Netflix – Black Mirror

As you might guess, after dental surgery I’m “catching up” in my TV time… Not feeling a lot like running around; and doing so with pain suppression not such a good idea anyway…

I’ve added Vudu activation to my Roku. So far, only the free stuff. (select the channel in the Roku, give it an email address, it sends you an email with the link to send you to their site where you add a password, then you are good to go.) Now I’m in position to do a comparison of Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu. (Hulu wants money so I’m not signed up to it, yet. We’ll see if there’s a reasonably free / cheap way to evaluate it, too). In some future posting I’m thinking a comparison of the nature of those services might be a nice thing to do. But for now, I’m still mostly Netflix. Which brings us back to this posting.

I’m very impressed with Netflix. So far, nothing else even comes close. The big draw for me is that once you’ve paid your $10 (or whatever it is) you have it all. Vudu gives you a couple of free tasters, but then it’s like $9 to $40 per movie or series. Amazon is in between the two on behavioiurs. But what really has come to impress me is the “Netflix Originals”. I started off expecting them to be cheap trash to fill out the lineup. Like a lot of the 10,000 Roku “channels” that’re really not worth the time. In reality, the Netflix Originals are very good.

First it was House Of Cards. Binge watched the whole thing. It seems a ‘take off’ of the Clintons. Husband grubs his way to the presidency, wife is covetous of the power, expecting to be anointed next. Trail of sexual misdeeds and dead bodies behind them both. It does a decent job of portraying what the world of “for keeps” politics when played by sociopaths just might be like. A couple of more were similarly good. Latest is that I just finished watching Black Mirror. A Sci-Fi series that looks at the dark side of technology and how it could go wrong. Just the thing for a computer security guy who spent decades looking at the dark side of technology and how it does go wrong…

Here’s the “official Site”:

https://www.netflix.com/title/70264888

The Internet Movie Data Base has nearly nothing about it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2085059/

A television anthology series that shows the dark side of life and technology.
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Stars: Daniel Westwood, Hannah John-Kamen, Beatrice Robertson-Jones | See full cast & crew »

They have a set of reviews. My only “complaint” about it is that they seem compelled to sprinkle F-Bombs and “Shit” though the episodes. I don’t mind too much, but it means the spouse will never watch it with me. A very audience limiting thing and the F-Bomb long ago lost the “shock value” as a motif. Oh Well.

It is mostly set in the UK, near as I can tell. In the tradition of Twilight Zone, each episode is stand-alone. It isn’t a series so much as a collection of short stories. Each unique, and each raising interesting questions to ponder.

A few stories repeat the themes of “Social Media Gone Bad”, and cell phones feature prominently in many stores. No surprise, really, since the overall motif is “tech gone bad”. One story has people obsessing over being voted up or down. Everyone rating every encounter with others, on the spot, from their phone. Drop below a 2 you are a pariah and can’t get a job, over 4 you are awarded better jobs, houses, etc. Then things show their dark side…

Another has soldiers with a visual overlay built into their brain. It lets them see maps and share intel on the battle field. But, it turns out, the “Brass” is also using it to make the enemy look like alien horribles when they really are just genetically “undesirable” citizens…

Generally speaking, I found each episode compelling in one way or another.

Where The CW series (The Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, etc.) are fun bits of fluff and “bubble gum for the mind”, these Neflix shows are thinking pieces. I like both sets, both genres, but for very different reasons. (iZombie, especially, is just a cute trick on an old idea that actually makes if fresh, with zombies as “regular folks with a medical condition” as long as they get some brains for dinner. All nicely tongue firmly in cheek… I mean, funny sympathetic Zombies? For real!..)

But Black Mirror is intended to make you think about where we are headed, and even where we are, and be a bit uneasy about it.

The Wiki has more than IMDB:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mirror

Black Mirror is a British science fiction television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker and centred around dark and satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone works, usually set in an alternative present or the near future. The show was first broadcast on the British Channel 4, in 2011. In September 2015, Netflix commissioned a third season of 12 episodes. The commissioned episodes were later divided into two seasons of six episodes; the third season was released on Netflix worldwide on 21 October 2016, with filming of the fourth underway in June 2017.

Regarding the programme’s content and structure, Brooker noted, “each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.” The series has received critical acclaim and has seen an increase in interest internationally (particularly in the US) after being added to Netflix.

Several of the Netflix Original Series are from the UK or Australia. I suspect as I explore more of them I’ll find other countries in the mix too. Netflix is trying to expand to a global player, so that’s their future direction. For UK folks, they’ve already seen this show starting in 2011. For me, it was a new experience.

In particular note the phrase “critical acclaim” in that Wiki. That seems to be the thing that Netflix is bringing to the table. They don’t want just “me too” filler, they are picking things that are actually good to add to their lineup.

