Tag: Apple 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

Great Apps for Computers and

Apps are not just for smartphones and tablets. Many apps are web based and accessed through your web browser. You don’t have to have a smart phone or tablet to use some of the most popular apps.

However, when people buy smartphones or tablets, they often ask me what apps they should know about.  I’m always happy to make suggestions based on antheir lifestyle and interests.

Since you may have received a gadget as a holiday gift, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about a few of my favorites apps and programs. You may already be using some of these but you may discover some new ones to try. Enjoy!

Entertainment and Media:   

NetflixNetflix let’s you watch an unlimited number movies and television shows online for only $8.95 mo. You can train it to make suggestions for you based on the movies you watch and how you rate them.  You can even set up separate profiles for individual family members!  And, there are no commercials!!!

You can connect your gadget to your TV and watch movies on it too.

chromeCast

 

Chromecast from Google $35


roku

Roku Streaming Stick $50

 

appleTvApple TV $99


spotify

 

Spotify let’s you listen to music for free.  It even has playlists by subject or genre. The variety is astounding and there are no commercials!!!

 

YouTube

 

YouTube is a must for doing research on any topic that can be best explained with a video.  Think recipes, repairing things, movie previews, songs, lyrics, instructional videos, and answers to absolutely any question under the sun.

shazam

Shazam listens to songs on the radio, TV or movies. It identifies the song title, shows you the performer, album, lyrics and links you to sites where you can purchase.

 

 

Productivity:

dropboxDropbox is a great app for cloud storage and sharing.  When you put files in there, you can access them from anygadget or computer.  I use the phone app to play audio files of lectures and seminars. It’s super easy to learn and you get 2GB of storage for free.  By referring your friends to Dropbox, you can earn up to 16GB of additional space.  Sign up here

 

office 365

One of the most popular productivity tools for home and business is Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, Office documents don’t always play nice with third-party apps. Now Microsoft has released the Microsoft Office Mobile app.   It lets you open, create and perform basic editing on Word, Excel and PowerPoint files no matter where you are.

 

mintMint.com and its app  (Free, and available for Android and iOS) links to your all your bank accounts, credit card accounts and loans so you always know just how much money you have and how you are spending it. You can set up spending categories and create a budget for each category. I love it for keeping track of my income and expenses for paying my taxes.

 

The weather channelThe Weather Channel app and weather.com show you the current temperature, the hourly forecast and the next 10 days of weather.  Also you get a customizable radar map, video clips, severe weather alerts and beach conditions. It’s better than your gadget’s built-in weather app.

 

 

free wifi finder

You don’t want to burn through your cellular data plan when you are out and about or on a trip, so you need to useWi-Fi whenever possible. You can find free Wi-Fi locations with the Free Wi-Fi Finder app.

 

Dating:

match

 

Match.com app has earned the top spot in dating apps and is my favorite.

 

 

pof-logo

 

POF.com (Plenty of Fish) is very popular here in the desert and is free.

 

google mapsNavigation:

Google Maps is my favorite navigation app.  I especially appreciate that it invites you to submit corrections.  Youget an email thanking you for your help and then a follow up email when the corrections have been made.

uberUber is an app-based transportation network that uses a smartphone application to receive ride requests, and then sends these trip requests to their drivers. Customers love using the app to request rides and to track their reserved vehicle’s location.  Uber’s drivers use their own cars and there is a variety of types of vehicles available, from Town Cars to SUVs and more.  One of my friends is a driver for Uber and just loves it.  It’s a win-win for everybody.

Other Popular Apps

Here are some other popular apps that I don’t find the time to use very often, but you might enjoy.

Save Money  

RetailmenotThe RetailMeNot app helps you find promo codes and coupons for more than 50,000 physical and online stores, including grocery stores. You can save and store coupons for later, and share the savings with your friends through social media.

 

 

Photo EditingSnapseed-icon-medium

Snapseed is the top app for photo-editing and VSCO Cam is gaining ground in popularity.

Social and Sharing

Pinterest

 

Pinterest, WhatsApp and Snapchat are the top apps in messaging and texting.

 

instagram

 

Instagram and Facebook are considered the must-haves for social sharing. The Facebook app got me interestedin using Facebook more often because it is so easy to use.

Sports

watchESPN

 

WatchESPN.com is the most popular app for sports fans.

 

 

 

Fitness

MyFitnessPal is the top fitness app.my fitness pal

 

 

 

 

Do you have any favorite apps to share?

There are thousands of apps and recommendations from friends is the best way to sort through the maze.  Do you have some favorite apps not mentioned here?  Post your comments below so everyone can benefit from your ideas.

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