Archives For mari

Sling TV from Dish with ESPN on iPad

Many, many other writers have reviewed Sling TV (the new online video service from Dish that was announced at CES), so I won’t belabor the points they’ve already covered. There are licensing issues. Not all features are available on every channel. It’d be nice to have more on-demand television content instead of mainly VOD movies.

But, on the other hand, ESPN is pretty great (plus Disney, HGTV, etc.). And any-screen access for live TV is a plus.

What struck me about Sling TV, however, is how much it doesn’t feel like TV. It feels like Netflix.

Continue Reading…

Zonoff with Nest thermostat close-up

Last year at CES, Zonoff’s demo suite was full of the Staples Connect hardware they power along with a variety of familiar brands like Lutron and Jawbone. This year, several other friends joined the party including the Google Nest smart thermostat and a souped-up, Sonos-fighting Bose sound system.

The desire for Nest integration is obvious, although this is the first we’ve seen the smart thermostat connected to the Zonoff platform. So while Zonoff may not yet “Work With Nest” … they clearly work with Nest. Bose system support is perhaps slightly less obvious, but it makes sense when you contemplate pairing music or talk radio with other sensors tied to lighting and motion detection. Put a speaker in your bathroom, and you can set the music to turn on when you open the door in the morning. Put one in the kitchen, and you can program it to play NPR when you head in to make dinner in the evening. Continue Reading…

DirecTV Samsung 4K

This probably isn’t the year to buy an Ultra HD TV for that special holiday someone. Despite nearly-reasonable prices ($1400 for this Samsung 55-incher), there just isn’t a lot of 4K content yet to enjoy on a new TV.

However, if you’re dead set on the idea, there’s good news coming at you from DirecTV. The satellite provider has started to deliver 4K content to Samsung TVs that are paired up with the Genie HD DVR. Initially, the 4K catalog only includes nature documentaries along with 19 movies from Paramount Pictures and K2 Communications. But DirecTV says there are “more titles to be announced soon.”

DirecTV also makes a point of noting that it is “the first multi-channel video provider to offer 4K Ultra HD programming direct to customers’ TVs.” Back at CES in January, Comcast said it would launch a 4K app for Samsung TVs before the end of the year, but that’s looking less and less likely by the day. Bet we’ll have more announcements at CES 2015!

Sprint Shutters WiMAX Network

Mari Silbey —  October 10, 2014

Sprint Shutters WiMAX Network

It’s an inglorious end for the first 4G mobile broadband service to debut in the US. Sprint has announced that it will officially discontinue operation of its WiMAX network “on or about November 6, 2015.” Sprint completed its acquisition of WiMAX operator Clearwire in the summer of 2013 and has plans to re-farm the Clearwire spectrum for the growing Sprint LTE network.

WiMAX was always the underdog in the 4G mobile broadband race, but Sprint/Clearwire still drew in millions of customers for WiMAX service (including yours truly), and Clearwire used the technology to pioneer a no-contract 4G data plan.

In one interesting deployment, Clearwire partnered with an organization called Mobile Citizen to offer low-cost mobile Internet service exclusively to education and non-profit groups. Today, Mobile Citizen continues to market WiMAX service for the incredibly low price of $120 per year plus the cost of a hotspot, USB, or desktop modem. Sprint will maintain the partnership despite shutting down its WiMAX network, and Mobile Citizen says it is working with the carrier to “determine the timing and pricing of future LTE service plans and devices.”


Because one video stream is never enough, a start-up company called 4SeTV is planning to introduce a $99 retail box that lets users display up to four TV channels at once on one screen. The company is launching a Kickstarter campaign for the device on August 19th, but it’s also making the rounds with cable operators to see if there’s any interest in tying the hardware to a subscription service. Calling its product “the industry’s first personalized mosaic mode device,” 4SeTV says its technology works with both cable stations and over-the-air broadcasts.

The hardware part of the 4SeTV product is a small box that connects to your home router and an HDTV antenna. (Presumably the box can also be connected to a cable set-top.) You control the video interface through a mobile app, and then have the option to cast it to a networked television set. The company says the software will work with Internet-connected TVs, but also with the Google Chromecast.

I can think of very few occasions where I’d want to watch four different channels at once. But pick your favorite sports season and maybe there are enough times when multiple games are on to make mosaic mode worthwhile. For more info, check out the 4SeTV demo video. Continue Reading…

Chromecast set-up 1

A year after Google’s Chromecast launch, I am still a big fan of the TV streaming stick, but also a sporadic user at best.

Here are some of the Chromecast positives:

  • Free stuff! To celebrate the one-year anniversary, Google is offering three free months of Google Play Music All Access to Chromecast owners. (Although it may only be good for folks who haven’t tried Google music before. Dave had trouble registering.)
  • WatchESPN is now a Chromecast-supported app. My early-gen Roku box doesn’t get the online ESPN station, so this will become very important during college basketball season.
  • Full-screen Android mirroring is now a thing. Unfortunately device support is limited, but progress is progress.

My husband also had an interesting experience with Chromecast recently when he couldn’t get a Netflix episode of Mythbusters to run smoothly through our Roku. (Yes, we have FiOS, which has had trouble with Netflix quality.) Oddly enough, he found that casting the episode from his Chrome browser (not even from the Chromecast-supported Netflix app) improved quality significantly. I have no idea why this would be, but will experiment further to see what I can find out. (Different CDN handling the traffic??) Continue Reading…


Not content with being a leader in the over-the-air TV antenna market, Mohu recently launched and then completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new product designed to combine OTA TV with web video services. Now we know that the new Mohu Channels device will retail for $149.99 and is targeted for commercial launch in the third quarter of this year.

Mohu announced some time ago that Kickstarter participants would receive their Android-powered Channels device come June. Our own Adam Miarka got in on the deal for $89 as an early backer, and while he doesn’t have the product in hand yet, there are signs that shipments are coming soon. Continue Reading…

Aereo Chromecast

Still waiting on a potentially fateful ruling from the Supreme Court, Aereo today announced Chromecast support for its Android app. That means that users with the service can cast Aereo video from an Android mobile device direct to an HD television via Google’s popular HDMI streaming stick. Aereo already works with Roku and Apple TV, but Chromecast is a super-cheap option for making your dumb TV smart enough to handle Internet video.

Direct from Aereo:

Aereo is now live on the Google Chromecast™ platform. The Aereo app for Android™ is available for download in the Google Play™ store. Subscribers can access Aereo’s antenna and DVR technology to record and watch live broadcast television using Google’s Chromecast™.

The Aereo news comes on the heels of another recent announcement of Chromecast support for WatchESPN. That earlier update has me considering whether or not to invest in upgrading my Roku. I had planned on it, but now with Chromecast compatibility, I don’t see a compelling reason to spend the money.