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Video for the 21st Century

Santa was kind enough to bring us one of the new 4th generation Apple TV boxes this year.  We’d considered it a nice potential add-on, with some streaming video options plus the added benefit of streaming music through the home theater speakers downstairs.  Thought it could be fun so we told Santa about it; but it wasn’t so essential as to spend $150 ourselves.  Instead within two weeks we dumped our DirecTV and switched completely to streaming (with a backup antenna for the local stations).

It came down to money and how we watch video.  We didn’t watch that much live anymore, generally DVRing the shows we liked and watching them at our convenience.  Live TV was reserved for background noise.  And for DirecTV and Netflix we were paying roughly $100 per month or $1200 per year.  We kept Netflix, grabbed an HBO Now account ($4 per month cheaper than DirecTV charges for HBO access) and picked up Hulu and CBS All Access accounts.  We can watch any show we used to watch within 24 hours of its broadcast debut, and greatly expanded our access to old shows, back catalogs, and some new-to-us shows I’d never heard about.   I don’t know what’s different in the box, but the steaming has fewer stalls and issues than DirecTV or our Roku boxes ever had.  Even if a source doesn’t have a specific Apple TV app any content that we can watch on the iPad or iPhone can be steamed to the home theater over AirPlay (we watched the Rose Parade that way, wirelessly streaming the KTLA coverage through an iPad to the big screen).

The big technical change that seems to make it work is Siri.  “Find Russell Tovey” leads me to both Being Human (UK version, of course) on Hulu and Looking on HBO (but unfortunately not his Doctor Who appearances).  The box doesn’t waste my time trying to sell me apps I don’t have (glaring at you, DirecTV), but knows what I do have and shows me the included options, whether they’re currently free or need an additional payment (rent or buy).

The total cashflow out comes to $37 per month.  Several very good apps have no monthly charges at all (yay PBS).  We could save about $750 per year, or blow it all on PPV and iTunes purchases.  I can imagine a betting line on whether I’ll blow most of  that on the back catalog of Teen Wolf in some moment of weakness.  I think the total package will probably shift a bit over the next year as new apps appear (Amazon Prime?) and CBS will either have to expand their offerings or get to a more competitive price point.

While it’s been great for the first two weeks, I can’t wait to see where streaming video and a la carte channel subscriptions go over the next few years.   It’s certainly one of those areas where I think things are only going to get better for the consumer.



Chuck posted this on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at  10:07 am.   Make the second comment. 


Looks like we’re snipping one of the wires coming into the condo, dumping Cox’s cable TV in favor of DirecTV.  We’d been looking at the option for a while, and while talking to their rep at the Fair last night decided that paying 60% less per month for more channels was a good thing.  Still have the wired Internet, and at least for today, the landline, but as of next Tuesday I’ll be back on the dish, enjoying service I’ve missed since I left Monterey in 2001.

Chuck posted this on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at  9:56 am.   Comments Off on *snip* 

No Changes

Started off the day watching the life of a fallen superhero, and that has so far been the high point of the day.

Went from there to a local point of suburban sprawl to volunteer with some kids.  Given the tone of Spinner’s previous classes I went in with certain expectations, all of which were quickly and brutally dashed.  No imagination.  No curiosity.  Just a general sense of entitlement backed by ten years of experience that if they do nothing, someone will take care of their needs.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if Moms had swung by to spoonfeed some of these kids at lunch.

In fact they may have.  I wouldn’t know, we went out to a local burger joint.  Knowing the neighborhood I wasn’t surprised when a brand new extra-large Made in ‘Merica truck pulled up covered with posters blaming Obama for everything from global socialism to the driver’s personal bankruptcy.  Unfortunately I still wasn’t surprised when the driver turned out to be one of the Open Carry wingnuts; an old white guy with a Glock proudly on his hip in a restaurant full of children.  While I can certainly support his Second Amendment rights, I only support restaurants that make me feel welcome, safe and secure, and when the staff rushed from the back to greet their friend I knew I’d never be patronizing that business again.  We left quickly.

Got back in the car to listen to some talk radio about a bunch of Senators who feel the nation is best served by either excluding gays from service or forcing them to live lies in order to defend the Constitution in the armed services. Unit cohesion is apparently best served by lies and deception within the unit.  Morale is helped when a significant percentage of the troops are denied the family and dependent benefits available to their colleagues.  Didn’t hear much about the fierce advocate and it certainly didn’t seem like much advocating was taking place today.

Hiding now until some friends come over for the Glee premiere.  Don’t think I can handle any more real life today.

Chuck posted this on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at  4:38 pm.   Make the second comment. 

Hiding From The Future

Interesting to see the efforts being taken to prevent social media and the internet in general from ‘spoiling’ the ending to Lost this Sunday.  I don’t watch Lost and don’t really care, but can substitute in the recent Olympics coverage and appreciate the concern.  There were several winter Olympics events I didn’t watch when NBC finally broadcast them in the Pacific Time Zone (the same time zone as the actual event by the way) because there was no suspense and the outcome was known.

I don’t turn off the internet when major media events are known to be working their way through the time zones.  I’ve lived most of my life in California and spent too many years having the accept the East Coast programming mentality that live really means three-hour tape delays.  National call-in shows don’t care about West Coast views, and talk shows can easily spend a whole hour talking in the future tense about something that actually happened an hour ago, sometime even on the same network. Thinking they can even move the sun and the stars by their commands, networks continue to show awards shows in Los Angeles “live”  in daylight long after the sun has set in San Diego.

