Saturday, March 26, 2022

Roku 11 is here!! New and unimproved!.

A few days ago when Roku announced the new OS 11 had been released. And, within a day of the announcement, I had it on one of my devices. I didn't find out until later, because it was on a device in a spare room, and because Roku doesn't send the updates out all at once, even to the same user. As is normal, one of my devices got it early (though never before this early) and the other ones will have to wait.

So, for that one device that's running OS 11, how is it you might ask. No, really. Go ahead and ask.

Well, since you asked, here's what I found different: nothing.

Yep, absolutely nothing different.

What the ...???

Well, as it turns out, all of those fancy dancy changes that will come with OS 11 will come later to OS 11. So, all this hype about what Roku OS 11 brings is ... just hype. Nothing rolled out with the update. No new features. Those seem to be updates to the interface. And what rolled out was the behind the scenes changes that are needed to support the features. So, yeah, technically, Roku OS 11 is on one of my Roku devices, but none of the promised features are there.

If you recall, last April, when Roku announced OS 10.0, Roku promised "Improved convenience of the Live TV Channel Guide." Remember that? The Live TV Guide Customization feature? Well, it never rolled out with 10.0. It finally showed up later, in 10.5. Now I'm wondering how much of the new features that run under OS 11 will roll out soon. I'm not holding my breath.

Now, it could be that Roku rolls them out today. It could be they roll them out next week. Or next month. Or late in the year. Or next year. But, sure, yeah, the features promised will arrive. Eventually. Probably.

Roku has been a valuable part of my Streaming Life for many years. But doggone it, they sure can be aggravating at times.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Starlink satellites and monthly are going up

As Starlink expands its coverage with more and more satellite launches, one other thing is going up: it's subscription cost.

Starlink launched with a $99/month cost. The company recently announced that the monthly cost is going up to $110, an increase of over 10%, according to reports.

SpaceX sent notices on Tuesday to Starlink users and deposit holders noting the higher prices, according to a copy of the email obtained by CNBC.

“The sole purpose of these adjustments is to keep pace with rising inflation,” the Starlink email said.

Starlink’s baseline monthly service price will increase by 11%, to $110 from $99 per month, effective May 21. The price of the baseline Starlink hardware will jump by 10%, to $549 from $499, for users who placed a deposit but are on SpaceX’s waiting list for service.

For new orders, the company increased the base hardware price by 20%, to $599 from $499.

My sister has the service, and while she's not happy with the price increase, she's not exactly grabbing her pitchfork either.

She was in a bad situation regarding Internet service. Two separate Internet Service Providers served houses in her neighborhood, but neither would serve her house. The house next door to hers has Internet service from a major provider, but they won't extend the service to her house. She had to get traditional satellite Internet, and satellite TV service, but now she has Starlink and streams everything. And she's taking the price increase in stride.

Yeah, but it’s still a great price based on what we were paying and for the coverage we have. Stormed all night and day and have not lost service.

I'm fortunate that I have at least one option with Comcast/Xfinity, and I'm paying less than half of what she was paying. I suppose I am fortunate in that respect. And while she's not happy her new Streaming Life is costing more, she knows it could still be a lot worse.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Roku 11.0 is coming, sooner or later

I got a surprise a couple of days ago. On Tuesday, Roku announced that Roku OS 11.0 had been released. I had actually communicated with someone on Monday who had received the update, so I knew it was coming. Neither I nor he had participated in the beta release of OS 11, so when he got it, I knew it was out, and the next day, Roku announced it.

Normally, it takes a while for me to get it. But late Tuesday night, I got it. One one device. I checked four devices, and only one of them had the update, but that's normal. Some people expect to get the update the day it's released. I've never got it that early. Once, I got an update within a week or two after release, but this is the first time I got it the day they announced it.

And, of course, it's only on one of my devices. That's another thing some people don't understand. You probably won't get the update to all of your devices at the same time. At least, I've never received updates to all my devices at the same time. There's no pattern to when it will arrive. It's not by Roku account, it's not by geographical region. It's not by model number. It's not by anything we can tell. It just is, whenever it is.

So, let's recap.

If you get the Roku OS 11 on one or more of your devices, then that's normal.

If you don't get Roku OS 11 on one or more of your devices, that's normal too.

If you get Roku OS 11 on one but not other devices, that's normal.

If you don't get it for a month, that's normal.

If you don't get it for two months, that's normal.

If you don't get it for three months, that's normal.

So, when will you get it? When you get it. You might not like that answer, but that's the truth. Your not liking doesn't matter.

Roku updates don't have any discernable rhyme or reason to when it happens, and if you have more than one Roku device, you may not get them all at once, or even close together. It's how it is. If you have Roku, that random update rollout process is now a part of your Streaming Life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Roku 11.0

The new Roku 11.0 operating system was released this week. I don't have it yet. They never send it to me in the first few days. Sometimes, I'll get Roku OS updates in the first month, sometimes in the second, and if not by the third month, it will come some time then.

