Siding My Home

fanfold

 

Later this month, I am replacing the cedar siding on my home with vinyl siding, fanfold insulation, and a vapor barrier.  The fanfold is Alside Platinum Series AF38 Underlayment which is not foil backed.  The contractor left me a sheet of the fanfold so I could test for attenuation and I am happy to say that there is none.

I am expecting improved reception as removal of my peak vents will eliminate a couple square feet of steel mesh from my line of site and vinyl should shed water better than cedar.

By the way, that 100% VHF signal is from WMTW whose antenna is 67.6 miles from mine!

GfK Report: OTA Growing, OTT Niche

gfk2016

“The fact that a statistically significant increase in broadcast-only reception occurred over just one year may be further proof that the cord-cutting/cord-never phenomenon is accelerating,” says David Tice, SVP in GfK’s Media & Entertainment practice.

GfK’s 2016 Ownership and Trend Report1 says that 17% of US TV households now rely on broadcast-only (up from 15% in 2015) and that another 6% of US TV households only use Internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or YouTube (up from 4% in 2015).

Among those 18-34, 22% rely on broadcast-only reception and 13% get their programming over the internet.

Per GfK’s accompanying infographic, 4k televisions sales grew an anemic 5% in 2016 and only half of those who own 4k sets are actually watching UHD content.

1 The study was conducted among 3,009 US households, including representative levels of non-TV, non-internet, cell-phone-only, and Spanish dominant homes.

Giving Rovi the Boot!

In 2012, Rovi asked broadcasters to return their guide hardware.  Within a few months, people who purchased OTA devices with ‘lifetime television guides’ figured out just how short a lifetime can be.  All of a sudden, I was very glad my EchoStar DVRs has a PSIP guide backup.  Four years later, my DTVPals still work.

One of the reasons I prefer the Channel Master DVR+ to the TiVo OTA DVRs is that Channel Master saw fit to include a PSIP guide.  If you run your DVR+ with no internet connection, it generates an Electronic Program Guide from PSIP data included in the video stream.

Given the problems with the Rovi guide, some people have chosen to rely on a PSIP sourced EPG.  I’m not aware of any way to choose the PSIP guide over the Rovi guide in the DVR+ configuration and I’m not willing to forego the DVR+’s internet based services, so I have been suffering Rovi’s guide…until now.

TIP: If you would like to use a PSIP EPG without losing internet services, simply enter 00000 as your zip code.  (Thanks to Russell_)

Note that the time zone gets set to Eastern Standard Time when you change your zip code to 00000.  If that is not your time zone, be sure to correct the time zone after changing the zip code.  (Thanks to pachinko)

Some people have better luck with PSIP than others.  If you find your PSIP data is not updating as frequently as you’d like here is another tip for you…

TIP: Create manual “dummy” recordings for each channel. Set each to record the minimum length of five minutes.  Schedule them to run at times you do not normally record programs to minimize impact on real recordings.  Name every dummy program ‘ZZZ’, so they all get dumped into the same folder.  (That makes it easier to delete the dummy recordings.)  (Thanks to Greasemonkey)

Hope Rovi does a better job with the TiVo guide.

 

Review: Stellar Labs 30-2476

This is more of a ‘look what I found’ than a review.  I don’t have sophisticated measuring equipment — just an HDHomerun, the meters in my DVRs, and my eyes.

wmtwfool

Background: I love Heroes and Icons.  The closest station carrying HI is WMTW in Portland Maine.  WMTW is REAL channel 8 — a VHF station 68 miles and a single obstruction away.  I have been pulling it in using an Antennacraft Y10-7-13 in my attic, but only during the late fall, winter, and early spring and with frequent dropouts — especially during the day.

StellarLabs302476

Project: I decided to use information in this article and this Yagi designer tool to build a better VHF antenna.  Rather than buy raw materials, I bought four Stellar Labs 30-2476 antennas.   The plan was to extend the antenna’s directors by attaching additional front sections.  If that was unsuccessful, I would start cutting directors and drilling holes.

