Category ArchiveEntertainment

Entertainment &Hardware &Online Video Steven Kippel on 11 Jun 2014

Sony announces PlayStation TV

Sony announces PlayStation TV

Sony-logoThe streaming set-top box market has exploded recently, in spite of these features being included in new HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players, gaming consoles, and even a select few cable boxes. Sony had their own offerings for years, including the recent box with Google TV. This fall, Sony will take on all contenders with their own PlayStation TV set-top box.

Previously launched in Japan as Vita Plus, the PlayStation TV box will be available in North America for the acceptable price of $99, making it on level terms with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku 3. As with the competition, the PlayStation TV will not simply feature video and audio streaming, but will also focus on gaming.

Sony_PlayStation_TV_specsIt seems like a step back for gamers, because each successive generation of game consoles was more powerful, but the casual gamer market has exploded and Sony is not unaware of this. PlayStation TV will feature games from the original PlayStation One console for download, and some PS3 games will stream through the box. The PlayStation TV will also extend PS4 games (for PS4 owners) within the home network to a second location via Remote Play. For this reason a gaming bundle will come with a DualShock 3 controller and an 8GB memory card for $139.

Entertainment &the web Wes Novack on 12 May 2014 review: the Priceline of event tickets

Score small, score little? No way! Score BIG! Any sports fan would attest to that. With that in mind, an online ticketing website has labeled their service apropos. The aptly named ScoreBig sent us a $100 voucher to test out their service, where they flaunt the tag line “Save on every ticket. Guaranteed.”

So what is ScoreBig? It’s a website and service that aims to offer discounted tickets direct to consumers, without any added taxes or fees tacked on. They claim that you can save up to 60% off the regular price of tickets, versus going through TicketMaster, the venue or via other ticketing sites.


Here’s how they describe the service themselves:

“Well, we make fun affordable! At ScoreBig, you can save on sports, concert, and theater tickets without ever paying any fees or shipping charges for the privilege.

How do we get such great savings?
Around 40% of live event tickets go unsold every year – even for events you think are “sold out”. That’s a lot of empty seats! And the ticket industry can’t offer big discounts on some seats and not others in a way everyone sees. So to get those seats filled they give them to ScoreBig, which allows us to pass on those huge savings directly to you!”

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Entertainment &Online Video &Video Rental Steven Kippel on 23 Apr 2014

Amazon Prime lands HBO

Amazon Prime lands HBO LogoIf we haven’t told you how great Amazon Prime is yet, let’s add HBO shows to the mix. You do know HBO has some of the best shows ever produced right? The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Band of Brothers, Generation Kill, The Newsroom et al. (I haven’t forgot about Game of Thrones.)

That’s right! Amazon Prime has added most HBO programming free to Amazon Prime subscribers. All of those series listed above: included. Starting May 21, stream to your heart’s content. (Whatever kept you from watching The Wire isn’t an excuse anymore.)

So… What’s the catch? Game of Thrones is not included in this, and recent programs (Girls, The Newsroom, Veep, et al) will only begin streaming three years after the first broadcast.

Also announced is the Amazon Fire TV will be receiving the HBO Go app, targeting a launch by year-end, so those who do have an HBO account (or borrowing one) and a Fire TV will have access to all HBO content.

When you throw in discounts and free two-day shipping, how can you afford to not have Amazon Prime?

Update: Corrected HBO Go availability on Fire TV from May 21 to year end.

Entertainment &Online Video &Video Rental Steven Kippel on 21 Apr 2014

Netflix raising prices

Netflix raising prices

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced a price increase for new users to Netflix.

In the U.S. we have greatly improved our content selection since we introduced our streaming plan in 2010 at $7.99 per month. Our current view is to do a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only. Existing members would stay at current pricing (e.g. $7.99 in the U.S.) for a generous time period. These changes will enable us to acquire more content and deliver an even better streaming experience.

Rates for existing subscribers would remain unchanged for “a generous time period.”

