Television Tuesday: Last Week Tonight

oliver

Last year, during the major hubbub about Net Neutrality, there were tons of videos posted to YouTube saying the same thing – it’s necessary to protect the equality of access to sites and services on the Internet. One of the best was that from John Oliver’s (then) new HBO Program, Last Week Tonight

In the video, which was the first time that I had seen something from his program, he likened the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to a dingo taking care of a baby, since he was a former lobbyist for the largest cable TV provider in the country, Comcast. This video got over 9 million views, and garnered over 45,000 comments about the subject on the FCC’s website.

Hilariously, the segment forced the Chairman to respond to the allegations of being a dingo by categorically denying that he was one, which led to a brilliant follow-up from Oliver.

As the rest of 2014 went on, more videos came out on topics ranging from FIFA to Sugar, and even shorts on the Indian Election and problem gambling in Singapore, and a series on the other Presidents of the Not-USA, including one on everyone’s least favourite politician, Tony Abbott.

For a bit of background, John Oliver got his own show after working for quite a few years on the Daily Show. It’s somewhat disappointing that he didn’t get the full time job after Jon Stewart leaves, but it’s all the better for everyone that he has this platform. :)

Why do I like the show?

It’s a show that blends a lot of good things together – the news, politics, even sport and activism. Oliver sends powerful messages and is really educational. The fact that he includes comedy in the discussions is a huge draw for me. In essence, it’s like the Daily Show without  the long and boring interview segments (though he has done interviews, such as with Edward Snowden), and focusing on one major topic instead of dabbling in many minor topics.

Not only that, you learn a lot in the show. Not just about normal things like the politicians who run the country, but about the things behind the functionality of the country, such as Municipal Violations, the Lottery, and even Municipal funding for sports stadia – of which we’re now paying for two stadia for teams, the Milwaukee Brewers (via a 0.01% sales tax in only 5 counties), and now the Bucks (via municipal bonds that the whole state is paying for). Too bad we couldn’t just say No. But that’s a rant for another time! :)

Are you interested?

You can catch Last Week Tonight on Sundays at 11PM ET/PT on HBO, and throughout the week on the various HBO channels. Full episodes are also available on HBO ON Demand and HBO Go for cable or satellite subscribers. If you don’t have a pay TV service, you can subscribe to HBO NOW to watch full episodes as well.

Of course, the easiest way to catch the best bits (although they do bleep out the “fucks” from the clips) is to watch the videos on the Last Week Tonight YouTube Channel. All the videos there are free, but some of the videos are geoblocked to the USA only – such as the Sports Stadium video, probably due to sports video included in the clip. Clips are usually posted within a few hours of the show airing.

How To: Use TunnelBear

bear

Living in the US, I have access to pretty much any TV program that I want to get. At least, those that are aired here. There are lots of programs that air overseas and never make it to the USA (for example, The Killing Season, an ABC series talking about Kevin Rudd’s time as Prime Minister), or if the come over here, get changed around (take The Slap, a fantastic ABC series which was re-made by NBC)

Naturally, there are ways that you can get these shows from slightly less legitimate sources, but that has risks of its own like viruses and potential legal issues. If you know what you’re doing, it’s a solution to get a copy to keep for all time if you so desire. You can also use these files on other devices, but it’s not as easy as some other solutions.

Enter TunnelBear. I first heard about it during the 2012 Olympics when it’s very easy to get frustrated with the host broadcaster here in the US – NBC – when they can’t even figure out how to show the ceremonies live. I used it in order to access the BBC broadcast of the closing ceremonies, as shown here, NBC with volleyball and the BBC with the closing ceremonies –

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How does it work?

To save a whole long technical explanation, what TunnelBear does is tells a server that you’re located in another country, like I did above in the example of watching BBC One’s Olympics live while NBC is showing replays

A TunnelBear comes with initial access to up to 13 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. You’ll note that my initial example of the ABC, from Australia, is not included.

That’s because in order to access Australia, you do need to pay for your TunnelBear. It’s not very much to pay – US$5 per month, or $50 per year. By paying, you actually get unlimited data for that time period, and access to all 14 countries (which grew from just 2 back in 2012!)

So, how do you get started?

