All posts for the month December, 2015

How did this happen?

How did this happen? (Click to enlarge)

Back to the Curve 50

Back to the Curve 50 (click to enlarge)

Two days ago, I noticed that Channel 2.1 was looking blotchy. That shouldn’t happen with an outdoor antenna.

8.1 didn’t even come in.

See photo at left.

Video Revolution had installed the Mohu Sky 60 outdoor antenna back in February. I can’t imagine how the F connector could ever come loose, even if only finger-tightened. But there it is.

I called VR to get someone out to reconnect it. They’re pretty busy right now. I’d do it myself, but it’s steep, and the risk/reward equation doesn’t seem to be right. (I also tweaked a lat muscle the other day.)

But in the mean time, there is the recording of General Hospital to consider.

Luckily, we have a backup: the Mohu Curve 50 antenna (link to previous review; also see it in the TTM aStore).

I had decided that the Curve really didn’t add much as an auxiliary antenna for COZI (47.2). But it is perfect for this situation.

I hooked it back up to the Radio Shack Remote Control A|B switch, still in place under the den TV. Aimed it east-northeast, switched it over to the B side of the switch, and we are back in business. Signal strength is fine for the network channels, which is what we mostly watch anyway. And General Hospital recording can continue as usual.

When Video Revolution finally gets around to us, I’ll switch back to the A side for the outdoor antenna. I think I’ll keep the Curve hooked up afterwards.

In the process of getting the AC cords redeployed back there, there was further fallout from the lightning strike earlier in the year. The gigabit switch, already weakened down to 4 ports from 5, decided to give up the ghost entirely. I had a backup on hand for that, too: the $10 TP-LINK TL-SF1005D 5-port 10/100Mbps Desktop Switch.

So all is well, except for a missing episode of General Hospital. I’ve recovered from that before; see previous post Saving YouTubes, viewing with Plex & Emby.

There are a couple of ways to handle it, buy the episode on Amazon Video or VUDU. Then my wife can watch it on the Amazon or VUDU apps on the TiVo.

Since the previous post, episodes have become less easy to find for free on YouTube. I found one poor quality upload. However, Dailymotion (based in France) does have an acceptable version. I could use the Chromecast to put it on the big screen in the theater room. But that’s not where she likes to watch.

So we’ll probably go the Amazon route. She won’t get to it soon anyway, due a backlog of shows from our recent vacation.

The cord-cutting cheer will continue unabated.

Merry Christmas!

(Later note: She got to that episode quicker than I thought. I was unable to find it anywhere but on Dailymotion. I put it on the big screen for her to watch while wrapping presents yesterday. I suspect that ABC has managed to dry up YouTube and other sources in order to promote their own subscription service.)

Two items might well be all you need to cut the cable TV cord.

It can be very easy, and a great gift for your family to not be paying a high cable bill every month.

First, I recommend the new TiVo BOLT (as of 2016, I recommend the new Roamio with one-time pricing, above. It has all the features of the BOLT I describe below.). It supercedes the TiVo Roamio series, includes all its features, and has a couple of new ones of its own. The above price includes the remote and a year subscription to the TiVo service ($150/year thereafter).

Depending on the antenna you use, the BOLT can give you most or all of your local channels and subchannels, with current and future program listings shown in a convenient grid display. (An internet connection is needed to download and update the listings.) It also is a full-featured, easy-to-use DVR, easily as good as the cable or satellite company’s.

In addition, it has useful apps including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, Pandora, Plex, and iHeart Radio. You might not even need a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick to view your subscription and other content!

If you want access to all this in other rooms, add TiVo Minis. They are an easy way to get more out of your TiVo at a one-time-only cost. Each comes with its own remote. You can also use the free TiVo smartphone app to control a BOLT or Mini, and to easily set up recordings.

Read more in previous posts New product: the TiVo BOLT and Cord-cutting: What DID work for us.

Second, you will need an antenna. The Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna (Refurbished) might well be all you need. Try it. If you decide to upgrade to a powered and/or an outdoor antenna, you can still use this one with another TV.

Read more about antennas in these previous posts: Placing an indoor TV antenna, High winds can affect TV reception and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review.

In addition, if you are ready to replace your landline or cable phone service (and don’t want to rely entirely on your cell phone), the Ooma Telo internet phone can make it happen. See previous posts Ooma internet phone moves from office to Tiki room and Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!

After losing the cable/satellite box, you may need a new clock for the set-top. The one at the top of this post does the job quite nicely for us.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, with no cords attached!

Tracfone MOTOGO EX431G: thin & pocket-sized

Tracfone MOTOGO EX431G: Cool phone! (har har)

Last year at this time (see previous post Revisiting cheap phone deals in Tulsa), I had re-upped with Tracfone at an average cost of $7.85/mo rather than try the minimal T-Mobile deal mentioned to me by Sir Paul’s cousin.

Once again today, inertia won out and I renewed with Tracfone.

But I lowered my cost a good bit by renewing for two more years instead of one.

Tracfone offered an 800-minute talk, 365 days of service deal for $100, with an online discount of $15, making it $85, same as last year.

But adding this to the cart elicited a further offer of 365 days and 0 minutes for an additional $50.

Since I run out of service days, not talk minutes, I jumped on it.

Total cost with taxes and government fees was $144.16. That works out to $6/month. Not bad!

While I am probably not quite as laconic of phone and text speech as Sir Paul’s cousin, I am lazier, and didn’t want to start over with T-Mobile. though their Pay-As-You-Go deal is still the same as last year.

As mentioned numerous times previously, I use a wifi-only smartphone to do unlimited texting with Google Voice for free when at home, or near a wifi hotspot.

We just got back from a Caribbean cruise. The hotel we stayed at for a day before sailing from Ft. Lauderdale provided free wifi. Both Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta airports have it. I availed myself in those places.

Our cruise ship offered an onerous internet plan of $40 for 24 hours, or $20/day if you buy for all days of the cruise. No thanks! I was happy to go incommunicado.

A nice thing about having no wifi is that you can concentrate on reading books.

I had a cruise e-reading setup similar to last year’s (What I did on vacation without home theater): an original Nook ‘E Ink’ reader and a Galaxy Note II “phablet” inherited from my wife after she switched to iPhone this year.

This year’s reading list (all checked out from the Tulsa library):

Echo Burning and Never Go Back (Jack Reacher novels) by Lee Child
Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (a Tulsa-born roboticist, turned novelist)
High Profile and Stone Cold (Jesse Stone novels) by Robert B. Parker
Bossypants by Tina Fey