Friday, September 17, 2021

Spectrum cloud DVR

Scheduling

You need to get to the guide and scroll to a show. The web interfaces appears to be much faster for this.

Guide screenshot

The search function is via the magnifying glass in the upper right corner.


Clicking on a show brings up a screen to select to record the series or just that show.

Record page screenshot

You get a few more options, similar to TiVo, here than with YouTube's basic record yes or no option.

Recording options dialog
The main diffs from TiVo are:
  • Save is only for 1 year or until space needed where TiVo lets you limit by number as well which comes in handy for things like news programs you my only want to see the last 1 or 2.
  • Channel does not have TiVo's "any option". Again useful in some cases but not a biggie. YouTube basically only has the "any channel" option. This can be an issue if there are no new shows on soon since you can not select the channel with new episodes to record till there are. Though YouTube has the same problem if no reruns are showing either.
  • TiVo can record 2-6 shows at once depending on model. The cloud DVRs are generally only limited by storage. For Spectrum that is 50 or 100 recordings depending on plan. Note YouTube is unlimited.
  • Lastly storage. With aftermarket mods TiVo go up to about 13 TB or about 1500 hours of shows that you can keep till the TiVo breaks. Again for Spectrum it is 50 or 100 recordings depending on plan and YouTube is unlimited but you can only keep recordings for up to one year and with the cheaper Spectrum plan only 90 days.


Note for some shows the only option was to add to my watchlist. This appears to happen when it knows of the show but no new or reruns will be showing in the near future.



Watching

 To watch recordings you get to them from the Spectrum app under my Library in the Roku app but under DVR in the web interface.

When you click on a show you get a list of recordings but there seems to be a couple odd things. First it only tells you the day not the time which can be an issue with shows like the news. Also there may be a glitch. For example, I recorded and watched BBC World News. The main page says 2 shows but the show's recording page shows 4 and all watched. The list order can be somewhat random too.

Recordings list

Playing a recording, the web interface is definitely better. Assuming you are at the screen to use it. You can cast to a Chromecast to get it on a bigger screen.
The main diff between Roku and web is the web you can your place in the video with the mouse and skip back and forward 30 secs. In Roku your options are just fast forward and reverse. And they are pretty quick. That coupled with no visual indication in either interface makes skipping commercials pretty iffy.

Since you are limited to 50 or 100 recordings and your only options are keep for up to a year or delete as needed for space you are probably going to want to delete some shows after you watch them. Oddly the Roku interface is better here with delete and series options right here.


The web interface just has a red X next to the recording in the list.
Recordings list with delete highlighted

Either way you have a confirm option just to be sure.
Delete confirm screen




Thursday, August 26, 2021

WTF AMC?

Feels like they want to chase away subscribers.

After auto renewing my yearly AMC Premiere subscription barely a month ago this morning I find it not longer works. At first it appears Roku just forgot your login so you try and sign in. Either with code and cable provider (which of course just gets you the base service) or with login. On the login screen the on screen keyboard does not pop up till you click OK while in the field and does not move to the next field when you click on OK on the keyboard. The password is also hidden as you type. All in all making the process about as painful as you might think possible. But then after all that it asks you to sign in again on amc.com/activate with a code. Going there you are met with the cable login again. So I backed up and tried to login with email and password on the site first. That redirected me to the new AMC+ website which told me my login was no good. So at this point I started digging back through emails to see what is going on and found this from 7/30/2021 (just 10 days after they renewed me).

Change can be a VERY good thing

On 8/31, the AMC Premiere service will be ending, but we’ve got you covered.  You can sign up for AMC+ and get access to all the incredible content you know and love from AMC Premiere, PLUS

  • Prestige dramas and true crime documentaries from Sundance Now
  • The largest collection of horror movies and series from Shudder including Creepshow
  • The distinctive award-winning movies of IFC Films Unlimited

 

AMC+ subscribers also get early access to EACH new weekly episode of The Walking Dead Season 11 starting August 15!  You also get The Walking Dead: Origins, a new AMC+ exclusive series, exploring the backstories of your favorite characters.