Go to the TunnelBear website, and click Download –

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On the download page, select your flavour of operating system. TunnelBear is compatible with Windows Vista through 8.1; Mac OSX Snow Leopard v. 10.6.8 and higher; iOS 7 and higher; Android 4.01 Ice Cream Sandwich and higher; and, more recently, Google Chrome via Extension.

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After downloading, you’ll go through the installer for Windows. For Mac, it’s a normal install of dragging into the Applications Folder. While installing in Windows, watch for the messages. They’re not your usual install messages :)

The first time you launch TunnelBear, you’ll be asked if you have an account or not.

tb3If you have an account, all you have to do is enter your username and password and go. For a New account, here is all you’re asked for –

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Your first name, email, a password and your Twitter Username. You’ll need to verify your email address to use TunnelBear.c I’ll get back to the Twitter name in a moment. First, let’s take the quick tour:

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Step 1; Select a country and turn on the TunnelBear

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Step 2: Use your browser as normal. The only difference is that you’re privately browsing from the country you chose in step 1!

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Step 3: If you wish, turn on Privacy and block trackers like Facebook Like plugins, etc. You’ll also be asked to give them a like on Facebook and a follow on Twitter. Do that if you wish to do so :)

This is what TunnelBear looks like when you have a basic account. Remember them asking for your Twitter username? Here’s why –

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With a basic account, you only get 500MB of data which resets each month. You can go through that quickly. Very quickly, like maybe an hour of TV programs. If you send a tweet to the TunnelBear team, you get a free 1GB of data for the month. It’s a great solution for someone who is a light user – for example, only using TunnelBear to listen to BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra – whose programmes are mostly geoblocked due to rights restrictions.

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Once you send your tweet, you will get an email confirming that they have received the tweet, and you’ll see the extra GB in your allowance.

What’s Next?

Well, now that you’ve got your bear up and running, with your 1.5GB of data after tweeting the worker bears, it’s time to get browsing. Watch the latest episode of Dragon’s Den on the BBC iPlayer. Maybe you want to El Hormiguero on Antena 3 from Spain, or The Mentalist on the French Netflix (don’t worry, it’s in English, just any text on-screen is in French).

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Really, it’s all up to you now!

There is one other feature to mention. It’s something that you get when you upgrade to a paid bear. It’s the IntelliBear.

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What the IntelliBear does is lets you set either a whitelist or a blacklist of sites – you can tunnel all sites (default), set up a list of sites which will be forced through TunnelBear (which is useful if your only purpose for TunnelBear is for one country, or for a work purpose, or set up a list to exclude from the bear.

As you can see I’ve excluded my site, Snoskred and Lumosity (a bit of a legacy from when I was having issues connecting). For the most part, the only reason I lock sites out of the bear is because if I change IPs, the site will boot me out sometimes. Otherwise, everything else goes through the bear. :)

Over to you…

Do you use TunnelBear or any other VPN-style service (Hola extension, VyprVPN, or DNS changes like UnblockUS)? to access content from other countries? Leave a comment to let everyone know what you’re using! :)

 

 

 

The Steam Summer Sale

Or: Sephy opens his wallet…on wants and not needs :-)

About 2 weeks ago, I saw a thread on Reddit indicating that this day was the first day of the Steam Summer Sale. For those who don’t know what the Steam Summer Sale is, it’s very simply put a period of about 10 days where just about every single game in the Steam Store goes on sale.

sssScreengrab from bgr.com article

Almost Every. Single. Game, or somewhere around 10,000 games or however many are on sale Steam. That doesn’t include other sites having sales like GOG who had their sale at the same time as Steam.

Why would someone want to buy from GOG instead of Steam? The biggest reason is that while you may not have the community aspects of buying from Steam, all the games sold on GOG are DRM-Free. This includes new release titles, as well as the classic games that they have (like Theme Hospital).

