a paid service, but it's really cheap, less than $5/year. Yes, per year. Even the free version has a lot of good content.

Oh, and YouTube. That's always a good service to have.

There are other services that would apply to Fire TV devices, and others that would apply to Google TV devices. While the Tom's Guide list, and my alternative entries, are focused on Roku, they are not Roku specific. This list applies across platforms.

My Streaming Life has used more free streaming services over the last few years. To my mind, that's the way to go.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Google Docs

First, understand that I do have my issues with Google. Of course, I have my issues with Microsoft, Apple, and most every large technology company. Since they all have issues, I deal with them as best as I can, and use the features that I like the best, provided the irritation isn't too much.

I've used Microsoft Word for many years, but have grown tired of how much it cost over time. In recent years, I've used Open Office, LibreOffice, and Only Office apps, but I've also used Google Docs. And that's the topic of the video I want to share today, from Explaining Computers:


Yes, I understand the issues with relying on Google, because of privacy issues. But, it's cheaper than Microsoft Word, and Microsoft 365 is no better, and im my opion, worse in regards to privacy, and definitely worse in regards of security.

My Streaming Life involves using several Google services in the creation of this blog. And while I do have some concerns about Google, they're not the worst of the lot. And there is some benefit from them.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

So, $40 for the new sports only streaming service?

Rumors are that the new streaming service from ESPN, Fox, and Warner Discovery will run around $40/month.

That's a lot of money, in my opinion. But where are those rumors coming from. Well, USA Today reports the expectation is around $40, if not more:

... [former Fox Sports Networks president Bob] Thompson predicted it could cost more than $40 per month.

The math would have work for three companies that are paying huge fees to sports leagues for the rights to show this content. For example, ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and Amazon are scheduled to pay the NFL more than $100 billion combined through 2033 for rights to broadcast NFL games on their networks.

It would also have to take into account how the introduction of this streaming service will spur more viewers to ditch cable television – which has been a huge source of revenue for companies such as ESPN, the most expensive channel on cable television.

Variety says it could run more than $40:

But if you add up the distribution fees for ABC, Fox, ESPN and the other cable networks, it suggests the bundle will have to carry a retail price of at least $50 per month, according to Morgan Stanley’s Ben Swinburne.

Will I pay that much? Probably not, especially since Sling TV includes ESPN and is $40.

Whatever happens, I wouldn't use it year round. I only subscribe to a sports package during college football season, and even then, it's not continuous. I'll subscribe on a Saturday for 30 days, which covers 5 Saturdays. I'll cancel, and save the days in between, subscribing the following Saturday for another 30 days. Three times covers 15 weekends, which is the full season. Once more covers bowls, and then I'm done until the next season.

I may try it when it comes out, but not until college football season. My Streaming Life doesn't include year round sports. It certainly doesn't need a sports service that expensive.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Streaming and traveling

One thing I used to do was take a streaming device with me when I traveled. I don't do that any more, and I'll get into why I don't later. Bur I used to carry one in my travel bag. If you want a streamer to carry, you need to keep a few things in mind.

First, never attempt to set up the device while traveling. Set it up ahead of time. Test it at home. Make sure it has the apps you want and it can connect to the Internet.

Next, consider that some wireless network for travelers have a splash screen for when you join the network. Some devices don't play well with those. Roku used to be notorious for this, mostly because most people use Roku. For the most part, they have resolved that issue.

For Fire TV, the option is pretty easy, and it's not that hard for Chromecast/Google TV devices, according to Cord Cutters News:

On Fire TV devices, the process might be easier. Head to Settings, and then Network to set up a new WiFi connection. You should see the captive portal web page on your TV screen, where you can log in and start streaming.

For the Chromecast with Google TV, you might need to download the Google Home app to connect your device to the hotel or dorm WiFi.

I've not used Fire TV nor Google TV when traveling, but I understand from others that Fire TV is easy to use.

Note that I've not mentioned Apple TV. There are two reasons. First, I've not found instructions on how to use it, and second, I think sticks and dongles are the better form factor when traveling, and there is no Apple TV stick.

And that is another thing: use a stick for travel. They are smaller, more compact, and easier to use. And don't forget the remote! It's nearly impossible to use a stick without a remote when traveling.

Another recommendation is that you have a device designated for travel. Don't unplug the one from your TV and take with you. Things happen when you travel. Luggage gets lost. Things get broken when plugging them in and unplugging them so much. Think of a travel streaming device as disposable, because if something goes wrong, it is.

My final thought is what I mentioned earlier. I used to take a device with me. I don't any more. I have mobile devices, such as phones and tablets -- and laptops, for that matter -- that are designed for travel, and that can be accessed any time if I need something. But one thing I never do is turn on the TV when I'm traveling. I'm traveling for a reason. It's not to watch TV. I can do that at home.

