Category Archives: Media Content

Thinking of Cutting the Cord?

Five years ago I wrote Evolution of The Playlist, a casual observers look at the changing landscape of media consumption and the choices the consumer is left with.

The accompanying set of video is a three part series for those thinking of cutting the cable / satellite tv cord.  This first episode takes a brief look at some popular media apps and what to consider before signing up.  The second video looks at the device options available for viewing content. The third video addresses data usage when relying on the internet to stream video.

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Protect Yourself From Online Phishing

It is always phishing season in cyberspace.  And nothing is sacred.  Hackers can get into your address book and send emails to you that appear to be from a friend.  Emails that look like they are from a known vendor or trusted brand name can appear in your inbox and ask you for login information to your account.  And then there are IRS scams, prize scams and all those oversees emails that come from someone in dire need (of your money).

How do you really know what message to trust anymore?  Here are a few things to consider before opening that next email.

Don’t click email links from “trusted” vendors.

We all sign up for emails from our bank, phone and internet company and tons of online vendors we use for personal and business transactions.  These emails can be informative in that they alert us to outstanding bills, sales, and new products.  It is for this reason spammers often try to replicate brand image of these trusted vendors and send out these fake email blasts and try to get customers to turn over their account information.

Best Practice: Do an independent internet search of your vendors and bookmark their website.  If you are still receiving paper bills you can also find their web address there. Just type it into your browser and then bookmark it.  Always go to that bookmark when logging into your account. Never click on the link in the email.

Emails with only a link in them are SPAM!

Emails coming in that have nothing more than a link in the body should be deleted immediately.  Do not click the link.  It will likely unleash some type of software that will run the spectrum of nuisance to destructive and possibly try to send its self out to your contacts as well. Speaking of contacts, you will likely receive this kind of email from someone you know, because they were hacked.

Be careful about updating your computer and software at a website’s suggestion.

Just as with opening emails from “trusted” vendors, be cautious about updating your system or web browser via links another website offers. If they are asking you to update your browser or other software needed to use their website than locate that third party by independent means.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 8.42.18 PM

This is a screen shot from “About Firefox” which I pulled up within the app.  Many applications have this feature built in so you can update directly from the app.

Do not trust pop up screens.

Whether surfing the internet on a mobile device or full computer screen there may come a time when your screen/device is taken over by a pop up screen indicating  that you “have won…” or that your device is infected and you must call tech support.  They provide the phone number and everything.  Do not click the link and do not call the phone number. There will not always be a button you can click to close the window.  Many of these try to force the recipient into clicking the link or an “OK” button.

Best Practice: Close the app completely. Then re-open it.  If the problem persists,  close the app again and power off your device. This usually disables the malicious intrusion.

If all else fails, I have clicked “OK” and then been redirected to the website where I can claim my “prize”.  From there I close the page and the app without clicking on anything in the website. I also do a virus scan on my device.

Keep your antivirus software up-to-date and scan regularly.

My favorite anti-virus products are Intego for Mac and PC as well as Norton products.  They offer very reasonable pricing to cover a multi-computer home and many now have the capability of scanning mobile devices. The software can be set to scan automatically as well as handle manual scan requests.

Consider working some or all of this into your regular online routine to reduce the risk of being caught up in a phishing scam.

 

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Evolution of the Playlist

I grew up on cable and as a child of the 1980’s I amazed my mother with how I could tell time just based on what show was coming on next. There was predictability and an order to things by which you could tell time. Who needed a watch?  Our playlist (though we did not call it that at the time) was devised based on the day of the week and hour of the clock.  We showed up to our playlist then.  Experimentation occurred in the off-season; an uncomfortable period of time when our playlist favorites went on sabbatical until the Autumn and we needed to find a new routine, something new to show up to; something new to depend on to be there.  It was a bit of a gamble that our timeframe would be filled with something equally entertaining, albeit a little different. Usually the off-season playlist garnered one or two shows that were added to regular Autumn viewing.

As a college student of the late 1990’s and new millennium my friends and I put our powers of prior proper planning to use in devising an intricate table of recording and watching on key nights when there was just too much on to watch at once.  Recording devices, in their infancy during the 1980’s, were now common place and a cost effective alternative for the average consumer to take some control over their playlist. There was a pecking order of priority of what got watched in real time broadcast and what got recorded for later viewing.  Sometimes we had two VCR’s going at once.  Programming was different then.  There was comedy and drama, VH1 Behind the Music and Trading Spaces on TLC.  There was genre variety and all you had to do was channel surf to find something entertaining or at least interesting to watch.  It was media for the masses.  Something for everyone.  Sports, music, drama, comedy and life style.