So having started off avoiding “Netflix Originals” as I had other things I wanted to watch, especially some familiar series and then catching up on some I’d missed and wanted to see (like Crossing Jordan where many Star Trek players found follow-on bit parts and that seems to be the conceptual model for Bones; but I’d been busy and missed most of it when first aired). I’ve now watched a few Originals and found that they are quite good. The stuff I’d like to see on TV, but the US Networks just won’t (or can’t) do. One, “3%“, is in Portuguese and set in Brazil. Captioning was fine and the story and players were well worth reading captions to watch. Eventually, Netflix will have enough “various languages” content they will need to sort them that way, but for now, some bits are Spanish or Portuguese or… Just the thing for folks wanting language practice too ;-) But most of it is English (of various dialects…)

That it all is 100% free of commercials is something that’s got me hooked, too. Even though The CW airs new episodes first, and I’ve got them on my Roku as a “channel”, I’ve gotten used to uninterrupted story lines. I’ve found I’m happy to wait until the “next season” shows up on Netflix and gain 1/3 of an hour for every hour of show… (roughly, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3… I’m increasingly intolerant of that time theft.)

It has been weeks since I used the Satellite Dish (DirecTV) for anything. It just seems so limited now, and everything packed with time costing commercials wall to wall… I’m now 100% comfortable with the idea of cord cutting. Might just do it early. I’ve got 9 months to go. With neither me, nor the spouse, actually watching it anymore, I need to do a “penalty vs keep” cost comparison and decide “Is it worth it”? I’d expected a harder time “letting go” and figured between Fox and HBO there would be something hard to replace. I was entirely wrong. Roku and Pluto TV cover more news from more places including several of my favorite alternative sources. Netflix has more series and movies than we can possibly get through. What else do we need or want?

So that was the case even before I’d watched a few Netflix Originals. At this point, I’ve done 3 series (I think…) and a few movies of theirs. Not one has been a tosser or disappointment. Some more my style than others, but production values are good, plot lines interesting, actors very good, and the variety makes the common broadcast TV look like high school drama class re-dos of old stories. (The only real exception to that condemnation being CBS who have managed to put together a decent set of shows with interesting characters and plots. Blue Bloods. NCIS (several). And Star Trek on their pay-to-play channel, that we’ll likely be buying soon just for that.)

I note in passing that Netflix subscribers are up, mostly on international growth, and their stock price popped on that news.

For anyone who hasn’t made the “leap” yet to internet TV, my recommendations are pretty simple:

1) Get a “dumb” TV. That way you can yank the “smarts” any time you like for privacy / security / anti-hacking purposes. A Roku does not have a camera nor a microphone in it, and you can’t crawl up the HDMI cable to activate anything in the TV (so far… that I know of…)

2) Put a Roku on it. You get tens of thousands of channels of “junk”, but also enough stuff that matters to make it worth way more than the $45 (to get the better one). Plus, you can unplug it when desiring higher security. You can get “local news” from all over the world (many USA local stations news too) so I can check the local news and weather in Orlando before flying out or in Chicago before visiting friends. RT, Al Jazeera, Sky, France 24, ABC, NBC, CBS, Reuters and about 2 dozen more including the conservative NewsMax and the ultra Progressive MSNBC. It also has Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon, CBS Pay, and a few other high end “aps” on it.

3) Sign up for Netflix.

At that point, with Roku and Neflix running, spend 6 months just sorting through all the stuff to watch. Not actually watching all of it, just realizing you have about 2 decades of stuff to watch, much of it quite good (mostly on Netflix). Realize, too, that it seems like a few years of new stuff shows up each year…

Then, and only then, think about what is lacking in your choices. So far, the only thing lacking for us has been new “must see” shows from CBS (especially for a hard core Trekkie with a new Star Trek coming out…)

Then What?

Beyond that? Well, I’ve not really gotten there yet. Still exploring. The simple truth is that the combo of a Roku and Netflix saturates my viewing time with things better than expected. I’m having trouble figuring out why I ought to spend 45 minutes figuring out what “Sci-Fi” channel on the Roku has neat old 1940s and 50s and even 60s movies I’d like to re-live (or fill in that I missed at the time) and / or why I ought to explore Hulu or Vudu; when I could spend that time on a really nice Netflix Original that’s already queue up in my watch queue…

Well, I’m going to “get there” in the next month or two. Just because curiosity and a need to optimize solutions drives me. The Spouse just launches Netflix and is done, almost all the time. (Some particular CBS shows are the rest). We, together, will be ‘binge watching’ the entire suit of Star Trek moves that are presently on Amazon, since we got it / them for free since she picked up Amazon Prime for the shipping cost savings. (Vudu wanted something like $45 each to ‘buy’ them. We don’t need to buy them, we need to watch them. Sure, they will expire on Amazon eventually. So?…) But who knows when we’ll have the 30 or 40 hours of time to watch them in one go ;-) I’m caught up in the Netflix Originals for the next few months and she is working her way through the entire history of Blue Bloods, the Star Trek TV Series, and Crossing Jordan and a couple of others on Netflix.

It is really amazing just how much you can get and watch for “nearly nothing”. Compared to the time cost of endless commercials, well, it’s a “no brainer”. I think the lifetime for broadcast TV and “commercials on internet TV” is getting shorter. I’m still willing to put up with some, on things like Reuters, but I can already feel the tolerance shrinking. Even though it’s only a 30 second spot every once in a while. Forget the 3 minutes solid on regular TV. Much larger percentages of my “Tube Time” (or is it “panel time” now? ;-) is preferentially going to the solid viewing block sources. Netflix is leading that parade…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Human Interest, Tech Bits and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Netflix – Black Mirror

  1. paul says:

    My DirecTV was $143 a month. I bought an antenna at Wal-Mart for $50 for local stations. I’m missing one and another doesn’t work in the middle of the day. But it works in the evening for Wheel of Fortune. The local channels over the air are stunning… almost Blu-ray to me. The two or three sub-channels on each are interesting. So, better picture than DirecTV and sub-channels for a bonus.

