It’s really difficult to find exactly which TV channels Frontier Airlines offers its customers. The channel list used to be available online, but now Frontier’s web site only offers a vague promise of “something for every member of your flight crew”. That may be partly my fault, so let me see what I can do to fix it.
Once upon a time, I was returning from a business trip on a Thursday evening in the fall. The timing was perfect to watch a game on NFL Network, because few shows are as engagingly mind-numbing as an NFL game. Frontier’s online list highlighted NFL Network, so I booked my flight with them. As you’ve guessed by now, Frontier substituted another channel for NFL Network that evening. When I wrote to complain, I received a written shrug and the kind offer to repay the TV fee I’d paid for that flight.
As I prepared my trip to the NAB Show (in progress as I type), I went looking around the internet for the latest channel list. That way I could check on TitanTV or some other listing service to see whether there would be anything I wanted to watch. My Google searches turned up empty, and Frontier’s site wasn’t any help.
Since that complaint about Frontier’s changing channels may be the reason it won’t post what DirecTV channels it carries (hey, it could happen), I hereby post the Frontier Airlines channel list as shown on the inflight seatback card:
11 Food Network
13 Live GPS map
14 “NFL Network” (Golf)
15 Fox News Channel
17 “CNBC” (NBC Sports Network)
20 Disney Channel
25 Comedy Central
26-30 movies or TV shows, based on flight length
Note that although Frontier has updated its pricing, it still includes NFL Network, which still wasn’t available on my flight. (The Golf Channel was in its place.) Also, there was a Premier League soccer match on in place of CNBC, so I’m guessing that’s NBC Sports Network. Those were the only changes I could detect, but there were so many commercials that I can’t say for sure whether there are more. Also, isn’t it kind of weird that Frontier offers NBC, Fox and CBS but not ABC? The Disney Channel is in the lineup, so it’s not like it couldn’t work a deal with Disney. But I digress.
So there you have it. Next time you’re considering a Frontier flight, you can check to see whether you’ll want to pay for TV access. On my flight, I didn’t see anyone who wanted to pay $3.99 for an hour and a half. Most passengers were watching their laptops or tablets.
© Depositphotos / iofoto
After reading the arguments from a long list of trade unions, sports leagues, and the US Solicitor General against Aereo in its upcoming Supreme Court case, I’m encouraged to read an equally long list of trade groups and public interest organizations who are in favor of Aereo’s streaming TV technology.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation, along with Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association, and Engine Advocacy, filed an amicus brief that stresses Aereo’s private performances, building on rulings that allowed the growth of the VCR and other personal entertainment technology. They wrote, ”The Aereo case pits entrenched businesses with deep political ties against an innovative entrepreneur who carefully followed the words of the law and implemented an idea of giving people the broadcast television service they are entitled to get.”
That followed a brief submitted by the American Cable Association, which pointed out that Aereo doesn’t own the TV distribution platform it uses. ”Aereo functions more like a DVR retailer or antenna installer,” it said. “By facilitating reception of broadcast programming, it may reduce demand for a cable television service subscription, but it does not function like cable.”
And there was Dish Network, also in support of Aereo. Dish compared the service to its Slingbox and other internet-based devices. “None of these devices does anything without an end-user’s command,” it said. “They are like dumbwaiters, incapable of delivering a pail of water without the thirsty person tugging on ropes and pulleys. If an individual uses that dumbwaiter to fetch himself a video he recorded of Breaking Bad, the dumbwaiter manufacturer does not infringe a copyright in the show.”
All this rational praise for Aereo makes a great antidote for that earlier stuff. I couldn’t believe that Major League Baseball said Aereo’s service would knock its games off the air, since MLB is already actively removing its over-the-air games. The Los Angeles Dodgers dropped all OTA broadcasts and moved to its own, expensive cable network, causing no end of hand-wringing in the second-largest US TV market. More quietly in Philadelphia, the Phillies moved all but a dozen of its OTA games to cable. Those defections leave the Cubs and White Sox as the only two teams with 30 or more OTA games in 2014, thanks mostly to WGN. Last year, I wrote that MLB was cutting off a future generation of fans, and you can add the recent-graduate cord-nevers to that neglected group. Sure MLB.TV does a great job of selling all out-of-market games online, but for most fans, those home-team games left the airwaves years ago.
