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    May 22, 2015
    Turn Your XBone Into A TV/DVR

    Increasingly, the future of television is going to the cord-cutters.  I have an over-the-air tuner hooked to my television upstairs, as well as my Amazon Fire TV Stick.  Between the two, I’m pretty set on entertainment, but the antenna isn’t the best antenna out there, and it seems like other folks like myself are looking for a way to branch out and increase their free television consumption.  That’s where Microsoft comes in.  Did you know your Xbox One can be turned into a TV/DVR system?  It’s true, and it only costs $99 to make it happen.  Microsoft’s Xbox One now has a TV tuner.

    The Tuner comes from Mohu, and a glance at the Mohu website tells me that I have 34 over-the-air channels, most of which I currently can’t watch becuase they’re not offered by my satellite television dish.  The tuner and antenna is quite a deal at $99; the Hauppauge tuner by itself is only $59.99.  It provides a lot of fun functionality, from 30 minutes of pause time to the ability to watch TV and play games at the same time.  You can also stream over-the-air television to your wireless device (phone or tablet), which would have been great back when it was March Madness NCAA basketball tournament time.

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    April 17, 2015
    Verizon’s New FiOS Skinny Bundles

    One of the problems with cable television is the fact that you’re paying a lot of money for channels that you might not want.  Not everyone wants ESPN.  Not everyone wants SyFy or E! on their dials.  Some people have very specific television tastes and needs, and for those people, there’s not a ton of choice.  Cable networks have a vested interest in bundling, so rather than getting a sports-only package, ESPN has to come bundled alongside a lot of other ABC/Disney channels.  Verizon is looking to shake up that status quo with a bunch of new FiOS ‘skinny’ television packages.

    The new offering is called FiOS Custom TV, and it sounds pretty awesome.  First of all, there’s no required commitment, so the two year contract is only for those that want to lock in slightly lower rates or who know they’re in it for the long haul.  After 30 days, you can drop any package you don’t want without fees.  The basic cost is $55 for the base package, which comes with two of seven other packages:  sports, sports plus, kids, pop culture, lifestyle, entertainment, and news & info.  Other additional packages are $10 a month.  For those looking for TV and Internet together, it’s $75 a month (before taxes and fees) for a 2-year commitment.

    “This is an entirely new way to personalize TV,” said Tami Erwin, president of Verizon’s Consumer and Mass Business group, in a statement.

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    April 7, 2015
    HBO Now, Just In Time For “Game Of Thrones”

    Cord cutters rejoice!  The most pirated TV show in television history is now available for you to watch legally, and the first month is absolutely free.  The long-awaited standalone streaming service from HBO, dubbed HBO Now, has been discussed quite a bit in television circles, and your home theater system has never needed a streaming device more than it does now.  HBO has launched HBO Now for iOS and Apple TV.  Westeros for everyone!

    The launch of HBO Now, which is basically HBO Go but without a cable subscription according to The Verge, and the new season of Game of Thrones, which debuts on Sunday, isn’t a coincidence.  HBO knows where its bread is buttered, and getting this service into the hands of interested people at this time is key to get people A) hooked on the service and B) willing to pay for it for the next few months while George R.R. Martin’s brilliant fantasy television show plays out its string.  Very clever choice, but I have to wonder:  why no Android port?

    Android is the most popular operating system out there, and yet Android support seems lagging, particularly as far as television apps go (I’m still waiting on the SNL app a few months after it was launched for iOS).  Is it an economic issue?  Is it a hipness factor?  I wonder, but I’m not in a position to question these kinds of decisions, as I’m not the person who knows anything about designing apps.

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    April 2, 2015
    Samsung Prices New Curved TVs

    If you listen to Samsung’s marketers and designers, the future is all curves and no straight lines.  Curved televisions have been talked about for awhile, but for Samsung, the future is curves and the future is now.  Samsung has announced a line of curved SUHD TVs–no one knows what SUHD stands for, but the UHD is for Ultra High Definition–in size ranges from 40 inches to an impressive 78 inches.  So what’s a new curved SUHD TV going to run you?  Well, the prices for Samsung’s SUHD TVs starts at $949.99 for the 40-inch model.  (The 78-inch model runs an impressive $9,999.99.)

    Samsung boasts that the curved TVs have improved brightness, a good color range, and the deepest blacks of any LED display.  The televisions are powered by Samsung’s in-house Tizen operating system and come with a built in 8-core processor for extra zip.  If you have a Galaxy smartphone, you can use it as a smart remote.   But it’s not the only curved thing in Samsung’s lineup:  Samsung is also rolling out a line of curved speaker bars to go along with the curved television, and some interesting-looking round omnidirectional speakers.

    Apparently, Samsung is taking this obsession with curved home theater equipment to the next level.


