January 24, 2017

Review of USTV Now Roku Channel

You may have heard of USTVnow, the streaming service that offers cable television packages that range in price from free to over $100.
USTVnow is ostensibly designed for Americans living abroad (military service members, for instance). The idea is that Americans would normally have access to these channels (perhaps even free over the air), but no longer can. However, USTVnow doesn’t do anything to verify that you are American or living outside of the United States, so it’s effectively a free-for-all.
That means you can get USTVnow no matter where you live. But should you? Here’s our review.


The user experience

Device support is fairly weak on USTVnow. There is a Roku private channel that is pretty good, and USTVnow works on your phone, tablet, computer, and smartphone. That’s about it, though – don’t expect support for Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV. The unlimited DVR feature is a nice touch (you can only get it with the paid account, though).

USTVnow's browser interface
USTVnow’s browser interface
We weren’t that impressed with USTVnow’s UI. USTVnow’s interface isn’t bad, exactly, but it’s also a constant reminder that the service exists on the fringe of legality. It’s pretty basic, with stock photos, blue links, grey tones, and right angles galore. Using it was pretty painless, though it occasionally hit us with strange error dialogue boxes upon login. The USTVnow logo in the upper left corner of the screen indicated that the service is in Beta, and it shows.
All of this is no big deal for the free plan – you don’t expect luxury when you’re using a quasi-legal service and netting a bunch of free TV. But USTVnow’s paid customers probably deserve better.

The content

USTVnow’s paid version includes more than 25 channels. That’s not a bad selection, especially considering the big names that are included: you’ll get the four major networks, plus AMC, CNN, ESPN, FX, TBS, and TNT, to name just a few. The free version includes six channels: ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, and PBS (those are free because they’re the ones that Americans could theoretically get free over the air at home). Here’s a quick breakdown of the pricing for the paid version:
USTV Now pricing
There’s also a “premium plan” with over 200 channels, including HBO and Showtime. That will run you more than $99 and uses a different system.
It’s hard to find reasons to complain about USTVnow’s content. The only strange thing about the content is that it comes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Since the major networks, PBS, and the rest have regionally-specific content, this can make for kind of weird moments. Local news, NFL games, and other programming will be based on whatever Harrisburg gets. There are also lots of local Harrisburg commercials, which is amusing. It’s a little bootleg, for lack of a better word.
We mentioned the NFL up there. NFL games are a big boost to USTVnow’s content selection, especially since most games are on the channels that you can get for free (the Monday night games on ESPN are the ones that will cost you extra). NFL games are really hard to get ahold of, so it’s nice to be able to catch them. Note that the local broadcasts for Harrisburg cover the Steelers and Eagles, so you’ll have to hope that your favorite team isn’t playing in the same time slot.

Streaming quality

Streaming through USTVnow is solid but unspectacular. The quality is determined largely by your internet bandwidth, but you can choose between low, medium, high, and HD quality at will. We experienced occasional pixelation and poor picture quality. Streaming on low quality was very consistent and smooth; at higher picture quality levels, we dealt with more freezes and choppiness. Internet bandwidth determines streaming success, so your milage may vary. For what it’s worth, the low quality stream wasn’t that blurry, so this wasn’t the end of the world.

Low quality streaming worked best for us - here's what it looks like

Low quality streaming worked best for us – here’s what it looks like
One annoying thing about the stream is that it re-loads every time you change the quality (understandable) or picture size (less understandable), and it takes a fair amount of time to do it. You’ll miss 10+ seconds of your program if you make a switch from one video quality to another.
We did have some issues streaming content on Sunday, when NFL games were airing. This could have been because a high volume of users were streaming at once. Once again, it seemed like something you’d expect from a free illegal stream, but would be hard to swallow as a paying customer.

Our conclusion

You can’t beat the price of USTVnow’s free plan. Even if USTVnow is eventually shut down, individual users will almost certainly never be prosecuted, so you might as well make a free account.
USTVnow’s monthly rate of $29 for a paid plan is much tougher for us to justify based on our experience. Sling TV has fewer channels and a weaker content selection, but it’s also $9 less, features more device support, and isn’t illegal. That said, USTVnow’s day passes are a very attractive option for appointment viewing like sports events and TV specials.

Stephen Lovely
Stephen Lovely is a freelance writer and a longtime cord cutter with a passion for technology and entertainment. You can find his work on Cordcutting.com and his tweets at @stephenlovely.

Source: https://cordcutting.com/review-of-ustv-now/

The Hassle-Free Guide to Ripping Your Blu-Ray Collection

Blu-Ray may be majestic, but it also has more copy protection than any other format around, and playing it on your computer can be difficult to impossible. Here’s how to rip those movies for glorious HD movies, anywhere you want them.

Apart from its very heavy copy protection, you can only play Blu-Ray discs in a few choice desktop computer programs, most of which cost a lot of money. If you use a Mac, it becomes even more difficult, and it’s pretty much impossible on Linux. Luckily, video encoding has come a long way since the days of grainy, 700MB DVD rips, and you can get high quality Blu-Ray rips that can weigh in anywhere between 4 and 12 GB each, depending on how close to the original source you want them to be. Best of all is that even a 4GB file looks a ton better than those DVD rips, so by ripping your Blu-Rays, you can still get that amazing HD quality on any computer you want—no Blu-Ray drive or expensive software required (you’ll need a Blu-Ray drive to rip them though, of course—but then you’ll be able to play those files anywhere).
Five Best Blu-Ray Playback Suites

There are a lot of different methods for ripping and encoding Blu-Rays, several different encoding programs, and more than a few ripping solutions. We combed through the options to pull together the simplest, working method using the best free programs we could find. In addition, everyone’s preferences on quality and method of encoding are different, so you may prefer some advanced options we do not cover here, but this is intended to be a fairly simple, hassle-free guide for people who want to get the job done. It makes a compromise between being easy to execute without sacrificing too much quality. Also, this method is 100% cross-platform, as both programs are available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
What You’ll Need

Unlike a lot of the Blu-Ray guides I’ve stumbled onto, you’ll only need a few things for ours:

    A Blu-Ray Drive. This is pretty obvious; you won’t get far if your computer can’t read Blu-Ray discs. You can get them for as low as $60 now on Newegg if you don’t already have one.