On April 18 I was having trouble tuning WMTW.  I hooked up my HDHR3 and headed up to the attic.  This was the first time I saw the Y10-7-13 and the 30-2476 side by side.  The Y10-7-13 is built on a sturdier beam and has two antenna elements but the 30-2476 has a more substantial vertical reflector.  Another important distinction is that you can still purchase the 30-2476.

wmtwhdhr

Replacing the Y10-7-13 with the 30-2476 changed nothing.  WMTW was in and out just as it was with the Y10-7-13.  I removed the front-most director from the 30-2476 and attached a second front section.  Reception improved dramatically.  Dropouts persisted, but were less frequent.  I added a third section and the dropouts were gone.  The HDHomeRun indicated 85-100% signal strength, 55-70% signal quality, and, most importantly, 100% symbol quality.

signal

Epilog: It’s been nearly three weeks since I installed Frankentenna and I have been watching WMTW on my television every day and monitoring signal quality using the HDHomeRun Config Utility 24/7.  Reception has been excellent — even during a very heavy rain.

Conclusion: The 30-2476 is an inexpensive Yagi antenna which performs as well as a Y10-7-13.  If you want to target a deep fringe station and have room in your attic, the 30-2476 can easily be extended to improve gain.  I highly recommend this antenna.

New Magnavox OTA DVRs Announced

TB560S

At CES 2016, Magnavox quietly unveiled a line of OTA (Over-the-Air or broadcast television via antenna) DVRs.  There are three models in the line…

  • MDR877H/F7 (MSRP $399.99): 1 TB (1000 hours), two tuners, DVD recorder
  • TB560HP/F7 (MSRP $449.99): 1 TB (1000 hours), two tuners
  • TB560HS/F7 (MSRP $499.99): 2 TB (2000 hours), six tuners

Magnavox has a long history in the OTA Digital VCR/DVD recorder business, but, as far as I know, this is their first foray into the full feature HD DVR arena. Release date is set for this fall. The first thing that struct me about these is the fact that it looks like a TB560HP/F7 with a DVR burner is $50 less than a TB560HP/F7. I suspect there is a lot we don’t yet know about these things.

CNET posted pictures of the boxes here. I have not seen any first hand information other than that.

Here is some of the interesting stuff from the boxes…

– Pause/rewind live TV
– No subscription EPG
– 802.11n
– Tuners (2 or 6)
– Line in for camcorders (or Rokus?)
– External storage
– IOS/Android live and ‘on the go’ support (download recordings?)
– DVD-r/rw support (MDR877H/F7)
– DLNA Sync (start watching in one room, resume in another)
– DVR Link (recordings from all DVRs are available, via a single menu, on all DVRs)
– Home Network Server

The Rovi powered guide looks very nice — it’s a grid with images and details. There seems to be a search function whereby Rovi recommends and aggregates programming.

The interesting thing is that this DVR does not seem to target any existing DVRs directly with the possible exception of dissatisfied Tablo users or people who might otherwise buy a Tablo.

Also interesting, with DLNA, a six tuner model, and no diskless ‘Mini’, Magnavox seems to be inviting streamers to leverage their DVR — and giving them six months to bring a product to market. Is Roku Media Player a potential client for the Magnavox DVR? Kodi is, so Fire TV, Nexus, and Raspberry PI are too, I guess.

This thing does not include streaming apps. That disqualifies it for one box people unless that one box is a DLNA capable streamer (or TV).

Looks like guide is Rovi only, so not a good fit for those without broadband.

Then there’s price. I’m having trouble with the announced prices and feature sets, but, for discussion purposes, let’s assume the prices are correct and these things are not compatible with any other devices. Let’s see how much this will cost compared to the alternatives for 3/4/5 years…

One room 1T at least two tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5: $700/$850/$1000
– DVR+ plus @$250 plus a 1t disk @$60: $310/$310/$310
– Tablo two tuner DVR @$220 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus Roku 1 @$50: $480/$480/$480
– TB560HP/F7 @$450: $450/$450/$450

Two rooms at least 1T at least two tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5 plus one Mini @$150: $850/$1000/$1150
– Two DVR+s @$500 plus two 1t disks @$120: $620/$620/$620
– Tablo two tuner DVR @$220 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus two Roku 1s @$100: $530/$530/$530
– Two TB560HP/F7s @$900: $900/$900/$900

