CBS All Access is a substantial offering as a streaming service providing access to CBS programming from throughout its daily schedule on-demand as well as a live streaming feed of local stations in over 60% of the US market on mobile and set-top devices. All of that is available along with a large library of past shows for $5.99 (plus tax) per month. But what if you just want to watch  one show. On a recent visit to the Apple store I struck up a conversation with an associate regarding salesNew PlayOn Channels figures for the Apple TV at that location (they appear strong btw). She has an Apple TV but said she wished she could watch Super Girl and that it is not available as part of the CBS app on her phone for AirPlay. She was unaware of Plex and for that matter PlayOn. With both Plex and PlayOn users can watch Super Girl without CBS All Access on Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku without having to resort to pirating or anything else nefarious.

If it’s not pirating how do Plex and PlayOn give me Super Girl? 
Plex Logo WhiteThe reason Plex and PlayOn can access Super Girl is that they connect with CBS’s website. And once the CBS channel is part of your Plex channel lineup on the free Plex media server users cab access the channel on a number of connected devices. PlayOn also accesses content via a web browser Internet Explorer. While users never use the browser actively it is what keeps the server tied to network sites. PlayOn is not free but does have inexpensive lifetime options that include DVR functions. Unlike the CBS apps, CBS’s website does provide free episodes of Super Girl, typically the last 5 that have aired. This works out very well for those who keep up with shows semi-regularly. I mean let’s face it, if you do not watch a show within a month of it airing it must not be that high on your list. Even Hulu’s commercial supported tier has a number of series that only provide the last five episodes.

Can You Watch Super Girl On Kodi?
USTV VOD CroppedYes. There is an app for Kodi called USTV VOD. The app, like Plex and PlayOn, accesses content via the respective websites of networks and provides users with a simple interface to watch them. This is another great way to keep up with favorites via the web without wrestling with yourself about whether it is the right thing to do or not. You also do not have to use another computer system in order to use Kodi, though it does not have official apps for the big three set-top boxes, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV, nor does it have straight forward casting ability with Chromecast though there is a workaround. Kodi is available via the Fire TV without too much work as well as the Apple TV with a bit of effort.


Video on Plex and Plex Home Theater

Fire TV owners may as well make a full investment in the Amazon ecosystem.

We have discussed how the Amazon Fire TV is sort of a great Android media player in stealth mode. The Fire TV may well have a different look than Android media players and the Android TV interface but it is in fact capable of operating apps meant for Android phones and tablets. This is why Fire TV’s loaded with Kodi are popular via third party dealers. In order to load third party apps onto the Fire TV in the past users were required to download special programs to their laptops or understand DOS commands. But as the Amazon ecosystem has evolved it has begun to support a number of programs that help users load numerous programs. One of the most important is ES File Explorer.

What is ES File Explorer?
ES File Explorer has long been a favorite of Android device users because of its ability to access files on cloud based services all in one place. Users can access Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, Yandex, Mega Cloud, Baidu Disk, Amazon’s S3, Box and SugarSync. While most people use programs like that to transfer documents they can easily be use to transfer APK’s. The only problem is where do you find APK’s in the first place. How do you add ES File Explorer to Fire TV? Press the voice search and ask for it. Once ES File Explorer is loaded users can access their respective cloud services and add apps to their favorite cloud service as easily as they add an attachment to an email.

Users can’t download apps to their computers via the Google Play Store. But Aptoide’s mobile site is a perfect place to get them. In fact not only can you download apps to a computer from Aptoide you can download the Aptoide mobile app itself and load it on to the Fire TV via one of the cloud services utilized by ES File Explorer. Once Aptoide is installed onto your Fire TV adding other apps is as simple as asking for them. Once downloaded you can access them right from the apps section of the home page menu. That means that you will have a searchable app store waiting for you whenever you need it.