For another refutation of goofy anti-Aereo arguments, check out Mike Masnick’s post yesterday on Techdirt. Once again, Masnick summarizes what’s been bouncing around in my head. “Multiple comments on various Aereo posts have people insisting that the convoluted setup of Aereo’s technology … shows that they’re trying to skirt around the law. However, it seems rather obvious that it’s the exact opposite. There is no logical reason to have this kind of setup except to be within the law. Aereo’s “insane” technological setup is much an indication of why it’s legal — and how screwed up copyright law is that this is the only legal way to build such a system.”
I don’t know if the Supreme Court has ruled against “entrenched businesses with deep political ties” lately. I’m hoping that this summer’s decision will be a welcome, rational exception.
© DepositPhotos / olechowski
After I posted my review of Channel Master’s DVR+, a part of me was just certain that something was wrong about it. That was the first time I used the Kill A Watt meter, and despite what it told me, I thought its numbers didn’t add up. I used the same meter with the same settings on my Dish 922 receiver, and the meter told me that my 922 was responsible for about a quarter of my electric bill. That couldn’t be right.
Sure enough, the meter had somehow bumped my electricity rate from almost 9 cents per kWh to over 89 cents/kWh. (User error? Not that!) After resetting with the right numbers and calibrating against a known amount of usage (a lamp), I was ready to try again.
This time, the meter told me that my Windows Media Center computer was burning less than $1.50/month of electricity. That was based on a measurement over several days, including several hibernation periods, so I took the computer’s measured peak power consumption of 40 watts and multiplied up to about $2.60/month of 24/7 usage. The meter showed a similar reduction for the DVR+, down to a tiny 7 watts. The DVR+ is still much better with electricity, but not $12/month better. I’ve corrected those figures in the original post.
As I was doing these retests, a comment came in. I was expecting someone to tell me that my power figures had to be full of beans, but this one corrected my remarks about DVR+ buffering. Turns out that it works just fine if it’s got an external hard drive plugged in, so I also added that note to the original post. That’s where it all stands now, and if I ever learn how to reprogram the DVR+ skip-ahead buttons, I’ll let you know.
Update: Commenter phil came through with the full DVR+ manual (PDF) which reveals all sorts of things, including the secret of reprogramming the buttons. To change from the default 10 seconds, just go to the DVR menu, which of course is where you would expect to find remote control options.
Once upon a time, I helped prepare in-box manuals, so I understand that printing a zillion short booklets saves real money over printing a zillion full manuals. In this case, with such non-intuitive options, I think that Channel Master would be well served to include those full manuals. Or maybe just single sheets of attention-grabbing colored paper with the note to be sure to go online for the full version. Then everybody would know exactly how it’s supposed to work.
Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, was in the news again this week after threatening again to pull his network from the airwaves if Aereo is allowed to continue to rent antennas to viewers. Well, the way he put it was “If the government wants to give them permission to steal our signal, we will find another way to get them our content and get paid for it.”
Moonves was just one more voice in a series of public pleas from folks who might lose some cash if more viewers switch to free TV, and I hadn’t planned to even mention it. (Only a month ago, Moonves had said that Aereo wasn’t a threat to CBS’s bottom line no matter what happens in court.) Then I checked in on Techdirt last night, where Mike Masnick really nailed it.
Masnick wrote: “(I)f CBS is really so clueless that it thinks abandoning the free handout it was given by the US government in terms of a massive chunk of spectrum is the right way to respond to something like Aereo (which only increases the viewers of its free, over the air broadcasts) well, then by all means go for it. I’m sure plenty of others would leap at the opportunity of making use of that spectrum, either for broadcasting other content, or putting it to even better uses.”
Masnick has much more about Moonves’ blustery bluff, and you really should go read it!
When I first read about Channel Master’s DVR+, I guessed that it was like my Simple.TV device. Tunes over-the-air TV? Check. Works best with a USB hard drive? Check.