If there is something going on in the world, I can get the gist of it from network news from the TV service they have at the hotel. But I rarely turn on a TV when traveling. My Streaming Life is important to me. But my real life is more important. They are not the same.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Roku rules

A recent survey reveals that Roku is still king of the streaming devices, and by a pretty hefty margin.

Cord Cutters News says that Roku accounts for 62% of all devices streamers use:

In our survey, we asked our readers to list all the devices they use to stream their content. (Adding the numbers up won’t add up to 100%, as many people use multiple types of devices.) According to our readers, 62% use a Roku, 36% use a smart TV, and 32% use a Fire TV.

In fourth place were laptops and PCs at 25%. In fifth place was the Apple TV with 20% of the market, and in sixth place was Chromecast—all versions—at 15%.

The biggest loser were gaming systems. Only 4.7% of cord cutters use a gaming system to stream their favorite shows. This is down from 10.5% in 2019.

My Streaming Life has used Roku since 2010. A lot of upgrades and improvements to Roku have happened since then, and this survey indicates the improvements have helped Roku keep its lead.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Another data breach: AT&T?

There is a new report of a data breach, and the company that is said to be involved says they were not hacked.

Bleeping Computer said AT&T data was stolen, and report AT&T says it wasn't stolen from them:

AT&T says a massive trove of data impacting 71 million people did not originate from its systems after a hacker leaked it on a cybercrime forum and claimed it was stolen in a 2021 breach of the company.

While BleepingComputer has not been able to confirm the legitimacy of all the data in the database, we have confirmed some of the entries are accurate, including those whose data is not publicly accessible for scraping.

The data is from an alleged 2021 AT&T data breach that a threat actor known as ShinyHunters attempted to sell on the RaidForums data theft forum for a starting price of $200,000 and incremental offers of $30,000. The hacker stated they would sell it immediately for $1 million.

AT&T told BleepingComputer then that the data did not originate from them and that its systems were not breached.

It'll be interesting to see how this latest data breach plays out. My Streaming Life doesn't involve AT&T, but I do have an account with them. I'm checking to see if I was impacted as well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Watching March Madness

College basketball has reached the end of the season, and now the playoffs begin. The 68-team tournament starts today, with so-called "play in" games.

This is the part of the season that even the casual fans will go crazy about. A lot of people watch the NCAA tournament. And, if you're a streamer, how do you watch it?

The games are being broadcast on several networks during the next few weeks:

  • CBS
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • truTV

Here is how to watch the channels if you are a streamer:


  • Antenna (free)
  • Paramount Plus (Premium) ($12/month)
  • YouTube TV ($73/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($77/month)
  • Fubo (Pro) ($80/month)
  • DirecTV (Entertainment) ($85/month)


  • Max (with Ads) ($10/month)
  • Max (Ad free) ($16/month)
  • Sling TV (Blue) ($40/month)
  • Sling TV (Orange) ($40/month)
  • Sling TV (Orange+Blue) ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($73/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($77/month)
  • DirecTV (Entertainment) ($85/month)


  • Max (with Ads) ($10/month)
  • Max (Ad free) ($16/month)
  • Sling TV (Blue) ($40/month)
  • Sling TV (Orange) ($40/month)
  • Sling TV (Orange+Blue) ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($73/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($77/month)
  • DirecTV (Entertainment) ($85/month)


  • Max (with Ads) ($10/month)
  • Max (Ad free) ($16/month)
  • Sling TV (Blue) ($40/month)
  • Sling TV (Orange) ($40/month)
  • Sling TV (Orange+Blue) ($55/month)
  • YouTube TV ($73/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($77/month)
  • DirecTV (Entertainment) ($85/month)

The cheapest way to watch all the games is to combine subscriptions of Paramount Plus and Max, which will run $22/month.

Oh, there is a March Madness Live app from the NCAA, but it authenticates against one of the services listed above. The app by itself doesn't get you the content, much like the ESPN app doesn't get you college football unless you authenticate against your ESPN provider. And even with the March Madness Live app, you still don't get the games on CBS.

The play in games start today on truTV, and continue throughout the month, and into April, with the Final Four on TBS. My Streaming Life doesn't involve much basketball at all. But a lot of people enjoy this. If this describes you, then you have ways to watch the games.

Monday, March 18, 2024

I still haven't accepted the new Roku dispute terms

Recently, Roku updated their dispute resolution terms, and it's caused some controversy. Not the actual terms, which seem okay for most people, but the way they went about it.

Tyler the Antenna Man had some thoughts on it.


I would throw in that there are cheaper ways to go Android or Google TV (almost, but not quite the same thing), such as Google's Chromecast or Walmart's Onn Streaming Box.

But, about the Roku terms ...

I've still not accepted the new terms. My Roku devices have been useless since the update came. But, how long will I leave things that way? Well, I don't know. I'll probably accept them soon. I don't know if I'll send a letter opting out, but I might just to be difficult. Or not.