Three rooms at least 1T at least four tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5 plus two Minis @$300: $1000/$1150/$1300
– Three DVR+s @$750 plus three 1t disks @$180: $930/$930/$930
– Tablo four tuner DVR @$300 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus three Roku 1s @$150: $660/$660/$660
– Three TB560HP/F7s @$1350: $1350/$1350/$1350

Four rooms at least 1T at least four tuners:
– TiVo 1t Bolt @$400 plus $150/yr for years 2-5 plus three Minis @$450: $1150/$1300/$1450
– Four DVR+s @$1000 plus four 1t disks @$240: $1240/$1240/$1240
– Tablo four tuner DVR @$300 plus a 1t disk @$60 plus Lifetime @$150 plus four Roku 1s @$200: $710/$710/$710
– Four TB560HP/F7s @$1800: $1800/$1800/$1800

This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. By the time you get to four rooms, the DVR+ and TB560HP/F7 setups are sporting eight tuners and 4t of disk space while the TiVo and Tablo setups are four tuners and 1t of storage. Maybe you need to add streamers to support popular streaming services. Regardless, this is a basic setup for an OTA first cord cutter. Magnavox is not a price leader in most configurations.

Unless the DVR recorder is a TB560HP/F7 with a DVR burner (which makes no sense) or these Magnavox DVRs work with inexpensive streamers, I am not sure who would choose one.

On the other hand, if this thing works with a Fire TV stick running Kodi, things look a LOT more interesting…

TB560HS/F7 @$500 plus three FTV Sticks @$150 gives you streaming in four rooms for $650/$650/$650 which is truly a bargain.

What do you think about this DVR?  Did Magnavox get things right?

By Len Mullen Posted in DVR, OTA

This Year I re-Resolve To…

Last year at this time, I resolved to begin to reap the economic benefits of cord cutting.   I ended up subscribing to Amazon Prime, buying three TiVos, two Minis, two Fire TV sticks, and a DB8e, and replacing a pre-amp.  So much for free tv, right?  In fact, since cutting the cord, I have spent $6400 plus $55/month (for high speed internet and Netflix) on free tv. It’s been 68 months, so my average monthly cost since cutting the cord is $149.12.

For 2016, I to re-resolve to spend less on free tv.

Continue reading

Fire TV Unwrapped

Merry Christmas! You got a Fire TV? Here’s a little guide to help you get the most out of your new streamer…

TV Everywhere: Most premium providers offer enhanced access to subscribed content via individual apps. Watch ABC, A&E, Watch Disney, Watch Disney Jr., Watch Disney X D, Encore, Watch ESPN, Watch Food Network, Fox Sports Go, FX Now, History, HBO GO, NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra, ShowTime Anytime, and Starz Play can all be accessed via your Fire TV if your provider and service level allow. Generally, the process requires installing an app and authenticating with your provider.

Antenna: If you have an antenna, you can access Over-the-Air content with your Fire TV. Tablo TV is a ‘whole house DVR’ which can stream recordings and live television to a Fire TV.

OTT: For everyone else, the Fire TV provides access to a wide variety of free and paid content. The following are representative of the best of each…

  • Premium: Amazon (movies and television @ $99/yr), CBS All Access (live and on-demand @ $5.99/mo), HBO/Now $(14.99/mo), Hulu ($7.99/mo), MLB.TV ($129.99/yr), Netflix ($9.99/mo), Sling TV ($20/mo), Showtime ($10.99/mo)
  • Free: Watch ABC, A&E, Bloomberg TV, CBS News, Crackle, FXNow, History, NBC, NBC News, NBC Sports Live Extra, PBS, PBS Kids, PopcornFlix, Red Bull TV (sports), Smithsonian, TMZ, TubiTV, Vevo, Weather4US,  WeatherNation TV, YouTube

Games: The Fire TV is the best <$100 game console you can buy.  No kidding!  Real controllers, great graphics, and familiar titles make the FTV a terrific console for the casual gamer.  I’m just going to list franchises where appropriate, but search for Kittle Critter, GTA, or Final Fantasy to pull up a list of all available apps.