    Previously mentioned MakeMKV for the initial Blu-Ray rip. It’s about the simplest ripper on the market, rips your movie to a high quality MKV file for easy encoding, and is free while in beta (which, so far, has been a very long time). If you have another ripper that just rips the disc in its original format, like AnyDVD HD, that should work just as well, but if you don’t have a program on hand, MakeMKV will do the job brilliantly.
    Handbrake, our favorite (and your favorite) cross platform, open source video encoder. There are a few other programs out there that will encode HD video, and some of them are a bit easier to navigate, most notably Ripbot264. However, I and many others have had problems running this on 64-bit versions of Windows 7, so I decided to go with Handbrake instead. Make sure you’re using the latest version.
    Anywhere from 30 to 60 GB of hard disk space, depending on what you’re ripping. Blu-Rays are big, and we’re going to rip the whole thing to our drive first, so depending on the movie you’re ripping and the quality you want in your final movie file, you’ll need a good amount of space. An external hard drive will work just fine if you have one and don’t have the space on your PC.

That’s it. Unlike using RipBot or other similar methods, you won’t need AviSynth, ffdshow, or any of the other many installations such programs often require. Just download and install MakeMKV and Handbrake (if you don’t have them already) and you’ll be good to go.

Step One: Rip the Movie with MakeMKV

The first thing we’re going to do is rip our movie to our hard drive, which will produce a very large MKV file of your movie at full, 1080p, Blu-Ray quality. It’ll be very large, but we’ll slim it down later, so for right now, don’t worry about how big it is.

Open up MakeMKV and hit the bit “Open Disc” button. It will scan through your disc, which will take a few minutes. When it’s done, it’ll give you a list of the chapters on the disc. Find your movie (usually the longest title) and uncheck all the other boxes. Then, just choose your Output Folder and hit the “Make MKV” button. Usually this’ll take a half hour or so, depending on the size of your disc, but once it’s done you should have a big MKV file waiting for you in the folder you chose.

Step Two: Choose Your Resolution in Handbrake

Now comes the more complicated (but also more fun) part of the process. There are a lot of settings available in Handbrake, and while we won’t delve into all the advanced features it has, you still have some choices to make and some settings to tweak. Most of it is personal preference, but we’ll outline what we recommend for getting the best compromise between quality and space savings on a movie-by-movie basis, so you can fit as many of those HD movies on your hard drive as possible.

The first thing you want to think about (which will affect your output size pretty heavily) is resolution. Blu-Rays are 1080p natively, and by default, Handbrake will keep that resolution. However, you may want to consider toning it down to 720p for some movies. 720p is still HD, but takes up quite a bit less space—in fact, by bringing our test movies down to 720p, I nearly halved the size of the final file. And, if we’re being honest, certain movies just don’t need all those pixels—I love Anchorman as much as anybody, but I don’t need to see Will Ferrel running around cracking jokes in magnificent 1080p. The Dark Knight, on the other hand, probably deserves all the pixels 1080p can offer. It’s up to you to decide which movies you’d like to dedicate an extra few gigs to, but toning the less visually interesting ones down is something I’d highly recommend.

If you’re ripping a movie that deserves 1080p, you can skip this step, because 1080p is the already the default resolution. If you want to change it to 720p, then click on the Picture tab (or the “Picture Settings” button along the top of the HandBrake window, depending on your platform). Set the “Anamorphic” box to “loose” and change the width to 1280. Note that Handbrake crops out the black bars on either side to save some space, so your height will not be 720, but rest assured that it will be what you know as 720p quality. Exit that window and return to HandBrake’s main settings.

Step Three: Set Your Quality Settings and Encode

Next, hit the High Profile preset in the right sidebar and choose your output type. I like MKV; it’s open in nature, supports DTS and AC3 audio, and works great in quite a few media players, including most media center software. Choose H.264 as your video codec and head to the Audio tab. Here, you have a few options depending on the nature of your disc. It will likely be some form of either AC3 (aka Dolby Digital) or DTS—there are a few different versions of each, but for each I recommend choosing the Passthru option for your Audio codec (AC3 Passthru or DTS Passthru). If you choose the DTS-HD or TrueHD track, you’ll get lossless audio, but you can save some space by choosing the regular DTS or AC3 track with very little loss in quality.

Lastly, we’ll pick the quality of our encode. This part is pretty open to experimentation, but it’s pretty widely accepted that doing a constant quality encode is the best option, so select that. I and many others have found that an RF of 18 is the “sweet spot” for Blu-Rays. This setting will give you a file much smaller than your original MKV (around 15% the size, I’ve found), but with quality nearly indiscernible to your eyes from the original. If you have particularly sensitive eyes, you may want it closer to 16, or even 14 for some Blu-Rays. If you tend to not notice minor imperfections, maybe and RF of 20 is more your speed. Again, this is personal preference, and it can depend on the movie too—movies with lots of fast motion and dark scenes will need a higher quality setting—that is, a lower RF—to look good. So, you may have to play with it a bit before you make your final decision. I’ve found a good way to do this is to rip a single scene using MakeMKV, then test that with a few different quality settings in Handbrake before encoding the final movie, since encoding the whole movie can take a long time.

When you’re ready, hit the encode button and let it go to town. It will take a little while, depending on the settings you’ve chosen, so maybe now is a time to kick back with a cold one and, if you’ve already ripped one of your Blu-Rays, watch one (or two or five—seriously, it could take awhile). Once you’ve ripped your movies, you can watch them either in our favorite video players for Windows, Mac, and Linux, or put together a turbo charged XBMC computer for your home theater.