When I'll accept the terms is unknown. Maybe later today. Maybe never. Probably soon though.

My Streaming Life has used Roku for years, but lately has been using Google TV (primarily Chromecast). I'm very unhappy with the latest Roku move, but I'll get over it. Eventually.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Project Grandson

Lately, I've been working with one of my grandsons on Raspberry Pi projects.

A while back, he heard about the Raspberry Pi and asked me a bunch of questions. After several conversations and discussion, he said he wanted a Raspberry Pi to do products. So, I got him one.

It went used for a bit -- it seems that things go this way with grandchildren a lot -- because he didn't really have a place to do projects, but that changed recently. He had a workspace and can do his projects in his room.

The first project was simply putting together a computer. I got him a keyboard and mouse (official Raspberry Pi versions, though any will work), and a monitor, then we set to work.

He did all the work himself. I was with him, explaining things, but he did the actual work. I put none of the parts of the kit together. I would pick the various piece up and show him, and he'd ask questions, as most 8 year old children will, but he did the actual physical labor.

The first session ended with his  putting together a Raspberry Pi personal computer. So now he has a computer in his room, and is excited about that.

He's young enough that he's not bothered by it nor running Windows, Mac, or ChromeOS, which are the operating systems he's familiar with, from family members. The Raspberry Pi OS (nee Raspbian) is a version of Linux based on Debian, one of the most popular Linux distribution.

On the next session, he learn about sending commands from one device to another. He was fascinated. Next is learning certain programming commands (Python programming language).

It's going to be a fun, exciting, and rewarding learning experience for both of us. My Streaming Life takes a back seat to more important things. This will be fun, and important.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

How often should you replace your streaming device?

Recently, Tablo Blog had a Q&A where they answered a question about the life of a streaming device. The answer they gave is pretty much on target.

Here was the question:

Our smart TV is only five years old, but it seems to be quite slow compared to the newer Fire TV stick we use on our "dumb TV" in the basement. Do I need to replace my TVs more often now that they're "smart?"

Of course, the answer is no. But Tablo did a good job in explaining why:

In general, you should plan to replace your streaming TV devices every 5 years. This will ensure that your streaming sticks and boxes get regular updates and have enough memory and horsepower to run your favorite streaming TV apps, including Tablo.

However, when it comes to smart TVs, there’s no need to spend several hundred dollars or more and create that much e-waste just to enjoy a more responsive streaming experience.

Instead of tossing your entire smart TV, it’s much easier and more affordable to pick up a top-of-the-line Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Android TV streaming stick or box and connect it to the HDMI port on your older smart TV.

This will allow you to bypass the built-in smarts on your TV and use the younger, faster 'brain' of the streaming device. It doesn’t even have to be the same platform! If you have a Roku smart TV you can use a Chromecast with Google TV, or if you have an Amazon Fire smart TV you can use a Roku.

I would add Apple TV to the mix as well. And I've run into this situation myself. I used a family member's old Roku TV for a period of time, and it was extremely sluggish. I added a Roku Stick and just used it. Essentially, I used the Roku TV as a TV only, and put a Roku on it.

I have Roku and Fire TV devices on a Sony Google TV. That's not necessary, but it's just what I do. I think everyone should find a platform they like and put that on every TV. For example, if someone likes Roku, and have a Roku TV in the living room, but a Fire TV television in the bedroom, I would always suggest they add a Roku to the Fire TV device. That way, they have a consistent experience in every room.

No, that's not necessary, but is is a good idea to me.

My Streaming Life has used several platforms over the years. I've replaced devices on average of about 5 years, except for Fire TV. They usually don't last that long. But, in general, plan to replace it every five years.

Friday, March 15, 2024

No, you don't really need a live streaming package. Probably.

Nearly three years ago, I asked the question: Do you really need a live streaming package?

I spent a long time not really answering the question. What I eventually said was "if you want one, get one." And that really doesn't answer the question.

Of course, it's true that if you want one, you can get one. But, do you really need one? No.

In the last three years, free live streaming services have expanded, so you have a lot more options. But the question is really about cable-like services, such as YouTube TV, Hulu+Live TV, Sling TV, Fubo, Vidgo, and the like.

If you want cable, but watch it streaming, then those services will give you that. They are simply streaming versions of cable TV. They have much the same content as cable: live TV (well, not so much with Vidgo, and even less with Sling), and the major cable channels.

But, if you want the same type of programming that you get on cable, you don't really need a pay TV service such as those streaming packages.

Pluto TV, Tubi, Roku Channel, Plex, Crackle, Sling Freestream, as well as platform specific options such as Live TV from Fire TV and Google TV devices, offer much of the same type of content as a pay TV streaming service.

Note that I say ":same type of content" rather than "same content." To explain what I mean, let's first look at the top cable channels of 2023.

