At Home with Tech

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Tag: Google

YouTube TV Made Me Cut the Cord

If you’ve yearned to cut the cord with your cable provider, but feared the complexities of hobbling together your own streaming TV solution, Google has an offer I believe you can’t refuse…

I’d been waiting for this moment for years… The day I would actually “cut the cord.” And I’m here to report that… I’ve finally done it. I returned my hulking cable box and remote to the cable company and drove away. When I got home, there was a big, gaping hole in my television cabinet.

And I felt something of an unexpected hole inside of me…

I’ve Changed
It’s odd…
I’ve been a part of the cable TV universe for so long that it had become an integrated piece of my life.
(Talk about ongoing brand loyalty)

Leaving it all behind definitely felt like a significant break up.

I know that makes absolutely no sense, but when a relationship (even a business one) is ingrained into your daily patterns, and you suddenly excise it.. that change will likely be emotionally startling.
(Imagine if you suddenly stopped frequenting your favorite coffee house.)

It’s a Streaming World Now
The irony is my live cable viewing habits have shifted significantly over the past few years. The same goes for my on-demand cable consumption. More and more… I’ve followed the Netflix and Apple TV streaming trend.

The only times I’d certainly turn to my cable box was for live programming… news… Super Bowl… Academy Awards.

I was paying more for my cable service than I knew I really needed to.

I really… really… wanted another option…
(And I know that I’m not alone here.)

Hello, YouTube TV
Then, two moments intersected to create my path forward…

First, I looked at my calendar and realized that my monthly cable pricing plan was about to go up… again.
(A promotion from last year was expiring.)

And yes, I called to see if Cablevision would extend the deal… No luck.

Then, I happened to be visiting a friend, and he proudly showed me his new wall-mounted HDTV. I asked him where the cable box was, and he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye.

He proclaimed that he had cancelled his cable service.
Instead, he now had…
YouTube TV.

“YouTube TV? What’s that?!”

Cable Killer
Quite simply, it’s a TV steaming app that serves up your local broadcast stations and over 60 of the main cable TV channels. Such as…

  • CNN and FOX News
  • ESPN and ESPN 2
  • FOX Sports
  • SYFI
  • TBS
  • And yes… even Cartoon Network (My 8-year-old loves LEGO Ninjago.)

No, this one-size-only package may not have all of the same channels as Cablevision offers, but for me, it’s perfect.

There are also premium channel options like Showtime and STARZ.

$40 a month. That’s it.

  • No contract
  • And no cable box, DVR and remote rental

Forty bucks.
(I was paying over $100!)

Plus, one membership gives you six accounts and up to three simultaneous streams.

That’s a cable killer.

And so I made my decision right there to cancel my cable service from Cablevision and switch to Google.

My Breakup Call with the Cable Company
I drove home and rushed to join YouTube TV online. Then, I loaded the YouTube TV app on my Apple TV.

I took a look around my new TV universe, and all of my channels were ready for action.

My next step was to make the breakup call…






I was surprised that there wasn’t some attempt on the other end of the line to reverse my resolve. And unfortunately my new monthly Optimum bill with my remaining phone and internet service wasn’t going to fully recoup the cancelled cable price tag.
(My multiproduct ‘Triple Play’ discount would also be ending.)

But I was still saving money.

The Value of YouTube TV
Ultimately though, this wasn’t really about saving a specific amount of cash.
It’s about value.

Anyone can complain about a price point. But if you believe you’re getting value for the cost, then it’s usually okay.

If you’re not, then you should make a change…

  • YouTube TV
  • $40/month
  • Done!

As a subscriber to YouTube TV, I also have access to an unlimited DVR in the Cloud. Plus, I can watch YouTube TV on multiple platforms including my iPhone an iPad from anywhere in the United States.
(So useful!)

Still Watching
No… I haven’t entirely cut the cord with Cablevision. I still need my Optimum service for Internet and phone.
(But I think we’ll be talking about my home phone line again in the near future.)