Like I said before, this is certainly not the only way to rip your Blu-Ray discs. A lot of people prefer different programs and settings, but if you’re not a true audio or videophile, these settings should help you upgrade your movie collection to HD without taking terabytes of space. As always, if you have your own favorite methods for ripping HD content, sound off in the comments.

Source: https://lifehacker.com/5559007/the-hassle-free-guide-to-ripping-your-blu-ray-collection

December 15, 2016

Reuters TV Comes to Roku Players With FREE News Coverage

Now you can watch Reuters TV for free, personalized video news on your Roku.
Reuters TV is your video news service. Powered by more than 2,500 journalists in 200 locations around the world, it offers exclusive news programming that’s ready whenever you are. Watch news that’s curated for you, straight from the source and made to fit your day on your Roku player.
Choose your video news program length and watch news that’s ready when you are.
Here is our full video review:

Key features include:
• On­-demand: Reuters TV is ready whenever and wherever you are
• Up to date: Insightful and unbiased coverage of national and world news that’s always current
• Relevant to you: Personalized to your interests and location
• Live feeds: Watch the world’s most important events as they happen
• Any duration: Choose the length of your personalized news program, from 5 to 30 minutes
• Quick control: Skip between each story in your program
• Follow trends: Whether it’s the migrant crisis or the race for the self-driving car, stay on top of news trends in our Featured Programs section
Access to Reuters TV is completely free with limited advertising.
You can add Reuters TV to your Roku here: https://channelstore.roku.com/details/114091/reuterstv
Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news, tips, and reviews.
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- See more at: http://cordcuttersnews.com/reuters-tv-comes-roku-players-free-news-coverage/#sthash.kq8jJh5M.dpuf

December 14, 2016

The Weather Channel Comes to Roku Players


Miss the Weather Channel after you left cable? Well the Weather Channel is now available on your Roku with their new Local Now Roku Channel.
If you have had Sling TV recently you are probably already familiar with Local Now.  It brings local weather, news, sports, traffic, and other local content to your Roku. During sever weather like tornadoes and hurricanes they often flip over to a live feed of The Weather Channel in the effected markets.
If you have a login to a service that provides the Weather Channel you will be able to get a live feed of the full Weather Channel. Hopefully a streaming service will soon offer that option. Yet for now this is a great option for cord cutters looking for local weather.
weather2From The Weather Channel:
Local Now offers real-time, hyper-local weather, news, sports and traffic reports. For the first time your local news is available instantly on demand and on any device. The localized content is featured within a short loop that is updated in real-time. So if you miss something, you can catch it again only a few minutes later.
Powered by The Weather Channel and other leading content providers, Local Now delivers a unique viewing experience that gives information that is relevant to you and your day. Additionally, Local Now offers localized severe weather clips within your personally customized locations, providing you with the real-time weather information you need to stay safe if your area is impacted by a particular weather event.
Local Now also offers a live video stream of The Weather Channel television network to the majority of users that have a current TV provider subscription. Additional partners will continue to be signed and announced, you will be prompted to select your provider at time of login.
Update: Something not listed in the description is that you only get a free 31 day trial of this channel. After the 31 day trial is up you will need a service provider to continue using the Roku Channel.
You can add the Local Now Channel to your Roku her: https://channelstore.roku.com/details/97955/localnow
Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news, tips, and reviews.
Need cord cutting tech support? Join our new Cord Cutting Tech Support Facebook Group for help.
- See more at: http://cordcuttersnews.com/weather-channel-comes-roku-players/#sthash.SxTgEnK1.dpuf

December 5, 2016

Hulu now streams 4K, starting with its originals and 20 Bond films

Starting today, you can stream 4K content from Hulu on Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro. But the selection of shows and movies available at launch is pretty underwhelming compared to rivals Netflix and Amazon Video, who’ve both been offering 4K for some time now.
Hulu’s first batch of 4K includes the company’s lineup original shows and 20 James Bond films. So while that’s pretty good news for 007 fanatics, well, it doesn’t do much for everyone else. Hulu Originals (11.22.63, The Path, Chance, etc.) aren’t exactly the same award-winning critical darlings we’ve seen from the service’s competitors. Hopefully the company will waste no time in widening its catalog of things to watch in 4K. It’s also lagging behind Amazon, Vudu, and now Netflix in enabling offline downloads.
Anyway, here’s the list of Bond flicks that you can now see in UHD on those two devices:
  • Spectre
  • Die Another Day
  • The World Is Not Enough
  • GoldenEye
  • Licence To Kill
  • The Living Daylights
  • A View To A Kill
  • Never Say Never Again
  • Octopussy
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Moonraker
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • The Man With The Golden Gun
  • Diamonds Are Forever
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Thunderball
  • Goldfinger
  • From Russia With Love
  • Dr. No

    Source: http://www.theverge.com/2016/12/2/13821192/hulu-4k-streaming-now-available-bond-movies

December 2, 2016

Sony 'mastered in 4K' Blu-rays a mixed blessing

The "mastered in 4K" name is sure to confuse many buyers this year, but Sony's special new Blu-rays are an impressive boost in quality over your average Blu-ray release.

You'd be excused for thinking this Blu-ray is in 4K. It isn't, but it is still very good.Photo by (Credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Sony is pushing its status as the only company able to deliver a complete 4K experience "from the lens to the living room". As part of this business integration — from movie studios shooting and finishing films in 4K through to new 4K televisions hitting the market in coming weeks — Sony is eager to deliver something that gives viewers a reason for choosing Sony ahead of Samsung, LG or another company.
Enter Sony's "mastered in 4K" Blu-ray releases, which will hit the market around the same time as Sony 4K televisions (we will find out Australian availability later this month). These films are specially mastered to deliver enhanced quality over standard HD movies, particularly when viewed on a 4K TV.
That statement alone encourages consumers to make some bad assumptions. No, these discs are not 4K; they are still HD Blu-ray discs. Sony representatives have been using phrases like "near 4K", but we are still talking about movies delivered in 1920x1080 that will be upscaled to 3840x2160.