 

PLUS, AMC+ subscribers will get new AMC+ Originals like Kin, premiering this fall.  With a stellar international cast, led by Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Ciaran Hinds (The Terror), Kin follows a Dublin family at the center of a gangland war, testing the unbreakable bonds of blood and family.

 

Stay tuned!  We will be sending you a special link in August, so you can sign up before the curtain comes down on AMC Premiere.

Limited Time Offer: 

AMC Premiere Subscribers get more than 40% off

As an Annual AMC Premiere subscriber, we’ll transfer the remainder of your subscription period over to the new service (you won’t be charged until the end of your existing term), AND we’ll lock in your next 12 months at an amazing rate.  You’ll save over 40% off the regular AMC+ monthly rate of $8.99 per month!

 

As an AMC+ subscriber, for just $4.99 a month, you’ll be able to get:

  • Early access to The Walking Dead Universe
  • AMC+ Originals like The North Water, Ultra City Smiths, Gangs of London, and Spy City
  • AMC Classics such as Mad Men and Hell on Wheels
  • International content from BBC America including the new season of Doctor Who premiering this fall

PLUS

  • The full content libraries from Sundance Now, Shudder and IFC Films Unlimited

Ready to switch to AMC+ and continue viewing?  Keep an eye out for your special discount code landing in your email inbox in August.   

 

Have Questions?

Our customer service team is standing by to answer any questions you may have, and can be reached at premiere@amc.com 

I have not seen promo code mentioned in the email. Finally after figuring I'd wasted enough time I created an account on the AMC+ website. It appears the 40% off is for yearly versus monthly billing. And just for the first year.


And of course there is a new Roku app and you again have to sign in with email and password instead of with a code. At least in the new app you can see the password as you type in the new app. After that it is basically the same as the old app.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

YouTube TV - impressions

In progress, being updated as I see pros and cons.

Things I noticed setting up.

Browsing and searching interface can be a bit slow.

It appears only shows with upcoming episodes (on any channel) show up. For instance, a search for Batwoman shows a single episode on HBO Max


Note there are 28 episodes available on the CW site.

Search for Nancy Drew (which is in season 3 production) and you will only find the 2007 show of the same name. Yet all of season 2 is on the CW site. As I write this bit season 3 is scheduled to air in 7 weeks.

When you add a show to your "record list" it appears you also get in available streamable episodes as well. For example Drain the Oceans I got episode going back 4 weeks. Note you can skip commercials on episodes tagged "vod" because they are actually streamed from the channel's service. 


For the The Late Show With Stephen Colbert though I only got the last 3.


Note there does not seem to be anyway to mark any but the last season's episodes as watched so a lot of old shows may get added to your watch queue. You are definitely going to use JustWatch to track what you have seen / is available and then look in the YouTube queue for it. 

Roku

When signing in on the YouTube Roku app choose sign in on phone and you are in with a couple clicks. Do on TV and you will need to type in everything with an on screen keyboard. Oddly then have to go to the bottom of the menu and select YouTube TV and will be asked to sign in again. After signing up you still need to go to the menu, scroll to the bottom and select Youtube TV which is a bit annoying. You would think they would make the paid service easier to use than the free.


Watching shows

Shows can be watched and fast forwarded through while they are recording. Fast forward and rewind is a single speed in 15 second blocks, similar to Tablo, so can be a bit slow jumping into the middle of a 2 hour show but it does show screen grabs while the show is still recording similar to TiVo and which Tablo does not. So easy of use is between that of Tablo and Tivo.

There is no automatic commercial option but both the Tablo and TiVo options have been working less and less so this is probably not much of a loss.

Check out this compare the Spectrum's cloud DVR

It might be time to drop cable.

Comparing streaming prices

After seeing my Spectrum bill had gone up another $30/mth despite losing 2 movie channel networks I called them to see if a better bundle might be had. Not only was there no better deal but it seems now that the bundle only gets you $10 off the total so the old "internet only cost you almost as much as the bundle" days seem to be over. I also discovered the local channels are $17.99 of that Gold bundle price on top of the $123.99 for the cable channels which include HBO, Showtime and Starz. You add in the required cablecard fee (even if you are not using it) of $2 the effective cost is $133.98. Note this is without any DVR ability so technically you might need to add a tuner fee if you have a DVR or another $23/mth for their DVR. Since the services all seem to have some a cloud DVR component a better compare cost would be more but it really does not matter since all the services I looked at were cheaper. Even after recent price increases. With the possible exception of AT&T. (See below.)

