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    April 4, 2014
    Amazon Launches Fire TV Streaming Media Device

    You can never have enough boxes hooked to your television.  Or rather, you have TOO many boxes hooked to your television and lots of companies are trying to help you simplify your life and pare down your HDMI cable collection by offering superior services for a low price.  Hence, Amazon has entered the fray for home theater domination with a low-cost media player.  Amazon has announced the Fire TV, a streaming media player that hooks your TV to your Amazon Prime, Showtime Anytime, and dozens of other streaming services.

    Amazon helpfully provides a comparison guide for the various streaming media servers right there on the purchase page, probably because it’s looking like it’s the superior product.  Unlike the Roku 3 it doesn’t have HBO Go, but it does have superior sound, a faster processor, more memory, and voice search, which seems like the killer app for this streaming media player, according to none other than Gary Busey.  After all, while the other boxes can always hold more space and get faster and maybe even offer games and voice (Apple, I’m looking at you), only Amazon has Gary Busey yelling at furniture.

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    Will you, like Gary Busey, gravitate to the streaming media player with voice control, akin to how you can talk to your iPhone and your Xbox and whatnot?  Or will the Roku’s HBO Go make the difference and tip the balance away from Amazon (which offers Bloomberg TV for you business types rather than HBO).  Will the fact that the Amazon Fire plays video games as well help tip the choice?  Or will you be holding out or just hooking an older, streaming-capable tablet to your television?

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    January 3, 2014
    Television Trends For 2014

    If you’re looking for the next big thing in television, then there’s no better place to look than the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES.  Every year, the best and brightest of the tech world being their craziest ideas to Las Vegas in the hopes of generating buzz, attention, or just finding some fans.  Well, every year it seems something new pops up in the television world, from 4K technology to 3D at home, and this year is no exception.  With CES approaching, here are five TV trends for 2014.

    Some of these, specifically the 4K television, are already familiar to anyone remotely interested in home theater systems.  Others, like cloud DVR service, won’t be shocking as pretty much everything else is in the cloud right now, so why not your DVR?  It seems like a logical progression.

    The one that really took me aback was non-glasses 3D television.  Having given up 3D for dead given the struggle of the Nintendo 3DS and the closure of multiple 3D television channels, it was beginning to look like 3D was over.  Turns out it may yet come back, only without the annoyance of glasses at home.  Anything to improve the user experience seems like a great idea, as glasses aren’t friendly and glasses that need recharging are definitely not any fun.

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    December 19, 2013
    Samsung And LG Debut 105-Inch TVs

    I’ve got a 55 inch television in my living room, but I’ve got quite a bit of room in my new house, so if I wanted, I could always move to something slightly larger.  And by slightly larger, I mean twice as large.  It seems like a lot of television, and it is a lot of television, but it’s also the future of television.  Samsung and LG have 105-inch curved televisions for sale, and boy, do I want one.

    It’s not just that the televisions are large, or that they’re curved like a screen at the movie theater.  Those are both awesome things, but the real kicker for these new televisions is the definition.  They’re four times the definition of a HIGH DEFINITION television, not a standard definition television.  The television will be assembled from LED panels that contain a staggering 11 million pixels.  Twice the size, four times the definition!  It’s a 4K television that may be larger than any television on the market for the near future.

    That’s an amazing bit of engineering, all things considered.   I’ve been a good boy all year, but not even Santa can make this happen for me.  No matter how much I might want one.

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    November 11, 2013
    Blockbuster’s Last Rental

    Blockbuster Video has closed its doors nationwide, with the store closing its last 300 corporate-owned locations on Saturday, November 9, 2013.  It ends a run as one of the country’s largest video stores, and it marks the end of an era.  No more will you be able to drive a few miles and rent videos from a giant video store.  Of course, there are still local video stores, Family Video still exists, and there are Red Box locations at every other fast food restaurant and grocery store, but unless you live near these things, the video rental era is over, brought down by Netflix, Internet piracy, and general malaise.  With the shutdown at the stroke of midnight, it’s only fitting that the last Blockbuster rental was the Seth Rogen/James Franco apocalypse comedy This Is The End.

    The last rental took place in Hawaii at 11 PM on November 9.  Blockbuster tweeted out the last rental notice on its Twitter account, which–fittingly–has not been updated since.  I guess this is the end for Blockbuster, gone the way of all sorts of other relics of history.

    Question:  Do you think any of these final rentals will actually be returned to stores?

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    October 25, 2013
    Comcast Adds HBO To Low-Cost Web Service

    When I wanted to add HBO to my television service, I had to upgrade my cable from AT&T Uverse’s U100 to their u200 package.  In the process I got a whole lot more channels, and I ended up getting comped for the whole fleet of movie channels and movie on-demand services, so I’m not too upset about spending more money.  However, if I had the option to just add HBO to my existing service, I would have, and I could have saved a good deal of money.  With pressure increasing from cable-cutters and online streaming services, cable companies are getting more creative with their channel options.  Out of the gate comes Comcast, who is adding HBO to a low-cost web subscription plan designed to appeal to the frugal movie buff.

    The plan is called Comcast Internet Plus.  Customers get 20 channels of television service and video-on-demand via a set-top box, access to Comcast’s Streampix streaming video service, and 25Mbps broadband, but that’s not all.  The cherry on top is the package, which will retail from $40 to $50 nationwide, will also come with bundled HBO (and HBO Go).  For the price of three pizzas a month, you can have HBO and high-speed Internet.

