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Streaming Platforms Today – You’ve Got Choices

Streaming TV Options - Build It or Buy It

Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the past ten years, you’ve probably heard of ‘Streaming’ and ‘streaming boxes’ or ‘streaming apps’.  Honestly, I started exploring this over ten years ago when an ex-girlfriend and I mutually decided we were going to try to live without FIOS, or Comcast’s cable boxes.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t so mutual. But, we did it. At the time, we were paying (renting) a lot of devices from our provider, and a lot of unneeded content. NOTICE – I did not say we were going to live without their internet service.  We actually upgraded our internet service speed using the savings from the returned boxes.  It was a very painful experience back then in 2008.  Today, it’s quite easy to do this.

Streaming TV Options - Build It or Buy It
Streaming TV Options – Build It or Buy It

YOU’VE GOT STREAMING CHOICES

You have a lot of choices. Including Comcast’s own streaming service which I mus t say is very good. It’s convenient as hell because, it’s embedded into Comcast’s service offerings, and their platform.  I also like Roku’s platform which is embedded into a lot on smart TV’s these days.  There is also Google’s TV streaming service as well as Sling TV, Pluto, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and quite a few others. You can even build your own, like I did!

My challenge in streaming and all service providers is content.  I don’t want to rent anything.  And I especially don’t want to pay for content I don’t use or have any interest in seeing.  When I visit any Verizon or Comcast store, or even a Wal-Mart fo rthat matter, they always try to pitch me on a ‘package’ and what great deals they have.  When I ask them what they’re offering, they almost always tell me how many channels I can get for a special monthly subscription package.  They don’t get it.


I WANT DAVE TV

What I’m really interested in is DAVE TV!  “Do you have that?”, I asked one rep.  He looked puzzled, and didn’t answer. I didn’t expect him to.  Actually, I can’t take credit for this idea. This idea came from my younger brother Sean, who is always coming up with great ideas by the way.  He called me one day and said, “Hey Dave, I’ve got an idea how you can make millions of dollars.  Create a service where people can sign up, create a profile and you tell them where they can get access to all their favorite channels, all their favorite shows, and at the best price.” That idea has stuck in my mind every since he told me.  Their is TV experience that is exactly alike. Every person’s profile is their TV channel.

DAVE TV – I thought.  I love it.  I’ve been working on this ever since. In my spare time. It’s like an itch that you can’t quite scratch to make go away.  And every time I want to see something on TV, I get that itch because I can’t watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it.  The technology is here to do it.  The problem is the availability and licensing of content.

Columbo TV show streaming on YouTube
Columbo Streaming on YouTube

GETTING CONTENT

Let’s start with my biggest frustration – content.  Take for example my favorite TV show – Columbo. This is a “Who Dunit” genre.

I grew up in an era where we had lot’s of great detective type TV shows.  We had Mannix, Kojak, Hart to Hart, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Perry Mason, Columbo was my favorite because he was always under estimated.  The criminals always thought they were smarter than the cops. Guess what.  They weren’t.

COLUMBO MY FAVORITE TV SHOW

And Columbo’s methodology for catching the criminals was always the same. It was an algorithm to me. Something that is there, that’s not supposed to be there. Or, something that’s supposed to be there that isn’t. Some of the murders are brilliant.

But it’s just this one little thing that the criminals always forget, or fail to consider.  And Columbo doesn’t miss anything. Even though he often pretends to miss things, or forgets things.  He lies, steals, and does anything to catch the criminals.  Often, they entrap themselves.  If they did nothing, said nothing, and didn’t offer Columbo any assistance, they would get away with their crimes. If Columbo shows up, you’re going to jail.

Anyhow, I could go on and on about my enjoyment of concentrating for an hour and a half on the smallest of details thanks to Columbo.  The problem is I don’t always have access to the shows and movies.  Close friends and family have given me gifts of Columbo seasons as ‘boxed sets’ as gifts.   I love these!

COMCAST HAS MY FAVORITE TV SHOW

Thanks to Comcast, I can watch Columbo on the Hallmark Channel, at times and on their schedule. Because of the gifts of boxed seasons, I can watch those seasons when I’m at home, but if I’m out of town, or on a plane, forget it.  It’s not just Columbo I’d like to watch, there are a few other shows to.  There’s also some key sports events that I either attended live, or watched with others that had an impact on my life that I’d love to re-live.

Streaming could help with all this – DAVE TV.  What I what to watch, when I want to watch it. On any device.  And at the best price!  My brother Sean is brilliant.  I’d love to put more time on this, but I am working on so many projects, and many are NON-PAYING, so there’s only so much room for these types of projects.

Raspberry PI Kodi Streaming Box
My Homemade Streaming Box

DAVE TV HARDWARE – RASPBERRY PI & KODI

So DAVE TV is going to need some hardware and software to get going. First, I built my own streaming device as seen in this picture here. The hardware is a Raspberry Pi model B+ circuit, with Kodi loaded onto it. It runs off a 5VDC power adapter or can run off the tv’s power.

