Monday, August 3, 2020

Xfinity Flex and Peacock TV

Peacock TV
Peacock TV is the new
streaming service from
NBC/Universal.
NBC/Comcast/Universal/Whateverelse has made the move into streaming in a big way. They have a thing called Xfinity Flex, which is a streaming package that comes with Xfinity Internet. Well, mostly. More about that in a bit.

The other thing is a streaming service called Peacock. You know, like the NBC logo. More about that in a bit. First, back to Flex. 

Xfinity Flex came available last September. However, I wasn't eligible for it. Well, not easily. I had a special streaming package that included Internet and local TV channels for a really good price. I didn't watch the local channels, and didn't care about the local channels, but that special promotion meant I could get Internet and local TV cheaper than Internet alone. It also stopped the Comcast Website from showing any packages available for me. As I was happy with my price, I didn't worry too much about it. I didn't see that Flex would bring much new to the table for me anyway, based on what I saw. I was interested, but not going to go through the hassle of everything, particularly after the China virus lockdown.

Recently, my Comcast bill arrived, and it had gone up. The 1-year special was over. So, I went online to check for a package that was more to my liking regarding cost. Only, still no packages showed for me. I scheduled an appointment at a store, because you have to do that now. And some stores have closed, so the three nearest were two in Savannah and one in Hinesville. The nearest available slot was in Hinesville (same day), so I made the drive.

The nice lady hooked me up and I ended up paying less that I had been paying with my Internet-Local Channels package, even before the special pricing expired. So, yeah, I was happy with that.

And, I got Xfinity Flex included, as they had been promoting.

Now, there's not much to Flex, unless you're new to streaming, in which case, it's actually a pretty good way to start that.

They give you a streaming box for no cost. That's a good thing. A second, third, etc. box is another $5/month. The box is really nothing all that special. It's inferior to a Roku or Apple TV, for instance, but it's okay. It's an Android-based device, and while it's a decent box, it's not as responsive as a Roku or Apple TV.

Also, the device doesn't really have an app store. It has some apps preloaded, but you can't add more. The Apple TV line was kinda like that up through the 3rd generation devices, but even then, you could hide apps from showing. Flex doesn't have a large number of apps, and you can't add more or remove (or hide) any. But, it has a decent selection of apps: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube (but not YouTube TV), Sling TV, CBS All Access, major standalone movie services (HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epix, & Cinemax), the most popular free (ad-supported) linear services (Pluto TV, Xumo, Tubi, FilmRise), and more. While there is no app store, the selection of apps installed is a good selection.

Oh, and of course, it has Peacock TV. More on that in a bit, I promise.

The Flex remote is okay. The D-Pad is not nearly as good as Roku or Amazon Fire TV, but it works. It has voice control, but I don't care about that. I don't use it on Apple TV, Fire TV, nor on Roku, so I'm not interested in using it on Flex, either. Just a personal preference.

So, if you are a Comcast Internet subscriber, and you want to get into streaming, Flex is a good way to go. And, you get Peacock Premium (the middle tier) included.

And that finally brings me to Peacock TV.

The service is NBC/Universal's answer to Hulu and CBS All Access. Personally, it looks better than the CBS offering, and is cheaper than that service, but it isn't going to replace Hulu for me any time soon, if ever.

The app comes with Xfinity Flex, but it's also available for Apple TV, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Mi Box (and other newer Android TV devices), Xbox One, Playstation 4, and newer LG or Vizio TVs. Notice that the two largest streaming platforms, Roku and Fire TV, are not supported. And there's nothing to indicate they will be supported any time soon, as all parties are taking a hard line. Until suddenly, one day, they decide to play nice. 

Anyway, there are three tiers of Peacock TV service: Free, Premium, and Premium Plus.

Free is what it sounds like. It's free. The content includes commercials. And, while it's a lot of content, it's not everything. I've seen it said that the free service has anywhere from ½ to ⅔ of the total Peacock TV library. Worst case scenario is still a decent library of content, around 7,500 to 10,000 items of content (TV show episodes or movies).

Premium is the entire library. Everything. That includes sports, all current season episodes, and movies. And here's the kicker: if you are an Xfinity Flex subscriber, it includes Peacock Premium. So, this is the tier I have. Flex is included with Xfinity Internet, and Peacock TV Premium is included with Xfinity Flex. And, it is a decent amount of content.

