Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Created a TiVo info downloader

The Git project is at

The idea is you have this run each night (Task Scheduler or cron) to update csv files in your Google Drive and the use the SheetGo Plugin to read in the info from the csv files to your copy of my Cord Cutting Notes sheet Then I should be able add automation to look at shows watched (watchedTime > 0) in the Now Playing list to auto update the sheet. In theory I could use this to get latest available episode info as well for any shows not listed in ShowRSS.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Made Last Show tab update fully automated via a menu option

Updated the show tracking sheet 

On "Last Show" tab I added a column. 

Instead of updating the offset key manually and then copying columns now you just click the update menu item to do all the steps. 

This required adding a column to sort the feed data which still comes into column A. The macro updates the offset key with a current timestamp to trigger reimport of feed data. It then copies the data to column B so that is can be sorted (to get around the issue of older episodes sometimes coming higher in the feed than newer ones). Then finally it copies the diffed data in columns O and P to the cached data area.

Monday, April 24, 2017

New Netflix rating system is a major fail.

I'm a bit behind on this one as I've been mainly on Hulu and Amazon lately but when I went to Netflix this weekend I found they had changed out the rating system. For why look here. To me the "logic" described is dubious at best. If you Google "New Netflix rating system" you will see it is NOT going over well with anyone. My main gripe is when I'm browsing titles I used to be able to see my rating if I've rated it. That would tell me if I'd already seen it and what I thought of it. Having rated over 2000 titles in the old Netflix system that came in REAL handy. (I have friends that have rated WAY more.) It is really depressing to pick something that looks good only to realize after watching awhile that you have seen it and hated it. The new system does show you the ones you given a thumbs up or down but not the ones you have given stars. Fortunately the info has not been completely lost and your ratings old and new can still be seen from your My Activity page. (I suggest you down load this page while you can.) But that begs the question why they are not displaying that you have already rated it in the browser? Either as the star rating still there in the DB or by converting it to the thumbs up/down system for display.

Another new bit is now for unrated (via new system) titles you see a percent match instead of the average rating of other subscribers. I have not got a feel for how accurate this is yet but again that would infer they are trying get the model even more accurate. Generally the way to do that is to get finer detail of the watcher's like and dislikes not less.

The other issue with a binary system of course is what about the stuff that is just OK? As in stuff that was worth watching once but not again. How do I rate that with love or hate as my only options? Marking it either way will skew their suggestion model and not marking leaves me no way to see I've already watched it. To look at this I downloaded my "My Activities" page with over 12 years of ratings and converted it to a sheet so I'd have the data. And to see how is much this might truly effect things. I found:

  • The single list of ratings on "My Activity" has entries formatted 3 ways which made converting it to a sheet a bit of a pain. (This might also mean a previous change in December of 2015 is affecting this.)
  • Of the 2160 titles I've rated 1897 (~88%) were in the 2-4 star range.
  • 947 (44%) of my ratings are 3s that the new binary system can not handle.
  • 138 of the movies and 23 series I have rated are no longer on Netflix.
  • My average rating under the old system is 3.2
  • Converting thumbs down to 1 and up to 5 my average rating drops to 2.5 with the new system
  • So on average titles lose about 0.7 stars under the new system

Facebook removed their rating system for movies and TV shows awhile back too. While you can still add them to watched / want to watch sections and even write a review as a comment, all those star ratings you did are now toast. Funny thing is when you try to find out when did this there appears to be no stories about. Probably why Netflix thought it was a good idea to follow suit. Unfotunately for Netflix people are noticing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Added some more validation to the Last Shows tab of sheet.

