Hulu Plus and Commercials

December 31, 2013

Hulu Plus is a great, inexpensive service for Cable TV cord-cutters who still want to stream TV shows via an Internet Connection. It’s also great for “binge-watchers” like me who watch several episodes consecutively for a particular show. During the holiday break, I’ve been binge watching, “Grey’s Anatomy” going through Seasons 1-3 in just a few days, and I’m starting to go a bit looney!

Although you pay a monthly fee for the Hulu Plus service ($5.95/mo), they still have commercials at the standard break points in a TV Show. This is because the low monthly fee doesn’t completely cover the charges Hulu is required to pay to the TV Networks. But, it really isn’t that bad since you have one or maybe two commercials at each break that can last from 15 seconds to 60 seconds total in length. The bad thing, is that they repeat the same commercials over and over again to the point that it becomes nauseating.

For example, I’ve seen the commercial that starts off, “How long can you power your smartphone on one gallon of gasoline?” a MILLION times! Also, there’s a Bank of America commercial with a mother and daughter hanging out, having lunch, etc. over and over again. And finally, the Google Chromebook commercial is also repeated so frequently it’s giving me a headache. I guess that’s the price you pay for Hulu Plus’ short commercials. šŸ˜¦

 


My Dislikes for 2013

December 24, 2013

imgres-1Well, you probably knew this was coming after my Favorites of 2013 posting. With likes there are dislikes, of course. Here’s my dislikes and pet peeves of 2013:

Grocery Store Checkout – My biggest pet peeve for my local grocery store is the inefficiency of the checkout line. More often than not, I get in a line where the checker is super slow or too talkative. They will ask me about my day, and where I went on vacation, and what I’m doing this weekend. I want to reply, “None of your business! Focus on your job and keep scanning my items”. I guess it’s the latest customer-friendly psychology that some stores are using, but it has an opposite effect on me.

Hidden Charges – I recently cut-the-cord with Comcast to downgrade my service and eliminate Cable TV. I now only have internet access through Comcast, and when I check my current bill it shows $14 in taxes and service charges. What are all these taxes for? They seem to be hidden charges that are not quoted when you compare the different plans. So, you have to know you’ll be paying a substantial amount in taxes and fees when budgeting your Comcast service.

Entitlement Mentality – It seems a lot of people feel entitled to things which they are certainly not entitled to. For example, I was at a store waiting in line to return an item once it opened up, and as the doors opened a person decided to barge ahead of everyone and cut in to be the first in line. What the hell was this person thinking? Everyone in line was stunned and shocked, and even the store employee told the idiot customer that he needed to go back to the line. This moron replied, “I just have one item and it will be quick”. So what? I guess he felt he was more important then everyone else in line and should be serviced first. In the old days, that guy would have been stoned by the masses for what he did. This society seems to have failing respect for others and absolutely no manners.

Facebook – There’s no doubt that I hate Facebook, as it seems to have been designed to feed people’s egos. People like to brag on their Facebook page, often being fake and trying to make themselves sound important or better than they actually are. People are constantly posting their status and whereabouts on Facebook, taking photos of their current lunches and Ā reporting every little minute event. Ugh! I also get requests from apps and games to “connect to your Facebook account”, which I definitely don’t want to do. Facebook go away!

Selfies – This also falls under the Facebook ego category. People feel they are so important that they have to take self photos of themselves and post them online in some kind of social forum. Often, they do this while driving and putting themselves and others at risk for a traffic collision. Who cares what you look like or where you are? It’s just a trendy thing that human drones like to do, I guess.

Trendy Buzzwords and Phrases – Man, I’m sick of hearing the same buzzwords that popup every year. It seems that someone starts a phase and everybody else tries to fit that phrase in their daily conversations. For example, a few years ago the phrase, “No Worries” popped up and everybody was saying it. It was getting really annoying, when every conversation I had resulted in a reply of “no worries”. The buzzword for 2013 seems to be “redacted” and “really?, really?”. Man, I hear that all the time… seems like people are a bunch of parrots and like to repeat stuff they hear.

Miley Cryus – Man, I hate seeing that crazy attention getting girl everywhere. I wish the media would just stop posting pictures and articles about her crazy antics. I read somewhere that she was in the running with the Pope for person of the year in Time magazine. That’s nuts! Why is she even being considered? Absolute insanity.

Ok, after reading all of this you may think I’m just an old grouchy man who likes to complain about everything. Really?…. Really? I think you should redact that thought, as I’m taking a selfie of me now walking down my street as I check my postbox (which I’ll immediately post on Instagram because it’s the most interesting thing that happened to me so far today). Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to log into my Facebook account and post a picture of my left sock since I discovered I have a hole in it and need to let all my followers know. LOL! šŸ˜¦


My Favorites for 2013

December 24, 2013

imgresBelow is a list of my favorite things. You’ll see that it’s an assortment of devices, places, apps, etc. that I really like and depend on for my everyday life. Of course, thingsĀ can change but here’s what I like for 2013:

Hardware:

Android OS – Over the years I’ve used different devices and OSes and I just love the Android OS. It’s matured into a very usable and stable ecosystem, where I can share data between the cloud, my smartphone, and various tablets that I own. The OS runs great, and Google provides constant updates and improvements. In my opinion, the Android OS is the best (even when compared to the Apple iOS).

