Cutting the Cord

Thinking about cutting the cord? So what’s stopping you? Are tied to certain programming only available on cable or Satellite? Or do you find that you really only watch a few programs from only a few different stations?

We cut the cord over eight years ago and haven’t regretted it yet. Yes, we still watch television, but we either get our programming from streaming sources online or video purchases. For much of the “need to know” programming, the free, over-the-air channels still work well. Add in something like a Tablo over the air recorder, record and watch all your favorite network programs when you want.

Check out Nick’s video on the Tablo.

We’re not talking about doing away with your Internet provider. A good solid Internet provider is a needed way of life. Simply getting rid of paying for a ton of unneeded TV programming.

Most all of our viewing pleasure now comes from Hulu, Netflix , Amazon Prime, various Cable Channel websites, and even YouTube.  Really, all have the same content available for less than a monthly provider bill. Many cable channels offer programming for free — like CW which has some pretty good programming available.

Hulu, for example, will have many of the top network broadcast programs we want to see, typically, the next day. These are ready to watch and commercial free! So if we want to binge-watch our favorite Bob’s Burger episodes, they are all there. We’re not tied to having to watch a program when it’s broadcast.

Netflix, and Amazon Prime for example have tons of original programming. Some good, others, not so good, but a plethora of content exists to watch at the ready.

Many of the paid services online offer trial periods of the services, so you can watch a program or two and decide if you want to subscribe. Unlike a cable or satellite provider, if you decide after the first month you want to cancel your subscription — no problem. Little or no hassle to quite, unlike every cable provider on the planet that takes you through multiple layers of BS on a call to cancel your subscription.

With Amazon Prime you get free two-day shipping. And both offer 30 days free trials. Some of our content is from YouTube (yes, quality shows can be found on YouTube), and some miscellaneous streaming sources from over-seas.

Cable companies are finally accepting that the masses are changing their viewing habit. Many cable companies are thinking about changing the model from the pay for bundled TV programming to becoming multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs). Basically means, these cable companies are looking to distribute content programming like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and others. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, yeah, it’s great for the end-consumer, but will reduce the money cable distributors make. So great for us, not so great for them, right. Well, yes, and no. This will also create greater competition to supply content at a cheaper price (or will it?)

For now, cable companies aren’t worried about losing money to cable cutters. In fact, may cable cutters that still use cable for their internet service still get basic cable services for free, simply because it’s oft times cheaper to leave the service on than to pay for an installer to go out and install a filter which blocks the TV channels. Plus, having TV subscribers looks better on the bottom line rather than showing the increase number of Internet only cable subscribers.

Strange, huh? We all want content, but we just don’t want to pay for 499 channels we don’t watch just so we can see that 1 channel. So as a consumer would you be willing to pay more for that one channel with content you want to see?

And when you figure in the cost, you’ll find you will pay less for the programming you want to view, than getting that monthly cable or satellite TV bill. Most cable subscribers pay an average of $720 per year in the U.S. for some 180 channels. The average viewer may watch programming from 15 to 20 of those channels. For great programming from a variety of streaming sources, you would most certainly pay less.

Even sports fans can find MLB and NFL related content online. You’ll may still have to use over-the-air broadcast to catch that live up to the minute game, but many of the streaming sites have delayed content ready to view. And remember that Tablo DVR I pointed out? You can certainly use it or some other DVR device to capture your favorite sports game from Over The Air.

So really, what is keeping you from cutting the cord? Is it the convenience of that magic box that sits next to your big screen and the all-in-one content resource? Aren’t you tired of having to watch 18 minutes of content and 12 minutes of commercials every ½ hour? Or are you really afraid you’ll miss something important?

Cut the cord; find some decent streaming content online. Save some money and thank me, later.

Streaming, on-demand is the current wave, so get out there and surf the net for content.

Related Video: Tablo Tear Down

Some Streaming Providers. Each offer different solutions to your viewing needs.

Auto Tone Title

Don’t Underestimate Auto Features In Photoshop

I recently had 2 rolls of film developed that were shot on the brand-new-to-me Pentax Spotmatic. Sadly, I underexposed most of the shots, and they look terrible. 

