Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, May 8, 2017

TV From the Cloud - We Catch the Wave

At Sunset Shores RV Park, Willis, Texas...

Before I get started on the techie stuff, I wanted to show you a photo that I really should have included in the previous post about flying. The problem is that I hadn't discovered it when I wrote that piece. I ran across it while going through some old stuff in our nearby storage unit, and I thought I would just include it here for posterity. It shows me in the right seat of a DC-8-73 in Portland, Oregon as I was checking out as a new first officer. This would have been in the summer of 1985. (Yes, my hair wasn't always gray.)

For some reason, I have very few photos taken in or around the airplanes I flew, an omission for which I often kick myself; I hope to find some more as I weed through thousands of family photos, something I should have begun way sooner. 

I loved flying the practically indestructible DC-8 (a quality I proved during my first few landings), and it is among quite a few airplanes I've flown that are now largely extinct, like the Lockheed Constellation, the DC-3 and the Boeing 727. Actually, I wouldn't take anything for having flown the old birds back then, when you really had to fly the airplanes rather than mostly monitor computers as we do today. 

One should not infer, however, that I don't appreciate modern airplanes and the virtues of cockpit automation. As in many other applications, the technological advances in airplanes have reduced pilot workload and human errors very significantly--so much so that the need for a flight engineer has been eliminated in modern airliners. Anything that has contributed so greatly to flying safety has my respect, for sure.

Okay, thank you for your indulgence; I'll move on to today's subject--TV from the cloud!

When we started RVing more than a decade ago, we knew that we were not going to be roughing it. We both enjoy modern conveniences too much to do anything that could be called "camping." This undoubtedly brings a sneer from those who truly enjoy the call of the wild, feeling the mud between their toes, the rain on their tent and the mosquito whelps on their extremities. We don't care if we are scorned for not being frontier types; that's not us and it never will be: Just give us 50 amps and full hookups, and no one gets hurt!

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that we have equipped Phannie with all of the state-of-the-art comforts we would have in a stick-and-brick house, like a king size bed, residential refrigerator, extra air conditioning, satellite TV and radio, computers and unlimited wi-fi. 

So, let's talk about the TV thing. For years, we have subscribed to Direct TV, the signal to which is provided by a Winegard Trav'ler automatic HD dish affixed to Phannie's roof. It has given great service, and we've been very happy with it. When we park the rig we merely push one button, and the dish goes to work finding its satellites completely on its own. This is really appreciated after having dealt with the frustrations of trying to aim a carry-out dish for a short while.

However, having taken note of the movement of TV broadcasting away from towers and cable and toward the Internet, we installed Apple TV in our stick-and-brick house. We really came to appreciate it because of the vastness of the offerings it enabled from the Cloud. We hadn't considered it for Phannie because of what has heretofore been the high cost of big data plans from the cell phone providers--until now, that is. 

It seems that when T-Mobile came up with its "unlimited" data plan recently, the dominoes began to fall, and all the major networks are now offering such plans at a reasonable cost. I scurried to the store and picked up an Apple TV for one of Phannie's sets and a Roku for the other. (The Roku was a good deal cheaper than the Apple.)

Apple TV (Arrow)

Installing the Roku was a snap--you just plug it into one of the TV's HDMI ports and the power cable to a nearby USB port, and you're done. The Apple TV set required some wires to be run and hidden, but that wasn't a big deal. Roku also offers an Apple-like control box available at extra cost.

The remotes look like this:

The Apple TV Remote

Roku Remote

The two systems are easy to operate, but the Apple remote took a little getting used to due to its use of a touchpad; we had to learn to use swipe gestures to move things around the screen. The Apple is clearly a well-designed product and elegant in its appearance, as are all things Apple. But the Roku remote is quite functional and required no learning curve.  Here's what the home screens look like:

Apple Screen

Roku Screen

One not-so-well-known curiosity is that subscribers to Amazon Prime TV will find no capability on Apple TV to access it. It seems that the rivalry between Apple and Amazon is sufficiently fierce that the two companies don't allow each other's apps on their hardware.  With Roku, there's no such problem.  There is a workaround for the Apple, but it is a bit wonky.  It involves the necessity of employing an IOS-based device to stream Amazon Prime shows onto Apple TV via Airplay. (I told you it was wonky.)

The key to watching current TV shows--including live ones--via the Internet is a subscription to Sling TV--a selection visible on both screens above. You can watch current and past episodes of just about all the TV shows you can imagine, and you can also record them from the Cloud. Amazing! The most popular Sling subscription is $25 a month.

I know we're not the first to have bought into cloud TV for RVs, and some of you may be way ahead of us, but that's okay; perhaps this will be informative for the folks who may be considering it or may not even have thought about it. By the way, an Apple TV will cost around $125 and the Roku box about $75; the Roku stick is about $30.

For now, we're going to keep our Direct TV service for the sake of having more choices. It will be nice, however, not to have to look for satellite-friendly sites all the time; we will undoubtedly be tucking Phannie beneath some cool shade during the upcoming summer months.

Unfortunately, the cost of such robust access to the Internet, cloud TV and satellite programming is not small change, and those who need to budget closely may question an outlay of several hundred bucks a month while they're "camping."  Well, we aren't camping; we're living as we wish, and we aren't really big spenders on other things. To each his own, I guess.

Okay, that's about it on all the gadgetry. We're headed to Port Aransas this week to another Tiffin owners' rally; that'll undoubtedly result in another post.

By the way, with summer approaching, you may need to replace some of your folding chairs. As far as I know, the 15% discount from is still available if you order with the code 'phannieandmae15.' (I don't get a kickback; I just like their products.)

Thanks for visiting the blog today!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.


  1. That TV is not as complex as that looked great in the right seat !

    1. Thanks, Richard. That was a great time in my career.

  2. When I am asked what my favorite part of camping is.... I answer honestly.... "Sitting in 40 feet of Air Conditioned air, watching TV, drinking a class of Blackberry Iced Tea, glancing out the window watching people carry chairs, buckets, coolers, poles, walking to the shoreline swatting bugs all the way.

  3. Hi Mike. Thank you for your review of cloud TV. I've appreciated some of your other reviews. For example, I bought the little NInja blender after seeing you demonstrate it. And I also appreciate your RV Park list. As a fulltimer myself, I'm always on the look out for what I consider to be fulltimer campgrounds. Enjoy your blog, keep up,the good work �� Deanna

    1. Hi, Deanna! Thank you for being a valued reader and thanks for the kind comment. I'm always gratified (and a little surprised) that someone finds something useful in these mindless musings. My best to you!

  4. Nice to see and old picture of you actually in a DC 8.
    Like you said we are not really camping but living a lifestyle, we have all the comforts we need as well because like you we are worth it !
    Enjoy Port Aransas, love it there.

    1. Thanks, George. I wouldn't have worried about getting old if I had known how much fun I would have. It's been a good life. All our best, my friend.

  5. Bill and I call this luxurious camping lifestyle GLAMPING and don't anyone try to take it away from us. If we want the outdoors, mud in our toes, mosquitoes in our hair, we just step outside on a Canadian summer's eve. :)

    1. Glamping! I like it! I may shamelessly steal that. Thanks for your comment Patsy!


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