To download the Aptoid App Click Here
To be taken to Aptoide’s Mobile Store Click Here

How do you use ES File Explorer to access Cloud Services
Good question.
1. First add ES File Explorer via the Fire TV. (just ask for it by name)
2. Use the remote to navigate to the menu item labeled Network and click OK
3. Use the remote to navigate to the option for Cloud and press OK
4. Use the remote to navigate to the bottom of the screen to the horizontal menu. The first choice on the menu should say Exit. Navigate two spots over to the + New symbol
5. Choose your prefered cloud service and sign in to access your apk’s
6. Open your storage folder and select the app you want installed and press ok.
7. Once the app has downloaded you will be taken to a grey screen. Click the yellow Install button on the screen and you will be all set.

Amazon is making sideloaded apps easy to access
Amazon’s home menu allows users to access all of their downloaded apps as well as third party installed apps from the Apps section of its menu. Gone are the days when you had to trick the system into making icons for your favorite third party apps. By accessing the apps menu one can find any app that is on the machine whether you added it from Amazon’s app store or via a USB stick.

Special recommendation
Users may find that a number of Android apps do not perform well when using Amazon’s supplied remote, which of course is designed to navigate its official tv apps. Because of this we would recommend users who want to use the Fire TV in this way to invest in an air mouse, which is a remote control that allows users to use the remote like a mouse with a cursor. You will thank me for this suggestion. Some air mouses also feature full keyboards. A large selection can be found on Amazon’s Website here

Now that all of the major players in the streaming world have given it their best shot the holiday season is upon us. If you are considering upgrading a current device or getting into the streaming game for the first time it might be tricky to really understand the difference. The three biggest players, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV are all HDMI connected boxes with app stores and numerous app/channel choices. All three have a voice search feature, all have game options and cost between $100.00-$150.00 dollars. But there are distinct differences between the three formats. All offer most of the same essential services like Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Watch ESPN and many more. But there are some major differences that often get glossed over on most comparisons. As opposed a comparison of apps we will concentrate on the things that make each of these devices unique. Find out which is best for you and answer the question What Streaming Box Should I Get?

New Apple TVApple TV $150.00-$200.00  (See our video demo here)
The 4th Generation Apple TV or “Apple TV 4” is the most expensive option on this list. At a cost of $150.00 it carries a premium price and sports an elegant OS and experience. Why is it so pricey? Apple does not subsidize the cost of its hardware in an effort to get people to buy in. The company makes premium products and convinces the rest of us that we are lucky to have a chance to buy them. The item is amazing for homes that love Apple products because of how it interacts with IOS and Mac devices as well as Apple based media, but offers a lot of goodies to (non Apple) people too.

One of its major selling points is that the controller has an accelerometer that allows it to work as an able remote for a number of games available on the box vs asking users to purchase another controller for games. The remote features a force touch supported touchpad like a small laptop used for navigation and selection. It also features minimal control buttons for playback and navigation. The remote also functions as a microphone for Apple’s popular Siri. Using the mic button users can access Siri for a number of functions that we will cover later.

What does it offer?
Apple TV supports the vast majority of major streaming apps like Netflix Crackle, YouTube Hulu etc. This much is expected. It also offers easy access to a user’s iTunes MP3 library, iTunes TV and Movie rental and purchasing options. This is great for those who have built a library of media over time for trips and distracting children. Most users will not notice what it not available outside of Google Play and Amazon Instant. It’s app store is constantly growing and promises to rival any format in numbers and diversity.

Innovative Video and audio Sharing options
One of its most interesting features is its ability to link up with IOS products to take advantage of AirPlay and mirroring. AirPlay allows users to launch video and audio apps to the Apple TV to expand its app capacity past what is offered through the device natively. This means that users with Apple products can watch movies and TV shows via Amazon’s Instant Video app which is not supported natively on the device (Apple does not play well with companies that offer services similar to it). Mirroring is similar to AirPlay is that it allows IOS devices to share screens with the Apple TV. But it offers the ability to fully display the device. This makes Apple TV a great presentation device for businesses, teachers and anyone who has to be in front of people. For more on AirPlay see this article on airplay on the previous Apple TV for more detail

It offers a diverse and growing list of games that can be played with the included controller. Nobody would confuse the Apple TV for an Xbox but the games are advanced and fun enough to encourage replay and the graphics are high quality. It very much rivals systems like the original Nintendo Wii and sports a number of games that are challenging and engaging like Role playing games, and even Disney’s new Infinity game. The games menu even suggests titles based on type like “Start your engines” for racing games or making suggestions based on the beauty of the graphics. For those just looking for a quick fix there are a number of simple titles ports of old games like Asteroids or Frogger that are simply casual time killers. The best games though take full advantage of the remote’s accelerometer and allow the player to control on screen actions through a combo of buttons and motions. Far more than a throw in feature, overall the games are good enough to be a consideration when purchasing a player.