Raw Film shot of Two Cameras on a Shelf

Raw Film shot of Two Cameras on a Shelf

As you can see, this photo is pretty awful and crazy washed out. I started playing with Photoshop as per usual, using the Camera Raw Filter, trying various curves and levels. The results weren’t too much better. Out of just random desperation, I hit “Auto Tone” from the Image menu. 

Photoshop Auto Tone Menu Option

Photoshop Auto Tone Menu Option

And look at that instant result!

Edited Film shot of Two Cameras on a Shelf

Edited Film shot of Two Cameras on a Shelf

With one click Photoshop did a vastly better job than I was getting with 10 to 15 minutes of playing. It managed to get rid of the haze, adjust the levels, and get everything pretty much perfect, instantly. Going through the rolls, almost every picture was improved by this to the point I didn’t need to do any additional editing. The effect isn’t perfect though, shots that are too far gone can’t be saved, such as this one. 

Side by side film shot of Lily, image on the left being the raw film image, image on the right being the Auto Tone adjusted image, showing a large amount of grain and noise.

Raw and Auto Tone side by side.

As you can see, it does remove the usual green haze, but because the exposure was so low, the image just becomes awash with noise. It’s certainly improved, but by no means does it magically fix the image. More work might be able to be done however. 

The best part about this discovery is that Auto Tone in Photoshop by default has a keyboard shortcut, so you can just drop your image in, do Ctrl + J to duplicate the layer, and then Shift + Ctrl + L and BOOP, your image is fixed, and you can toggle the layer on and off the see the before and after. Also don’t ignore the Auto Contrast and Auto Color options, some images work better with those.

3 Images side-by-side of a group of fursuiters, the left image is raw from the film, the middle image has Auto Tone applied, and the right image has Auto Color applied.

Side by side of Raw, Auto Tone, and Auto Color

Quickly becomes its own subset of Instagram-esque filters, and we aren’t even using LUTs!

While I certainly don’t recommend falling into the laziness of just hitting auto, sometimes you want or need a quick fix, or at least a way to make the photo look like how you imagined it would turn out from the camera. The the appeal of film in this digital age is the limitations, which can also be its biggest downfall. At least I know how to quickly get these one-of-a-kind treasures to be decent, displayable images.


Black Friday Deals – Are They Worth It? | N2T2

It’s Black Friday! If you’re outside the U.S. you may not know the “fun” that is Black Friday.

Most countries don’t engage in the hoard shopping frenzy that many in the U.S. do to get some of the best prices of the year on merch they think they need or want. But some countries are starting to. England, for example, has started to embrace the last Friday in November as a Black Friday shopping day. (See Sidebar). Funny tho, not to the extreme of the use as one would expect as this tweet seems to show.

France is just starting to embrace the concept of a Black Friday (see sidebar). Most French people don’t even know what Black Friday is, but in similar fashion are heading out to get those bargain deals. And the French shopping culture is more subdued than their American counter-part. By law, there are only two sales periods allowed, one in summer and another in January. The law states that shops are are not allowed to make loss-making sales regardless of the time of year or sales periods. Probably something the U.S. should adopt.

Is it worth all the lead-up, anticipation, long lines, fighting over the deals and getting a piece of the action?

No, and Yes.

The psychology behind Black Friday deals will always point toward Yes.  Shoppers can’t resist deals. And many of the deals are good, as long as you are savvy, watch the ads, check prices online and be smartful in your shopping. But hey, who’s gonna do that when there are all these specials pop up.

Black Friday used to be something special back when it was only on the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. A rush to get to the store first to get that one of a kind deal that those first in line would get.

Black Friday was essentially the official start to the Christmas buying season on the day after Thanksgiving which is held on the 4th Thursday of November.

Sometimes it’s only 4 weekends until Christmas from Black Friday and sometimes 5 weekends!

Retailers really love Black Friday when it falls on a day that is 5 weekends away from Christmas. And why not? That means one extra weekend of shoppers buying stuff.

Black Friday typically shows stores as more profitable for the year with sales finally being in the black on the accounting ledger and keeps the store alive for another year. But now Black Friday deals start earlier and earlier in the year. Some even have had Black Friday deals in July! So no longer do you have to queue in long lines and fight for the deals you want.

