Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Amazon Prime Bundles New Premium Channels


Amazon Prime just made two premium additions to their streaming TV bundle: Starz and Showtime. Amazon Prime started out to be just an expedited 2-day shipping option for a fixed price (now $99 a year). Then they began to add other services and benefits, including free streaming of a wide collection of movies and TV shows at no additional charge. Now they are offering optional streaming channels that has removed one of the last major objections to “cutting the cord” and ditching your traditional expensive cable or satellite TV service.

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Announcing the New Roku 4

Anyone that has followed this blog or attended any of my Streaming TV presentations knows that I am a big fan of Roku. I’ve had one ever since it was introduced several years ago, at that time streaming only Netflix. Now it has over 2,500 channels with 300,000+ movies and TV shows.

I could probably be called a TV junkie. I have TVs in my living room, office, bedroom, and oh yes, I can’t forget the motorhome. Each has a Roku attached.

I’ve had the original Roku, Roku 2, Roku 3, and now I guess I’ll have to upgrade to the latest and greatest, Roku 4.

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CuriosityStream – Streaming Documentaries from Discovery Channel Founder

New Addition to My Favorite Streaming Channels

A new channel has been added to programming lineup of the Roku streaming set-top box. CuriosityStream has been dubbed the “Netflix of documentaries,” and I think that’s a perfect description. I’ve added it to my favorite Roku channels list (right next to Netflix) and I love it. CuriosityStream has given me one more reason to abandon my expensive satellite TV service, full of mind-numbing, so-called “reality” shows and unending commercials.

I’ve only had CuriosityStream for about a week, but so far I’ve watched everything from shows on Quantum Physics (simplified) to historical documentaries on Greece and Rome, and a discussion of the “Curious World of Dreams.” Some of their programming is timeless; others cover quite current events, like the Pluto flyby and the confirmation of past liquid water flows on Mars, for instance.

CuriosityStream is not free. It has two subscription levels: a very reasonable $2.99 a month for standard definition and $9.99 a month for eye-popping 4K super HD. The standard definition option is available now. The 4K option will launch later this year. All programs are commercial-free.

They give you a free month to evaluate the service. I’m currently in my free month, but I have no intention of cancelling once my free period expires. To start your free month, go to:

ABC Opens Its Eyes: Streaming is the Future

ABC News is the latest channel addition the the Roku lineup of channels. This is more evidence that the major networks are recognizing that the future of TV is in streaming.

On-demand content available on this new channel includes top stories of the day, this week in history, technology, lifestyle, weather, and segments from popular shows like Good Morning America and Nightline. Some local news affiliates have also signed on, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Fresno, and Raleigh.

Sling TV Update: New Channels

Last month, I reported on the new live streaming TV service from Dish called Sling TV. Since that report, a number of major channels have been added, including the History Channel, A&E, H2, and Lifetime. This brings the total number of channels in their basic programming lineup to 20. Yes, this is still small, but Sling TV is clearly on its way to becoming a serious challenger to live TV as we have known it. And, at $20 per month with no contract, it’s an attractive addition to the online lineup for cord-cutters, those who have already or are considering cancelling the traditional and expensive cable or satellite TV service.

Witness, they acquired 100,000 subscribers in their first month of operation. That’s still a small number of TV overall watchers, but if they keep adding channels at the rate they have, they will also be acquiring a lot more subscribers. I may become one of them. I’m watching this development closely.

Want to give it a try. They’ll give you 7 days for free. Go to for more information.

Does Sling TV Spell Doom for Traditional Satellite and Cable Services?

Last month, Dish Network pre-announced a service it calls “Sling TV.” Sling TV is essentially a live streaming alternative to traditional, expensive satellite and cable servies, but … it’s in its infancy and programming is severely limited. But as the service expands, this could fill the gap between live TV as we’ve known it and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and others.

Sling TV is a $20 per month subscription with no contract. That’s right … NO CONTRACT. You can cancel at any time. Compare that to your current cable or satellite bill that may be upwards of $100 per month and locks you into their service for a year or two.

Sling TV currently offers only about 15 channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2, Disney Channel, TBS, TNT, and Food Network, with AMC coming soon. There are also some add-on packages for kids, sports and news channels for $5 per month. This is still a long shot from becoming a head-to-head equivalent to traditional satellite and cable programming. But it’s a start, and it may be pointing the way to the future.