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    April 1, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Time Capsule

    Image via Reddit

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    March 18, 2015
    PS Vue Versus Sling TV

    The future is streaming, not cable.  That’s just how things are looking, despite the best efforts of both cable companies and broadcasting networks.  That’s just how it’s going to work, and the sooner people get on board, the better off they’re going to be when the sea change completes.  Sony is jumping into the streaming service, announcing the PlayStation Vue streaming TV service for PS3 and PS4 owners.  It squares off against another service, Sling.  The Vue is $50 per month, while Sling is $20 a month.  Aside from the cost, what’s the difference in the two?  Here’s an in-depth comparison between Sling and PlayStation Vue.

    I have to admit, the fact that you have to buy a PS3 or PS4 to make the Vue work isn’t a big downfall.  Neither is the required purchase of a Roku or Amazon Fire TV or whatever.  That’s just par for the course.  The problem is the Vue is $50 a month; the cheaper Sling is still $20 a month, too.  For that price, you can get both Netflix and Amazon Prime, or a lower-level cable subscription.  Plus, there’s always the over-the-air option.  I’m in a pretty good location for that sort of thing, and I can get probably 20 channels, including all major broadcast networks (many of them aren’t cooperating with Sony and Sling).

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    February 11, 2015
    Pop-Up Ads On Your New Smart TV

    Just when you thought it was safe to buy a new television, along comes Samsung.  It’s not that the company’s televisions are bad; I have a Samsung TV and it’s got a great picture and decent sound for a flat panel.  It’s the advanced features that are giving some people trouble.  It’s not just your television listening in on your conversations, either.  Some Samsung Smart TVs have been displaying pop-up ads for Pepsi.  The trouble is when users use their smart televisions to stream video.  That’s when the Pepsi ads pop up.

    “I have recently upgraded my Plex Media Server to version 0.9.1101 and every 10-15 minutes whilst watching content on my Samsung TV I get a Pepsi advertisement showing!” user Mike wrote on the Samsung support forums.  ”At first I thought I was seeing things but no it repeats. Sometimes I can get out of it and go back to my media, others it hangs the app and the TV restarts.”

    Well, unwanted pop-up ads are bad, but when they interfere with the act of watching television–the sole purpose for that big flat thing in the living room that makes the noises and shows the pictures–that’s crossing a line.  I’m glad I have a dumb TV, and I don’t think I want a TV where I’d have to install pop-up blockers just to enjoy my Netflix.

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    January 30, 2015
    Dish Network: Skip The Game, Watch The Commercials

    The Super Bowl is one of the few events that still brings people together in huge numbers.  Whether at parties, at bars and restaurants, or at home, people watch the Super Bowl to the hundreds of millions.  It’s not just a football game, it’s an event, and with that crowd comes very expensive advertising rates.  Indeed, it seems like as many people turn in just for the commercials as they do for the game.  Hence, a special surprise for people who don’t like football but love commercials:  Dish Network is rolling out a reverse Autohop function on The Hopper to skip the game and fast forward to the commercials.

    “This day is about two things:  football and commercials,” said a press release from Dish senior VP Vivek Khemka, “and for good reason—both are entertaining and our customers love them.”

    Of course, I imagine if you’re skipping the game, you’ll make some enemies at your party.  Still, it’s always more fun to watch these sorts of things live, rather than on the Internet, so you can participate along with the social media conversation.  If only they had a Hopper function to skip over the halftime show (or at least change the channel to the Puppy Bowl).

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    November 21, 2014
    Amazon Preparing Free Ad-Supported Video Service

    I willingly pay the $99 a year to subscribe to Amazon Prime.  Since I have a Kindle Fire, it’s a great deal for me.  Free streaming movies, television episodes, a free book a month, free music, and the wonderful two-day shipping that comes along with the subscription.  I can do all of this stuff from the great Kindle interface, on that great screen, and anywhere I have access to wireless Internet.  Given the growing popularity of Amazon as video retailer, it’s only natural to expand that offering.  Amazon may be offering free streaming video.

    The key is advertisements.  Amazon Prime members won’t have them; the free streaming video service will.  Amazon already has a pretty big business in ad sales, pushing ads onto Kindles, their subsidiary websites (like the IMDb), and other services.  Amazon’s advertising business is already pretty close to $1 billion dollars, and giving their rising share of the video market, the natural cross-sales ability of advertising stuff for sale at Amazon in Amazon’s videos, and the potential to sell more people on Prime memberships, it’s a no-brainer to give it a shot.

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    November 15, 2014
    Sony Launches Internet TV Service

    The PlayStation 4 is a pretty expensive piece of entertainment, but it’s also a very versatile creation.  Not only does it play games and movies and music, it looks like Sony is also turning your PS4 into a cable box.  Granted, it’s a product test right now, but it looks like the Japanese conglomerate is opening up a new front in the war for control of your entertainment dollar.  Sony has announced the Playstation Vue, a TV alternative streaming video package.  It offers a range of channels, plus on-demand content.  All told, Vue is expected to have 75 channels, which is a pretty great deal for cord-cutters.

    Of course, there’s a little catch to a service that sounds so good.  It’s pretty expensive.  Not by cable television standards, but definitely in comparison to other things like Netflix.  However, like Netflix, it’s also free from contracts, so when you’re done with it, you can just cut the service.  It even comes with cloud storage (though it only stores stuff for 28 days before deleting it).

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