Updated the show tracking sheet 

I noticed some of the show names had changed in my feed so were not updating the cache columns. So I added a column between the feed columns and the cache columns that checks that each show in the feed is in the cache and turns green if it is #N/A then you either need to change the name in the cache list or add it.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Signal issues and deafening commercials giving me second thoughts

Last night's adventure 

Was getting ready for bed last night an went to turn on Colbert on the Tivo and found dead air. Flipped to ABC and it was dead too. This was to be my third debug mission just since I started for bed some 2 hours ago at this point so I was not happy! Having cable flashbacks I tried all the usual quick fixes including pulling stuff from the Goodwill pile to swap out but no help. Using my TiVo into signal strength mode and found the signal strengths were the same with either amp. Plus they were about what I recorded over a month ago. So finally I gave up and went to bed thinking the antenna must have slipped or something and it would just need to wait. However ABC and CBS look fine today so thinking they must be testing dropping to a lower power at night or something. I noticed ABC seemed weak the other early morning too. I messaged both to confirm. But no reply as yet. Does not bode well. Especially combined with the CW having slipped below the watchable at least 50% of the time level.

So now what?

You might recall I started streaming stuff I can't get over the air since last November when I got fed up with Time Warner knocking my cable box (tuner) and sometimes even my TiVo off line. I've been mainly streaming from Hulu or the network's sites since TWC's streaming is usually days behind everywhere else. I can not stream the morning news though. And I have to admit I'm getting pretty fed up with the cranked up commercials most of the networks are streaming. I have to sit with one hand on the mute button they are so much worse than when the feds stepped in back in 2011 to make them stop it when broadcasting. So I'm thinking of just switching my remaining TiVo back to cable for any broadcasts not on Hulu. Especially since now that Comedy Central is pulling their stuff off Hulu and using those windows rattling commercials on their streaming site. Plus it would be nice to see The Daily Show and @midnight on the same day they broadcast again. In a related story I found my missing extra cable card last weekend. No less than 3 times Time Warner has told me they have taken it off my bill since it was never activated because they sent it without a tuner about 2 years ago. Just checked and they are still monthly charging me for it. Granted not enough to warrant a special 50 mile round trip to town just to turn it in. So it all this seems to be telling me I should give a more hybrid approach (cable card but no tuner) a try to see if TWC can keep from knocking it off line. And even if they do it is starting to look like I probably will not be worse off. It is either that or try and cobble together an even stronger antenna / amp combo which would seem to probably require a radio tower to get more signal over the ridge. That does not seem like that good of an investment if the stations might be turning down the power.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Comedy Central pulling out of Hulu?

Yep seems not enough people braved getting forced to watch ads just to see uncensored versions of their shows so they are pulling them home. Read more here. This move is even stranger given Turner announced not that long ago they would be putting shows on Hulu.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Did you know you could watch Amazon subscriptions on Roku?

I picked up a Fire Stick for $30 last Black Friday and have been bouncing between it and the Roku since. I even added Acorn TV through Amazon. Tonight though the WiFi demons are in rare form. After resuming the same 1 hour episode of Doc Martin 6 times, I switched back to Hulu on the Roku while I research how to get my login info for Acorn TV (since there is no login to watch it via Fire TV). Turns out all you need to is bring up the Amazon app on the Roku and just start playing the show! Interface is not near as nice but at least I can watch TV while I sort out what keeps knocking my Access Points off line.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Added a bit more automation to the sheet.

Updated the show tracking sheet 

On "Last Show" tab I added some columns. 

Now all the shows are listed in F and the last seen episode from the feed is compared with the last saved in G. The greater of the 2 is placed in K and the matching date in L. Also you now force and feed update by changing the date in F1. Conditional formatting should turn the cells in columns K and L green in the rows where the G and K cells match (do not need updating). After updating the feed, copy the cells from K4 to L110 then paste the values into G4 to store the "last in feed" data.

On the "shows" tab I added some columns.

The parsing of the "Last watched" and "Last show" columns outputs into 3 columns now to handle those times when unexpected text gets parsed into the cell. The parser now works differently for the 2 formats

The "diff" column now uses a different method for calculating the number of unseen episodes available for the season-episode vs date formats. This should give better estimates.

The "Last show" column now looks at column F to look up feed data exclusively (instead of first checking the feed and only checking F if not found) and takes the value from K. This should deal with the problem of shows dropping off the feed at the end of seasons.