The new OS is focusing a lot on sound. I listened to a lot of loud music in the 1970s, and was attached to an artillery unit for a brief time during my time in the Army. My hearing isn't the best, so I'm not sure how these new features will benefit me. But if it benefits you, that's a good thing.

They're adding some new Live TV features to the Home Screen of the main menu. Yeah, I don't care. But you might, so yay?

They have some new photo screensaver sharing feature. I can see some people liking that. Not me. But yay for those who do.

There will be a What To Watch section on the Home Screen. The other devices that offer things they suggest for me to watch usually get it wrong, so I expect Roku to get it wrong as well. However, a lot of people like features like this, so another ho-hum yay.

Additional language support for voice-enabled keyboard functionality is added.

Voice-enabled keyboard – Roku Voice simplifies device setup and channel login for supported apps by allowing you to enter email, password, and PIN information with your Roku voice remote. Voice-enabled keyboards are now available in Spanish, German, and Portuguese in OS 11.

While that brings nothing for me, it's good that they're expanding support in countries they support. Or half-ass support. This is better for those. So, actual yay.

Mobile app search improvements are included.

When you search for TV shows or movies, new visual elements with OS 11 highlights which channels are streaming the TV for free or where it can be streamed with your existing subscriptions. The new content details on the mobile app also show visual images of the cast and crew to assist with choosing what to watch. All of these updates are the perfect match to the recently added Save List, which allows you to save movies and TV shows while on the go so you can stream them when you’re back home and ready to watch.

I don't use mobile app very much at all, so nothing I care about. But yeah, I understand that many like to use the app. So yay for them.

All in all, Roku OS 11 brings nothing for me. But, it will improve the Streaming Life of others. So, yay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Getting an antenna? Maybe an indoor will work. Maybe.

When it comes to cutting the cord, many believe it's a good idea to have an antenna for over the air channels. I'm one of those that believe that. However, I'm also aware that it may not always be easy to put up an antenna. Power lines are dangerous, running cable can be difficult, and paying someone to do it can be expensive. But does that rule out the possibility of having an antenna? No it doesn't.

Some people have good success with an indoor antenna. They're small, and are easy to install. Well, mostly.

Part of the installation process is to install it where it picks up the most channels. If the location of the antenna doesn't pick up channels, then it's not good location. Sometimes, it's trial and error. But there's a step you should try before you get an antenna.

There are Websites that can assist in determining where the nearest stations are, and how far away the stations are located. An indoor antenna doesn't have the range of an outdoor antenna, so if the towers are very far away, an indoor antenna won't do the job. But how do you know for sure?

The only way to be absolutely certain is to try one. But, that can be a lot of work that you can avoid. Those Websites I mentioned? Go to one, or more, and search based on your location. One good one is actually the FCC Website:

This example shows what someone at Fort Stewart would find if they searched the FCC Website for nearby stations. In this example, the closest station is 20 miles away. There is actually a tower that's closer, but it's a different direction. It's the public TV tower in Pembroke. The image is showing the major broadcast networks. They're 20 miles or more from Fort Stewart.

Will an indoor antenna work in this example? Maybe. But maybe not. You may find an indoor antenna claiming it will work for a large number of miles. I'm not saying the claims are false, but I am saying don't be surprised if it doesn't work. 20 miles may be close enough, and a good indoor antenna may indeed cover that distance. Environmental factors may interfere, but there's one other factor to consider.

Not all channels operate on the frequency you might think. In this example, notice the Band entry. That's important.

In this example, the stations are in the UHF or High VHF bands. So what are they?

Low VHF is the range of channels 2-6. High VHF is the range of channels 7-13. UHF is the band of channels 14 and above.

Notice, however, that WSAV, channel 3, is listed as UHF. But we just said that channel 3 is Low VHF. What's up with that?

As it turns out, not every channel is on the actual channel for which they identify. WSAV, for example, was indeed channel 3 and a Low VHF station for years. However, the channel repacking had stations moving to different actual channels. WSAV moved to channel 16, but kept the channel 3 identifier.

What that means is if you scan for the channels, you'll find WSAV channel 3. But it's actually channel 16. But on your TV, you'll go to channel 3. Because that's how it works.

So, when you go to get an antenna, it's a good idea to know what frequency bands you'll need. Not all antennae pick up all bands. If the antenna doesn't say on the box or in the description, it's probably UHF only. And that may or may not pick up the channels you want.

So, to recap, if you want to use and indoor antenna, you need to first find what stations are in range. You need to be skeptical of any range claims by an antenna manufacturer. (Some are reliable, but many make BS claims.) You need to know what bands you need, and the antenna needs to support those bands.

You know, all this should be easy. But then, a lot of things should be easy. Instead, things are sometimes complicated. But if you can sort through it all, an antenna may be a great addition to your Streaming Life.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Getting an antenna? Consider what channels you get and what you don't.

If you're a cord cutter, or thinking about becoming one, it may very well be worth looking into getting an antenna for watching local TV channels.

Sure, you can get a live streaming service that includes local channels, but those cost more. You may be able to spend a little extra money up front for an antenna and save money overall in the long run.