For the truly big day, stores have been gearing up — setting out the Black Friday box deals, overstock, price jacks, price reductions and more for weeks. Many stores are now open on Thanksgiving, where one can get pre-black Friday deals. And just look at all the ads!

TVs, game consoles, toys clothes, kitchen appliances, home improvement, movies… That one day, days, weeks, leading up to Christmas that get you what you THINK is the best deals of the year! Every day leading up to the actual Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. we are inundated with specials and deals and those “one of a kind”, “limited supplies only” deals that you can only get on black Friday. There might be a Sunday only deal before Black Friday. Or Thanksgiving day only. Saturday only. So watch carefully, as you don’t have to wait or do all your shopping on that one day, in the wee hours of the morning.

You can avoid the crowd fighting and get those deals early or later. Here’s an example. We wanted a new 4K TV. We did research and price watching for the 4K TV we wanted to get. In our area, we have Meijers stores that offered the LG 65” TV for 800 dollars — well, 799.99, but only on Thursday — Thanksgiving day. No problem, it’s a really good deal, right?

So the gamble was to wait until that 1 day only sale and get the new TV at a 600 dollar savings below retail, or see if other deals popped up. But hang on — after a little research, Best Buy has the exact same TV and model in stock and ready for pickup at the same price already! And Amazon has this one discounted down too, and ready to go at the same price of ~799 with free shipping. So what makes more sense?  We have additional savings deals with Meijer and  could get it less there, but only on that 1 day sale.

Then, on Sunday morning, Target sent us this 15% off deal email on TVs. In checking I found Target had  the exact same model of TV we were after for 799, plus 15% off on Sunday.  We;re also red card users so we’d get another 5% off! I checked the online stock, and found they had 3 in stock at the closest store, so no brainer! The money was burning a hole in my pocket, and voila! A quick drive, and 15 minutes later I have a new LG 4K 65 inch TV at 20% off to replace my 60 inch Samsung TV for less than the others. So I got this LG-65 inch for $639, plus tax. So around 683 dollars.

No need to get out the lawn chair and wait in a long queue all night at the store and wait for the 6 a.m. deals only to find that the store probably didn’t even have this TV. So I would have wasted time. Meijer’s deal was really good, but it was just lucky enough that there were better deals out there with less hassle.

This is just one example. Look around, you’ll probably find that most deals on the products you want can be found without having to do the whole Black Friday thing. There are many other examples of deals like this.

So is Black Friday worth running out and queuing up?

If there’s something you want to get, then go out and find it. You’ll probably find that the mass crowds and long waits are not as bad as they used to be. But don’t rush. Take your time and enjoy the experience.

According to the news feeds on Black Friday 2017, the crowds were not as bad as expected. Sure, busier than normal, but most stores are stocked and ready to handle your buying purchases. But in some places, people still camp out to get those deals. You don’t have to. Just take your time, find what you want and you’ll be just fine.

Now, to get ready for Cyber Monday.

So is that deal really worth it? Check out these helpful sites into best deals, real deals, fake reviews, coupons and more. 

  • CamelCamelCamel
    • Amazon price tracker. Prices go up and down all the time on Amazon (all retailers, really)  Use it to track prices and see when the best deal is out.
  • NowInStock
    • Want to know when the the hottest items are in stock? Check this site out.
  • Fakespot
    • Products have reviews, and buyers use those reviews to make buying decisions. But are they real, or fake? Use this site to check Amazon, Apple and Yelp/TripAdvisor.
  • RetailMeNot
    • If there’s a coupon or site deal, then you can probably find the code/coupon here to get the best deal on your next online purchase.
  • TheWirecutter
    • New York Times Wirecutter is a list of the best gear and gadgets for people who want to save the time and stress of figuring out what to buy.
  • Pricegrabber
    • Use Pricegrabber to find some of the best deals on products you want.

Click here to add your own text

Which Apps Should I Disable in Android?

Let’s cut to the chase, you have apps on your Android phone that you don’t want, which are safe to disable?

This is a non-exhaustive list of applications that can be disabled without root on our test phones (currently a Galaxy Note 3) and any effects they have. This is not a full list of apps that CAN be disabled, especially across different manufacturers.

