Who Says You Need a TV Service Provider to have a DVR?

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Back in February, I wrote a multi-part blog series on cutting the cable television cord. In that series, Step 3 was Setting up an Optional Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for over the air (OTA) programming. In July, I did this myself. Now it’s September and I’ve had a couple of months to get accustomed to this new TV paradigm. I’d like to share my experiences with you.

First, I bought the TabloTV 4-Tuner whole-house DVR from Nuvyyo (Kanata, Ontario). I’ve discovered that the concept of “whole house DVR” takes my friends and family two or three times of hearing it before they finally get it. The easiest way to explain it is this: the box sits next to the router and has the antenna connected directly to it. I can watch it anywhere I can get on the WiFi, with my iPad or Android tablet.

Second, I began wanting to view the content on my large TV so I bought a Roku 1 and downloaded the Tablo app onto it. When I launched it, it automatically found my Tablo, being on the same subnet in the house. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) felt natural for the Roku, but was different from the iPad app. It didn’t take me long at all to find some shows that I had already recorded. Watching them was a breeze.

In the mornings, I tend to watch live TV, such as news and weather, but in the evenings I only watch recordings from earlier. I use my Roku almost exclusively to watch the content because I like the large picture and full sound. If you have a new AppleTV, you can use Airplay to watch the content from your iPad. Google’s Chromecast is supposed to work, too, but I don’t have any experience with it.

Even though I love having it, and saving the $100+ a month from having dropped cable TV, I still found the software lacking, albeit serviceable. The mental list got so long, I captured it on the TabloTV community forum thread here. I really would like to see a full 9-12 months of feature and functionality improvements on their GUI before they begin to call it stable.

But I have no regrets with my choice and, for the money I’m saving, I have been able to adapt and overcome the withdrawals of having 200 channels and a DVR. Now I have TabloTV plus Roku with Netflix, Amazon Prime, WatchESPN, Hulu+, A&E, History, NFL Now and Qello to keep me entertained.

If you decide to go this route, do yourself a favor and bump up to the 4-tuner model, rather than skimp on the 2-tuner. You’ll be resolving conflicts left and right if you don’t. But you certainly don’t need to pay ridiculous prices to have television piped into your home and a DVR. Go antenna plus Tablo and save big.

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NFL Needs the San Antonio Raiders

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With all of the recent difficulties in the NFL, including player behavioral issues off the field, the league’s bad boy team, the Oakland Raiders, don’t get much respect from their fan base. They should move.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, and one team is consistently the worst supported in the league — the Oakland Raiders. Oakland has had its difficulties getting fan attendance, moving to Los Angeles and back again. But as big as L.A. and Oakland are, their stadiums have always been underfunded and the fans showed weak support for pro football, as witnessed by the Raiders waffling and the departure of the Rams in 1995.

So let’s look at the absence of Alameda County residents at their home games. The last several years, Oakland has only been able to muster 50,000 fans per home game, worst in the league, compared to the average of 68,000. Even “small” market cities, such as Buffalo and New Orleans, each with 1.1M people, can muster 66K and 72K fans per home game, respectively.

But the Raiders have a good, recognizable brand, and their merchandise is often purchased in the most surprising of cities around the globe, even if it is favored by those in “rough” neighborhoods. So rather than fold, they should move to a city that would respect them.

If I owned the Raiders, I would would relocate them to San Antonio. Why?

1) Fanbase. There are 3.5 million people in the San Antonio / Austin area. If just 2% of that population attend the home games, they would be in the top 1/3 of of NFL teams for home attendance. The have the fan base potential.

2) Freaks. People in Texas just love football — they’re freaks for it. Boys grow up playing Pop Warner. College football loyalty is fierce. Old ladies watch it on Saturdays. The Alamo Bowl brings in over 65,000 fans every time a Texas-based university is invited.

3) Space. San Antonio and Austin are just an hour drive from each other, so a new stadium located in the space between then, say, near New Braunfels, will easily find room to construct a 21st century, 80,000-seat stadium and will fill from both the north and the south on I-35.

San Antonio and Austin can jointly support an NFL franchise, placed smartly near New Braunfels.

San Antonio and Austin can jointly support an NFL franchise, placed smartly near New Braunfels.

4) SeparatedSan Antonio is 175 miles from the Houston Texans stadium and 250 from the Dallas Cowboys stadium. Those two teams don’t have to worry too much about fan loss with the appearance of a new franchise. Besides, Dallas has an overabundance of fans and can spare a few from the south.

5) Attitude. San Antonio can pull off the Raiders’ attitude. With their Wild West and Alamo history, plus Austin’s “Keep It Weird” approach to life, there is enough swagger there to make themselves Raiders fans with their ‘tude.

With all the troubles in the NFL, it’s time for a surprise move, if only for a wake-up call to lazy NFL fans who don’t go support their local team. Move the Raiders to San Antonio and leave the Al Davis era behind.

