We’ve caught up on all the Hulu shows we watch, no new ones for a couple of months. There is really nothing we need from them until the new season is available. Went to cancel my subscription, with the intent of re-starting in April or May. Hey — they let you “pause” your subscription for up to 12 weeks. Sweet!! Exactly what I needed to do. Thanks for anticipating our needs, guys.
Hulu was more or less OK, but we’re switching to DirecTV Now. Same price, but they have AMC AND a program guide. How did I ever miss the fact that Hulu doesn’t carry AMC?? I have no idea, but that’s a deal breaker. And I got really freakimg tired of no program guide, and being forced to scroll through the crap networks we don’t EVER watch, every time I wanted to see what’s on.
DirecTV Now isn’t perfect but so far it beats Hulu for streaming live TV. We may pick up basic Hulu from time to time if we want to catch up on some of their series, but I’m not keeping them on the payroll any more.
Hulu Support contacted me via Twitter to say they do have a program guide. Let’s just say their idea of what qualifies as a program guide differs from mine. You can get a listing of what is on RIGHT NOW, and the next show on each channel. No indication of whether a show is new or a rerun. No time grid to see what’s on later. No way to filter the channel list other than very recently viewed channels, or scroll through all of them whether you want to or not. Don’t ever care what’s on BET, MTV, Cartoon Network or whatever? Too bad. Oh, and whatever you were watching is gone while you’re looking — no audio or background video, like with cable or DTV.
At this point we’re new to streaming our live TV, so my loyalty to any vendor is zero. We’ll switch until we find something we like, and if I find something better we’re gone.
Well, we’ve been watching Amazon Prime and Hulu Live for a week now. We have not yet needed to switch back to cable, which is good. It has not been quite the seamless transition one would hope for, but it’s not a complete pain in the ass either. Compared to watching cable, it’s a lot more labor intensive. Lots of button pushing, menu navigating, and we seem to have a disruption of some sort on average at least once a night. Wrong video streams, app crashes, Fire TV reboots, etc. It may not be a deal breaker, but then again it may be. It certainly is a pain in the ass.
My short take on it is, this whole thing is great. Or it would be, if the apps were written by people who actually gave a damn whether things actually worked for more than a few hours at a time. I’ve started doing a power-on reset of my Ooma box once a week to keep it from wandering off the path of righteousness; it looks like the Fire TV Cube may need that once a day or so. Unfortunately, there is no way to force reboot either one remotely so it turns into me remembering to go unplug the stupid things.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly so far…
- The shows we watch are automatically recorded, so we can watch them whenever we please.
- Video and audio quality seem to be very good. I haven’t tried any lower quality settings to see how it impacts things.
- So far, I don’t think we have found any of our shows that we can’t watch.
- Navigation is just clunky, there’s no other way to describe it. There’s lots of button pushing, and you have to be careful of lag and slow response.
- Different apps for different shows. Amazon Prime for Jack Ryan and a couple of others, Hulu for most things. Not a huge deal, but integration could certainly be better.
- Data burn. We’re on a 1TB/month plan. We had been using 2-5 GB/day; now we’re hitting peaks of 25GB or more. Average seems to be around 15, which is still OK… but we’ll actually need to pay attention to our data usage, which is not ideal. Obviously streaming video is going to burn bandwidth; this was not unexpected.
- Alexa commands are a joke. Tell Alexa “Tune Discovery on Hulu”… no dice, Alexa says Hulu can’t find that channel. We use the remote for most everything.
- The Hulu app is not what I would call stable. I have started force terminating it once a day, just to keep it from crashing at inopportune times.
- The Fire TV Cube is also not what I would call stable. roughly every other night or so, it will just spontaneously crash and reboot in the middle of a show.
- Hulu’s inexplicable and stupid lack of a program guide. It’s idiotic, there’s really no other way to describe it. Guys, you’re selling this as a LIVE TV service, why not act like it and put up a damned program guide?
- Occasionally, our sound bar will simply power itself off in the middle of watching something. What turned it off? Why? No indication, it’s a mystery. And of course, that means you have to grab another damned remote… unless you tell Alexa to turn the sound bar on, which Alexa will, and then you lose the audio stream from the Hulu app.
So the Cox bill has been getting out of control. After the latest package deal ran out, the bill bumped up to nearly $240 per month, mostly for crap (in the form of TV channels and phone features) that we don’t want. That’s a ton of money.
The requirements are:
- Landline with caller ID
- Live TV with the channels WE watch. Local channels, Fox News, History, Discovery, AMC, HGTV, several others.
- Internet to support full time telecommuting
I already switched the phone service over to Ooma. I bought a Telo and signed us up for Ooma Premeir service. That gives us caller ID, voicemail, and unlimited calling in & out. That will reduce the monthly phone service spend from $53.62 (I shit you not, that’s what Cox was charging me) to less than $20 per month — for more service.
Now, next up is cable TV. Cox’s bill comes to a little over $154, including taxes and fees and surcharges. I could reduce that by about $24 by dropping HBO and Showtime, which suck anyway and we only have because they were included in the discount package that has expired. Still WELL over $100 a month for, quite frankly, an awful lot of crap. 200+ channels, but of course they include crap we’d never watch in a hundred years just to try to justify the insane price.
The last time I looked at alternatives like Hulu, Netflix, Sling, etc. — and it was not that long ago — they all fell woefully short of meeting any of our requirements. We stuck with cable TV simply because there was no other way to watch, for example, The Walking Dead, or Fox News, or Nebraska football games, live. A few hours or days or a year after the fact, sure. Or not at all, depending on the service. And we’d probably need to sign up for several, resulting in a total bill exceeding what we were paying for cable in the first place. Oh, and get an antenna up that would work for the local channels, since NONE of them covered those.
