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By Len Nasman, Editor, Bristol Village Computer Club, OH , BVCC Newsletter, www.bvres.org
Streaming Media refers to the process of receiving either audio or video files on a computer, TV, or a portable device. If you have watched a YouTube video on your computer, you have used streaming video.
Streaming Media is different from listening to, or watching something, from a CD, DVD, hard drive, flash drive or other locally stored file.
Streaming Media requires a live connection to the Internet.
In the case of Streaming Video, it is becoming popular to stream the video directly to a TV set. This requires both a TV set capable of connecting to the Internet, or an adapter (such as the Roku, or Google Chromecast), and a wireless access point. The ISP, Internet Service Provider (such as the Time Warner option here in Bristol Village) must have a speed rating of more than 4Mbps.
A Smart TV is capable of receiving streaming video as long as it has a wireless Internet signal available. Smart TV prices have come down along with the prices of flat screen TV's in general. I have seen 24 inch smart TV's advertised for less than $200, and there are deals on 40 to 55 inch models for under $700.
OK, say you have access to streaming video either through a smart TV or an Internet connected computer. The next step is to locate the media you want to stream.
In the case of streaming audio, there are many sites with links to radio stations that stream their programming.
As I am writing this, I am listening to Scheherazade by way of a Chicago classical radio station. Here are links to some streaming audio sites.
By the way, the Streema site also links to TV stations around the world.
If you are an Internet surfer, you probably know how to find free YouTube videos. If you want to stream the latest movies, and are willing to pay a fee, there are streaming video services available. You can stream to computers or portable devices. Here is a link to an article that reviews some of the popular streaming movie services.
Record Your TV Shows – How-to Options
By Phil Sorrentino, Contributing Writer, The Computer Club, Florida, http://scccomputerclub.org, Philsorr.wordpress.com, philsorr (at) yahoo.com
It seems like TV shows are rarely aired at a convenient time, or they have so many commercials, during which you could easily lose the story line. Hence the tremendous market for Digital Video Recorders (DVR). After using a video recorder for the past ten or so years, I don’t know what channel a show I watch weekly is on, or when it was originally aired. (Thank goodness for on-line, and newspaper, TV guides.) Today, most homes get their TV service from a cable (or possibly satellite) company. In fact, TV service is very commonly bundled in what is called the “triple play,” TV, Internet, and phone. The TV portion usually provides a long list of TV (and music) channels. Also, there are premium channels, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz, or Cinemax, that can be received for an additional monthly cost.
So, once you make your TV channel selection, be it just basic or basic plus some premium content, you have access to all the shows that are on those channels, at the time they are aired. If you can arrange your schedule to be at the TV at all the times the shows you want to see are aired, then you are “good to go.”
But most of us have other commitments and interests that keep us from the TV at specific times. So, the next step is to get – usually rent - a DVR. The cable operators are more than willing to rent you a DVR for something around $10 to $15 per month. Now, a DVR is basically a small single purpose computer that is capable of collecting the incoming digital signal, and storing it on a hard drive as a video file, for later playback. The cost of the DVR is usually driven by the size of the hard drive, and the number of shows that can be simultaneously recorded. (Each show being recorded simultaneously needs a dedicated tuner, so the ability to record two shows, while watching live TV, would require 3 tuners.) So, if you are satisfied with the use and cost of the rented DVR, you also are “good to go.”
If at this point you are not “good to go.” here are two other alternatives. The first is to go with the TV cable channels selected, but employ a different DVR. Microsoft has generously made Windows Media Center available to Windows 7 and 8.1 users. (It is free for Windows 7 Home Premium and above, and is $100 for Windows 8.1 users, and $10 for Windows 8.1 pro users. Unfortunately, Microsoft has not included it in its plans for Windows 10, so the long-term future for Windows Media Center is not clear at this time.) If you are using Windows 7 Home Premium or above, the only additional cost is a TV tuner.
Windows Media Center, in conjunction with up to 4 TV tuners, can pro vide the ability to record up to 4 channels simultaneously, although usually 2 tuners will be adequate). Some TV tuners are USB devices and are no bigger than a Flash Memory stick, and can be bought for around $70. One end plugs into an empty USB slot in the computer and the other end connects to the cable. (You can also get TV tuners designed specifically for desktops.)
Windows Media Center will use as much hard drive as is available on the computer for your recordings, but will only put them in one folder. Once the tuners have been installed and Windows Media Center is installed on your computer, you can record shows from a guide that usually contains one to two weeks of programming. Playback is as easy as starting Windows Media Center, clicking on “recorded tv”, choosing a recorded show, and clicking play.
One other option is to obtain a DVR from another source. There are a handful of choices, just Google “DVR” to see them. You can also look at the Reviews to help you decide on one that fits your needs and budget. (CNET has done a review. Maybe someday Consumers Reports will do one.) If you do find a DVR, make sure it comes with a “TV Guide Service.” A TV Guide Service is needed to be able to schedule recordings of shows one to two weeks into the future. Most DVRs will come with a TV Guide Service. You can usually purchase the DVR and theservice two different ways. In the first option, the DVR will be sold at a fairly low price and the TV Guide Service will be a monthly expense. For the second option there is a one-time, higher cost, for both the DVR and the TV Guide Service. From the few that I’ve looked at, the break-even may be around one 1 & 1/2 to two years. So if you expect to use it for more than two years, the higher one-time cost will be less expensive in the long run. To be more specific, for a particular TiVo, the DVR was $50 with a $15 per month charge. The other way was $300 for both the DVR and the TV Guide Service (until the DVR stopped being used, or it was sold).
For those of you who are looking to “cut the cord,” there is a DVR that is available for only Over-the-Air TV. The DVR can record 4 shows simultaneously. This type of DVR would only be useful if you are in an area close enough to the transmission antennas for the major TV networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and PBS. In order to see how many channels you might get with a TV antenna, just go to www.antennaweb.org, click on “Click Here to Start”, enter your zip code, and click “Submit.” The results are shown as a list of the channels you could expect to receive with the distance and direction to the transmitting antennas. For example, for Sun City Center, all the major networks are within 10 miles, making the channels obtainable with a “small multi directional” antenna. My recent, limited, experience with Over-the-Air TV agrees with this. I am able to receive all the major networks and a few local channels on my TV with a relatively small antenna. (I guess I’m one third of the way towards cutting the cord.) With all these options available, I’m sure you can easily record all of your shows and soon forget the associated channels and air times.
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