Somewhere in the mid 2000s the programming format shifted and variety seemed harder to come by.  As the playlist I relied on fell apart I began looking for alternatives in entertainment, education and general media consumption.  I have always been a basic service kind of gal, so in the interest of full disclosure this post is written from the experience of a budget conscious consumer.  Premium channels and multiple DVR’s do not enter the equation.

Like most, programming is the great escape from the reality of the day.  My escape was in the story and still is.  As series like Friends, ER, Judging Amy, Gilmore Girls and Will & Grace came to an end, more reality tv shows and game shows took their place.  Competition.  The situational comedies and dramas that those of us grew up on could no longer compete.  Competition it’s self was now programming and it was a competitive race to the top for the number one show.  Over the years it seems most of the game shows petered out and made room for large talent shows.  I did watch the first few seasons of American Idol and a few episodes of Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  It was entertaining for a change, but these competitions could not replace the excitement of watching the latest “chapter” in situational programming.  I found some great dramas in Grey’s Anatomy, Parenthood, Numbers and Medium.  I turned to Food Network and TLC for some lighter entertainment but found that, even there, competition and drama were in the forefront.  Cooking was not as relaxing as I thought it would be when waiting for someone to get “Chopped” at 9:30pm. There was little out there in light-hearted programming.

When I began to realize that what I watched stressed me out more than the day I was escaping from I began to ask myself, “Why?” The answer had to do with the content and timing.  Dramatic acting is very good.  The story, characters and performance suck you in to the moral and physical drama of medicine and law or the overall challenges of interpersonal relationships.  It transports you to the reality of that situation without getting bogged down in the mundane details of reality TV.

I decided dramatic TV was a bad idea right before bed.  Even cooking, tattoos and  dogs were eventually thrown off the nighttime playlist.  Seriously.  Even the lighter fare programming was laced with personal drama or competition.  The writing strung you along through the commercials, and left predictable cliff-hangers to the next episode, much like a daytime soap opera.  When those shows became more about the drama and competition they stopped being fun and informative.

After taking a break from watching programming all together I began to think about my playlist.  Actually I thought about two of them; the playlist I abandoned and the playlist I wanted.  The playlist I abandoned was one I created from narrowing options provided to me via my content delivery system.  Even more narrow was the window of time through which I had to consume that content.  If I was willing and able to pay more money I would have opportunity for programming variety as well as recording and playback methods.  The ability to acquire more content and playback options was an economic moving target.  I began to consider the playlist I wanted and by what means I could really have it on a basic service budget.

With YouTube and other online video forums well established for the distribution of amateur to semi-pro content, mainstream media began dipping its pinky toe into online distribution of its content via Hulu, Fancast, Netflix and custom platforms.  I decided it was time to give it a try as a consumer.  I found Hulu offered the best variety of TV shows in a great delivery platform. While episodes often had an expiration date I usually had a week or more to consume the content via my computer or smartphone.  I can browse available programs, favorite them and receive updates when new episodes are available.  I love my delete button and have used it when something is not engaging. I am more inclined to try a new program because it does not compete with one I am committed to. I usually have access to at least the full current season so I can catch up.

Aside from Hulu+ I have three other subscriptions.  My subscription to Lynda.com is invaluable when learning new software for work or simply to satisfy my inner nerd.  Youtube offers some great free programming.  I can’t learn crochet by diagrams in a book but I found some great videos.  They are not fancy, or even pretty but they give me what I need.  No frills repetition of a basic technique that I can compare my efforts to and know that I am getting the hang of something new.  I use Apple iTunes for movie rentals.  They have the best selection I have seen with a great playback platform.

I mastered my media on a budget.  Aside from a standard internet subscription I probably pay about $450 annually in online content fees.  The economic savings comes at another price.  The fact that I have multiple subscriptions to get the variety I crave is a little ridiculous not to mention the management of it: multiple logins, multiple bills.

While I am currently pleased with my playlists and the means by which I access them, content and distribution is forever changing.  There is a price for everything and while I am not unwilling to pay there is a limit.  If the price for my current methods of content consumption becomes too great compared to their rewards, I may be on the hunt again.  That is the non-monetary price of choice; the time and energy of evaluating what you are getting from any given option and looking for something better – there is no forever and there is no perfect.

What does your playlist evolution look like?

Copyright 2013 Digital Design Digest

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