Lessons on Cord Cutting.

Cable bills are soaring. and we are getting less for our home entertainment dollar.  Some of us are cutting costs by either cutting back or eliminating our cable services. There are cheaper or even free.  I just want to cover a few tips.

Over the Air

The great broadcast television switch over to digital had a lot of people convinced that we were now completely reliant on our cable service for content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Each broadcast channel has multiple available subchannels. From Galveston, I can receive about 77 channels. Some of them are religious, others Spanish or Asian channels. and a few are shopping channels. There is plenty of good stuff available. I was  somewhat surprised to find that a lot of the channels I got were local broadcast channels  and not cable channels.

I live about 50 – 70 miles away from the Broadcast towers. and my antenna is a smaller one that fits conveniently in  the attic. There are times that a few  channels  can’t be received, but most of them can be viewed reliably.  If one lives closer a pair of rabbit ears may be sufficient.  The video is digital. there is no shadow there is no ghosting ,there is no snow. whether the material is standard 480 or 1040P.

It’s worth nothing that there can be a clear difference in quality between the cable offerings and what you receive over the air. Comcast tends to compress pretty heavily.  while the over the stuff has  fewer artifacts and compression.

Content Streaming Hardware.

There are several ways to access the streaming content, my intent is not to give a comprehensive review but to cover the capabilities. available with each method. If you’re going to stream content you will need a good high-speed internet service.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs have streaming capabilities built into the Television itself.  The biggest advantage to  smart TVs is that the user only needs one remote., another is that it doesn’t use precious HDMI ports. The interface is  consistent and simple.  Access to the content are called Apps. Typically Apps that are available include Pandora, Netflix,  Hulu and a bunch of other mainstream services.  I have one of the original Visio sets, they recently dropped Amazon from the availability list. Probably due to the complexity and security that is involved with  the options of making purchases.  Unlike other devices. It’s not so simple to update the hardware and software when it’s integrated into the set. The external units are inexpensive enough to be disposable if the technology becomes obsolete.

Some addons devices such as Blue-Ray and game systems such as Xbox and PlayStation also have smart streaming capabilities.

Roku

The Roku is the Grandaddy of the of the streaming  add-on-box. It has a great interface and comes preloaded with a bunch of services. They come in different models, and have a huge choice of available programming. It’s reasonably priced particularly if one purchases one of the middle priced boxes or sticks, there isn’t much 4k quality to stream these days. I have 2 older boxes, They are not as flexible as the Amazon Fire Stick, and the remote is infrared so the box is line of sight, and the remote needs to be pointed at the box.

Google Chromecast Cast

The Chromestick takes a different approach.  You are to use a device, typically, a smartphone or tablet, although  a PC running chrome will work.  The apps are loaded into the phone.  you select a video that is broadcast from your Chromcast device out to your HDMI port.

I found Chromecast a little limited. First of all, they don’t support Amazon Prime. The other issue I had with it is that it relies on the phone.   Loading heavily burdened phones with dozens of more apps is awkward, at least to me it is.

Amazon Fire Stick

I have the Roku Chromecast, and the Firestick.  The only one that  we use these days is the Firestick.   It has a convenient  remote that is radio operated. so the remote doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the stick, would be difficult to do anyway because the stick is just a little bit bigger than a USB thumb drive that plugs into an HDMI port at the back of the set. It works with all the typical apps, including of course Amazon Video and music. The unit is cheap and like most Amazon services the delivery is quick and efficient.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime there is quite a bit of free material available. This combined with the free downloadable books, and free delivery makes it a good value.  The Amazon Interface is good and easy to access.

While the choices available are as inclusive as any of the other hardware, it can be expanded even more with the addition of Kodi.