When discussing these new "mastered in 4K" discs with technical staff at Sony Pictures, there was a clear disdain for using 4K terminology on discs that are not 4K. Confusion may breed resentment, and ultimately cause a negative reaction to the value that real 4K content will deliver once the content is ready to be delivered in its truest form.
On the other hand, "mastered in 4K" Blu-rays also turn out to be the best picture quality ever produced on a Blu-ray disc, and will really look amazing when played on a Sony 4K TV.
There are three technical measures that elevate a "mastered in 4K" disc above the rest:
  1. Enhanced bitrate: these discs exclude content extras in favour of using all available disc space to deliver the film in a greatly enhanced bitrate. Where most Blu-ray discs are typically delivered in rates in the 24Mbps to 30Mbps ballpark, these "mastered in 4K" discs deliver at 35Mbps to 38Mbps. A greater bitrate means a much clearer picture, and less moments where blocking or blurring will occur, particularly in action sequences.
  2. XvYCC support: in the Blu-ray standard, xvYCC (also known as x.v.Color) is a colour space option that to date, has almost never been supported. XvYCC extends the available colour gamut to better represent the colour space that the original film was intended to be displayed at, while the standard sRGB space cuts off a lot of information in the red and blue-green sections of the spectrum. As long as your Blu-ray player and your TV support xvYCC, these discs will deliver a solid colour enhancement over other discs on the market.
  3. Sony 4K algorithms: this final feature is a sweetener focused on giving Sony 4K TV owners a better experience with these discs than any other 4K TV owners. Being part of the same family, Sony Pictures and Sony Bravia have shared proprietary algorithm information to give the best possible upscaling performance on these films. Sony 4K televisions will be able to identify a "mastered in 4K" disc and use an upscaling algorithm based on the same formula used at Sony Pictures to downscale the film from 4K to HD. This secret sauce is likely to give a Sony TV the edge over other TVs that must use less-specific algorithms to upscale the content.
Viewing a "mastered in 4K" disc side by side with the same footage displayed in true 4K video, you have to be looking very carefully to pick up on the difference. But that leads to another dilemma: is Sony's stop gap "mastered in 4K" going to create another scenario where 4K TV owners don't see the benefit in buying true 4K content? Could HD Blu-ray be "good enough" in the same way that DVD has mostly been seen as good enough for HDTV owners?
These special edition discs are undoubtedly little more than a stop gap until a final 4K Blu-ray format hits the market, and spending money on a movie collection that will be outdated next year also seems to be a dud play. But they do give an enhanced experience, so it isn't just a marketing exercise.
The best-case scenario would see these movies offered up as a bundle deal with the purchase of a new Sony 4K TV. Then they move from the awkward (if gifted) step-child to a sweetener that gives great value today while you wait for perfection tomorrow.
Fifteen films are scheduled to be released in the format, ranging from recent releases like The Amazing Spider-ManTotal RecallThe Other Guys and Battle: Los Angeles all the way to classic films restored in 4K, such as Lawrence of ArabiaTaxi Driver and Ghostbusters.
Seamus Byrne attended a 4K television press event as a guest of Sony Australia.


November 12, 2016

Watching live TV on the Roku platform

We chat with different types of Roku customers every day – some cord cutters who strictly stream, others who have cable, and many cord shavers who fall somewhere in between. To share his perspective and expertise on cord cutting, we’ve invited Chris Brantner for a guest blog post series. 
Sure, the on-demand streaming revolution is amazing. It’s awesome to want to watch something and be able to find it and watch it immediately. Still, there is something magical about live TV.
Watching something as soon as it’s revealed can be great fun. Channel surfing is a great perk of cable or satellite, which involves being able to watch different live shows as well as finding new things to watch. Not to mention, who wants to watch sports or the news on demand?
So, even though on-demand streaming is awesome, there is still a case to be made for live TV. It’s just not going out of style.
That’s one of the best things about Roku streaming devices. While you can watch live TV with an antenna or on cable/satellite, there is also plenty of live TV available on various Roku streaming channels. And it’s not just for cord cutters. If you’re a cable subscriber, you can access a wide variety of cable content on your Roku streaming device.
If you’re looking for live TV, here are some of your best options when you’re using a Roku streaming device.

Live TV (channel bundles)
Sling TV – Sling TV was made for cord cutters. If you don’t have a pay TV subscription, Sling TV gives you access to a variety of live cable channels (anywhere from 25 channels to over 100). Depending on the Sling TV package you choose, it may be more affordable than a traditional pay TV subscription. You get channels like AMC, TBS, and TNT, starting at $20 per month. Sling TV even recently added NHL Network to its Sports Extra pack just in time for hockey season.
PlayStation Vue – Vue is similar to Sling TV, though you pay a little more, while receiving more channels. Fans of channel surfing will like Vue. You get channels like Syfy, Bravo, FX and Food Network. The benefit here is that there is really something for everyone and a unique cloud DVR.

News (Free)
NewsOn – If you’re looking for live news, NewsOn offers live, local news from over 130 local news stations. It’s absolutely free and you can watch it live whenever you want.
Newsy – Newsy offers 24/7 news in livestream format. The service is absolutely free so you don’t need a subscription to watch. Rather than full news shows, Newsy is fun because you get short, unbiased videos from the day’s top news stories. It’s a whole new twist on the news.