Here is the sheet I used to compare the services

Note not all movie channels are available on all services but they all are from Amazon for the same price as other places so I put in that cost where not available to include in the equiv total cost.

Note AT&T is a weird case that would be hard to compare if not already higher than the others. In the sheet it shows the compare prices with the "ENTERTAINMENT" + the listed later costs for channels. From their site it appears this is not actually an option. See note on PREMIER package equiv cost.

Lastly note there are "fees" on top of these prices that will make the comparisons a bit off.

DVRs

I should note here beyond the initial hardware costs most DVRs require a subscription cost. TiVo for example is $75.76/year and Tablo is $49.99 USD/year for the guide plus $20.00 USD/year if you want to auto skip ads. Note Tablo ad skip is iffy at best and TiVo's is getting worse. Another reason for going YouTube TV is that it includes the local PBS which means I should be able to shutdown my TiVo and Tablo and use the YouTube cloud DVR instead. There are 32 Over The Air (OTA) channels watchable here but realistically only 6 of the 7 YouTube TV can record, I really care about. ~1/4 of the 32 are in Spanish and most are showing old programs or infomercials. The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show for instance, is available from several places. Even the somewhat obscure Rat Patrol is on Pluto TV. Though you might like something like The Unseen World which is only available on OTA channels.

One of the things I've lost with an OTA DVR instead of a cable DVR is being able to watch a cable show shortly after it starts. Most of the streaming services, even when offering live, only offer on demand sometime later. In some cases they can run up to an episode behind meaning a week or more after the broadcast. I'm hoping the cloud DVRs will give me that back and will not be anymore flaky than TiVo has become much less Tablos are.

Conclusion

It looks like YouTube TV is the best fit for me but I watch stuff on a lot of channels. For example, BBC News is one of those news programs I like to watch timeshifted in the morning. BBC World News and BBC America both seem to to be option or not available most places. With an OTA DVR I can still get a wee hours broadcast from PBS but it would be nice to catch one closer to the current time. 


Update 9/15/2021

Pretty happy with Youtube so far. Went into Spectrum store to turn in my cable card (I had to have per my bundle despite not using) and turn off my cable. They took the card but could not change the cable. So I called in and they are like well if you are going to turn off the service we can give you a discount. So I'm trying their cloud DVR service which I had not even heard of. Still not sure how I missed that when looking for options. The first year price is about $50 less than what I was paying for all the same channels. Of course knowing their hardware DVR there are questions about if it will actually be usable. Also the person on the phone had no record of me turning in the cable card so I'll have to see if they try and charge me for that. Awhile later installer called thinking I was new service. He was trying to find my place. Explained that I have the latest hardware do no need. You got to wonder.

After I've tried it side by side with Youtube's cloud DVR

Also they were trying to talk me into their cell service. Only $14 vs the $55 for 2 lines I'm paying now so I'm going to have to think about switching after my V60 is paid off in 11 months.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Just Watch is the ultimate watchlist

Where I'm coming from 

If  you are reading this you are probably familiar with my Google Sheet for tracking watched and available shows. It was starting to lag under the weight of all the data so I started looking at replacing by writing an open source app called Watchlist. As a shortcut, since I planned on replaced a few other sheets as well, I wrote a program for converting sheets to apps called GenSpring. Somewhere along the way though JustWatch added tracking of which episodes you have seen. This is one of the things that bugged me about the sheet version and I had planned to add to my Watchlist app. 

So JustWatch does almost everything I had on my wishlist except:

Pulling recordings info from your DVRs. Though at this point the TiVo pull I have coded up not longer works and pulling from Tablo or Plex while doable seems like more trouble than it is worth as almost everything other than the news is available to stream from somewhere. Even then you can probably still still track shows they just will not appear in your watchlist as available. See Meet the Press for an example.

Your personal rating. Though you can still record that in IMDB, filter and sort by IMDB average rating and each show has a link to its IMDB page. So again not really much of a loss here. The way I rate stuff in IMDB is 5 and below is stuff I'm not going to watch more of so I just remove those from my watchlist.

