Category: TV

Smart TV’s are Stupid!

Do you use a Smart TV or are you thinking about buying one?

Here is some important information you should know.

If you would prefer a video version of article, click here

First, What exactly is a “Smart” TV?

A smart TV is a TV that can connect to the Internet and has built-in apps for playing videos from services like Netflix and YouTube,
apps for social networking like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn,
games like Angry Birds,
and a web browser.

In theory this is great because you wouldn’t need a separate device (like Roku, Chromecast or Apple TV).  You get a web browser and everything else you’d want to use, all integrated into the TV, saving you money and eliminating the clutter of additional boxes and cables.

However…

App displayed on a monitorThe software is not very user friendly

The software interface (the way you interact with an application) can be very confusing and it requires you to use a remote controller to select buttons and images.  It’s not simple like using apps on smartphones and tablets. The process can be very slow and frustrating!

It’s estimated that only 10 percent of smart TV owners have used the web browser on their smart TV and about only 15 percent have listened to music from online services. However, the majority have used apps, to watch Netflix on their TV without plugging in additional boxes.

They Collect Data On You to Sell to Advertisers

Not only are Smart TVs not very smart, but they collect data on your viewing habits to sell to advertisers.  Since everything on your home network is using the same router, you could be watching a particular program on TV and then start seeing ads on your smartphone, tablet, or PC, for a product or service related to the program.

If you use the always on voice controls feature, your TV can send data about what you watch, to third parties.

Nielsen gets permission to monitor what people watch.  Did your TV ask you for permission?

Don’t people buy a Smart TV so they won’t have to watch all those commercials on regular TV?

The manufacturers do provide an option to turn off the tracking — you can go to the Menu and then into Settings and find “Smart Interactivity” and turn it off — but how many people can do that?

On most TVs, this setting is enabled by default because no one would enable it if they had a choice.  And they call it “Smart Interactivity” to make it sound like something you would want.

Cartoon of frustrated TV user with remote controller“Smart” TVs Get Dumber

Smart TVs will become dumber over time because their operating systems may not receive updates from the manufacturer and the apps and services won’t continue to work.

Providing “Smart TVs” with better interfaces and making them more easily upgradable would cost the TV manufacturers more money and their profit margins are already very thin.  Thin profit margins are the reason they are pitching ads to you.

image of a padlock and keyHere’s Your Solution…

Ignore the smart features

 

Buy a TV based on your budget, the size and quality of the screen and buy an external device which will have more “smarts.”  When you get home, don’t even hook up the TV to your Wifi network.

If you already own a smart TV, just turn off it’s Wi-Fi so it can’t send your viewing data anywhere and then go get an external device.

image of Apple TV interfaceExternal Device Options

There are a variety of external devices and they are relatively inexpensive. The manufacturers are invested in the user having a good experience. These devices will have more polished interfaces, good mobile apps that you can control from your smartphone or tablet, more streaming services, and will receive updates for a longer period of time.

For details about the various devices see my Techie Tip from December, Do I Need A Streaming Device?

screenshot of Wirecutter webpage

These devices aren’t above tracking you for advertisers. For details about the privacy policies of these devices see this excellent article by The Wirecutter,  Your Privacy, Your Devices and You

You should also be aware that the content you stream, any websites you access, any apps you download, or any games you play may also have ways of collecting—and possibly distributing—information about you and what you do.  It’s no different than the privacy considerations when using your computer. Just be aware of it and use reputable sources.

In summary…

Forget about smart TVs

Their software is just not very good.  It’s better to pick up a streaming device and use it.

A few years from now, it will still be getting updates while your TV will have been forgotten by its manufacturer.

Even if the box becomes outdated, it can be replaced for a lot less money than it would take to replace your TV set.

Need Help?

Devices like Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast are fairly easy to install if you have the patience to follow the instructions and, of course, it helps to understand how they work with your WiFi and your TV.

If you’d like help, you can set up an appointment on my calendar here or

Call 760-348-8867

Please share this Techie Tip with your friends and encourage them to get help from me if needed, so they can experience technology made simple, easy and fun too.  Thanks!

Do you use a “Smart TV” or an external device?  Was this Techie Tip helpful?  Please let us know in the comments below...

Enjoy!
Mardi

This article is based on an article by How to Geek. Their website is a great source for technology education and “how to” information.

Do I Need A Streaming Device?

Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick…Do You Need One?   

Are you considering buying one of these devices or are you wondering if you need one?

These devices are designed for streaming content.  In this article I’m going to give you some basic information about how they work and and make some recommendations.

TV menu for streaming services showing Netflix and Hulu

What Is Streaming?

