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Done with CableTV and Paid Streaming Services for 2023?

Hello and Happy New Year folks. It is the end of 2022. What’s in store for 2023? Will you be watching television (in a play of words, some Caribbean folks call it “tell lie vision“)? If you will, what methods ( cable, antenna, satellite, stream ) or services will you use?

 

Target Audience

Few teens through thirties watch live television. They often use their televisions and large screen monitors for playing online video games, on-demand streaming, watching YouTube videos, and other social “streaming” networks. They and others who don’t watch TV at all are not my target audience. If you are someone who watches 3 or more hours of TV each week or have children under 13 who you watch PBS or other educational programming on TV with, read on. The rest of you might have no idea about the following “Weakest Link” TV show reference but “goodbye”.

You may have a smart phone on which you use some the Internet but don’t care about having or paying for home Internet. You are also excused because getting Internet just to get a cable TV alternative defeats the purpose. For the rest of us, home Internet is a utility.

 

Background

The monthly rates of cable TV services and the paid streaming services that include [some of the] local broadcast TV have been going up and is expected to increase again in 2023.

The term “cord cutting“, “cutting the cord“, “cutting cable” and other jargons meant going away from paid TV subscriptions. Cord-cutting is not a great term if taken literally because, unless you use alternate power like solar and newer fixed wireless / satellite services, you still have power and Internet cables coming into the home but I digress. We’ll consider it for what it was intended and that is cancelling paid multi-channel TV subscription services.

Cable TV subscription prices continue to go up because they can and because more and more people have become “cord-cutters“. The major Internet companies are the cable companies. Satellite TV is dying. You remove cable TV and Internet price increases in some cases, though still less than having both combined. Those of us who wish for more live cable TV-like programming to watch regional and national sports in addition to the local news and programming that OTA antenna allows have caused certain things to be set into motion over the years. Network conglomerates have created their up with their own “streaming packages” that, if you combine 3-5 of them, costs as much as cable TV. In addition, it gave rise to other non-network conglomerates coming up with so-called “skinny bundles” which are also quite expensive. Aside from those, more and more IPTV providers ( mostly underground or unvetted ) have popped up, some “loaded” on to firesticks or other boxes and a monthly subscription charge applied.

Those of us who have decided we won’t pay for expensive Cable TV, conglomerate streaming, or “skinny bundle” services anymore with the $40 – $150 monthly price tag for hundreds of channels that we do not care about, which include ads mind you, have another option.

The way I see it, if I am going to pay for ads anyway, why not consider the cheaper alternative which also shows ads.

The cheapest alternative is to add an inexpensive indoor ( if you live in the city within 30 miles of most network towers ) or outdoor ( if you live in mountainous / rural terrain ) antenna.

A better alternative requires an antenna and a TV with a digital (ATSC) tuner ( any flat TV bought the past 15 years or so ) and home Internet.

 

The Requirements

1. A Roku or Amazon FireTV 

2. Internet access

3. An antenna – for local channels you have access to ( you normally pay for these dearly in the cable TV / “skinny bundles” offerings )

4. An hour or two of patience for initial setup

5. Understanding that you won’t get the tier 1 cable networks that you’re used to

6. Understanding that you won’t get[any or some of] the sports channels for your favorite teams

 

Television: Roku or Amazon Fire smart TV

A smart TV allows you to connect to the Internet so it has Wi-Fi and/or an RJ-45 (ethernet) jack to connect by “wire” (cable) to your Internet router.

If you do not have a smart TV then you need a box that connects to your TV using an HDMI cable. There are many options but we’ll focus only on Roku box or Fire TV device ( Firestick, etc.).  These can be picked up for $15 – $35 from a nearby store or on Amazon.com.

 

Internet Access: 25 Mbps download

If you already have 25 Mbps or more Internet, good for you.  If you don’t, it gets tricky.  The Internet providers are often the cable / phone companies. However, there are increasing choices from wireless companies like Verizon and T-Mobile, satellite companies like StarLink ( I won’t mention the founder and CEO in case you are one of the left / right political extremists who have a beef with Twitter ).  Obviously if you do not see the use for home Internet, and I don’t know anyone under 80 who doesn’t ( having a smart phone alone gives you Internet access )

You should have 25 Mbps down / 1 Mbps+ up – for Roku Live TV or Fire TV Live channels. You can get away with slower 10 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up but will struggle watching high-resolution videos OR streaming videos on more than 1 device.

