ATSC 3 TV Tuners Have an Expiration Date, Slow Progress on Gateway Devices and More..

The transition from the ATSC 1.0 to the ATSC 3.0 standard in over-the-air television broadcasting has been a topic of much discussion and concern, particularly regarding the DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption applied to broadcast signals. This shift brings a significant limitation for viewers like myself who have enjoyed the freedom to watch and record television in the privacy of our homes.

In my latest video update on the ATSC DRM situation, I learned that every ATSC 3.0 tuner will have its decryption certificate expire after a certain length of time.

These certificates, essential for viewing encrypted signals, will expire after a predetermined period – varying from 10 to 30 years. For example, the certificates in devices like the ADTH box and Zapperbox are set to expire in 30 years. But the costs of these certificates are based on length AND quantity. Many manufacturers producing high volumes of tuners may opt for the shorter length certificates to remain profitable. And so far no manufacturer has disclosed how long their certs will last.

Given that the HDHomerun I reviewed over a decade ago is still running on my network today, it’s not unreasonable to have a tuners in use for lengths of time that exceed the certificate’s expiration date. At the moment these certificates are tied to the model number of the hardware being produced and are not renewable via firmware updates.

Another aspect of the ATSC 3.0 transition that has come to light is the ‘phone home’ feature of these devices. Regardless of whether an internet connection is necessary for television viewing, devices with ATSC 3.0 tuners will communicate back to broadcaster servers for certificate validation whenever they tune into an encrypted channel, provided an internet connection is available.

The progress—or lack thereof—in developing gateway devices for ATSC 3.0 has been another point of contention. Gateway devices, like the Tablo and HDHomeRun, are popular as they allow users to stream broadcast content across various devices within their home network. Unfortunately, due to the DRM encryption, creating compatible ATSC 3.0 gateway devices has been a challenge. This struggle is further complicated by compatibility issues with platforms like Apple TV, Roku, and Windows, among others.

Interestingly, the shift towards ATSC 3.0 has led to a potential change in how broadcasters might distribute high-bandwidth content like 4K. Rather than using valuable broadcasting bandwidth, it appears more likely that 4K content will be streamed over the internet, signaled by URLs pinged out by broadcasters over the air. This was revealed in the latest Zapperbox release notes:

As broadcasters seemingly retreat from utilizing public airwaves to their full potential, one wonders if these frequencies could be repurposed for community-benefiting uses, such as local access television. This would provide a new avenue for public access channels, which are currently struggling due to the decline in cable TV subscriptions and the consequent reduction in funding.

The ATSC 3.0 transition, marked by its DRM encryption and tuner expiration dates, raises critical questions about the future of over-the-air television broadcasting. As we move towards the 2027 deadline for the completion of this transition, the decisions made by broadcasters and regulators will significantly impact how we consume broadcast television in the years to come – if at all..

Plex Tutorial: Maximizing Free Tier Features (sponsored post)

Our sponsor Plex has me do a tutorial video each month usually focusing on a specific Plex Pro self-hosted feature. This month’s tutorial focuses on more general users who are discovering the free Plex hosted media features.

Plex users encounter a variety of Plex-hosted content options, including live and on-demand TV shows and movies. The live TV feature presents a diverse range of channels, from popular shows to specific genres like reality TV, news, or crime. Users can also customize their experience by adding preferred channels to their favorites, allowing for quicker access to desired content.

For on-demand viewing, Plex offers a constantly updated selection of movies and shows. This feature is complemented by Plex’s ability to provide in-depth information about films, such as cast details, reviews, supplementary content and similar titles.

This level of detail extends to the integration of Plex’s database with other streaming services, enabling users to search for content across their subscriptions seamlessly.

Where Plex goes beyond other free streaming services is their Watchlist feature. This tool functions as a to-do list for entertainment, keeping track of shows and movies across most major providers. Users can mark episodes as watched, maintaining a record of their viewing progress.