No link to show epguides page. There is the IMDB link but there is often info on epguides you will not find anywhere else. But again not a deal breaker by any means. Especially since I would probably need to manually maintain the links.

No place for personal notes. Sometime it is just nice to have them like when the episode number in their system are diff from the ones in service you watch the show on. Or in a case where I know there is a movie or two often listed as the final season(s). Or a quick note why you stopped watching or that it does not get good to episode X. Or show on service X has more commercials than service Y.

Filtering and or sorting by service. Kind of odd this is one of the few they left out. Especially when filtering by services you have is the main feature. They even have service listings for direct vs via Amazon and various tiers if a service has them. Again still more of a gain since I had to manually track which service I wanted to use to watch on and theirs tracks all options automatically for you.

Note TMDB is the JustWatch % likes

Now for the even better ways to track shows and movies

First off I do not need to keep looking for info to merge. They are gathering it all for you and even have a feedback link if you see a mistake like what I found with Pandora - Season 2.


Note too I found a few programs that I'd missed updates for which just shows what kind of task gathering all this info is. So you might wonder how they make money. It appears from low key ads like trailers.

The interface is dead simple. Of course you can search by title or people but they also have new and popular lists that are kept up to date.

All you need to do is hover over the thumbnail and options appear. For a movie you get 4 icons for, left to right, watchlist, seen, like and dislike. In white if not selected and yellow when has been.


If you select seen it automatically prompts you to select like or dislike.


If it is a show, clicking watchlist prompts you for how much you have seen.


If you click some you can select seasons and or certain episodes. Note you can select all or a season and then deselect some which makes it real simple to add a show with lots of seasons you have seen all but a few episodes of. Also in most cases if a season it showing but not out yet you can still click seen all and it will not add those unavailable episodes.


Using the watchlist

Again dead simple. By default it shows you all the shows or movies in your watchlist which mainly shows what you have yet to see though it might not be available. One gotcha/glitch here. Notice the only the S2 E4 episode of Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy marked so it shows the next as S2 E5 though all episodes are available.


But that is OK because you filter and sort this down to just what you are in the mood for and that is available for you to watch for what you are willing to spend ($0-50).

Note the second "Subscription" is actually subscription+fee like Disney is doing for some movies.

You will notice in this view there is a check mark you can click as you watch shows. Again making it dead easy to update.

One other small glitch I've noticed the the watchlist does not always update if, for instance, go to a show, mark an episode as watched and go back to the watchlist. I page refresh sorts it though.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

TiVo vs Tablo

 Rough Draft but been so long trying to sort this mess I wanted to go ahead and make this info visible.

Tablo seems to see the same active channels. Note Antenna Web was pretty useless here. It says I should only be able to get signals from 4 towers 7.X pretty easy but I can not. Even stranger is it is on a line between 36.X and 18.X which I get great but Antenna Web says should be weaker despite being a mile closer. The 4th being 62.X. If I type in just my zip code it places me ~7 mile east and shows a lot more channels. Many I can not get though. Here is what I can actually get.



Interestingly while comparing channels I found the 40-X channels TiVo seemed to have issues with. Channel scan selected the wrong ones and did not have show info for some. But then while no info was showing for 40-3 TiVo, Tablo said an infomercial should be playing but Maverick was actually on. Note the 40-X channels are the same as the 62-X but in higher rez. And 62-3 said Bret Maverick was on. When I went to see which had better signal via TiVo it seems to report 60 for all channels I can watch. Even 40-6 through 40-9 which Tablo does not list and neither seem to think there is video on. TiVo says it is KISA-LD San Antonio which is at least 90 miles away, across Austin so I definitely should be getting 0 for them.

Also the info for 54-4 (called Mystery by both but on screen logo and TiVo channel list in settings says is CourtTV) has been wrong the few times I've looked at the channel. But the channel itself seems to contradict itself as to if it is two channels or one and what is on.

Tablo has a way better web interface.

Tablo's fast forward and rewind do not show video till you stop. Instead press right arrow. This brings up stills you can arrow forward and back though then use select to start playing at the new point.   Note this only works after recording has stopped. However you can jump forward or back in the same ~30 second intervals you just can not see thumbnails of where you are.