HTC One Smartphone – I usually upgrade my smartphone every 12-18 months but this time I think I’ll be keeping my HTC One for longer than that. It’s just a great phone, running the Android “Jelly Bean” OS (soon to be upgraded to the latest “Kitkat” version). The HTC One is one finely crafted phone, with a big screen yet still totable in my front pants pocket. The device is speedy, and I almost always can get an LTE connection in the Seattle area. Battery life is amazing, as I usually have a 80% charge remaining even after 8 hours of normal use. I certainly have no plans of switching phones now or in the immediate future.

Nexus 7 Tablet – I bought this Google Tablet last year (2012) and it’s been running great for me as a totable device. If I’m away from home and I need something to keep me busy or want to use a browser larger than my smartphone, I’ll bring the Nexus 7 along. I usually use my Nexus 7 tablet at home at night to watch streamed TV shows and Movies (via Netflix or Hulu Plus), so it does get daily usage. Another device I couldn’t live without!

Acer A500 Iconia Tablet – This was the first Android Tablet that I purchased, and I still use it like crazy. I’ve rooted it and installed the the “Ice Cream Sandwich” version of the Android OS, and it runs great. Although I have the newer Nexus 7 Tablet, I still like to use this Acer tablet because the screen size is double that of the 7″ Nexus 7. Because of the size, I rarely take it with me outside of home, and I mainly use it as a replacement for a laptop for easy web browsing.

Roku 3 – This is a recent addition to my assortment of high-tech devices, and I just love it. It’s the perfect device for replacing my old Cable TV service, as it allows me to watch lots of video media for a much lower price than what I was paying for Cable TV channels. Couple the Roku media streamer with Netflix and Hulu Plus and you have a winner. My favorite feature for Roku 3, is the headphone jack in the side of the wireless remote control. I can watch and listen to my shows in private while my son can sit nearby and play or watch Youtube videos on his iPad.

iMac Desktop Computer – I switch from a Windows 7 PC over to an Apple iMac (27″ display) about three years ago, and I just love it. No more messing with constant Windows updates or having to reboot my computer to clear memory or glitches. My iMac runs all day long and I very rarely have to reboot it (maybe a total of 5 times a year). I’ve got all the software I need on my iMac, and I don’t miss anything from Windows 7. Being an old UNIX hack, my favorite thing to do is open up a Terminal Shell window and run some Python or cshell scripts to do some automated processing of files. Sweet!

Vehicles:

2013 Ford Explorer – Last year I bought a new 2013 Ford Explorer SUV and I love it. Ford now builds the Explorer on a car frame instead of a truck frame, so the ride is much smoother. The car is very well styled, and I just love the interior layout. What I really like, is the Ford Sync System (by Microsoft) that very easily and automatically connect my HTC One smartphone to my car’s system for phone calls and streaming music and podcasts. It connects automatically when I startup my car, and will even pick up playing whatever podcast or music I was listening to previously.

Apps:

Pocket Casts – This is my favorite podcast app for my HTC One Smartphone which I use twice a day when driving to and from work. The interface is slick, and I’ve got it setup to download all my daily podcasts every morning. I get to listen to 90 Seconds on the Verge and NBC Nightly News every morning on my drive to work.

Yahoo Weather – I run this app every morning after I wake up to check the local weather to decide how to dress for the day. It has a beautiful interface and has all the weather I need on one screen. And best of all, it’s free!

Tasker – This is a wonderful Android app that allows me to automate my different tasks for my HTC One smartphone. For example, I have it setup to turn on and off my smarphone’s WiFi when I get close to or leave my home area. It also downloads all my podcasts each morning for the Pocket Casts app, adjusts the volumes, etc. This great app makes my HTC One smartphone even more useful!

USA Today – I love using this app for reading the current news on my smartphone over my lunch break. Just the right amount of content to keep me distracted while eating my lunch.

Google Keep – This is a great note taking app for quick short memos and checklists. I love the fact that any updates and changes will automatically be sycned to the cloud and all my other Android devices.

Handbrake – My favorite desktop app for ripping video from DVDs or converting videos from one format to another. Every easy to use, and available on Macs and Windows PCs.

Web Sites:

Trip Advisor – I use this site all the time to read customer reviews of hotels, places, attractions, etc. It’s a great way to get good feedback before making travel plans. The forums are also especially useful for posting or reading questions from other users.

Yahoo Home Page – I was using iGoogle.com as my web browser home page for news, but since Google discontinued iGoogle I switched to Yahoo. The Yahoo site is clean and fresh, with all the news content that I need.

Engadget – One of my favorite tech web sites which is updated frequently with the latest tech news. I hit this site several times a day.