Pre-installed Bloatware

Here is a list of apps that right off the bat, if you don’t want them, you can disable them:

  • Amazon Apps
  • Amazon
  • Amazon app suite
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Amazon Music
  • Appstore (Amazon)
  • Audible
  • Google Apps
  • Google+
  • Google Play Movies & TV
  • Hangouts
  • Photos (Picassa)
  • Play Newsstand
  • Verizon Apps
  • Cloud
  • My InfoZone – Seems to just be the widget.
  • My Verizon Mobile
  • Support & Protection
  • VZ Navigator
  • VZ Protect
  • Samsung Apps
  • Group Play
  • PEN.UP
  • Samsung account – Probably don’t disable if you have and sync a Samsung Account.
  • Samsung Billing – Used to make payments in the Samsung app store.
  • Samsung Link – See System Apps Below
  • Samsung Push Service
  • SapaMonitor – Seems to be for the app “Soundcamp”, but my phone didn’t have that installed…
  • S Beam
  • S Translator
  • S Voice
  • Story Album
  • Story Album Widget
  • TripAdvisor
  • Travel wallpaper – Comes with phones that has Trip Advisor, it allows you to create a slideshow wallpaper.
  • WatchON
  • Misc Apps
  • These Might be Owned by companies listed in other categories, but you might not know that.
  • ANT Radio Service
  • ANT+ Plugins Service
  • BlurbCheckout
  • Clock (digital) – I think this is the widget, I don’t use it either way.
  • Dual Clock (digital) – Also appears to be the widget.
  • Downloads and Download manager – This seems like a bad idea, I’ll have to test it.
  • Flipboard
  • NFL Mobile
  • POLARIS Office 5
  • Slacker Radio
  • Swype – You know, the keyboard, if you use that, don’t disable this.
  • IMDb
  • Yahoo Finance
  • System Apps
  • Uninstalling/Disabling these can actually have unwanted effects on the system, unlike other apps, each will have a description of the impacts.
  • Samsung Link
  • This is said to handle updating Samsung Apps and some other features. On the test Galaxy Note 3, many of the Samsung apps are disabled or unused, but that being said, it’s a Samsung phone, so most basic apps are Samsung. Problems are below.
    1. The Photo Editor app crashed in the background, but still works.
    2. While Using the Apps Tray, the TouchWiz Home crashed, recovered.


If there are any apps missing from this list you’d like us to test, use the Contact Us page.

Experiences with Overclocking a Cheap MSI Motherboard

tfw u boot into your pc @ 5ghz on air cooling

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t try to overclock a CPU on an affordable MSI motherboard. It just, kind of does what it wants. Basically I can overclock just fine from the Command Center program and set the turbo speed to what I want it to go up to.

So if I’m rendering video, CPU can now go faster than normal, but if I’m doing nothing, it slows down. Makes sense so far, right?

Now the command center program cannot make permanent changes to the system. Well that’s okay. That’s not the end of the world, you figure out what settings you want, then go to the bios and change them. So I can be stable at 4.5Ghz on air cooling. Cool. That’s a base clock of 100, and a multiplier of 45. Go to BIOS, change ratio to 45, boot it back up and be good, right? Well upon reboot, it was running 5Ghz. Well that’s not what I set. And it was staying there, yes programs are loading, so on, no worries.

Okay, fans cranking, programs are loaded, Utilization is a few percent, and it’s just roasting away at 5GHz. That’s, starting to look bad. Playing around with a few more settings, it actually boots at 4.5Ghz…and stays there. Still not what I’m going for. Sure there is a one button overclock built into the motherboard, but if it can’t handle me changing a number manually, I don’t want to see what it will do automatically. The voltage limits they tend to set are sketchy, and I doubt it would accept a change. At that point I gave up, and everything is back to default. I don’t even know if I ended up with XMP turned on for my RAM, but that’s enough for today.

And upon opening the Command Center, it has my settings. So I have no idea how any of this works. Considering it’s a dice roll for the program to load. So I guess if I wasted this hour, but ended up with a 7% overclock, I will make up that time in 14 hours.

tldr; Overclock cheap MSI boards with the Command Center and just cross fingers it works, don’t go to the BIOS.