Antenna : for local channels

The antenna can be Indoor or outdoor depending on where you live and can cost $8 – $90 depending on indoor / outdoor and amplifier included or not. Ignore those ridiculous claims of 100 – 500 mile range by many of those antenna manufacturers / sellers. Typical ranges are 20 miles to 60 miles, meaning the antenna is capable of picking up channels 20 – 60 miles away from the broadcast towers. 

Also ignore the nonsensical “HD / 4K” antenna marketing ploy. Antennas from way back in the analog ages will pick up analog or digital channels. It depends on how far you are from the broadcast towers.

If you do need an outdoor antenna because you live far from broadcast towers, or hilly or vegetative terrains, make sure the antenna has no obstructions, so use a very long pole or mount on top of the roof and test the power by turning the antenna in the direction of the majority of broadcast towers.

 

Patience: to get the best of your setup

You will need at least an hour or two for initial setup. If you only need local channels, it’s easy. Set up the antenna, plug in the coaxial cable into the mail adapter at the back of your TV, use your TV remote to scan for channels and, viola, you are done. If you don’t get enough channels, move ( for indoor ) or turn ( for outdoor ) until you get better reception. Rescan if necessary.

If you have Roku TV or Fire TV ( like a Firestick ), add apps ( Roku calls them “channels” ) like PlutoTV, PLEX, RokuTV ( if using Fire TV ), Prime (if using Roku ).

Use the Live TV option to watch or go directly to the apps / “channels” to watch Live TV.  On a smart TV, Roku TV integrates the local channels from the antenna into the guide so it is no different from watching cable TV.

Ten apps available on both platforms that are FREE with FREE live streaming that you should consider with your Roku TV / Fire TV include:

  1. General Purpose
    1. Pluto TV
    2. Amazon FreeVee (used to be IMDB TV)
    3. Roku Channel
    4. Xumo
  2. News
    1. Amazon News
    2. Very Local
  3. Other
    1. Crackle
    2. Airy TV
    3. Tubi
    4. Peacock

No Tier 1 Networks Live: free is not free

Be ready for ads. Understand that many companies behind all these free options are about making money and they do so with ads. A few of them have “premium” options where you pay a few dollars subscription each month with the added benefit of having no ads on non-live TV streaming and some have additional “on-demand” services that can be bought. 

Typical cable TV subscription includes local channels and tier 1 / tier 2 network programming, you won’t get local / broadcast programming from your region except with an antenna as I described above, For me and many who I know, a cable subscription with 150 channels is loaded with “nonsense” channels we don’t watch from both the Tier 1 and Tier 2 lineup. When I had cable TV, I watched PBS, major local networks ( ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC ), ESPN, and maybe 5 more channels each month though I had 180.

With the options I have shared, you will get 200 – 500 channels, mainly “step-sibling” of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 ones offered through cable TV and many others. In one month, I have watched maybe 20 of the 300+ I have.

 

In Summary

If any of you have other legal ( authorized / vetted ) free options that you use, please comment. Keep in mind that I am well-aware that there are tens of other IPTV options for “free” or $3 to $60 / month that claim to offer 500 – thousands (yes thousands) of channels, some including the same ones you get from cable.  However, I am not interested because they are not offered / vetted within the Roku or Fire TV stores and some force you to accept sharing your personal info, network, resources before you can use.

In this day and age, where unscrupulous characters can do severe damage with our personal information, the perception of “privacy should be important to all of us and therefore we should avoid those. I say “perception” because there really is no privacy unless you go to live on a remote island where no ship / boat or airplane can reach and there is no communication whatsoever. Remember that the schools have our info, the utility companies, the Internet companies, cell service providers, email providers, social networks, current and former employers, insurance companies, hospitals, doctor’s offices, credit card companies, and the government. Unfortunately, they can be hacked and have been hacked. While they are not 100% trustworthy,  we feel better about them having some or all our personal info than the scum of the earth scammers and hackers.