TV Shows:

The Americans – A new series from FOX that follows two Russian KGB agents in the US posing as a married couple with children. Great stories with great acting.

The Walking Dead & Hells on Wheels – Two great shows from AMC. Both in hiatus now, and will start up again in early 2014.

Almost Human – A new FOX show that is also in short hiatus due to start up again in Jan 2014.

Grey’s Anatomy – I just started to watch this series on Hulu Plus (starting with season 1) and I’m hooked. Very similar to ER (one of my all time favorites), but with a new fresh cast.

Places:

Disneyland – This is my all time favorite place in the world. I guess I’m a big kid, since I just love the Disney atmosphere. Although the rides are great, what I really love is the Disney magic that is at the park and in Downtown Disney. This is truly a wonderful place. My wife is tired of visiting Disneyland and wants to hold off going back again for a few years, but I could go there every year.

San Diego – I’ve been to San Diego, CA several times in the past, and I love the area. Mild and sunny weather, nice beaches, and relatively clean air (for Southern California!). I love the surf environment and beach shops. If I were to retire today, it would be in San Diego close to the water.


One Month with Roku (and no Cable TV!)

December 22, 2013

imagesIt’s been about one month now since I’ve cut the Cable TV cord and have been using a combination of Netflix/Hulu Plus service with the Roku 3 media streaming device. So far, it’s been pretty good and my family doesn’t miss having Cable TV. What I really like, is the headphone feature where you can plug in a set of headphones into the side of the wireless remote and listen to your show without disturbing anyone else in the room. For example, today I was watching the Smithsonian Channel and later AETV in my family room while my son was playing games on his iPad tablet.

Another thing that I like is that the remote is wireless, but not Infrared like your standard TV remotes. So, you don’t need to point the Roku remote at the Roku device to use it. Also, I use an Android Roku app which allows me to pick video content to be displayed on my TV, and I can also use this app in lieu of the Roku remote.

A nice thing about purchasing my Roku 3 from Costco, is that it was $10 below the retail price and included as a bonus a HDMI cable and a free copy of the online Angry Birds Game for the Roku. I’m definitely liking Roku and it’s available content, and not missing Cable TV and its high monthly cost!


FFMEG: The Greatest Video Conversion Tool

December 19, 2013

video_conversionI had a video file in .mkv format, and I needed to convert it to mp4 format for my Android tablet. I tried using my favorite app called Handbrake, but my first attempt created a video file without any audio. I then tried several different settings, but still no audio. I was at a loss, since Handbrake is one of my favorite video conversion tools. It’s easy to use, I can queue up videos to be converted, and it has several pre-defined settings for the Apple TV, iPhones, iPad, Android Tablets, etc.

I discovered that I could also do this video conversion using a well known open-source program called FFMPEG. I had ffmpeg installed on my iMac when I was doing some commercial cutting experimentation, so I initiated the video conversion using the following shell command,

> ffmpeg -i rockets.mkv Ā rockets.mp4

That was it. I supplied the input file and the output file name and off it went! The video was converted properly with the audio data intact. Such a simple solution.


Great Background Images

December 8, 2013

I like to have different background images for my Android Smartphone, Tablets, and iMac computer screens to keep everything looking fresh. It’s amazing how changing the background to something you stare at frequently can affect your mood throughout the day! I have an app on my tablets and smartphone that will automatically change the background images on a regular basis which provides a pleasant daily surprise to start off my day.

Here’s a link to some great hi-res backgrounds available by Microsoft. During this time of the year, I like to rotate a series of Christmas-themed backgrounds to keep in the holiday spirit. Just something to help me prepare for December 25th!


Acer A500 Tablet Lives On!

December 8, 2013

acer_a500

My first tablet was the Acer A500 Iconia running the “Honeycomb” Android OS 3.0, which has a 10.1″ screen, full-sized USB port, and a mini-HDMI port. This tablet has worked great as my laptop replacement around the house, allowing me to view web pages, check emails, play games, and watch movies. I normally use my smaller Nexus 7 Google Tablet when I leave the house (because of it’s size), but the Acer tablet is still my first choice at home.

Since Acer has decided to not support future OS upgrades past “Ice Cream Sandwich” Android OS 4.0, some developers have taken it upon themselves to create custom ROMs which can downloaded and installed on the Acer A500, extending it’s life with the latest Android OSes. For the last 6 months I’ve been using the ROM called CM10_Flex_V6Supercharged_Rev3.4 which is a version of JellyBean 4.1.2, and it has been running just fine. Today, I decided to upgrade to a newer ROM called TegraOwners JB M42 ROM V4 which is JellyBean 4.3.1. Fortunately, the Google Play Store will reinstall all my previous apps automatically when I sign in my tablet under my previous Google Account. So after 15 minutes or so, I should have all my apps and data restores and I can take my time adjusting the basic settings to my liking.

It’s great that these developers are working hard to bring these custom ROMs to the general public so we can keep our older devices running with the latest Android OSes.

The Acer A500 tablet lives on!