Why do I hate DirecTV Now, let me count the ways

I got an e-mail from AT&T/DirecTV asking me to complete a survey on why I unsubscribed from DirecTV Now.  I spent quite a bit of time crafting a comprehensive answer, only to receive the notice below.  Part of my issue with DirecTV was the poor interface design. I now extend that criticism to the survey.  If you limit my response to 999 characters, why not tell me?  Then I won’t prepare a response that’s 302% larger than you will allow!

NOTE – there were two other text boxes, both limited the number of characters to other, smaller, and random quantities, both with no indication of what the limit would be. 

image

Here is my full response about why I unsubscribed from DirecTV Now:

DirecTV Now was a horrific
experience.  From the user
interface to buffering issues to the user interface (did I already say that,
yes, it’s that bad) to the content.  No type of DVR solution, ‘subscribing’ to channels was OK, but
non-intuitive to use.

 

No CBS channel.  At all.  Yes, I know you
have to negotiate with CBS, but it’s a gaping hole.  I added HBO and got two HBO channels added, which was underwhelming.  Even at $35/month rate it wasn’t worth
the money.  We watched ONE movie
(Deadpool) and the last 20 minutes of the film took almost an hour to watch due
to buffering issues.
 

 

Just so you don’t assume I have a poor Internet
connection, I have 200/10 Mbps (up/downlink speeds) and a commercial grade
firewall and wireless AP (Meraki).  Chemical engineer by degree, working in IT and connected to the Internet
since 1986 (not a typo), Cisco and other certifications.  Let’s just assume the problem is on your end and not my home
network…

 

Streaming from a laptop to a Chromecast was
USELESS.  I stream other content
(YouTube, other) to Chromecast with no issues using the exact same configuration
(laptop, wireless channel, etc).  Streaming from my PHONE (!!!) worked better than the laptop, and I can’t
account for that.  Is the Android
app that much more efficient than streaming from a browser on a
laptop?

 

No Roku support out of the gate.  Roku and beer are gifts from GOD, and you don’t support the Roku.  Seriously? 

 

I took advantage of the free Amazon Fire offer because,
as noted, you don’t support the Roku (aka, Gift From God).  Nice device, but DirecTV sucks at life, so we were ‘less than pleased’
with the experience. We attempted
to watch Deadpool (previous reference) using the Amazon Fire.  Other services worked fine, but not DirecTV Now.

 

And, the user interface sucks.  As an example, I saved ‘favorite’ channels in the guide and selected
Favorites to display. It’s all too
easy to suddenly have every channel displayed.  Next, I can’t seem to pause, continue,
and skip over content (like my DirecTV DVR). Yes, I realize there are device
constraints (but, shall I note, not on the Roku), but you’re not even
trying. Did you pull one of those
“Design this for free and I’ll give you great recommendations” with the
interface design team?  Because it
LOOKS like that’s what you did.

 

I’m doing this all from memory.  It’s like a nightmare where I can still see the screen doing something I
don’t want/like, oh, and the BUFFERING, Oh, the BUFFERING!!!

 

To summarize:

– User interface sucks

– No DVR capability

– No Roku support

– Buffering issues (with long shows?  You tell me)

– No CBS content

– Poor performance with Amazon Fire

– Poor performance with Chromecast

= DirecTV Now Sucks at life

 

That’s the short version of why I unsubscribed from
DirecTV Now.  I’m working furiously
to experiment with OTA TV, a local DVR, and cloud based services.  I’m willing to bet anything I put together will be a better, more
satisfying experience than DirecTV Now.

 

Love,

Paul & Barb

"A safe propane torch for applications around the home"

I get a feed from “Cool Tools” and this caught my eye.  I’m thinking of using it to remove snow or scare the shit out of my neighbors.  Looking for a backpack to hold the propane tank next.

