Friday, September 06, 2013

Bringing back the TV feed into my life?

I have been "TV free" for a year now.  I was spending about $70/month for a modest package of Comcast's television programming. I found myself watching stuff because it happened to be on.  Or, I would use my DVR to record loads of stuff because it sounded like I might enjoy it.  I was spending more time in front of the television than I really wanted to.  Even when I managed to push myself away from the thing I kept thinking that $70/month was a lot to spend on something that I viewed as a vice that kept me from doing other things.  So, I dropped the TV package. 

I started watching video content on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  I tried to watch broadcast TV, but the only major station I could get was ABC, whose programming is well covered by Hulu.  I still watched an hour or two of video content every evening and maybe three hours on each weekend day.  My weekends were quite a bit more 'productive'.  However, I realized that my weekday evenings couldn't be much more productive since my brain was usually fried by the time I got home from work.   The entire arrangement really has been working pretty well.  Every now and then I would lament the lack of a television feed.  I always have to wait a day or more to see the most recent episode of the shows I like,  Plus, there were some CBS shows that were not available, even on a pay-per-episode basis on Amazon.  I don't consider this an actual hardship, just an inconvenience.  Part of me misses the serendipity of discovering new shows or hearing about an upcoming program from a commercial.  The one major thing that I do miss is the ability to easily switch on the news.  Yes, I can get some news through my Roku and over the Internet, but local news is a bit more challenging.  Again, I have an app on my iPad for the biggest NH TV station, but it's not quite the same on some level.

Since moving into my new house and hitting the 1 year anniversary of banishing "the feed" from my TV, I've been reconsidering.  I know what shows I've been willing to pay for "a la carte" on Amazon, and what I've been watching on Hulu and Netflix.  If I resubscribe to "the feed" from some company, I will no longer be purchasing shows via Amazon.  I may give up Hulu as well.  Netflix may get to stay for a while since I have enjoyed some of their original content and I use "" to alert me when Netflix finally picks up some movie that I've been interested in watching.

I shopped around today comparing channel coverage, features (such as HD and DVRs), and overall costs.  It looks like I'm probably going to go with DirecTV.  With the introductory rate, I could be paying about $49/month for all the features I want and more channels than I need (though this is there lowest level offering).  Beginning with the thirteenth month I'll be paying $76/month.  That will put me back up to what I was paying Comcast a year ago.   The entire thing involves a two year commitment.  So, two years back on "the feed".

I actually tried to sign up online today.  Unfortunately, my house was just recently built so they don't think that I exist.   This means that I'll have to call them to execute the transaction.   Another hurdle.  I'm sure I'll do it, but it does make me wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something here.

Google Reader refugees and other ways to aggregate content

Years ago, I used to read a few RSS feeds on a particular topic.  Someone in my field graciously made a web portal that aggregated the cream of them in a web portal.  A friend of mine remember that and asked me the name of the site, since he has been reading our industry's RSS news on Google's imminently-dead RSS reader service.  After I answered his question, I realized that my response might be valuable to others.  While it doesn't go into much detail, it should give you some options if you've been using Google to keep up with RSS feeds.

  1. I don’t remember the exact name of the site that USED TO aggregate some of the more popular RSS feeds.  Even a year before I left the Lab, some of the content on that page was stale and they were missing a lot of really good feeds.  I had pretty much given up on them.
  2. I used to also love  They allowed you to make your own web-portal/dashboard, that could include RSS feeds.  They have since moved to an app-based model.  Not a bad thing.   See this blog post that talks about why what they did was the right thing to do:
  3. Many RSS feeds are dying off, which played into Google’s decision to give up on its reader functionality. 
  4. If you’re still looking for a web-based replacement to Google reader, review this:    However, they don’t mention a pretty popular, cross-platfrom (web/ios/android), alternative:  Feedly.  See
  5. Microsoft Outlook supports RSS feeds, which is only relevant to Windoze users. (Microsoft's streamlined update to does not currently support RSS feeds.  On the other hand, does seem to be a pretty straightforward web-based mail service.  No bells, no whistles, but just simple/solid basic email.  (Let's hope that they can keep it cleaner than either or were when it comes to spam/phishing/malmail and p0wned accounts.)
  6. My ‘reader’ of choice is actually Flipboard (Android/IoS).  It lets you make a magazine out of all sorts of content, including RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, on and on).  You know it’s good stuff when Facebook is trying to steal their model, see:,2817,2420873,00.asp  (article also makes mention of, and links to an article on, AOL’s beta RSS reader)    

Flipboard needs to figure out a way to take their functionality fully cross-platform, like my favorite PIM (Personal Information Manager):  Evernote (see:   If they don't, Feedly or Facebook are going to overtake them and make them irrelevant (Remember MySpace and Friendster?)

If nothing else, perhaps Flipboard could look into leveraging their current Android development stream as a springboard for working within Chrome.  If Google is not already pushing Chrome development in the direction of "Cross platform virtual mobile desktop", they soon should.  Android is still more popular as a mobile OS than anything Microsoft based, and will only stay that way if they make it so that an app that you use on your mobile device can be used NOT only on a Windoze PC, but also on a Apple-based PC.  That would also be another way for them to outdo Apple, since IoS apps only run on Apple hardware...

Are you listening Apple?  Perhaps it's time for Safari to start acting like a "cross platform virtual mobile desktop".  Feeling that struggle to make "the next big thing"?  It doesn't have to be another piece of revolutionary consumer-based hardware.  You already have a small cadre of Safari users in the Windoze world.  A lot of people love your mobile devices for themselves, but have various personal ($$$) or business reasons for using Windoze.  Not only would you thrill these people and solidify your hold on them by allowing them to run IoS apps in Safari under Windoze, but you'd probably win over some more consumers to your IoS devices if they could use apps in Safari on Windoze that they use on IoS.

With most of our data being stored "in the cloud" apps that run in a "cross platform virtual mobile desktop" may just be the next wave.  Device-independence shouldn't just mean either a cloud-based roaming OS-handcuffed profile or feature-anemic browser-based apps.

Mountain View?  Cupertino?  Are you listening?  We all know that Redmond isn't and probably won't.  After all, they gave up their toe-hold into other OSes long ago when they shrugged off Internet Explorer 5.5 for the Mac.

Am I the only one that sees these opportunities?