What did I buy in my spending spree? All of these games which I’d been looking at buying prior to the sale

GOG
Kerbal Space Program – $29.99, regular $39.99. GOG also had a deal where after buying a certain amount, you got SimCity 2000 Special Edition ($5.99) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky ($9.99) 
Steam
Mini Metro (Early Access) – $5.24, regular $6.99
Cities: Skylines – $19.99, regular $29.99
Prison Architect (Early Access; I got the Introversioner edition which includes – Game Soundtrack & Artbook upon full release; and these other Introversion games: Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON and Multiwinia.) – $5.99, regular $39.99
Homebrew: Vehicle Sandbox (Early Access) – $8.99, regular $17.99
Microsoft Flight Sim 2010 including the DLCs Cargo Crew & Dangerous Approaches Collection – $7.99, regular $39.99

So, in total I spent $78.19 (really $73.19 since I had a $5 voucher at Best Buy where I bought a $50 Steam Card) and got $190.92 worth of games, a saving of 59.05% off of regular price!

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing these different games, and I will have some more about some of these games – especially the Kerbals (they like sploding!), plus some of the other games that I’ve been playing recently on my new computer.

Just for a taster, here’s a bit from the Kerbal Space Program from a fellow called Scott Manley – 

SIM Card Shuffle

simcard

For the past 5 years, I have been an owner of two iPhones – first was an iPhone 3GS which served me decently for about 2 and a half years until I dropped it onto a concrete sidewalk and the screen cracked. There were other issues with the phone as well, such as the phone not making any sounds and then losing any ability to vibrate.

As a result, I bought an iPhone 5 which came with a new 2-year contract. Literally on the day the contract was fulfilled, I applied to have the phone unlocked, and it was unlocked pretty much straight away.

unlocked

What can you do with an unlocked iPhone? Switch carriers and maybe save money. Am I dissatisfied with AT&T? Not at all. However, some carriers have great offers and do allow you to bring your own device to them and will sell you just the SIM card.

Currently, I pay around $87 per month for AT&T’s base voice plan – 450 minutes anytime (with rollover), 5000 night/weekend, 200 SMS and 5GB data with mobile hotspot. This pricing also includes a discount that I get with them through an affinity program with my job.

I’m all for saving as much money as possible, which is what I was thinking when I started to look into service with T-Mobile. At first, the offer looks really good –

tmobileplan

So, here’s a quick pro/con list of switching to T-Mobile –

  • Pros –
    • Including taxes, I’d save around $15-20 per month on my mobile service
    • 3GB plan includes hotspot
    • Data Stash – essentially rollover data. If you don’t use all 3GB in the month, what’s left over carries over for the next month.
    • No worries about overages – if I go over on data, my speed is throttled. Right now, if I use 5.0001 GB of data, AT&T will (as a courtesy) add $10 to my next month’s payment for the overage and give me a 6th gig of data to use.
    • International roaming – if I am in, let’s say, Australia, I have unlimited data through my T-Mobile SIM. No real need to buy a local SIM unless I want to have a local number for the time I’m there, or if I want to take advantage of a full-speed network
    • Unlimited Music Streaming – I have subscriptions for Google Music and SiriusXM radio. If I’m out and about, that can be a lot of data. With T-Mobile? No worries!
    • Upfront cost? $15 for the SIM card itself and I don’t need to buy a new phone or worry about a contract.
    • Unlimited talk and texts. I’m not a big phone user, nor do I send many text messages (literally my Messages App is 99% adverts from different stores like the local gas station who sends me coupons for $1 free petrol every week ;)), but this is something that is awesome to have the ability to do.
  • Cons –
    • Smaller network – if you compare the coverage maps of T-Mobile and AT&T, you’ll see that the TMO network has more gaps and less 4G LTE coverage. This isn’t a major issue since I don’t do a lot of travelling, but it’s worth noting
    • No LTE Coverage at my house – This is an interesting one since their coverage map says that yes, I can get LTE coverage, but there’s a caveat at the bottom –
      lte
      What they mean by newly-expanded 4G LTE is that you have to have a device capable of receiving signals in the 700MHz LTE Band 12. My iPhone 5 only supports bands 2, 4, 5 and 17, so there’s no LTE at my house.

If you look at this, the pros well outweigh the cons, and it’s a no-brainer to switch my phone service over to T-Mobile. Add to that the fact that based on their plans, I recommended we use their service to get Internet at my church since the cable company doesn’t get out that far and the phone company would only offer 3×1 service (which is just a little bit more than 10% of the download listed by the FCC as the minimum for broadband service, 25Mbps), so I bit the bullet and ordered the SIM for my phone as well as the hotspot for my church.