Harbor Freight – Greenwood propane torch
http://www.harborfreight.com/propane-torch-91033.html

Note from Cool Tools:

“I was a small part of a Battle Bots team behind the robot Complete Control that was on Battle Bots recently on ABC. This $20 propane torch was on a robot. It was heralded as — I’m gonna sort of humble brag here — it was heralded as the most effective flame thrower in Battle Bots history because it recorded the first robot kill ever, which was really exciting for us. There’s a Youtube video of it. A minute and a half into the match, we get the robot in the gripper. We grab under the robot, lift them up, and then turn on the flame thrower. It’s a 3,000 degree torch, it’s coming from just a regular propane tank. The brilliance of this Harbor Freight tool is someone engineered it and figured out how to have it properly aspirated … It turns out just with a few little tweaks, including this spark gap generator, it became a robot killer. That was pretty awesome to see.”

HP notes – update BIOS from F10

I got a friends-and-family return-from-lease HP 8100 workstation.  No RAM, no disk, just the basic workstation.  I am trying to install Windows 10, but I’m having issues with the OS install failing.  HP notes point to an out-of-date BIOS.  The challenge is how to update the BIOS when you have no OS installed.

      1. 1. Download the BIOS update (EXE file) from the HP site.
      2. 2. Extract the ISO file from the EXE using 7-Zip.
      3. 3. Burn the ISO to a CD (and put CD in the CD/DVD drive)
      4. 4. Boot the system, press F10, select Update BIOS, point to the CD.
    1. This wasn’t obvious, nor was it documented *anywhere* on the HP site.  Lots of references to pre-2002 HP tools and the like.  I hope someone finds this useful.

Netgear security update

Check your router for a vulnerability by entering the string below into your browser (change [router-address] to the IP address of your router (example: 192.168.1.1)).

http://[router-address]/cgi-bin/;uname$IFS-a

If that page shows anything but an error or an empty page, your router is affected and you need to apply the patch just published by Netgear (link below).

Netgear models impacted by this vulnerability:

R6250

R6400

R6700

R6900

R7000

R7100LG

R7300DST

R7900

R8000

D6220

D6400

http://kb.netgear.com/000036386/CVE-2016-582384

Hiking 

I’ll start to post more about hobbies as well as technology.  

On our Yosemite trip this month, I focused on packing light. I weighed and documented everything I took. This resulted in a much more successful and enjoyable trip. 

New equipment included a new, lightweight sleeping bag, a 10L compression sack,and some lightweight packing sacks. 

Raspberry Pi 3 start kit recommendation

Several people have asked about Raspberry Pi  kits recently.  I’m lazy, so I’ll maintain this list so I can just point people to this link.  Any questions or suggestions, let me know.

Components

1.       Raspberry Pi 3 – get
the latest one, best value for money, WiFi and Bluetooth included

2.       Case for Raspberry
Pi

3.       HDMI to VGA adapter –
lets you connect to older (and cheaper) monitors

4.       USB to PS/2 adapters
– lets you connect to older mice and keyboards

5.       MicroSD card – to
install OS, get an

a.       8GB to 16GB card
recommended

b.       Get multiple cards so
you can have multiple system configurations without reformatting the card each
time.

6.       Power
Supply

a.       1A with MicroUSB
cable

b.       Get multiple power
supplies – spares always good, may require power for HDMI to VGA

 

Sources

Raspberry Pi 3 motherboard

Newark Element14 – sells kits as well as components,
shipping is reasonable, prices comparable to Amazon

http://www.newark.com/raspberry-pi/raspberrypi3-modb-1gb/sbc-raspberry-pi-3-mod-b-1gb-ram/dp/77Y6520

 

Amazon – $35 retail, but $40 with Prime

http://www.amazon.com/Raspberry-Pi-RASP-PI-3-Model-Motherboard/dp/B01CD5VC92

 

Raspberry Pi case – $9

http://www.amazon.com/SB-Components-Clear-Case-Raspberry/dp/B00MQLB1N6

 

HDMI to VGA adapter – $

http://www.amazon.com/Cable-Matters-Active-Adapter-Micro-USB/dp/B00879DM56

 

USB to PS/2 adapter – $2

http://www.amazon.com/SANOXY-USB-PS-2-Adapter/dp/B00007AP2O

 

