Category: Entertainment

Cord Cutting Part 2

Cord Cutting Part 2:  How Much Speed Do You Need?


Last week I covered what cord cutting was, some of the main providers (Hulu TV, You Tube TV, Sony Play Station VUE), and what you should expect to pay (around $40 per month for Hulu and You Tube).

Equipment Required

You will need streaming video box to play your live TV replacement service.   Costs range from the $40’s (Amazon Fire Stick + Roku player) to $200 (Apple TV box).   Unless you have a compelling reason to go with the Apple TV, I think the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku would work out just fine for most of my clients.   Keep in mind that Amazon and You Tube still are not getting along right now, so if you want to subscribe to You Tube TV, I would go with a Roku.   With any of these services, you can watch live TV at any time on your computer, smartphone or iPad (I’m not going to say “tablet” because with the standard iPad being $329, its unwise to look elsewhere). 

How Much Speed Do You Need?

If you are on a DSL internet package from 2003, that won’t work.  However, most of you are likely capable of streaming HD video.  With multiple concurrent internet users in my home at any one time, I would probably feel comfortable with of an internet speed of 40 mbps or more (which means 40 megabits per second in the download direction).  I see cable internet speeds frequently advertised for 150 or 250 mbps, but if there are just two people at home, you really don’t need to pay for that much speed.  You certainly can if you like.  I have some cord cutting customers getting by on 22 mpbs from the phone company.  It works!   Cutting down to Internet only (or internet plus phone) should cost you about $45 to $60 with the phone company and $70 with the cable company for a serviceable option — for the Internet portion of the bill. (Extra savings:  if you only get Internet from the cable company, you can save a ton by owning your own cable modem.)   The streamers I am helping don’t have much concern about a home phone, but you can still have one as a cord cutter. 

Packages

It is true that with the cable company or the phone company, the sun sets on some packages offered.  I had a client tell me recently that she was told by her cable company that she could never get her package back if she changed.  Another client, who is not a candidate for streaming, recently changed her package to get the Home and Garden channel.  She was upset when she lost one of her favorite channels.  In a subsequent conversation with Comcast she was told that there was no option of reverting.  While they may be full of bloated bills and price gimmicks, the cable companies (like Verizon, for example) are not so evil that they proactively cancel customers on “grandfathered packages.”   If you are in a contract, you may be getting a 12 month or 24 month discount for being on a given package.  That discount expires, but there is a good chance you can keep your package, even if it is no longer offered to new sign ups.    Keep in mind, your provider may make it difficult for you to stay on that package.  The price could be jacked up or features could be removed, seemingly on a monthly basis.  On the other hand, you may be able to ride along the easy road with it forever.

Truth be told, when you decide to be a cord cutter, multi-service packages from one provider don’t matter much.  Internet is the only thing that matters.  You will be getting your TV elsewhere.

Conclusion

Maybe you just want to try Amazon Prime Video (since you are paying for it already).   Maybe Netflix is super appealing to you.  You may just want to rent some movies from time to time.   Be a streamer!    Or you may be sick of the $200+ bills and want to take 100% control of your live channel subscription experience.   A “free TV” antenna may be good enough if you don’t care about anything more than local channels.   With a Roku box (and the like) you can get a really good traditional pay TV replacement service for about $40 a month.   If you don’t like the menus and setup on Hulu Live TV, you can go to YouTube TV the next month, and so on.   You are not locked down.  You have choices.   Welcome to 2019!

Snip, snip.

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Cord Cutting Part 1: Introduction

I deal with a very diverse buffet of client issues over the course of a month:  residential consumer concerns, small business, non-profit, Mac, Windows, iPhone, (some) Android, buying and setting up new equipment, overhauling old computers (software + hardware), teaching clients new skills, helping organize  one’s digital life, and so on.  One topic of great client interest lately has been CORD CUTTING.   When appropriate, I have become a big proponent of it.  In a brief session, 1 to 2 hours usually, I can help WILLING  clients (usually they approach me) gain a lot of peace of mind and major savings by cutting out traditional pay TV and moving to a streaming or free (yes free) strategy. 