As so often happens, I was wrong. The nice folks at Channel Master sent me a DVR+ to review, and I quickly discovered that it’s very little like Simple.TV. The DVR+ records OTA TV, but it doesn’t stream on its own, and it hooks directly to the TV for viewing. Come to think of it, those features match a Windows Media Center computer, so that’s what I’ll use for the comparison test.
By coincidence, I had just purchased a refurbished Dell Inspiron 660 (4 GB RAM, 1 TB HD, Windows 7 Pro, built-in HDMI output) plus a wireless mouse at Micro Center for under $200, which is about $50 less than Channel Master is charging for the DVR+ at its online store. Now let’s start reviewing the differences between the two.
Form factor: The DVR+ is sleek, wide and thin. Looks nifty. The Dell is a thick black box. Looks bulky. Advantage DVR+.
Setup: The DVR+ is ready to go almost out of the box. It includes a small amount of storage memory onboard, so it’s possible to record a few shows without a USB drive. It only took a few minutes to run its setup, let it scan my channels, and download its guide data. The Dell? Hoo boy! It took hours to download and install all the latest Windows security updates, the driver for the USB OTA tuner I added, and then scan my channels and download its guide data. Advantage DVR+.
Add-Ons: Although it’ll work without it, the DVR+ gains a lot of recording space with an external hard drive. The Dell needed an OTA tuner, so I used my rebranded Hauppage HVR-950, which would otherwise cost about the same as the external hard drive. Even.
Remote: The DVR+ includes a full-service remote control that can be taught to control its TV as well. The Dell has that wireless mouse. (I’ve tried Windows Media Center remotes, but never found one I liked.) The DVR+ remote is extremely complicated, with more buttons than my TV remote and almost as many as my Dish DVR remote. (That includes four color buttons that don’t do much yet, and a skip-forward button that only goes 10 seconds. Why not 30 seconds like every other DVR?) (Update: Deep in the hard-to-find full manual (PDF), there are instructions to go through the DVR menu to reprogram that button if desired.) The Dell mouse is extremely simple; it can never control my TV, but it can access anything in the Windows Media Center. Simple is good; I’m calling this Even.
Power consumption: A tip of the hat to the Channel Master folks who pointed out this one. According to my Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor, using my local rate of nearly 9 cents per kWh, my Dell uses about
60 9 cents of electricity per day, but the DVR+ uses only about 19 2 cents a day. That’s a difference of about $12 $2 per month to run Windows Media Center. Advantage DVR+, even after correcting my first use of the Kill A Watt.
Tuners: The DVR+ was just a little more sensitive than the Hauppage on marginal channels. I don’t know whether a different Windows tuner might work better. The DVR+ has two tuners, but the sole advantage of that here is being able to watch one live show while recording another. Halfway through a recording, I couldn’t watch that show live on the second tuner; I had to go to the recording in the DVR and fast-forward. On the other hand, if multiple OTA tuners are important to you, Windows Media Center will support up to four (!) tuners if you add them to your computer. Even.
Aspect Ratio: The Windows Media Center somehow automatically chooses the correct aspect ratio (16:9 widescreen or 4:3 standard definition-style) for every channel and sub-channel. The DVR+ always defaults to 16:9 for every channel and when playing every recording, as far as I could tell. Although I couldn’t find it in any documentation, there’s a button on the remote that cycles through three styles – the third is a zoomed-in view for those 4:3 channels that are showing 16:9 content in a letterbox. That last feature is nice, but having to click the 4:3 button every time I want to watch a movie on Get TV gets annoying. Advantage Windows.
Buffering: With the Dell, if I’m watching a show and I want to see what someone just said, it’s easy to skip back a little and watch it again. On the DVR+, it doesn’t buffer automatically that way (update: unless an external hard drive is plugged in). I’m out of luck unless I’ve already clicked pause (it’ll only go back as far as the pause request) or I’m already recording it, and in that case, it’s not so simple to watch it live. (See Tuners above.) Since the recommended configuration for the DVR+ is to include an external hard drive, I’d call this Even.
The local Lesea affiliate shows Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger reruns, but I can’t tell that from the DVR+ guide.