Oh, if you don't get Premium included, it's $5/month to upgrade from Free to Premium. Is it worth the upgrade? Maybe. If you try it, I'd suggest just using the Free service (unless, of course, you have Xfinity Flex and get Premium for free) and noticing how much you are actually missing out on. The Premium-only content is marked with a purple feather icon in the corner. If you decide you'd be okay with paying $5/month (or $50/year) for the Premium content, it's not a bad price for the bigger library. Cheaper than either Hulu or CBS All-Access. And, to me, better than CBS All-Access. But still, I'd see if Free is good enough. The price is certainly right.

Premium Plus is the top tier. It's the same content as Premium, but you don't get ads. Mostly.
Due to streaming rights, a small amount of programming, Peacock channels, live events, and a few TV shows and movies, will still contain ads.
Premium Plus is another $5/month. So, if you can deal with commercials -- some people can't; I can because I'm an adult and cheap -- save the $5 and watch commercials. Or let the commercials play while you ignore them.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I bumped my head

I fell and bumped my head.

Now, there are several people who know me that would say such a thing must have happened a long time ago. And maybe it did. But whether it did or not happen in the past, it happened a couple of weeks ago for sure.

My mother had to go to Florida for a thing. She was going to stay at my sister's for a few days while she did her thing, so, I drove her down there. After supper, I was ready to leave -- had my weapon, wallet, phone, jacket, everything -- when I though it best to hit the little boys room so I wouldn't have to stop on the way back. I hoped to get home by 10.

So, I stepped into their guest bathroom to, well, take care of business, and I managed to catch my foot on the trash can that was, well, not where I was expecting it to be.

Along the way, I lost my balance and fell forward into the tub. Now, it was across the tub the short way, meaning the other wall was not all that far away. I reached out my arms to try to catch myself, but only managed to push the shower curtain, and I felt and heard my head hit the far wall.

A lot of stuff went though my mind in that little bit of time.

"Huh, that kinda hurt. Wait. I just hit my head falling in the bathroom. People die doing that. Is this how I'm gonna die. I don't like that idea. Is this blood? That's blood. That's a lot of blood. Oh, that's really a lot of blood. Did I crack my head open? Let me feel it. Well, it's wet, that's for sure. And there's still a lot of blood. Maybe I ought to get someone's attention."

"Hey, I need some help!"

"Yeah, that's a lot of blood. I wonder if I'll pass out from blood loss. I better call again."

"Hey! I need some help!"

"Should I try to stand up? Probably not. If I do pass out from blood loss, I'm already, well, let me see ... I'm on my knees leaning over into the tub somewhat. If I pass out, I won't have far to go. If I stand up, I could pass out and fall, and injure myself again. I don't even know how bad this one is, but I don't want to make it worse."

"Hey! Can somebody come help me?"

"Okay, I'm upright a little more. Let me close the toilet lid. I'd hate to pass out and drown."

"You okay?" came the call.

"No, I need some help!"

"Okay, they're fiddling around with the door. I locked the door on my way in, didn't I? I'm gonna have to unlock the door. Well, here goes."

I unlocked the door and they got me to my feet, and thought it might be a good idea to consider taking me to a hospital or something. I was agreeable to that.

Well, a couple of hours and 12 staples in the head later, I left the emergency room and decided to spend the night at my sister's house.

I've been to Florida several times in the past couple-three years. The trips to Disney World were great. This trip to my sister's wasn't quite as much fun.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Hair

When I was much younger, I had long hair. How long? Well, maybe not quite as long as the folks in the musical play or movie...


[The YouTube]

But, yeah, I had hair.

A little bit after high school, I decided to get it cut and look more like a useful member of society. And, it's stayed a reasonable length since then. It did get shorter when I went into the Army, but it hasn't really gotten long since then. However, with the recent closure of barber shops and hair salons, combined with me being overdue for a haircut anyway, it was longer than it had been in a while.

Recently, I decided to do something about that. So, while wandering the aisles of the Walmart store, I picked up some cheap (less than $20) clippers that said they'd cut hair. And I cut my hair.

It was not a great experience. And the bathroom looked like a tribble had exploded.

The tribble that formerly lived on my head.

My hair is now shorter than it's been since I left the Army. But next haircut, I'm going to sit on the front porch and give the neighbors a treat. I'm still sweeping up hair from the bathroom.

Monday, April 27, 2020

More Movies = Less Movies

As I've rebuilt my movie library -- I did a stupid and accidentally deleted almost everything -- I've also added new content to the library.

As a reminder (or for the first time if you haven't read the previous posts) I have been collecting the unriffed versions of the movies featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000. So that would make it a rebuild with additions.

Oh, and the fact that in order to get some of those movies, I'd have to buy "50 Great Schlock Sci-Fi Classic Duds!" (or names something similar) which left me with a few dozen extra films that I wasn't seeking. But, hey, I had them. I put them in the "burn" pile (yes, it should be the "rip" pile, but "burn" pile sounded better) and rip them out when I had a few minutes. With everything lately, I've had a few minutes.

Anyway, I got the library from 1,525 before the deletion to over 1,600.

As I've mentioned before, the original number immediately became lower because of the reorganization of the music library. Using iTunes running on Windows as the video server, I could have Movies, TV shows, and Home Movies. That's it.

With Plex (the reason for moving everything that led to the accidental deletion) I could categorize much better. Disney or Warner Bros. shorts were now in a separate category, no longer all counted as "Movies." And the MST3K episodes became TV shows, whereas in iTunes, they were Movies. So, a few hundred drop right off the bat. But, I still kept adding.

The other day -- it may have been over a week, I don't know -- it suddenly hit me that I could utilize the "extras" feature of Plex. That's where you can add "Behind the Scenes" features, deleted scenes, interviews, etc. They even have an "Other" section. And suddenly, after all this time, I realized that I didn't need to have separate movies for the theatrical release, the "Director's Cut" or "Special Edition," or any variety of different versions of movies (think original Gamera, U.S. edit of Gamera, and the Sandy Frank edit of Gamera). I could pick my primary version (usually the theatrical cut) and place the other versions as extra in the same directory on the drive. Name it correctly and Plex plays real nice with that.

One effect of that was to lower the overall number of movies, even with more movies. Which means these 21 files (once renamed like this) became extras, rather than their own movie.

  • Alien (Director's Cut)-other.mp4
  • Alien Resurrection (Special Edition)-other.mp4
  • Alien³ (Special Edition)-other.mp4
  • Aliens (Special Edition)-other.mp4
  • Blade Runner (The Final Cut)-other.mp4
  • Bride of the Monster (Color)-other.mp4
  • Dreamgirls (Director's Extended Edition)-other.mp4
  • Gamera, The Giant Monster (Original)-other.mp4
  • Gammera the Invincible (U.S. Edit)-other.mp4
  • Gamera vs. Barugon (Original)-other.mp4
  • Gamera vs. Gyaos (Original)-other.mp4
  • Gamera vs. Guiron (Original)-other.mp4
  • Gamera vs. Zigra (Original)-other.mp4
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space (Color)-other.mp4
  • RiffTrax! Star Wars - A New Hope-other.mp4
  • Rifftrax! Star Wars - The Force Awakens-other.mp4
  • RiffTrax! The Wizard of Oz-other.mp4
  • Stripes (Extended Cut)-other.mp4
  • The 40 Year Old Virgin (Unrated)-other.mp4
  • The Exorcist (Extended Director's Cut)-other.mp4
  • To The Stars By Hard Ways (2001 Remaster)-other.mp4

So, even though I increased the number of movies, I also cut back by combining different versions of the same film into one entry. Which works better for me.

My total number of movies is at 1,586. And yes, that's more than I started with. But, it's less than the number got up to along the way. I passes 1,600 movies a couple of times along the way. I'd pass the 1,600 mark, notice where I had separate entries for movies, combine them, then watch the number drop back down.

I've highlighted some of the milestones along the way: 1,000 movies, 1,500 movies, but this will be the first time that I've actually had an accurate count of what I think of as a movie. And I'm 11 short of 1,600.

And who knows? I may not ever hit 1,600. It's not like I have many to go to complete the MST3K Unriffed collectino (two, by the way), and they ain't making a lot of good movies any more.

Besides, I do need to watch what I already got.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

MST3K Unriffed Update: Two To Go

And then there were two.

I've mentioned before about collecting all the movies featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I already have all the episodes that were released on DVD and on VHS, which covers almost every one that was broadcast. I also have copies of the others, recorded off-air (except one from the KTMA season, which is a lost episode, as far as anyone knows.

But I'm talking about the movies themselves. The original uncut versions of the films. Or at least the version that they riffed. And I say that because some of the movies they viewed were alternate, edited for TV versions.

All five of the Gamera films they did had multiple versions. Some of those films were redubbed into English, some had additional scenes with American actors added, and were often released under different names. And then, there were still other redubs and releases by Sandy Frank Enterprises.

There were three different versions of the first Gamera film:

  • Gamera, the Giant Monster - The original film, in Japanese, with English subtitles.
  • Gammera, the Invincible - The original film had some scenes edited and additional scenes with U.S. actors added. The Japanese scenes were dubbed into English. Oh, and some new music.
  • Gamera - The version that MST3K did was a Sandy Frank redub of the original Japanese film. And new music.

I have all three versions because of course I do. And I chose to tell you about this because it's a good example of how I'm counting whether or not I own a copy.

First, I'm after the version that MST3K did. If I have that, I count it.

If I can't find that one, I go after the original release. If the film isn't in English, and if there is a dubbed version, I go with that, if that's the only edit. And, if I don't already have the version MST3K riffed, I count this version.

Failing that, I go with whatever version I can find. And I only count it, if I can't find one of the other.

Sane thing with Humanoid Woman, a film from the KTMA season. I have the Humanoid Woman cut, but I also have "To The Stars By Hard Ways," the original film. Well, not exactly the original. It's a remaster of the original, with a lot of the Soviet propaganda edited out. I count the "Humanoid Woman" version because that's what they riffed. However, I only recently acquired that. I located "To The Stars By Hard Ways" some time ago, and was counting that one as part of my MST3K collection. After I found "Humanoid Woman," it replaced "To The Stars By Hard Ways" in the MST3K collection and playlists, and "To The Stars By Hard Ways" because just another film in my collection.

So, you got the idea of what I'm doing, right? I mean, I drove the point into the ground, so yeah, you got it.

Anyway, to the point of this post, I'm now down to two movies until I complete the collection.

That's the movies riffed by the classic series (Comedy Channel, Comedy Central, Sci Fi Channel), the Netflix series, the KTMA series, MST3K: The Movie, and the "pilot"/demo film.

That's 210 different films that the crew riffed in some form or other. And I have 208. So, what am I missing? Two movies that were featured in Season 6 of the classic series:

  • The Dead Talk Back
  • The Starfighters

I can't find them anywhere. I mentioned earlier that some of the movies I was lacking (at the time) had really expensive versions available. Well, I didn't give in, and eventually found what I was looking for at a better price. These two films, though, I can't find at all. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Cord Cutting Time

I've taken on the task of helping my mother cut her Comcast bill way back. Seems she realized she hardly ever watched anything on cable. In fact, the only stuff she watches on cable are the local channels that she would be able to pick up out of Savannah if she had a big enough antenna. Kinda like she used to do back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (my parents got cable in the very early 80s). Anyway, she wants to cut back on that $194/month she pays Comcast.

So, I'm studying and figuring out how best to make it all happen. I think we got it figured out. As long as it's cheaper (it will be, by far) and she can still watch People's Court, everything will be fine.


[The YouTube]

We've ordered a cable modem and an Ooma telephone device to allow the cutting back of Internet, TV, and telephone. She currently subscribes to Hulu (she loves that), and owns a TiVo (which she also loves, and is how she currently records People's Court). She already has Google WiFi, so the wireless network won't change.

It should be an easy enough change to make. And that extra $115/month in her pocketbook ought to keep her happy for a bit.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Internet Church Sunday

Spending time with the family, with COVID-19, pretty much means immediate family. You'd likely need FaceTime, Skype, Hangouts, or some such method to "visit" with other family.

Church is problematic, too. You've got the danger of being infected by others. In Georgia, most of the areas with large outbreaks came from gatherings such as church and funerals.

We're suggesting that you attend church services online. My local church offers online services on YouTube, and I fire up the Roku when it's time for services. Other churches use another service for streaming. Others stream solely from their Website.

Whatever the case, search for services in your area and see what's available, if your church doesn't offer online services. For example, if you were in Savannah, GA, you could go to Google and search for "church services online Savannah GA"[new tab] and see what results you get. Do that for your area, and see what's available.

Don't let the virus keep you from experiencing your local church, or at least as close to your local church as you can. And be safe.