Move over cable and satellite companies. Customers now have an alternative to overpriced programming bundles with web-based services. While streaming movies and television shows do not match the offerings of traditional paid television, they are getting closer.
Price and Features
Hulu Plus costs $7.99 per month, and has every episode from the current season of popular shows from the major TV networks, including ABC, NBC, and Fox. In addition, entire past seasons of classic shows such as 30 Rock, The Office, and The X-Files are available. Theoretically, you may never need to purchase a boxed DVD set again!
Netflix also costs $7.99 per month for its unlimited streaming service, with an extensive catalog of movies and television shows. Episodes from the current season are not available, and some past seasons are available only on DVD/Blu-ray (available for an additional fee). Overall, Netflix is better for movie buffs, while Hulu Plus is best for network television fans who want to keep up with current shows.
Netflix has more than 20,000 titles available for streaming, while Hulu Plus has 2,000-plus TV episodes. Both services will continue to amass titles, so the numbers will continue to rise.
To watch Hulu Plus or Netflix on your television, you will need an Internet-enabled television with ethernet port, Wi-Fi, or both; or a Net-ready Blu-ray player, game console, or set-top box that's compatible with the service you want.
Netflix currently supports more devices, including Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii); seven Internet-enabled Blu-ray players; three HDTVS; the TiVo digital video recorder; and three set-top boxes, including the popular Roku Streaming Player. Hulu Plus runs on select Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players, with support for Sony and Vizio hardware coming later this year. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 support are "coming soon."
Hulu Plus supports Wi-Fi and 3G connections, as well as several Apple mobile devices: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Netflix's iPhone/iPod app should arrive soon, and the iPad app is already out. With 4G networks on the way, both services could soon be major players in the mobile entertainment business.
Shows on Hulu Plus, like their counterparts on the regular (and free) Hulu, will have commercials. Netflix has no commercials.
Hulu Plus shows display in high-definition (720p) resolution, but Internet connection speed determines much of image quality. Netflix shows certain titles in HD, but only if the broadband link is faster than 5 mbps.
I love figure skating. Loved hitting the local rink when I was younger. I wasn't half bad once I got used to gliding on the skinny blades. I still watch skating championships on television (when there isn't a good football game available). And never miss Olympic figure skating... But when the idea behind Skating with the Stars was first announced... I thought it was nuts! Similar to Dancing With The Stars, celebrities are paired with professional skaters to learn how to perform ice dancing and figure skating routines. Sorry, but teaching a non-dancer to navigate the dance floor is entirely different than teaching a non-skater to figure skate and ice dance. Having now seen the debut episode... I think that Skating with the Stars just might possibly be the very worst show I have ever seen. It was painful to watch and as hard as I tried, I just could not manage to stick it out for the entire first episode.
First... British host Vernon Kay... who is no Tom Bergeron... droned on and on about this being the most dangerous live competition on TV: "The performances will be just as explosive, the costumes even tinier, but there is an added element of danger — razor-sharp blades of steel strapped to the feet of six very nervous stars!" And then after all that, nobody even fell. Which I guess is a good thing. At least there were some good falls in the training montages... As Kay says, "If you like watching celebrities fall over, and let’s face it who doesn’t, then you’ve come to the right place." (He did have a point on the watching celebrities fall over thing!)
The judges are an "interesting" mix. Dick Button is a legend, the voice of television figure skating for as long as I can remember, and it's sad to see him here on this horrible show. Johnny Weir is pure entertainment in a Bruno Tonioli kind of way... he makes for good television but stands out in a way that begs to be made fun of. Laurieann Gibson is a wonderful choreographer, but does not do well on television. She comes across pretty flat.
I've never heard of any of the professional skaters. And barely heard of any of the celebs... OK... Sean Young from an old Kevin Costner movie... On the plus side... since there are only six celebs, my guess is that the show will do a test run for 6 weeks and fade into oblivion? One can only hope!
And Sean Young proves just why it is she is so annoying!
Shopping for a gamer this holiday season? Head to GameStop at 5 a.m. Friday morning for 40% added trade-in credit, multiple gift with purchase deals, AND a World of Warcraft freebie! All prices are valid in GameStop stores nationwide until noon on Black Friday. Additional special pricing is available between November 26th and 28th. The best freebies for your gamer in this year's GameStop Black Friday ad are:
World of Warcraft (PC): priced at $4.99, with a bonus $5 gift card toward future purchases while supplies last. They actually pay YOU a penny to buy the game!
Buy two pre-owned game titles or accessories, get one free.
Buy any new E-rated title and receive a free activity book while supplies last.
Tea Party conspiracy? So what? Bristol Palin has been interviewed countless times during her surprisingly successful run on "Dancing with the Stars" about a number of topics that have kept America buzzing since her mom, Sarah Palin, hit the national scene. It wasn't enough that we have been bombarded with rumors about her on again-off again relationship with baby daddy Levi, alleged love life with dancing partner Mark Ballas, and the state of any battles between her and mama bear Sarah Palin... now we are being subjected to the alleged organized faction of pro-Bristol block of political voters who are helping her to take home the mirror-ball trophy.