Siri integration
The remote has a mic that allows users to ask Siri to open apps, and menus as well as provide basic info about weather, Sports scores and Info. It also searches across at least  platforms, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime and of course iTunes. Apple TV is a powerful streamer on its own that stands to add more and more functionality through new apps and software upgrades and an amazing addition to homes with IOS products. It promises to be a central hub for smart home integration and more.

Recommended for: Those looking for a sleek beautiful TV Interface, Families looking for a streamer with great game support, Those looking to extend the IOS experience to the big screen, those looking for dependable device to share content from IOS devices and those who want a premium aesthetic.

Roku 4 PicRoku 4 $120.00
Roku has been in the streaming business from the start. (See Video Demo here) An outgrowth of a secret Netflix project to bring its online streaming service to televisions during its infancy, the connected TV box has evolved to become the most open platform in streaming featuring access to apps (which it calls channels) from a majority of major platforms. It was one of the first to support Amazon’s streaming service and is home to essentially every on demand service available with the exception of iTunes. It offers over 3000 apps and has the most well organized app store of any on the market broken down by genre.

Never lose the remote
The Roku 4 has a (SUPER HELPFUL) feature that will page a lost remote.

Listen in private
The Roku 4 like some earlier models has a headphone jack for private listening. Users can plug  headphones into the remote and automatically turn off the audio on the TV. This has a number of helpful applications from quieting  noise in a bedroom to allowing someone to watch TV in a family room without disturbing someone who just wants to read. 

Voice Search/Content Discovery
Roku is famous for its search capability that includes at least 20 different services. Roku is able to do this because it has no turf to protect so offering selections from MGo, Cinema Now and VuDu poses no threat to its business model. Users can access this feature using both a dependable voice search via the devices remote or by accessing search via the home menu and on-screen keyboard. The search also allows one to know if content they wish to view or purchase is already available to stream via a service like Hulu or Crackle. This means that for any movie, actor or even subject matter users will be able to find the most expansive results by far. The voice integration does not talk back or interact in any way. It is just a time saver that helps users find something to watch quickly. 

Easy to Learn
The Roku interface is straight-forward and the easiest for new users to learn. As part of its advertising the company often sells space on its remotes to service providers like Netflix, Sling TV, Hulu, Pandora and others. The buttons will open the labeled apps instantly and bypass the need to access the menu at all. There are never more than 4 “quick launch” buttons on a remote but this option should not be overlooked especially for those buying a gift for someone who is not tech savy. It also has the easiest to learn app store with simple categories that make finding new apps simple and intuitive.

App Diversity
Along with a number of on-demand movie and TV apps Roku offers the most sports apps including NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, NHL live sports apps as well as options from independent sports organization and UFC. Roku also offers Sling TV, a service from Dish Network that gives customers a cable option with a number of packages starting at $20.00 per month.

Save Money On Cable
Roku can be a replacement for those extra cable boxes in homes with multiple TV’s. TWC customers can use the company’s app on any television in the home and access their entire channel lineup and on demand programming.

Roku offers a very limited selection of games that are playable with the device’s remote but unlike others on this list Roku has made little investment in games with most titles being simplistic low grade indie games save a few classics like Galaga, Pac Man and some addictive puzzle games like Tetris and Snake. No one in their right mind would buy a Roku for the games but they are a nice time killer now and then and fun for kids.

Mobile App
The most unique thing about the Roku amongst its competition is its smartphone and tablet app. All of the devices can be controlled with apps but Roku’s app provides users with options such as a quick launch menu featuring all of the installed channels and the ability to share photos, video and music on a given device to the Roku.