And no, I haven’t really divorced myself from the cable TV experience.
I’ve just changed cable television providers.
(My emotional reaction to perceived loss was short lived.)

Yet Another Google Disruption
YouTube TV is just another example of technology, progress, innovation, disruption… and someone else figuring out how to take a piece of the pie.

It was just a matter of time.
(YouTube TV launched in 2017.)

I’d been waiting… It just took a friend to point me in the right direction.
(Plus, it didn’t hurt to see a live demonstration.)

The Google switch was easy…

Is YouTube TV a lethal blow to traditional cable companies? I know their past evolution to ‘broadband’ foretold this eventuality.

That said…

  • Cable networks are competitively served up elsewhere.
  • Home landline phones are quickly becoming a vestige of another century.
  • So, that just leaves Internet service….

I expect we’re still a ways away from the closing credits to this story.

For now, I’m a happy subscriber to cable television… again.

Thank you, Google!

The Dilemma of Downloading a YouTube Video

There are worse ways to spend 10 minutes than juggling in Google’s Winter Wonderlab. Plus you get your very own YouTube video to share. But what can you do if you want to immortalize the memory?

There are worse ways to spend 10 minutes than juggling in Google’s Winter Wonderlab. Plus you get your very own YouTube video to share. But what can you do if you want to immortalize the memory?

Should you find yourself with a spare hour in New York City over the holidays, you absolutely must pass through Bryant Park on 42nd and 6th Ave.
There’s the ice skating rink going as well as the pop-up shops and dessert kiosks.  Who knew walking through a park could be so much fun?!

This year, Google has a rather large pop-up presence there, sporting a
‘Winter Wonderlab,’ featuring their Nexus 7 tablets and Chromebooks.

Play. Create. Chill.
In the center of their pop-up store is a high-speed photo studio inside a giant snow globe. In it, they shoot a slow motion video of you with a moving camera on a track. The result is a wicked cool 20-second sequence of you having fun in the globe, surrounded by fake falling snow.
(The actual elapsed recorded action is only about 2 seconds.)

Then, they download the file, and you’re invited to customize your mini movie with music and distribute it via one of their Nexus tablets, conveniently waiting for you in the pop-up store.

The whole point is to get you to say, “Mmmmmm….Nexus tablets.”
And then go buy one.

I’ve got to admit, their marketing tactic was rather compelling.

And I’m also not embarrassed to say I kind of liked my corny little video from their Winter Wonderlab.

The Google folks even provided me with my own URL to call up my cinematic moment, which conveniently lives as a YouTube video, housed in a Google Winter Wonderlab wrapper.

But you can also click on the video itself and call up the original YouTube page where the video lives.
(Remember, Google owns YouTube.)

Can You Keep your Snow Globe Joy Alive Forever?

So there I was watching my video, and I said to myself,
“Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could download my silly video to take a look at whenever I wanted?”

Sure I’ve got a link to forward for anyone to watch.
And the link is always there for me, right?
(I don’t think YouTube is going anywhere.)

That said, I suppose it’s an open question how long Google will keep its
Winter Wonderlab open in the digital space.
(Snow globe videos aren’t so hip in July.)

The Dilemma
The problem is you can’t download YouTube videos.
Google understandably doesn’t offer that functionality.
(since they want you to keep giving them plenty of online clicks to feed their advertising model)

So now what?

At this point in the conversation, it’s important to share some legal realities on this point…

YouTube officially frowns on the downloading of their videos through other technologies. This would break their terms of service.
Plus, you don’t own the copyright on someone else’s content.
YouTube does suggest one exception if you are trying to download your own content.

So in this particular case I wanted to download specific imagery of Barrett juggling Styrofoam snowballs.
But I didn’t create the actual content… Google did.

Hmmmm… How gray is that?
(Next question…)

So I’ll simply say I may have considered the following investigative mission.

