Saturday, April 14, 2018

PBS Plug & Play: A great idea poorly executed

It sounds like a great idea: a streaming stick designed for children that focuses on PBS content, adds some games and activities, and allows you to play your own MP4 videos.

Yes, it sounds like a great idea. And it is a great idea. But it's poorly executed.

The device, which comes in a colorful package and form factor, looks great. The device, though, is slow. I'm a lot more patient than the pre-schoolers in my family, and I'm extremely frustrated by how sluggish, and at times, completely unusable, the device is.

The device itself looks like a little green race car toy. Of course, I wouldn't let a pre-schooler play with a $50 race car toy.

The wheels even roll! But, to use it, you plug it in to the back of your TV. They were thoughtful enough to include an HDMI extension cable, because it'll be nearly impossible to plug it in without one. It plugs in just like any other stick, whether Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku Stick, or any other such device.

Connect the power cord -- USB to USB mini -- to the device and the "wall wart" style power supply, and wait for the device to boot up.

And wait.

And wait.

And then wait for the inevitable updates.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Then, you're ready to go. And then when you press a button, it's slow to respond.

I thought perhaps it was just my device. And maybe it is. But a search of the Internet shows that many reviews and user reports mention how sluggish it is.

The remote is cute, and simple, and perfect for a small child.

But, like I mentioned earlier, it's a great idea, poorly executed. The device itself is way underpowered, and the software appears to be buggy. "Half-baked" comes to mind. Or, rushed to market without proper testing.

I still like the idea of this device. I just don't like the device.

Monday, February 26, 2018


One of the least expensive streaming services is Philo. We've been trying it out, and like it. It's got some good points, and some bits we don't like.

Philo offers live streaming of some cable or satellite content. With two levels of service, priced at $16 for 37 channels and $20 for 46 channels, it's one of the least expensive live streaming services. There are no premium channel add-ons such as HBO or Showtime. Keep in mind, though, that these services have their own stand-alone offerings.

There is a downside for sports fans. Philo has no ESPN, no Fox Sports, no sports programming of any kind. Apart from that, it's a good "best of" package at a low price.

Most of the channels offered can be authenticated in the stand-alone apps. I successfully authenticated on Roku and Apple TV. There were some issues trying to authenticate on Amazon Fire apps.

Philo is currently only available on Roku and mobile devices, as well as on a computer running Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. That means that despite being able to authenticate the individual apps against Philo on Apple TV, Philo itself isn't available on that device.

They offer a seven-day free trial. We tried it, and decided to continue using it for at least another month. You may want to give it a try.