Sony’s PS Vue on Roku is Really Bad

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When PS Vue raised their rate to $45 for their “core” plan I was already eager to dump the service. YouTube TV had recently launched, but wasn’t yet available in San Diego. YouTube TV was charging $35 for roughly the same package. I’m not fussy – except for that the Golf Channel had to be included.a-timeline-of-the-crazy-events-in-the-sony-hacking-scandal

It really wasn’t all about price. To say that PS  VUE’s interface and customer service was unfriendly was an understatement – it was downright hostile.The PlayStation website seemed to include VUE as an afterthought.

At one point there was a payment issue because I had changed credit cards. I received this email:

Your subscription ended due to payment failure

Dear greg,

This e-mail message is to notify you that your subscription to Core (Core (Subscription)) has ended due to payment failure. Be sure to save a record of this message for future reference.

Not “please restart your subscription so you can continue…”.   My subscription was “ended”. Adios. Goodbye! Don’t call us we’ll call you.

Now wouldn’t you think there would be a link in that email to quickly reset the payment info and restart? Nope.It was like starting from scratch as a new customer to recover.

I tried to log-in to the website and find my VUE account to no avail. Sony seemed to think I had a Playstation and wanted to load some random amount of money into my “wallet”.

There were other issues in which the Sony suddenly claimed I had no active account even though payment had just been made. There was a recover link on the TV that was invalid and would redirect to some other page. This happened several times and I’d always spend 30 minutes  trying to find the correct URL myself.

Don’t get me started on the interface. To be fair, I was using VUE via Roku, and from what I’ve read this is the worst combination. It really is bad. Sony VUE on Roku appears as a grid of square icons that can not be sorted into a list with more details. A future show looks the same as something live. None of the recorded items have dates.

So far YouTube TV has been much easier. To be fair this is apples and oranges. YouTube TV works via a Chromecast and you use your smart phone like a remote. But so far Google’s superior search and sort ability are much friendlier.

Good luck Sony.


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Speed Test and the Cord Cutter

Are you getting what you paid for from your internet service provider ? Lately I’ve noticed wild variations when I run speedtest.net. I see downloads that vary between 7 and 30 Mbps. When I look at the local Charter website it doesn’t seem like they’re talking about much less than “up to 100 Mbps”.

speedtest

I suspect this is because as Netflix subscriptions have exceeded cable subscriptions , your local Charter/Comcast is having a hard time keeping up.

The other reason might have to do with IOT, the internet of things. Just a few years ago, my cheap little TP-Link router was probably serving just 2 or 3 devices: a PC or two and the Roku. I looked on the  DHCP list menu the other day and see 16. This includes multiple iPhones, tablets, Alexa (new addition). As every home in the U.S. starts to add all these internet appliances it has to be somewhat of a steady drain on the overall internet bandwidth.

Before the Charter/TWC merge, Time Warner Cable was planning to roll out 300 Mbps to all areas as part of the “Maxx” project. I think the Charter merge killed that deal but not sure why. I’d speculate the new bigger cable company could not sustain it.

Cable operators spend a lot of time monitoring and upgrading their optical networks to fix these “utilization” issues before they become complaints. Nonetheless, it might be worth a call to see if you can get your local optical node fixed sooner.

If you care to share, run the speed test on your own system and write the results and the name of your provider in the comments below.

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YouTube TV enters the room

Just a quick thought on today’s announcement.

I think Google/YouTube is going to present some serious competition to Sony, Sling, and DirecTV Now. Google has the best engineers in the world and tons of experience with video streaming. I simply have more faith in them to execute than their legacy competitors.  And yes the Golf Channel is included.

YouTube already had a ton of great content – witness the clip above.

This new era of competing skinny bundles is going to be fun and so much better for competition. Don’t like Vue’s interface? Fine! Dump it in 30 days and try Google. Let the best bundle and interface win.

https://youtube.googleblog.com/2017/02/finally-live-tv-made-for-you.html

 

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How to Stream the Oscars – or NOT

 

Just a few thoughts as one of the most watched broadcasts of the year – the Academy Awards – is about to go live.