  • For the kids: I live ‘Living Books’ and an thrilled to see Little Critter, the Berenstain Bears, and the Peanuts come to the Fire TV.  Lots of Sesame Street too.  You will find language tutors, match games, and math drill apps.
  • Retro hits: Fire TV has the Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, and Sonic franchises.  Choplifter, Crazy Taxi, Prince of Persia, Tetris, and Pac-Man are on the Fire TV.
  • Top games: Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga, and Angry Birds are all on the Fire TV.

Here are some links you should bookmark…

Happy streaming!

Roku Unwrapped

Merry Christmas!  What’s that purple thing over there?  You got a Roku?  Here’s a little guide to help you get the most out of your new streamer…

TV Everywhere: Time Warner subscribers can use their Roku to access most TWC content via a custom Roku app.  Other premium providers offer enhanced access to subscribed content via individual apps.  Watch ABC, Watch ABC Family, A&E, BTN2Go (Big Ten Network), CNN Go, Comedy Network, Watch Disney, Watch Disney Jr., Watch Disney X D, Encore, Epix, Watch ESPN, Watch Food Network, Fox Now, FX Now, History, Lifetime, HBO GO, MTV, National Geographic, NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra, Nick, Nick Jr., ShowTime Anytime, Starz Play, Tennis Channel, and USA Now can all be accessed via your Roku if your provider and service level allow.  Generally, the process requires installing an app and authenticating with your provider.  All these apps are grouped together under TV Everywhere if you install them from the Channel Store on the Roku (as opposed to the store on Roku.com).

Antenna: If you have an antenna, you can access Over-the-Air content with your Roku.  Tablo TV is a ‘whole house DVR’ which can stream recordings and live television to a Roku.  Read about the Tablo Roku app here.

OTT: For everyone else, the Roku provides access to a wide variety of free and paid content.  The following are representative of the best of each…

  • Premium: Acorn TV (British TV @ $4.99/mo), Amazon (movies and television @ $99/yr), CBS All Access (live and on-demand @ $5.99/mo), Cinema Now (buy/rent), HBO/Now $(14.99/mo), Hulu ($7.99/mo), MLB.TV ($129.99/yr), Netflix ($9.99/mo), Sling TV ($20/mo), Showtime ($10.99/mo), Tennis Channel ($11.99/mo), Vudu (buy/rent)
  • Free: Watch ABC, Watch ABC Family, A&E, Bloomberg TV, CBS News, CNN, Crackle, CW Seed, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Now, History, Lifetime, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, NBC News, Nowhere TV (live streams), Pandora, PBS, PBS Kids, PopcornFlix, Red Bull TV (sports), Smithsonian, Spotify, TMZ, TubiTV, Weather4US, Weather Underground, Vevo, WeatherNation TV, YouTube

Private Channels:  Private channels are the Roku’s Final Frontier.  In the interest of discretion, I’ll just point you to a couple of sites that provide detailed information about these private apps…

Merry Christmas.  Don’t forget to put an antenna on your Christmas list.

Who’s Naughty, Who’s Nice (Updated 11/22/2015)

Updated on 11/22/2015 to include $299.99 with Lifetime!  Scroll down to DVRs…

Black Friday is a great time to shop for the cord cutter in your life.  This year, there are a lot of promotions and a handful of new devices.   This post is a guide to what I consider the best buys at this moment.

Let’s start with the ‘no brainers’…

  1. The Roku SE is selling for $25 at Kohls, Best Buy, and Walmart.  This Roku has a slower processor than the current Roku 2/3 models which are slower than the new Roku 4, but it has standard RCA composite out for older televisions.  Great stocking stuffer.  The composite cable is not included, but get one on ebay for $0.99 shipped!  Roku has great apps for Vudu, the Simple DVR, and the TabloTV DVR.
  2. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is $25 at Best Buy, K-mart, and Staples.  It’s faster than the Roku SE and supports a voice remote.  Two features make it a no brainer.  Captive portal makes it easier to use hotel wifi with the Fire TV Stick.  Kodi support plus FireStarter allows the FTV Stick to easily slip in and out of a slick Media Center mode with virtually unlimited programming.
  3. Fire TV is $75 at Best Buy and Staples.  That’s about half the price of the new Apple and Roku streamers.  With wired or wireless game controllers, the Fire TV is a terrific, inexpensive video game console that also happens to be an awesome streamer.  The new model is more powerful, adds 4k support, Alexa integration, and 801.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, for better Wi-Fi video streaming.