This watch list is synchronized across devices, ensuring continuity regardless of the viewing medium. It can also be filtered to display only what’s available on services the user is subscribed to. I’ve also found it useful when a friend recommends a new TV show – I can add it to my Watchlist right from my phone.

Plex recently introduced social features through its Discover Together feature, allowing users to share their watch history and recommendations with friends. Discover Together is an “opt-out” feature – so users should pay close attention when onboarding as to what information they want to have shared with others. These settings can be adjusted later too.

Plex is not just another streaming service. It’s also an organizational tool that brings together all aspects of digital entertainment, simplifying and enhancing media consumption. See more detail in the video!

Disclosure: This post and and video was a paid sponsorship from Plex, however they did not review or approve this content before it was uploaded.

Lenovo Ideacentre Mini PC Review (2023 / 2024 version)

In my latest review, I explored the Lenovo Ideacentre Mini, a new offering in the realm of mini PCs. This compact yet powerful device is reminiscent of the Mac Mini but runs on Windows and offers a more budget-friendly price point. You can find it at Best Buy and directly at Lenovo (compensated affiliate links).

The Ideacentre Mini I reviewed came with an Intel i7-13700H processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of NVMe storage. Its design facilitates easy upgrades; the RAM is expandable, and there are two NVMe slots with one empty for additional storage. A noteworthy feature is the integrated power supply, eliminating the need for a separate power brick.

Physically, the Mini offers a versatile setup. It can stand vertically or lie horizontally, though it lacks a VESA mount. The front hosts a USB 3 port with a USB-A connector, a USB-C port (non-Thunderbolt), and a headphone/microphone jack. The rear panel is more generous, offering a Thunderbolt port (ideal for external GPUs), two USB 3 ports, a USB 2 port, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, and a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet jack. The Ideacentre can output to multiple 4K output 60 Hz displays.

In terms of performance, it excels at basic tasks and web browsing, thanks to its robust Intel processor. Video playback on platforms like Netflix and YouTube runs smoothly, although I noticed a few dropped frames in 4K 60fps content.

I also tested the Ideacentre Mini for video editing with DaVinci Resolve, doing some basic 4K 60fps edits without noticeable lag or stuttering. It will struggle with more advanced tasks like color grading and other more strenuous editing tasks unless paired with an external GPU.

Gaming performance is respectable for a mini PC and on par with what we’ve seen from other current-gen Intel-based PCs that lack a separate GPU. Running Red Dead Redemption 2 and Doom Eternal at 720p on low settings, the device managed playable frame rates. However, for more intensive gaming, a mini PC with an AMD Ryzen processor might be a better choice.

One notable downside is the fan noise. While idle, the device is quiet, but under load, the fan becomes noticeably louder. It’s not excessively disruptive but could be an issue for those preferring a silent work environment.

For those interested in running Linux, the Ideacentre Mini supports alternative operating systems. I tested it with the latest version of Ubuntu and found all major functions like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and audio working correctly. The dual NVMe slots also make it convenient for dual-boot setups with Windows and Linux.

The Lenovo Ideacentre Mini is a solid, affordable option in the mini PC market. It offers good performance, upgradeability, and support from a renowned brand like Lenovo. The only compromise is the fan noise under load, but otherwise, it stands as a competent and versatile choice for both professional and personal use.

CES Recap : How to get your startup covered at the CES show

CES, the largest consumer electronics trade event, showcases the latest in technology and innovation every January. In my latest video I recapped the show and offered some tips for startups looking to get covered at future events.

If you missed my CES 2024 coverage you can catch up on all of it here!

One of the key areas of coverage for me are attending media showcase events. These events gather up anywhere from dozens to hundreds of companies together in one place. In many cases these companies aren’t exhibiting on the floor so it gives me a great opportunity as a small outlet to get access to them. Only media are invited to attend these events so if you are looking for coverage as a small company a showcase event is a great way to get noticed.

