Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Recent Panel: Comics & Graphic Novels in the Digital Age

I sat in on a comics panel recently at Full Sail Hall of Fame 8. A host of other cool folks were on hand also including Roland Mann, Barry Gregory, Tom Lucas, Daniel Corey and Troy Devolld.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Cord Cutting

A cable sales rep called the other day offering me a deal on service.

"Do you have cable now?"

"No. I go with over-the-air. I get HD plus a lot of local digital channels that weren't on basic Prism from CenturyLink."

I use a Mohu Leaf, and I'm fortunate to live in a good location--major networks plus Decades, Heroes and Icons, Me TV, My TV, Cozi, Bounce Laff, Escape, Univision, Telemundo, Get, Antenna, this, Retro, Grit, Escape, QVC, ION, NASA, PBS, Create.

I really don't want for stuff not to watch. There are as many things to flip past as I ever had. Sometimes the weather affects reception, but then that happened back when I had Dish TV.

"But, do you have a way to record programs?"

"Yeah I have an over-the-air DVR."  It's a Tablo. It's fabulous and plays through Apple TV,  an Amazon Fire Stick or on a tablet if I ever need television, say, in the laundry room.

I have to wait for a few cable programs to show up on streaming services, but otherwise I do OK.

I guess a DVR was the best arrow in the quiver. The sales rep and I said our goodbyes.

I suppose all this might be affected by loss of net neutrality if it comes to that, but at the moment I'm not missing cable about one year out. I've built my own à la carte and the wheels don't even wobble.

At the moment, I'm streaming musical performances from Pluto TV's Live Music channel via Apple TV. You don't even get that on MTV anymore do you?

Upgrading to the new version of Apple TV's one of the best moves I've made since cutting the cord. It allows providers to offer their own apps, making it a little less of a closed environment than Apple TV used to be.

I've found a pretty good set of alternatives even for surfing mindlessly.  Pluto's one of the best. There's a lot to be said for MST3K any time. 
Besides that, the news junkie in me is fed by a variety of sources, some on Pluto TV like the new Chedder--CNBC for Millennials but I like it too--and others. CBSN is available on just about every device, and I supplement it with UK's Sky News feed and a few others plus podcasts of the Rachael Maddow show, a day late, but still handy.

And there are free streaming services beyond Netflix and Hulu. Shout Factory, Tubi TV, Popcorn TV, Crackle they have a few commercials and a lot of niche selections the premium services aren't bothering with.

 As I said, way, way more than I need, but it's not the having, it's the getting for the geek in me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Home Tech Echoes

At my house, we're not quite to the point of Scotty in Star Trek IV in our expectations of audible communication with computers.

You remember:

We're getting better, however, and surprisingly Christine, who is usually skeptical of new technology, is leading the way.

Last Christmas, 2015, I asked for a couple of things, and an Amazon Echo was on the list. For most of the holiday season, I thought the Echo-shaped package under the tree must be the fulfillment of that request.

Turned out to be a new martini shaker. Good gift,  just not an Echo.

I re-submitted the request last September and got an Echo for my birthday.

Since then it has moved from the living room, where I spend a lot of time grading and used it for random Wikipedia questions, to the master bedroom where Christine can access it as she gets dressed in the mornings.

Christine's kind of bonded with Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant persona app thingy, in fact. It's to a point I think they talk about me when I'm not around.

Christine's even a little defensive of Alexa if I slip and call her Siri. They may talk about Siri when I'm not around also.

 I now hear weather and news updates being conjured along with a lot of song requests, playlists and calming nature sounds. Also: occasional arguments over station changes in Pandora. Alexa doesn't give up on Willie Nelson easily.

My use of the Echo "skill" Ditty isn't quite perfect either. Echo's features are called skills in this new world nomenclature, and new skills can be periodically applied. Ditty lets you create songs from random phrases, taking your words and assigning tunes from a variety of musical styles. I got a reasonably good country tune out of the words: "Welcome home Christine." Tunes, er, ditties about the cats haven't produced anything I want to save and share via Twitter, though that's an option.

Activating the meditation-themed Thrive "skill," can be challenging at times as well. Makes you need a calming meditation after talking Alexa into activating it.

We progressed recently to being able to  turn on a couple of lights by voice command, something they promise in the ads. That requires smart home plugs, though they're not quite as smart as I'd hoped. Some routines can be established, but you have to sweet talk Alexa for that also.

I thought that was going to throw Christine off, but she's taken to that as well after an unfortunate incident in which she discovered her phone charger had been crowded out of its usual outlet.

We've moved past that, though I think she takes a bit of pleasure in saying: "Alexa, turn on the bedroom lamp" while I'm still asleep.

Things have a ways to go before we get to where the 21st Century home looked in the 20th Century. I'm just hoping they don't turn out like this old Warner Brothers cartoon:

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