TabloTV works, but the UI needs help

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In June I installed my 4-tuner TabloTV box and set it off recording several shows from over-the-air (antenna) transmissions. This past week I finally got a Roku 1 and installed the TabloTV app (a.k.a. “channel”) and used it for a day before putting together this fairly lengthy list of suggestions for their User Interface, which needs some work.

http://community.tablotv.com/discussion/comment/5236/#Comment_5236

In no particular order…

Delete All. When browsing the recordings, select a set “e.g. Monk” and delete all the recordings at one time.

Simpler Delete. When I’m on a single recording (on Roku), it takes 6 button presses to delete it. Give me a setting to disable Delete Confirmation — I’m willing to risk the accidental delete.

Automatic Bookmark. While I’m watching a show, set bookmarks automatically so when I stop and come back (even from another device), I can Resume watching from where I left off, or Restart the show.

FF/RW Preview. Give me thumbnails while fast forwarding or rewinding so I know where I’m at.

Sort By Space Used. When viewing recordings, all me to sort by size, or space used on the HD. When I need to free up disk quickly, I’d like to go find the set that I can blow away to make more space.

Sort By Watched. Create three sort groups: Watched, In Progress (or Watching), New (or Not Watched).

Number Circles. Use numbers in circles to indicate how many recordings (or potential shows) are in each title. Model after iPhone apps.

Recording Timestamp. Show date and time with a recording. The Roku app shows every show as being 29 minutes long, e.g. RallyCross Daytona; Channel 17-1 at 2:30 pm – 2:59 pm. This was a 1hr 5m race. And there is no date.

Search. Find “McQueen”. Find “Eastwood”. Find “Ron Howard”. Find “Carolina Panthers”. This is a “search” generation. Organization is for old people.

Watched Icon. Show me that I’ve already watched something and didn’t delete it.

Extended Start/Stop. Give us the option of putting some time before or after shows.

Next Show: When looking at the options for a single episode, provide a Next button to go to the next show in the set. This can help during binge watching to prevent having to go back, over, select, play.

Stars: These are currently a mystery. All I ever see is gray stars on a show. I can’t set them and I don’t know what they mean.

Eliminate Placeholder Icons. Many shows have no photo icon so you put a placeholder that looks lame. At least make an effort. For example, a movie on TV was “Wild West”, starring Naveen Andrews. How about a getting a photo of him, since he’s listed first in the actor credits? Or “Carolina Outdoor Journal”, even though it has no description, it says the Genre is “Outdoors/Nature”. How about a picture of trees? You get the idea.

Actually Read More. If I click “Read More”, I should see as much as possible, but some info is not put on the More screen, such as Runtime, Director, Genre, Copyright Year, and Major Actor List. More should be more, not less.

Thinner Banner. On Roku, the Tablo banner uses up 15% of the screen space. Slim it down to about half that and use your space more effectively.

Put Actors/Directors in Menu. When I select a show, I see Play, Read More and Delete menu options. I also can read actors names and the director. Why not make those part of the menu and use them as Search when clicked. Example: I just watched a David Attwood directed movie and liked it. Let me click his name on that menu.

Relocate the Recording Date/Time. Don’t put it in the top banner where I’m trained to ignore. Put it down below with the Genre.

Sports Icons. All the sports shows have film icons. Cant you at least make icons for each sport? Baseball, Football, Tennis, Golf, Auto Racing, Bicycle Racing, etc.

Record Now. If I find something on live TV that I like, but don’t have time to watch, allow me to start recording from this screen. Perhaps the * menu on the Roku. Use the already buffered video as the start point.

Remember Close Caption. It seems that closed caption is always off and I must turn it on for every show.

Scheduled Airings Need Timestamp/Sorting. When I look at the scheduled items for Today, Tomorrow, Next Week, I can’t tell when they will get recorded. Needs to be in the cartoon balloon on Roku. On iPad, they need to be grouped and sorted.

Tighten Up Live TV List. On Roku, I have tons of white space and would to do more reading and less scrolling. Tighten it up and use all of the space, perhaps showing the next few half hours.

Limit Recordings per Show. For nightly news, I only ever want the latest 1. If I miss a few, delete the older ones. Let us pick a limit, such as 1,2,4,8,ALL.

Give Channel Info and Start Time. For shows upcoming, there is no channel or time info provided. I know you may think “who cares”, but we still do. Sometimes we need to tell someone else “It’ll be on channel 5.” But without it, Tablo makes us look stupid. “I don’t know what channel… but it’s coming on sometime today.”

Conflict Resolution on Roku. When a conflict is created, there is no immediate notice given. Even when there is, there seems to be no way to resolve it through the Roku interface.

Resume Record. If the Tablo is restarted while a show is recording, the recordings are not resumed after the restart finishes. Preference would be to append to the previous partial recording so there is not two separate recordings.

Previous Channel in Asterisk (*) Menu (Roku). While watching a show live, provide a way to jump to the Prev channel. And/or the other tuners, if active.

Performance. Watching a show that is recording creates blocky pixelation and/or buffering.