My go-to show case events are:

CES Unveiled, held the Sunday before the official start of CES, gathers over a hundred companies, many of them small startups. Pepcom, hosts high-quality companies, some not present on the show floor. Show Stoppers, similar to the other events but with fewer exhibiting companies, provides an opportunity to stand-out a long running event popular with media organizations.

A crucial tip for startups and exhibitors aiming for media attention: press releases are key. Early press releases significantly impact my planning ahead of the show. I read all of them! A well-organized press release, like this one I received from a French PR agency, can lead to efficient coverage of multiple products. Even if you don’t get a response, know that your information is being considered and can influence coverage decisions.

I say this because wandering the show floor at CES has become increasingly challenging. The excitement of discovering new and innovative products has diminished over the years mostly because there’s less interesting things to find. The CES official maps and apps offer little help in navigating the sea of exhibits, often lacking detailed information about the exhibitors.

Reflecting on my coverage, I feel there was more to be explored and reported. The overall buzz around CES has not reached its pre-pandemic heights, impacting both the content available and viewer interest. The logistics of covering the event in Las Vegas are daunting, with time constraints and transportation challenges. Despite these obstacles, the response from viewers has been encouraging, showing a clear appetite for more detailed and expansive coverage.

CES remains a pivotal event for technology media, but certainly things are changing as this market continues to change and evolve. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome as we look forward to future events.

Blockbuster Mini VHS Game Case Review

I am an easy mark when it comes to weird retro stuff.. A few weeks ago I learned of the Retro Fighters Blockbuster VHS Mini Game Case, a case for Nintendo Switch games that looks like a Blockbuster rental complete with a replica VHS tape inside. This is the subject of my latest review.

The case, an officially licensed Blockbuster replica, is designed to hold Nintendo Switch games, capturing the essence of a bygone era of home video rental. Purchased from Stone Age Gamer (compensated affiliate link), this $20 item is likely going to be in short supply given its very niche appeal. It is manufactured by Retro Fighters, known for their retro gaming accessories and controllers.

Unboxing the product, the first component that caught my eye was the miniature Blockbuster case. Although smaller than the VHS cases many of us picked up from Blockbuster on a Friday night, the detailing is impressively accurate, complete with a generic label and a barcode, mimicking the original Blockbuster aesthetic. The case even includes an address for a fictional Blockbuster location.

The next component, central to the product’s function, is a faux VHS tape, which houses the Nintendo Switch games. This miniaturized tape, while not functional in the traditional sense, features movable wheels and a decent weight, contributing to its realistic feel. The tape opens up to reveal storage for 12 Switch games and four microSD cards. The design ensures games are securely held, with a slightly rubbery surface inside for added grip.

Assembling the case with the tape inside completes the nostalgic experience. It’s a creative and playful way to store and transport Nintendo Switch games, merging modern gaming with a touch of retro flair.

With all of the chatter about the end of physical media, this product makes a bit of statement. It pays homage to a dead physical media distribution while housing modern physical games!

Hallmark Keepsake NES Zelda Cartridge Mini Review

As someone who has never been particularly drawn to Christmas ornaments, I found myself intrigued by Hallmark’s Keepsake ornaments, especially those that resonate with my passion for retro video games. The latest addition to my collection is the NES Zelda cartridge ornament, which not only appeals to my gaming nostalgia but also stands out for its solid metal construction. Check out my short review here.

The ornament is a diecast metal version of the original Nintendo Zelda cartridge, known for its distinctive gold color—a vivid memory from when I first purchased it years ago. It’s much heavier than expected, requiring a sturdy branch for display.

What sets this Zelda ornament apart from others in my collection, like the Sega Genesis, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Dreamcast, is the absence of electronics. Unlike its counterparts that play sounds from their respective games, this ornament is purely a visual representation. It’s a smaller yet faithful reproduction of the original cartridge’s appearance.

Upon a closer look, the ornament does require a bit of polishing, possibly due to some condensation build-up, a natural occurrence given its metallic nature and my current cold environment. Its design is very close to the original cartridge that was released in 1987 in North America. You can see the two side-by-side in the video.

