Monday, February 5, 2024

Onn 4K Streaming Box

In 2021, I bought and tested the Walmart Onn Streaming Box. It went poorly.

Last year, Walmart released an updated Onn 4K Streaming Box. That went well. In fact, I like the devices so well that I plan to add them to TVs that don't have a Google TV interface available. The $20 price is $30 less than the 4K/UHD Chromecast device, and has the same functionality.

Okay, I said I like it, and that's true, but I didn't give many details of what I like. I'll do some of that now.

First, the box comes with everything you need.

Besides the device itself, the remote, alkaline batteries, and the power cord, there is also an HDMI cable and double-sided adhesive tape.

The thing I don't like about the device is that it's so small and lightweight, that the stiffness of the HDMI and power cables can keep the device from sitting flat. The double-sided tape can be used to keep it attached to a shelf, or better, the back of a TV. It's not a stick, but it can be out of sight like a stick.

If the device was heavier or larger, it might not be possible to mount it so easily. The Roku Ultra device is larger and heavier, and there are third-party mounts that can be purchased for around $20. Or, you can buy a pack of adhesive strips from Roku for $3. Yes, that's cheaper, but Walmart includes the necessary adhesive tape. No extra cash, no extra waiting.

Another thing I don't like is that the HDMI cable and power connection are on opposite sides. That means there is no "back" to the device. Either one comes out the front and the other the back, or they come out the left and right sides. Either is awkward. Unless you mount it to the back of the TV, in which case it doesn't matter.

So, those two things I don't like about it, are actually pluses. There is one other thing I don't like about it: the USB connection is USB mini, not USB-C. It's really not a big deal, and I assume cheaper. If so, that keeps the price down. So, that might actually be a plus as well.

Now the things I like. Well, it's a Google TV interface. I like the interface. Roku's is simple, and easy, and great. But Google TV is pretty darn good. It's a busier interface, similar to that of Fire TV, but it's better done than Fire TV. It's different from Roku's, but it's good. So the interface is a positive.

The remote is good. I actually like it better than the Chromecast remote. I like it as well as the Roku remote, which has traditionally been my favorite.

Setup is easy. You simply use the Google Home app (available on Android and iOS) to set it up. It's easy and well done. It walks you through the setup, and suddenly you're done and have a working Google TV device.

Now, if you don't like the Google TV interface, you won't like the Onn 4K Streaming Box -- or Google Chromecast, for that matter. But if you do, the device works well and setup is as easy as it is for Chromecast.

My Streaming Life has used primarily Google TV for the last several months. The Walmart Onn 4K Streaming Box is a very good streaming device at a great price.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Watching the NFL postseason: The Pro Bowl Games

The NFL playoffs are not done. There is still the NFL Championship, Super Bowl 58 (or LVIII, if you like their silly Roman numberals thing). But that's next weekend. Today, it's the all star game, called the Pro Bowl. The best players of the AFC and the NFC square off in Orlando. Well, the best players that could be bothered with playing. Players from the two Super Bowl teams won't be playing. And a lot of otehrs that would qualigy have opted out. But still, it's pro football with a lot of starts. Well, sort of pro football.

It's a bunch of pro football players who have been playing a lot of activities, including dodgeball, and the championships are this afternoon. Oh, along with a flag football game.

The Game

The Pro Bowl Games championships and flag football game are today.

  • AFC vs NFC. ABC, ESPN, ESPN+

How to watch

The various networks carrying the games are available to streamers in several different ways.

ABC

  • Antenna (free)
  • Sling TV (8 markets only) ($45/month)
  • Vidgo (Plus) ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($77/month)
  • YouTube TV ($73/month)
  • Fubo (Pro) ($75/month)
  • DirecTV (Entertainment) ($85/month)

ESPN

  • Sling TV (Orange) ($40/month)
  • Vidgo (Plus) ($70/month)
  • Hulu+Live TV ($77/month)
  • YouTube TV ($73/month)
  • Fubo (Pro) ($75/month)
  • DirecTV (Entertainment) ($85/month)

ESPN+

  • ESPN+ (standalone) ($10/month)
  • Disney Bundle ($15/month)

My Streaming Life does not often involve professional football, particularly NFL games. And dodgeball isn't my thing. But, there is no denying the popularity of the NFL, even when it's not playing football. If you want to watch the pro bowl games and are a streamer, or if you're thinking about becoming a streamer, maybe this will let you know just what you would need to do to watch the NFL.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Paying Amazon to remove ads doesn't remove all ads

Some people are getting upset because Amazon has added ads to Prime Video, and are asking for $3/month to remove those ads.