WatchESPN – In order to watch the WatchESPN channel you need login information for one of the following: cable subscriber, ISP, Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. If you’re looking for a way to watch sports in real time, this is a great way to do it. With WatchESPN you’ll be able to watch whatever live sport happens to be on at the time on channels including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, SEC Network, and many others. Although it’s worth noting that which channels WatchESPN gives you access to depends on what’s included in your pay TV subscription.
FOX Sports GO – This channel also requires a pay TV or PlayStation Vue subscription to give you access to live content. Once you’ve logged in you’ll be able to watch a variety of sports based on your local area. FSN offers everything from NCAA and NFL to MLB and NASCAR.
WWE Network – Wrestling fans can’t get enough of the WWE Network channel. You just login with your subscriber info ($9.99 per month) and you’ll be able to watch every WWE pay-per-view event live. You even can watch WrestleMania! The channel also includes documentaries and reality shows all related to WWE.
Fubo.TV – If you’re looking for a way to watch soccer in live or on-demand, Fubo.TV is the channel for you. For $6.99 per month you can watch matches from La Liga, Capital One Cup, Copa del Rey, Copa America, and many others. You also get other live channels include beIN Sports, GolTV, and more.
NFL Sunday Ticket – With NFL Sunday Ticket you need a DirecTV login in order to watch live sports. You will be able to live stream any out-of-market NFL games all Sunday long! You also have access to DIRECTV FANTASY ZONE which gives you game analysis, real-time stats and much more. However, it’s only available to college students and those living in areas where you can’t get DirecTV satellite service (check eligibility here).

Live TV/Movies
Pluto TV (free)– Pluto TV is a channel like no other, broadcasting over 100 linear streaming channels in a TV guide-like interface. From live news to movies to YouTube videos, there really is something for everyone here.
HBO NOW – You need an HBO NOW subscription ($14.99 per month) to watch HBO. This isn’t technically live TV (with the exception of VICE News Tonight which is live at 7:30 pm ET weekdays), but the primetime shows arrive on the HBO NOW channel at the time they would air on TV, so it’s essentially the same thing in that regard. You get access to every HBO show and a wide variety of popular movies, too. Have cable? Then you can log into HBO GO, which offers the same content.
SHOWTIME – SHOWTIME’s standalone Roku channel features a live stream of what’s currently airing on Showtime, along with an on-demand library of Showtime’s original series, comedies, sports, movies, and more. After a 7-day free trial, SHOWTIME is $10.99 per month.
Crackle (free) – Crackle offers a live stream of movies in a linear fashion, which makes it feel more like a television station as opposed to a standard streaming channel. Crackle offers a mix of TV, originals, and movies. Best of all, they are completely free.
As you can see, there are a ton of live TV channels available on your Roku streaming device. I would like to make note that streaming live TV is a bit more taxing on your internet setup than streaming on demand content. So make sure you have a good Wi-Fi setup, and a fast internet connection for streaming.
Have a live Roku channel you think I missed? Share in the comments section below!

Source: https://blog.roku.com/blog/2016/11/10/watching-live-tv-on-the-roku-platform/

October 21, 2016

Vudu Starts Offering FREE Movies

Vudu, the Walmart-owned video streaming service, has long tried to compete iTunes and Amazon Video. They offered options to rent or purchase popular movies and TV shows and stream them online.

Now Vudu is jumping in on the free with ads streaming model made popular by services such as Crackle and Tubi TV.

The new service, Vudu Movies on Us, will not include newer movies. Those will remain available only for rent or purchase. At launch Vudu on Us will offer movies such as Mad Max, True Grit, Abduction, School of Rock, Hoosiers, The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Young Adult, Margin Call, A Walk to Remember and The Magnificent Seven (1960). Vudu says it will be adding more content in the coming months.

“There’s no better value than free,” said Jeremy Verba, VP and GM of Vudu. “We see a gap in the marketplace for watching free HD movies on-demand.”

This is a move many had previously hoped a service such as Crackle or Tubi TV would offer. Watch for free with ads or watch ad-free by paying. Although the catalog is small, hopefully Vudu will grow their selection.

It will be interesting to see if competitors will be able to release a similar service; however, some have already dipped their toe into the market. Recently Amazon has started offering the first episode of many shows for free with ads to allow you to test the season before paying. It will be interesting to see if they jump in and try to compete in this new market with Vudu.

Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news, tips, and reviews.

Source: http://cordcuttersnews.com/vudu-starts-offering-free-movies/

October 14, 2016

The Race Too Early to Call: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast

This year, Roku is projected to have 25 million U.S. users, representing 15.2% of connected-TV users, according to a forecast by research firm eMarketer. Google’s Chromecast will have 30.2 million users and Apple TV will have 20.5 million users in the States, per eMarketer estimates.

The more data that emerges regarding the streaming video player category, the less clear it is just who is on top.

The latest sprinkling of data points carefully designed to make a company look robust without actually revealing too much came from Roku Tuesday, which disclosed reaching the 10-million-unit sales mark in the U.S. since launching in 2008.

That nice round number probably brought to mind Apple CEO Tim Cook , who in April revealed that rival product Apple TV had reached a global installed base of 20 million, which had generated $1 billion in revenues for the company last year.

But Apple TV and Roku don’t have the streaming device marketplace to themselves anymore, according to data issued earlier this month from NPD Group’s retail tracking service ( based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. consumers). The emergence of Google’s Chromecast on NPD’s radar for the first time in the second quarter of the year reduced U.S. market share for the category leaders.

Apple TV saw its share drop from 46% in the second quarter last year to 39% in 2014. Roku had a slightly smaller dip, from 33% to 28%. Both of their drops were on account of Chromecast grabbing 16% share. Keep in mind last year IHS pegged Roku and Apple TV’s combined market share at 94%.

Yet it’s too early to draw any conclusions because this is quickly becoming a four-player race where all three incumbents could see share drop further next quarter, when sales of Amazon’s Fire TV are tracked for the first time.

Not to be outdone, Roku also shared an NPD Group stat Tuesday that makes a more direct comparison: The purple box served an aggregate 37 million hours of video streamed per week compared to Apple TV at 15 million hours, Chromecast at 12 million hours and Amazon Fire TV at six million hours. Can’t get a clearer sense of what the competitive set is than that, right?

But time is a tricky metric. Consider a damning Parks Associates estimate made in June that found a declining percentage in the number of Chromecast users using the device at least once a month. Google responded the following month at its I/O conference with a different data point suggesting the total number of minutes Chromecast is being used shot up 40% from last year.

