Vudu: Movies On Us

Some good news for people missing Hulu’s ad supported offering.  Login with your Vudu (or Walmart.com) email address, and you can start enjoying ad supported movies on Vudu.  If you do not have an account, you can sign up with an email address — apparently any email address as there is no verification.  Also, there is no need to provide a payment method.

According to the press release, there are THOUSANDS of ad supported movies.  I count about 2600 (easily distracted and lacking basic math skills; Vudu counts a season of a television series as one entry in the catalog.).  The catalog includes a lot of familiar titles.

I’ve watched two movies — one on a Roku 2 XS and one on a Channel Master DVR+.  Both experiences were excellent — no buffering, synch issues, or restarts.  Ads come in bunches of three 13-30s commercials with about 18 minutes between ads.  Sometimes the ads started in the middle of a movie scene, but there were no problems with the same ad running over and over (common with ad supported streams).  Programming is unedited, but Vudu has parental controls.

All in all, this is a very welcome addition to the free TV offerings and worthy of your consideration…

http://www.vudu.com/

Heroes & Icons Comes to Boston

It’s official — Heroes & Icons is on 38.2 in Boston.  If it’s not in your channel lineup, refresh or rescan your channels.  WSBK just saved my wife’s favorite maple and, probably, a marriage.  Enjoy!

  • 12 O’CLOCK HIGH
  • 21 JUMP STREET
  • ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
  • BATMAN
  • BLACK SHEEP SQUADRON
  • BRANDED
  • BROKEN ARROW
  • CHEYENNE
  • COMBAT!
  • DANIEL BOONE
  • HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL
  • HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS
  • HILL STREET BLUES
  • HUNTER
  • KUNG FU
  • NYPD BLUE
  • REAL STORIES OF THE HIGHWAY PATROL
  • RENEGADE
  • SHEENA
  • STAGECOACH WEST
  • STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE
  • STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE
  • STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES
  • STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
  • STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES
  • STAR TREK: VOYAGER
  • SWAMP THING
  • TARZAN
  • THE CISCO KID
  • THE COMMISH
  • THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO
  • THE GREEN HORNET
  • THE HIGH CHAPARRAL
  • THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
  • THE REBEL
  • TRACKDOWN
  • WAGON TRAIN
  • WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
  • XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
  • YANCY DERRINGER

Patriot Games

ebeemee

Let’s say you are committed to spending Columbus Day weekend in a place called Ebeemee Township.  Ebeemee Township is far enough north that DirecTV does not offer local channels (or HDTV).  Imagine that Tom Brady makes his 2016 debut on that VERY weekend.  What is a Patriot to do?

  1. Visit TVFool.com to see what channel carries CBS programming in Ebeemee Township
  2. Pick up an appropriate antenna
  3. Grab a fence rail, a bunch of conduit straps, some screws, and 50′ of coax
  4. Point the antenna in the right direction
  5. Watch the New England Patriots crush the Cleveland Browns

Cord cutting is patriotic!

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!