Confession time. I’m a Videophile. An Extreme Videophile. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m on an FBI Watch List or need to enter a 12 step program or have an intervention. It does mean that as soon as I walk in the door at home, even before taking off my coat, I turn on the television. And normally, except for my husband’s cocked eyebrow and eye rolling, it’s not a problem. It wasn’t, that is, until I moved my boat into a marina that didn’t have cable. That’s where my Search for Video/Entertainment journey began.
I have two residences – one is a Ta Chiao CT-56 sailboat in Fort Lauderdale, the other is a Sea Ray Sundancer 300 motorboat just south of Boston. Fort Lauderdale’s easy. The marina provides basic cable and, for a reasonable upcharge, you can add High Speed Internet and the cable channels you actually want to watch. The northern marinas, however, don’t provide this service. They do provide WiFi, but if you’ve ever tried to stream video across a shared, public WiFi, you understand the issue. If you haven’t, it’s really simple. There’s a limited amount of bandwidth and video takes A LOT of bandwidth. When a group of people try to stream all at once, services start buffering or shut down all together. Not a good situation when you’re trying to follow who you think will have to Pack [Their] Knives and Go on Top Chef. Ironically, this isn’t difficult on High Speed (wired) Internet, which I have with a full cable package. If I had one, I wouldn’t absolutely have to have the other. Oh well… Anyway, here’s my journey.
Years past, I’ve subscribed to both Directv® and Dish®. Each have their pros and cons, and I would have accepted either. However, the representatives I spoke with resolutely refused to let me sign up without a two year contract. Previously, Dish® allowed me to go month-to-month, I just had to pay extra (~$20/month). And if I didn’t return the equipment when I was done, I would be charged $300 for the dish. Fair enough. But no more. I explained that if I found a job close to home, I wouldn’t need satellite services anymore, but it didn’t matter. So they were out.
Terrible, right? Three, maybe four, grainy, boring channels, possibly not in your language. But not really. For less than $25, I obtained an HDTV antenna, which pulls in 48 channels. This worked passably well in one marina, not so much in another. The latter failed because it’s a bumpier ride (lots of wind and wave action), and the antenna can’t stay on the signal. Plus, there are only so many catheter commercials and episodes of Law and Order and Criminal Minds that I care to watch. As a result, it’s still in place; mostly as a backup. And I still enjoy Night Court from time to time. While I don’t partake myself, it’s also the way to receive local news and programming.
Hard to believe, but Netflix provides the best buffering on a WiFi signal of any other service I’ve found. If the WiFi is truly terrible, even Netflix can fail, but overall it hangs in there. The biggest downfalls that I see in this service are that aside from their original programming, the offerings are typically older. This doesn’t bother me very much as it allowed me to binge watch Murder She Wrote and Columbo, but it’s frustrating when you would like to watch Top Chef or Chopped. Although I was pleasantly surprised to see The Angry Birds Movie. Of course, it’s not shocking that this movie was easily acquired. And no, I do not like Stranger Things. There. I said it. And I stand by it. Yuck.
As good as Netflix is, I still wanted better streaming. Some of the channels provide the ability to watch current programming IF you have an active subscription to a video service. Remember the CT-56 in South Florida? I can utilize my XFinity account from that. Not the online XFinity; that’s only available for an upcharge, if it’s in my area, blah di blah di blah. Translation, not worth my time. However, I can go directly to Lifetime or Bravo and watch Project Runway and/or Top Chef. Even VH1 for America’s Next Top Model, even though I’m not feeling it with the loss of Tyra Banks. Still hanging in there, at least, for now…
Enough of the aside; back to better streaming. Did some research and found lots of solutions for lots of money. Being cheap, I stopped by Walmart, found a WiFi Signal Booster for $12, and plugged it in. After figuring out the horribly written instructions that hadn’t been updated from the last model, I got it working on the marina WiFi. And, even in the midst of the New England winter, the clouds parted, the sun began to shine and birds sang at the top of their little voices. I had a WiFi signal I could stream from. Hallelujah. Time for the next big step.
As a horror/action movie aficionado, I really enjoy Danny Trejo. When I first saw his commercial for SlingTV (You think I’m evil? I’ll tell you what’s evil—Cable television), I was intrigued. I’m not thrilled with cable television, but I don’t think it’s evil, I just don’t have access to it. So I checked out SlingTV. When I went to their website, there was an offer of a free Roku if I signed up for a monthly subscription ($19). Being a lover of free things, I figured Why not? I signed up. While waiting, I tried the PC application, which consistently ran for about 10 minutes and then froze. Not holding out much hope, I was still excited to receive the Roku.
After setting up the Roku, I found that some channels are better than others at streaming off the boosted WiFi and the DVR like capabilities should be avoided at all costs. Even pausing causes a program to permanently lock at the pause point. So I treat it like regular cable and all is well. I also find that the live streaming works better than the on demand options. The final result is that I can now watch Top Chef without resorting to nefarious means. Like sneaking into neighbors’ houses when they’re away just to watch Bravo.
Amazon Prime Video
The final option is that I have an Amazon Prime subscription and can tap into strange videos if the other sources are completely exhausted. The performance is catch as, catch can, but after one miserable download, they contacted me with a refund. The email began with We noticed you had trouble viewing your recent video download… Okay, so I was a little creeped out that Amazon was watching me that closely, but it’s a fact of life that Big Brother is Watching and at least I received a refund.
Living the dream – one cheesy horror movie at a time…