Posts Tagged TV

“Cable” TV

We sometimes watch shows or movies from the Internet, and while sometimes this is via Netflix Watch Instantly on the TiVo, it is often via my MacBook Pro. Normally, this involves moving my laptop near the TV, along with its power cord, and connecting audio (3.5mm) and video (DVI) between the two. I don’t have one of those Apple remote controls, but I don’t think they work on most streaming video sources anyway. Either way, if we need to pause or otherwise control the show, I have to get up, go over to the laptop by the TV and do whatever needs doing.

Not surprisingly, I felt this was less than optimum. The most common result was that we didn’t watch online content as often as we might have. Also, in case you didn’t know, we don’t have cable. I considered getting a bluetooth mouse, and possibly a keyboard, but the it occurred to me that I could turn of display mirroring and show something different on the laptop screen and the TV. This meant that I could continue to work on my laptop while we watched online content. Yeah!

Of course, I had no intention of sitting by the TV to do this, so I needed to get longer cables. What follows may be too technical to be generally interesting…

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The Decline of Heroes

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still completely addicted to watching Heroes, and it is the show I watch most immediately after it is recorded. But that behavior is a mixture of habit and hope. Prior to this year, and I even include last fall in this assessment, Heroes was my favorite show.

Not so this year, though it’s not simply that Heroes seems to have lost its way. It also seems that some other shows have stepped it up a bit — in particular, Lost. I think this is probably the best season of Lost since they opened the hatch — or maybe better.

Here are some other shows that I’m currently enjoying more than Heroes:

Smallville
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Lie to Me
Eleventh Hour

That list is actually shorter than I expected, but there are some other shows, like Chuck and Dollhouse, that are pretty even with Heroes. And given the rate at which Dollhouse has been getting better, it’ll probably make the list in the next week or two.

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Jack…

He’s baa-ack.

I just finished watching the first two hours of the 24 season premiere. It seems like it’s been a long time since 24 was on, what with the writer’s strike last season and all.

In my opinion, this looks like a promising season. Without giving anything away, I’m already liking several of the new characters — though I’m a bit concerned that my favorites are currently with Jack, so other scenes aren’t quite as compelling for me. I doubt it will really be a problem, plus they probably won’t stay together anyway.

On an unrelated topic, I’m wondering if posting a photo a day on my photo blog¬†is really a good idea. It’ll probably be OK for a while, but I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to keep up that pace. On the other hand, once a week is too infrequent for my taste. Time will tell.

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And now back to Netflix…

In the continuing saga of by-mail DVD rentals, I have once again switched from Blockbuster Online to Netflix. The draw this time was the availability of Netfilx’s Watch Instantly feature on my TiVo HD. I must say, this is very cool, but more on that later — first, a little history.

I started with Blockbuster Online back at the beginning of 2005, switched to Netflix for their Profiles feature (and anticipation of better selection and turn-around times), switched back to Blockbuster Online for their unlimited in-store exchanges and once-a-month free video game (or movie) in-store rental. By my reckoning, I was with Blockbuster Online for about five months, then Netflix for about 19 months, then BBO again for two years.

While I really do like the Watch Instantly feature, the selection isn’t great. Additionally, I decided to downgrade my DVD shipments from three-at-a-time to one-at-a-time ($9/month instead of $17/month), which makes the Netflix Profiles less useful. On the other hand, it leaves $8-$10 (BBO was $19/month) available for those $1/night kiosk DVD rentals. I’ve also given up the free video game rental, but I was hardly ever using that, so I don’t miss it.

What I’ve really given up is the unlimited in-store exchanges with BBO, as I was grandfathered into this at my price point and I believe that you now have to pay something like $35 (versus the $19 plan I was on) to get unlimited; otherwise, you get like three per month. If the Watch Instantly selection improves over time, then I don’t think this will be a problem. Already, the kids like it because there are a number of Disney shows that they like to watch that are available (and we don’t have cable, so no Disney). Plus, being able to Watch Instantly from my MacBook Pro when traveling (assuming sufficient bandwidth) should be a nice bonus. I wonder if it works internationally?

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True Blood

I’ve been reading Charlaine Harris‘ Southern Vampire novels over the past year and found them reasonably entertaining. Since I got rid of cable, I cannot watch HBO’s new show, True Blood, based on these novels. The other night while I was at Blockbuster I found that they had the first episode of True Blood¬†available as a free rental. Naturally I took it — that way I’d know whether it was really worth the bother of watching the series once it become available to me (in a legitimate way).

Well, I got around to watching it tonight and I loved it! Subsequently, I found that it is also available for free on iTunes — at least I didn’t pay for the rental. I’m pretty resistant to iTunes TV episode prices, but I’d probably pay for this show, along with Showtime’s Weeds and Californication, if they were made available as they aired or shortly thereafter, rather than once the DVD was released (at that point, I’ll just get it from Blockbuster Online or Netflix).

Am I unique in being unsatisfied by the pricing and delivery models currently being offered for TV shows? Paying as much as or more than a DVD set for iTunes downloads when the DVD is already out seems silly. Likewise, paying $2 or $3 (HD) for a show I can watch for free from one of the broadcast networks makes little sense to me. Admittedly, I do have to pay for my TiVo service, but that amortizes out to way less per show.

Perhaps the problem is that there’s no room in the pricing model for renting TV episodes. I haven’t bought into the idea of owning TV shows, so that portion of the value isn’t really a factor for me. I think I might be willing to pay $1 per episode to just rent it, but more than that just doesn’t seem worthwhile to me, at least not for broadcast shows — I’d probably be willing to pay more for shows from premium stations. As I already observed, I’d likely fork over the $2 (maybe even $3 for HD) for certain shows.

Something else that would make the whole situation more palatable would be if I could go ahead and pay the prices that are currently being charged but in doing so I would also received the DVD (or Blu-Ray for HD prices) version once it was released.

HBO and Showtime just need to let me subscribe via the Internet.

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Problems with FOX HD Broadcast

As I mentioned in previous comments, I got rid of cable TV last September and have been recording HD local broadcasts since then. Basically a full TV season has gone by since then and I have no regrets. However, over the last couple of months I’ve had varying degrees of problems with the reception of FOX.

The severity of the problem varies from nothing, to a bit of video corruption (horizontal rectangular strips across various parts of the picture that are clearly not correct and come and go), to more severe video corruption including some audio drop-outs, to very severe video corruption that is unwatchable, to something the TiVo is not even able to tune. Often, the problem only exists at the beginning of the 7pm recording and then goes away, but sometimes it lasts through all recordings for that evening (I almost never watch live TV).

For example, this last Tuesday’s American Idol didn’t get recording because no signal could be acquired, but Wednesday’s American Idol recorded fine with little to no corruption. I’ve considered that perhaps heat is an issue (the antenna is in the attic), but that doesn’t seem completely consistent (it wasn’t particularly hot on Tuesday). I haven’t checked on the antenna, which isn’t bolted down or anything, so could conceivably have gotten moved somehow (though I have no idea how), but then the signal will be perfectly fine later so that doesn’t seem likely.

This problem has led to me watching several episodes of Bones and House on FOX’s web site. I’ve watched occasional shows online over the past few years and I must say that there has been a significant improvement lately. The quality appears near-HD and the streaming is pretty much instant. I checked all of the main networks and this is pretty consistent across most of them. Very nice. Too bad not all the shows are available this way.

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