Hilariously, I didn’t get my SIM card as planned as the folks at UPS decided to deliver it not to my house, but to a business in the city. I thought it was weird that it was delivered at a “Dock”. Thankfully the UPS guy was able to ring his office and get it dispatched to me, with only a 4 day delay.

I get the SIM card and then I put it in my phone. After seeing the No SIM message, it says that it’s searching for service. I’m doing this in my living room, I should note. I’ve gotten decent coverage with AT&T – not 5 bars, but, as TMO put it, “satisfactory” coverage indoors. I was already a bit apprehensive on the coverage on my phone after the experience with the hotspot. So, it was no surprise for me to see this message –

noservice

I had to walk outside just to get a basic signal, and that didn’t even have data available, it was just a normal cell signal. Interestingly, there was the option for me to select a carrier –

carriers

But none of them would allow me to connect. This is because T-Mobile have it set up that if you are in an area where they have radio spectrum, you cannot connect with other cell companies. Thus, even though AT&T signal may be available at my house, I can’t use it because T-Mobile has wireless spectrum.

Then, I decided to take a kit along – a plastic bag, the SIM card and its holder and a “SIM extraction tool” – better known as a paperclip – with me to work. And that was where I learnt another lesson.

 

I tried making a call to one of my favourite test numbers (it’s an automated system so no actual people, and it’s a toll-free number). When I dialed, I noticed that the data coverage disappeared altogether. This is just not something that I am used to, since with AT&T while I’m on a call, I still have data. It may not be LTE speeds, but it’s still useable.

Now the pros and cons are a bit different. Of course, the main pros of the money saving and the rollover data and the international roaming options are there, but now the cons list is changed – NO service at my house, smaller network, no simultaneous data and voice.

I still have the SIM card on hand, but I am now to the point where I am going to return it back and say thanks, but no thanks, it’s not a good fit for me right now. :)

I saw the Lights

Not that these were lights that you want to see…

Unless you’re in need, or being led through a situation by them…

These lights –

lightsNo, it’s not the traffic lights saying that while you try to go straight, you can’t; it’s the lights causing everyone to go into the right hand lane…the red & blue lights.

Yes. I have finally been pulled over by the police. Call it an inevitable experience or not…or just a silly thing that I did…

What did I do, exactly? I flashed my brights at the wrong car. I knew it was the wrong car immediately after flashing them (in the incorrect impression that their high-beam lights were on) because they had the sign of a cop car in Wisconsin – the brown plate with a star on it.

Oh shit…and then he slows and turns around, so I turn onto the side street that I was going to go on anyway, and pull off to the side as I knew he was pulling me over.

Upon stopping, I set my brake, placed the car in park, turned the radio off, rolled down the window and turned the engine off. I also took out my wallet in order to get two things – licence  & proof of insurance. After about a minute or so, the officer comes up to my window, and asks why I flashed my lights. I explained that I thought that he had his brights on.

He informed me that it is something that is unlawful to do* that as it can blind people, and he asks for my license, so I give it to him along with my insurance card.

His response?

“Since I see that you have a valid license, there will be no citation, just a warn and go, drive safely.”

And he walked away. He didn’t even give me a written warning, just the verbal advice :)

The moral of the story? Keep your nose clean, and if you ever do get pulled over, be pleasant, and you wind up learning new things and get an interesting experience.

Now, let’s hope this doesn’t make me a marked man around town…a known light flasher yano 😀

*So, of course, I had to check into the state statute when it comes to using high-beams, and this is an extract from Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 347.12

Whenever the operator of a vehicle equipped with multiple-beam headlamps approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, the operator shall dim, depress or tilt the vehicle’s headlights so that the glaring rays are not directed into the eyes of the operator of the other vehicle. This paragraph does not prohibit an operator from intermittently flashing the vehicle’s high-beam headlamps at an oncoming vehicle whose high-beam headlamps are lit.

Legally, I was well within my rights to flash my lights (which was maybe for a second at most, just a quick flash) as I had (mistakenly, as it turns out) thought the oncoming vehicle did have its high-beam headlights lit