Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’: Can’t stop watching!

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Last night Vanessa and I watched the first episode of Netflix’s new series, “Stranger Things” and it was amazing. We were hooked as soon as the opening credits hit, with its mesmerizing music that reminds me a lot of the opening credits to The Wolf Among Us .

The show kept us on the edge of our seats throughout, and the first episode is a wonderful thrill ride from beginning to end. By the time it ended I immediately wanted to start watching the second episode (I don’t usually binge watch), however it was past midnight and we both needed to get some sleep. I can’t wait to continue watching the series later today, and if the second episode is as good as the first it’s very possible that we’ll end up finishing the entire series this weekend!

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If you haven’t checked out “Stranger Things” yet, I highly recommend it! You won’t want to stop watching!

Disconnecting my TV passthrough on Xbox One

So as long as I’ve owned my Xbox One I’ve enjoyed the convenience of running my DISH Network through the Xbox One. It’s been nice to use the Kinect and snap TV to check up on a football game, or switch effortlessly between TV and a game or an app on the Xbox One. It’s also been nice to see when my friends log on while watching TV, or to snap my friends list and check to see who is playing what during a commercial.

However, there has always been a pretty significant degrade in image quality when passing the TV signal through the Xbox One. For a long while I just learned to live with it, accepting the degraded quality in exchange for all of the conveniences. However, after I disconnected my Xbox to go on vacation I was taken aback by just how sharp everything looked when not filtered through the Xbox One. It’s honestly a little jarring.

Since I’ve returned from vacation I’ve been reluctant to run our DISH through the Xbox again. So far I’ve left it hooked up directly to the TV and enjoy the superior picture. The degraded quality is most notable when viewing blacks (dark black areas appear more grey when ran through the Xbox) and also during sports.

So now I’m left torn. I miss having the convenience that comes along with routing live TV through the Xbox One, but I’m enjoying the better picture quality.

Do you still run your cable through your Xbox One? Does the degraded quality bother you, or does the convenience make up for it?

A look at Sling TV (on the Xbox One)

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So I should start off by saying I’m not a cord cutter, and I probably never will be one. I enjoy having a traditional “cable” service. We have DISH Network and enjoy it immensely. I love channel surfing and having a large variety of content, even if most of it I just leave on to fall asleep to (or leave on in the background). I also enjoy watching live sports, and so far it’s not very easy to do so outside of cable / satellite TV. MLB.tv and WWE Network are steps in the right direction, but the NFL is still locked down tightly (the only negative thing about having DISH is not having as much access to the NFL).

With that out of the way, you’re probably puzzled as to why I would sign up for Sling TV if I already subscribe to DISH (and pay over $100 a month). Well, I have to say I’m a huge fan of new ways to consume entertainment, and services such as Sling TV, Playstation Vue, HBO’s new cable free service and the forthcoming Apple streaming TV service are wonderful for all consumers.

These services are great for the college student who can’t afford cable, those in living situations where installing cable or satellite TV isn’t practical, and those who know exactly what they want and don’t want to pay for what they don’t watch.

Sling TV starts at $20 a month, and is completely commitment free. No contract, no extra fees, cancel any time. Heck, you don’t even have to deal with customer retention services to cancel, you can do so right from your account (though I haven’t tried canceling yet as I’ve just signed up).

The sign up process on the Xbox One was a breeze. I was signed up in a matter of minutes. Xbox One users are able to try out Sling TV for 30 days free. You can also add ALL of the add on packages ($5/mo each) for free for the first 30 days as well. Set up your package, enter your payment information and there you have it, you can jump right into watching live TV.

The picture quality is great. I have a 50mbps connection and I can’t tell the difference between a channel on Sling TV when compared to the same channel coming through my DISH. There is some buffering that causes a subpar picture for a few seconds when first switching to a channel, but it quickly clears up (I imagine this could be worse or better depending on your internet connection).

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If you have a data cap, using a streaming TV service might not be practical if you watch a lot of TV. We have a 400GB monthly cap that I already eat into a good bit by downloading games and watching Netflix. If I tried to use Sling TV as my primary TV service I would easily blow through my data cap. I checked my bandwidth usage on my Xbox after using Sling TV for about twenty minutes and found that I had used 638MB during that period. I wasn’t downloading anything else, but I wasn’t watching the data in real time so I can’t say for sure how much of that was used by Sling TV. Still, it’s a pretty high number so you can imagine how much data you’d use in a month.

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The Sling TV interface is clean and easy to navigate, though I think the DISH interface is easier to navigate (though not as good looking). I like that when viewing a channel’s schedule you’ll see pictures for most of the upcoming shows or movies. However, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to see everything that is on all the channels without scanning through each one. I could be missing something, but I don’t see any sort of traditional guide.

Sling TV guide (xbox one)

 

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Sling TV’s base package includes a lot of high demand channels such as ESPN, TBS, AMC, IFC and Cartoon Network. With the $5 addon packages you can get even more content, such as the sports pack (ESPN News, ESPN U, Universal Sports Network among others), movies (four EPIX channels and Sundance), news and more.

So far I’m pretty impressed with the service. I’m excited to see if these services can affect the traditional cable services, possibly giving users more control over what they get for their money. We can only hope!

