Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day (2018)

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Directors I apparently like

As I was looking over my movie collection, I noticed a few names of directors that, well, surprised me. Mostly, it had to do with how many, or how few, movies of any particular director I had in my movie library.

I had the most Buster Keaton movies, which really didn't surprise me, considering that I have some of his two-reelers. I have, as of this writing, 16 of his movies; that is, movies he actually directed. Of those 16, only two are feature-length films:
  • The General
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr.
The others are shorts:
  • The Balloonatic
  • The Blacksmith
  • The Boat
  • Cops
  • Day Dreams
  • The Electric House
  • The Frozen North
  • The Goat
  • The Love Nest
  • My Wife's Relations
  • One Week
  • The Paleface
  • The Play House
  • The Scarecrow
As for the director whose name is on the most of the movies I have, it really didn't surprise me that it's Alfred Hitchcock. What surprised me was that I only had 11 of his films:
  • The Birds
  • Family Plot
  • Frenzy
  • North By Northwest
  • Psycho
  • Rear Window
  • Rebecca
  • Suspicion
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Topaz
  • Vertigo
I thought I had Lifeboat, but I don't. Same with The Wrong Man, The Trouble With Harry, Strangers On A Train, Notorious, and others. I've seen them, but didn't realize I didn't own them. I don't have as many Hitchcock films as I want.

I have nine movies by William Wyler and Steven Spielberg. I never would have picked those off the top of my head as being directors of who made up that many of my film library. I sort of have nine by Ridley Scott, but that number included two versions of Blade Runner and two version of Alien. So, I actually have seven of his. I also have seven by Martin Scorsese and seven by Billy Wilder. Again, I never would have thought that, until I actually sorted by director and discovered that.

What probably surprised me most was that I only have one film by Akira Kurosawa: The Hidden Fortress. Which means I don't have Seven Samurai. Or Yojimbo. Or Rashomon. Or... well, you get the idea.

I had no idea I liked William Wyler that much. Looking at the actual films, most of them aren't films I'll watch again and again. Same with Spielberg's films.

Of course, that's probably true of most of the movies I own. Which makes me wonder why I even own them.

Probably because I can. Which is as good a reason as any.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ad blocking

Ads, ads, ads.

Ads.

Pop-ups. Banners. Those darn things that cover your entire page.

Everybody hates ads.

Well, except the people that create them. And they still hate them when it's somebody else's.

We all hate ads. Or, are mildly irritated by them at times.

But, the other side of the coin is -- and you knew this coin had another side -- sometimes, those ads allow us to see content that we'd otherwise have to pay for.

Keep in mind, people aren't entitled to the fruits of your labors. If you create something, others have no right to it. It's yours.

If you're a tailor, people don't have the right to demand you make them a suit.

If you're a carpenter, people don't have the right to demand you build them a house.

If you're a farmer, people don't have the right to demand your crops.

And, if you're a Website owner or developer, or a streaming content provider, people don't have the right to your labors. Yeah, it kinda works that way.

So, what's this got to do with ad-blockers? Well, some of the content you view on the Web, or on your streaming device, is provided at no monetary cost. Sure, you pay for Netflix, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Web pages that you don't have to subscribe to (or at least, it's optional) or streaming services that you don't have to pay for.

They are in the business to make money. That's the bottom line. They choose to make money by offering content for you to enjoy and then show you advertisements for which they get paid (or sell for inclusion in their content).

Yes, some Web pages have those popups all over the place. Or those videos that automatically start. Or ads that cover the page. Or other such irritants. That's why there are a bunch of ad blocker plugins that are extremely popular. Of course, they block by getting between you and the content, meaning they read all of your content.

All of your content.

All. Of. It.

Didn't think about that, did you?

So, how do I deal with it? Well, I avoid content that I don't like. If the Web page has annoying ads, I'll avoid that Web page. If an app on my phone has too many ads, I'll stop using the app. Or pay to remove ads, if that's an option. If the streaming service has more ads that I care to deal with, I'll not use that service. Or pay to remove ads, if that's an option.

How should you deal with it?

I'm not the boss of you. Deal with it as you see fit. But think how you'd feel if you were the other person. How would you want a consumer to deal with something that you did they didn't like?

That's actually good advise for many things: think how you'd feel if you were the other person.

I'm about to do just that. I think you're probably tired of hearing me go on and on about this.

So I'll stop.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Android TV (Mi Box)

Image: Xiaomi
I've tried different streaming devices over the years: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and TiVo. They all have their good points and bad points. Any of them would be a good choice for streaming. One or another my be better or worse for any particular individual based on the where they want to get their streaming data from. For example, if someone is big into iTunes or has a lot of Apple devices, the Apple TV is probably the best option. If someone is totally immersed in Amazon, the Fire TV might be the best option. There's no one answer that's right for everybody.

