Monthly Archives: January 2017

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By Chris Brass

Is it time for a new Roku? I’ve been a Roku user since the Roku XD but before trying out the Roku Premier my primary Roku was the Roku 2, a third gen product that rolled out after Roku started number based naming. This gave me a good starting point for where they’ve gone with this souped up version.

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The new Roku mobile app  looks like a digital version of its physical controller.
The new Roku mobile app looks like a digital version of its physical controller.

Roku is rolling out a new version of its mobile app that more closely mirrors its physical controller. The app, which will be available for IOS and Android, looks like a digital version of the physical controller sold with all Roku products.  Like the previous version of the app, the new one will allow users to access features like voice control, keyboard, launch channels through the app and play their own media. Other features include the ability to browse suggested TV shows and movies directly through the app.

The Roku mobile app has always been a popular way for users to add features to even the most basic Roku products. Many models do not feature the private listening option or voice search options.  Plus sometimes it is just so handy when you can’t find the actual remote.

One unadvertised benefits of the app is actually that it does not require line of site. This is very helpful for users who wish to keep a Roku unit out of view. While some Roku models will work perfectly behind a television others require users to be able to point the remote at the unit. But because the mobile app uses a wifi connection to communicate with the Roku this is not an issue.

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Most of the time when people talk about the fake news epidemic they are referring to fake stories about politics or medical studies. It has become an issue on Facebook and other social media sites and even a national news story. A real one. Fake news drives message boards, rumor sites and fuels blogs that have very little interest in reporting on anything that doesn’t show up in their inbox. In the home entertainment world, the results of poor reporting or fact checking are not going to topple a government or cause thousands to get sick. But you know what it does do? It hurts the credibility of those who work to do it right. In every industry.

I understand that not every story is the Watergate scandal but it is just embarrassing when a story breaks simply because nobody bothered to follow up with anyone of record. Recently there was a story bubbling up out of CES about a box “Made Just for Disney Content”. Heck, there was even a picture of it. One blogger on the show floor typed up a quick description of the device and of course the description was copied and pasted into dozens of “authoritative” sites without anybody really getting the story down. Why? Because just like other forms of electronic media it’s all about the clicks to most folks out there and not about telling a story or informing anyone. Shortly after the story began to grow legs the company that was featured in the bogus story reached out to say there is no Disney Streaming box coming, that the box was just a concept. A number of sites updated their info to say that the earlier reported information had been updated, within the story of course because you can’t miss out on those clicks. So there are still numerous headlines still proclaiming the Disney box aimed at kids etc. I won’t link to the stories, just google Disney Streaming Box and you will see what I’m talking about.

A few simple questions about the device would have stopped the bogus reporting from coming out. “Hey what is this thing?” “Is it part of a service?” “Why would Disney release its own box when their strategy is obviously all about distribution partnerships?” “Is there anyone who can tell me more about this thing?” Maybe ask oneself, why didn’t Disney break the announcement instead of waiting for someone to trip over it at CES?”

Reporting 101
Do you know how I confirmed that Amazon was working with partners to release new TV’s running the Fire TV OS? There were representatives from Amazon and the respective partner companies on site and I asked them to explain what was going on with the partnership. I got names, cards and recorded representatives on video in some cases. We all have this simple ability called asking questions and follow up questions. And just because we are reporting on tech does not mean that we have zero responsibility to know what we are talking about. In fact, so many people look to websites in order to learn about technology and trust what they read in print tech reporters can cost our readers time and money by feeding them nonsense without checking facts.

The blogosphere has got to grow up. Freedom of expression is important and using it correctly is more complicated than not shouting “Fire” at a movie theater. It’s about producing content that informs instead of confuses, It’s about headlines that actually represent the content that will be found in a story. Tell a story worth telling guys. Good reporting can be rewarded too. Not as fast as a slick, totally misleading headline can, but at least you will be doing a service and not degrading the tenuous reputation that the media clings to.

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CES can be a tiresome parade of technology that nobody asked for or needs, drones, impractical smart car tech and more. But this year turned out to be a big one for streaming led by some of the bigger names in the industry. Something big out of this year’s show is that OTA is getting a major push in the streaming space. The idea behind it is helping people streaming local channels.

We had a chance to see Air TV live in person at CES and made a video to share with everyone on YouTube. The Air TV system integrates OTA signals into the Sling TV interface and works on top of The Android TV platform. Take a look below.