  1. NBC
  2. CBS
  3. ABC
  4. Fox
  5. Fox News
  6. ESPN
  7. Univision
  8. MSNBC
  9. Ion
  10. HGTV
  11. TNT
  12. Hallmark Channel
  13. Telemundo
  14. TBS
  15. History
  16. TLC
  17. INSP
  18. Discovery Channel
  19. USA Network
  20. Food Network

The first four are the major broadcast networks. I'll skip those, at least for now. I'm looking at the major FAST (Free Ad Supported Television) services:

  • Pluto TV
  • Tubi
  • Xumo Play
  • Freestream
  • Local Now
  • Roku Channel
  • Plex
  • Crackle

At 5 is Fox News, while MSNBC is 8. Those FAST services have lots of news channels. Ion (9), Hallmark (12), INSP (17), Discovery (18), and Food Network (20) have content of the type that can be found on the FAST services. In fact, apart from the broadcast networks, only ESPN with its live major sports coverage doesn't have a substitute channel on the FAST services.

If you want ESPN, then yes, you need a pay TV live streaming service. If you want the major broadcast networks, you can get an antenna, or subscribe to a live TV streaming service.

If you don't care to watch those five channels, then you can find the same type of content on a FAST service.

My Streaming Life doesn't involve a pay TV service most of the time. I do like ESPN during college football season, but the rest of the time, I don't care for that channel. I have an antenna. I don't need a pay TV live streaming service. Maybe you don't either.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Definitely more Chromecast

Nearly six months ago, three weeks into September 2023, I wrote that I was going to use more Chromecast. What I said was:

I've used all four of the major platforms, and like Roku best overall. However, some family members seem to really like Fire TV. Lately, I've used more Fire TV, but still stick with Roku when it's just me watching TV.

This has come at the expense of my familiarity with Android/Google TV and Apple TV. I'm not comfortable with that. Beginning this weekend, I'm going to start using more Android/Google TV. Chromecast will be the the primary device I use. I have Chromecast attached to all my TVs already, so it'll be a matter of setting out the Chromecast remote in place of the Roku remote.

It's now 25 weeks later, and I have used more Chromecast. I mean, I have really used more Chromecast.

Actually, I've used more than just Chromecast. I've use Walmart's Onn Streaming Box, as well as the Onn Streaming Stick, I've used the NVIDIA Shield, in addition to Chromecast.

The Walmart Onn devices and the Chromecast have the Google TV interface. The NVIDIA Shield device is Android TV, but doesn't have the Google TV interface. Similar, but not quite the same.

I said I would focus on those "for the next month or so." It's been a lot longer than that. I've used other devices, including my beloved Roku, but I have used the Google TV devices, primarily the Chromecast, as my main device.

My Streaming Life began with Roku, and it's been a part of it ever since. But I've rarely used it in the last six months. I kinda miss it. But I'm still liking Google TV in all its forms.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Roku credit card breach

When I posted yesterday about how to remove credit card information from your Roku account, I hadn't heard about the data breach.

Now, I wish I had posted it earlier. I had it ready to go a while back, but kept putting it off. I'm sorry I waited.

As far as I know, I wasn't impacted by the Roku data breach, as I've not received a notification that I understand they sent to those impacted. Maybe they just haven't gotten to me yet, but I'm guessing I wasn't actually impacted.

According to reports, some 15,000 Roku accounts were compromised. Roku has 80-million user accounts, so the number is actually a small percentage. That doesn't make it okay, just that it's unlikely I'm impacted. 

Bleeping Computer says Roku announced the breach on March 8:

On Friday, Roku first disclosed the data breach, warning that 15,363 customer accounts were hacked in a credential stuffing attack.

A credential stuffing attack is when threat actors collect credentials exposed in data breaches and then attempt to use them to log in to other sites, in this case,

The company says that once an account was breached, it allowed threat actors to change the information on the account, including passwords, email addresses, and shipping addresses.

This effectively locked a user out of the account, allowing the threat actors to make purchases using stored credit card information without the legitimate account holder receiving order confirmation emails.

"It appears likely that the same username/password combinations had been used as login information for such third-party services as well as certain individual Roku accounts," reads the data breach notice.

"As a result, unauthorized actors were able to obtain login information from third-party sources and then use it to access certain individual Roku accounts."

"After gaining access, they then changed the Roku login information for the affected individual Roku accounts, and, in a limited number of cases, attempted to purchase streaming subscriptions.

Roku says that it secured the impacted accounts and forced a password reset upon detecting the incident.

Since I can log into Roku without having to reset my password, I assume I wasn't impacted.

I don't like the way Roku has handled this. They're downplaying it, and that's not good. Any data breach is bad. If someone's account is compromised because they have an easy password, then that's not Roku's fault. But if the Roku systems were breached, that is Roku's fault, and that's inexcusable. No reputable company should experience that type of data breach.