Streaming is a method of transmitting or receiving data (especially video and audio material) over a computer network as a steady, continuous flow.  It allows playback to proceed while subsequent data is being received.

In other words, instead of downloading a movie or song and then playing it from your device, (computer, smartphone, or tablet) you watch it as it’s being transmitted over the internet from someone else’s server. (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.)

Here’s a good analogy:  when someone talks to you, information travels toward you in the form of a sound wave. Your ears and brain decode this information, allowing you to understand it.

  • Streaming video and audio, is a stream of data from a server.
  • The decoder is a stand-alone player like a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick or a plugin (program) that works as part of a Web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari).
  • The server data stream and the decoder work together to show live (sports events, concerts) or prerecorded (movies, songs) broadcasts.

What Does Buffering Mean?

Buffering is the process of creating a buffer which is some data stored in the memory for playing back soon.  When your video stops or lags and you see “buffering,” that means the download has not happened fast enough and you’ve viewed more than was able to be downloaded.  This situation occurs when the internet connection is not fast enough.  After a few minutes the download catches up and the video starts again.

Who Streams and Why?

image of a smoking cable cord and the amazon, hulu and netflix logos

According to Hub Entertainment Research’s Conquering Content Report, 52 percent of people now watch streaming video and more than 48 percent of those use set-top boxes. (like Roku and Apple TV)

Two-thirds of them subscribe to at least one of the big three streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. More than a third subscribe to two or more services.

According to another Hub study, Decoding the Default, 78 percent of people are still subscribing to cable or satellite, but 70 percent of those subscribers are also subscribing to a streaming service. It appears people aren’t “cutting the cord” but rather, adding streaming networks.

One of the reasons is that watching popular shows like Stranger Things (Netflix), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), or The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime), requires a subscription to their streaming services.

In addition, traditional over-the-air (OTA) networks, such as CBS are also moving to streaming. Star Trek: Discovery, is only available on CBS’s streaming service: CBS All Access.

Do I Need A Streaming Device?

Most newer TVs have streaming capability (The LG OLEDB8P or LG OLEDC7P, are considered some of the best).  If you only watch shows from the big three streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime), you may not need a separate set-top streaming gadget.

Apple TV

Picture of a TV with Apple TV menu

Do you love Apple gadgets? Do you buy and rent videos from the iTunes store? Do you use iTunes for your personal media library? Then you’ll enjoy Apple TV.  The latest Apple TV is The Apple TV 4K. The starting price is $179 and you will need a 4K TV to benefit fully benefit from the 4K resolution but it will work on older TV’s.  (Be aware that if you upgrade your TV to 4K, you will need to upgrade any other devices you have, like DVD players. It’s a seemingly never ending cycle of consumerism. LOL

In addition to letting you buy or rent content from the Apple Store or your own iTunes library, the new Apple TV supports more third-party streaming services than it used to, but it still doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video.  It has some cool apps of it’s own like slideshows of the history of art, famous places around the world. And your personal  photos.

Other advantages to Apple TV is that, unlike other streaming devices, Apple TV 4K also supports HDR10 video, Dolby Vision HDR, Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi‑Fi connectivity.

A big plus in my book is the Apple TV interface and remote controller because they are so simple and easy to use.  

Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice   Picture of a TV screen with the Amazon order page for instant videos

If you’re an Amazon Echo user or a subscriber to Amazon Prime Video, you might want the Amazon streaming gadget – the new Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice. You can use it’s remote controller or any nearby Alexa device, to start showing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and other Amazon videos.  It also supports most of the other popular streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. At $39.99, it’s an affordable, high-quality streaming gadget.

Like other devices, it supports 4K and HDR-10 but it also supports Dolby Vision, an HDR format alternative to the more popular HDR-10.  In theory, Dolby Vision HDR is superior to HDR10 because of its potential to display more colors but you may not be able to see the difference.

Roku

Picture of a TV screen with the Roku menu

If you have an older TV that doesn’t offer streaming, the Roku Express+ for $39.99 can bring it up to speed. This device has composite A/V ports that work with older TVs.

Roku builds outstanding streaming devices and they have a simple interface that’s easy to use.  This year’s top Roku device is the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. It’s a simple stick and it supports 4K video, High Dynamic Range Video 10 (HDR10) and 802.11ac WiFi for only $59.99.

Like all Roku devices, it supports many more streaming services than its competitors so people who want to explore the hundreds of video services available will want this one.

The new Roku Premiere+ available from Walmart for $49.99 has most of the Stick Plus features and a good voice interface with audio control built into the remote but it only supports 802.11n at 2.4GHz so if your WiFi isn’t strong, it may not work well for you.

Nvidia Shield TV  Picture of the Nvidia Shield console device for gaming and streaming movies

Are You A Gamer?