    Most people pay roughly that amount for Internet access anyway, so adding a few television channels and HBO seems like a great idea.  That just might be enough to keep people from cutting the cable entirely and going to an all-online distribution network.  I imagine if this takes off, it’ll spread to other providers.  Fingers crossed; Comcast might just have changed the way cable companies have to do business with this clever promotion.

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    October 14, 2013
    Netflix On Your Cable Box

    With House Of Cards, Arrested Development, Orange Is the New Black, and many other programs, Netflix has become something other than a way to rent movies without leaving your house, or a provider of streaming movies and television shows.  Netflix, as much as any other provider, has become a content creator, not just a repackager.  As such, Netflix is looking to get the same respect HBO and AMC get from cable companies.  Netflix is actively trying to get its streaming app on cable boxes.

    I’m a customer of AT&T Uverse, and my cable box hosts a variety of apps that I can use, all of which are provided by AT&T.  My Blu-ray player also has a variety of apps, including a much-loved Netflix app.  Given the popularity of Netflix, and its increased focus on creating television shows and whatnot, it seems like Netflix would be a natural addition to the cable box app line-up.  As such, Netflix is negotiating with Comcast and Suddenlink Communications, among other companies, to slide in with other streaming offerings already present on cable boxes.

    Of course, you’d still need to carry two subscriptions, but the low cost and high value of Netflix is a good companion to cable’s offerings, and cable needs to play a little nicer to keep people from cutting the cord completely.

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    August 1, 2013
    Netflix Rolls Out Individual Profiles

    Roommates, married couples, parents and children… the rejoicing is pretty  much universal around the world tonight as Netflix has launched one of their most-requested features after months of waiting.  Netflix is launching individual user profiles for its accounts.  Most importantly, it’s not coming with an extra charge; indeed, Netflix users can make up to 5 different user profiles per account, which is enough to allow pretty much any family member to get their own personalized Netflix recommendations.  Huzzah!

    “Now everyone in your home can have their own Netflix experience, built around the TV shows and movies they enjoy,” said chief product officer Neil Hunt.  ”No longer will your Netflix suggestions be mixed up with those of your kids, a significant other, roommates, or house guests.”

    The house guests comment is actually a good idea.  If there are five possible accounts, making a dump account for everyone not a regular user is a pretty good way to make sure they feel comfortable using Netflix without messing up someone else’s personalization.  I just am not a big fan of having visitors over, so maybe I’ll keep that particular idea off the table for now.

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    July 25, 2013
    Google’s Media Streaming Miracle

    When it comes to streaming television services, there are a lot of options that promise to take your streaming content from the cloud and put it on your television and into your home theater.   However, most of these devices are pretty expensive.  Even the cheaper options, like Roku or a streaming-compatible Blu-ray player, can cost a pretty penny.  However, there may be a solution.  Google has launched Google Chromecast, which is a dongle that connects to the HDMI port on the back of your television and streams content from your laptop wirelessly via your home network.

    Here’s the impressive thing about the dongle.  It’s only $35 and it’s apparently available as we speak.  That’s right, it should be available for purchase at a store near you and it’s definitely available online via Amazon.  The hard part seems to be finding it in stock, since it looks like it’s moving out the door pretty quickly.  There are also versions available out there for people willing to pay double the price, but I’m not sure why you would want to do a thing like that when you can wait a few weeks and it should be back in stock.

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    July 16, 2013
    Google Preparing For TV Service

    I live in a town that, for decades, had one choice for cable television.  For years, we were lucky enough to have a good local company that provided prompt service and who generally behaved themselves like a respectable community organization.  Then, they got bought out by a major cable conglomerate who shall not be named (but who was once under the Ted Turner empire).  Service immediately got worse, rates immediately increased, and the little local cable company immediately went down the tubes.  Fortunately, by the time that happened, we had other options in the area and I was able to switch over to AT&T Uverse, which I’m really happy with.

    As it turns out, another company is looking to take its message of not being evil into the cable realm.  Google is in negotiations to launch a streaming television service.  That’s right, Google is looking to cut the cable, or at least replace the cable with a CAT5 high speed internet cable.  Given that cable and high speed internet come across the same cable, why wouldn’t one of America’s fastest internet providers tap into that power and delivery streaming HD television to its Google Fiber customers?

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    July 5, 2013
    The BBC Ends 3D TV

    Television in the third dimension was supposed to be the next step in television.  First there was television, then color television, UHF and VHF, cable, satellite… every big new thing in television started slow, then took off for whatever reason.  Even HD TV took off, despite the high price tag, and now we’ve got 4K televisions and flat screens.  However, 3D TV just hasn’t worked yet, and it looks like it’s never going to.  The BBC is dropping its support of 3D television; a few months ago, ESPN did the same thing.

    “I have never seen a very big appetite for 3D television in the UK.  I think when people watch TV they concentrate in a different way.  When people go to the cinema they go and are used to doing one thing – I think that’s one of the reasons that take up of 3D TV has been disappointing,” admitted the BBC’s Kim Shillinglaw.  ”After that we will see what happens when the recession ends and there may be more take up of sets, but I think the BBC will be having a wait-and-see.  It’s the right time for a good old pause.  I am not sure our job is to call the whole 3D race.”

    Fittingly, the BBC’s last 3D program will be the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, a show that started in black and white with cardboard sets and rubber monsters and has progressed to being a show in color with CGI cardboard sets and rubber monsters.

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