My Streaming Life has involved Roku since 2010. The recent actions of the company have disappointed me greatly.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

How to not be billed by Roku

Do you have a Roku device? Most streamers do.

Well, maybe not "most" but certainly there are more Roku devices in use than other devices, and by a pretty decent margin.

So, if you have a Roku device, did you notice that when you set it up, it asked you for a credit card? And if you did at the time, did you forget about it?

If you have a Roku account, there's a good chance you have a credit card tied to the account. That may or may not be a good thing. Here's why.

If you have a credit card tied to your Roku, it's really easy to purchase stuff. Mostly, I'm talking subscriptions to services through Roku Pay, which is what the Roku payment service is called. Maybe you really want that. The ease of subscribing to a service is nice if all you have to do is click "Subscribe" and there it is.

One problem with having a credit card on Roku is that is someone buying something without realizing it. And yes, that happens.

Another is forgetting about a subscription, then getting billed for it again. If you subscribed through Roku, then stopped using the subscription, if you haven't canceled it, you will still get billed.

Then, there is the recent update of Terms of Service that Roku announced.

We wanted to let you know that we have made changes to our Dispute Resolution Terms, which describe how you can resolve disputes with Roku. We encourage you to read the updated Dispute Resolution Terms. By continuing to use our products or services, you are agreeing to these updated terms.

Thank you for making Roku part of your entertainment experience. 

The Roku Team

A lot of people don't like the way Roku went about the change in terms.

Anyway, if you don't want to have a card on file with Roku, then remove it. It's easy to do:

To remove your payment method and stop using Roku® Pay:

  1. Sign in to your Roku account
  2. Select Update under Payment method
  3. Select Remove payment method at the bottom of the page
  4. Select Remove

Once removed, you’ll be prompted to update your payment information the next time you make a purchase. Before your payment method can be removed, you must cancel or turn off auto-renew for any active subscriptions billed through Roku Pay.

My Streaming Life has used Roku since 2010, before I finally cut cable in 2011. I don't have a credit card on file with them. I prefer it that way.

Monday, March 11, 2024

More password crackdowns: Max

Password sharing crackdowns continue across the streaming landscape. The latest to crackdown on password sharing is the Max app, formerly HBO Max.

Reports in the last week talk about this new attack on password sharing.

Of course, you're going to know what I say, if you've seen my earlier posts on other companies who have done this: "Eh."

If the rules are you can't share passwords, then you can't share passwords. Most of the complaints are from people who are freeloading on family members, either with or without permission. But their complaints haven't stopped companies from cracking down:

Netflix kicked off the movement, veering away from a feature of streaming that it had once championed, back in early 2023 with the first major password-sharing crackdown. People were outraged, assumed it was a massive error on Netflix's part and expected subscription numbers to collapse.

And then ... they didn't. In fact, it worked brilliantly for Netflix. Netflix reported "more new subscriptions in the U.S. ... than in any other four-day period" during the end of May and 6 million new subscribers in Q2 2023. That number grew in Q3, with another 8.8 million subscribers joining the streaming service and Netflix declaring itself "completely satisfied" with the password-sharing crackdown.

So it's no surprise that the other streaming services — all of which are still struggling to turn a profit — are following Netflix's example. Hulu announced its password-sharing crackdown on Feb. 1 and Disney Plus confirmed its password-sharing crackdown a mere six days later. Both password-sharing crackdowns will begin rolling out on March 14.

Again, it's okay with me if they stop people from violating their terms of service. Personally, if a company has a service I want, I'll pay for it.

My Streaming Life doesn't involve any paid service I'm not paying for.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Microsoft and forced Windows updates

Microsoft was forcing updates to Windows 10 and Windows 11 users recently. That has now changed.

Britec has the information on its YouTube channel.


I'm of both minds on this issue. On the one hand, I don't like the idea of being forced to get features I don't want. On the other hand, I see Microsoft's side that security is improved.

I really don't that that secuity is Microsoft's motivation. It's the ability to gather more data from users to sell. These features are for that reason, when you get right down to it.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with Microsoft making money. I just don't like that they gather data from me and sell it.

Not that Google is any better. I think that for security, ChromeOS, being a version of Linux, is much more secure than any version of Windows. Privacy is the biggest issue I have with ChromeOS. I like most things about it, such as its ease of use, it's security, its lightweight use of resources, and how well everything works together. But it takes a lot of work to tweak the settings so that your data isn't passed to Google, who uses it to push their search results. That's why Google is generally a more reliable search engine.

I don't really mind turning off Windows features I don't want. But this isn't something most people can or will do. Microsoft knows that, and looks to exploit it.

My Streaming Life doesn't rely on Windows. My every day life doesn't either. But many people's every day life do rely on Windows. Microsoft making these updates optional is the better way to go..

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Best streaming players (according to Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide recently had a review it called "Best streaming devices in 2024."

