Archive for June, 2013

My Poor Man’s Media Center

June 22, 2013

I bought a Kindle Fire HD 8.9 a few months ago.  They’re about $270 now, but you can find refurbs and used ones for $200,  which is what I did.  While the ads that Amazon pushes at you when you first start the device are annoying, the display quality is wonderful, it is thin and light, and the battery lasts long enough to be useful.  I’ve been using it mostly to read Kindle books.

When I decided that spending $1000/year for satellite TV was becoming absurd, I killed the satellite TV connection.  That left me with no easy way to feed a TV signal to my TV (watching YouTube on my PC remained easy to do).  For under $10 I purchased a special HDMI cable that connects my Kindle to my HD TV.  I can now watch YouTube videos on my TV easily, direct from my Kindle, either streamed or from files.

I usually download the YouTube videos, rather than streaming them, both so that I can watch them again later, but also to ensure high quality playback.  I can download the videos onto my PC and then stream those downloaded files directly to the Kindle over WiFi.  I walk the Kindle over to the TV, plug into the TV, and away I go.  The cable is long enough that I can run the TV with the Kindle on my lap.

You can try to stream current TV shows on the Kindle, but Hulu is only licensed to stream to a PC, not an Android device, for many shows; some networks also restrict streaming to phones and Android devices.  There are plugins for the FireFox browser which allow you to tell Hulu that you are running on a PC, even though you are running on a Kindle (one is called “Phony” for example).  That should allow me to stream more TV content straight to the Kindle, and then to my TV

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Dish Network is Doomed

June 8, 2013

I have been paying $80/month to Dish Network for satellite TV for quite a while.  Trouble is that most of what I watch can be found for free on the web.  What is the point of paying $1000/year?!?

I called up yesterday to cancel my service, and a nice woman explained that I could “save” my recorded shows by simply connecting a USB hard drive up to the Dish Network receiver.  Turns out this is true.  I copied all of my recordings onto the USB HD.

Then I tried to play them by connecting the USB HD to my PC.  The PC could not read the USB HD.  So, I connected it back to the Dish Network receiver.  And now the Dish Network receiver cannot read the USB HD, either.

So, I decided to just watch the remaining shows directly from the Dish Network receiver.  But my recorded shows are now gone.  They may be on the USB HD, but neither the PC nor the Dish Network receiver can read them.  They are just gone.  What the “nice woman” had described as “saving” my recordings was actually “moving” my recordings. So, the nice, but stunningly stupid, lady at Dish Network managed to instruct me to destroy all of my recorded shows.

When I called today, to cancel my service, for real, I explained the above.  The supervisor said that the situation was very frustrating.  When I asked whether he could get in touch with the woman who had destroyed my recordings, to prevent her from doing this to other customers, he said that this was not possible.  He has no way to find out who it was and explain to her what she had done.

Given that so much content is available for free over the Internet, Dish Network is already in trouble.  But if they instruct customers to destroy recorded shows, and cannot identify those customer service personnel who are incompetent, they are in an entirely different world of hurt.  Darwin: take note.

No Respect for Dell

June 7, 2013

On 5 June, I ordered a computer from Dell, because it was in stock, and would ship on 6 June.

On 7 June, a day after it was to ship, I was informed that there would be a delay until 20 June.

You would think that they would have realized on 6 June, the day they were to ship, that they were unable to ship.

And you would think that the change from “in stock and ready to ship” would end up with a 2-3 day delay, or perhaps a week, not 2 weeks.

No respect, Dell.  No respect.