Tag: cord-cutting

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There’s Philo Coal in My Christmas Stocking

I didn’t last long with streaming startup Philo. At 3:37 p.m. PST today, I purchased a gift subscription for six-months of discounted service. By 4:43 p.m., Philo acknowledged my cancellation (without refund, incidentally). I deserve some blame for not choosing the 7-day trial first. But the features are so modern and channel selection so perfect, I didn’t want to miss out the Holiday sale available since at least Black Friday. Besides, I had pondered Philo for nearly two weeks, all while brain-vacuuming professional reviews that offered little less than praise. Nowhere did I read, and perhaps carelessly missed, the dealbreaker: Cough. Cough. Streaming caps at 720p. Say what?

We live in the early era of 4K, which video quality I didn’t expect from Philo. But I fully anticipated watching 1080p on my Pixelbook or days-old Roku Ultra. As expressed, with flaming antagonism, in a requested cancellation reason emailed back to Philo: “I never imagined that streaming quality would be limited to 720p, which is jarring on my 43-inch TV…I hugely regret spending $99 for six months. Ho. Ho. Ho. Bah Humbug. There’s Philo coal in my Christmas stocking”. 

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DirecTV Now and Then

From the day I received the Oct. 14, 2016 letter about billing changes, AT&T U-verse and Internet cancellation was inevitable. I had auto-pay set up to a credit card, but the service provider wanted access to my bank account, which I didn’t want to give. “Beginning in December, your credit card will be charged eight days after your Bill Cycle date”, the correspondence reads. The change meant AT&T would take payment on the 8th of the month rather than the 21st. Since the company bills a month in advance, the new date would work out to about six-weeks in fees paid ahead for future service. On principle, being an independent-minded “don’t tell me what to do” Mainer, I considered other options.

Ironically, the launch of another AT&T service, DirecTV Now, on October 30th, made the decision to cancel super easy. After several starts and stops, the Wilcox household has finally cut the cord for good. DirecTV Now is the nudge, but other streaming services make a big difference, too. Much has changed since the last cord-cutting effort, in November 2015, which we abandoned after about 7 weeks. The quality and quantity of original programming from Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix is greater and hugely enticing 12 months later. 

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I Love ‘X Factor UK’ But Must Leave It

Six months ago, nearly a year after cutting the cord, the Wilcox household reattached—to AT&T U-verse. At the time, my daughter was moving back home, and Cox cable comes into the room where she would reside. Given the importance of the Internet to my daily work,and not wanting the modem and WiFi access point to be in a place with limited access, we signed up for AT&T Internet service and television with it. The connection is in the main room of our apartment, where Cox can’t come without drilling and cabling the landlord won’t allow.

Before the Fall college semester started, Molly moved out to a group place near the ocean. Around the same time, U-verse started to behave badly. We had bandwidth, but some websites consistently hung or slowly loaded. Top of list: Anything Google. I would later learn that, coincidentally or perhaps not, Google Fiber courted San Diego County

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Amazon Fire TV Review

Streaming set-top boxes are no longer about media consumption. The newest entrants—from Apple, Amazon, and Google—fit into a larger lexicon of connected digital lifestyles. Think intelligent television for the information-obsessed and for visual voyeurs demanding the highest-quality video that is commercially available.

On Oct. 1, 2015, I started testing the new Amazon Fire TV, which goes on sale October 5th. I will later review the newer Google Chromecast but unlikely Apple’s device (because a review unit isn’t available and I wouldn’t buy one for personal use). There is nothing radically new about Fire TV. It’s more of the same only much better. Key benefit for some: 4K Ultra HD video support. Benefit for all: Enhanced voice-interaction capabilities that include Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant. Then there are iterative enhancements that improve overall benefits. 

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Which Streaming Stick? Chromecast, Fire TV, or Roku?

Mea culpa. I promised this comparison for Holiday 2014, and here it’s February next. The time between allowed for valuable cord-cutting experiment that will matter to some of you reading this review. The Wilcox household now streams Encore, HBO, Starz, and Showtime—via Cox Flex Watch—and the addition affects our choice of streaming stick; perhaps yours, too.

