Well this certainly came out of left field.

Silicon Dust just launched a television streaming service that commingles online, pay television programming with local, over-the-air broadcasts via their HDHomeRun network tuner hardware. And, yes, this includes DVR (!) using their native software or the superior 3rd party Channels software. It’s somewhat similar to Sling’s AirTV solution but pretty fully baked at launch and perhaps, more accessible – both conceptually and in terms of playback. The HDHomeRun Premium TV channel lineup includes 45 channels, such as ESPN, CNN, and HGTV, for $35/mo – and, like the others, no long-term contract is required. Early reports have raised 720p quality concerns and hard-coded timezones may become a viewing consideration, but one might assume these will be improved over time and that the convenience of everything in one place may outweigh these cons.

HDHomeRun Premium TV complements our existing LIVE OTA Cord Cutting TV solution with a package of premium must-watch shows and channels that you’d find on cable but at a fraction of the cost and without the commitment of an annual contract.

It’s the ultimate Cord Cutting Solution that offers the best of both worlds – great LIVE OTA and the best of premium cable channels without the Cable Subscription or set-top box rental!

Don’t look for Expensive and segmented a la Carte’ services trying to fill that programming void for different devices in different rooms after you Cut the Cord, enjoy HDHomeRun Premium TV on multiple devices at the same time around your home. Watch on your computer, tablet, phone and media devices, and watch live TV and premium content in every room of your house through one convenient interface.

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At long last, the Tablo OTA DVR can now optionally provide the frequently requested surround sound. The firmware update, rolling out in waves now, enables owners to toggle AC3 audio encoding… with a potentially significant caveat: not all Tablo clients are currently 5.1-capable. So while your Roku can pump out surround sound, if you also view your recordings on Xbox Once, you’ll be treated to a whole lot of silence. Tablo’s blog post breaks down their technical challenges, design decisions, and itemizes supported devices and scenarios.

TiVo’s got a great offer for those of you still rocking legacy DVRs with Lifetime service. Active* Series 2, Series 3, TiVo HD, and Premiere units can have their Lifetime service transferred to a new TiVo Bolt Vox under the equivalent All-In plan for just $99. As to the fine print, this promotion is only applicable to set-tops that, “have connected to a TiVo service between July 25, 2017 and July 25, 2018. Your current box will be deactivated on September 7, 2018.” So while our moth-balled units can’t partake, active users get a real nice hardware upgrade at a great price – including a month of service overlap to transfer Season/One Passes and recordings.

(Thanks Daniel T!)

I’ve got some very good news for owners of legacy TiVo hardware… and a smattering of bad news.

While I had assumed the TiVo Premiere was end-of-life, over 250,000 of you still on the platform recently received the Roamio and Bolt’s highly desirable SkipMode – which enables somewhat automated commercial skipping of most prime time television recordings. Additionally, these 8-year old DVRs have been treated to the recently released Alexa integration for voice control. It’s quite refreshing to see TiVo invest their finite resources in backporting a subset of folks on this older hardware (and I’m guessing those of you on monthly or annual service plans are to be thanked).

On the flip side, the less than 1% of TiVo owners still using dial-up for guide data are about to be cut off due to exorbitant fees: Continue Reading…

Amazon Fire TV Cube has arrived … and the reviews are in! The streamer essentially mates an Amazon Fire TV with an Echo Dot and some Logitech Harmony-esque IR blasting capabilities. When first announced, I was enticed (especially given the introductory pricing) – but Amazon’s increasingly cluttered presentation and conspicuously missing volume buttons gave me pause. Not to mention, I’m currently down on always-listening voice assistants — whereas the more economical, yet sufficiently powerful, Amazon Fire TV ships with a perfectly suitable Alexa-powered, push-to-talk voice remote. But let’s see what folks who’ve actually put the hardware through its paces have to say:

The Verge: Alexa turns out to be a good match for your living room

The speaker is not as powerful as a standard Echo, but it’s not designed for playing music — the Cube will route any music requests to your TV’s speakers or your soundbar. Most of the time, Alexa’s responses will also route through the TV’s speakers, but it will use the Cube’s speaker if the TV is off or set to another input. […] And in my experience of testing the Fire TV Cube over the past few days, its Alexa-based voice control system works more often than it doesn’t. But I’m not throwing my remotes in the garbage just yet.

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I gotta be honest. I’m jst not completely sold on the Fitbit Versa. It’s decidedly less sophisticated and less premium than the similarly priced Apple Watch. Not to mention, Versa band replacement is just awful. Yet, Apple doesn’t natively provide some of the basics I expect from an activity tracker, such as a simple step complication and sleep metrics — both of which Fitbit handles masterfully. Fitbit also enables 3rd party watchfaces, which is indeed fortuitous as some of the company-produced ones look like Microsoft Paint mock-ups.

My current favorites are Arrow (above), Edgy, and Colors  – all of which can be customized to varying degrees, with Arrow offering tons of options in terms of data and color. Bonus: the developer tells me weather will be coming to all their faces over the coming months. Some Fitbit faces are free, while these run $.99 and $1.99 respectively. As Fitbit doesn’t provide a true store experience, each developer has to work out their own payment and trial methods… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but their work may be what keeps me from unloading my Versa.