TVShow Time!

I officially “Cut the Cord” on Cable TV last November and haven’t looked back.  With subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go, I get to watch pretty much anything I want when I want (and save a lot of money in the process).  I’m finding a lot of shows that have been around for several seasons and it can be hard to keep track of what you’ve watched and when new episodes are made available.

Tvshow-TimeThis is where TVShow Time (TVST) comes in.  This is a free service on the web that also has apps for Apple and Android.  TVST helps you mark what you’ve watched and has a worldwide fanbase who have running commentaries about the shows you’re watching.  It’s a big community of people who are doing exactly what you’re doing!

Community members make and upload GIF’s of important scenes in each episode to post in the comments and they’re usually very entertaining.  Be warned though there are spoilers in the comments so it’s best not to view until after you’ve watched a particular episode.

TV-Show-TimeOne of my favorite features is a calendar of upcoming shows that goes out about a year in advance.  Wondering when the new season of Walking Dead is going to return?  As of today it’s 48 days away!

To get started you just search for your favorite show and click the “+” sign to add it to your list.  After that you can view show details, season info, episodes, and community comments.

In the settings you can setup push alerts to let you know when new shows are available.  If you’re a Hulu user you can even delay the notifications by 24 hours so they’ll actually be available for you when you get notified.

The basic app is free & they just added in-app purchases that will allow calendar access and some additional customizations (I haven’t tried these yet).  TVST has been a really great resource to help me keep track of my TV viewing and it’s worth checking out!

What We’re Reading/Watching/Buying in December

It’s been a busy month and Christmas is less than a week away (so is a much-needed week off work for yours truly).  As I get older the years just keep speeding up & I don’t know of any way to slow them down!  It’s just the opposite feeling from when I was a kid where the years dripped slower than that bear bottle full of honey.

The Great Cord Cutting Project of 2015 is going better than I could have ever expected & there’s no going back.  I’m spending some of that old evening TV time trying to keep up on the articles I’m always collecting via Pocket.  Some items recently clipped include:

pcq8qzR9iThe Kindle is getting a workout too with several books being read in parallel.  Just depends on what I’m in the mood for.  Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Andy Weir’s The Martian are both fighting for my attention.
I’ve also taken the opportunity to really dig into what’s available on the streaming services I subscribe to, particularly Netflix and Amazon:

  • The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) is an alternate history story that has the Germans and Japanese wining WWII and taking control of the USA.  It’s a pretty dramatic series that’s full of twists and turns.
  • Narcos (Netflix) depicts the story of Pablo Escobar and the DEA agents assigned with bringing him to justice.  I’m not going to lie, you have to pay attention to this show.  Mainly because it’s 90% Spanish with subtitles.  And a Gringo like me needs them.  No Sprecken la Espanola

belkin-be-F5L171tt-1I’ve been helping keep USPS, FedEx and UPS in business with lots of holiday purchases for friends and family.  Along with those items I picked up a new Keyboard/Case for myself and my iPad Air 2.  The Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro is a great replacement to the Logitech keyboard cover I was using with the last iPad.  It’s a little pricy $150 but It’s currently on sale now for $130.  I’m working on a review but let’s just say that after a few days using it I’m a fan.

25475-inset13After a glowing review from a co-worker I also ordered the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Electric Sandwich Maker.  Seriously, I did!  I’ve see this gadget before but didn’t think it would be any good, especially costing under $30.  Well I’m told this thing really works so I had to see for myself.  When I happen to eat breakfast the egg and cheese (with various meats) is my regular go to.  Delivery is scheduled for Monday so we’ll see how it goes Tuesday morning when I fire that baby up and make my first sausage, egg and cheese muffin.

No matter your religious preference (or not) I hope everyone is gearing up for a fun holiday season with friends and family.  If you get any good tech gadgets or kitchen toys let me know!  I’m always looking for ways to give Amazon more money.

The New (and Improved?) Apple TV

apple-tv-remoteApple has finally released the first new AppleTV model in several years.  What was once considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs has finally matured into an impressive multimedia device!

The 4th version of the AppleTV has a familiar shape and footprint but it’s at least twice the height (and heavier too).  The remote has undergone a major upgraded to include a touch screen and Siri integration as well as an internal, rechargeable, battery that is reported to last up to three months of regular use (charged by the now Apple-standard lightning cable).

I ordered the 64GB unit for $199 on the first day it was available for pre-order (Apple also offers a 32GB device for $50 less).  Being impatient I opted for the next day shipping option in the hopes of receiving a new toy in time for the weekend.

Well it didn’t happen.  My package was stuck on a loading dock in Tennessee and didn’t leave until sometime on Sunday.  Apple refunded my overnight shipping cost which was appreciated (I had to call them to get this done though).  I love the ability to get detailed tracking of packages but this had the reverse impact as the shipment didn’t get updated for days.

While reviewing the Apple forums full of other people waiting for their shipments I learned about a carrier in Europe that not only tells you the status of your package but you can see the progression on a real-time map.  If that wasn’t cool enough you also know the name of the delivery driver along with a 30-minute delivery window (also updated in real time).  Talk about stalking the delivery Guy!

