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    July 30, 2015
    Subscription YouTube?

    How much would you pay to look at videos online?  I don’t mean full-length movies or television shows, though you can certainly find those throughout YouTube’s murky depths, but normal, everyday viral videos.  Care to part with $5 a month?  Maybe $10?  Well, consider it, because you may be asked to do so in the very new future.  YouTube is going to launch a video subscription service that strips the ads from its videos.  That’s right, it’s going to be ad-free YouTube, but it’s going to cost you something.

    Of course, that’s going to be a hard sell.  The only thing I ever rented from YouTube’s On Demand service was “The Interview”, the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie at the center of the Sony hacking scandal.  I usually skip the ads when they give me the option to bypass them after 5 seconds.  Most of the things I end up watching on there are ad-free, or they only have the little pop-up ad at the bottom.  And like most folks, the reason why I use YouTube so much is because it’s free and supported by ads like broadcast television.

    So, long story short, I’m not going to be subscribing to YouTube unless it’s very, very cheap and they make the ads unskippable.

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    June 10, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Dinner And A Movie

    image: The Verge

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    June 4, 2015
    Ads On Netflix?

    There’s a reason Hulu isn’t very popular, and it’s not their offerings.  There’s a distinct lack of commercial-free programming on the network, even for paying customers.  Even if you pay, you have to look at ads, and that’s too much like cable for the cord cutters out there.  Hence, Netflix is awesome and everyone seems to like it, but there’s something scaring devoted streaming addicts:  Netflix is testing ads in some markets.

    Now, before you start screaming and throw your Netflix subscription away, just take a deep breath and listen.  The ads aren’t for commercial services.  They’re for other Netflix shows.  Like how you get trailers for stuff between HBO shows, Netflix is just trying to get more eyes on its original programming, and testing the waters for self-serving ads for stuff the company thinks you might like.

    “For some time, we’ve teased Netflix originals with short trailers after a member finishes watching a show,” wrote Cliff Edwards, Netflix’s director of corporate communications, in an email to NBC News.  ”Some members in a limited test now are seeing teases before a show begins.”

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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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