Some that are paying the money are upset that they are still getting ads. I hate to say it, but Amazon is correct about still showing ads. The problem is that people assume things they shouldn't assume.

Of course, the bigger problem is that Amazon started showing ads as a hidden way to increase the price of their service. Getting $140/year isn't enough for them, it seems.

Here is why I'm saying that Amazon is correct in still showing ads. Follow me on this, if you initially disagree.

Amazon had places that had ads already. They recently added ads to their Prime Video service, but have always had ads on Freevee (formerly IMDB TV) and other free streaming channels. If Amazon hadn't made their recent change, you would not have ads on the Prime Video content, but you would have ads on Freevee and similar services.

Now, Amazon has added ads to Prime Video, and want to charge you $3/month to remove those ads. And they will remove the newly-added ads, but you'll still get the ones you always got.

So, technically, Amazon is correct in not removing all the ads. But I really don't like them adding ads to start with. They are catching flack because of this whole removing ads but not removing ads.

My Streaming Life doesn't often use Prime Video, so this isn't really a problem for me. But I hate what they've done to those that use the service a lot.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Verizon's nationwide home 5G Internet isn't nationwide

I saw an announcement from Cord Cutters News yesterday that Verizon had launched a new nationwide 5G home Internet service.

I knew Verizon had service available in many places, and was waiting on it to become available everywhere. When I saw that article, I thought to myself, "Self, you should check this out."

This morning, I did. And I learned something. Nationwide service isn't available nationwide.

I know that, because I live in the nation. My state was one of the 13 original states when this nation became a nation. Nationwide should cover this part of the nation. It's not like Georgia just became part of the nation. No state has been part of the nation longer. Well, unless you are Verizon. Or Total by Verizon.

The prepaid carrier, which is available in hundreds of stores throughout the country or online, will be offering the service, which costs $50 a month, or $45 if you sign up for its auto-pay discount. The company touts unlimited data and download speeds of up to 200 Mbps.

The move follows in the footsteps of T-Mobile, which expanded its 5G home internet service to its prepaid arm, Metro. By expanding its distribution to Total, the company is expanding its potential base of customers beyond people who look at Verizon as a service provider. Prepaid services like Total typically cater to customers with lower credit scores and are looking for better deals on their wireless service.

If only they included me.

I do like my Comcast (Xfinity) Internet service. But I want options. The pricing of this plan is in line, and would seem to be a viable option. If they offered it "nationwide" like they say.

My Streaming Life will continue to ride Comcast for a while yet.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Watching with no subscriptions

I will occasionally subscribe to a streaming service. For a while, I've been subscribing to one streaming service a month, and changing out each month to a different service. That way, I could watch the content from several services, but not pay the cost of all of those services each month.

That way has been a good way to stream. Only, I've noticed something over time. I would subscribe to a service, then not watch anything on the service. The reason that happened is that my process was to subscribe to a service at the start of the month, then toward the end of the month, set a reminder to cancel, and do that before the month ended.

Then, at the start of the next month, I'd subscribe to another service. And the cycle would repeat. And that was a pretty good way to do things, except that I would sometimes subscribe because it was time to, but never watch the service. This wouldn't happen all the time, but it would happen sometimes.

Then, I decided to subscribe, set a reminder, cancel when it was time, but then not subscribe to another service until there was something I wanted to watch on it. And I found that I would go a while before subscribing.

Things didn't go quite so smooth, though, as there have been subscriptions to services for longer than a month. For example, a service, say Starz, would offer a heckuva deal for subscribing. As I had budgeted $15/month for services, these promotions would have a really good price for 3-6 months, and when a family member said "I'd watch that" then I would take advantage of the special pricing and subscribe. It was more than $15, but not a lot more. And it covered multiple months.

