All posts for the month February, 2015


Over on Tulsa TV Memories@FB, in the item about cable networks speeding up shows to cram in more commercials, Gene Savage mentioned a new service called Sling TV.

Pay $20/month for around 14 cable channels including HGTV, Food Network, Disney, CNN, TBS, TNT, and ESPN, delivered over the internet. One of the ways to view is on the Sling TV Roku channel. Sling is an offering of Dish Network, aimed at the 18-35 demographic. (Read Sling’s brief history at Wikipedia.)

This could be a supplement to over-the-air TV for cord-cutters. In our case (and by “our”, I mean “her”), the draw would be HGTV and Food Network. But the flagship channels for the targeted demographic are ESPN and ESPN2.

Don’t you be trying to skip the commercials; FF, Rewind and Pause buttons do not work on the key channels. And as Gene pointed out, if TBS is speeding up “Seinfeld”, you will get the speeded-up version, too. You are limited to watching on one device at a time.

It’s early days for internet TV packages.

Roku Highlights

Google Doc on smartphone. Click to enlarge.

Gaye now has her own TiVo tuner/DVR in the den, so she can watch and record anything on over-the-air TV. I have my Raspberry Pi/Windows Media Center DVR setup in the theater room. (Later note: We added a TiVo Mini in the theater room.)

But now that we have cut the cord, it can be difficult to remember what Roku channels our other shows are on (Netflix, Amazon, Crackle, YouTube, etc.)

So I created a Google Docs menu of our video Roku channels, with notable content listed under each. A number of the shows and movies are perennial favorites of one or both of us.

Both of our phones have a link to this easily updatable Google Doc, so the menu is always at hand. (Later note: I am the only one who uses this doc. I have also anointed myself the TV butler.)

Note that the Media Browser and Plex channels require you to be running their software on a PC in order to serve content to the Roku. Nowhere TV is a private, but free Roku channel (list).

Without further ado, I present our TV menu (FYI, the links are to relevant TTM content):

Roku Channel highlights, 2/18/2015

(HD, Roku 3 only)

BBC World News Live
CNN International (Low res)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

PLEX Channels:
A & E (Flipping Vegas-5 eps)
HGTV (Numerous series)
Food Network (Numerous series)
Lifetime (Little Women: L.A.)
History Channel
The Daily Show

Comedians in a Car Getting Coffee
The Larry Sanders Show
Traffic (Michael Douglas movie)

MST3K (32 eps) / The Film Crew (3 eps)
The Weird Al Show
Sapphire and Steel (McCallum, SF)
Fridays (Michael Richards)

House of Cards
Orange is the New Black
Burn Notice
The IT Crowd
Green Lantern
Batman Beyond
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Walking Dead
The Riches
Arrested Development

Family Tree
The Wire
Downton Abbey (Season 4)
Batman Animated
Star Trek Original
Star Trek Next Generation


Silicon Valley (Season 1)
The Prisoner (1967, 2009)
Sherlock (Season 3)
Keeping Up Appearances (Seasons 1-3, 6-7)
Fawlty Towers (All)
The Outer Limits (1963) (All)
Eight is Enough (Season 2)
The Jetsons (Season 1)
The Flintstones (Seasons 3 & 5)
General Hospital Nurses’ Ball (1994-2014)
Jonny Quest Movie
Designing Woman
Forbidden Planet
The Awful Truth
His Girl Friday
Best in Show
The Party (Peter Sellers)
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
2001; A Space Odyssey (1080p HD)
Dr. Strangelove
Citizen Kane
All 007 movies
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Let’s Kill Uncle

Sister Wives (Current season)
Property Brothers (Current season)

A selection of the available Plex channels in a browser

In a couple of previous posts (Plex channels as cable substitutes & Fox News, CNN and msnbc channels on Roku & Plex), I discussed Plex channels as content sources for the cord-cutter (which I officially am, as of this month).

Plex channel content is derived from the video podcasts made available by the actual channels. This is true of the equivalent Roku channels as well. I noted that both the Fox News and CNN channels had mostly out-of-date content, whereas msnbc did have daily fresh content, “Morning Joe” and “The Rachel Maddow Show” in particular.

When I tuned in “Morning Joe” on Plex’ msnbc channel yesterday, there was a message that the podcast would be discontinued on 2/27.