The Firestick operating system is written in Linux, the open sourced and widely understood operating system that runs many of our devices and computers.   Because of this third, party applications are easily written and can be added on. Kodi was originally written as a Linux computer program to catalog and stream video sources from around the internet.  Its was initially called XBMC, they probably figured the name Kodi was less intimidating for non-geeks. Installing Kodi is moderately complex, but can be done by carefully following directions. The firesticks can be bought preloaded for a moderate markup. There are a couple of different methods for loading Kodi, I used my computer and followed the instructions here. Loading can also be done directly by using the app called ES.

Additional streams can be accessed using  the Kodi addon Exodus, The content available here is less legitimate, but almost any content can be found. Old or new series for binge watching, and old or new Movies are all available. Exodus used to be called Genesis, I suppose the next version would be called Leviticus.

 

 

Nostalgia

I remember Station Wagons.

I remember gas cheaper than a quarter a gallon, Filling up  for 4 Bucks.

I remember when 20mpg was considered great millage.

I remember long distance phone calls.

I remember when computers were the size of a house and cost as much as a new school.

I remember never wearing a seat belt

I remember my first new TV 19″ for $300, Today its a 30 inch HD flat screen for the same money.

I remember riding in the back of a pickup.

I remember people heating their homes with coal boilers.

I Remember when there were  4 Vitamins A, B, C and D

I remember when margarine was good for you and butter bad.

I remember when eggs were good for you before they were bad ior you before they were good for you.

I remember mobs of black people rioting in the the streets.

I remember people spitting on on soldiers cause they didn’t like violence.

I remember when the VFW didn’t accept Vietnam Veterans, because they weren’t real Veterans.

I remember when All beer came from massive factories.

I remember when the only good wine came from Europe.  California wines were cheap and unsophisticated.

I remember 10 cent cokes from a machine.

I remember penny candy.

I remember “No Blacks Allowed”  signs.

I remember when Campbell’s Chicken noodle soup and a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich was a hearty healthy lunch.

I remember when Volkswagon bugs got more mileage out of their tires than they did the engines.

I remember Studebakers and Ramblers.

I remember when games with the family would involve a deck of playing cards.

I remember no shopping on Sunday.

I remember when the telephone company owned all the phones.

I remember when marijauna was for parties, and not for curing people.

I remember when Chrsitopher Columbus was a hero.

I remember the Sears catalog.

 

Outsiders Wanting In

Have we become a nation of crybabies? Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have never really been supportive or worked with the political parties they are attempting to win as their parties candidate.

What are these parties?

We have a party system in America, mostly its a two party system Republicans and Democrats.   Each party has its own rules and agenda.  While many of the people  that belong to the party and are active, elected officials the roots of the party are people supporters and people who don’t hold political offices.  The local level is where we draw our local party candidates and the delegates to the state and national conventions.

The parties are basically a private club. donations are not tax exempt, and their strength is in their ability to work together and support one another.  Those who are elected are expected to throw support behind others in their party.  Those in the local groups work hard to see that their candidates win.   Not every candidate is expected to support every other candidate all the time but there usually is some support.

The roots of the party are the unpaid members who watch the elections  they organize rallies and speak for the nominated candidates.  They raise the money and draw up the party platform. Any one can join.

Loyalty

The parties have a problem with the leading candidates of their party.  Trump and Sanders have had no loyalty to their supposedly chosen party.

Donald Trump has been registered most of ho life as a Democrat. and been a very big supporter of Hillary Clinton, The ultimate Democrat of the Democratic Party. He admits to giving money not only to her foundation but to her campaign.  He even supported the far left Harry Reid.  While he trashed and bad mouthed the presidents Bush,

Then their is Sanders. He has run as an independent for most of his political life,  Doesn’t support Democrats, and is the only registered Independent in the Senate.

Cry Babies

These candidates whine and complain about a system they don’t participate in and don’t support. They publicly trash the parties that they are running for. Bernie’s politics line up with the Socialist party, and Donald Trump has shown more support for the Democrats.  They cry fowl because the partys reject them, and use the same rules that have been in effect for years .. Where were they when these rules were adopted. Where were they when their parties needed their help.  Trump and Bernie seem to think it was OK to say to the parties  “screw you” and bitch when the parties turn their back.  Guess what? You can’t have it both ways.  They forget one important issue,  The party gets to pick their candidate, because the candidate is suppose to represent them.