Well, wouldn't you know it, but the service would often not get used. So, now I'm keeping my mouth shut, not asking "would you watch that?" to anyone, and simply subscribing when I find something I want, or am asked about some content.

I've canceled or suspended subscriptions on everything, and I'm now waiting on services to end. When that happens, my plan is to not subscribe to anything. I want to see how long I can go like that.

I'm thinking I can go that way for a while. My Streaming Life hasn't used the pay services much over the last year, so I'm about to make that official. No subscriptions. Let's see how long I can go.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Ads on Google TV home screen

I saw something the other day that I didn't like. There was an ad on the home screen of a Google TV device.

I had launched a Chromecast device and there was an ad for Hardee's breakfast. I didn't like that.

Don't get me wrong, I do like Hardee's breakfast. I just didn't like seeing an ad for it on my Google TV device.

Yes, I know that Google is in the business of making money. And yes, I know that the stuff at the top of the Google TV screen are and have always been ads. The difference is that they are advertising Google TV content, not content for your belly.

Promotional ads suggesting content isn't the same thing as paid ads for things that have nothing to do with streaming content from the device you're using.

Now, I only saw it that one day. I didn't see it yesterday, nor early this morning. And this morning I checked three different Google TV devices: a Sony TV, a Chromecast, and an Onn Stick. All are Google TV devices, and none had ads.

There was an article on AFTVNews blog mentioning the inclusion of ads on Google TV.

Google has now crossed a new line of annoying by including full-length video ads for products and physical goods unrelated to streaming TV. As Reddit users thevincentasteroid and MMD3_ discovered, turning on a Google TV Chromecast device now blasts you with autoplaying video ads for fast food.

The saving grace for Google TV devices, which has never been possible on Fire TV devices, is that it is easy to install an alternate home screen launcher to avoid the ads entirely. While Amazon actively blocks methods to bypass its home screen on Fire TVs, Google does not, and changing the home screen is a relatively simple process. That said, as the Google TV home screen becomes more annoying and intrusive, I suspect it won’t be long before Google begins protecting its revenue stream by also blocking alternate home screen launchers.

The ads on my home screen did not automatically play. Maybe that is because I always have any autoplay settings "off" as I despise autoplay. I can't confirm there is a way to stop them from playing, but I saw the Hardees ad, but it didn't play, because I didn't click on it.

I've not bothered to look into installing an alternate home screen launcher, and have no plans to do that. Oh, I might look into how to do it, but I suspect it'll be "can I do that? I can? Huh. Okay, back to how it was then."

My Streaming Life has used Google TV almost exclusively for the past several months. I started just to see what it was like for a full month, then never went back to Roku. If they start autoplaying ads, I see returning to Roku. I'll stick with Google TV for now, just to see what happens.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

More are dropping cable

A recent report shows how much the cable industry is losing customers. And, for Comcast, the news is even worse.

Cord Cutters News had a report recently that said Comcast lost over 2-million cable customers in 2023. But it didn't stop there. Nearly 40-thousand Internet customers were lost by the company last year as well.

In my family, my mother dropped Comcast cable, but kept Comcast as her Internet provider. Internet service by Comcast is pretty good, so it made sense for her. But the industry has changed and more options are now available, giving more people today. And that led to the recent bad news:

Comcast lost 2,036,000 cable TV customers in 2023. The company also lost 38,676 Internet subscribers in 2023. Comcast started the year by adding more than 32,000 new Internet subscribers but lost subscribers the remaining three quarters of 2023.

These numbers are like the over 2 million TV customers Comcast lost in 2022 and up from the 1.66 million Comcast lost in 2021.

This is double bad news for Comcast. For years many had predicted the decline of TV subscribers would also see the rise in Internet customers. Instead, we have now seen Internet subscribers drop for Comcast as 5G Home Internet, fiber, and other options start to hit Comcast.

My Streaming Life still includes Comcast Internet (Xfinity). It's good service, and I can't get that quality of service for a better price. I'm sticking with Comcast for Internet, but I am always looking for options. I don't know that I would change unless the price was a lot lower. I know it's cool to hate on Comcast, and I do have some issues with them, but their Internet service has been reliable for me.