Google opened up the category with $35 Chromecast in July 2013, and the device gets better with age. Roku Streaming Stick, at $49.99, is priciest choice, while Amazon Fire TV Stick is the $39 in-betweener. Briefly, before deep diving, Chromecast is easiest to use and offers more commercial programming support. Roku delivers broadest streaming channel selection. Fire TV fits tightly into the broader Amazon Prime ecosystem, while offering satisfying, but incomplete, content options compared to either of the other devices. 

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Cox Flex Watch Temps Me More

Anywhere from two to three times a week, Cox sends offers to join Flex Watch, which would add $19.99 to my $59.99 Internet service. The cable company guarantees the price for 12 months—no contract—and would provide HD set-top box with access to local networks and some premium, subscription channels. Last year’s offer: HBO and Starz. Last month’s adds Encore. This week, Cox sweetens by tempting with Cinemax and Flix for just $5 more.

The HD box and local channel access doesn’t tempt the slightest. Cox would have to rewire our setup to enable access from the living room, but I’m a believer in the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to networking. I’ve got 120Mbps Internet pumping down to the bedroom, where there is no TV, and don’t want to risk mucking up what we’ve got. But I am tempted to pay $19.99, or $24.99, for the subscription channels and stream to the tellie content in their apps—which I find offer better experience and more options. But does that cross the line? Is it still cord-cutting? 

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Photo Credit: Julia Folsom

What 2014 Life-Changing Tech Means to 2015

Three weeks ago, at BetaNews, I asked “What tech changed your life in 2014?” Readers answered there and on Google+. As the new year starts, I wonder what will make all our lives better. Apple Watch? I doubt it. Shake me awake from the nightmare if the wearable isn’t the most successful flop of 2015. Windows 10? Skipping nine is a good sign, but is giving users more of what they don’t want to let go life changing? Eh, no.

At the precipice of looking ahead, this is a last look behind. Once Consumer Electronics Show leaks and early announcements rush the InterWebs, all eyes will turn forward—blind to what many people have, focusing on what they want instead. That’s because “aspiration” is the defining word of the technology era, and the promise if you buy newfangled This or That your life will be better for it. Sometimes the promise is true, but too often not, which is why I asked the important question three weeks ago. 

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Ho, Ho, Ho, It’s Reviews Not News This Christmas

For much of Holiday 2014, I will shift from tech news and analysis to product reviews, which will be a relaxing change. I also am prepping new ebook How I Beat Diabetes, preparing to start an investigative storytelling project, and strongly considering a Kickstarter to gauge interest in a site that calls out irresponsible news reporting (of which there is too much) and praises the best journalism, too.

On the reviews front, now would be a good time to knock on my virtual door, if you’ve got something worth my attention, whether cloud service, gear, mobile app, or software. No promises what I can get to during the holidays, when everyone wants to sell something, but, hey, we can try. Reviews will run on BetaNews,  and I will cross-post some here, despite any search penalty Google might impose for the practice. I care about readers, not pageviews. With the holidays in mind, I may shift to a shorter reviews format, focusing almost completely on benefits. Frak features. 

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Just When I Cut the Cord, Cox Pulls Me Back In

In July, connected TV service went dark in the Wilcox household, as we pulled the plug on AT&T U-verse and switched to Cox Internet. That reduced our monthly bill from about $130 to $59.99 exactly; there are no taxes or surcharges applied to the Net. Now Cox tempts with a compelling offer: Add local channels and HBO or STARZ, with no-cost HD set-top box for another $9.99 month. Installation is free, and there is no contract. Price is good for 12 months. Should we?

Cox promises 44 channels, plus either of the premium channels (I want HBO). But, realistically, that means 10, since we only watch HD, plus the “Game of Thrones” channel. We already receive five over the air using a Mohu Leaf 50 HDTV antenna, which I have to review. 

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First We Cut the Cord, Now We Sell the Tellie

I got this knot of tension today for the stupidest reason,. My wife and I decided to take cord-cutting to another step. We’re selling our 42-inch Sony TV, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, Roku 3, HDMI-switcher, and stand. We’ll keep Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast, for future time when we might buy a 1080p PC monitor for streaming.

I posted to Craigslist and several buyers responded. One of them comes by in about three hours. OMG! There’s no TV tonight!