Archive for August, 2013

Why would the home media guy want a Virtual Private Network? Two reasons are at the top of the list. First, privacy regarding my cyber activities and protection from malevolent individuals and two, geo-locking of media based on my location.

 

VPN’s offer you the ability to protect your identity and cyber activities while protecting you from potential hackers. This is an important feature based on what you may have read in the national news lately. Secondly, we like to watch streaming video from around the world. Many times the videos will not be available for streaming, because of our US based IP address. VPN’s give you the opportunity to virtually re-locate yourself outside of the USA and thus be able to view content you previously could not.

 

Now that you have decided to get a VPN service, do you get one of the many free services that exist, or do you pay for one? There are a few questions to ask before you decide. The most important one is do you trust the provider? Usually not a question you would ask of a provider that may be highly rated by social media and online reviews, but in this case, I would suggest to take the same level of care in selecting a VPN provider that you would selecting a lawyer or doctor. This is how important the services offered by the VPN provider is in the overall scheme of your home media network.

 

I have investigated most of the free services advertised and reviewed online and have found:

  • There may be bandwidth or download limits
  • There may be a measurable slowdown in your cable network connection because of the VPN itself
  • The provider may not be clear on what level of security they provide
  • The provider may give away a hobbled version of a paid service that might be better suited for your needs
  • May be complicated to install and configure

 

I have chosen a paid provider called www.privateinternetaccess.com ($40 a year) based on the following:

  • Unlimited bandwidth and download capability
  • Excellent network security
  • Excellent technical support
  • Easy to install and configure

 

There are other providers who offer similar or better plans on the surface, but this provider is the one I trust. I recommend that everyone who is considering a VPN for their home media network, have the same level of trust, and have their performance and features expectations met as I have done.

 

Don’t settle for something that does not meet all your requirements and expectations.

 

The home media guy

 

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I know folks its hard to believe. How bad to you want to dump cable? Willing to spend a few bucks risk-free to see if this option will work for you? Why not? I post different ideas on how to dump cable and each of them costs something different. This option is the cheapest one I know except for buying an outside antenna and getting 22 channels.

Step 1: Buy a Roku box for less than $100

Step 2: Buy the entire Playon.tv package for $50 and install on a PC. This will give you basic cable, Hulu (standard definition) and more. You get 30 days free to see if you like it. Also make sure you use a newer PC. All PC processors (chips) have a rating. If you want to stream video over the internet without buffering or other transmission problems you want to make sure the processor in the PC can handle the video stream so you are not calling tech support alot. If you click on your Windows Start button then put your mouse over “Computer”. Then right click and click on “Properties”. The screen that pops up will tell you the chip that you have in the “Processor” section. Write down what you see there.

 PC Processor Menu Selection for processor typePC Processor Type for cpubenchmark

Then go to http://www.cpubenchmark.net and click on “search for your CPU model”. When the page pops up “DO NOT PERFORM A SEARCH”. Unless you type the exact character string to match thier list, nothing comes up. Look down the list and find your processor. The first column to the right is the “Passmark CPU Mark”. If your CPU is over 1,000 your streaming should be pretty solid. Keep in mind bandwidth, RAM and other stuff may impact your video quality. But if your CPU is over a 1000, give it a try. You get 30 days free with Playon.tv. 

CPU Benchmark 1308
Happy viewing.

Bill, home media guy

 

 

By Katie Lobosco  @KatieLobosco August 6, 2013: 5:58 AM ET

  • Aereo’s streaming service reaches small group, but it could play a big role when disputes end in network blackouts.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The high-stakes dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS is ultimately about TV shows that are broadcast over the airwaves — for free.

That’s a fact that Time Warner Cable (TWC, Fortune 500) has continuously reminded its customers during its hotly contested and very public debate with the network, just as other cable companies have done when they were negotiating so-called retransmission fees with broadcasters. After CBS blacked-out its programming to Time Warner Cable customers on Friday, the cable company gave subscribers several alternative methods for watching CBS.

The problem is that those options are easier said than done: Most cable customers don’t have a spare pair of rabbit ears to hook up to their TVs, and CBS (CBS, Fortune 500) has blocked Time Warner Cable customers from accessing the shows CBS posts online.

But this time around, there’s another easy way to watch CBS that Time Warner Cable is making sure to promote: Aereo.

Aereo allows customers to stream live broadcast television on Internet-connected devices, such as a computer, tablet or TV. The services costs $8 per month and offers a free trial month that some Time Warner Cable customers are already taking advantage of since losing CBS at the end of last week.