Tablo's season pass are better in some ways not in others.

Seeing some pixelization on play back of morning news while recording going on,


https://www.tablotv.com/blog/tablo-power-user-tricks-navigating-roku-channel/


Started seeing odd rebooting when trying to play recording programs on Sunday morning. Might be maxed out, HD issues or because was also connected from PC. Need to monitor this. Note Trying to play a recording that ended at one of those reboots may cause another reboot.

Here is what I've been seeing:

Sunday morning I was trying to record 3 of hour long news casts. The video of all 3 programs appears to be broken in the same places. I tried to start watching one of the recordings and some random time later the the video stops. If watching via Roku the screen says reconnecting. Via the web I reload the page to get it back. When it comes back all the recording streams have another recording. Note both Tablo and Roku are on wired connections.

Later on Sunday it was dropping out just trying to navigate menus.

Weekdays I'm recording 3 of the 2 hour morning news programs starting about an hour before I get up. Again they were splintered. 

I was trying to watch a recording yesterday afternoon via Roku and it would stop and hang with a spinner. Some times I would get a message to reduce recording resolution. (Note the main reason I bought Tablo over Fire TV was 1080 support.) Only way to recover seems to be to exit the app and reenter.

Given the Tablo is in the server room with the rest of the AV, computer and network gear I can't comment on the status LED. A Tablo log file would be REAL handy here. My network monitor reports multiple reconnects though it often misses short duration outages for wired connections. Some of the recordings where around a minute:

NAME/MAC ADDRESSUSER/GUESTASSOCIATEDDURATIONDOWNUPIP ADDRESSLAST AP/PORT
1-10 of 10 records
 
Rows per page
TabloUser10/23/2020 22:5918h 26m 12s120 KB16.3 MB10.10.4.63UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser10/29/2020 3:0315h 34m 57s0 B0 B10.10.4.63UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser10/29/2020 18:4311m 52s0 B0 B UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser10/29/2020 19:0128m 40s0 B0 B10.10.4.63UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser10/29/2020 19:363h 4m 2s201 MB3.38 MB10.10.4.63UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser10/29/2020 22:4914h 10m 56s105 MB1.63 MB10.10.4.63UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser10/30/2020 13:0615m 27s0 B0 B UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser11/04/2020 16:3212m 19s0 B0 B UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser11/08/2020 5:051h 20m 42s0 B0 B UnifiS10-CompN #9
TabloUser11/08/2020 6:339h 53m 27s0 B0 B10.10.4.63UnifiS10-CompN #9

Note looking at Monday's recordings I'm seeing a a couple PBS shows tried to record but where split into several segments. PBS is the strongest signal I get (level 72 on the TiVo scale). Each show was split 3 times the 2 shortest under a minute. Oddly when I played one it actually turned out to be 16 minutes long. They were dups the TiVo already had so it did not try an record them. Checking a couple other splintered ones from Sunday night I found similar results. Both an similarly strong signal channels. 60 Minutes for example shows as 6 segments. The first < a minute but was 16 mins long. When I checked the same recording on TiVo I could find no hint of bad signal. So far the only thing all the bad recordings seem to have in common is they are 1080i signals. But then all the main channels are.

Note this AM I was seeing something diff. One of the stations had some sort of issue and the Table stopped recording just that show and Tablo flagged the recording as stopped due to weak signal. I can confirm there was a signal issue from the TiVo recording of the same show. The station dropped out completely and then stuttered for close to a minute before fully recovering. So the TiVo handled the outage MUCH better. Still I could probably live with lost of half of a single show for the price diff. Dropping all streams and restarting when there is an issue with just one makes the unit useless though. Amazon says I have till January instead of just 30 days to send it back so we can try and sort this a bit longer. 

Response from support:

The recordings broken up into multiple recordings is usually a symptom of an intermittent reception error that is causing the recording to stop, and start again when the signal strength picks back up. This can also be caused by the hard drive on the Tablo losing connection, or the unit rebooting.