While it may not be a full live TV substitute yet, Sling TV puts one more nail in the coffin of TV as we have known it. When Sling TV or someone else offers a full complement of live streaming programming,  the paid TV service landscape will be forever changed.

Want to know more? See the review of Sling TV.


New: Netflix “Profiles”

Segment Your Netflix Account for Multiple Users with “Profiles”

If you have multiple family members using a single Netflix account, you know the problem. The suggestions you receive from Netflix on shows you might like are affected by what other family members watch. This pretty much nullifies the usefulness of this and other features of Netflix that are based on your viewing history. The solution is at hand.

In August, Netflix introduced what they are calling “Profiles.” By using the Profiles feature, you can separate viewing history and preferences for up to 5 individual users in a single Netflix account. Each profile will have its own personalized movie and TV show suggestions, Recently Watched list, Ratings & Reviews, taste preferences, and My List.

Whether or not this feature is available depends on the device you use to stream Netflix. To my chagrin, Roku does not currently support Netflix Profiles. If you’ve followed my streaming articles in the past, you know that I consider Roku the king of all streaming devices. But the absence of the very useful Netflix Profiles capability is disappointing. Hopefully, Roku will take care of this omission in the future.

Here’s a short video that explains Netflix Profiles …

Could YouTube Become the Next Netflix?

It’s been exactly a year since I first announced a rumor that YouTube was looking into offering paid subscriptions (see Paid YouTube Subscriptions? It Could Happen). Now it has come to pass.

No, YouTube is not undergoing a major shift in its character. It still lets users upload their own videos. And the major source of YouTube revenue is still advertising.

The paid subscription option is currently limited to 53 channels, with subscription rates from $1 to $10 per month. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial for each channel. One look at the paid offerings tells you that Netflix is not in any immediate danger of being impacted by a new YouTube competitor. But this is just the beginning, and it remains to be seen where this goes.

Will this move by YouTube migrate to other popular shows, which up to now have been free? And will viewers actually pull out their credit cards to pay for programming that they are used to getting for free? Time will tell.

It’s safe to say, this is another signpost along “Streaming Video Road.” A signpost to where? Give it a year and we’ll know. My guess … YouTube paid subscription channels are here to stay, and we’ll see a lot more of it in the not too distant future.

Roku gets PBS channel

If you’ve been following my Internet TV articles and posts, you know that of all the devices that can play streaming TV on your living room set, my personal preference is Roku. Actually that’s an understatement. In my humble opinion, it has no competition for its diversity in free and paid programming.

They’ve just given me one more reason to say that … PBS. This last week, the PBS channel was added to the extensive Roku channel list. That brings programming such as Antiques Roadshow, Great Performances, History Detectives, Masterpiece, Nature, and the venerable Nova to your streaming entertainment menu. And there’s much more besides that.

If you have a Roku, be sure to add this channel to your My Channels list. If you don’t have Roku, check out the Roku page here and read about the latest Roku 3.

Tablet PC = Streaming TV Receiver

I’ve talked about a number of streaming TV receivers in the past: Roku (my favorite by far), smart TVs (with streaming built-in), game consoles, Blu-ray players.

But there is another one that I’ve neglected to mention. It’s obvious, really, but I just never thought of it before.

If you have a Tablet PC, you have a streaming TV receiver

When I refer to “tablet PC” I’m speaking in the generic sense. I include every tablet I know of, whether it’s Android, iPad, Windows RT or Windows 8. They all have apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus and other streaming TV sources. If you have one of these devices, then all you need to enjoy streaming programs on your living room big screen is an HDMI adapter for your tablet. Then connect your tablet to an HDMI input for your TV, and there you have it. You can watch anything that Netflix or any other streaming app offers in all its 60-inch widescreen glory.

How does this differ from connecting a laptop to your TV?

I have discussed connecting a laptop to a TV before. Connecting your tablet to your TV via HDMI is just a special case of connecting any computer to your TV. Hardware-wise that’s true. But programming-wise, it may not be. You may have some streaming sources available to you as tablet apps that will not function on a computer.

It’s also a little neater from a footprint sense to sit a tablet by your TV, as opposed to a laptop or, heaven forbid, a desktop.

What do you need?

HDMI adapter for Galaxy Tab 2

Well, first you need your favorite tablet. Then you need a means of connecting it to HDMI.

I bought an adapter for my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1; and I know iPad has one. There are so many tablet options these days, you’ll have to check your specific manufacturer. But, probably most if not all current tablets have some kind of HDMI capability.

So, chalk up one more application for these marvelously versatile devices.