Roku For All
About two years ago I reduced my cable service to local broadcast channels (called Limited on San Bruno Cable). While I have missed a few shows and seeing Giants games, I have no regrets. The price had climbed too high and has been for several years. Right now it costs $63.86 to get 99 channels that all has all the major cable news, sports, family, and the major cable stations. I looked into Dish or Direct TV and while they had things I liked I opted not to go for either one. The cost was certainly good but required a year or longer contract (and canceling meant paying fees). Plus I live in on the ground floor of a two floor apartment. Getting that signal would be a challenge (though not impossible).
Hulu became a good alternative to view shows on my computer but alas does have commercials. Finally upgrading to DSL offered me some options I did not have before. Since I was already a Netflix subscriber, I added streaming. With an Internet capable television to watch streaming movies, I looked at the options. Since I have an iMac, I was drawn to Apple TV. It has much to offer but I wanted more from the Internet. And that led me to Roku.
Roku is a deceptively small box that packs a lot into it. I wish my dvr’s were as small. Roku has many options to view things online providing you have a broadband connection. With Netflix being one of them, I could easily watch movies on my television. And a lot of other stuff has well. The major cable news services have channels to view their content (mostly news stories and sometimes live feeds as well). Hulu, Vudu are also available (Hulu requires paying for Hulu Plus and Vudu is a pay as you go movie service). There are tons of free movie channels but some have commercials like Hulu. Sports fans will like access to the major pay services (like MLB network). There a lot of family oriented channels and quite surprisingly a lot of religious ones as well (Christian and Jewish mostly, there probably is a Muslim one there somewhere and if not coming soon). You can also purchase games as well. Mine came with Angry Birds but I added You Do Not Know Jack. This was a computer trivia game I used to play long ago. Except it seems tougher now.
There are also rumors that Roku and Dish are working together to make popular channels available for a fee (sports channels excluded). Right now that is all just rumors but shows that the move towards Internet streaming has become a market to be mined. The one advantage cable has is reliability. While I do use an indoor antenna to get local HD programming, all kinds of things can make it go wrong (weather and other interference. Cable can go out if the signal transmitted to them goes wonky (and it seems more so today with digital than old analog). For me keeping basic cable also gets me free music channels. Pandora is available on Roku and is very good but also has commercials. The many music channels cable provides gives me enough to choose from and no commercials.
So if you are thinking about getting an Internet streaming device, the Roku is good one to choose. Different models have different prices. The one limitation on nearly all of them is how you connect, which is wireless. I choose the hardwire approach due to my apartment and other interference so I had to buy the top model which has an ethernet port. If you plan to watch a lot of HD movies, then up your service to at least 6 Mbps. At 3 Mbps you can view nearly everything but HD will take more time to load and reload while running.
Now about Netflix. Like many I was very displeased with what they tried to to. They needlessly alienated a lot of customers by splitting off the streaming from the dvd service. And then retreating and going back to what they are now offering dvd only or dvd with streaming options. I have the 2 DVD out at a time plan with streaming. Mostly I am pleased but like many wish there was more available to stream. That is out of Netflix hands and up to whoever owns the content. It will be a long while before streaming offers a full library compared to what is available on DVD. Still Netflix offers a service at a good price. Vudu does offer a lot of movies quicker but you pay as you go. Netflix has one membership fee for the month that covers everything you get by mail or via streaming. Sometimes it is worth it, if the movie is something you really have to see, but going to Vudu. I see that as a companion rather than a Netflix replacement. If you view only a few movies a year, Vudu is cheaper. If you like to catch up on television shows, Netflix is cheaper for doing that.
MasterChef and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares
MasterChef ended with a bang. Christine ended up beating Joshua and it was a tough competition. What put the judges over the edge for Christine was her ability to take simple dishes and make them much stronger and a well thought out menu. Josh had good items but did not quite flow together. He also flubbed his starter by not fully cooking the lobster, using an odd concoction of vegetables on his entrée, and his bacon crust pecan pie lacked bacon flavor. Overall his dishes were good but Christine just had that extra touch to make her dishes really taste good. She showed that simple can mean very flavorful and delicious (I still want to try those fried chicken legs she cooked!).
I recently watched Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares which is very different from its U.S. counterpart Kitchen Nightmares. Both shows do have their share of challenging personalities. The U.K. version is narrated by Ramsay and tends to avoid the melodrama often in the U.S. version. The focus is squarely on two things: food and how the front of the house is run. Ramsay tries to get the head chef (if there is one) back on track to cook food rather than slop or ring-a-ding-food. Menus are revised to become more local and fresh. Staff are encouraged to be welcoming and the owners to really understand how a restaurant is supposed to operate. A follow-up at the end usually shows how the place is faring. Some manage to do well and some end up closing (for a variety of reasons). Ramsay, of course, use the F word quite liberally on the show.
Generally the reasons the Ramsay assisted restaurants seem to fail are (1)Despite new menu and uptick in business, their debts are too high or creditor decides to force them out; (2)landlord raises rent or a local problem (permits etc) causes them to close; (3)bad economic conditions; (4)restaurant fails to make changes, customers drop off and owners close up; (5)owners decide to sell and get out of business for personal reasons.
Mythbusters Takes On Cameron’s Titanic
Now I have never really given it much thought but others have. Would Jack have survived had he stayed with Rose? Mythbusters tackled it in their usual style. It turns out that Jack would have died if stayed in the water but with his wet clothes out of the water had a better chance. However he would still loose warmth and possibly die before Rose was rescued. You can read the full article here.