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In North Carolina there are 2 things you learn about snow. It doesn’t do it often and when it does it creates quite a stir. And when I say a stir I actually mean everything comes to a halt. This year it snowed while we were at CES and shut down a number of flights. So what to do? This is a case for making lemons into lemonade. First off I looked into hotel prices in the area and found as I hoped that when the show is not in town it is very very easy to get a good room at a great price. I had always heard of that with Vegas but have only been during CES. I can say that it’s true. So to the Luxor we went. Josette, who pounded the pavement all week and sat in on the conference circuit “encouraged” me to get tickets to Chris Angel. I have not been to a magic show since I saw David Copperfield in Raleigh when I was a kid and I had a great time.

I also have had multiple chances to invest in time shares……….I mean vacation ownership. These guys are around every corner. Just know that if you go to Las Vegas and a hotel employee says “we would like to hel you get great tickets to a show etc, it is the beginning of a pitch. I’ve never done a sales meeting with one, but I understand that many do and actually get the tickets and such. Just make sure you don’t get swept into something impractical.

The thing about Las Vegas though is this. It’s an upside down world. Advertisers sell things you would never see marketed anywhere else. And even pancakes and whiskey are sold with the indication of adult activities in mind in not particularly coded language. But the thing is, when you go to one of these you realize that it could not be held anywhere else. No city could cram so many people into a space this small and have enough room, rooms or transportation for them in one couple of square block area. The cities people are warm and inviting straight down to the public employees. The bus drivers told us how to get around, the charter/shuttle drivers and Uber drivers aside from one NOTABLE exception, were friendly and picked up very quickly. Just a tip though, if a driver calls and tells you to cancel a ride make sure you contact Uber right away and politely ask for a refund. Some drivers will scam you into canceling a ride and hope you don’t realize that you can still be charged for it.

If not Uber, the city busses a really great way to travel the city. there are transit employees all over the strip to help direct you were to go and there are also announcements on the bus to explain where to transfer to other buses there are $20 passes that are good for 3 days that can be a real lifesaver when you can’t walk anymore and need to get 6 blocks in another direction,

This place is not for everybody, but if you learn to embrace whichever part if its lure appeals to your sense of adventure pretty much anyone can have a good time unless you hate crowds. Find the gems like The Art of Music nestled in the shopping area between the Luxor andMandalayy Bay. They have autograpghed pictures of tons of actors and musical stars but also have signed documents from Abraham Lincoln, Robert E Lee, George Patton, Davey Crocket and more. Though I must say, I would not bring the kids, I mean really people.

So while I’m going to Carolina in my mind, for now, it’s whiskey tonight.

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The Mohu Airwave is the new wireless antenna from Mohu. This is an exciting product for anyone looking to use an antenna along with any of the big streaming platforms. The thing that makes the antenna stand out is that it is a full antenna that can operate and beam signals to your television from anywhere in the home that you place it. See a demo Video at the bottom of the story. In other words, it does not have to be plugged into a TV like other antennas. This means that you can put the Mohu Air Wave where ever it works best without the need for any other equipment other than a place to plug it in.

How does it do that?
The Air Wave pulls in signals the same way any antenna does. Using its amplifier and some new innovations to optimize picture quality the Air Wave pulls signals from over the air. But then it sends the signals to other devices using Wifi or an Ethernet connection. The devices which at the start will include IOS, Android, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV devices will use a free Mohu app to play back the signals will have Mohu apps for the device.

How do you set your channels?
The App serves as the entire interface for the device. Within the app you will be able to find the antenna and connect it to your network, enter your zip code and scan for channels. Once that is done the app provides a responsive EPG guide (channel grid) that lists programming with MetaData info. 

Other Features
Being connected to the Internet gives Mohu another nice option. It will feature Internet-based channels as well. There is not a full listing of those available but we saw a few in action and they felt like terrestrial channels. The Air Wave also offers close captioning when available and a “My Channels” section where users can save their favorites to a personalized lineup.

See our video for a quick Demo.

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By Josette Downey
Associate Editor

Think & Learn Smart Cycle®

Fisher Price unveiled the Think & Learn Smart Cycle® at Pepcom Monday in Las Vegas, promising an interactive learning platform for preschoolers that will also channel a young child’s energy.
The smart cycle, with a suggested retail price of 149.99, allows preschoolers to peddle their way through several interactive educational games learning letters and numbers. One game allows a child to pretend they are driving a race car while they swoop up letters in an attempt to learn their alphabet.
Parents who are already used to the streaming world and might own either an Apple’s, Amazon’s or Google’s streaming device will find that they can easily download apps from their respective app stores for the Smart Cycle and use them. Which means the preschooler could easily pick up the remote or cellphone and pull up the apps on their own.
Through their own research, Fisher-Price found that children spend at least 19 hours a week on TV or other electronic devices. The Think & Learn Smart Cycle  could be an attempt to tackle the ever-growing childhood obesity problem in the United States while helping children master early learning skills.
“Inspired by the insight that preschoolers learn best and retain more when they’re active and having a good time, we’ve reimagined the Think & Learn Smart Cycle for a new generation of children,” said Nitya Madhavan, Vice President of Marketing, Fisher-Price. “We hope today’s families will be excited for this platform that channels preschoolers’ energy and their fascination with technology to make learning fun!”