 

Thinking about moving on from cable TV or expensive “skinny bundles“? If so, welcome to the world of watching OTA broadcasts with an antenna and free live streaming.

Citizens beware of scammers; Scammers people are on to you

Good day.  If you or any loved one live in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, or Australia, you need to watch these videos. Scum… er… Scammers continue to run amok, bilking unsuspecting people from hundreds, thousands, to tens of thousands of dollars daily, and occasionally over a hundred thousand, often the people’s entire life savings.  Some of the people, when the find out they have been scammed go into depression as the money doesn’t get recovered, some even committing suicide.  Yes, scammers have caused people to commit suicide.

The Scammers from within those countries themselves are terrible but, worse, are the scammers from the following regions:

  1. Africa –> mainly Nigeria
  2. Asia –> mainly India
  3. Caribbean –> mainly Jamaica

Understand that the vast majority of people from those countries are law-abiding people, would NEVER scam anyone, and do not support such behavior.  The Africans, Asians, and Caribbean people I know, are all appalled at the behavior of these scammers from their region or country.

But, there is some good news.  There are people getting arrested, scam centers and operations (from home/offices) getting shut down, and few scammers turning “informant” against their own operations.

Africa – Nigeria

Asia – India

https://youtu.be/9gjr_VSmaQY

Caribbean – Jamaica

Selling Online – ECommerce Platform Comparison

You wish to start your own eCommercie site but don’t know how to go about it?  Check out http://youtube.com and search for “starting my own ecommerce business” or “selling products online” and watch a few of those videos.

If you are new to this whole eCommerce thing, you are looking for:

  1. a domain name – e.g. blahblahblahblah.com
  2. an ecommerce platform to host your site

Domain Name

There are many places to get a domain name, including some of the ecommerce platforms themselves. However, a few you might have heard of are http://networksolutions.com, http://godaddy.com, or http://namecheap.com (usually among the lower prices).

ECommerce Site

For monthly ecommerce hosting, there are many platforms to choose from. I am selecting 5 of the lowest-cost ones that excel in one aspect or another.  Review each of the five and select the one that is best suitable for based on what is important to you (pricing or features or price to feature), as of January 24, 2021.

Ecwid
Ecwid Venture plan
Venture plan – 15/mo

BigCommerce
BigCommerce Essential – Standard
Essential Standard – 29.99/mo

GoDaddy
GoDaddy ECommerce (WooCommerce) – 15.99/mo

Shopify
Shopify – Basic Shopify
Basic Shopify – 29/mo

Wix
Wix Business Basic
Business Basic – 23/mo

 

Shopify – most popular and usually jighest rated but expensive

EcWid – might be best option in in terms of features to price

The Cryptocurrency Craze

Twenty-Seventeen (2017), particularly the 2nd half of 2017, saw a cryptocurrency (crypto currency) craze akin to the stock and penny stock crazy of 1999 – 2001.  The similarities are numerous.  The hype and resulting frenzy have been so huge that I see it daily on TV, on the Internet, and with coworkers. I even get non-computer relatives and bredren (friends) asking me about “bitcoin”.  Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot. I know the basics (the 10,000 foot level) and will I’ll attempt to articulate that, supported by a bit of research, here.

Cryptocurrency

At the risk of losing meaning due to oversimplification, I’ll first summarize what the so-called “cryptocurrency” is. A  cryptocurrency (crypto currency), sometimes referred to as a cryptocoin :

  • is ‘digital asset (currency) so there is no physical “money” or “coin” even when that’s part of the nomenclature (e.g. bitcoin).
  • is “monetary” exchange
  • uses cryptography (see cryptography in the computer era) to secure transactions, control creation of additional “coins”, and verify transfer of assets between parties
  • were originally “mined” (using a computer or “rig” of computer video cards to perform complicated algorithms that get more and more difficult and less cost-effective to the miner as more coins are mined) but can be offered pre-mined these days, This is the bullet point that makes this entire cryptocurrency thing complicated and I am not helping much here.  I recommend further reading on this as that’s a whole topic and would require me to do further research to understand and break it down properly.