Over this week and next, I am going to share with you about cord cutting.  Even if you think you would never cut back on your cable / satellite pay TV services, I think you will learn something over these next 2 updates.  You may develop an interest in trying streaming video because you are probably an Amazon Prime member. Your eyes may be opened to the power of the internet connection.  Finally, you may find these e-mails valuable for a friend or family member.

Cord Cutting

There may be some different definitions of this concept out there, but for me it boils down to 3 possibilities.

A.  Cutting traditional pay TV services entirely and switching to a streaming,  channel based live-TV replacement

B.  Cutting back on traditional pay TV services and augmenting with a streaming video service like Amazon Prime or Netflix

C. Cutting traditional pay TV services and relying on free over the air TV for local networks (and possibly adding Prime or Netflix too)

*Let me just stop right there and say, if all you care about is local channels like ABC, CBS, local FOX, PBS, etc — there is a good chance you can pick up 10-15 free channels in the Hartford area with a simple indoor antenna.  To boot, as long as you get a good signal, the picture will be BETTER than you would get from cable for those local channels.  


Channel Based Live TV Streaming Services

There are about services that come to mind:  Hulu TV, You Tube TV (a real TV service, not the same as regular You Tube videos), Sling TV, Sony VUE, and Direct TV now.  The cost is about $40 a month.  Dozens of channels are included, even locals, and sports.   Premium channels like HBO and Showtime can be added for an extra charge.

Real Life Examples

The clients I have worked with have all canceled their cable  / satellite TV service. A good internet package was maintained (either with the phone or cable company). They may or may not have kept home phone service.  While sort of a separate topic, if home phone is of little importance to you but you want to keep the number, I can get you on a $40 a year (not month, year) plan.   All clients are over 70 and in some cases over 80 years old.  They chose Hulu TV (but you should choose You Tube TV if you want the Red Sox channel).  They get their local stations included for $40 a month. 

Become A Streamer

After getting this intro, you may be in this camp:  I don’t want to change my TV package but I want to watch Amazon Prime Video and or Netflix on the TV.  Great I can help with that too. 

Next Week:  Cord Cutting Part 2

I will incorporate topics such as  — How Much Speed Do You Need?, equipment required, and your questions.   Please ask so that I can make this as complete as possible.

If you are ready, my “scissors” are ready.  Let’s cut.

Technology Shopping Realities

Apple in the News

I just wanted to touch on this briefly because there has been a lot of negative financial news lately.  Some of you have probably taken a hit ($$) with AAPL.  Financial reports and consumer reality don’t always match.  There is nothing substandard about Apple’s latest products.  Their quality is among the best on the market.   A certain segment of the population is upset because Apple is not going to report unit sales of iPhones anymore.  It also seems like the starting prices of iPhones, iPad Pros, Mac Minis, Mac Book Airs, and even Mac Book Pros are going up.   Sell less at higher prices and you still do as well on the bottom line may have been their thinking.  Multiple reports have said that Apple has cut orders for the iPhone X product line.  I saw one source that stated that iPhone 8 orders were being increased.  Could there be a rebellion  against removing the home button?  A desire for a sub $600 premium phone (not $750 or $999)?  Weakness in China and India?  All of these could be true. However, my clients who have iPhone X models love them.  They got used to the slightly different user experience in days or within one day.  They certainly appreciate the camera.  I’ll end on this note — If you stack the Mac Mini against a premium Windows desktop like the Dell XPS – it is priced appropriately for its features.  The Mac Book Air 2018 is also a pound for pound match with its closest Windows contenders in the ring — the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I saw some amazing deals on Black Friday at Best Buy on Thursday night.   There were 50 inch Samsung and LG 4K HDR TVs for $327.  55 inch models were $397. These were not top of the line models, but when paired with a soundbar (a must for most new TVs), they represented an awesome value.  Best Buy also had Microsoft’s premium Surface Pro 6 tablet computer with a keyboard for $799 or $999 depending on hard drive size.  The popular Instant Pot 6 quart slow cooker extraordinaire was priced at $60-$70 by multiple outlets.  Macy’s had Martha Stewart bedding priced at 65% off.   Lord and Taylor offered some low cost but very stylish ladies handbags at 60% off.  In some cases, but not always, orders could be placed online to avoid the retail experience.  Now that Cyber Monday is upon us here are some deals of note:

Amazon Fire Stick (watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV) – $25

Amazon Echo Dot (small “Hey Alexa” speaker) 3rd generation + Ring Video Doorbell – $139

50 inch Westinghouse TV 4K with HDR – $199

Amazon Fire HD8 tablet – $50

(Items found on Amazon.com or BestBuy.com)

I am sure you can find many more great deals on these and other websites throughout the day on Monday.

Always Black Friday at Stub Hub

I had the joy of going to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert this weekend.  I have never been to a major rock or metal show in my life, although I have seen Jimmy Buffet on multiple occasions. All I can say is WOW!  They left it all on the stage and performed for 2.5 hours.  The best part of the experience was that I saved 2/3 off the regular price using StubHub.com.   It is a very reputable site (and app) where ticket holders go to sell their unneeded tickets.  I’ve used this service in the past with much success.  The key to big savings is, have a desire to attend an event  but also be OK with not going, be in close proximity, and make a decision at the last minute.  We were less than 1 hour from the site of the show and we purchased our tickets with 2 hours to go.  The regular price for two tickets would have been $180 and we paid $60.08, including fees.  

Picks–Clubhouse Leaders in Technology

With a great British Open wrapping up last Sunday, culminating in a win by American Jordan Spieth, I wanted to use a golf theme for today’s update.

I seek to tell you about my clubhouse leaders in 3 product categories.  These best in class products have finished their rounds.  They are worth your investment should you need them.   Amazon or other links are provided

Routers

With Apple not having updated their routers with new models since 2013, I have suggested that it is time to look to other brands.  I have worked with the Asus, Netgear, Linksys, and Belkin models of the world.  I have recently gotten involved in setting up “mesh” WiFi systems for clients.   Mesh systems entail a base router and 1 or 2 satellites.  It is a perfect solution for a long or a large house.  This new technology is the replacement for wireless extenders.    However, for many of my clients including those living in an apartment or a house with less than 2,000 sq ft, a single router will get the job done.    For a single router, I am recommending the Asus brand.   Today, I set up a new router for a client in under 30 minutes.   The entire process could not have easier.   Asus also regularly updates the software on their new routers.  This is critical in terms of combating security threats. 

I can highly recommend these 2 ASUS routers

RT-AC66U-B1   http://amzn.to/2vKszqe

RT-AC1900P   http://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-wireless-ac-dual-band-wi-fi-router-black/5091000.p?skuId=5091000

Printer

If you need just the basics, meaning black and white, along with copying and scanning capabilities, I could only steer you toward a Brother MFC (multi-function) machine.  Accept no substitutes.   You don’t have to worry about color ink cartridges.  You can buy one toner at a time from Amazon or Staples.  You get a very low cost per print.   I have been using my Brother black and white laser since 2013.  Today there is an updated model that supports Air Print (iOS) and Google Print.  Your mobile devices are covered. 

MFCL 2740DW  http://amzn.to/2h4H5FW

Small Speaker

Have you ever wanted to play your iPhone, iPad or Android device out loud?   The built in speaker on your device will only take you so far.   You need this wireless speaker from Anker.  It produces loud, crisp sound that will help your media come alive or soothe you at night. 

Anker Sound Core 2  http://amzn.to/2vKgGAF

I’ll see you at the bar after you finish your round.   Have an O’Douls ready for me!

Netflix option for slower internet connection

To those who watch Netflix streaming AND do not have a fast enough connection to stream HD movies:

I just read in the Netflix FAQ that there is a way to change your settings on Netflix.com to “NO HD”. With this option, whenever you play movies it will choose the standard stream.

I never knew this until tonight and now you know too.

If you cannot find this in your online settings, give Netflix a call 1-866-636-3076.