Here's what she had to say…
Bristol is pleased as punch that she made it all the way to the finale of the hit reality show. "I work my butt off," she said, dismissing any notions of a Tea Party conspiracy keeping her dancing. Aside from the fact that... for every voter that would vote for her because she's her mother's daughter... there's another who... quite frankly... wouldn't. Think about the droves of people who cannot STAND Sarah Palin.
And to put the relationship rumors to rest... while Bristol and Mark have been putting in double duty at the rehearsal hall... both claim that they are keeping their relationship purely professional. "Nothing with Mark," Bristol claims, "He's like a friend." Like a friend? Hmmmmmm....
As for any other potential dates, Bristol said she had "no time" for dating at the moment. And that she understands the difficulty of her mother's position in the spotlight a bit more after her own 15 minutes. "I see how rumors get made up," she said. Going forward she plans to keep her publicity appearances to the occasional episode of her mom's new reality show: Sarah Palin's Alaska while she works towards her long term goals. In 10 years, her plans include being "married with more kids." How ambitious...
Any of you play Jungle Jewels? It's one of those free online match-three games... And one that I happen to be sadly addicted to. (Addiction is NOT pretty in any form!) Literally HOURS can go by while I mindlessly scramble to match 3 sets of gems until all the medals reach the bottom of the playing area.
Similar to Bejeweled, Jungle Jewels has players exchange the order of two side-by-side gems to form groupings of at least three gems of the same color. Once you match three gems in a row, the jewels disappear, making room for more gems to drop in from above. If you are lucky, or skillful, enough to get four gems to match, one explosive jewel remains after the three disappear. A match of five leaves a swirling vortex. If you swap the vortex with one of the gems next to it, all of the same-colored gems will drop from the board.
And that's where the similarities end. While the whole focus of Bejeweled is simply to swap as many jewels as possible, causing cascading reactions to score more points, Jungle Jewels adds a few more challenging elements to keep you hooked!
Keep an eye on the upper left corner of your screen. Displayed there are the goals for your current level, each represented by a number of jewels of a different color. Once you have matched enough jewels of those colors and all of the gems have dropped from the upper left corner, you are rewarded with a gold coin. After the gold coin is added to your game area, the jewel needs to be moved to the bottom row by removing all of the gems under it by matching sets of 3.
On level 1, there is only 1 gold coin. Once it reaches the bottom, the next part of the puzzle is unlocked and the player levels up. Increased coins are added to each subsequent level, two coins on level 2, three coins on level 3, and so on.
Jokers are additional rewards that players receive through gameplay. Using a joker will remove an entire vertical and horizontal line of jewels simultaneously, speeding the progress of the gold coin to the bottom of the gameplay area. Once a joker is used, the clearing bonus for the gameboard is divided in half. In addition, using a joker does not clear goal gems in the upper left area of the game window. You're best off saving your jokers til Level 4 -- believe me you will need them!
Jungle Jewels also allows a bit longer gameplay time with its five minute timer... It's amazing how fast five minutes flies... and multiplies!
I can’t log onto Facebook with seeing that one of my friends whom I haven’t spoken to since high school has declared war on one of my other high school buddies! What's a girl to do? Faction infighting? Really? Now that I think about it... not much has changed since high school.
But now it’s all part of this Facebook craze. What should’ve been just another fad has taken users by storm and driving all the other users crazy.
Have you recently heard anyone say "I have got to go home and shake down my rackets." And you think to yourself, "Shake down what rackets?" Or "I only have four hours left to water my crops" which of course prompts the thought, "They live in the city... what crops?"
They’re talking about Mafia Wars, Mobsters, Farmville, Farm Town, Country Story, or any of the other very addicting game applications on Facebook that do a very nice job helping people to waste their time.
With the farming games, for example, players are given a virtual farm they must tend to. They can plant crops, which grow at different intervals so they must remember when they’re ready to harvest before they are ruined. They earn coins to buy more crops by selling them. They can also earn ribbons for advancing skills. Truth be told I even play one or two of them myself!
Try doing a simple search on Facebook and you will find over 500 groups with the word Farmville in the name. The groups promise cheats, coins and new friends if you join them. Same with Mafia Wars or any of the other popular applications.
People have entire blogs devoted to the games, spending every waking moment strategizing how to get "level up" so they can get more coins. Do these people not have a life?
I’m not the only one who feels this way, a Facebook fan page called Not Playing Farmville boasts 2 million fans!
But "it’s just a silly game," you say to yourself. Just a silly game? Tell that to the 75 million users of Farmville and 14 million users of Farm Town!
Of those, 235 of those Farmville players are my friends! And Mafia Wars another 917!
It’s a travesty.
Maybe they can all join the Farmville Addicts Anonymous group. Even though it’s not exactly anonymous considering your name is on your Facebook.