Live guide: Both the DVR+ and Windows Media Center offer free online guide content, a huge advantage over other OTA tuner products. But what’s in that guide? DVR+ turned up blanks for several of my local channels that had full listings in Windows Media Center’s guide. Another shortcoming was that for the entire testing week, which included both Standard and Daylight times, my Bounce TV affiliate’s listings were consistently one hour off in the DVR+ guide but no where else – not Windows or Simple.TV or TitanTV or Zap2It. Everything else seems accurate in the DVR+ guide, so YMMV, but this is definitely Advantage Windows.
Extended guide: Discovery is the name of the game these days. With so many channels (even with OTA, there are usually at least a couple dozen), it’s hard to identify what to watch. Simple.TV does a great job of this on its iPhone app, but I’m not talking about Simple today. Windows Media Center’s Movie Guide at least presents posters of the full set of movies that will be available during the next 10 days or so, making it easy to thumb through them and select some that look good. Advantage Windows.
Searching: Another part of that discovery process is flexible searching. The DVR+ allows searching on title words only. Windows Media Center allows searching on title, keyword, categories, actor, and director. Both devices found future episodes of Arthur, but only Windows could tell me which upcoming movies starred George Brent. Advantage Windows.
Other streaming content: Channel Master incorporated online movie service Vudu into its DVR+. That’s a nice touch, but Vudu and Netflix, Crackle, YouTube, FilmOn, and a zillion other services are available on the Windows PC, even if most aren’t accessed within Media Center. Advantage Windows.
Music: Windows Media Center can access FM radio if it’s attached to its computer, typically as part of a TV tuner card. And Windows has quite a few streaming music sources available, or you can store music files to its hard drive. Nothing like that in the DVR+. Advantage Windows.
DVDs: The Dell plays them, and if I added a Blu-ray drive, I could probably mothball my standalone Blu-ray player. Nothing like that in the DVR+. Advantage Windows.
Miscellaneous: Soon after I installed it, I recorded a show to the DVR+’s onboard storage. After I attached the USB drive, I could no longer see that onboard recording until I disconnected the drive and rebooted the DVR+. Both devices accept system updates over the internet, often requiring a reboot, but that seems to happen more often with Windows. The DVR+ is quieter than the Dell. The DVR+ is a dedicated device, but the Dell could be a general purpose computer, especially when it’s not playing back a show. Even.
Conclusion: If that extra
$12 $2/month (or more or less, depending on local electricity rates) speaks loudest to you, then I could see that as a really good reason to choose the DVR+. For me, the buffering, the automatic aspect ratio detection, the guide, and the universe of online content make me happier to stay with Windows Media Center.
After a short reprieve, Aereo’s service in Utah and Colorado shut down this morning at 10. Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit refused to overturn a preliminary injunction against Aereo granted two weeks ago by a Utah District Court Judge Dale Kimball. With that last appeal exhausted, Aereo was left with little choice but to stop serving customers within the Tenth Circuit.
In an email to affected subscribers, Aereo founder Chet Kanojia wrote, “Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via a modern antenna and to record copies for their personal use. The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located equipment.” As Kanojia has repeatedly said elsewhere, the case boils down to the length of the wire from the antenna to the viewer. (An edited version of that subscriber note now greets visitors to Aereo’s Denver home page.)
The subscriber note continued, “We are unwavering in our belief that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and we look forward to continuing to serve you.” If we all get lucky and the US Supreme Court confirms Aereo’s right to stream OTA TV, Denver viewers might be able to watch it again this summer. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
© DepositPhotos / AlphaBaby
Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton wrote that the reason Aereo is still available in Colorado and Utah is that the Utah judge that blocked them there had yet to rule on Aereo’s request for a stay of his injunction.
A short time that article hit the web, Eggerton added an update that US District Court Judge Dale Kimball denied Aereo’s request but would give Aereo a temporary 14-day stay while it appealed his decision to a federal appeals court.
Kimball wrote: “While Aereo’s paying customers benefit from Aereo’s infringement in the form of lower subscription rates, the court assumes that they are mostly unaware of whether Aereo is abiding by governing copyright laws and paying the appropriate licensing fees to engage in such business. This confusion in the marketplace is part of the intangible harms to Plaintiffs.” What garbage! Find me a study of Aereo subscribers that suggests they believe Aereo is paying retransmission consent fees.