Think of this as solely a theoretical exercise…

How to Download a YouTube Video
I quickly realized I wasn’t alone in this intellectual query.

There are a whole lot of players out there offering to help you out…
But I was interested in finding a quick, ‘relatively’ mainstream solution that didn’t require additional software downloads…

I asked a few friends, (a Gen X and a few Gen Ys)
and they immediately replied…

Seems I’m a little late to the party… has actually been around for years…
And after doing a little research, I saw it’s often mentioned as a major player in this space.

KeepVid’s usability is pretty straightforward.
There’s only one annoying pothole to avoid.
Don’t click on the ‘Download’ or ‘Play Now’ buttons on the top of the page.
Those misdirect you to advertisements.

PCWorld has posted this useful ‘how-to video’ on using KeepVid.

A Decision for Another Day?
So there you have it.
Do proceed conscientiously…

And to repeat, this is all simply an exercise of the mind…
A noggin rumination, if you will.

If the Shoe Fits…
That there are effective ways to force video content off a webpage is not a happy reality for many multimedia-hosting websites.
But it should also give you pause…

  • If you upload your own videos to share on these websites…
  • Then set their permissions as non-downloadable…
  • And believe that they are safely ‘not grabbable’

…think again.

If you upload your own multimedia content into the universe, there are always ways for others to get it.

Now, we’ve come full circle.

Enough said.

All right, enough worrying for one post…
Now, go make your own snow globe video and have some fun!

Remembering MobileMe

Can we have a moment of silence, please? Okay, now why doesn’t my email work anymore?

This morning I woke up to the cold fact that MobileMe had finally expired.

I’ve been going through the seven stages of grief, because for the past year I knew this day was coming.

Lots of worrying about it for months.
And not doing anything about it since last summer. (Yes, I was in denial.)

My digital life was healthy just the way it was. I had no reason to change.

And for those who have been following my ongoing crisis, you can finally relax.
My family’s computing affairs are in order.

I’ve prepared four family computers for three family members, crossing two generations. I’ve taken down all our MobileMe photo and movie galleries. Not that I had to pull the plug myself, but I didn’t want any of my terminal MobileMe files accidentally locked away in some faraway data prison.

Supposedly deleted back in 2012, but then somehow found and released to the galactic Facebook Federation in 2212. Don’t want my family beach vacation photos to become an exhibit at the Guggenheim 2 on Mars.

All Quiet on the Computer Front?
So after a couple weeks of deleting with purpose, (nothing like a deadline to get you motivated) I erased my final MobileMe media gallery.
With just hours to spare.

Last night, iCloud was hovering over the Lester household and prepared to take over.

But my eyes popped open this morning, and I immediately felt a disturbance in the Force.

I sat down with my cup of Joe in its perfectly balanced coffee mug and checked my email on my iMac using my old Entourage email program.
(Yes, I’m intending to upgrade to Outlook with Office for Mac 2011, but I’ve been a little busy lately trying to beat the iCloud storm in a Prometheus-inspired hurry. Please cut me some slack.)

Instead of hearing the familiar PING of a happily received email, a message popped up on my screen.

It couldn’t be a coincidence.

“Don’t panic,” I told myself as I began looking for a paper bag.
Maybe iCloud simply requires different email preferences in Entourage.

So I checked out Apple’s page on iCloud’s Mail Server tips.
It revealed a slightly different IMAP name than the one I was using for the incoming mail server.

I updated the field with and pressed ENTER.

Immediately something started to happen.
A new message popped up that said,
And a number started counting upwards to reflect each of my emails.

This can’t be good.
The little progress bar proceeded quickly.
And when it was all done updating…


But I didn’t panic, because I knew they also now existed in my iCloud account.
((really small joy))

I just had to figure out a way to get my email back into Entourage.
So I looked a little closer at the Apple article.