    Next was a Roku Premiere. I didn’t have a lot of hope because my ‘net connection is a WISP and sometimes just craps out. But hey, $70 to find out. I’m impressed with the Roku. Once it buffers up the picture is great 99% of the time. Tons of stuff to watch and I haven’t touch Netflix yet. Amazon Prime has some good movies included in the price and I get to watch them a couple of years before the Redbox discs hit the $5 movie bin at the grocery store.

    For $120 /one time/ with a very small learning curve, we have more free tv than time to watch. Compared to DirecTv at $1700 a year.

    Yeah, I sorta miss the ID channel. And BBC and NatGeo. The cooking channels haven’t had cooking shows for a few years. “Chopped” doesn’t count. SciFi, er, ScyFy, is crap… Where’s StarTrek?

    DirecTV did rip me a $110 “early cancellation fee” for five months left on something that slipped in a two year contract. I have no idea. Ya think AT&T of all people could spare a bit more bandwidth for their VOIP lines. She did offer to re-activate my account. Hmm… 5×143 vs 110. No thanks.

    The dish is on my scrap metal pile. All they want returned are the access cards. Ok, looks like I get to take a DVR apart. :)

  2. paul says:

    Forgot to add…. I’ve had DirecTV since 1998. I bought the dish on eBay and installed it myself. People thought it was crazy to be able to get cable TV from the air. :)

  3. jim2 says:

    My wife’s priest recommended Black Mirror to her. Apparently he wasn’t too upset with the F-bombs. Even the wife let’s one fly from time to time ;)

  4. David Young says:

    Like you Netflix is my main Roku channel by far. I also use VUDU, PBS, Smithsonian, and a couple of OTT channels. Regarding House of Cards – a brother recommended it to me some years back. At the conclusion of the “injured dog” scene at the beginning of Season 1 I was hooked, fan ever since.

    As for VUDU, I use it for an on-line video store where I rent movies that aren’t on Netflix. They’re usually only $4 – $5, occasionally higher. I also have built a personal library there of the Monk and Big Bang Theory seasons as I like these particular shows. One thing you’ve probably noticed is that some movies are available only for rental while others can only be purchased while yet others can be either. It’s my understanding this is controlled by the studios, not set by VUDU.

    Incidentally – after watching my first episode of Big Bang Theory on VUDU in full HD and seeing a big improvement in picture quality that I learned all about 1080p real full HD and the imitation 1080i version being provided by broadcast/cable/satellite TV.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul,

    I bought DiretTV when it first came out. Don’t know what year, but it was a LONG time ago. ’80s I think… Bought a Sony receiver (and a second one later – still have one of them). Installed it all myself (Sony included the disk with two feeds).

    A couple of years back I was quite happy, then they DEMANDED I replace my receivers. I loved the Sony. Nice color choices for the menu. You could set up a half dozen stations in a jump loop. Just click click click to cycle them. But NO, it had to go. I didn’t do anything nor buy their new box. About 6 months later: “It has to GO, it won’t work anymore”, yet it still did… About 3 months later: “We will send you two new boxes for free”… OK, I swapped. Somewhere along the line they demanded the access cards back. Me: “But you said they would not work ever ever again, so I pitched the boxes”… They then tried to bill me for a year of 4 receivers. After a bunch of haggle, they backed out the charges. “But you said they could not work, if they still work, I want to use them, not your boxes… did you lie to me?”…

    Then they got bought by AT&T.

    After about a year? maybe two, on the “new” less pleasing boxes I was “upsold” onto a faster internet pipe when my DSL died. I could get a discount, they said, by going to unified DirecTV/ Internet billing. That was a grave mistake Hidden new 2 year lock in. OK, that’s when I set the April 2018 “Toss them in the trash” deadline. Thus all we have seen to date on internet TV…

    Still have to figure out what internet provider I want in April. I’m thinking about a WISP, maybe T-Mobile, but I’ll need to test speed somewhere first. Also interested in being more mobile in general, as a few months after that we’re hoping to be on the road seeing the nation / world more on 2 x retirement checks ;-) Certainly not going to be locked into any 2 year land line situation for internet…

    @Jim2:

    I’m not particularly bothered by them, just find it useless ‘plot device’. Especially when they show a couple of folks letting fly repeatedly at work (a couple of them police and police support folks). Don’t know about there, but here that can land you in PC Reeducation Camp with HR….

    @David Young:

    Just activated Vudu yesterday, and did a quick scan to realize it’s all pricey ala cart stuff. I can see it for “special desires” to see a particular movie. Yeah, lots at the $3 price point. Then again, I’m still fully booked on free stuff so… ;-0

    Well, I just went from SD 480i to HD 1080p digital sources so you can imagine my level of awe… 8-0

  6. gallopingcamel says:

    Like Clark Howard I am seriously CHEAP. Thus this kind of post appeals to me.