It seems like years ago when I first posted how ABC would not stream the real ceremony, but instead stream something else called Red Carpet. Well not much has changed. Today there is limited streaming ability. Here is what we see in San Diego:

The ABC live stream is not available in your area. We are working to add more cities and TV providers.
View current markets or be notified about availability:

Besides live streaming, the ability to view on demand, with pause/start is also very limited. That’s too bad because the Oscars would be the ideal program to view on demand. Let’s say you’re having a party and some of your guests will arrive 15 minutes late so you’d like to pause the start time. Well unless you have the traditional cable/DVR arrangement, you are out of luck with many modern streaming options, e.g. Sling, Vue, DirecTV Now etc.

meryl

I’m sure we’ll hear from Meryl tonight.

Perhaps the Oscars, like the Super Bowl, is best appreciated as a live event. If something dramatic happens, no good posting it on twitter 15 minutes later.

Streaming has evolved to become simply an alternative cable chord to the home. Meanwhile “linear TV” (live with commercials) has become almost unbearable. It is likely that  these highly valued commercials play a part in the lack of a universal streaming option.

Another factor might be trying to delay the total disintermediation of Cable. When you can get anything you want, on demand, via the internet, your local cable provider becomes purely an ISP.Cable is convenient, and right now, streaming the Oscars show, is somewhat less than convenient.

But because of the waning popularity  of “linear TV” I doubt this attempt to limit streaming will last. Let’s see what happens in 2018.

UPDATE
For those looking for one, here is a bootleg stream that seems to work

http://www.stream2watch.cc/live-television/united-states/abc-live-stream-usa

 

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Best Streaming Package for the Golf Channel

Since I know this site attracts cord cutters that like golf I thought this topic should be covered. Although not strictly “cord cutting”, the various new streaming bundles are cheaper than a full blown Cable subscription. If the Golf Channel is your priority, which is the best choice ? I’ll consider DirecTV Now, Sling, and Sony’s VUE.

Courtesy Golf Channel

Courtesy Golf Channel

Then after answering the golf question I’ll look at the rest of the details. Call it cord cutting analysis for  the golf-centric consumer.

According to this piece on CNET the Golf Channel is available on all three with some type of add on as follows:

 

AT&T DirecTV NOW  Go Big

IF you can get AT&T’s intro pricing this is only $35/month. Thereafter it can go to $60 per month.  I’ve never been a fan of anything AT&T because of customer service nightmares. Still, if you can sign up online and not have to deal with a real person maybe this works.

What else you get/don’t get: 

100+ channels
No DVR function yet.
No CBS who is apparently holding out from the service.

============================

Sling: Sports Extra, BLUE

So if I read this right that’s Sling Blue ($25) + Sports Extra ($10) for a grand total of $35. A tie with AT&T above.

 

What else you get/don’t get: 

43 “live channels”.
Multiple streams. (not available on the cheaper Orange)
No DVR.

================================

PlayStation Vue: Core Slim

Even though it’s “Core” this one starts at $34.99 which represents a recent price reduction probably to compete with Sling and AT&T.

What else you get/don’t get: 

60+ Channels.
Vue actually does have Cloud DVR and is also CNET’s top pick in general.
NoViacom (in case you must have the Comedy Channel).

=====================

Conclusion

Since we have a price tie I’d pick Vue with it’s DVR functionality. Although I’d expect DirecTV Now and Sling must have one in the works now.

PS:
Keep an eye on Google,who should be announcing their own skinny bundle streaming service someday soon.

 

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Washington Post piece on DIRECTV NOW -“Cord Cutter’s Dream”

According to Wapo AT&T is about to launch “DIRECTV Now” at $35 per month. Quoting from the article:

“AT&T’s offering will come with roughly 100 TV channels in a “fat bundle” of both on-demand and live programming. In other words, customers will have access to what could become a robust stand-in for cable TV, for $35 a month.”

The article goes on to explain how this is a better deal than PlayStation VUE or Dish’s SLING.

What’s intriguing is that CBS won’t join the lineup. That indicates some real disruption going on.

Fierce Cable and others report a major launch event in NYC on Nov 28th. Does doing it on Cyber Monday mean they are taking orders? Also from the same Fierce Cable piece – what do you mean it won’t be availbe on Roku?

And DirecTV NOW has this skeletal website that is only taking names.

 

I hope that this is the beginning of a streaming Cable price war.