If you want to both stream video and play games, you have many good choices including Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro or the Xbox One X, but for streaming, the Nvidia Shield (2017) is much cheaper at $179.  It does a great job of showing 4K and HDR video and you can use it to stream many services including Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu.

It also supports Google Assistant (because it runs the Android TV operating system).  The current model comes with a microphone, so you won’t need to buy an accessory to use Google Assistant.  However, Google assistant devices are pretty inexpensive and very useful in their own right so you might want to get one anyway. (More about assistants in another article coming soon.)

Hope this puts you “in the know” and helps you decide what, if anything, to buy.  

What streaming services do you use?  Do you have a streaming device?  Will you buy one now?

Please share in the comments below.

Enjoy!

Mardi

​Do You Use Skype or Face Time?

Why Use Skype?

Skype is an app that lets you connect with people using the video camera on your computer or mobile device.

Face Time does the same thing, but only works with Apple products. Even if you use Face Time, it’s a good idea to know how to use Skype as well. They are both very simple and easy to use and they are truly one of the best benefits of modern technology.

A friend of mine uses Skype to play checkers with her 9 yr. old grandson who lives out of state.

Parents use it to stay in touch with their children when they have to be away on business trips or vacations. They can read the children a bedtime story, watch them get tucked into bed, and throw them a kiss goodnight.

Several clients have had me show them how to use Skype for important job interviews. We practiced calling each other, chose the most flattering camera angle, picked the most attractive background, and discussed what to wear. It is so rewarding to see people gain confidence and be optimistic about getting the job!

Video chat is great for online dating and long-distance relationships too.

Businesses use Skype for video conferencing because they can have multiple people on a video call. They save a lot of money on air travel, hotels and meals.

On an internet enabled big screen TV, it can feel like you’re actually in the room with distant family members. You can even watch each other open Christmas presents!

On mobile phones, you can only use audio for group calls, but on your computer or internet enabled TV you can do video conference calls.

Skype also supports audio calls to traditional phones. Using Skype on your tablet or smartphone, you can call somebody on a regular telephone. This is really handy if you are traveling and don’t have access to phone service but do have access to wifi.

One of my clients who is retired from the Foreign Service, learned how to use Skype so he could stay in touch with his friends all over the world for free.

All of the features of Skype are free, except calling people on regular telephones. However, Skype phone calls are a lot less expensive than traditional long distance calls.

How to Use Skype

Skype is a free download from the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store and is already installed with Windows 10 and Window phones. (It’s owned by Microsoft.)

You need to have an account to use Skype. You can set up a free account or, if you already have a Microsoft account, you can just log in with that.

On iPads, iPhones, Android phones, and Android tablets, each version of Skype will look a little different but the functionality is the same. There are just a few minor differences on each device

When you login you will see three screens

  1. RECENT- shows the most list of people most recently talked to
  2. FAVORITES – shows the contacts you have marked as favorites
  3. PEOPLE – is your list of people you can call on Skype. They have to have an account also and they have to agree to be connected with you.

To Add a Contact

Search for the person in the Skype database. There are millions of people in the Skype database and lots of people with the same name…even unusual names. It’s amazing!

Therefore, the quickest and easiest way to find people is to search for their unique Skype name. Email address work sometimes too because there aren’t duplicates of those but it’s really easier to ask your person for their skype name.

When you find them, tap the button that says “add people.” Then tap “send a contact request.”

The person’s name will show up on your contact list but, they will not show up as online and accessible until they have accepted your request.

After they accept your request, you will be able to see their status next to their name, which lets you know when they are online for you to call them.

Note: some people leave the Skype app open all the time to receive calls. Other people text or email each other to set a time and then open the app. It depends on how often they use it.

To make a call

Select a contact and you will see buttons at the bottom of the screen. You can choose to do a video call or an audio call. They both work pretty much the same. Tap on the button for audio or video. The camera starts running right away so you can frame up your shot while you wait for the other person to pick up.

After you start talking, the buttons at the bottom of the screen will fade out of the way, but when you tap on the screen, they’ll pop up again.

You can mute and unmute your audio by hitting the mute button.

You can disable the camera by hitting the camera button if you want to talk and see them without them seeing you.

When you’re done, just hit the red hang up button.

To receive an incoming call

The app will make a sound and you will see a choice of buttons.

If you don’t want to answer a call, you can just hit the red button.

If you want to answer but only want to use audio, then hit the green button in the middle.

To see video and hear audio, hit the camera button.

To hang up, tap on the screen to bring up the controls and hit the red button

You can also use Skype to have a text chat.

On the screen, with a contact’s information, tap on the field that says “type a message”. Type and then hit the Send button. When he responds, you’ll see his response pop up.