    All joking aside what we are witnessing is a major revolution in the way TV is delivered. Living in Florida my cable company sold me hundreds of channels I did not want yet I paid up in order to get the few I did want. When it came to college sports everything was about the SEC while I wanted to watch the ACC and particularly the UNC Tarheels. Who cares about those pesky Gators?

    With IPTV things are improving daily. Now I can buy most of the content I want although the ACC has not launched its network yet. Imaging being able to watch the ACC even when you are traveling overseas!

  7. gallopingcamel says:

    US broadband companies are providing slow links at high prices. Eighteen months ago I could buy broadband service in southern Spain that was fifteen times faster than my ATT service for less money? Here is what I reported to the Fiber Optic Association in February 2016:

    “During my vacation near Malaga I looked at the broadband services available in the area. Even though this review covers only one supplier (Orange) it does show that the cost/performance available in Spain is superior to that available in much of the USA.

    Services
    As with service providers in the USA, Orange offers plenty of “bundles” but to make comparisons easier the prices listed below are for broadband only. The rates shown are in Mega bits/second:

    Down Up $/month Terminal equipment
    300 300 $34.20 Huawei HG8040
    50 50 $28.67 Huawei HG8040
    20 1 $22.04 ADSL

    For comparison my ADSL (18/1 Mbps) service from ATT costs $45/month. ATT does not offer any higher speeds in my area. One of the things that is driving costs down is the simplification of local terminal equipment given that the very fast (Ethernet) Huawei HG8040 costs ~$50 compared with ~$250 for the slower (ATM) G.943 terminals used by Verizon (Motorola 1000M, Tellabs 622, Alcatel ISAM 7342).

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    OMG, beyond just the cannonical collection of all Star Trek movies, I think I’ve just discovered a reason all enough on it’s own to justify having Amazon Prime TV!

    They have a show that looks to be their own exclusive called “The Grand Tour”. It is, for all practical purposes, Top Gear as you knew and loved it before the BBC had a hissy fit…

    https://www.amazon.com/TheGrandTour

    gets you to the home page, though once there it displays this url instead:

    https://www.amazon.com/b/?&node=11909489011

    The Grand Tour has arrived. Follow Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May as they embark on their new hilarious global adventure. New episodes available to stream every Friday on Prime Video.

    There are presently some 13 episodes up, so I’m about 3 months behind the curve, at least.

    The opening sequence of season one episode 1 is spectacular. I’m only 10 minutes into it and it is already way over the top. Starts with Clarkson walking out of the BBC and handing a doorman his badge, then flying to America. I’ll avoid spoilers, but they do a shtick leveraging the idea of being fired… Along the way there’s a Mad Max like “cars in the desert” mob, and a flight over of 8 jet fighters… Yeah, 10 minutes, and I left out most of it!

    It looks like it’s about to settle down into more like the usual Top Gear assessment of cars (often via percussion…) but we’ll see. Everyone looks a bit older, but still the same folks and still happy to be playing with really really big toy cars ;-)

    Also it was acknowledged that being on this side of the pond, out from under Granny BBCs PC Thumb, and “on the internet” lifts certain, ahem, restrictions… I can’t wait…

    God I’m coming to really really love internet TV ;-)

  9. Larry Ledwick says:

    I used to have Direct TV a long time ago 5+ years. Was told that the apartment complex was going to comcast as the preferred provider but their roof top dishes with Direct TV would be dropped. I have a north facing apartment so could not get my own dish and keep direct TV.

    So I called up DTV and told them I needed to cancel my account after I verified that there would be not penalty fee for early disconnect. Shifted over to Comcast and then about 3 months later DTV contacted me and said they made a mistake and I owed them a couple hundred dollars, that the time out for the package had been restarted when they went to digital (which I had no control over). I ignored them.

    After a couple years figured out that Comcast cable sucks for what you pay so I dropped the cable TV service and just went with the internet connection. Made an $8 wire antenna for the 300 ohm jack on the back of the TV set. So now I watch on the air TV or every 2-3 months by a few DVD – or blue ray disks of movies I like. I now have a library of over 200 movies to watch as many times as I want for a small fraction of the former cable bill, and get to see random stuff on the over the air TV that I did not even know existed.

    Plus if all else fails I have Amazon Prime and can stream movies online if I want. Unless they drop cable TV to about $7 a month not going back.

    Oh by the way last night got a letter in the mail from Direct TV telling me that they missed me and wanted to offer me a new package.

  10. Steven Fraser says:

    How long before you are tempted to get a 4K display?

  11. Verity Jones says:

    @EM,
    You may well enjoy the original BBC House of Cards Series from the UK
    . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Cards_(UK_TV_series). This was gripping when it was aired from 18th Nov – 9th Dec 1990 because it was about the machinations of a leadership election in the Conservative party post Margaret Thatcher, whilst a real life leadership election was taking place at the same time and Margaret Thatcher resigned on 20th Nov. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Party_(UK)_leadership_election,_1990.
    It gave rise to a popular phrase “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment” (used here: https://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/the-trouble-with-anomalies-part-2/)

    Have Netflix / don’t have Amazon Prime (too mean) so missing out on Grand Tour and missing Top Gear.