Please disconnect the hard drive from the Tablo, reboot the unit, and then try watching Live TV on the Tablo with no drive connected. Do you still have trouble with the Tablo losing connection?


Once you have had a chance to try this out please re-connect the drive to the Tablo, reboot the unit, and then disconnect the antenna. Please try watching a recording without the antenna connected. Do you still have the same issues with the Tablo app?


Please let us know how this goes.

Update:

Note I'm saying "rebooting" mainly because any program recording is split into segments after the Tablo reconnects.

Also all the issues I've seen so far have been on the main 1080i feed of the major networks with good signal strengths as measured on my TiVo.


Looks like the signal issue is definitely not it. For 2 days (Sunday and Monday) it was "rebooting" randomly. In the end it did not seem to matter what what I was doing or even if anything was recording much less what so signal seemed to be the only known issue. The morning after contacting support (Tuesday) I found a show flagged as not fully recorded because of signal loss. I had the same show recording on a TiVo and it did indeed drop out. Note the TiVo dealt with the almost full minute of low signal and kept going.


Support replied: "The recordings broken up into multiple recordings is usually a symptom of an intermittent reception error that is causing the recording to stop, and start again when the signal strength picks back up. This can also be caused by the hard drive on the Tablo losing connection, or the unit rebooting.


Please disconnect the hard drive from the Tablo, reboot the unit, and then try watching Live TV on the Tablo with no drive connected. Do you still have trouble with the Tablo losing connection?


Once you have had a chance to try this out please re-connect the drive to the Tablo, reboot the unit, and then disconnect the antenna. Please try watching a recording without the antenna connected. Do you still have the same issues with the Tablo app?"


Not sure how I am supposed to "watch TV" without the HD unless he means setting there monitoring the feed for reboots with live TV on I have no interest in see. Talk about a insane waste of my time to make up for no log files!


I did notice the unit was REALLY hot while doing the antenna test (which gave the same failed to record due to lack of signal error without reboot). I added a fan above the unit but looking at the temperature logs for the rack (the sensor is very close to the Tablo) the temperature was actually cooler when the reboots were happening. So heat is probably not it either.


Everything seemed to be running smoothly so I added shows to record Saturday. Including shows earlier Sunday morning. This AM (Sunday) the "reboots" are as bad as before. The same shows are being recorded on the TiVo and I can see no signal issues at all. After the second one I switched to the TiVo to let the Tablo set and it still "rebooted". Trying to watch after recording was finished was still having problems. For instance Meet The Press: It was split into 2 segments, a 31 minute one and 50 second one. Note show is 1 hour. Trying to watch the 31 minute segment via Roku it "rebooted" @ ~16 mins and @ ~26 mins in and then hung at end. Watching it again via the web interface it had a momentary freeze @ ~26 mins in then stopped normally. Temperature logs show it was lowest when the most problems were seen. To me that might indicate an HD issue (though again the diff handling seems odd) but there is 1.63 TB Available of 1.97 TB so I would doubt the same areas have even been written to yet and it is odd that so far the issues only have appeared on the last 2 Sundays and last Monday. I though that might indicate issues deleting recordings as new are added but the extra shows scheduled for early Sunday morning would not fit that either. If there was a way to reformat and or test the HD I'd give that a try but that too is not an option I can see.


My network monitor is only showing a drop during playback as it only records ones longer than 2 minutes. So no help there.


That would seem to only leave a defective device though again the timing would seem odd. Maybe the extra scheduled recordings will shine some light. Again some system logs would probably sort this in minutes instead of all this black box testing.

11/26 noticed the Roku was not seeing the SD card. (System->About) Pulled and reformatted to get working again. Not sure how long it has not been working but first time I noticed getting an having to reload a channel insert a SD card to avoid in future message. 


HDHomerun Issues

 


Issues with HDHomeRun

12/20/2020 Same morning Tablo decided to stop talking to anything till it was repowered the HDHomeRun just did not record anything. Not seeing any reason for it. Ended up again falling all the way back to the TiVo to see Sunday morning news shows.

1/6/2021 HDHomeRun still not recording anything though shows tasks in queue. No indication as to why. Pretty much given up on it as a standalone and am planning on building a Plex PC and use the HDHomeRun as the tuners.