Does the Snap 4 Luxe Phone Grip Live Up to Its Advertised Claims?

You’ve probably been inundated recently with social media advertisements for the Snap 4 Luxe phone grip – an alternative to the popular pop socket. The makers of the Snap 4, OhSnap, were exhibiting at CES this year and were giving out free samples to the media.

I picked one up at their booth and have been using it attached to my phone for the last week. My latest review sums up my experiences and whether or not the product lives up to the advertised claims.

The Snap4 promises compatibility with both iPhone and Android devices, even adding MagSafe compatibility to the latter. I tested it on my iPhone 15 Pro Max and an Android Pixel 8 Pro in my review.

The Snap 4 Luxe, priced at around $39, comes in various colors and boasts a sleek design that’s thinner than a standard camera bump. Its most notable feature is the center disc that extends out, allowing you to slip your fingers underneath for a secure grip, much like a pop socket but also allowing the user to slip their fingers through the center of the disc for a more secure grip. Additionally, it also works as a stand for your phone, a handy feature for watching videos. It was surprisingly sturdy and so far it has endured my rigorous daily use without any signs of wear or detachment.

One of the Snap 4 Luxe’s standout features is its magnets. This not only aligns it perfectly on a Magsafe equipped iPhone but also allows the Snap 4 Luxe to attach to metal surfaces. When attached to an Android phone the magnets allow for Apple Magsafe power adapters to work which is a nice bonus. The only complexity is having to manually align the Snap 4 over the Android phone’s charging coil.

The grip’s adhesive, designed to be reusable and residue-free, allowed for easy removal yet hung on tight enough to prevent the grip from falling off. While it’s convenient for easy attachment and removal, frequent reattachments may require regular cleaning to maintain its stickiness. Ohsnap says applying some water and letting it dry will restore the adhesive’s stickiness. I’ve seen similar adhesives in other products and this appears to work in the same way.

The only aspect of the product that did not fully work as advertised is wireless charging on non-Magsafe chargers. Most of my standard Qi chargers had trouble maintaining a connection – this despite claims in the ad that “you can charge straight through it.” In fairness ohSnap’s website does provide a disclaimer about non-magnetic charger compatibility but the social media ad does not.

Overall the Snap 4 Luxe Phone Grip mostly delivers on its promises. It offers a reliable grip, versatile use as a stand, and enhances the functionality of Android phones with MagSafe compatibility. However, its claim of universal wireless charging compatibility falls short, especially for non-MagSafe chargers. Despite this, the Snap 4 Luxe stands as a strong contender in the phone accessory market, especially for users who prioritize convenience and versatility in a sleek package.

Disclosure: ohSnap provided the Snap 4 to the channel free of charge. However they did not sponsor, review or approve the content before it was uploaded. All opinions are my own.

GT Media HDTV Mate – The most affordable ATSC 3 Tuner So Far

In my latest video I take a look at the GT Media HDTV Mate, a portable USB over the air TV tuner that currently only works with Android devices like Android TV boxes, TVs and smartphones. Currently it’s the least expensive ATSC 3.0 compatible tuner but unfortunately it doesn’t support the DRM encryption that broadcasters are using to lock down their signals. It can also tune into ATSC 1.0 broadcasts.

The hardware has a USB plug on one side (for attaching it to the host device) along with a coax connector on the other end for an antenna. Also in the box is a USB-A to USB-C cable for smartphone connection, and an extension cable for smart TVs or TV boxes. For devices with a single USB port, like the Onn box I used for testing, an additional adapter like this Smays hub will be needed. The device also features an SD card slot for rudimentary DVR capabilities, although I couldn’t get this feature to work in my tests.

The setup process involves scanning for channels, which took about five minutes in my case. The channel guide, while functional, lacks a polished interface. Channel tuning speed varies based on the device used, but overall, it was reasonably quick. ATSC 3 channels took slightly longer to load than ATSC 1 channels. On both my Onn Box and Pixel 8 Pro smartphone, playback was smooth, although a 1080i ATSC 1 channel exhibited interlacing issues.