You can’t go wrong with a Roku. It is the most agnostic platform available and does not require any special equipment to maximize the viewing experience. By offering new content across numerous apps it gives users the best chance to save money on digital content. For instance it is the only media player that offers Google Play Movies and Amazon Instant Video. It has apps that will play Ultraviolet content and supports numerous ways to access personal media.  Roku also supports Windows display and Android mirroring.

Recommended for: Streaming beginners, Those looking for an agnostic platform, People who wish to play their own stored content those who enjoy customizing, people wanting a straight forward experience.

Fire TV Feature imageFire TV 2nd Generation ($100.00-$145.00)
The Fire TV is sleek and fancy. (See Video Demo here) It offers voice integration through Alexa. It is a streaming box, shopping tool and gaming option for those looking to do more than puzzles but less than the latest first person shooter. Its hook is that it is like a living room connection to the world’s biggest online retailer. Amazon’s own Fire Tablets can mirror content to the device as well as act as second screens for content and other features during prime playback. The system integrates any content stored in Amazon’s cloud including music and pictures. It is tightly integrated with the Amazon on demand and Prime Instant video catalogue as evidenced by the tremendous amount of attention its own offerings get on the home screen. Its App store offers a few unique options like the most complete version of Pluto TV (an app that mimics a TV package) compared to the other boxes featured in this story. Fire TV also offers a fast and stable Sling TV App.

Voice Search/Content Discovery
Amazon’s Alexa based voice search is set up to help users access a number of features from finding content to shopping. Users can access Alexa at the push of a button in order to purchase items from their past purchasing history, add things to an Amazon shopping list as well as purchase content from the Amazon content library including music, movies and TV shows. Alexa can search the app store to add and open apps and  even give you info like traffic reports, the weather and info gleaned from internet based services like Wikipedia. It talks back to you which is always good for a few laughs.

Great for Kids
One standout feature is the integration of the Amazon feature known as Freetime. Freetime is a closed section of kids content that parents can monitor, set time limits on and fill with the content that they want available for their children. Once in the Freetime setting one can not exit without entering a parental access code. This makes the device great for families who may be concerned with what their kids might access on a more open format. One could set up a Fire TV on Free Time and leave it that way permanently and essentially have a kids safe media player.

Android Powered Apps
Another popular aspect of Fire TV is that despite its name and GUI, it is really an Android based box. While it boasts an operating system call Fire OS its guts are Android all the way. The Fire TV even has access to programs like ES File Explorer and cloud based services that allow for easy sideloading of Android apps. The USB slot can also be used to upload apps and content via the file explorer or the Total Commander app.

Supports Kodi
Of the three devices the Fire TV is the only one that supports Kodi a major draw for some because of its ability to add third party content and integrate stored media. Amazon offers the ability to launch apps directly from mobile devices (provided that the app developers have integrated the feature. The app has to be side loaded but is an easy fix. (See a video on how to do it here)

The Fire TV boasts a number of quality video games but a majority of them require a separate game pad. Amazon offers its own but users can use any number of third party options. Its game offerings include games from Disney, EA Sports and even Game Fly Streaming. For those looking to maximize their Amazon gaming experience the company offers a game bundle that ships with a gamepad and a 32 gig memory card for more storage.

The Fire TV is a can’t miss option for those who are Amazon Prime customers because of the instant integration of media via your own account as well as access to Amazon’s music service. The device also features display mirroring for Windows 8 and up computers and Android phones with Android 4.4 and up.

Recommend for: Side Loading fans, Android lovers unwilling to jump in with Google’s Android TV Platform, Amazon Prime customers and families looking for the safest media player for their kids.

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Amazon instant video is one of the most popular video streaming services in the country. At last check it was second behind Netflix. Now how many people have the instant video service simply because they signed up for Prime for shipping and books, the company does not say. But regardless a consistent criticism of Apple TV has been that it does not have an Amazon Instant Video app. The thing is though that anybody with an iPhone 4s, iPad 4 or a number of iPhones can easily watch Amazon prime content on their Apple TV. This is because Apple TV supports AirPlay. With AirPlay users can launch virtually any app and watch it on TV. This is what the Chromecast was trying to copy in the first place. See the video for instructions on this method and learn how to watch Amazon Instant Video on Apple TV.