I thought they did a good job covering the devices. I don't agree with all the choices, but the selections they made are some I can't really argue, because the devices are still good devices.

Straight to the conclusion first, their overall pick is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.

Our current pick for the very best streaming device overall is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. This model added faster performance and Dolby Vision on top of its predecessor. Some of us at Tom's Guide own multiple entries from this list of the best streaming devices, to see how they evolve over time. Not only do we spend hours and hours watching shows and movies from the top streaming services on these devices, but we compare them against those with similar prices, to help you figure out which is best for your budget.

Using all of these devices often shows us the benefits of spending more on your streaming device, as the cheaper Fire TV devices control your whole home screen experience, while the Apple TV has no ads and more customization. ...

That last paragraph shows that there is no one device that has everything everyone wants. It's their pick of the best. I would suggest the Roku Ultra as the best, with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K a close second.

And while it would be good to click through to the entire article, here are their top devices:

  • The best streaming device: Roku Streaming Stick 4K (2021)
  • The best budget streaming device: Roku Express 4K Plus
  • The best for live TV: Chromecast with Google TV
  • The fastest streaming device: Apple TV 4K (2022)
  • The best Android TV streaming device: Nvidia Shield TV
  • The best Fire TV Stick: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

I have a couple of nits to pick regarding a couple of items. First, the "best for live TV" is an Android TV device, but not the "best Android TV streaming device." How can that be?

Well, although it's Android TV, the Chromecast has the Google TV interface, which is great for live TV, while the NVIDIA Shield doesn't have the Google TV interface. It's a great device, but the interface isn't as good as the Chromecast, or the $20 Walmart Onn Streaming Box.

And, they had to specify specific platforms to get the NVIDIA Shield and any Amazon Fire TV device to top a category. At least Apple TV didn't need an Apple TV category to top a category. Or Roku for that matter.

Don't get me wrong, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a good device. But it's not the best of any particular category, unless you are specifically looking for a Fire TV Stick. Then, yes, it's definitely the best.

And the NVIDIA Shield is a great device, but I would have picked the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro device, since it also has much better specs. Compare them yourself and see.

The other disagreement is the "best budget streaming device" category. I think Walmart's Onn Streaming Box is the better deal. The specs on the Roku are better, but the Onn device is good, and cheaper.

My Streaming Life has a lot of experience with many streaming devices. But Tom's Guide is usually a very good source for this kind of lists. You won't go wrong with any of the choices they made, but do consider mine as well before you decide anything based on that list.

Friday, March 8, 2024

When am I getting my new Google TV home screen? Now.

A couple of days ago, I asked when I would be getting the new Google TV home screen.

I have my answer: now.

Yesterday, when I turned the TV on after getting home from work, I noticed the home screen on my Onn Streaming Box looked different. It took me a minute before I realized it was the new update.

I was happy, and surprised, to see it. I had settled on expecting it in a month or so. The day or so update was very unexpected.

So, what is it like? Well, let's look at it.

Note that the image isn't from my TV. But this example image is an accurate representation of what it looks like.

First, the obvious. The round icons allow for more to show on the home screen. I have 18 apps installed on one device, and now all 18 show on the home screen. From the looks of things, all apps show as I don't see an option to see all, as the older home screen had.

Next, there is a "Free TV Channels" app. This isn't the same thing as the Live item in the top menu on the Google TV Home Screen. It is a live TV section, but the layout is not like the channel guide you get on Live TV. It's simply a live streaming channel, with select other "now playing" items listed. It doesn't have everything. You can get more live TV channels from the Live TV menu tab.

Finally, it seemed a little sluggish. Now, I have to admin that it could the the Onn Streaming Box, which is the only device I tried last night. Maybe after I look at it on Chromecast, I'll have better info. For now, the update seems to have caused my Onn Streaming Box to run like the original Onn Box (and that's bad). I hope it was simplty a one-night glitch, and not how things are going forward.

My Streaming Life has involved Chromecast in all its forms since it launched. And I like the idea of the Google TV updates. I don't like how my Onn Streaming Box is responding. Mabye it'll be better tomorrow. I certainly hope so.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

An update to Chromecast?

Google Chromecast has been around for over a decade. Of course, at first, it was simple for casting from a mobile device to a TV with the first release in 2013. It wasn't until seven years later that it really became a general purpose streaming device.

Chromecast with Google TV added a remote and a Google TV interface to Android TV and suddenly Chromecast was the real deal. Well, mostly. It was a little under-powered and wasn't as efficient in how it handled apps.

In 2022, a new Chromecast was released, but it wasn't an upgrade. It was an expansion of the line, adding a cheaper HD (1080) device to go along with the 4K/UHD device that was the 2020 version.

Now, word is a new Chromecast is coming.