Walmart is going to have the 1st gen Chromecast for $20.  Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, and Costco will all have the 2nd gen Chromecast at two for $50.

My favorite DVR is steeply discounted on Black Friday and you do not have to leave home to get one.  Channel Master’s DVR+ will be on sale for $199 from 4-8 am Pacific Time on Black Friday.  (That’s 7-11 am for those of us on the east coast.)  That’s a pretty good deal.  Buy a pair for $299.  That’s a GREAT deal!

You will need to buy a disk for these, but 1 t usb disks are going for $50 these days, so you can shelve a $200 DVR with no monthly fees.  While the DVR+ is primarily an OTA DVR (which requires no internet or phone connection), plugging in to the internet enables additional features like an Enhanced Program Guide and Linear OTT or Channel Master TV (CMTV).  The enhanced program guide extends the length of the guide from a few days to a couple weeks while adding additional information.  CMTV streams media from the internet to your television continuously.  In other words, words select a CMTV station and watch television continuously until you change the channel.

I like Bloomberg TV, ABC News, WeatherNation TV, Biz TV, WGN TV, The Hunt Channel, Foody TV, Outdoor Cooking Channel, VevoTV-hits, RT Television, RT Documentaries, and Catholic TV (I’m not Catholic, but I enjoy some of the programming).  WeatherNation TV, on the other hand, is great when the weather is on my mind. I actually seek out that channel regularly.  They have recently added some new channels. I will be paying attention to DRTV (Doctor TV). I’ve stopped for a movie or a show on Backlight TV a few times. Got caught up in that. Stream Shift TV has been running a video called Blokes TV which is a bunch of Aussies riding dirt bikes across Southeast Asia, eating ‘happy pizzas’, and hanging out in strip joints. (It’s more entertaining than it should be.) Rivals is a good channel — when something is on. I have watched a couple college football games on Rivals. TWIT TV is terrific background noise.

The DVR+ is the DVR built for cord cutters and is worthy of your consideration next Friday.

Amazon has updated their listing for a TiVo Roamio OTA indicating it will be in stock on 11/26/2015 and can be pre-ordered now.  The Roamio/OTA is my wife’s favorite DVR.  We don’t love the TiVo ‘paradigm’, but do like that it streams Amazon Instant Video/Prime, Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, and Plex.  It’s truly a single box solution for OTA first cord cutters.  At $299.99 with four tuners and a 500g disk, it is actually less expensive than the DVR+.  If you want to have a TiVo in a second or third room, you can buy a TiVo Mini for ~$130 or less.  The mini shares tuners and disk with a four/six tuner TiVo.

My caution is that TiVo makes their money on monthly and annual fees.  These Lifetime offers are fleeting and often prohibitively expensive.  If you get a single DVR and a couple Minis, you may feel compelled to replace a broken fee-free TiVo with one which has a monthly or annual fee.  I recommend you buy at least two for this reason.

If you cannot decide between a TiVo and a DVR+, post a comment below and we can figure things out together.  (I have three Roamios and three DVR+s.)

Kodi for FTV (UPDATED: 11/11/2015)

On a tip from aftvnews.com, I decided to install FireStarter and Kodi on a Fire TV Stick.  As I type this out, I am repeating the process on a second stick because my WIFE has taken custody of the first one.  Yes, WAF for this enhancement is very high.  Here’s why…

After installing in this manner, the FTV Stick still comes up as it always did.  Jumping into Kodi is as easy as pressing the home button.  Double pressing the home button returns to FTV mode.  Adding sources is fairly simply as well and navigating the sources is intuitive.  Once inside a source, you often have the option to Play From Here which plays every file at the source beginning with the selected file.  So, navigate to Food Network, scroll down to Barefoot Contessa, and Play From Here for hours of fun. Continue reading