Did a little searching and found this post on Benjamin Oakes’ blog: NBC quietly discontinuing video podcasts. Benjamin says, “NBC is dropping all their video podcasts, without explanation… All the audio podcasts remain. This move seems to be about video. That can be said for almost all major broadcasters, like ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and PBS. Seemingly no one is offering video podcasts.”

He winds up, “I can’t tell if video podcasts just didn’t get the traction in the market that they needed or if audio podcasts are just preferable because broadcasters really want to protect their video.”

One of his commenters: “…now that NBC is owned by Comcast, that is probably part of the reason they are limiting the ways that you can watch it. Boo to them!” (See Acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast at Wikipedia.)

Further commentary on this MediaBizTech post: No more NBC Nightly News podcasts. The bigger loser? NBC News.

The move may be to avoid making any DRM-free (Digital Rights Management) content available. The problem is that their apps and websites are often inconvenient ways to view. I say “Boo to them!”, too.

Ah, well, there is still “The Daily Show” on Plex, as well as CNN International live streaming 24/7 via Nowhere Man’s CNN channel on Roku.

(See my second post of the day, Our post-cord-cutting TV Menu, for a large list of our Roku channel options.)

3/11/2015 update:  The first hour of Morning Joe (39 minutes commercial-free) is available as an audio podcast. I use the iTunes channel on Roku to listen.

TiVo Roamio OTA

TiVo Roamio OTA. Click to enlarge.

We cut the TV cable a week ago.

(See Cord-cutting status report #1 for our previous cord-cutting actions.)

I had paid attention to how Gaye watches TV in the den, her usual hangout. The main thing she needed was ease in recording, viewing, and instant-replaying network series such as General Hospital, The Bachelor, Modern Family, etc.

A TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR did the trick (OTA = over the air). After experiencing the snappy and intuitive user interface for a few days, she asked when we were cutting the cable. I turned in the cable DVR/tuner box a few days later. The WAF is strong!

Another key to success was the TiVo “Peanut” remote. It’s compact, logically laid out and uncluttered. It uses RF (radio frequency) rather than infrared, so you don’t need to aim. It includes buttons for your TV Power, Volume, and Input. There is a 30-second-ahead button and an 8-second-back button for getting through commercials quickly, or rewatching a particular scene.

Setup was easy, though it took 20 minutes or so.

The Program Guide is visually similar to the one on our old cable DVR. But it can also display the data in other useful styles. For example, your favorite channels alone can be displayed, which is helpful when you are looking for shows to record. Program data is downloaded by the TiVo via either wifi or Ethernet connection.

“Season Pass”“OnePass” is the TiVo term for series recording. It offers more options than the cable box did, and they are better organized.

Recorded TV series episodes are grouped in folders by series name. You can display Movies or Sports or Kids or News and Business. There is also a large selection of other categories such as HD, Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Sci-Fi, etc., which can be selected singly or multiply.

The Roamio OTA has 500 GB storage for recorded shows. You can plug in an eSATA external hard drive for extra storage if you wish.

The free TiVo smartphone app shows you what’s on to watch or record, and gives you a second remote.

The cord-cutter’s rub: the Roamio OTA exacts a $15/mo charge for program data and updates. But I find it easy to rationalize:

The cable company charged $12/mo for DVR service. In order to get DVR service, we also had to add “Advanced TV” for $3/mo extra. There’s the $15. That doesn’t even include $8.50/mo for the cable DVR/tuner.

If you were aiming to replace broadcast TV recording with Hulu Plus, you would pay $8/mo. Hulu Plus forces you to watch repetitive commercials, has a poor user interface, and rewinds awkwardly at best. It’s worth $7/mo more not to endure that.

I am a cost-averse cord-cutter, but there is the ideal (no monthly cost), and there is the practical. Windows Media Center via Raspberry Pi works well for me in our theater room, and costs nothing per month, but complex setups can and do have issues occasionally. Microsoft’s commitment to WMC is tepid. I like to tinker, Gaye doesn’t. TiVo is like a reliable car with good cup holders. WMC/Pi might break down and require a change of spark plugs or tires while on the road.

I have the setup I like, she has the setup she likes. Peaceful coexistence at minimal cost.

More to come.

I disconnected the final tuner/DVR box, and returned it to the cable company today.

I took my own advice to get a TiVo Roamio OTA for the den, and the WAF (wife acceptance factor) proved high enough for the trigger to be pulled.

Getting the antenna just right is key, and there is more to do. Stay tuned!