Related story: Time Warner Cable proposes CBS truce

Aereo assigns one of thousands of tiny antennas to each of its subscribers through which it retransmits networks’ over-the-air broadcasts. By using an antenna, Aereo claims that it does not have to pay CBS or any other network for the signal — a point that has spurred a number of lawsuits, including suits brought by CBS.

The tech startup, backed by billionaire investor Barry Diller, launched just last year and is currently only available in three cities. Two of those, New York and Boston, are Time Warner Cable markets.

Cable TV blackout angers customers
 

“Today there are new competitors like Aereo which take much of the sting out of this for customers,” said Jeff Kagan, a technology industry analyst. “That is a completely new wrinkle.”

Within seconds, a customer can register for Aereo and begin streaming CBS.

That’s potentially even more convenient than searching through an aggregation site like Hulu. And it’s much quicker than installing a rabbit-ear antenna.

“These solutions were simply far too inconvenient for subscribers,” wrote BTIG researcher Richard Greenfield in an analyst note in April.

Aereo may still not be convenient enough for cable customers who want to be able to simply turn to channel 2 on their TV to find CBS programming. The company will not disclose subscriber numbers and whether or not demand has increased during the recent cable battle. But as wars rage on between networks and cable providers, a live streaming service could become more appealing to some subscribers.

“This conflict just further highlights the importance of having alternatives in the marketplace,” said Chet Kanojia, Aereo’s CEO in an e-mailed statement.

Time Warner Cable customers lost CBS-owned channels Friday when the two parties failed to come to an agreement over retransmission fees by the deadline they had set. CBS was demanding more money for the right to retransmit its programming, and the cable company refused to pay the increase. CBS (CBS, Fortune 500) and Showtime are currently for about 3 million customers largely located in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas.

We all hate paying crazy monthly fees just to watch TV. Our parents and grandparents watched TV for free with a set of rabbit ears. They only had half a dozen or so channels, but there was always something good on TV. Well guess what? Despite cable and satellite companies efforts to lock us into bundled plans with not a lot of value, there are alternatives that at most will take you a few hours to implement.

I am reviewing two internet options and one OTA option. They all have DVR capabilities and no monthly fees. Best of all, the programming is all HD. These options will bring you 22 or 23 HD local channels to your living room. Playon.tv also has additional basic cable channels for no additional cost.

Playon.tv (www.playon.tv)

This company is the stealth leader in bringing local TV and basic cable to your home. I say they are the stealth leader because you do not see major internet publications espousing their value proposition to the world every day. What you hear about most is the cool hardware offerings that without content are worth nothing. So what is Playon.tv? They provide you with a PC/MAC based software package that resides on your media server at home. The server needs an HDMI port to your TV, and can be a repurposed old desktop or laptop computer. You load their software and set it up and you are ready to go.

Playon.tv also has DVR capability called Playlater and even a browser add-on called Playmark that lets you select streaming media from anywhere on the web (including foreign programs if not geo blocked) to watch and record.

One of the compelling reasons you might want to select this solution is that all three products, Playon, Playlater and Playmark with local programming and basic cable stations (over 90), is available for a onetime payment of $60. You can’t be that with a stick.

To watch all that programming in all the rooms of your house, and to not spend all day in front of a computer, you can interface with the Playon.TV products with a Roku box and its simple remote.

Aereo (www.aereo.com)

This company broke the mold in terms of trying to solve the problem of local programming available over the internet. Aereo provides 22-23 channels of local programming (select major US markets) accessible through a Roku box or similar device directly to your TV. They charge your $7.99 a month to access an OTA antenna that is geographically in your TV market area. That’s it. Nothing else to do. Sign up for the service, load the app on your Roku box, and watch local TV programs. Aereo also provides cloud based DVR services for no additional cost.

Hauppauge (www.hauppage.com)

This international company has been around for a while. They make hardware (USB based and PC cards) that allow you to provide TV programming from your cable provider or an HD antenna. Some of the HD antennas available by third parties look just like the antennas your parents had on the roof of their house. It may take you an hour or two to properly install and align an indoor/outdoor antenna and connect the cable to the same entrance connection used by your current cable TV provider.

Their USB product, the HVR 950Q, allows you to watch local HD TV in your home. Plug the USB stick into the back of your media PC and screw in your existing cable from your cable box at the TV. Hauppauge also has a software companion for their products which manages your TV guide, recording and playback features called WinTV. To extend your viewing capabilities to hand held devices they have a remote viewing application is called ‘WinTV Extend’. Hauppauge, like Playon.tv charge you only one time. The USB stick with the applications is around $100.

When you get tired of paying for programming you don’t need or want, spend a few minutes on line and decide for yourself if any of these alternatives will work for you.