Recently, I added another streaming device to my collection: the Android TV player, Mi Box.

It's a cheaper alternative to the Nvidia Shield, which is the Flavor of the Month for many of the Kool Kidz that stream. Personally, as intrigued as I might be by the Nvidia Shield, I'm not going to put out $180 just to test something. The $69 I shelled out for the Mi Box was the upper limit on that kind of silliness.

So, just to be clear, I haven't used the Nvidia Shield. However, it and the Mi Box are both Android TV devices. The Google Play Store apps for one will work on the other. I know there are ways to side load content onto the Nvidia Shield, but I'm not interested in that. If you are, you can find videos on The YouTube. I'm not interested. I'm looking for stuff that anybody can go into a store or purchase online, take the device, and use. No jumping through hoops. Simple. That's my focus.

Anyway, my point there is what I'm writing about the Mi Box is mostly applicable to any Android TV device.

What I like about the device is that it's easy to set up and use. It's very responsive. It supports 4K, though I don't have a 4K TV. It comes with some common popular apps already installed. It even comes with an HDMI cable included. It doesn't take long to get up and running.

But, what do I not like about it? Well, apart from the pre-installed or recommended apps, it's not that easy to get all the apps you might want through the standard interface. If you have the Play Store installed, you can browse the limited selections there. There are more apps available than show on the Google Play Store app on the Android TV device. While they do show many of the biggest, that's not always the case. For instance, Spotify doesn't show when browsing on the device, though Pandora does.

A slightly better option is to use the voice search to search for apps. For example, to install the Boomerang app, I couldn't find it when I searched for "Boomerang," but did when I searched for "Boomerang app."

Another option is to search for apps from the Google Play Store Website. As with the voice search, simply searching for the app name might not be good enough. I had to search for "Boomerang for Android TV" to find that app.

One major omission, at least in my opinion, is that DirecTV Now isn't supported on Android TV. Philo isn't either. Sling TV is, Hulu with Live TV is, and YouTube TV is, so it has most of the major live streaming services.

If you've used Chromecast, it may be useful to know that Android TV devices have Chromecast built in. You can stream from your computer, your Android phone or tablet, or iOS apps that support Chromecast.

If you're looking for a good streaming device, particularly an Android TV device, the Mi Box is a good choice. It's not my top choice, because of the limited number of apps, but it's a good little device.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fox News streaming



Got a text the other day from our old buddy Paul at the Mean Ol' Meany blog. Turns out he finally got fed up with cable and satellite when the bill topped $160/month.

Actually, Mrs. Paul -- not the fish stick lady, but Paul's wife -- got fed up with it. And she tasked him to find a better solution. And it had to have Fox News. Live. Not some day-old videos of stuff, but live Fox News Channel.

So, Paul asked for some advice, and I gave it my best shot. He took my suggestions and information into consideration, made a decison, and now all is happy at Paul's house.

That's when it occurred to me that others might want to cut cable but still get Fox News, or some other news channel that isn't crowded with life-long Democrats, socialists, and other criminals.

So, if you are in the same situation as Paul and his lovely lady -- you want to cut cable but still want certain channels -- maybe I can offer some advice. Maybe.

We're going to primarily focus on Fox News, since that's what Paul was asking, and since it's probably the least leftist news channel.

Now, there are a bunch of streaming services that are basically small cable packages. Only you get them via Internet streaming than by cable TV or a satellite dish. They're cheaper than most cable packages, but don't have 500 channels.

Sling TV, Philo, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV are the ones I've tested. They all have their good points.

If you want Fox News, we can rule out Sling TV and Philo right now. All the others have Fox News Channel as part of their cheapest package. So, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV are all good streaming options when it comes to offering Fox News Channel.

YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue are both $40/month. Hulu with Live TV is, too, but that price includes regular Hulu on-demand service ($8/month). So, if you already subscribe to regular Hulu, you'd only be adding $32/month to the bill. DirecTV Now is $35/month.

So, it comes down to add-ons and other channels.

If you want HBO, DirecTV Now only wants another $5/month for that, the best HBO add-on price.

If you want sports, all the services except Philo include ESPN and ESPN2. That's important to me and is important to Paul. YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV both include ESPNU and ESPNews. Hulu with Live TV also includes Fox Sports and SEC Network.

PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now both require their $50/month package to get ESPNU and ESPNews plus SEC Network, Fox Sports, and other channels.