The device worked well with my Pixel 8 Pro, offering a similar app experience as on the TV. The concept of a portable tuner like this is appealing, especially for situations like emergency response where cell networks might be down. No Internet is required to tune into unecrypted broadcast TV (at the moment anyway..).

The GT Media HDTV Mate is not something I’d recommend for a primary tuning device but it does offera viable portable solution for ATSC 3 and ATSC 1 channels on Android devices. While it has its rough edges, it demonstrates the potential affordability of ATSC 3 tuners. However, the future of such innovative products seems uncertain with the looming encryption and DRM requirements broadcasters wish to impose on consumers.

CES 2024 Coverage is Complete & Thoughts on the Future of CES..

I flew out to Las Vegas once again this year for the annual CES show! CES is of course the biggest consumer electronics show of the year with over 135,000 attendees from all over the world.

As usual we produced a number of dispatch videos (four of them!) along with a special dispatch covering some enterprise products from our sponsor, SK. While it’s always fun to attend these shows the energy of CES pre-pandemic has yet to return in the post-pandemic era.

Organizers canceled the 2021 show due to health concerns and after so many 2020 attendees fell ill with what was likely early COVID. Many exhibitors canceled their plans at the last minute in 2022 due to the virus. The 2023 show was a bit of a return to normalcy but with a reduced footprint. This year felt a lot like last year. Yes, there were a few of the larger exhibitions but the show didn’t have the same buzz and energy as the pre-pandemic years.

Part of the problem is that a lot of focus is now on artificial intelligence and less on new hardware ideas. So many of the exhibits we walked past in the “Eureka Park” startup exhibition area were just screens demoing some AI app vs. something more tangible.

As a “commodity” YouTuber my videos largely succeed or fail based on what general awareness and interest audiences have about an event or product. The 2019 and 2020 shows were the most exciting ones I attended and that was reflected in the view counts we saw on my reporting.

The lack of pizzazz this year carried over to the performance of the videos I uploaded. My first dispatch did the best as we uploaded it the night before the show officially opened. But the buzz among audiences dropped quickly after that with the second dispatch only garnering a third of the views of the first. The third dispatch only received half the views of the second. The fourth one has just published but so far it looks like audiences have moved on and this one will be the poorest performer of the bunch.

So will I return next year? Most likely yes if we can find a sponsor. But sadly unless the CES organizers and exhibitors make a major push to revitalize the energy of past shows I fear we may be seeing a decline. Perhaps major trade shows like this are becoming a thing of the past?

CES 2024 Dispatch 1 & 2 Are up with 3 & 4 Coming Soon! #ces2024

Producer Jake and I are on our way back from the annual CES show in Las Vegas. We had a very productive week out here and have enough footage collected for 4 dispatch videos this year!

Dispatch 3 is being edited as I type this but you can watch the first two plus a sponsored dispatch from our sponsor SK. All of my CES content will be in this playlist on YouTube.

More to come! I’ve been reading your comments and enjoy bringing this style of coverage to you.

My 2024 Printer Buying Guide

Printers are one of those devices that are incredibly aggravating and expensive.. But we all need one at one time or another. In my latest video I run through the current choices in the market to help you better understand what might meet your needs!

Personally, I’ve found laser printers to be more economical for my infrequent printing needs. They are reliable, even after sitting idle for months, as they don’t suffer from the clogging issues common in inkjet printers. Although color laser printers often carry a steeper cost per page vs. ink jet printers, they are more efficient and usually cost less on a per page basis.

However, for those who print color photos or other documents frequently, inkjet printers, especially the newer tank models, might be more appealing. These tank printers, while more expensive on the hardware side vs. a cartridge printer, offer a lower cost of ownership in the long run, particularly for high-volume printing. The ink for these printers is significantly cheaper, but it’s important to be aware of some hidden maintenance costs, like replacing ink-absorbing sponges or print heads.

