TV Alternatives Still Have The Same Problem…

Our 2 year obligation (but not a contract somehow) to Scumcast runs out in July. I’ve been looking at alternatives for some time. And I’m finding out that all alternatives to a cable subscription all have the same problem: THEY’RE STILL CENTERED ON TV. This means that in order to watch the shows YOU want, you have to take a whole bunch of channels filled with shows you DON’T want.

My wife sent me an article about Hulu soon offering live TV. It seems to be heavily centered around CBS, home of shows like NCIS and Big Bang Theory. Well, give me NCIS, and keep Big Bang Theory. Never watched it; and I never plan to. I’ve seen a few clips of it, which made me roll my eyes and leave the room.

And of course, you get ESPN. Never watched it. I don’t give two shits about sports. I’ve tried; I can’t get into it. Plus, as Vox Day has so well documented, ESPN and the NFL are pretty much sold out to SJWism and are going to die eventually.

I looked at a few other packages, such as Playstation Vue. Same thing. It’s all about packages of channels, just like shitty Comcast that I want to leave.

I’ll let you in on why. When I broke down and got a flat screen TV a couple years ago, I decided we wanted HD. It made no sense to not use the full screen of the new TV. $10 more a month for an HD cable box. But then, they wanted to sell us “Triple Play”. There is no freaking way to NOT have the stupid phone line. I never use it, but I have to pay for it. Then we got the “X1 Entertainment Operating System” because we wanted a DVR. I thought we had all the channels, even though we barely watch 20 of them between us. Nope, somehow we still had a limited package. And they started taking channels away from us, rolling them into higher priced packages.

We like to watch Bar Rescue. One day, Bar Rescue stopped showing up on the DVR. Spike wouldn’t show. My wife called. Now, Spike is in a higher priced package. We can get it back if we want to pay more. They’ve done that with a few other channels we like. And we seeth with rage; vowing that come July, Scumcast will be no more in our household.

That brings us back to the problem. Everything is centered around CHANNELS. Why don’t we have a paradigm built on SHOWS? I don’t care about the channels. SYFY has some shows I like, and many I don’t care about. Why can’t I just get the shows I want and scrap the rest?

My wife still watches TV. I haven’t used it in well over a year. I get my entertainment through Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and if I can’t get a show I want that way, I have a few other alternatives…

Then there are commercials. Few, if any, are relevant to me. Most are annoying and patronizing and I work very hard to not have to watch a commercial. And even those that are relevant, entertaining, and informative, I only need to watch once.

We definitely need to change the way we create and watch our entertainment. Since there’s a big movement in alt-tech, let’s hope we get some alt-entertainment that is out of the mainstream.

Ryan Holiday’s $139 Book

I’m glad to see Ryan Holiday is back. He went through a phase of liberal butthurt after the election, and the quality of his posts dropped dramatically. I found them unreadable for the last month and a half or so.

He explains why he dropped $139 on a book. And why you should too, if you want the book and it adds value to your life. As for “I don’t have time to read?” Here’s Ryan:

Fuck you, you don’t have time to read. You’re reading this article aren’t you? You checked Facebook this morning. And Twitter. You went to your work’s Christmas party and you’ve seen at least one episode of Game of Thrones. You have time. Money? There is always money for the things that are important. There is always a way.

Guilty of all, except I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. I have a rule about culture. If something is so popular that everybody is doing it, I normally don’t. I either get in early on the hype curve, or maybe come back to it after the hype has died down.Also:

A single book can unlock an idea, start a business, generate a change, seal a life decision, open you to a new perspective, prepare you for some unknown adversity that lies around a curve in the road. A single book can be worth literally millions of dollars. Or save a broken marriage. Or introduce you to something you’d never have known otherwise.

I agree with Ryan. I probably have more books than I’ll ever be able to read in my lifetime, and they keep adding up. But I’ve read some that did change my life, give me a new perspective, or give me a new direction. I’ve also had to learn that some books suck, and it’s OK to put it down and move on.

Review: Samsung Gear VR Headset

A friend gave me a Samsung Gear VR headset for Christmas. When I got home, I opened it up and started playing around with it.

Of course, growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, like anybody else, I’m fascinated with VR. I’ve waited years for this technology to be viable.

The Gear VR headset is compatible with the Galaxy Note 5, the S6 line, and the S7 line. Fortunately, I have a Note 5.

The first thing you have to do is install the Oculus app from the Play Store. You have to create an account on the Oculus website and verify your email address. You can then login to the app, and mount your phone in the headset and put the headset on your head. You go through a tutorial and setup process. Then you can play around.

The first night, I didn’t have many options. Unless I wanted to spend money on a game or movie, I was limited to the content on my phone. But still, it was cool. There’s a 360-degree background, so you can look in any direction and see it. You can zoom in on the pictures. For instance, I have a picture of my cat laying on the floor in front of the couch. I zoomed in all the way. I was looking at the cat, and had to look WAAAAAAAAY up to see the couch.

The next day, I had to take my children back to New Jersey (it was my first Christmas with them in 4 years). Took about 10 hours in holiday traffic. When I got home, I opened a beer and looked at the Play store to see what other VR apps were available. Samsung has a VR app, so I installed it and went back to VR-land.

The headset has a touchpad, volume controls, and a back and home button. It also has a focus wheel.

Samsung’s VR app includes videos. For now, the content is fairly limited, but there are some interesting ones up there. CNN (Clinton News Network) has some VR videos. GE has some promotional videos. Mythbusters have some of their Shark Week content available.

Among the videos I watched, I rode a weather balloon into the stratosphere, I was in the press pit for Donald Trump’s victory speech (2 1/2 minutes of it, anyway), took a tour of Singapore, and watched planes land at Heathrow Airport. It was a lot of fun.

At this point, it’s not true VR. This is how it works: they film with a 360-degree camera. (You can buy these cameras and make your own 360 videos). You can watch these videos on your computer or phone without a headset. But with the phone mounted in the headset, you don’t exactly see the edges, and the lens magnifies the video, so you are immersed in it. It’s enough to induce vertigo in some cases. Even though you KNOW you’re standing or sitting in a room, when your mind sees immersed motion, it wants to interpret it as actual.

There are a few minor problems. For one, when mounting your phone, it’s not hard for the Home button to contact the case. Then you put your headset on and you’re looking at your phone’s launcher. You can’t launch the VR apps this way. You have to take the phone out, re-launch the app, and mount your phone again, hoping you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Also, the VR apps put a heavy strain on your phone’s processor and battery. After watching a few videos, my Note 5 is burning up; almost enough to become a Note 7. I could probably shut my house heater off while I’m using the headset and heat the house with my phone.

One thing I would love to see is the ability to control your phone completely in the headset. The interface is similar to a vision I once had for the Human-Computer Interface (HCI). Think about it; your mind is very powerful, and your computer/phone are very powerful, but the only way you can “talk” is through a screen, keyboard, and mouse. It would be awesome to be able to read through my email and browse the Internet with the headset on. You could spread your various applications across the available space, and not switch screens. Of course, responding to email or going to another website would require a keyboard, which you can’t see. I could probably touch type well enough to use it.

For the most part, this is a decent and affordable way to get started with Virtual Reality through your phone. This technology is still in its infancy, and I look forward to what comes next.

You can buy the Samsung Gear VR here. (Currently $59.99 on Amazon).