If ABC really cared about making Lost suspenseful for West Coast viewers they’d figure out a way to broadcast it at the same time as on the East Coast.  Substitute CBS and Survivor or NBC and Olympics to fit your personal tastes.  That they refuse to, but rather blame the lack of suspense on websites and social media that transmit news instantly, is just a sign of disrespect for the viewers west of the Rockies.  It certainly isn’t a reason for me to adjust my life for their failure accept reality.

Chuck posted this on Friday, May 21, 2010 at  8:44 pm.   Comments Off on Hiding From The Future 

Yes, I’m Shallow

Spinner and I caught a matinee of Clash of the Titans this morning.  He’s still on spring break and I’m decided to use my powers of self-employment to bend time just a bit, and the pollen count shot down our original plan to check out the new Polar Bear Plunge at the Zoo.

It wasn’t bad, and the story definitely picked up in the second half, starting when Perseus went after Medusa.  Can’t say it was great though.  It was a bit like MST3K to have Spinner keep commenting on the different mostly-european accents spoken in this depiction of ancient Greece.

Have to admit that I kept wondering when Perseus was going to take his shirt off though.  Yes, I am shallow, but for $7.50 a seat I should be seeing real abs, not the ones painted on vintage armor.

Like it or not, Spartacus: Blood and Sand has raised the bar on flesh, blood and gore within the swords and sandals genre.  The Titans didn’t even come close to the new standard.  Not to mention that Spartacus is free through Netflix and delivered to my darkened room on demand.

Chuck posted this on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at  4:09 pm.   Make the second comment. 

On Modern Vamps

I was a fan of the Anne Rice books until the movies ruined the stories for me.  The Lost Boys is certainly one of my big-screen guilty pleasures.  I’ve always been a big fan of Buffy, though I never followed Angel when he went to his own series.  But I never got into Twilight, either in print or on screen.

We got the movie on Netflix, but I couldn’t get through it without falling asleep.  Spinner has the book, trying to read it this summer to prove his affinity for masochism better bond with his 10-year-old charges, but I’ve got no interest.

But my otherwise pathetic Monday was made when Mikerzz posted this video.


Chuck posted this on Monday, June 29, 2009 at  3:14 pm.   2 comments have been made. Join them. 

The Magic Box

David Pogue’s latest column in the Times reminded me that I haven’t shared one of our Christmas gifts here yet.  It showed up a little late, and was almost a Martin Luther King Day gift, but we now have one of the Roku boxes for Netflix video on demand.  It’s what TV should be.  

Where Netflix’s DVDs by mail were convenient, this is downright slothfulness.  Where our cable company allows us to rent from about 130 titles (I just counted) on a pay-per-view basis of $3.99 per title per day, Netflix gives us access to about 12,000 titles as part of our monthly fee of $15.  One cable to our router, another to our TV, and we were good to go. 

I’m a big believer that the dominance of on-demand media is inevitable, and seeing the box in action finally convinced me the technology wasn’t just vaporware.  I know it will be a while before all the rights get sorted out.  Don’t get me wrong – I want the actors, writers, producers, et cetera, to be compensated for producing good entertainment, because I want to encourage (and enable) them to produce more good entertainment.  I like reasonable copyright protections.  I just also like simple.  

I don’t want to be running back to Quicken to make a note everytime I push *play* on some movie, and I like being able to explore genres and themes without feeling like I’m flushing $3.99 if I turn a show off after five minutes.  Netflix got it right for me.  Flat fee, no deadlines, and good quality streaming video on the big flat screen in the living room.  Santa was definitely good to us this year.

Chuck posted this on Thursday, January 29, 2009 at  10:41 am.   2 comments have been made. Join them. 

Maybe If They Just Had More Reruns…

Sure the Bartlett administration was fictional.  Who cares – Martin Sheen (and John Goodman) played the best U.S. president(s) in the last thirty years.

Maureen Dowd has a nice bit in the N.Y. Times with President Bartlett giving some advice to Presidential Wannabe Obama, leading up to this unfortunately fictional tongue-lashing:

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

I’m not sure I want Obama as President, but I certainly don’t want McCain in the White House.  With this week’s economic meltdown just being the icing on the cake for everything else that’s gone wrong the last eight years in this country, the election should be the Democrat’s to lose, and if he manages to do that Obama will have no one but himself to blame.

Chuck posted this on Saturday, September 20, 2008 at  8:23 pm.   Comments Off on Maybe If They Just Had More Reruns… 

Enjoying Really Live Sports

Yes, it’s almost one in the morning.  Watching the USA-Hungary water polo match in another window.  After seeing NBC television butcher every other big event I figured staying up late for the online really live broadcast would be the only way to go for this one.  Currently 2-2 in the first.

Chuck posted this on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at  12:50 am.   4 comments have been made. Join them. 

Waiting For The Good Stuff

Even though the parts they showed of the men’s springboard diving last night were interesting, I’m really kinda over NBC and their Olympics coverage.  Too much fluff, not enough competition, and no suspense for West Coast viewers unless you stick your head in the sand and do nothing but watch NBC’s coverage.

Really excited that the Triton Invitational’s almost here though.  Just three weeks until UCSD’s annual water polo tourney.  With fourteen teams and two pools on the schedule I should be able to get plenty of competition, live even, without the fluff.  I can wait.

Chuck posted this on Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at  10:46 am.   Comments Off on Waiting For The Good Stuff 

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