    Incidentally as Netflix is worldwide, you can access all sorts of stuff but it recommends subgenres based on habits, however, if you know how to look you can find a lot more than you thought possible: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/on-demand/0/secret-netflix-codes-find-thousands-of-hidden-movies-and-tv-shows/

  12. Verity Jones says:

    comment just gone into spam ;-(

    [Reply: Fetched it out. No idea why it went there… -E.M.Smith]

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Verity:

    I’ll have to search out the original, thanks!

    We only have Amazon Prime as it made the shipping on the spousal regular purchases cheaper. I’d not have paid for it otherwise. Or discovered The Grand Tour show.

    @Stephen:

    Never. I don’t have a big enough room or short enough viewing distance to justify it. For the eye to resolve 4k you need a big enough screen and close enough. The 4 k jobs are about 6 feet long and you need to be about 8 feet back, IIRC. (I “did the math” once but it was a few years back… so fuzzy. I’ll add a chart down below after I look one up).

    The bottom line was that in the bedroom, with the area limit on the screen of about a 32 inch diagonal and viewing distance from the bed, only a 720p will be resolved by the eye so even a 1080p is wasted. In our living room, it’s about 40 to 50 inch max size we can fit in the room. Given the viewing distance to the couch, we’d not see the 4k anyway… so 1080p it is. if I could hang a 6 to 8 foot TV, then it would be 4k.

    I know the math worked out as I can’t see any difference between the 1080p and the 720p unless I get get up and walk up to them….

    http://www.rtings.com/tv/reviews/by-size/size-to-distance-relationship

    Has a graph that shows for a 32 inch max size I can fit on the dresser, I have to be inside 6 feet viewing to have anything more than 720p matter. As I’m almost that long and it is a few feet more from the foot of the bed, never gonna happen.

    For the living room it’s about an 8 foot viewing range and just makes it into the 1080p for a 40 something TV. A 60 inch diagonal would be too big for our present layout and kind of oppressive when not in use. We’d have to rearrange the whole living room to hang one on the wall (open plan one side, other has fireplace, third has picture window… only one wall for hanging and the couch is along it, nice picture over the couch). So either we get wood chairs to see the TV over the couch, or we put a smaller TV in the corner between the fireplace and window…

    For 4K to be ‘worth it’ would require a 65 inch or greater TV, that would be hell to fit in that space and make the room very unbalanced, or we have to sit 5 feet from the TV in the middle of the room.

    I know, geeky… but that’s what I do…

  14. pyromancer76 says:

    My story, from someone who used to enjoy Netflix, first rental of DVDs, then DVDs + streaming, then streaming, And thanks very much for sharing your experiments to make the virtual world safer, cheaper, and more versatile. I follow and look forward to your posts.

    I quit Netlix after some years of watching most of the good films (to my taste) — and experiencing that too much of contemporary filmmaking/tv-series-creating is far too “cultural marxist.” Anything and everything to make the everyday American/white person (or regular person of whatever country) trashy, vile, devious, mercenary, slovenly, disgusting, violent in the most prurient ways, always criminal in one way or another, sexual predators, etc. etc., etc. No hope for white people; no hope for middle class people, no hope for character development and real personality change, or growth and development, in any individual.

    Meantime my Amazon Prime, first chosen due to shipping costs, began delivering “free movies and tv series”. Wow at first, but, again I am almost at the end of these, too. where I find much value. (Also I am reconsidering supporting Jeff Bezos — Amazon + the CIA + Washington Post + Whole Foods (maybe) + plus a million other hoped-for monopolies is leading me to look for alternatives quickly.)

    I had quit Netflix when they went “leftist” on me, or at least vocally joined the #neverTrump column. I want my businesses to be businesses; let “people” do the politics. We need to be a country of patriotic opponents for checks and balances on power.

    Since most of our global corporations are in the global elitist column in one way or another, I decided to try again when Netflix invited me back, first month free. Very much enjoyed the 7th season of Bluebloods; it is not on Amazon, and they added a few good films in the interim. I went through everything and every category carefully. Not enough interesting at this time to afford the monthly cost. (And way too much trash.) I thanked them and left.

    Those films I adore, I go ahead and buy when they are cheap enough. I just saw “Captains Courageous” on TCM. I was so moved that I am buying it — I want the grandkids to see it, maybe treasure it.

    Now secret Netflix codes might make me reconsider, thanks Verity Jones.

    E.M., I hope you have a few years to enjoy the bounty as we did — but notice that if you also rent DVDs (and don’t mind the fuss of returning them) you get a much greater selection.

    I am looking for a way to cut the cord to cable, but fantastic internet service plus kids and grandkids needing SPORTS has stayed my hand thus far. I am watching your assessment of internet providers.

  15. paul says:

    My dish from eBay was a Sony. The one and ony. :) I never turned it off because it stayed as warm Off as it did On. Worked great for 10 years or so. Then I cashed in my pocket change jar and bought a 55″ Vizio. And a $100 Sony single disc BluRay player. $2100 or so with taxes. Eight years come November.

    A 3 gallon pickle jar from U-Tote-Em can hold a lot of pocket change. Add in the cash from selling beer cans and whatever from scrap metal, it adds up.

    I had to get HD for the new TV. An extra $10 a month plus the weirdness of how DirecTV charges taxes and $100 to install. Using all of the existing wiring. Yeah, and mount the damn thing 6 feet up the roof from the Sony dish, at the peak of the roof for maximum white trash tackiness.

    Found out a few months later the Sony box was worth something. Not mine. I plugged it in and it was dead…. Combo of old transformers and cooked resistors smells. Hey, 10 years of use, so….

    A storm passed through and while the rain was coming in every window around the house,,. the wind dropped a few trees. Large trees. Pretty much crushed the pump house. No house damages but I called Travelers. We got a new roof and some tree removal and a new pump house. The new roof is metal. Off white. 1x4s attached to the old roof with R6 (?) foam board and then the metal. Permanent roof and better insulation dropped $50 a month off the A/C bill. I set a 10 foot chain-link fence corner post and had the dish moved. Again, all the wiring was done, just move the dish. Er, $100, again.

    I’m done with DirecTV. 18 years and the best they could come up with when I called to cancel was some plan for $80 a month.

    Today I finished shimming the antenna mast. On that 10 foot chain-link fence corner post. The antenna is on a 10′ chain link top rail. Re-scanned and hey, picked up another channel. I now have 24 channels of stuff over the air. With a picture better than from satellite.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Pyromancer76:

    We’ve got a wall full of VHS and DVDs. Couldn’t begin to list them all. Yes, still have VHS recorders (3 of them I think ;-) for the old stuff. Generally didn’t like buying something twice..)

    I figure “someday” we’ll run out of things of interest on Netflix. For now, it’s got more than we can consume of things that we like. I’ve given up on avoiding all companies that have left leaning PR / donation habits. Even conservative companies have given in the Left Emotional Blackmail. That solution will need to come by other means, IMHO.

    FWIW, you can buy sports directly. ESPN for the DeLux choice, and PlutoTV has a sports section. Not being a sports guy I’ve not looked at exactly what. Maybe I’ll review it ;-) Any sports in particular you like?

    For now, it looks like Vudu (and maybe Hulu but I’ve not tried it yet) has a very large library of movies “for pay”, while Amazon has a lot too. At the moment, and likely for the next couple of years, we’re saturated just on the free stuff.

    @Paul:

    A while back we all talked over antennas for over the air. I get a fair number off a lousy antenna. I need to do some roof work about September and expect to clean up the outdoor antenna and replace the balun / downlead. That ought to give us LOTS of over the air TV. Though I already get most of the series we care about and “local news” via the Roku / Netflix combo. We’re not in a hurry, but we will get the antenna done “soon enough”. Basically, the tests were good so the real work is scheduled…

    At that point, Over The Air + Netflix + Roku + Amazon Prime I’m having very little that makes DirectTV of interest, forget compelling…

  17. gallopingcamel says:

    Larry Ledwick, 22 July 2017 at 2:35 am
    “After a couple years figured out that Comcast cable sucks for what you pay so I dropped the cable TV service and just went with the internet connection. Made an $8 wire antenna for the 300 ohm jack on the back of the TV set.”

    Sounds like my experience. Comcast was the only provider in Sarasota back in 2003 and they used to raise the rates by at least 10% every year even though the product was dreadful. Thankfully competition appeared in the form of Verizon FTTP. Then in 2009 digital broadcast TV arrived so I could get 50+ channels for free. Most of them are evangelical or Spanish language (mi esposa es Colombiana) but it is worth it if only for the local news channels and ION TV.

    There are hundreds of antennae available, some of them costing almost as much as the TV set. I am delighted with my 75 ohm HD Frequency antenna that costs $68 in Walmart. There is a “Mini” version at $42. While I don’t live in Sarasota anymore that antenna still does a great job even though it is indoors and only eight feet above ground. If I put it on the roof I could probably get twice as many stations.

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    I get fine reception with just a simple 300 ohm dipole, but own a couple commercial directional antennas if I “need” to get some distant station.

    I happen to live on one of the highest points in the Denver Metro basin, from just a few hundred yards from my house I can see 81 miles south to Pikes Peak, see Mount Evans 35 miles south west (which is very close to Squaw Mountain where many repeater sights are) and Longs Peak 40 miles north west. I have line of sight to most of the major broadcast antennas in the area.

    My favorite station is 3-2 and 2-2/2-3 One of those stations is 63 miles away (gets marginal when it is raining but when clear comes in just fine on a simple wire dipole) the other pair are 12.3 miles away line of sight.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @G.C. & Pyromancer76: PER SPORTS

    I thought maybe I’d make a nice little list of the Roku and related Sports Channels available. Just a short comment with the names or maybe even a posting. Then I looked at how many are listed under “SPORTS” on the Roku. Something like 284 sports channels. OK, I’m not going to be able to put that in a comment…

    The easy bit is that Amazon, which has hundreds of sports themed movies, has no live sports I could find at all. Ditto for Vudu and Netflix. They are movies and recorded TV series only.

    The Roku has hundreds, including things like ESPN, except, the ESPN and a couple of others require you log in with your “cable provider” credentials. Kind of unclear on the concept of cable cutting… There were many, like the MLB and NFL that looked like you just had to sign up to send them money. It would require that you seek out the channels and sports you like and find out their terms. Try here:

    https://www.rokuguide.com/channels/sports

    They also have hundreds of channels for things like various colleges, even some high schools, and minor sports. Even found a Rugby Channel that looked to be free. If it is just “any sports” you care about, there’s lots. If it is a particular channel, you need to “go fish” and check it out.

    Then there is SlingTV. It is sort of like a cable provider, but not. There’s a Roku app and it has a large sports section:

    https://www.sling.com/programming/sports#!

    Including things like ESPN if you buy the right package… rather like regular cable… I’ve not bought it, so can’t comment on service, reliability, etc.

    The PlutoTV, when I checked out the Sports section, was really more “hokey sports”. Things like Fear Factor and such. Listing here:

    http://pluto.tv/guide/sports

    Nice thing is you can just check it out on your tablet or laptop and decide if you like it, all for free. They have a premium paid service, but I don’t have it so can’t say what’s in it. Consult their web site…

    So looks like lots is available, but for the good stuff there are fees and you may need a “cable provider” to get any particular high end channel, like ESPN. FWIW, the Sony Playstation TV counted as a “cable provider” for many (all?) Roku channels demanding one, while SlingTV did not. So it might be worth it to check out the sports offerings on it.

    http://cordcuttersnews.com/playstation-vue-adds-more-even-more-sports-options/

    For me, the Roku has more than I could ever want, but then again, I’m not hooked on any particular major league sport or team…

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, looks like AT&T is going to make it very easy to dump DirecTV… They want to boot folks off the satellite anyway… Just they think we’d keep paying that freight for their paltry channels over the internet when one of THE major features was the “direct to my living room from space” bandwidth…

    http://cordcuttersnews.com/att-plans-move-directv-subscribers-new-streaming-service/

    AT&T Plans to Move All DirecTV Subscribers to Their New Streaming Service
    By Luke Bouma on October 13, 2016 in News

    AT&T recently purchased DirecTV and is moving quickly to take advantage of the name and contracts. Sometime this year AT&T plans to release a new streaming service called DirecTV NOW. They also announced that the AT&T U-verse TV service is going to start moving subscribers over to DirecTV.

    Now word is coming from AT&T that they want most DirecTV subscribers to be moved over to the new streaming service in the next 3 to 5 years.

    This likely has less to do with AT&T seeing the future of TV as cord cutting and more to do with it being less expensive to stream content than it is to run DirecTV. No longer do you need an army of employees installing and repairing equipment. There are no satellites to maintain and no boxes to manage.

    This could be a mixed bag for cord cutters. The hope for cord cutters is that DirecTV subscribers will see how easy streaming is and make the jump to a true cord-cutting option. The bad news for cord cutters is this is one more sign that DirecTV NOW will be less about cord cutting and more about just copying the current DirecTV model online.

    So they think folks will keep on paying the $100+ for a delux direct high speed link with limited channels while being on the AT&T internet service instead? Dream on….

    Well, at least I know I won’t be hanging around for that…

  21. gallopingcamel says:

    @Chiefio,
    I followed that Roku link and the first thing I found was ACC sports! It looks as if you have found what I need and they are not charging a dime! I would be happy to pay a few dollars a month but I won’t complain about FREEEEEEEEE…………….

    The IPTV revolution is rolling. Time to “Short” cable TV companies.

  22. gallopingcamel says:

    Fiber To The Home is evolving so fast in Europe and in Asia. Currently you can get 300/300 Mbps Ethernet (IEEE 803.3ah) for $35 per month.

    It is time for ATT and others in the USA to wake up and COMPETE. Stop insulting me by charging $54 per month for 18/1 Mbps ADSL!

    It is a strange fact that Verizon uses obsolescent ATM technology based on European standards (G.983 & G.984) while Europeans and Asians use Ethernet (IEEE.803), a US standard.

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @GC:

    Well, I hope ACC Sports lives up to your expectations!

    The thing about the Roku that was unexpected by me was how it depends so heavily on “apps” from independent vendors, how easy it is make an app and a ‘channel’, and then how that makes it soooo hard to find “the good stuff” in the sea of sludge.

    I suspect that it’s a highly mixed blessing. At least, it seems that way to me.

    On the one hand, it’s a pita to figure out what is worth watching. As a “Noob” I spent a few days sorting out about 350 channels I thought had potential. I’ve only really now evaluated to any depth maybe 2 dozen of them and found them “keepers”. The whole list was likely reduced by about 75 in the process, yet other channels got brought to my attention (they put up these channel teaser “billboards” next to your channel listing) so my total listing is 334 at present. My short list of channels I regularly watch is about a dozen… the rest are still to be evaluated in depth (i.e. actually watched for a while). Netflix, Amazon, my news channel list of a 1/2 dozen, a couple of movie channels, and The CW makes up most of it. CBS Direct (or whatever it is properly called) to be added when Star Trek Discovery starts in September.

    On the other hand, there’s thousands of local and specialized channels for folks with a narrow interest. At least a half dozen “local city channels” that I looked at (and tossed – I don’t really care what happens at the Lodi Chamber Meetings or what club is sponsoring a BBQ in their park on Tuesday…) and some that are very amateur but their target audience won’t care (often a “sports” channel that consists of fairly raw footage of some kids playing a sport in some school league. Things like high school lacrosse in Houston or whatever). BUT if you ARE the family and friends of those lacrosse players, or even just like lacrosse, it could be just your cup of tea… I found (in the 1200?) religion channels the channel for my Son’s Church(!). If I like I can “attend” it and see what they do on stage. (An evangelical music oriented church). Similarly, the spouse has a half dozen Catholic Church Mass choices spread around the world.

    So it turns out that a good external guide site on the internet is very valuable, and “search skills” essential. Otherwise you will waste a week like I did looking at things that will never matter to you ;-)

    I also suspect that Roku started off crappy with a lot of “DIY” crap channels and only later got professional channels like Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon, The CW, CBS, etc. etc. That’s just a guess on my part, but it feels that way… Now, with Roku being built in to many “Smart TVs” sold at places like Costco and Best Buy, it looks like it is more mainstream and becoming a “must be there” venue for major channels.

    Basically, the “free stuff” is interesting a bit, but often low quality or full of commercials. The “fee based” is often the best. In between there are a few “low commercial load” pretty good professional channels, but one must search to find them. Things like RT, Reuters, France24… I’m sure there are others in the non-news genre, but news is where I’ve done the most looking.

    I’m still “getting there”. Last night spent about an hour getting familiar with how the YouTube App works (it’s different than on a computer with a keyboard). Where at first I thought it hokey and “why bother”, now I realize it is reasonably well done and an easy way to get LOTS of good stuff on the TV without a dedicated computer ( I have one attached in the bedroom, not the living room). So I watched some Star Trek Fan movie stuff and the Star Trek Discovery Trailer that is on YouTube. OK, it just got moved from my “feh” list to the “Hey, that’s a good one!” list. Basically, due the “hunt and peck” with an arrow to find a topic, then pick the video you want out of the panel presented AND watch some related. Yes, you can do ‘directed search’ to just one video, but that’s followed by “what else have they found?”

    In any case, while I don’t see the Roku as the be all and end all of internet TV, I do see it as a very high return for a $45 (or whatever) purchase price. ( I didn’t want the $25 one since it uses optical control and you must keep their “dongle” where it can be seen. I wanted the RF control where the stick just plugs in the back out of sight… Didn’t see a need for the $75? one where you can plug a headset into the remote for private viewing… but it might be worth it in an RV without separate TV rooms ;-)

    IF I already had a “Smart TV” with Netflix on it would I still buy the Roku? Harder to answer…

    Probably “yes” just for the wide choices of news… and Pluto TV… and some of the international stuff. (I’ve got maybe 20? Spanish Language and Brazilian channels in my selected list to work through. Watching news from Latin America and The Caribbean has been interesting, and having some Spanish Language programming has helped keep the language skill up). It adds a LOT of choice and variety to the carefully groomed choices on the major paid options.

    Oh, and FWIW, last night the niece popped her Apple TV on the screen. Got to look over their choices. Not in great depth, but a quick scan. Many apps are like on the Roku. Netflix, Hulu, C-Net, CBS, etc. etc. Missing are the DIY channels (way too ‘junky’ for Apple… so all you folks wanting to put your church or softball team on TV, forget it…) and Amazon. Seems Amazon and Apple are preparing for battle over something or other… TV and self driving cars most likely. Nice. Professionally done. Worked flawlessly. You can use a real keyboard if you have a computer hooked to it (don’t know if it demands a Mac, but…) or has the same ‘pick with a cursor’ interface without. Would I pay the $120? or so for it instead of a Roku? Well, if I were a Mac fanatic ;-) IFF you don’t like hunting to find the good stuff, the added $80 to Apple to have censored them out is likely worth it. If instead you like quirky and odd things, not so much. For example, the Roku has at least a dozen “Grindhouse” channels. I didn’t even know what that was when I first started seeing the names with that in them. We’re talking bad “C” level movies with lots of guns and silicone enhanced female leads… but if seeing a lady in black leather with a Nazi cap and riding crop “discuss” things with a weight lifter with a fetish for .45s is “your thing”, well, it’s buried in that Roku stuff somewhere… and will NEVER be on Apple TV ;-)

    Overall, my “attitude” toward Internet TV has broadened. Instead of “Which ONE do I pick?” it is becoming more of “If it doesn’t cost too much, add it on!”. So while I started with ONLY the “no fee” Roku channels, and the odd Netflix on the computer; I’ve rapidly moved to Netflix and Roku everywhere, glue on Vudu and Amazon, and think about more… (Though so far I’ve avoided the “pay to watch” parts of anything but Netflix).

    See, each of them has different “free” teaser parts ;-)

    We’ll see what next month brings…

  24. NocturnalJen says:

    Black Mirror is one of the best TV shows I’ve seen. I love the fact that the episodes are self contained, it’s like watching a short film. A lot of the ideas in these episodes I feel are good enough to be films but I think it works well that they’re not unnecessarily stretched out to that kind of slower paced longer length format. I just wrote a blog post about the San Junipero episode, which was my favourite one EVER!

    https://tenmoreminutesblog.wordpress.com/

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