So, for viewing stuff like Paul and I do, the Hulu with Live TV package is probably the best package for the money. However, like most everything else, it really depends on what you're looking for.

If you've been thinking about cutting the cord, but didn't want to miss certain stuff, do some research into what these different packages offer. You might find you can save a buck or two.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Crash! Pop!

The late afternoon storms we have in southeast Georgia this time of year aren't usually anything more than an irritant. Sometimes, the storms will change plans, such as not going to an outside event. Most of the time, though, it doesn't really mean that big of a deal. We're used to them, after all.

Not so, this week. The storm got my Roku.

I've had a Roku device for some time. Not the same device. I've upgraded over the years. In October, I bought a new Roku Ultra. It replaced a Roku Premiere that I got free with a Sling TV subscription. The Ultra is a better device, and has a wireless remote. The Premiere (since discontinued), is a good device, but doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Ultra, plus, it has an IR-only remote.

Anyway, I got an Ultra in October, and it's been a great device. Until this week, when the storm got it.

I was off work, and sitting there watching, I don't know, maybe something on The YouTube. The rain had started, and there was thunder and lightning, though not too close. Then, it was close.

There was a loud crash and flash, followed immediately by a loud "pop" from behind the direction of the TV and the screen suddenly going dark.

As I was thinking the lightning had taken out my TV, a "no signal" message came up. Okay, the screen was working at least. Maybe an input? Maybe the Roku?

I looked at the Roku carefully, and noticed there was no light. So, at least the Roku was dead.

I checked the other devices. I've got an Apple TV, a Fire TV Stick, and an Android TV box (MiBox), plus a TiVo connected to the TV. They were all working. Just the Roku was affected.

I pulled my older Roku Premiere out and hooked it up. It worked. That meant the HDMI input on the TV was fine.

Now, I needed to find out if it was the Roku Ultra, or simply the power supply to the Roku Ultra. Replacing the power supply is $10. Replacing the Ultra is $99.

So now you might be asking why didn't I use the power supply for the Premiere on the Ultra?

No, really. Go ahead and ask. I'll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, there's a simple reason: they don't fit.

For a while, all the Roku boxes -- first and second generation devices -- all used the same power supply, model number PW-01 for those keeping score.

Roku changed that beginning with the third generation boxes. They used the new PW-09 power supply, which had a different connector.

The Sticks had a different power supply, the PW-03, and the new Ultra (model 4660) had a still different power supply, the PW-11.

My current inventory? Roku Ultra model 4660 (PW-11); Roku Premiere (PW-09); Roku 2 XS (PW-01), and Roku Stick (PW-03). These different devices use different power supplies.

After some thought, I decided to not immediately replace the Roku Ultra. But thinking long term, I decided to move my Stick from the guest TV to the main TV, and put the Premiere in the guest room. After doing that, I was back up and running.

I did order a spare power supply for the Ultra. It was $10, but if that fixes the Ultra, I'll get off cheap. If not, I'll eventually buy a new Ultra and have a spare power supply for it.

[Edit: The new power supply arrived, and the Roku Ultra doesn't work. *sigh*]

For now, I'm using the Roku Stick on my primary TV. That means I can waste my time again with my Roku.

Speaking of which, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is calling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

On Netflix



First, let me say up front that I don't subscribe to Netflix.

I used to subscribe to Netflix. But, I never watched.

Actually, I did watch it when Mystery Science Theater 3000 came back as a Netflix series. I had dropped it earlier, and dropped it again when I watched all the episodes. With the other streaming services I have, I found that I never watched Netflix. So, I quit spending the money for something I didn't watch.

Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about people dropping Netflix.

You see, some people who don't like Barack Obama are ticked off at Netflix because they signed the former president and his wife to produce a show. How ticked off? Some people are canceling their Netflix subscription.

Of course, some of you know that I don't like the Obamas. I have no use for them. But, I wouldn't cancel Netflix on account of the Obama deal. That might surprise some of you.

Look at it like this.

ABC airs The View, which is just a bunch of left-wing women running their mouths. But, they also aired Last Man Standing, which had a lead character with a right-wing stance.

Boycotting ABC because they aired The View would have also hurt Last Man Standing. The proper thing to do would be not watch The View but do watch Last Man Standing.

I'd take the same approach with Netflix. I'd watch what I liked, and not watch what I didn't.

Any other approach doesn't make sense.

Now, I don't plan to subscribe to Netflix in order to not watch the Obamas. But, I won't let me let the Obamas stop me from subscribing to Netflix. I just need them to offer something I do want to watch.

Like a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000.