Kimball continued: “The court also recognizes that harms are accruing to Plaintiffs every day and enforcement of the copyright laws is a clear public benefit to the public as a whole. The court, however, finds some benefit in allowing Aereo’s customers uninterrupted service pending the Tenth Circuit’s decision on an emergency motion to stay. Therefore, notwithstanding the many factors weighing against a stay, the court, in its discretion, grants Aereo a temporary 14-day stay.”
Given that Kimball wrote that today, that would suggest that we Aereo viewers in Denver have until March 11 or whenever the appeals court rules, whichever comes first. We have that much more time to enjoy it while we can.
© DepositPhotos / Elnur
A couple of days ago, Utah district court judge Dale Kimball granted a preliminary injunction for Fox against Aereo, that spunky online streaming service for over-the-air TV. Kimball’s injunction covers all the states in his district, including Colorado. Which means that, here at FTABlog World Headquarters in Denver, my days of watching Aereo are probably winding to an end.
I was a little surprised that I’m still able to watch 36 hours after the injunction. When I asked the hardest working man in Washington, Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton, he followed up with another note, writing, “Turns out that decision does not become final until after Fox posts a $150,000 bond with the court, which Fox said it planned to do sometime late Thursday or Friday.”
To tell the truth, I’m afraid that this will only change Aereo’s Denver shutdown date by a few months. The Supreme Court will rule on Aereo’s legality this summer, and its post describing the question to be decided matched the broadcasters’ filing as opposed to Aereo’s. That would be very disappointing, forcing every viewer who wants to DVR his OTA channels to set up his own antenna with Windows Media Center or buy a Simple.TV or a Tablo or a ChannelMaster DVR+. Aereo is/was an inexpensive, $0-to-start alternative. As I say all too often about the free-to-air TV world, if it goes away, at least it was nice while it lasted.
Update: Now I hear that Fox might not get around to posting that bond until Monday, giving Aereo another full weekend of life in Utah and Colorado. Fox sure isn’t displaying much urgency in issuing the check that will give it relief from the “irreparable harm” it said it was suffering.
Update 2: Eggerton sent word that Fox finally posted that bond, but Aereo had filed for a stay of the injunction. Until that stay request is decided, Aereo continues to serve Salt Lake City and Denver.
FTABlog has a long history with Fashion TV, that great channel featuring oddly dressed beautiful people who walk in strange ways across runways. Fashion TV used to be available on FTA satellite, and it has been available on streaming TV through DishWorld and FilmOn. Around midnight Feb. 1, both of those platforms abruptly lost Fashion TV. DishWorld went black for that slot, with a “temporarily unavailable” message. FilmOn replaced it with the Fashion One network, although keeping the Fashion TV logo in its channel list.
If Fashion TV had disappeared on, say January 24, I would have suspected some technical issue, but the timing of this problem made me think that it was based on some kind of dispute. Thanks to a press release (PDF) from SatLink Communications, I think I know what happened. That Feb. 4 release says that SatLink “extended its agreement” to distribute Fashion TV on its C-band satellites. Sure enough, DishWorld resumed carrying Fashion TV the next morning. (FilmOn, ever the rebel, continues to show Fashion One on its “Fashion TV” channel as of this writing.)
And so you have the latest news about Fashion TV. Presumably, it won’t suffer another outage like this one any time soon. Does anyone else actually watch Fashion TV?
Vitrine interactive de Valeo au CES 2014 from Vendredi 4 on Vimeo.
Here’s my last report from the 2014 International CES. (Not the “Consumer Electronics Show,” as too many ill-informed stories still name it. I suppose their authors still write about the “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” or the “Columbia Broascasting System” or even “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” But I digress.) This story took a long time to finish because it’s kind of embarassing. Let me try to explain.