In recent updates to the Google Home app, the company has introduced a handful of previously unseen models to the internal list of Google Cast-compatible devices. Three new listings are explicitly labeled as being last year’s line of JBL Authentics speakers.

However, a new mystery device, “YTD,” appears side-by-side the HD and 4K models of Chromecast with Google TV. Further, we can confirm that Google Home treats YTD just like the existing Chromecast models, while Google TV devices from OEMs get treated differently. All of that is to say that we’re fairly confident that this is a sign of Google preparing to launch a new TV dongle.

This is the second new Chromecast-likely device discovered in the past year. No new release happened, and it's not known with any certainty if two new Chromecast devices are coming, or if the one found last year is replaced by the one recently discovered.

I would like to see a more powerful Chromecast device released. The current device is okay. Well, better than okay, but not as good as it could be.

My Streaming Life has used Chromecast and other Google TV devices more recently, and I'm happy with it. A better device would be a great thing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

So, when am I getting my new Google TV home screen?

A week ago, Google posted that the Google TV screen was getting a makeover. Not a huge makover, but still an improved look.

I've seen screenshots and do agree it looks fine.

But that last sentence tells about the problem. I've seen it in screenshots, not on my TV. Not on any of my TVs.

I have three different types of Google TV interfaces at home: Chromecast, Onn Streaming Stick, Sony TV. My NVIDIA Shield actually runs Android TV but not the Google TV interface. I'm not seeing the updated home screen on any of those Google TV devices.

Yes, it does say "over the next few months" in regards to rolling out.

Starting today, and rolling out to all devices over the next few months, we’re introducing some new updates to the “Your apps” row, giving you a sleeker, more streamlined look, making it easier to access your favorite apps.

So, I just need to be patient. And this really isn't unusual for my streaming devices. Roku has spread rollouts over months ever since I got my first Roku in 2010. I really am used to it. But, I'm not used to it with Chromecast. The device hasn't been on the market nearly as long as Roku devices, and the interface hasn't changed much in that time. This is the biggest change I've noticed, and it's taking a while, it seem. Just like Roku.

My Streaming Life works just fine with things as they are. If improvements come, great. I'm looking forward to this one, but I'll just have to wait. And if waiting on an update to Google TV was my biggest problem, I'd be in pretty good shape.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Roku's new Terms of Service

Roku updated their terms of service recently. And they did it in a way that has really upset some people (link to Cord Cutters News story). And I'm not too happy about it either.

Oh, I understand that all companies update Terms of Service from time to time. I realize that Google, Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and other cell phone device and software companies do this. I just don't like the way Roku went about it.

What Roku should have done was presented a screen, with the options to:

  • Read the terms (which they did)
  • Accept the terms (which they did)
  • Reject the terms (not doing this is the problem)

It would have been simple enough for a "Reject" action to take the user to a screen saying that the Terms would go into effect on a pre-determined date (30, 60, 90, etc. days out), and there be a link to a Website that did whatever their actual "write a letter" process would do.

They don't want to make it easy to opt out. And if I didn't like using a Roku device so much, I would do the whole "write a letter" thing. Heck, I might anyway.

Who am I kidding. I won't. I just haven't accepted the terms yet, and I'm not sure when I will. For now, I'm not using my Roku. Of course, I've used Google TV devices more lately, so it really isn't an inconvenience. Just an annoyance. And I'm very annoyed by this.

My Streaming Life has included Roku from the start. It will continue to include Roku. I don't have a problem with the actual terms of service, just they way they deployed this update. That's not how I like things done. Roku is now just like every other company, and not in a good way.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Is Netflix going to raise prices again?

Good news, everyone!

Netflix is going to raise prices again this year!

Oh, did I say "good news?" I didn't mean that. I meant "here we go again."

Actually, Netflix has not announced a price increase. But a report in Variety says analysts expect a price increase. They base it on hints from Netflix in last quarter's earnings call.

Last October, Netflix increased the price of the Basic plan from $9.99 to $11.99 per month in the U.S., and also hiked prices of the tier in the U.K. and France. Netflix hasn't announced specific plans to hike subscription prices in 2024, but execs have said rate increases are on the table.

On the company's Q4 2023 earnings call, Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters noted that last year the streamer had "largely put price increases on hold" while it was rolling out the paid-sharing program — "because we saw that as a form of substitute price increase. Now that we're through that, we're able to resume our sort of standard approach toward price increases. And price increases, you've seen us do that in the U.S., U.K. and France. Those changes went well better than we forecasted."

Peters continued, "We will continue to monitor other countries and try and assess… when we've delivered enough additional entertainment value" to "ask [customers] to pay a bit more to keep that positive flywheel going and we can invest in more great films, series and games for those members. So, you know, the summary statement might be, 'Back to business as usual.'"

And, it is expected that "business as usual" means regular price increases.