Well, it seems the picture has changed significantly. For about $40 a month Hulu will give you all their stuff, plus live TV covering all the channels we watch (BTN for Husker football included, woohoo!) and a DVR service. It’s worth a try. We already have Amazon Prime, mostly for the shipping. The decision to go with a Fire TV Cube was pretty simple. I received and installed that yesterday, and signed up for a free trial week of Hulu with live TV. Oh, and as a side benefit… it looks like this may also negate the need to try and find yet another “universal” remote control, potentially saving another few rubles.
Last night was our first night watching Hulu on the Fire TV Cube. Overall the user interface ranges from “fair, needs improvement” to “frustratingly clunky” to “ridiculously obtuse”. Some of that’s the Fire TV, some is Hulu. It’s bearable, and I hope it improved with future app updates. We also had not one, but THREE screwups while trying to watch live TV. The first was innocuous and not a big deal — watching the news, but the program guide listed it as some oddball foreign cartoon name. OK, no big deal. Then we tried watching Vikings on History Channel. Several minutes into the episode it restarted, restarted again, and when we tried to get back to the live stream it switched to some episode of “Forged in Fire”. Horrifically frustrating. 10-15 minutes later we got back to Vikings, but of course missed part of the episode. We’ll have to watch it again.
Then we tried watching another show, “Curse of Oak Island”. What we got was an old episode of “Stargate SG-1”, which most definitely has not improved with age. It would have been funny if it were not for the fact that we couldn’t watch the damn show we wanted to watch.
I will say that non-live streams seem to work perfectly, and the video quality seems to be great. And we can watch some channels for hours with zero issues. I chatted with Hulu support today, and the agent says it’s a “known issue” that they’re working to resolve. IF they resolve it soon, and completely, we’ll have a winner. If they do not, we’ll need to decide whether we stick with Hulu and adapt (watch things delayed a little), or scrap it and pare our Cox cable back to the minimums and deal with the expense. Or something else entirely.
Once we have a final solution to this question, I’ll post a monthly spend and savings analysis. I think we can probably save about $100 a month, to be honest. I’m glad I don’t own stock in Cox or any other cable company. We’ll still have to use them cor Internet access, of course, but who knows how long that will be true?
Last night I watched the first episode of Halt and Catch Fire on AMC. I wanted to love it, was tempted to hate it, and in the end opted for neither one.
For those of you who don’t know me, I lived through the period in question, and in the same industry… although not working for TI, or a fictitious Texas OS vendor, or even directly in the PC end of things. Still, those were some pretty exciting times. I was fixing mainframes for a living, but lived and breathed microcomputers every day. When micros first came on the scene (we didn’t call them “PCs” until well into the 80s), it was like the Wild West, in all the good ways. There was opportunity around every corner. I would be hard pressed to count the number of companies making computers in the pre-IBM days; some very cool things were being done by a lot of gifted and smart people. I remember one in particular, a machine made by Ohio Scientific that had multiple processors (6800, 6502 and Z-80 if I remember right) and could boot different operating systems depending on your mood.
Anyway, the first bit of bad news came during the opening scene — a typed-text description of the “HALT AND CATCH FIRE” machine instruction. It’s a simple concept, easy to explain and even a little humorous. And they got it completely wrong. Stupidly wrong, in fact. I felt like a doctor watching Gray’s Anatomy or a cop watching Blue Bloods. Sigh…
It got a little better from there, but there was some really stupid technical nonsense thrown in for no good reason. Something real and believable would have been just as dramatic, or maybe even better. You can’t cut a soda can in half with a pencil soldering iron – and why would you need to to fix a Speak & Spell? I especially loved the scene where he’s tediously de-soldering connections on the back of the circuit board — then triumphantly extracts the chip FROM ITS SOCKET. And then of course there is the biggest non sequitur: ALL of the IBM Personal Computer’s schematics as well as the complete assembler listings for the BIOS were readily available from IBM, in the IBM Model 5150 Personal Computer maintenance manuals that anyone could buy.
So building a clone of the IBM PC was really pretty trivial from an engineering standpoint, and other manufacturers jumped in early and often. Most tried to build better machines that ran their own version of MS-DOS, and most used the same bus so that expansion cards were interchangeable. It took a while for the tyranny of the marketplace to grind everyone into making exact clones of the IBM machine, other than some speed improvements and of course much lower prices.
The list of ridiculously stupid technical gaffes is pretty impressive. The scene where they start reading out the BIOS? Well, first off, there were no white LEDs in 1983. You could have any color of LED you wanted as long as it was red, green or yellow. And binary 1101 is a hexidecimal D, not B. PC motherboards don’t arc and spark, and if one did it would be dead, dead, dead. His oscilloscope was displaying a stupidly Hollywood-ized pattern, and why would they need to use one anyway? Could they not read the pinout from a common EPROM data sheet? He’d just finished explaining how all the parts were off the shelf common stuff. And why would such a hotshot engineer not rig up an interface to his TRS-80 to read out the BIOS chip? For that matter… why not just type in a few lines of BASIC program to read out the BIOS and save it to disk, print it or display it on screen?
From a technical standpoint the show is senselessly over-dramatized in ways that really spoil a lot of the “geek appeal”. If you know much at all about the technical matter at hand you’ll spend half your time shaking your head and saying, “Wha?? No…” They did, however, seem to do a fairly decent job of catching the general tone of the period, and the story line (other than the glaring issue of the whole made-up BIOS thing) has potential. I just wish they’d have hired an actual technical consultant, or listened to him if they did hire one.