AT&T is about to unveil what may be the cord-cutter’s dream

Update Novo 28 12:43pm PST. Adding the YouTube Launch Event

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Cyber Monday for Cord Cutters

In what appears to be blatant marketing (as opposed to real news), CNN posted  a piece on November 25th entitled: Amazon unveils Cyber Monday deals.  Of 9 items listed in that article, one does fall into the cord cutter world:

 I have both a Roku and a Chromecast, so I’ve never needed another way to stream. If you’ve had experience with Amazon Fire let me hear about it in the comments.

 

What is surprising is that the ultra-cheap original Google Chromecast seems to be gone now, and the Chromecast highlighted above is 2nd generation for around 70 bucks.  On the other hand, Amazon is now offering what looks like cheap knock-offs like this one called AnyCast.  It’s cheap but has a rating of  2 stars out of 60 – pretty terrible on Amazon.

mike mccune via flickr

mike mccune via flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are other good ideas for Cord Cutters ?

If you know anyone that still doesn’t have a Netflix account, start there.

For serious wannabe cord cutters ready to swear off Cable, an antenna is still probably # 2.

For sports fans that want to reduce their cable bill, Sling TV might be a good deal.

Competing with Sling these days we also have PlayStation Vue.

If you know anyone looking for a cheap laptop, I can personally vouch for this Acer Chromebook 720, the one I’ve been using for 2 years now on this blog. I think of it as cutting the cord on Microsoft.

I’ll update here or add more deals in subsequent posts as they come along.

Update: Nov 26:1:08pm- 
Some ideas from friend Len:

Tivo for those getting an antenna: Refurbished $199.

Good old HULU.

Update Nov 29:
It appears Chromecast is no longer available on Amazon but plenty available directly from Mountain View.

 

Happy Holidays.

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Cut the Cord on FM Radio: and the best inexpensive way to stream Pandora

I’ve always been a big fan of “old fashioned” RF, i.e. over the air radio. But let’s face it, FM music radio can’t compete these days with what you can get streaming. For whatever reason, FM stations insist on including more clutter than what I can get from a free Pandora link, albeit I have to pay for my WIFI.

So what’s the best solution for in-home music? I’ve looked around and wasn’t impressed by dedicated appliances for web based radios like Grace.  Why buy a dedicated device that will likely become obsolete in a year?

Still a big fan of iPhone 4s.

Still a big fan of iPhone 4s.

Thanks to the massive success of iPhone, the best solution today is a used iPhone – running WiFi only – no mobile phone account needed.

Here’s where it gets a bit calculating: Apple is not stupid. They do use a bit of planned obsolescence in their business model. So you will need an iPhone that is new enough to run the Pandora app but not so new it costs $300+

As of this writing, the sweet spot seems to be the iPhone 4s which can still run IOS 8.0, and is still supported by Pandora. My used iPhone 4S 16Gb cost me $56 on eBay. It took about 20 minutes to configure my new/used iPhone with Pandora and connect it to home audio via the aux input. (Remember to disable cellular data or your iPhone will keep trying to connect that way.)

Now as Apple rolls out iPhone 7 and IOS 10 who knows how long this setup will last. But I’ve heard of people still using their iPhone 3GS’s for Pandora. The trick is to NOT update anything. Stay tuned and let me know if you have a better solution.

 

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How did the Fax Machine outlive the VCR?

So this is slightly off topic. But I heard NPR on the way home today do a comedic eulogy for two pieces of technology: the Blackberry and the VCR. It seems the last maker of VCR’s is stopping production.

Incandescent Bulb by James Bowe Flickr

Incandescent Bulb by James Bowe Flickr

Well NPR did a survey and asked what other piece of technology should be vanquished? Not surprisingly the Fax machine was the number one answer.

I’m puzzled. People my age have boxes of old VHS tapes which I’ve yet to convert into some digital format. So at least there is a conceivable reason I might need a VCR. Maybe to watch an old family video before I decide to convert it for example.

Fax machines are just an extremely slow way to send an email. Bits are converted to audio signals to ride over the land line. Is there some contrarian notion that they are more secure?

When I do have to send a fax it seems like a total pain in the ass. I use the device so infrequently it’s a burden to use the menu. Do I enter 1, or 9 in front of the phone number? I can’t remember….

I’ll celebrate when the last makers of this archaic devices close the doors.

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“Golf Channel” for the Cord Cutters

Just noticed that entire broadcasts of LPGA are on YouTube. Below is one for round 1 of the US Women’s Open. I’m sure there is a lot more. Combine this with a Chromecast and get lots of free viewing – no cable required.

 

 

 

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