Both points could be true: While the overall number of Chromecast buyers are using it less, the core user base is more engaged than ever.

Parks also issued a worrisome indicator for Chromecast in June that Q1 sales of Chromecast had remained flat from the two previous quarters, with just 6% of U.S. broadband households buying Chromecast. That figure held steady even as the usage of streaming media players overall is on the rise.

Moreover, Parks estimated in July that Google sold 3.8 million Chromecast units over the previous 12 months worldwide, on par with how many units Roku sold in all of 2013. Apple TV sold just over 2 million last year. Chromecast is available in 19 countries as of July, significantly more than Roku, which is just in four countries, while Apple TV is in far more than both competitors combined.

Chromecast was also likely the culprit for the pronounced decrease in the average price of a streaming media player, which went from $88 in 2012 to $61 in the first half of 2014, according to NPD. A big factor in Chromecast’s ability to move the volume of units it did was its cheap $35 price tag, which in turn prompted newer, cheaper devices in the market like Roku’s $49 HDMI stick.

Another research firm, IHS, estimates 24 million units as the installed base for streaming media players in the U.S. this year, comprising nearly half of the 50 million total worldwide. That’s up from 16 million the previous year and expected to climb to 44 million by 2017. Streaming media devices are distinct from Blu-Ray players, game consoles and connected TVs, which altogether are expected to reach 213 million by 2017. All of the other segments are still more pervasive than streaming devices.

As of the first quarter of 2014, according to Parks, 20% of U.S. broadband households use streaming media players, up from 14% in 2012. When consoles, connected TVs and Blu-Ray players are added in, that’ number is near 70%.

Of course, with all the attention now on this sector, the question in the years to come is what use devices that attach to TVs to allow for streaming when an increasing number of smart TVs come with that capability baked in? Until then, there’s a short-term horse race worth watching.

Source: https://variety.com/2014/digital/news/the-race-too-early-to-call-roku-apple-tv-fire-tv-chromecast-1201303129/

This year, Roku is projected to have 25 million U.S. users, representing 15.2% of connected-TV users, according to a forecast by research firm eMarketer. Google’s Chromecast will have 30.2 million users and Apple TV will have 20.5 million users in the States, per eMarketer estimates.

Roku Passes 10 Million Mark As Streaming Competition Heats Up

Amadou Diallo
Roku has sold 10 million streaming players in the US, says CEO Anthony Wood in a blog post today. The milestone is a significant one for the California-based company in a market that by all accounts has tremendous growth potential. The NPD Group in a recent report estimates that 17% of US Internet households owned a streaming media player as of Q2 2014, a figure they predict will rise to 39% by 2017. The two dominant players have long been Apple AAPL +0.33% and Roku, though recently both Google GOOGL -0.01% and Amazon have joined the fray with streaming options of their own.

Sales of 10 million units still places Roku well behind Apple, who this summer boasted of having sold twice that many Apple TVs, even with minimal marketing efforts. Roku has long countered this sales disparity by noting that its users are far more engaged when it comes to actually watching content. Citing NPD survey figures, Roku claims its users are streaming 37 million hours of content per week, compared with just 15 million hours  by Apple TV users.
The Roku 3 player offers more than 1,000 streaming channels in 1080p HD resolution.
The Roku 3 player offers more than 1,000 streaming channels in 1080p HD resolution.
Whether you find sales volume or usage a more compelling statistic, there’s little doubt that the streaming market is about to get even more competitive. Anonymously-sourced reports have described ongoing negotiations between Apple and cable providers as well as content owners in advance of a substantially redesigned Apple TV, one that would merge pay TV and streaming content into a unified interface. A move like this would further solidify the notion that streaming services are a complement to, not a replacement of cable and satellite pay TV services, a crucial distinction that may entice cable companies and the content producers they pay handsomely to make even more shows available via streaming services.
Just last month, Roku announced the fruits of its partnerships with TV manufacturers Hisense and TCL: flatscreens that come with Roku’s hardware built-in, no set-top box required. It’s easy to imagine greater sales and product awareness should Roku manage similar deals with more prominent US brands. Amazon and Google may provide stiff competition though. The low-cost Google Chromecast has, according to NPD, already grabbed 16% of the streaming sales that Apple and Roku had to themselves at this time last year. And Amazon debuted a very impressive Fire TV set-top box this spring that is likely to siphon off additional market share. Amazon steadfastly refuses to release sales figures for its hardware, but said in a Q2 earnings statement, “Fire TV sales have significantly exceeded our sales forecast and we are working hard to increase our manufacturing output.”
Roku’s sales mark is impressive no matter how you slice it, considering the resources of its much larger and deeper-pocketed competitors. We may soon find out though, if the Roku’s popularity can withstand what is becoming an increasingly competitive market.
You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and read more of my Forbes articles.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2014/09/16/roku-passes-10-million-mark-as-streaming-competition-heats-up/#1ee41a866d89

October 8, 2016

XTV and cCloud Some of the Best IPTV Roku Channels Available Today

Never mind Sling TV, XTV and cCloud Roku Channels let you watch a ton of stuff for free!


XTV has live  TV channels, movies, from around the world. It even has a James Bond channel where you can watch all the James Bond movies. This is my new favorite Roku channel. CBS News has amazing high quality.

XTV and cCloud could be the best thing to come to Roku since Roku porn!

IPTV Roku channels

Lately, these two channels have been getting a lot of attention from fans of the Roku media streaming platform. Because these private channels offer something different from the run of the mill public channels that seem to get released every other day in the Roku channel store. Neither channel contains ads, instead, they are loaded with useful live TV streams from many channels you previously could only find on cable.

If you are a Kodi user, you are probably familiar with IPTV streams. Until now finding IPTV live streaming TV channels on Roku have been pretty scarce.

What is IPTV?

After having watched these channels some of you may be reaching for your phones to cancel Sling TV, Playstation Vue or iStreamItAll accounts. Not so fast, the streams on XTV and cCloud come and go. They are not like a commercial streaming TV service. What this means is they may not always be there. Just because you may be watching your favorite show on one of these channels today, does not mean it will necessarily be there the next time you turn the channel on.

Here is the definition of IPTV from Wikipedia:

Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is a system through which television services are delivered using the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network such as a LAN or the Internet, instead of being delivered through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats.

There are so many Internet streams available online. Because the nature of IPTV it's like chasing rainbows, it takes work but when your find good streams it's like finding a pot of gold.

For those that were familiar with the old C-Band satellites, IPTV channels may bring back some memories.

IPTV - Free TV - Live TV Click Here to Find m3u8 Links


XTV is a fantastic Roku channel that has a ton of great content. You can find many full shows and movies you would never expect to see on a Free Roku channel.

Recently XTV even started offering live network TV channels as well. Although while these are not 100% active all the time, this is a huge bonus to Roku owners that can't receive free over the air channels from an antenna. There really is some great content on the XTV channel, and one of our favorites.


Be sure to add it and check it out, you will be very happy you did.

XTV is a Private channel you can add to your Roku Using the Channel Code: XTVIPTV

cCloud TV

This channel contains live IPTV streams from all over the world. It has been in development for a while, but just until recently, it has finally exploded with hundreds of sources of IPTV content. Most are news, and many are in multiple languages.

cCloud is now out of Beta and the final channel is here.

cCloud channel can be added from the link or private channel codes below:

cCloud TV Roku channel
Add cCloud Roku Channel

For those that like to add channels by code, the Final Channel Code is: "cCloudTV"
The cCloud channel is free and offers some great free IPTV content on Roku!


Another New Channel that has iPTV streams of Movies and TV Shows.

Ashok IPTV Roku Channel

If the public channel is geo-blocked in your country:
Use This Private Channel Code: ashokapps 

Ashok Chowdary features both Free and premium content. Premium members can enjoy a wide range of latest Indian, Telugu, Hindi along with some English Movies along with "Live TV". 

Ashok has generously offered all the extra premium content for an unheard of $10 a year annual membership. He is trying to cover the streaming costs associated with the channel and when enough people have joined he will even offer the channel for free. If you want access to the premium channel, send Ashok Chowdary a PM on Facebook

For more great Roku channels, be sure to see: FilmOn and NowhereTV

Want to reach out or learn more about Roku and Streaming TV? Join us on the Roku Rocks Facebook Group!Source: https://mkvxstream.blogspot.com/2016/06/best-iptv-roku-channels.html

September 30, 2016

I’ve tested over 100 headphones in the past year, and I keep coming back to this $22 pair

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
Xiaomi headphonesAmazon
Last month I sang the praises of the Sony MDR-1A, a $300 pair of full-size headphones that’s stood out from the many pairs I’vetested for being smooth-sounding, good-looking, and so very, very comfortable. They’re not the best, but they’re the ones I’d be most likely to buy.
That said, they’re $300 full-size headphones. Anything along those lines isn’t going to be all that portable. Sometimes, it’s good to have a pair of “beaters” on hand — cheap, secondary headphones you can stuff in a bag, toss on quickly, and wear on the go, without having to worry about busting your Very Nice Thing.
I’ve followed this setup for the past few months, and of the many inexpensive, beater-level pairs I’ve had lying around, the Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro have emerged as a personal favorite. Like the MDR-1A, they have a few clear flaws, but they still feel and sound better than I’d expect from a $22 earphone.
The most immediately impressive thing about the Xiaomis is their build. Looks matter less when a headphone is jammed in your head, but the smooth, aluminum finish here is just of a higher quality than the plastic you’ll usually find at this price. Despite that metal, they’re fairly lightweight, and their angled eartips are nice and soft. All of that’s made them a breeze to wear for hours at a time. 
Beyond that, the Kevlar-infused cable has shown no signs of wear after several months of use, and it’s fitted with both a mic and three-button remote. The earpieces isolate plenty of noise, as you’d expect from an in-ear canal pair, and they don’t leak any of their own unless you’re playing at max volume in a quiet room.

xiaomi headphonesXiaomi
The sound here isn’t as easy to recommend to everyone, but it suits my tastes. It’s one of the cheapest earphones to use separate drivers for treble and mids/bass, which is theoretically supposed to make every part of the signature particularly potent. In reality, the bass and low-mids run the show. 
It’s not that the highs aren’t crisp or detailed — they are, and impressively so — it’s just that the lows are that massive. If a track emphasizes bass, it’s going to be big and bumping. If it doesn’t, the lower bits are still going to get a boost. What this means is that the Xiaomis are very fun with electronic, hip-hop, and poppier rock, and absolutely not for purists. When I’m not in headphone reviewer mode, that’s the stuff I go for, so it works. 
To give you a better idea, I compared the Xiaomis to Apple’s EarPods, which are the closest thing most people have to beater headphones today. As expected, the tighter-fitting Xiaomis sounded much more aggressive, with deeper bass response, a wider soundstage, and more space to capture fine detail. That bass was boomier with more subdued tracks, but again, if you fit the same niche as me, you’ll probably enjoy how hard-hitting the whole thing is. 
I’m not the first person to praise the Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro — reviewers from CNETThe Verge, and VentureBeat have shared similar sentiments. Try the RHA S500 if you’d prefer a brighter sound, or the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-TCM125 if you just want to pay as little as possible, but for $22, this is a higher-grade everyday companion than the price suggests.

Xiaomi Mi Hybrid In-Ear Headphones, $21.49, available at Amazon.
This article was originally published on 4/21/2016. Prices have been updated. 
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider's Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners, including Amazon. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.
Read the original article on Insider Picks. Copyright 2016. Follow Insider Picks on Twitter.