CES is an amazing, mind-blowing supermarket of eye candy, self-importance, incremental improvements, and occasionally real breakthroughs, all spread out over two huge convention centers and a couple of parking lots. All that wonderfulness and walking can tire the mind and feet, and quiet breaks are a great way to recharge for more exploration. With the crush of 150,000 milling people, quiet can be difficult to find.
Although I’ve attended every CES since 2005, this was only my third CES with certified press credentials. As much fun as it is to attend as a regular old industry affiliate, being a member of the press makes it so much nicer. There are a couple of oases called press rooms with coffee, water, and around noon, a horde of press attendees covering every sittable surface while they consume their free box lunches. Outside on the main foor, exhibitors (some of them, anyway) see a press badge and make a special effort to tell their stories.
Another press perk is the willingness, nay eagerness, of so many exhibitors to hand out goodies. Press room staffers hand out handfuls of USB drives, each with a different exhibitor’s press info. All sorts of email invitations pile up before each show. Audio-Technica asked me to schedule a fitting for what turned out to be the best earbuds I’ve ever used. Gavio lured me with its Metallon Zinc earbuds, which were just as good. I accepted invitations to attend the Compass Intelligence Awards luncheon and a “Transforming Television” breakfast with the Interactive TV Alliance. I even made a note to drop by for lunch at the invitation of Valeo.
One more note I need to add, one you may have already figured out, is that there’s never enough time to visit everything at CES. Based on past visits, I resolved to keep to a narrow focus on TV and video, pausing only to accept free earbuds and to eat. I drew up a personal schedule with press conferences, booth visits, and meals. For each appointment, I listed only the company name, location, and time. Most of the entries matched my narrow focus. I had winnowed away most invitations and offers from exhibitors who didn’t fit what I write about. Somehow, I don’t know how or why, I added Valeo’s lunch invitation to my schedule.
And so we finally arrive at this story. It was CES Tuesday, Day One for most exhibitors but Day Three for the press, including me. After Sunday’s CES Unveiled event and a Monday full of press conferences, I started much too early at that ITV Alliance breakfast, then rode a shuttle bus to the Venetian’s exhibit halls. where I talked with folks from Samba and Tablo. I returned to the Las Vegas Convention Center a little after noon, and my mind was already too full. I consulted my schedule, which said “noonish – Valeo lunch, Central Plaza 10.” So that’s where I went.
Quick question: What does Valeo make? Did you know before you started reading this? I’ll admit that I didn’t know that Tuesday. Since they were on my schedule and I vaguely remembered something about lighting, I assumed it was a home theater supplier of some kind. The front display of its outdoor booth had a much of TV screens with eyes. Yeah, that must be it. And that set up a scene right out of the Beverly Hillbillies or some other farce where both sides of a conversation completely misunderstand each other. Or maybe it was just me. It went pretty much like this:
Valeo guy: Welcome to our booth. Which product line of ours are you most interested in?
Me: Uh, the lighting.
Valeo: Great, what aspect of the lighting? How can I help you relate that to your coverage area?
Me: Uh, y’know, how families depend on those lighting sources for what they need.
Valeo: I see. Would you like to have lunch with one of our product managers so we can explain it more to you?
As I sat there eating a delicate, expertly prepared lunch so graciously provided by Valeo’s chefs, a friendly account manager patiently explained Valeo’s innovations in the world of automotive lighting. Magnificent, ground-breaking, stylish automotive lighting. Which have as much to do with FTABlog as iPhone cases. Awkward! My lunch guest explained that they’ve created a smart high-beam headlights that detects oncoming traffic at night and automatically reduce the light only in the direction of that vehicle, which sees only normal low-beam light. (Too bad that system is currently illegal in the US because of esoteric headlight rules.) Valeo has created designer headlight patterns so that certain car models could sport distinctive lights. It all sounded very impressive, but still not relevant. After lunch and a few demonstrations, I thanked my Valeo guest, exchanged business cards then stumbled back into the Las Vegas sunshine on my way to the rest of my appointments.
I mentioned the products and glitter, but my favorite memories of CES are always those of the people I meet, not the products I see. Now I’ve got one more of my accidental lunch and its generous hosts. I’ll be sure to keep that memory easily accessible so I can keep in mind when I build my schedule for CES 2015.