AppleTV 4 Ports
Being an early adopter can be fun but it has its frustrations as well.  Physical setup of the new Apple TV was relatively smooth once I figured out a work around for the missing “optical audio-out” (S/PDIF) I was using with the last model.  The App Store, which is one of the big selling factors of this new model, was not very exciting the first couple of days.  Not a lot of “must have” apps and nothing was categorized so finding apps to download and try out was not as easy as it should have been.

Now that things have been up and running for a few weeks the store is getting better and more useful apps are starting to become available.  The Siri remote is the real star here.  With it you can basically ask for a particular movie, actor, or genre and a list of options magically show up on the screen complete with a list of where you can view the content and pricing (if any).  Right now this search is limited to Netflix, Hulu and the Apple Store but it’s supposed to be opening up to other services soon.  This is a similar feature that Roku has had for a while but dictating with your voice is the new (and better) input method.

App StoreI’ve written two posts about my Cord Cutting project and how it’s been going.  The new AppleTV has made the transition from Cable to Over The Air (OTA) content and streaming media a lot easier and the App Store keeps getting better every day.  I think as this platform matures there could be some interesting capabilities surface that will make the 4th generation AppleTV an integral part of the entertainment stack.

It’s time to start thinking about the next electronic purchase and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a TV upgrade. My 38″ Plasma has served me well for many years but 55-60″ of UHD (or 4k) video sounds very appealing.  And the prices keep coming down to the sub-thousand level which makes it a more attractive buy.

I’m wanting to get a bigger screen and possibly install it over the fireplace.  I’ve heard good and bad things about this mounting location but after seeing an articulating wall mount that allows you to pull the TV down in front of the (unlit) fireplace for a better viewing angle I think that’s the way I’m going to go.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have feedback on the over-the-fireplace mounting option.  Is it that bad?  I’m going to be 15+ feet away from the screen so that makes the viewing angle relatively flat (that was the main complaint from people who chose the higher mounting position).

Thoughts?  Please leave them in the comments section below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 2)

 

Part 1 can be found here

So we’re ending week 2 of the Cord Cutting Experiment and I’ll have to say it’s been mostly OK so far.  I’m still missing the DVR a little because all my favorite shows were available in one place and ready to watch when I was.

Having said that by using a DVR I was not taking advantage of all the online programming that’s available out there.  You can still “Time Shift” but you have to find the content in various applications and services vs. it being grouped together.  You also have some limitations with shows only being available for a limited time (kind of like the storage space limitation on a DVR).

107-2313_BK_BI tried a few iOS apps that help track shows and remind you when the are on.  That’s nice to be able to do but you have to remember the shows are available the day after online in most cases.

I’ve also had some reception related issues with one of the local stations (ABC).  The signal bounces all over the place from 35-90%.  I repositioned the OTA Antenna this weekend and that made a big difference.

I’ve found some good online resources and talked to friends and co-workers about this experiment and have found a lot of people are cheating a little by using someone else’s (usually parents or relatives) cable tv account login to access online content.  This gets you over some of the content limitations of going strictly non-cable.  In fact, a lot of the AppleTV apps require a cable TV subscription login before they will even work!

I upgraded my Hulu Subscription the other night to the higher tier that all but eliminates commercials. I tried living with them for a week and it was driving me crazy.  It’s worth another $4 in my opinion.

So in the end I went from $120 a month to less than $20.  The $100 savings is worth it so far and I’m going to give this some more time before making a final decision on the overall experience.  So far it’s still very positive!

I’ve gotten some great feedback on this subject and I look forward to more!  Feel free to leave your questions and comments in the space below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 1)

I came home the other day and my DVR was acting odd.  Only a few shows remained & they were all marked for deletion.  A quick check of available space confirmed my suspicions…  The hard drive was dying and taking all of my saved content with it.

I work with a bunch of “Millennials” and none of them subscribe to cable TV.  The number one reason seems to be cost.  I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming a “cord cutter” but hadn’t made the move yet.  This was a perfect time to give it a shot.  A quick call to the cable company saved me $120 a month in cable subscription fees and started me on this journey.

51bQI0nhcpL._SY450_I purchased the new Apple TV released last week (future review topic for sure), and a new Over The Air (OTA) antenna for local channels.  After some initial setup I was ready to roll.

The Apple TV allows me to access Netflix ($7.99 a month) and Hulu (also $7.99 a month) so for $16 I’m getting more content than I could ever consume.  My Internet cost is reimbursed by my employer so this is working out to be a good deal.

The $60 OTA antenna I purchased from Amazon works amazingly well and pulls in all the local channels along with a bunch of sub-channels that I’ll never turn on.  This setup will cover the major sporting events I want to watch as well as some Prime Time shows I watch on occasion.

The only thing I’m missing so far are the DVR capabilities and NFL RedZone.  I’m learning that most network shows are available for streaming on Hulu the day after they air so if I miss it live I can usually find it online.

I’m still in the first week but so far so good.  I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going and if I’m still happy with the decision to ditch Cable TV.

Have you cut the cord?  Are you thinking about?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

CALM Act Approved by Congress

Here’s something I thought was already a law!  Congress has just passed the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act and is senting it to POTUS for his signature.  Once signed into effect, the new legislation will require that all advertisers modulate their volume down so it’s no higher than that of the program you’re watching.  More information at Engadget.