November 1
Desk Set
The Enemy Below
The Craft
Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights
The Newton Boys
November 5
The Adventures of Milo and Otis
The Mask of Zorro
Seven Years In Tibet
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
November 7
The Yes Men Are Revolting
November 10
Wolf Hall
November 11
Outrageous Sophie Tucker
November 12
The Song
November 14
Ex Machina
November 15
The Joe Show
November 18
Catch Me Daddy
Mr. Selfridge: Season 3
November 19
Dying of The Light
Vikings: Season 3
November 20
Man in the High Castle: Season 1
November 21
Only God Forgives
November 22
Teen Wolf: Season 5a
November 26
Kate & Leopold
November 28

Pluto TV is continuing to bring important content to the American people through its implementation of the debate channel. Users with IOS devices, Android devices, Fire TV, And Android TV devices as well as stand alone apps for computers and its website can take in replays of the entire slate of debates that have taken place so far. I checked the website and had a chance to see the Republicans on the attack against each other and of course the current administration. If you would like to see the October 28th debate from CNBC check it out on Pluto TV on any number of formats.

Check out Pluto TV here

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Lots to chose from check these out first

Fire TV owners may as well make a full investment in the Amazon ecosystem.

Determining which streaming device is best for you and your family is all about preference. Do you you place a premium on voice interaction, do you integrate home automation? Are you locked in with a certain content ecosystem and more. But if you have decided on a Fire TV as your streaming box of choice we have put together a list of apps that you should look at right away. This is not a top 10 list. We are taking it up to 11.

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Did Amazon release a flawed device in a race to get out before the competition? Releasing the Fire TV ahead of the Apple TV and Roku 4 (which they had to know was coming) made a nice splash. But there are a number of issues that have been present on the new generation of Fire TV’s while it has been reported that the issue that surround sound on apps besides Amazon Instant have been fixed that does not change the fact that 44% of reviews for the Fire TV on Amazon’s own website are 1 or 2 star ratings. 31 percent of its ratings are 5 star ratings. Should that be an indication of problems? We will never see how much Amazon customers think of the new Apple TV because the company is not going to allow it to be sold on its website, so we will not be able to compare reviews Apples to Apples (did you see what I just did there) on Amazon. On my own unit I have experienced a persistent problem with the mirroring capability of the Fire TV. I have yet to get my own device to mirror my PC display. The mirroring function that works like a charm on the older unit never activates on my new unit. I can not say with scientific accuracy that there is a serious flaw in the new Fire OS for the Fire TV and this may be something localized to my system. I will be trying it out on others but I of course do not have access to hundreds of models to get a sample with. So I am going to reach out to the community of readers on this one. And I would like to see if we can get some sort of consensus as to what is going on. Any of you who has a next gen Fire TV and a couple of free minutes take a look and see if your Fire TV will mirror a Windows 8 or 8.1 and share the results with the community of streamers. Hit message boards, reddit and what have you and of course feel free to share your concerns on our YouTube, Facebook and this article. If the new Fire TV does in fact have this flaw than it makes the older units more valuable for a reason other than the optical audio port.

Here is a video demo of how to set up mirroring on the Fire TV.

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Want Filmon on your Fire TV. While Amazon does not offer the service as a n app that does not mean that it is not available. With a little work you can add FilmOn to the Fire TV and watch al kinds of new content. Check out the Video to see how to do it.

Why Add Filmon to Fire TV?
Filmon gives viewers a bevy of options for their TV viewing. It features international programming, music, live TV, sports, movies and more.

Where Can I Get the FilmOn App?
FilmOn is listed in the Amazon Store but it is not listed as compatible on the Fire TV. The Best way to load FilmOn is to do download it directly from Aptoide onto your Fire TV. Download the Aptoide APK here.

See Video Demo on FilmOn TV Live for Fire TV

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Alexa is a heavily hyped part of the new Fire TV experience. Providing voice activated and somewhat interactive capabilities the upgraded system is meant to help the Fire TV stand out from its competition. But have you noticed that when people from Amazon demonstrate Alexa they ask the same few questions like “What is the weather today?” We decided to see what happens when you take Alexa off script and recorded it for all to see. Check out the video below to see the results.

Conversations With Alexa Video