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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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Farewell Time Warner Cable: Winners and Losers

The Charter TWC merger cleared its last legal hurdle this week when the California PUC voted to approve.  Little surprise here. If I remember right wasn’t this the same regulatory agency that did little during the energy crisis except to watch it happen?

End of an era? photo: Consumerist Dot Com on Flickr

End of an era?
photo: Consumerist Dot Com on Flickr

The bigger puzzlement is why the feds  (FCC, DOJ) seem to think this merger is such a great idea.

The basic logic of merger approval goes like this:

Creating a new cable operator with 17 million subs could stifle competition, so to fix that we’ll add some mitigating conditions. Thus we have that New Charter will wait seven years  before they can implement data caps or usage based billing. OK – we’ll see if Charter figure some other way to get around it.

But how is this merger good for the basic consumer? If holding off on data caps is the answer, than why wasn’t that rule simply put in place before?

At best, the legacy TWC customer will now see a new logo on the bill, and probably find it more difficult to deal with the customer service of a much larger company. And perhaps you can argue that the bigger company will have more resources to innovate and provide new advanced services like WiFi or streaming.

But who are the real winners here?

Certainly not the scores of TWC employees that will likely be downsized over the next couple of years. In fact Charter has already announced which TWC facilities will be closed. Can the loss of these jobs be good for the economy?

What about the basic stock holder. The TWC stock value has seen roughly a 20% increase in the last year, mostly likely driven by merger news. So if you were a major holder of that good for you. But again that might be little comfort for those out of a job.

OK so what about the C level executives like TWC’s CEO Rob Marcus?

Reports are that Rob Marcus, CEO since only 2014, will come out ahead by more than $100M. I know I’m starting to sound like Bernie Sanders here, but does this seem a little unbalanced? Hundreds, perhaps thousands will lose jobs, while the C-suite walks away with millions?

What am I missing?






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Charter, Time Warner Cable and the Cord Cutter

Sorry I have been away so long. But I’m still here and following this story.

Stay tuned…


Charter’s $67 Billion Cable Merger Hinges on the Cord Cutters



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Storing Data and Photos in the “Cloud”

Maybe this is slightly off topic from putting up an antenna or streaming the Golf Channel. But I think it is probably something most of us cord cutters deal with.

I use an iPhone, but I’m not an IOS devotee. About every 2 weeks I get a warning that my iPhone is not backed up to iCloud with instructions on  how to do it. But I ignore this because it would require me to purchase more space from Apple.

One of many iPhone photos automatically saved on Google Drive

One of many iPhone photos automatically saved on Google Drive

Thanks to Google I have a free 100 GB of storage

Google Photos is an app I highly recommend and I have it on the iPhone. Google automatically backs up all photos at full resolution. The current free storage limit is 15 GB. Currently I’m right at about 15 GB but because I’m writing this post on an Acer  Chromebook (purchased May 2014) Google threw in another 100 GB – free for 2 years.


What happens when my free storage deal runs out?

According to this post on  OMG! CHROME!  I won’t lose my data but if I want to keep using Google Drive for more photos I’ll be forced to purchase space, at the current rate of  $1.99 per month for 100 GB.

That’s $24 per year for 100 GB of cloud storage or  $120 per year for a full TB. For me that price is a good deal. I’m personally more fearful of losing data on some random personal hard drive than losing something in the cloud. In reality the “cloud” is probably multiple Google owned servers spread across the country. And I  read very little about major hacks at Google.


Is this the best solution?

I store photos and non-sensitive data in the Google cloud. Sensitive data I keep on hard memory. But there is a whole myriad of solutions today  – here’s a nice side by side chart from PC MAG.

But it’s not just which service is cheaper. There are many questions about which is more convenient/automatic, and which is most secure.  I’m not sure there is any one best answer today. Ideally I’d like a cloud service that would be a complete backup of all my data, but I won’t put sensitive data in the cloud because every week we have news of a major new hack.

In any case I’d like to hear your solution. Please share in the comments below.




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Gifts and Christmas Programs for the Cord Cutter

This post is a suggestion by Len from “The Beer’s on Comcast“. Considered a work in progress so check back for additions…



Gift Ideas


Netflix Subscription , still just $8.99 per month

ROKU Box – still one of the easier ways to get Netflix

Antenna – go with a simple indoor unit for the non techy

A cheap reliable router – I use this TP link unit , almost never needs a reset.



Christmas Programs:

Start here for Netflix Christmas Movies

Start here for Amazon Prime Video Christmas Movies



A merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our long time subscribers.

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Happy Thanksgiving Cord Cutters

Sorry I have been offline so long – very busy with the day job these days. Hoping to catch up in 2016….



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Have an opinion on the Charter TWC Merger ? Tell the FCC!

I doubt it’s widely known that the FCC accepts comments from anyone on issues they are reviewing. (How much impact these have is probably another story).

Rumors are that Charter’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable is marching steadily forward , without nearly the obstacles that Comcast faced.

Cable still uses door to door sales people. courtesy Alexandre Normand on Flickr

Cable still uses door to door sales people.
courtesy Alexandre Normand on Flickr

Many of the comments from business entities are positive, for example this one from the Dallas Regional Chamber. Not surprising that some business interests expect a bigger service provider might be of benefit.

But the more interesting ones are from Joe Citizen. My favorite is this guy in MA whose complaint centers on the bundled services the door to door sales people are  pushing him to buy.

Have an opinion on comment on the merger? Post it below or if you prefer share it with the FCC.

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Hypocrisy of Cable Corp Merges with CableWorld | DIRECTV Commercial

Have you seen this? It’s kind of funny, not hugely so. But the message is so extremely hypocritical I couldn’t let it go unchallenged.

So apparently “Cable Corp” and “Cable World” are supposed to be Charter and Time Warner Cable. We only know for sure because at the end of the spot the Cable World guy says it’s “going to be fun , firing everyone.”

So what’s the problem? While it’s true that Charter is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable, did someone forget to tell this ad agency that AT&T recently acquired DirectTV?  And that  merger gives AT&T “26 million TV subscribers, making it the largest pay TV company in the country” .

The Charter/TWC deal by comparison will end up with 23 million customers.

The mocking nature of the ad is somewhat insider humor. One of the Cable Corp (TWC) guys talks about how bad Cable World (Charter) is: “that company stinks…. I used to work there”. In reality, in the small world of Cable you will find employees that have worked for several of the companies throughout their career. And some come away with opinions about one company being less well run than the other.

But back to  messaging here : Charter/TWC will be just a bigger less competent company and you should “get rid of Cable…switch to DirecTV”. 

DirecTV and Charter are essentially the same things – PayTV companies. That one uses coax cables and the other uses satellite dishes is of little consequence – unless you need internet. In that case DirecTV is going to somehow merge their satellite service with AT&T’s U-verse to give you both video and data. Based on my experience that customer service experience is going to be messy if not downright nightmare-ish.

But now I’m getting too technical. My main point:

DirecTV you are also a Cable/PayTV company and you just completed a major merger so your silly ad is huge hypocrisy.

While researching this post i discovered that Comcast (their TWC deal  collapsed) had put out their own ad mocking AT&T/DirectTV. And their message is actually accurate, and funny:

The Moment No One’s Been Waiting For


Have you experienced the new DirecTV? Share your thoughts below:

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