Interesting Xbox One stats and HBO Go now available

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Yesterday I got an e-mail from Microsoft celebrating one year of the Xbox One and it included some pretty interesting stats about my year. It pointed out that I’m in the top 5% of Xbox One gamers with 6650 gamerscore earned on the Xbox One. I’ve also spent 371 hours gaming on Xbox Live on the Xbox One which places me in the top 25% of gamers. It’s kind of cool to learn about these stats and see where you fit in with the rest of the Xbox One community.

If you’re interested in seeing some more stats you can check out rewards.xbox.com/myrewards¬†and see what you’ve done over the last 30 days.

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In other Xbox news, the long awaited HBO GO app has finally arrived on the Xbox One. I’m glad to have the app because the interface is nicer looking and easier to use than my Dish On Demand interface.

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Last night’s The Walking Dead

This season of The Walking Dead has felt somewhat tame so far, but that all changed last night. I feel like this entire season is just one long setup for the arrival in Terminus and we won’t see much more exciting, fast-paced episodes until next year. Last night was refreshing, however, as something significant finally happened. We were finally shocked again. I’m hoping that the next two episodes won’t let up, but I’m not quite sure if they can do anything quite as drastic as what happened last night.

What did you think of last night’s episode? I probably should have more to say but I need another cup of coffee this morning.

GIRLS (HBO) season 1 episode 1

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I just finished watching season one, episode one of the HBO show girls produced by Judd Apatow and I have to say I like the show quite a bit so far. The characters are interesting and I already want to get to know them more. I especially like Hannah as a character. There’s something about the way she dresses, the way her hair is and the way she carries herself that I can’t help but like. As someone who thought it was a great idea to be an English major in college, I can relate to the ‘what do I do now’ situation she finds herself in. Heck, I still don’t have the answer to that one.

Hannah is played by Lena Dunham who is also the show’s creator. I had not previously heard of her, but she does such a great job in Girls so far I’m sure we’ll all see more of her in the future.

I’m looking forward to watching more of the show and seeing where things go from here.

New on TV: Enlisted

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On Friday we watched Fox’s new comedy, Enlisted. I didn’t expect a whole lot, but it was one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in awhile. The characters are quite entertaining and the acting is quality. The show parodies military life, but it doesn’t offer an accurate depiction at all. I understand that’s not the goal, but being an enlisted member of the Air Force I kept getting distracted by the fact that the characters often wear their uniforms incorrectly, and they all need haircuts. Regardless the show was funny and entertaining throughout and I look forward to next Friday’s episode.

I’ve read Enlisted debuted to low ratings, which is unfortunate but to be expected on a Friday night. I hope they move the show to a better time slot so it can make it through the season without being canceled.

EDIT: I’ve been made aware of this video below and think it’s great! Big thumbs up to Enlisted!

An updated look at Chromecast

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For $35, the Google Chromecast is a great Christmas gift. The Chromecast acts like a Roku player (or similar streaming media player) however it’s controlled by your smartphone or computer over WiFi. Once it’s set up you use apps on your phone or computer to stream content to your TV. However the Chromecast doesn’t pull data from your phone or device, it will connect to the content on it’s own and stream it from the source so you’re free to use your phone for whatever else once it starts streaming.

For example, you can launch the Netflix app on your phone and hit the Chromecast button to start up the Netflix app on the Chromecast. Once you select something to play it’ll begin loading on the Chromecast and you can close out the app on your phone. You can use the app on your phone to control the content by fast forwarding or pausing if you like.

Recently Google added a few more apps to make the Chromecast more versatile. Originally it could only stream from a handful of apps such as Netflix and Google Play. Now there are more options including HBO Go, Hulu Plus and Pandora (and several more that I’ve never used such as VEVO, RedBullTV and RealPlayer Cloud). The HBO Go and Pandora apps are my favorite additions. I’d like to see a Dish Anywhere app sometime in the future, but HBO will do for now.

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You can view the video below for a look at the new apps and to see the Chromecast in action. For $35 it has a great, easy to use design and I love using it. Sure I have all of the same apps and more on my PS3, but the ease of controlling everything seamlessly through my phone is great. I can start something playing on Netflix while I search for something to watch on HBO and switch between the two in a matter of seconds. On the PS3 the time it takes to exit one app and enter another is painful.

Tonight on TV: The Walking Dead and Getting On

 

 

 

 

 

Warning, spoilers ahead!

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Tonight was the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead (it returns in February :/) and it was one of the most thrilling episodes of the season. The Governor and his new recruits showed up at the prison fence heavily armed (and with a freaking tank!). A handful of people died, but I honestly expected it to be worse. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the comics, but I feel like the TV show has been taking it easy on people. Sure Hershel’s death was tragic, and baby Judith’s implied death was heart wrenching, but I kind of expected more main characters to die. I can’t quite remember who all dies at this point in the comics, but I thought I remembered the prison attack being worse than it was portrayed on the TV show. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, ultimately the Governor was killed once and for all (though maybe we’ll see zombie Governor? I suppose not, since he was presumably shot in the head). I wanted Rick to kill the governor, I feel like his death was a bit cheap. It’s going to be a long two months but I’m excited to see where the show goes next. Maybe I’ll catch up with the comic in the meantime.

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The second episode of Getting On centered around an unruly patient who provided quite a few laughs. The shows comedic moments are great, however there’s a lot of dry dialogue between the laughs that tend to slow things down and cause my attention to start to drift. After the first two episodes I’m not sure if I’m going to keep following the show. Have you watched it? What do you think of the series so far?