My streaming box’s output to TV connects via an HDMI port.  WiFi is available via a built-in Wifi module on the board. The operating system runs on a MicroSD card which I can re-flash whenever I need to do a software update or if I get hit by a hacker, or my O.S. gets corrupted. I just swap out the SD cards and I can be back up and running quickly.

Right now, I am working on the software portion of DAVE TV.  I want the GUI or graphical user interface to be intuitive. Smooth, clean, and modern with an easy to navigate flow. I’ve tried all the service offerings out there, and I haven’t found anything that I really can’t live without yet.  Obviously, Comcast and Verizon have the most familiar because it’s what we all have.  But, it’s not what I WANT.  It’s not DAVE TV.  I’m not egotistical or anything.  If your name was Bob or Sue or Juan, it would be BOB TV, SUE TV or JUAN TV.  It’s TV the way YOU WANT IT, WHEN YOU WANT IT, Everywhere.

GOOD GUI – GOOD ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE

One of my friends who I’ve known for over 12 years get’s this concept completely.  He’s a bona-fide nerd, and he’s got JEREMY TV up and running in Beta format.  I’ll have to dig around and look for his GUI but believe me, it blows everyone’s away. When I find it, I will post it.  He and I are not the only ones. There are millions of people out there hungering for this. Some are finding their way onto Amazon’s Fire TV sticks which are quite good. For such a small and compact form, you will be hard pressed to find a hardware device that can deliver this much content for the price.

I’m betting the winning move will be a Roku like O.S. but with different features, and a better name.  I love the product, hate the name. Roku?  Whatever happened to Fancast? That’s was a great name. It was great when it was a streaming TV platform originally. It’s lost it’s way as a brand. ‘Digital Curation‘ is a proven business model. Just ask Mark Cuban.

Streaming – The Right Way vs The Wrong Way

STREAMING IS GOOD. But, there are ways you can get into trouble.  Accessing illegal or pirated content can get you into trouble. My choice is to BUY the boxed sets of all my favorite movies, tv shows, concerts, etc.  If money is no object, you can buy the sets of your choice, and Amazon will have them delivered to you pretty quick. I visit nearly every Goodwill, Swap meet, discount store, or anywhere I can to BUY the discs so that I can covert them to digital format so that I can stream them to my DAVE TV box.

Afterall, DAVE TV needs content, but LEGAL CONTENT.  By buying the actual discs, no one can challenge me on my right to watch what I own.  By configuring a dedicated server (network storage appliance), I can then access my content anywhere with just a few more steps.

I realize many people are so called ‘jail breaking’ Amazon Fire TV sticks or boxes.  This is not true jail breaking.  It’s more like ‘side loading’ the Kodi application from the Google App store onto Amazon’s Hardware and then configuring the Kodi addons to access your favorite content. Side loading with ‘File-Explorer’ is pretty simple if you’re tech savvy. At anytime Amazon can push a button and put an end to this. It’s Amazon’s hardware, and an Android O.S. (owned by Google).

START BUILDING YOUR CONTENT LIST

DVD & Blu-Ray Movies
DVD & Blu-Ray Movies

My advice is start with a list of your favorite movies and TV shows. Then acquire them in DVD, Blu-Ray or other format that you can touch.  I’d done this here. As you can see from the photo, I took a snapshot of just one shelf of my video library.  My collection is growing very large.  In my spare time, I convert them to digital format (MP4 or Ogg, etc) and then part them on the NAS.  Follow along on this.

Network Access Storage  (NAS) Devices for Storing Streaming Media

If you haven’t started looking for a good NAS, you can get one from Amazon.  The NAS is critical because the digitized content files are HUGE!  Also, if the NAS is in your house, it won’t matter what your internet speed is so you will have amazing content clarity.  When you’re away from home, accessing your NAS is very simple with your password.  After the tv shows or movies are digitized you will want to take a snapshot of the DVD, or Blu-Ray covers for your thumbnails and your selection guide.

ENTERTAINMENT TREASURES

Presently, I’m hunting for certain things I want in my library.  Some people will only watch NEW MOVIES, or TV Shows.  They detest, absolutely despise anything old.  That’s a lot of young people I overhear today.  For me, I like anything rare, unique or hard to find.  The harder it is to find, the more valuable it becomes to me because I remember what I had to go through to acquire the video asset. For instance, I usually hunt in groups, or my a category.  Sometimes I’m influenced by the news of the week. Last week, immigration was on every channel.

Enter The Dragon
Schindler’s List & Enter The Dragon

Enter The Dragon

When I was a kid, I have found memories of watching martial arts movies.  We would sometimes be lucky enough to watch them on TV.  Or better yet, we got to go to the Saturday morning movies and watch a couple of martial arts movies for like $1-2 bucks or something.  I remember our neighborhood being besieged by the newly acquired skills we had mastered by merely WATCHING ‘Enter The Dragon’.