I came across this-
SSL Required: Yes
And Port: 993

My Entourage preferences didn’t have SSL checked and was using Port 143.
(Don’t worry. I don’t know what this really means either.)

So I made the adjustments…
And just as fast as my communications purge began, I was quickly back in business.

Email restored.
Disaster averted.

I looked at my half empty cup of coffee and reflected on the past fifteen minutes.
I didn’t know how to feel.
Relieved? Victorious? Clever? Lucky?

Yes, I had just made it through the slow moving hurricane of a technological seachange, and I still had all my clothes on.

And yes, I dodged a last minute bullet that could have really ruined my Sunday.

Time to celebrate? Not really.
I actually felt rather drained.

Black Eye? You Should See the other Guy.
I am not bristling with accomplishment at my herculean digital spring-cleaning and my unexpected Entourage curve-ball dodge.

I am tired and cranky.
And a little sad and angry, too.

Sad that my friend MobileMe is gone.

Angry that I’ve had to start all over again and find other digital choices to share my life online.

Yes, I’ve already got perfectly good solutions lined up like Flickr, Vimeo, and Dropbox, but I’m still feeling like a ‘pissy poo.’ (Toddler talk creeping into the vocab. Need to watch out for that at work.)

I’ve run a hard race and crossed the finish line just in time to avoid elimination.
And I’ve got nothing to show for it other than a crappy T-shirt that says everything on my computer still works.

Stiff Headwinds
And that’s a problem with technology. It keeps moving forward, even when you don’t want to.

Last week, Facebook changed everyone’s default email addresses on their accounts to a newly-created Facebook email.
I was happy with my old email address, thank you very much.

And as for hardware, forget-about-it.
Today, you’re lucky to hold onto any kind of computer gear for more than three years before numerous software upgrades render it obsolete. (iPad 1 anyone?)

It’s always great to try the next best thing, but then you can’t settle down and get comfortable.

Like it or not, you’ve got to keep up if you’ve decided to play in the digital sandbox.

If next year someone told you that the English language was being rewritten, and replaced with something better, you’d be pretty cross, wouldn’t you?

And then you’d learn English 2.0.
(But not before screaming in potty mouth 3.0.)

Computer technologies are the de facto tools to help you define who you are in today’s 21st century world. They can represent your voice more than your spoken words.

And the more you use them, the more you rely on their smooth functionality.

The Kool Aid is so Refreshing
Is my life better with iCloud?
Today, my address book and calendar on my computer still sync with my iPhone.
But I had that yesterday.

Look, I know that technology offers us huge steps forward on a regular basis.
I’m just cranky that these transitions require so much effort…

The actual iCloud data transfer was a snap. Kudos to Apple.
It was all the necessary prep (OS upgrades/media deleting) that was such a headache.

And I don’t think this is about being a Transitional. This dynamic has got to cut across all the generations…

Cupertino, We have a Problem…
I think the truth is new technology is never as easy to use as the public wants to believe.

Sure Apple makes it easy as long as you’re using one of their new devices.
Google is magic as long as the search results you need show up on the first page.
Facebook brings the world together until it annoys millions with their newest interface tweak.

The marketing gurus have convinced us it’s all so easy even a child can do it.
More and more today, you’d better have a child around to show you how.

iCloud Forever?
My story today is a cautionary tale.

So keep these words of wisdom in mind-
(Movie advice can be very soothing.)

“Everything that has a beginning has an end.”
“You’re your problem, and you’re also your solution.”
“Wax on. Wax off.”

More importantly,
Don’t listen to the marketing sirens out there.
It’s not always a snap.

Life isn’t easy. Why should your virtual life be any different?
Just don’t take technology for granted, and at least it won’t make things worse.

Sometimes your favorite hang out shuts down.
Mourn and move on. That’s life too.

Goodbye, MobileMe.
I really enjoyed our time together.

Think I’ll go have a sandwich now.

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