Cryptography

Cryptography or cryptology is a practice used for secure communication, preventing peeking eyes and computers/programs from sniffing the private messages.

Cryptography prior to the modern age was effectively synonymous with encryption, the conversion of information from a readable state to apparent nonsense. The originator of an encrypted message shared the decoding technique needed to recover the original information only with intended recipients, thereby precluding others from doing the same.

Enters BitCoin and AltCoins

The first decentralized cryptocurrency was Bitcoin. Some now call it Bitcoin core since there is another recently-created cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash.  Bitcoin, created in 2009, was the first decentralized cryptocurrency. Subsequent cryptocurrencies are called altcoins (alternative coin). Popular altcoins include Etherium, Ripple, LiteCoin, and Bitcoin Cash but there are hundreds (thousands even) of altcoins. I would not be surprised if the majority of these become worthless, and the frequency at which new ones are created drop drastically, within a year or two as the hype subsides and regulations are put in place… at which point only a handful will reign supreme.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are decentralized unlike centralized electronic money and central banking systems. The decentralized control is related to the use of bitcoin’s blockchain (block chain) transaction database.

Bitcoin block data representation

The ICO

The Intial Coin Offering ICO is kinda similar to the stock Initial Public Offering (IPO) in that it can be a source of capital.  However, it has some differences in that it’s more like kickstarter (crowdfunding) campaigns in the form of cryptocurrencies.  The cryptocurrency from the ICO is pre-allocated to the “investor” in the form of [digital] tokens… The investor does not own part of the company if there is a company behind the ICO, just the digital currency.

A software developer, group of developers, or a company comes up with a new cryptocoin and pre-sells an amount to investors prior to launch. They may swap these digital tokens for money (often USD) or another established cryptocurrency like pioneer bitcoin. This early investment may fund development and help kick-start the coin’s circulation. After all, no currency is very useful if it just sits in the wallets of a few people.

Similar to Penny Stocks

1. Many uneducated investors see it as a low-investment, high-return mechanism. Put in $100 – $1000 into at a low-value venture, follow the wave of hype (or create some themselves – illegal), and hope the hype will see the price go up by astronomical multiples. That has happened, especially in 2017.

2. Most are unregulated because the “industry” is complex. Not many people (including me) understand it enough, outside some serious computer scientists and a few others. Many investors do not understand ICOs and cryptocurrencies in general, even less than I do.  This is similar to penny stocks and the various exchanges, especially before brokerage firms / online brokerages were forced to allow investors to put limit orders on penny stocks.

3. investors in ICOs salivate at the prospect of the ICO project or company becoming a hit, thus making the coin it uses a sought-after commodity and making them rich.

4. Like Penny Stocks, if enough above-ground (but often underground) hype is created around the future prospects of the venture, or its coin, others may want to buy in, bidding up the price and allowing earlier investors to exit at a profit.

5. Like with Penny Stocks, if nobody buys, then the project fails and the coin becomes worthless.

6. These cryptocurrencies are very volatile like Penny Stocks. The earlier investors often buy just before or at the beginning of the hype, then make out like villains when the price shoots upwards.

6. They are decentralized

What Should You Do

  1. I am not even 1% qualified to give anyone financial advice but even less so in terms of cryptocurrencies. I have not invested in cryptocurrencies and have no immediate plans or near-term plans to do so.  If I was an investor looking to get in on these ICOs or any other security, I would have to
  2. read up on the business, the industry, the cryptocurrency/ies I might be interested in. Then I’d read again.
  3. speak to an investment adviser, especially one who understands ICOs and cryptocurrencies.
  4. invest ONLY in legal ventures. Many of these are legal in the USA but not in some other countries where they are partially or totally banned.
  5. ONLY invest money I don’t need, money that I can afford to lose completely without affecting my bills and the ability to feed my family.

Here’s a satirical youtube video about the largest and most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. This was shared by a bredren of mine who actually invests in the altcoins.