Calling regular telephones

This feature is particularly useful when you’re traveling to a place where you won’t have a cellular phone connection, but you will have wifi.

This is called Voice Over IP, or VOIP. Using this feature, you can call a regular phone as long as you can connect to Skype on your mobile device.

This is the one feature that is not free but Skype is much less expensive than traditional long distance rates. To get an idea of the pricing options, check out their website. http://www.skype.com/en/

You can login to your Skype account on the website and add Skype credit to your account.

Or in the app on your mobile device, you can hit the “my account” button (top right), and there’s an option for “Skype credit”. This way, it’s an “in-app” purchase and it will be charged to your iTunes account or Play Store account. It will ask for your password for confirmation. Then hit “Buy”.

To make a call to a regular phone

At the bottom of the screen, there’s a dialer button and you can just dial a regular phone number. Also, there’s a button at the top that links directly to the address book on your device so you can find the person and tap on the number. When you hit the phone button at the bottom, it will dial. When he answers, you will be having a conversation just as if you were using a regular telephone. To hang up, just hit the red button at the bottom

Skype is a great app for video and audio calls because it runs on all mobile devices and computers no matter what platform. Group video calls are not available on mobile devices but video calls to individuals work.

I hope you will try this and enjoy it. If you need help, just let me know.

Please share this with your friends and relatives. Your referrals are the heart of my business and my mission is to help people more fully enjoy the many benefits of modern technology.

Thanks,

Mardi

See Your Computer on “The Big Screen”

Have you ever wished you could see your computer screen on a TV?  Would you like to see emails, web pages, photos slideshows, YouTube videos and movies on a big screen or display presentations for your business?

Well you can….and it can be pretty simple and inexpensive to set up.

The simplest method is Chromecast because you don’t have to know about ports and screen resolution settings.

chromeCast

A $35 Chromecast plugs into the TV and connects it to your Wi-Fi network. Then you can see video, images and pages from the Chrome web browser from any computer, smartphone or tablet that’s also on the network.  This is a very inexpensive solution and very easy to set up.  You can use Chromecast with a Mac too.  You will just need to use the chrome browser instead of Safari when connected to the TV.

If you want to see everything on your computer rather than just what’s shown in Google Chrome, you can do a direct connection.

DIRECT CONNECTION

There are four kinds of ports for direct connections.  HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI and VGA.

All newer TVs have HDMI, and that’s the one you ideally want to use because it supports HD (high definition).

Unfortunately, many computers don’t support HDMI

Computers that don’t have HDMI, will have either DVI or DisplayPort. If your computer has one of these, you can get an adapter to connect it to the HDMI port on your TV.

Inexpensive computers might have only VGA and it cannot do HD (high definition) images so you might want to use a better computer if you plan to stream movies online.

GETTING THE RESOLUTION RIGHT

Modern computers should be smart enough to figure out the right resolution, when you plug into a TV, especially if you’re using the HDMI port.

However, if you’re using an adapter or an older version of Windows, it might have to adjust the resolution.

Right-click on the computer desktop and select “Screen Resolution.” Select the TV and change the Resolution to 1920×1080 (unless you’re using a smaller or older TV, in which case it might be 1280×720).

You might be tempted to push the resolution higher, but don’t. Not only will it look terrible but a higher resolution actually makes everything on the screen look smaller.

video calls

PICKING A TV SIZE 

If you’re going to use a TV in a larger room, you want to make sure it’s easy to see. This handy chart will give you an idea of the size you’ll want based on the room length.

Distance Minimum size Maximum size
6 feet 24-inch screen 36-inch screen
8 feet 32-inch screen 48-inch screen
10 feet 40-inch screen 60-inch screen
12 feet 48-inch screen 72-inch screen

Even with a large TV, you might still have a hard time seeing smaller computer text from a distance. You can use CTRL + + (plus sign) in most programs to zoom in text and images. CTRL + – (minus sign) zooms back out, and CTRL + 0 (zero) resets the zoom. This is a great trick for watching on your regular computer monitor as well.

CONTROLLING THE COMPUTER

You can use a wired mouse and keyboard, but it’s more convenient to use a wireless mouse and keyboard so you can pass it around or give it to whomever is running a meeting in your office.

Be sure everyone knows how to turn off the mouse when it isn’t in use so you don’t waste the batteries. For business use, you might keep several on hand so you don’t have to interrupt a meeting to change batteries.

If you need help doing any of this, just call me for an appointment.  760-348-8867

If you have found this information helpful, please share it with others and encourage them to contact me to receive my Techie Tips on a regular basis.

Enjoy!

Mardi

%d bloggers like this: