Monday, June 16, 2014

How To Watch The 2014 FIFA World Cup Online

Watch the World Cup Online

One of the world’s greatest sporting events — The FIFA World Cup – is underway, and many of you us want to watch it online.
But how? 
Fortunately, in 2014, it’s easier than ever to cut-the-cord, and watch all the World Cup games online.
And, we’ve made it extra easy for you to do away with cable with this flow chart (below) that you can follow.
World Cup Flow Chart for Cord Cutters
click for full-size
Flowchart for Watching World Cup Online
IMPORTANT: If you’re watching the cup using either ITV in the UK or CBC in Canada, then you’ll need to use Ghost Path to connect through one of those countries. Why? Because both ITV and CBC have geographic restrictions in place, so you need to be connected through their respective home countries to be able to use the service. But, Ghost Path enables you to bypass those restrictions so you never miss a game!
Ghost Path’s VPN service is just $10/month (or $5 a week), and you get instant access.  Click here to start watching the World Cup online now!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Channel Master: no subscription DVR for cord cutters

The Channel Master DVR+ records free over-the-air TV without any subscription fees. Program guide data is provided by Rovi at no extra charge. It has dual-tuner functionality and excellent image quality. And Vudu is supported, opening up access to streaming movies and TV shows on a pay-per-view basis.

For many cord-cutters, the holy grail has long been a reliable over-the-air (OTA) DVR that isn't saddled with subscription fees. And as you'd expect from a holy grail, it hasn't been easy to find short of building one yourself.

The new Channel Master DVR+ ($300) hits most of the major points cord-cutters have been looking for. There are absolutely no subscription fees and the DVR+ comes with free premium program guide data from Rovi, which is a big step-up from the guide data that's embedded in OTA signals. It has dual-tuner functionality and support for Vudu, plus its image quality is excellent, unlike some of the other OTA solutions that use compression.

Its software and user interface is decent, but rough around the edges, lacking basic options like the ability to only record new episodes of your favorite shows. And while the DVR+'s image quality is typically great, there were a few glitches during playback.

None of that is enough to sully what the DVR+ has accomplished: it's the "good enough" DVR without subscription fees that many have been looking for. Yes, TiVo is still better and other options offer cool features, but if your primary goal is to save money, and you don't mind its imperfections, it's hard to beat the Channel Master DVR+

The DVR+ doesn't look like any other living room box. It has the large footprint (13.38 inches wide by 11.25 inches deep) of a traditional device like a cable box, but it's remarkably thin, coming in at just 1.5 inches tall.

That's just thick enough to accommodate its ports on the back, namely an antenna input, HDMI output, Ethernet port, two USB ports, and an IR-extender port. That IR-extender port means you can hide the box itself, by placing an IR extender cable (not included) in a place that can receive remote codes. But even if you need to stash the DVR+ in plain sight, its matte-gray finish lets the box blend in with your other living room electronics.

The included remote is decent, although it could be a lot better. On the upside, it's a full-size clicker with all the buttons you're used to seeing on a DVR remote, like a directional pad, Guide, DVR, and playback controls, including commercial skip and jump back buttons.

Like any over-the-air TV product, the Channel Master DVR+ requires more setup than a typical gadget. To start, you'll need to connect an antenna (not included) and find a place for it where it gets good reception. The initial channel scan takes about 4 minutes.

The DVR+ also requires a USB hard drive (not included) for DVR functionality. There's 16GB of flash storage built-in, but that's mainly used for buffering and pausing live TV.

Finally, you'll need to get the DVR+ online. While Internet connectivity isn't absolutely necessary to use the DVR+, we highly recommended it. The DVR+ can use the program guide data that's included with over-the-air broadcasts, but getting it online means you get access to up to two weeks of data from Rovi -- all without a monthly fee. Rovi's guide data is significantly more extensive and accurate than what you'll get otherwise, so it's worth the hassle of getting the DVR+ online.

The DVR+ is primarily designed around recording free, over-the-air TV signals that it can receive using an antenna. In a perfect world, you should be able to get all of the major networks (CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC) as well as PBS and a handful of other stations. In the real world, your reception might vary considerably, depending on your location, antenna and a host of other factors, such as the weather.

In addition to over-the-air TV, the DVR+ also has support for one streaming video service: Vudu. It's a good choice, as Vudu offers a large library of movies and TV shows that you typically can't get with over-the-air TV. The main downside is that it's entirely pay-per-view, with no Netflix-style all-you-can-stream subscription model.

Channel Master says it's working on adding more services, but the reality is in the meantime you'll probably need a second box dedicated to streaming video if you want to use services like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Instant.

The DVR+'s channel grid won't win any design awards, but it does have a familiar layout that should be easy to navigate for anyone coming from a traditional cable box. That may not seem like a big deal, but one of the biggest drawbacks to many over-the-air DVR solutions (including Tablo and Aereo) is the lack of a good onscreen interface. The DVR+ feels like the TV experience you're already comfortable with.

The DVR+ has dual-tuner functionality, which means you can watch live TV while recording another program on another channel, or even record two live programs while watching something else off the DVR -- all from a single antenna.

Recording programs is simple: bring up the guide, select a program, and follow the prompts. You can also quickly record a program by selecting it and just pressing the red record button on the remote, which skips the onscreen prompts and records the program with your default preferences. There's also search functionality on main menu, which works well, although it's tedious to type in your search terms using the onscreen keyboard.

Like "Season Passes" on TiVo, the DVR+ has the ability to record every episode of a particular show. The big flaw is that you can't specify it to only record new episodes. It's an annoying limitation that leaves a lot of repeats on your DVR that you don't really want, requiring you to periodically go a delete spree to free up space.

On the plus side, the DVR+ does use "name-based" recordings -- rather than older VCR-style "time-based recordings" -- which means the DVR+ looks to record "Parks and Recreation" rather than also just recording NBC on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. It's nice feature that allows the DVR+ to keep recording programs even if they change their time slot. (You also have the option of setting manual time-based recordings if you'd like.)

In the settings menu, you have the ability to set default "early" and "late" recording options, so the DVR+ will tack on a specified amount of time to recordings. It's a nice feature, since many shows can run a little over their allotted time slots.

There's also the option of going into the DVR+'s scheduled recordings and adding up to an hour to specific programs, which is especially helpful for sports, since games tend to run longer than scheduled.

One of the best parts of over-the-air HDTV is that image quality is excellent -- often better than what's offered by cable and satellite providers. And because the DVR+ is connected directly to your TV via HDMI -- instead of streaming video over your network or the Internet like Tablo or Aereo -- there's no additional compression taking place. It makes a huge difference on sports, which tend to suffer the most from compression artifacts. Quality on the DVR+ was excellent.

The best part about the DVR+ is it feels closer to the traditional TV experience than streaming-based alternatives like Tablo, Simple.TV, and Aereo.

Those DVRs can do a lot of neat tricks, like streaming your recordings to mobile devices outside your home, but none of them have nailed the living room experience. The Roku interface on all three is awkward to navigate, lacking a traditional channel grid or easy way to see all your recordings at once. Skipping commercials and fast-forwarding can also be a pain; those devices are not nearly as responsive as DVRs that don't have to stream video. Even little things, like being to able channel surf, aren't really available in the same way you're used to.

That's all the stuff the DVR+ gets right and it goes a long way, especially for cord-cutters who are more interested in reliability, emulating the cable box DVR experience and saving money, rather than in experimenting with fancy technology. The DVR+'s user experience still doesn't come close to TiVo, but neither does the price.

Americans get 189 cable TV channels and watch 17

Nielsen reported that on average, US homes receive 189.1 TV channels, but viewers only watch 17.5 of those channels.

The news will appear in Nielsen's forthcoming “Advertising & Audiences Report,” and while the results seem somewhat intuitive, they articulate a very real problem in cable TV—the fact that consumers often feel forced into paying for a lot of TV they never watch.

Nielsen's blog post today showed that the number of cable channels in an average US household has grown dramatically over the last five years, but the number of channels that viewers actually watch has hardly changed at all. In 2008, US households received an average of 129.3 channels but only actually viewed 17.3 channels. In 2013, the number of channels received increased 46 percent, but the number of channels viewed only increased 1 percent.

The data, Nielsen says, "substantiates the notion that more content does not necessarily equate to more channel consumption. And that means quality is imperative—for both content creators and advertisers."

The cause of stagnant channel-tuning may not just be about poor-quality channels; competition from new services surely plays a part as well. Cord-cutters have long called for the unbundling of channels from cable subscriptions, and as services like Netflix, iTunes, and set-top boxes with content-specific apps gain market share, it has become easier to ditch old-school cable TV if the bills get too high or consumers feel like they're paying for a product they don't want.

Cable companies counter that the price of cable TV wouldn't change much if channels were served à la carte because content providers won't sell the most popular programs to cable companies unless the provider's other channels are also served up. As the Los Angeles Times notes, “If a cable network were suddenly in 30% fewer homes, it would need to find a way to make up for that lost revenue, and the easiest approach would be to just charge the people who still get the channel even more.”

“However, the rising cost of sports programming is starting to lead to louder calls that at least some content should be sold to consumers who want it and not forced on everyone,” the LA Times continues.

In October 2013, Canadian government officials said they would look into mandatory unbundling rules, and in November 2013, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) said it would draw up a roadmap to that end. The report is due sometime this spring.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Save Free TV

Here's an anti-cable television ad from the 1970's. They warned us...


"Don't let pay tv be the monster in your living room..."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Logitech K830 Home Entertainment Keyboard

Logitech has announce a new home entertainment keyboard, the Logitech K830, designed to enhance your TV entertainment experience. It features a bright backlit keys and a built-in touchpad.

"While relaxing at home, the Logitech Illuminated Living-Room Keyboard K830 lets you sit back and browse your connected TV from up to 33 feet away, thanks to its advanced wireless connection. And, with backlit keys that automatically dim or brighten based on the amount of light in the room, you can use the keyboard day or night. There’s also no need to use a separate mouse since there is a smooth and responsive touchpad built into the keyboard."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Amazon announces Fire TV

Amazon announced its Amazon Fire TV($99), which is a tiny box like a better Apple TV combined with a gaming machine. The device is powered by a quad core processor, which Amazon says has three times the processing power of the Apple TV, Google Chromecast and the Roku 3.

It features Adreno 320 graphics and 2GB of RAM, plus dual band WiFi and the ability to stream Full HD content in 1080p, give you access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu, WatchESPN, YouTube, and more. It also comes with a new feature called ASAP or Advanced Steaming And Prediction, which is designed to stream content automatically without the need for buffering.

Amazon are also releasing a game controller for the Amazon Fire TV, and they have teamed up with a number of game developers, which include Disney, EA, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Mojang and more to create titles for the Fire TV.

The Amazon Fire TV is now available in the US for $99, the Fire TV Game Controller retails for $39.99.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Intel's NUC could become your next HTPC

Intel Next Unit Computing (NUC) PCs can pack quite a bit of power into a tiny little box. If you're thinking of building a HTPC with XBMC or Plex, or you just want computer you can hide in a lunchbox, this is your ticket.

The downside or upside to the Intel NUCs-depending on how you look at it-is that you have to build them out yourself. They come with a motherboard, case, processor, and wireless antennaes ready to go. You have to add an mSATA SSD, a wireless card (if you want), a keyboard and mouse, and RAM. Putting one together is about as basic of a computer building job as you could ask for, so it's a really good one to start out with if you've never done it before. It's also a great option for people who want to make their own machine.

When you're done, you'll have a tiny little computer that's only 4"x4"x2" (smaller than a Mac mini!) If you go the Celeron route, you can put on together for under $300. Core i3 and i5 options are available as well but, are a little bit more expensive.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tablo is a DVR for Cord-Cutters

There have never been more ways to watch TV. More and more people "cut the cord," or pass on cable TV and get their shows a la carte, via streaming services, or from over-the-air TV antenna. Tablo, from Canada-based company Nuvyyo, is a TV recording device for the latter type of cord-cutter. It connects on one end to your TV antenna and on the other to a memory storage device like an external hard drive.

Shipping this February, the Tablo sells for $219, which includes the Tablo DVR deice, a small antenna, an Ethernet cable and a power supply. Subscriptions to its TV guide app, which aggregates local TV programs and makes it easy to set recordings, cost $4.99 a month, $49.99 a year, or $149.99. In addition, users will need an external memory storage device, which usually cost less than $100 for a 1 terabyte device.

Via the accompanying smartphone app or browser-based Web interface, users can browse TV shows available on local over-the-air station such as ABC, NBC, CW and more, and record up to two programs at the same time.

In this way Tablo works as a DVR for your antenna, but it also makes the recorded programs more accessible than most DVRs by saving them as files on your own eternal memory device. That also means that Tablo's storage capacity is only limited by your own storage device.

You can stream those programs to any other Internet-connected device, unlike many DVRs that limit video streaming to devices connected to a home network. Tablo is also compatible with AppleTV and Roku, and will soon add Chromecast functionality.

Using a television antenna to get over-the-air broadcasts is a simple and very cheap way to cut the cord and still get programs on local station such as ABC, NBC, CW and more. But the disadvantage of this kind of TV is that, without something like the Tablo, you have to watch your programs at the time they air.

We like how the Tablo saves TV programs as movie files on your own external memory device. That way the files are yours to move between your devices and watch offline. It's like a digital version of taping shows on video cassettes in the days of VHS.

More info:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Alkeron's Class-E 211 enclosure is built for slim and compact HTPCs

Alkeron is releasing its Class-E 211 Mini-ITX enclosure, which is built to be ideal as a thin and compact HTPC enclosure.

The case can house up to Mini-ITX size motherboards, along with a single 3.5" or 2.5" drive. Built into the case is a 65 W power supply, which should be enough to power the hardware in the case. It is built to be cooled fanlessly, though there is a spot for an optional 40 mm fan in the rear. Also built into the case is a USB connected Infrared Receiver, meaning that you can use various remote controls to, well, control it.

The case should already be available at select e-tailers and will be arriving to retailers starting in 2014. Its MSRP price is set at $179.