It's a little hard for me to make good comparisons for what you may want in a live streaming service, because I don't want a live streaming service. But, not everyone is like me. Some absolutely want the content they get from a live streaming service.

For this, I've decided to break things out a couple of ways. I'm using the Nielsen ratings for the most-watch networks. I'm looking at them two ways: overall viewership, and overall viewership excluding news and sports.

I'm breaking out the ones available over the air, as an antenna would cover those. These include:

  • CBS (1st overall)
  • NBC (2nd overall)
  • ABC (3rd overall)
  • Fox (4th overall)
  • Univision (8th overall)
  • Ion (13th overall)
  • Telemundo (14th overall)
  • CW (21st overall)
  • Me TV (23rd overall)
  • UniMas (29rd overall)
  • Grit (38th overall)
  • Others available in many markets

Broadcast networks and local affiliates adds a lot to the cost of a live streaming service. According to one recent study, it's at least $12/month, and as high as $20/month. Every month. Taking those networks out, I'm looking at overall viewership, which covers a variety of networks, and may be the best overall for many households. The top ten in viewership are:

  • Fox News Channel (5th overall)
  • ESPN (6th overall)
  • MSNBC (7th overall)
  • HGTV (9th overall)
  • Hallmark Channel (10th overall)
  • CNN (11th overall)
  • TNT (12th overall)
  • TBS (15th overall)
  • TLC (15th overall)
  • History (7th overall)

News and sports channels add a lot of cost to a live streaming service. The most recent study I found is two years old, and it was $9//month, just for ESPN. Removing news and sports channels from this, the top ten becomes:

  • HGTV (9th overall)
  • Hallmark Channel (10th overall)
  • TNT (12th overall)
  • TBS (15th overall)
  • TLC (15th overall)
  • History (17th overall)
  • Discovery Channel (18th overall)
  • USA Network (19th overall)
  • Food Network (20th overall)
  • INSP (22nd overall)

This makes it easier to pick the live streaming service you want. If you get an antenna, you get a lot of content. If you want more, consider what it is you want, and how much you feel good paying for it.

Life isn't simple. Your Streaming Life isn't either. But it doesn't have to be expensive either.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Dealing with idiots

Roku's recent revamp of their app system removed non-certified apps as they existed. The whole new process no longer has a Private Channel, or Non-Certified Channel, repository. By the way, Roku doesn't call them apps, but calls them channels. They're apps.

In the process, they also revamped their app development process. The paperwork I've seen -- it's publicly available -- allows for apps to be marked as "Adult."

Roku removed all non-certified apps. The app developers had the opportunity -- still do, by the way -- to code their app to standards and submit for certification. Most didn't.

However, what many adult services -- they're really porn, but call themselves adult, even PornHub -- have done is claimed that Roku targeted their apps. Roku didn't, but the facts don't matter to certain people.

And they've fired up their base. And "base" is indeed the correct term. One definition is "the lowest part or edge of something." And it's evident that some of their users are the lowest of the low.

Now, before you think I'm picking on porn Websites and services, what I just wrote is also true of many users of VidAngel. That's a service that operated illegally to edit movies to make them more presentable to family audiences. VidAngel lost a $62-million judgment for violating copyright of Disney and Warner Bros.

Some -- not all, but some -- of their users were fired up by mis-statements (lies) told by their respective services. And they descended on the Roku support forum.

I frequent the forums and have been able to help some people, and to provide information to some people, about their questions. Some of the users of apps that were removed had legitimate questions about what happened. And, I answered their questions. Others did too.

However, some people got it in their head that they were being targeted. Or they were crusaders for some noble cause. What the actual situation is, some of them are just plain nuts. One user described them as needing professional help, a padded cell, or both. I agree.

I've worked around people with mental issues. Most of the time, it's a result of physical or physiological trauma. Sometimes, they're just wired wrong. The end result is people that can't play nice. They often end up in jail, or in a mental facility, or both, often bouncing from one to the other.

Not all of them wind up in a system, however. Some get computers and get on the Internet. It's scary to think that they may be around people, possibly even children, and causing damage to others. I'm grown. I don't give a rat's ass what they say to me. But the thought that they may be around other people is sobering. And they could be potentially damaging the lives of younger ones.

That topic is one that our society hasn't addressed. Mostly because most of us aren't in a position to encounter those people on a regular basis. Well, except in the comment section of various Websites.

Calling them idiots is possibly an unfair thing. To actual idiots, that is. Some of these people are truly unhinged. They may respond to professional help, or they may be too far gone. I've seen a variety of people with mental issues of various degrees. And I see so much of the same thing in the comment sections and support boards.

I'm not worried about nuclear bombs. I'm not worried about Russians. I'm not worried about a lot of things. I am worried about what will happen if these people don't get help. Or those that are beyond help are left out in public. I'm not trying to be cute or funny. What I've seen on these boards is a small part of a larger problem we have in society.

We need a better awareness of mental illness, and a way to help these people if we can. And, sad to say, for those we can't, we need to keep them away from the rest of society if necessary. It's a shame we've allowed this to happen. We should be better than that.