32GB MicroSD card (Samsung) – $13

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-EVO-Plus-Adapter-MB-MC32DA/dp/B012DT8OJ4

 

 

Obihai Update

We have used an Obi 110 as our home phone service through Google Voice since June 2011.  This month, we started having a problem dialing outbound and received a male voice referencing a password issue with the Google Voice account.  The password was fine, and I found the screen shots below

image

Clicked link on support page, $10 for one year of Obihai Premium Support, and after the purchase, the software update was available.  I have no problem with the support contract, and I’m very satisfied with the performance and features of the Obi110.

image

The problem I had was obscure, and I didn’t find any support references via Google or Bing searches.  I hope someone finds this useful.

http://www.amazon.com/Obihai-OBi110-Service-Telephone-Adapter/dp/B0045RMEPI

Raspberry Pi-Hole

I was trying to optimize my home network and determined using a local DNS server significantly  improved our internet experience.  I did the testing with my home server, but it’s a beast (six cores, 32GB RAM, and 4-6TB storage).  Since I have a spare Raspberry Pi B+, I figured I would use it.

Researching further, I found the Pi-Hole Project (http://pi-hole.net/).  Not only does it provide a local DNS server, but it integrates ad filtering!  It works quite well, and didn’t take any technical skills to provision.

  1. Install Raspbian build on Raspberry Pi – reference link below
  2. Run this command from the shell (command line): curl -L install.pi-hole.net | bash
  3. Configure your computers/devices to use the Pi as their DNS server – I configured my wireless gateway to point to the Raspberry Pi so all my systems automatically use it. 

    NOTE – setup your gateway to use an external DNS as a secondary to avoid issues

Reference Links

Raspbian image downloads
https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/

Pi-Hole Project
http://pi-hole.net/

Edit Word Normal.dot template

How to open the Normal template in any version of Word

  1. To edit the normal template in any version of Word on any Windows operating system do the following:
  2. Open Word.
  3. Open the vba Editor by Pressing Alt+F11 together.
  4. At the bottom of the vba Editor window is something called the Immediate window. (Press Ctrl+G to activate this window if you don’t see it.) Click in that Immediate window.
  5. Type the following (or copy it from here and paste it):
  6. application.NormalTemplate.OpenAsDocument
  7. Press Enter
  8. Close the vba editor
  9. You are now editing the normal.dot or normal.dotm template.
  10. Make the appropriate changes and save.

The next time you open a new document, it will have the defaults you saved in the template.

Raspberry Pi 3

I just ordered one from Newark Electronics.  At a meeting today, we had a discussion about Raspberry Pi 3, so I thought I would post my notes for reference.

I did some quick checking, and I would recommend only buying the Raspberry Pi 3 because it has better specs (faster CPU, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth included), it’s the same price ($35), and it’s compatible with just about everything you would want to do (including Windows 10 IoT).

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
http://www.newark.com/buy-raspberry-pi

Note – Raspberry Pi 2 case works with 3, and I just buy the cheapest one I can find. I use extra micro-USB phone chargers to power mine, and I’ve been buying Samsung SD cards for my phone and projects. You can buy kits, too, but with my basement of spare parts, this hasn’t been an issue for me ;).

Raspberry Pi (Pi-Hole project)
https://pi-hole.net/

Notes – I have seen some side effects, for example links on CNN seem to go through an ad service, so they are blocked. Overall, it hasn’t had any impact on any work I’ve done at home, or on any devices we have in my house. There are tons of articles about customization of Pi-Hole via Google Search.

Windows 10 IoT Core support for Raspberry Pi 3
https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2016/02/29/windows-10-iot-core-support-for-raspberry-pi-3/

2600 Magazine article – New Yorker
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/print-magazine-hackers

Joybubbles – guy with perfect pitch, discovery of 2600 Hz vulnerability attributed to him.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joybubbles

Wikipedia 2600 entry – also notes H.O.P.E. originally organized by 2600
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2600:_The_Hacker_Quarterly