I also explored ink and toner subscriptions, where manufacturers like HP, Canon, and Brother offer plans that deliver ink as needed for a monthly fee on a per-page basis. These plans are particularly cost-effective for low-volume printing, as they offer a lower per-page cost compared to buying cartridges individually. However, it’s important to remember that these printers need a constant internet connection, and the cartridges stop working if the subscription is canceled.

I also spoke about my experiences with generic ink and toner replacements. While they can be cost-effective, printer manufacturers often try to prevent their use through authenticity checks. I’ve personally used a generic toner cartridge in my Lexmark printer with success, but it’s a gamble. Consumer Reports suggests caution, as the quality and reliability of generic cartridges can vary greatly. It’s important to carefully research the cartridge manufacturer before buying.

The good news with all of the choices we have today is that it costs a lot less to print now than it did a few years ago. Tanks and subscriptions give users more options to save money and the price of laser printers are now pretty close to what you’d pay for an ink jet model.

What’s Ahead for Lon.TV in 2024?

I always like to start off the New Year with a look-back on how the prior year did and look at what changes need to be made for the upcoming one! This analysis is the subject of my latest video.

Reflecting on 2023, I’m happy to say that the channel has experienced its usual slow & steady growth despite some significant headwinds from the current economic situation and platform algorithmic changes. We surpassed 350,000 subscribers about a week ago and garnered over 8 million views.

The year 2023 was interesting in many ways. The top videos on my channel ranged from a guide on opting out of a Facebook class action privacy settlement to a personal story about how I reduced my Mom’s cable bill. Unlike prior years topics & analysis drove far more viewer interest than product reviews. The only product reviews that made the top 10 list were devices used for cord cutting.

Diving into the revenue breakdown, it’s been a mix of sources. YouTube and Amazon have been major contributors, supplemented by sponsorships, viewer support, and affiliate marketing. This diversification is crucial in an ever-changing market, ensuring the channel’s sustainability.

Looking ahead to 2024, I plan to shift my focus slightly more towards analysis pieces. These have recently outperformed product reviews in terms of viewer engagement. My goal is to provide more than just news; I want to offer insightful commentary on tech topics that will hopefully add a little more value to the discussion. I’m also exploring the potential of TikTok for longer videos, although the platform’s current lack of monetization options makes it a less attractive option for now.

The upcoming CES show in Las Vegas is a significant event for me. Producer Jake and I plan to cover the event extensively, producing dispatch videos to showcase the latest in tech. We aim to capture the essence of the show by attending pre-show events and exploring the show floor for interesting finds. You can see my prior coverage of this event here.

In summary, 2023 was a year of learning, adapting, and growing. As I look forward to the developments and insights that 2024 will bring, I remain committed to providing valuable, diverse content and adapting to the changing landscape of technology and media consumption. Hopefully we survive another year! 🙂

Plex Updates Search (sponsored post)

In my latest sponsored Plex video, I explore the latest updates to Plex’s search feature, changes that significantly enhance the user experience for those navigating through their extensive media libraries. You can watch the video here!

The primary change in Plex’s search functionality the ability to customize what is being searched. Users can now filter their searches to specific servers, excluding content from other sources if desired. For example, a search for “Ghostbusters” will yield results from the user’s server, Plex’s on-demand features, and external sources. However, with the new search filters, users can narrow down these results to display only the movies available on their server if they choose.

Another notable improvement is the ability to search for content based on specific actors. Typing an actor’s name, like Mark Hamill, brings up a detailed list of their work available in the user’s media libraries and on Plex if desired. This feature extends to genre searches as well, allowing users to explore categories like sci-fi across their own libraries and Plex’s on-demand offerings.

Plex has also integrated the watchlist feature into search, which allows users to add content right from the search results. Additionally, because Plex now indexes content from various other services, users can also search and add content to the watchlist that’s on streaming services they may be subscribed to.

The search settings are remembered on each client, meaning if a user sets their preferences on one device, these preferences will be retained the next time they log into Plex on that device. These new search features are now live on the web along with TV and mobile apps.