My Streaming Life does not alway incorporate Netflix. It is again in my regular rotation of services. I'll subscribe to a service for 30 days, then cancel, and then when I find something I want on another service, I'll subscribe there for 30 days. Lots of content from a wide selection of services, but not a lot of subscription fees. I think Netflix is on target for April. Let's see if the price increase beats me.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

MIcrosoft is bricking laptops

Microsoft updates can brick some laptops. Not intentionally, but it happens.

Britec has the details:


My Streaming Life doesn't involve Windows much. My current Plex server is running on Windows, but apart from that, I'm not using Windows. And I don't use Windows in general. But most people do use Windows, and these problems can be very serious.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

YouTube Kids app shutting down

It was reported that the YouTube Kids app was shutting down. Now, before parents (and grandparents) get upset by this, it's just the app that is shutting down, not the service (or feature).

Currently, there is a YouTube Kids app that presents an interface for kids, and filters content to make it suitable for children. The app is going away. The functionality is part of the YouTube app, and Google is focusing on that going forward.

The message from Google provides the basic information:

YouTube Kids is moving: In July, the YouTube Kids app icon on your TV will be going away. But, you can still use YouTube Kids on your TV by going to your child’s profile in the YouTube app.

To get started using this new experience, download the YouTube app on your smart TV, streaming device, or game console. Learn more about entering YouTube Kids through the YouTube app.

I understand why Google (who owns YouTube) is making the decision, but I really don't like it. To me, it seem easier for parents (and grandparents) to make an app available to a child, rather than trying to teach a child about profiles. This is particularly true for younger children.

Now, there will be children that previously didn't use the YouTube app (because they used the YouTube Kids app) that will be looking for kids content, and be on Mommy's profile or on Daddy's profile searching for stuff that will start showing up in Mommy or Daddy's suggestions.

Of course, maybe that's Google's idea. However, the whole idea of profiles to begin with is to keep the content and preferences separate. Children who don't understand that will just screw it up. Not on purpose, but because something they are used to will no longer work like it did.

This can all go horribly wrong. Well, not for the long haul, but for the short term, this will be a problem.

My Streaming Life doesn't involve young children much, as my youngest has children of his own. And, when they visit, I'll be watching TV with them. But at home, this could cause problems.

Friday, March 1, 2024

MLB and VPNs

TV Answer Man Phillip Swann recently answered a question about VPNs and Major League Baseball. I understand why he answered the question. Someone asked, and he gave an honest answer. No problem.

What I didn't like about it was that he couched the headline in a way that seemed to advocate using a VPN.

If you haven't realized it, I'm against using VPNs for the purpose of circumventing geo-location restrictions. I don't like those restrictions, but I also feel the content owner can set whatever restrictions it wants. I think content owners have the right to be total jackasses. I have the right to call them total jackasses and not do business with them.

The title of TV Answer Man's post was "A VPN Could Be Your Ticket to Blackout-Free Baseball" and covered the question asked of him:

... we live in Iowa and we want to watch the Cardinals but the games are blacked out on MLB TV even though we live hours away from the Cardinals stadium. Can you explain how a VPN works and whether it could eliminate the blackouts?

The answer was straightforward and provided information that many might not realize:

The Virtual Private Network, or VPN, can beat the blackouts, but there are a number of questions regarding its legality. Let me try here to put those questions to bed now before the regular season begins with the Dodgers and Padres in Korea on March 20-21.

Saying "there are a number of questions regarding its legality" is absolutely on point. But, he also pointed out that MLB has not been actively pursuing people that violate the blackout policy by using a VPN:

For the first time, MLB acknowledged it had never tried to sue or prosecute anyone for VPN use and the league didn't even have a position on whether it opposes the use of VPNs. Since that interview, there is no indication that the league's position has changed nor prosecuted or sued someone who has used a VPN while watching MLB TV.

This runs counter to the public perception that MLB is trying to crack down on VPN use and is prepared to use the courts when necessary. This is not to suggest that MLB is saying you should use a VPN. (The pay TV services that pay handsomely to carry regional sports channels wouldn't appreciate that. If everyone used a VPN for MLB TV, they wouldn't need to subscribe to the pay TV services.) But the league certainly isn't telling you not to use a VPN.

In the past when addressing this topic, I've noted there's also an ethical question here. By using a VPN, you are clearly attempting to "circumvent" a blackout restriction, which is against the MLB TV rules. But the league's current neutral stance on VPN use would seem to soften that concern.

Don't misunderstand me; I do not like blackouts. If there were no blackouts, I would have subscribed to MLB TV for many years now. But, they have their rules in place. Although I don't agree with the rules, it's there right, and I respect the rights of others, even when they abuse those rights.

My Streaming Life doesn't involve as much baseball as I would like, because of the blackouts. I won't violate ethics juse because I don't like what they are doing. But they are missing my subscription money, and my eyes on their advertisers. And the subscription money and advertising eyes of those who don't subscribe because of blackouts.