This is nothing new, nor unexpected. Netflix had previously raised prices by decoupling streaming from DVD-by-mail, and to Blu-ray Disc subscribers. With the amount of content Netflix has been buying, including original content, it was all but inevitable costs would go up. And that’s not including the costs Netflix have paid to Comcast to keep their streaming bandwidth high.

Entertainment &Hardware &Online Video &Video Rental Steven Kippel on 06 Mar 2014

Roku Streaming Stick impresses

Roku Streaming Stick impresses

Roku_logo_white_on_purpleWhat was I thinking when I ordered you to buy a Chromecast? It was cheap, and it had loads of potential. Since then, Chromecast has been shut down by some sites, and not many have signed up to be on Google’s streaming stick. Which means Roku had a great opportunity to revamp their own Streaming Stick, adding some of the Chromecast features.

So what’s new? The old Roku Streaming Stick was powered with Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), something not every TV had, and something older TVs never had; the new stick is powered with USB, just like the Chromecast. This means the new stick can be powered from a wall socket, or from the USB port on your receiver, TV, Playstation, Xbox, etc. (Discerning consumers may get USB charging stations for their AV system to keep USB products powered, and to keep game controllers charged. Smart chargers can be programmed to stop charging after a set amount of time to not over-charge nor waste power.)

RokuSSThe new Roku Streaming Stick is dual-band wireless-N capable, providing high speed wireless connectivity. It also features 720p and 1080p video, as well as 5.1 and 7.1 audio (HDMI only).
And how about that killer app? A remote control. Maybe not for everyone, but for those with kids or guests, the remote will free up your phone or tablet for your personal use while they watch whatever they want. Speaking of your mobile device: Roku has a free iOS and Android app that allows you to chose what you want to watch without navigating the on screen menu.

But what about the Chromecast? The new Roku Streaming Stick allows YouTube and Netflix content to be “cast” straight to the TV the same way the Chromecast works. With how many partners Roku has, this may also expand the way Google is doing.

So does the Roku Streaming Stick kill the Chromecast? Maybe. The Chromecast is only $35, but the Roku Streaming Stick is a bargain at $49.

Entertainment &Online Video &Reviews &Software Wes Novack on 07 Feb 2014

GATHR by AOL: a subscription bundling train wreck

This week I received an email offer from “GATHR by AOL”. I don’t know how I got dumped into their mailing list and I’ve never heard of the service, but I decided to check it out due to a $10 discount offer.


Here’s a snippet from the email that I received from them.

“It’s official: Gathr is ready to save you a bundle on your favorite brands in movies, music, shopping and more. In fact, if you sign up for Gathr today, AOL will give you $10 off the first month of your subscription—with our compliments.”

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Entertainment &Online Video Wes Novack on 04 Feb 2014

Hulu Plus sucks (still)

Hulu Plus sucks (still)

Every once in awhile, a new free trial for Hulu Plus crawls along, like the 60 days free offer at Bestbuy Mobile (now expired). The promo page also offered free trials for Spotify Premium and Zinio digital magazines. All offers are for new customers only, or — psssst — just a new email address.


This latest offer got me to bite, so I have once again joined the ranks of the Hulu Plus ‘elite’. What do you call a Hulu Plus subscriber anyway? Hulu Plusser? Hu-loser? In any case, that’s me again. Yip-diddy-do-da, I can now watch Hulu from my Roku, my Dynex Wi-Fi Blu-ray player and my smartphone.

Well, *I* haven’t really been watching it, as my leisure time is heavily restricted currently, but my lovely wife Tera has been giving it a go.

The latest Hulu Plus sucks experience

Here are a few of the comments I received from Tera about her latest Hulu Plus binge.

“Advertisements suck”
“What the hell? I think they took off the season I was watching”
“It doesn’t just freeze, it starts going in slow mo with no sound”
“Why does Hulu suck so bad?”

The last comment refers to the fact that the Hulu Plus service STILL has freezing and lock up issues when you play videos from a streaming media device such as our Roku and Dynex players. We experienced these same issues during our last Hulu Plus trial over a year ago. Netflix streaming works wonderfully on both of these same players, so we’re not looking at faulty hardware here. Our broadband speed is 40MBps down and the players use 802.11g Wi-Fi.

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