September 29, 2016

9 Tools to Easily Rip Your DVDs & Blu-Rays to Your Computer

It’s becoming very common these days for people to “back up” their DVDs and Blu-Rays onto their computer. This despite the fact that the exact legality for making backups is murky at best. But my own personal opinion is that “if you own it, you can do what you want with it”. Watch it, burn it, eat it, use it as a frisbee in the park, whatever.

But how do you do it? Which programs are the best at ripping those disks? Which ones eat copy protection for breakfast? Here are nine free tools to consider.


Intuitive cross-platform tool to rip DVDs and Blu-Rays.

I have previously written about MakeMKV, where I showed my love for this app. It is simply a case of entering the disk, and then point and click. Don’t touch the other settings unless you absolutely know what you are doing. Choose whether you want subtitles or not. Choose your language. Deselect everything you don’t need. Then let MakeMKV do its work. DVDs are very fast (normally no more than 10 minutes) and Blu-Rays range from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the length of the movie, and the extras you want.

The one downside is that you are then going to end up with enormous files if you rip a Blu-Ray (up to around 6GB is common). But this is a crystal-clear copy of the disk. For archiving purposes, it is perfect. However, if space is tight, you can convert it to MP4 or AVI formats, which will shrink the file considerably (and in some cases, the picture and audio quality will suffer).



A versatile cross-platform and open source application that supports multiple output formats and can also convert files.

This leads me neatly to Handbrake. You can use Handbrake for converting those big MKV files into MP4 files, and you can also directly burn DVD and Blu-Ray disks to MP4 or MKV. Choose a profile, depending on what device you are ripping for (iPod, iPad, normal, etc), decide if you want the subtitles, then hit Start. The other settings should be left alone, unless you know exactly what you are doing.
The software is cross-platform, free, and open-source. Plus it is in continual development, so it has the potential to get better and better.

Freemake Video Converter


A great Windows tool to not only rip discs, but also convert and merge files.

Freemake (our Freemake review) is one of my favorites, because it has never once screwed up anything I have thrown at it. You just need to insert the disk, point Freemake towards the disk’s folder, decide what format you want it converted to, and Bob’s your uncle. You can even join up files to have one big merged file. Videos can also be converted to Flash or HTML5, as well as MP3.

One great feature is when you rip it to become a DVD, you can also add a menu with clickable chapter titles.

WinX DVD Ripper


Will convert your DVDs to various outputs, including mobile ready file formats.

I was lucky enough to get a hold of a free copy of the paid Platinum version, when they did a promotion a few months back. But for most people, the free version will more than suffice.
The free version will rip a DVD to MP4, WMV, AVI, FLV, MOV, MPEG, H.264, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, Android, Samsung, HTC, and PSP. It can also rip copy-protected DVDs as far back as Windows XP.
The Platinum version will do all that, as well as rip a DVD to an ISO file, rip the disk in 10 minutes, as well as allowing cropping, trimming, and subtitles. It is a worthy contender to Handbrake and Freemake.



Rips Blu-Rays to ISO files on Windows and Mac.

Aurora is free cross-platform (Windows & Mac) software which focuses on Blu-Rays only. It will burn the Blu-Ray disk into an ISO file, and then burn the ISO file onto blank disks (if you want to do that part). It claims it can “easily decrypt any type of Blu-Ray”, and when I tested it on a Blu-Ray of mine, the conversion was indeed very fast.

Aurora too claims that it can work on Windows computers as old as XP (SP2). On a Mac, it will work on computers operating OS X 10.6.



Windows tool to rip DVDs to ISO files.

As the name suggests, CloneDVD….well…clones your DVD disk. After inserting it into your hard-drive, choose which chapters you want copied, choose your language, whether you want subtitles, and off you go. Once the file, in DVD format, has been copied to your computer, you can then burn the ISO to a blank DVD disk, use software like Handbrake to turn it into a simple MP4 file, or mount the ISO file on your computer using a virtual drive.

They also have versions of the software for Blu-Ray disks, and for mobile devices.

DVD Shrink


Windows application to compress DVD rips into more compact files.

DVD Shrink is so called because one of its main “selling points” is that it will shrink the size of the burned file for you. A standard DVD-R disk is 4.7 GB, and sometimes you will find that your burned file exceeds this size. So DVD Shrink will compress the data from the original disk, to make the file as small as possible.
You can also make a compilation from one or more source disks, as well as discarding any parts you don’t need. It will burn and shrink to WMV, AVI, MP4, MOV, and MKV format. It is free of charge, for Windows only, and they invite donations to keep the project going.

VLC Player


Famous for playing any file, this open source and cross-platform program can also burn DVDs.

Who around here needs any introduction to VLC Player? No I didn’t think so. VLC Player has rightfully earned a reputation for being able to play virtually anything you can throw at it. I haven’t yet found a file it couldn’t handle, and that is just remarkable. But did you know VLC also burned DVD disks?

As you can see from the image above, choose what you want converted, select No disc menus (if you don’t want them), point VLC to the disk location on your hard drive, then click Convert/Save. Ripping can take quite some time, though. Some users have reported it taking up to two hours. Whereas something like MakeMKV or Freemake can do it in 15-20 minutes.



A Windows only open source DVD ripping tool that can rip a batch of titles at the same time, audio only, or specific segments.

DVDFab is also a ripping app which has received a lot of positive praise from friends. As well as ripping disks to the usual formats, it can also rip only the audio. So if you are after a piece of music for your iPhone/iPod, then DVD Fab can grab it for you. Batch conversion allows you to rip more than one title at a time, and the whole software is run on open-source code.

Specify exactly the start point and end point that you want converted in a disk (which is great for music concerts), and you can also automatically crop the screen to show what you want.
There are obviously many more ripping tools out there, but these are the 8 which I personally like or have had recommended to me by friends. In case your favorite is not on the list, please let us know about it in the comments below and tell us what is so good about it.Source: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/9-tools-easily-rip-dvds-blu-rays-computer/