Key Features

  • A Bluetooth® technology connection that allows for play on a tablet or TV for an even more immersive experience
  • Four learning apps for download focused on literacy, STEM exposure, math skills, and science and social studies, and more to come in 2018
  • App content synched to the speed of pedaling, putting kids in control of their learning
  • The ability to save game play within the app so kids can pick-up where they left off
  • A dashboard for parents within the app to measure their child’s learning progress

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New programming is headed to Amazon Video, Prime and Channel this January.  Amazon Video

Available on Amazon Prime, for drama lovers will be the first seasons of Amazon’s original shows Sneaky Pete and Z: The Beginning of Everything. The kids can enjoy Just Add Magic (season two) and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (season seven).  PBS’s hit drama series Mercy Street and season two of BBC’s Irish drama series, Red Rock will also be joining the lineup.
Through Amazon Video enjoy films like, The Girl on the Train and The Accountant. Hit TV series like Bones (season twelve), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season twelve) and Sleepy Hollow (season four) will also be available. Viewers can also purchase new titles Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Riverdale (season one).

Below is a full listing of program and start dates.

New in January – Available for Streaming on Prime
TV Season Start Date
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood 7 1/2/17
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt 1 1/9/17
Sneaky Pete * (AMAZON ORIGINAL) 1 1/13/17
Just Add Magic * (AMAZON ORIGINAL) 2 1/13/17
Red Rock 2 1/17/17
The A-Word 1 1/17/17
America Divided 1 1/26/17
Z: The Beginning of Everything * (AMAZON ORIGINAL) 1 1/27/17
Mercy Street 2 1/29/17
Movies Start Date
13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi 1/1/17
Across the Universe 1/1/17
Happy Feet 1/1/17
Rent 1/1/17
Hellboy (2004) 1/1/17
Radio (2003) 1/1/17
Stardust 2007 1/1/17
American History X 1/1/17
Norm of the North 1/1/17
Are We There Yet 1/1/17
Are We Done Yet 1/1/17
Maid in Manhatten 1/1/17
She’s All that 1/3/17
The Infiltrator 2016 1/9/17
Where to Invade Next 1/22/17
The Choice 1/23/17
Dirty Grandpa 1/27/17
Swiss Army Man 1/30/17
Key: * = Prime Video is exclusive streaming home
New in January – Available for Streaming on Amazon Video
TV Season Start Date
Bones 12 1/4/17
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 12 1/5/17
Sleepy Hollow 4 1/7/17
Riverdale 1 1/27/17
Movies Start Date
The Girl on the Train (2016) 1/3/17
Ouija: Origin of Evil 1/10/17
Deepwater Horizon 1/10/17
The Accountant (2016) 1/10/17
Inferno (2016) 1/24/17
New in January – Available for Streaming on Amazon Channels
TV Season Provider Start Date
Young Pope 1 HBO 1/15/17
Black Sails 4 STARZ 1/29/17

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HDR makes its way to Nvidia

Nvidia Announced a new Nvidia Shield TV updating its already powerful set-top box to support 4k HDR. Like the previous model, the box, which will ship with both a game controller and a remote control for TV-centric viewing will offer users the ability to play high-end computer games and watch internet based video in the highest quality possible. Adding both a game controller andremote control is a nice touch

Sheild TV will be the first Android TV system to feature Amazon Video.
Sheild TV will be the first Android TV system to feature Amazon Video.

for the product which before only shipped with a game controller. The big headline for Android TV fans may be that the new Shield, and current gen product will support Amazon Video. This is a first for Android TV devices and a major win for Nvidia. Google Assistant will also be integrated into the device accessible through a microphone that can be positioned anywhere in the home to answer questions and perform tasks. Unlike the rest of the Shield TV’s peripherals, the microphone is sold separately. Current Nvidia Shield models wil get access to Amazon Video via a software update expected before the month is out. We will have more on the new Shield coming soon.