The candidates could have run as independents, It would have been more honest of them.  But they want the big party support,  without them ever throwing support to the party. I

think its note worthy that my chosen party doesn’t participate in the primary process. Libertarians can attend a local caucus, and the ones selected get to attend the State conventions and from their to the National convention, where the platform, rules and presidential candidate is selected.

Naming Your Poison at the Beach.

Bare footed Spring breakers are in for some hurt, when they visit our beaches during the next couple of weeks.

We noticed last week while strolling the beach quite a few Man O’Wars washed up below the high tide line.  The news media warns:

The waves are washing up something to look for on Galveston’s beaches.

Portuguese Man O’Wars, relatives of jellyfish, are up and down the beaches. These critters are a concern for beach-goers because even if they’re dead on the beach, they can still sting.

The timing is bad, with spring break coming up for Houston schools next week.

City leaders say there’s not much they can do to clean up the Man O’Wars.

If Jellyfish invasion isn’t bad enough there are the rattlesnakes in the dunes issues to deal with.    Rattlesnakes in the dunes are being reported. Dune building is giving them  new homes in grasses.  Feral cats a bountiful food supply.

That’s why Kevin Inks carries a pellet gun on his walks with his dog Zeus.

“I know the risk factors out here,” said Inks. “For every one snake you do see, there’s 10 to 20 you don’t see.”

Inks claims to have seen three rattlesnakes during his walks in less than two weeks.

He captured video of one of them slithering along the sand and disappearing into a dune. He believes that’s where they nest.

But the Galveston Beach Patrol officials said rattlesnakes are quite rare, and only spotted once every several years.

Still, Inks won’t take any chances. He’s even purchased some rattlesnake anti-venom just to be safe.

“This is the last place that you’d expect to see a rattlesnake,” he said.

Some years we are the eighth wonder of the world, but this year our beaches are mined with snakes and jelly fish tentacles . We can only hope that it will deter the Spring breakers and keep them away, but I remain doubtful the rotting stench of seaweed mountains didn’t seem to do the trick.

Campaign Funds

So Sanders opposes lobbyist contributing to political campaigns.  He speaks against hypocrisy. He shamelessly accepts money from those whom hope to gain his favor.

You might not think the National Cannabis Industry Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and National Mining Association have much in common.

But they have this: Lobbyists for these organizations have donated money to the presidential campaign of Democrat Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who has regularly castigated special interests and the government influence industry.

In fact, nearly two-dozen federally registered lobbyists have given money to Sanders’ presidential campaign, according to a Center for Public Integrity  review of campaign finance records and data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Trump claims to be self funded. this isn’t Completely true either, Trump has his contributers some small others not so small.

Trumpchart

Much of the money that Trump has put into his campaign is money that he has loaned to himself. This gives him a mechanism to have donors eventually help pay himself back, perhaps at a time when we aren’t paying close attention.

Thunderbird

One of the benefits of retiring is that I am no longer required to use Microsoft Outlook. At home I have never used Outlook, except to check my work account from home.

I’ve been using Thunderbird now for at least 7 or 8 Years, maybe longer. It did the trick and is free.  It supports POP3 as well as IMAP in fact during setup Thunderbird is usually going to be smart enough to figure out what you need,   and has been incredibly smart at setting up different email accounts automatically.  Junk filters work well with prebuilt filters built into services such as Gmail,  and the use of intuitive standard shortcut key navigation.

Some of the kewl things about Thunderbird has to do with its extensions. the two that I have set up are Enigmail, and  Lightning.  Enigma is an extension that seamlessly allows one to use gpg seamlessly into a message.. I like the ability to digitally sign messages.. although the encryption decryption capabilities are particularly useful.

Lightning does all the Calendar Tasks and Events stuff that we used to do with our Frankiin Planners. and does it better than Outlook which always seemed clunky to me.

Folks that have mutiple web mail accounts should probably look into using Thunderbird.  It is a quick fast way of monitoring email accounts and is a lot faster than logging into the websites …

 

 

Spreading Myself Around.

A post here a post there. I I’ve been doing a little blogging about, or maybe it was some web maintenance. The good people that I work for, Process Control Outlet,  have a blog that we used to keep pretty active. Unfortunately it has not been maintained very well lately.  I did the appropriate updates, and put up a post mostly about LibreOffice 5 and Engineering Expodential Notatation.   If you don’t have LibreOffice this might be a good  time to try out this office suite.

This weekend, i got asked by my niece, Ashley, to help her with her new website.  She is just starting out on Suncandy, her custom jewelry  business, and her web site  had a couple of glitches.  I was pleasantly surprised that it also a WordPress site although with a custom template.  It wasn’t too difficult to straighten out the issues.  I look forward to helping her improve her site in the future.  I’m not into pretty jewelry, but her stuff is pretty kewl and all handcrafted.

Armed Adventure in NY

Elizabeth Enderli,  a Marine Veteran, wanted to visit and pay her respects at the New York 911 memorial with her friend. She ran into a problem

Elizabeth Anne Enderli, 31, had no idea her Texas concealed-carry permit was null in New York when she asked Ground Zero security on Saturday where she could store her 9mm and .380 caliber pistols, cops said.

The blunder cost the Marine Corps veteran and mom of three a night in jail — and prompted her Lone Star state pals to scoff at New York’s un-Texas-like gun laws.

While, legally licensed, New Yorkers can carry here in Texas, We are banned from New York even though we can carry in just about any other civilized place.

Elizabeth is to return to New York to face the charges. A very expensive proposition. Lawyers and airfare isn’t cheap these days particularly in New York. We don’t know how long this is going to take nor even what the outcome is going to be. What we do know is that she could use some help.  They have set up a Go Fund Me site, Please stop by and donate what you can.

Questions

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What is it with this rainbow thing? What does it have to do who you have sex with? and why are we calling people gay, The homosexuals get depressed as much if not more than normal people. Who is rewriting the dictionary? And why are people calling me wingnut?

Visitors to the Patio

I had some visitors yesterday, they stopped they drank and dined.  They graciously thanked me when they flitted off. They were humingbirds.

I was sitting out on my patio, listing to traffic on my amateur radio, reading a kindle book, and creating voluminous  clouds of smoke from a fresh Macanudo when I noticed  a hummingbird flitting around the empty feeder hanging on edge of my patio roof. He didn’y hang around long.  The feeder has been empty for months, I had been meaning to fill it, but it was just one of those task I hadn’t gotten around to yet.

Equality and I had some errands to run, so we left the casa did some shopping, and had lunch in Texas City, not a bad way to spend a rainy stormy Sunday morning. When we got home several hours later. I decided to fill the humming bird feeder. This was, after all, a task that I had put off long enough.   I filled the feeder,  sat back in my chair turned up the radioset. and relit the big Mac.  Within 20 minutes I was rewarded with visit to the feeder by a brave little hummer.  I say brave cause after the little fella had drank his fill he came up close to me. Eyeball to eyeball he hovered. Within arms reach. he darted around and took a sip. left for a few minutes and came back and repeated his act. I assume it was the same bird, but I really don’t know. Eventually two birds visited at the same time, and after a while I even had three feeding at once.   Every time they came to feed one of them would do the same thing, up to me, within three feet,  eye level to eye  level look at me and then flyoff.

I don’t know  a lot about birds or humming birds in particular.  But it seems as though there is something going on in their tiny brains. Did they understand that I put up the feeder for their benefit?  Were they trying to thank me?  Make friends?  I don’t know  it just seemed so strange to me.

Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I’ll get some pictures of these guys.

 

Radio Free Galveston