Suddenly, all us boys were practicing our martial arts moves, complete with sound effects, and freeze frame animations.  Everyone had fun ‘playing karate’ as I remember we called it then. Where else would we learn the Shaolin secrets like, “I does not exist” or “..there is no opponent”.  How about Shaolin Commandment #13? What about the famous phrase, “…you need emotional content!”? Us boys took that as a personal and direct command to be as loud and aggressive as we could in our imaginary battles. These are all found within ‘Enter The Dragon’.  This was a time when ‘…boys actually went outside and played’.  Being in the house was punishment. We would ride bikes and go on adventures.  To me, kids today are babied too much.

Schindler’s List

If you haven’t seen this movie, then I’d recommend investing a few hours to see it at least once in your lifetime. Schindler is a man who starts out with nothing, but seeing an opportunity. He decides to parlay his talents and the little money he has into relationships with the Third Reich at a horrific time in history.  As Schindler prospers due to war, he never forgets those who were being persecuted but yet lent him the money he needed to go into business.  He repays them by giving jobs to everyone who helped him, and their families. He hires a man skilled in accounting and business management to maintain a list of his investors and their families to be repaid and the rest is history.  Certainly, this movie is an excellent addition to anyone’s library.

American Flyer

American Flyer & Piped Pier
American Flyer & Piped Piper

I remembered seeing a really good movie about an immigrant coming from Mexico and I remembered being impressed by what he and his family had to go through to get to the United States.  After remembering the movie’s name was American Flyer, I set about my hunt to acquire the movie.  I found out it. Guess where?  Dollar Tree. Cost?  One Dollar. Good Movie. I recommend watching it. It might enrich your perspective. Just a suggestion.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Although I thought this was a good movie about government and double crossing politicians; most people my not agree. That’s why it made it into my library. This city was plagued with rats.  Only one person could solve their problem. He was hired for a huge fee to remove the city’s rats, which he did.  After the job was done, the mayor decides he wasn’t going to pay and reneged on his contract.  It’s got a happy ending to a thorny political conflict.  The politician assumed that the Piper wouldn’t be in a position to fight back after being double crossed.  They thought wrong.  If you’re not offended by watching old movies, then this movie may have a few lessons it can teach you if you have a little patience.

Mad Hot Ballroom

Strays and Mad Hot Ballroom
Strays and Mad Hot Ballroom

I wandered into the nearby Blockbuster Video Store shelf I had wandered into.  I am so glad I bought this movie.  It embodies everything I believe about children and kids.

I would recommend every parent to watch this movie BEFORE your kids grow up.

I remember a time when we took drama, acting, music, dancing and fencing in school. At the time, they seemed like weird subjects to take. I hated them. But, as I got older, I remembered the lessons learned.

I now highly value the rich experiences from these activities, and I really appreciate those who sacrificed so much to make sure we had experiences just like those in this movie.

As a result, I am forever grateful.  This movie helps me (and anyone else) remember and share in a fresh perspective. I highly recommend this movie.

Strays

Strays is one of those movies in history that you’re most likely not to see unless you happened to know a movie buff.  This movie was the first film for someone who later became a movie star and starred in many blockbuster hits.  It was the acting debut for Vin Diesel!

In this movie, we see young Rick (played by Diesel) who is a drug dealer going nowhere until he meets an upper class girl from the other side of the tracks.  The only thing he has going for him is that he’s self-employed and has his own apartment which seems to be more that his boys that he runs with.

Although Diesel and the girl hit it off, they newly minted relationship turns sour quickly as Diesel displays his character traits which the young lady finds distasteful.  It’s interesting to see Diesel in his first film. I credit him for getting his performance out there.  He made it into the Sundance Film Festival Competition for his directing and screen writing on this film. This movie may be hard to find, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.  I’m proud to own one of Diesel’s first movies and if I ever meet him in person, I’ll have something interesting to talk to him about.  I can’t wait to ask him a few questions about his making of this movie.

Let The Conversion Begin

I mentioned the need for a NAS earlier. Size does matter. If you go with the unit pictured here from Amazon, you will be rewarded.  The 20TB NAS holds approximately 2,500 DVD’s so you will be off to a great start.  I’m using this as the main storage for DAVE TV right now which is actually behind my content library.

Connecting the NAS to Kodi Streamer
Connecting the NAS to Kodi Streamer

The Kodi box I built connects to the NAS via the USB see here in the photo. You can also connect it as a network location. I recommend connecting your streamer via hard wired connection if you can as you will get the best performance.  WiFi is good for convenience, but it is susceptible to interference by other wireless devices.  Using the Cat 5/6 plug for connectivity eliminates this interference and bodes well for a better overall streaming performance.

Your Streaming Network

DAVE TV is the name I gave for my digital content streamed anywhere and everywhere with it’s home base as my personal home entertainment network.  I was surprised at how this is playing out for me.  I haven’t connected it to the internet yet, but I plan to once I can get the port forwarding and security settings out of the way.  That’s a major issue. Whatever your name is, it’s your network.

Conclusion

In summary, the minute you get a streaming player online, and you have a place to store your movies and TV shows, you have your entertainment network.  To me, it’s tremendously valuable.  It reduces the time I spend searching online for movies or shows that I can’t find.

I look forward to hearing if anyone else gives this a try. It’s a worthwhile investment. It will give you many hours of enjoyment as I’ve received. Thanks for reading!

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