Moving info here

Thinking there is getting to be enough info that it needs to be structured and searchable so I'll start moving posts here. Below it the original doc that accompanied the show tracking spreadsheet.

I'll keep adding to this page but to start I've been building a spreadsheet to replace the watch list features of my TiVos that some of you might be interested in making a copy of. Below kind of explains why and what I was trying to achieve.

Some history
Basically I've had TiVos since they first came out and loved them. I still have 2 Premieres and a series 2 setting on the shelf with old shows on them plus my 2 connected up Roamios.  But around 2 years ago now Time Warner started jacking with the cable boxes to knock them off line randomly around once a month. I setup a second TiVo so it could act as a backup in case one got knocked offline but found they almost always got knocked out within an hour or two of each other. Often I’d have to call Time Warner to reauth one or both boxes after it happened. Pretty obvious some sort of received signal was the cause but Time Warner was still claiming it was not them so I switched the TiVo that could still receive broadcast TV to do that instead. (Note most TiVos now only work with cable and will not receive Over The Air aka OTA broadcasts. As of the Roamio series, TiVos only receive cable or OTA not both at the same time like previous models did.) Next Rovi bought TiVo and decided to swap out TiVo's accurate and detailed guide (the MAIN selling point of TiVo) with their own. That change / glitch caused about 2 weeks loss of recordings for most of their customers and ever since my cable connected TiVo would just stop receiving signals randomly requiring a reboot to fix. So I started looking at what would be involved in just going with streaming and OTA. To keep it all straight in my head and to help come up with a plan I started the sheet above.

Summary of things learned
For the most part going without a DVR seems doable if you still pay for cable as most of the network streaming sites still only work if you have a cable subscription.

With Time Warner it appears it can actually cost you more to get just internet than internet + cable + phone. Plus a Time Warner DVR used to be in the bundle or $5 to $10 per month. Now is $25 per month. That is more a month than getting a TiVo on contract plus the monthly cable card fee!

Keeping track of what you already watched and if something new is available is almost impossible even with a TiVo when streaming is in the mix unless you have something like the above sheet.

If you want to watch something within a day or two of broadcast but not live you still need a DVR. (For instance if you watch the news or a late night talk show on your schedule you will want at least an OTA DVR.)

You will probably need to get used to commercials again. Almost everything streaming outside of Hulu and Netflix has commercials you can not skip. CBS is the exception with a commercial free option for $9.99/month but you mainly only get the last 7 episodes of current shows so it is pretty pricey for what you get.

A TiVo OTA might still be cost effective compared to other OTA DVRs but the last TiVo update has REALLY slowed it down so jury is still out.

Most networks still don't get it. A LOT of shows you will only find the last 3 to 7 episodes available for streaming even with commercials. Outside of Netflix of course. But even on Netflix more and more shows are DVD only.

Why do you need a spreadsheet?
The TiVo OnePass system would not only automatically deal with recording at changing show times but would also show you what shows were available to watch, both recorded locally and streaming. The streaming bit has some issues but it still helps. If you watch more than a few shows you quickly see how much of a time saver this is, when it works. But the Tivo only tracks stuff it can stream or record so your OTA Tivo will not know anything about what is on AMC, for example, while a Roku would even though the Roku AMC app does not work with a Time Warner ID to watch their shows right now.  So in order to have something that works I came up with this some what manual option.

So first thing you will want is a list of what is new this week. The sheet grabs an RSS feed for that.

Next you will want to compare the last available episode (shows:C) from that feed against the last you watched (shows:B) to know if there is something new to see. Colors change to let you know if you are ahead (watched live) or behind what the feed sees as the last episode.

Lastly you will want to know where the best place is to go see it and a backup if that fails.There is a place for you fav (shows:E) and all the other places you can get it (shows:J-X).

Plus if you watch the same shows I do I've done a lot of the work for you. The sheet is by no means done but there is already a ton of info on the 91 shows I'm currently tracking. I'll be adding stuff as I go.

There are also links to some helpful info and compares of devices and streaming sources.