Living in a recreational vehicle has its drawbacks. Being able to "disconnect" from the outside world is both an advantage and a disadvantage. I find that life on the road gets more difficult when you want to use "modern conveniences" such as telephones, television, and Internet. "Roughing it" is not always convenient! Luckily, modern technology solves most of these problems. However, one problem has been nagging me but this week I started using a new, partial solution.
Telephones aren't much of a problem for RV'ers; we use cell phones. Those work well in most places, except for the RV resort I am staying at these days that is in a rural area and apparently a long ways from the nearest cell tower. Most of the time while in this RV resort, I see zero or one "bar" of signal strength. Sometimes the display shows zero bars and then says "No Service." If I step outside the motor home, that message might go away and I may see one bar again but rarely do I see more than one bar. As a result, my cell phone works sometimes but not all the time. It isn't reliable. I have improved that by using VoIP (Voice over Internet Phones) although the solution isn't perfect. Maybe I will write about VoIP usage in a motor home in the future.
I have written about Internet access before. The long-range wi-fi set-up plus a cell phone air card (which doesn't work well in this RV resort but has worked well in most other places) has solved the problem for me. Luckily, the RV resort I am in today has excellent wi-fi coverage.
The remaining problem has been television.
Admittedly, I have never watched much television. I find most of today's television programming to be mindless drivel. Nonetheless, I do often watch the news, weather, one financial and investments program, and a few other programs. Since I am a history buff, The History Channel used to be one of my favorites but, in the past year or two, it has degenerated into crap. (That is not my favorite word but there is no other way to describe the low-budget programs being aired on The History Channel these days. I rarely watch The History Channel any more.)
Some RV resorts offer cable television, others do not. I "solved" the problem by purchasing satellite television equipment made for use in recreational vehicles. As long as I can see the southern sky, I can receive satellite television. Unfortunately, not all RV camp sites have clear access to the southern sky. That lovely, shaded campsite may be desirable for everything except television, as trees will block the satellite signals.
The total cost for the satellite equipment was significantly less than what I had expected. However, the satellite companies love to "upgrade" you by selling you expensive packages of many, many channels, most of which I would never watch even if I had them. I purchased a package that is only a few dollars a month more than the basic service. Admittedly, I don't get many premium channels but, having looked at the listings of what is playing right now on those channels, I find that I usually wouldn't watch those channels anyway.
A disadvantage of satellite television is that the satellite service doesn't carry local channels. That means that I don't get the local news, local weather, or programming from CBS, NBC, ABC, or PBS. If I want to watch the weather forecast, I can always watch the Weather Channel but that's usually not as accurate as watching the meteorologist on a local channel. Of course, I can always use the television antenna on the roof of the RV to pick up local channels.
One problem: remember the RV resort in the rural area I mentioned? My television antenna picks up a bunch of local channels but not the nearest NBC affilate that apparently is further away.
I have been using streaming video over the Internet since I installed my first wi-fi setup. Instead of paying extra for movie channels on satellite, I now stream FREE or paid movies from Netflix and from Apple TV. That's cheaper than the premium movie channels plus I get "movies on demand," not scheduled at the television channel's convenience. The disadvantage is that newer movies become available on Netflix only some months after becoming available on the premium movie channels on satellite and cable. I don't consider that to be much of a limitation as I am usually watching older movies anyway.
NOTE: Don't try streaming video over a cell phone company's air card. The monthly bill will be outrageous! Most air cards limit you to a pre-defined number of bytes per month and then charge extra when you go over that limit, although there are a few exceptions. Those cell companies offering unlimited data are usually the smaller companies that typically don't have very good coverage in rural areas. A bargain isn't much of a bargain if you can't use it.Netflix and Apple TV are great for movies and they do offer some television programs. Another online service, called Hulu, has been more aggressive at offering television shows. Now Hulu has introduced Hulu Plus and I tried it this week.
Hulu Plus is available on connected TVs, which includes most of the better television sets being sold today. A broadband Internet connection is required as the video is sent to you over the Internet, not over the air. (Don't try it on dial-up Internet connections as those connections are nowhere near fast enough.) If you own a non-streaming television set, you can obtain Hulu Plus on your computer, many Blu-ray players, gaming consoles (Wii, Nintendo, Xbox, etc.), set-top boxes, mobile phones, iPad, iPod Touch, many Android tablets, and probably more. If the device has an HDMI connector, you can run a cable from that device to most any modern television set that has an HDMI connector and display the video on the television's big screen. Then again, with a computer, tablet computer, or cell phone, you might prefer to display the video on the device's smaller, internal screen. Your choice.
Most people do not need to purchase any new hardware as they probably already have a device capable of being used with Hulu Plus.
I rather like the idea of watching television programs on the iPad. It works well and I find I use the iPad to watch television more often than I use the 37-inch high-definition television set in my motor home. I can watch it in bed or in the mid-afternoon while seated at the picnic table outside the motor home.
One drawback is that I have not yet found a way of recording a show and saving it for later. I'd love to do that in advance of a trip by airline. Watching a (recorded) television program or movie is a great way of killing time in an airport waiting area or on board the plane. You CAN record and later play back movies and television shows on several competitive services. However, most of those services do not have as many programs available as does Hulu Plus.
NOTE: There are a number of products from other vendors that claim to add the capability to record streaming video from various online services, including Hulu. I haven't tried any of them yet but you can read more about them if you start at http://goo.gl/zb8g8.Hulu Plus has hundreds of television shows as well as many movies. You can see the list at http://www.hulu.com/plus/content to determine if your favorite programs are available or not. Notice that the list fills 192 pages!
Almost all of the programs are made available on a time-delay basis. That is, the programs typically are not available on Hulu Plus for twenty-four hours or more after being broadcast on the air. As a result, Hulu Plus is useless for news and weather. However, it is great for most all the other network shows, including those from NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, Nickelodeon, and many other networks and studios.
I especially like Hulu Plus because I can watch the programs at my leisure. I don't have to be seated in front of my television set at a specific time, I can watch whenever I want to. If I missed a program last night or last week, or if I didn't stay up late enough to watch Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon, I can watch the programs whenever I want at a later date.
Not bad for $7.99 month! The company normally offers the first week free of charge so that you can try it out. In addition, you can optionally obtain a two-week free trial if you go to http://hulu.com/r/FovaSA.
Disclaimer: http://hulu.com/r/FovaSA is an "affiliate link" that gives you a two-week free trial plus it also gives me an additional two weeks of free usage of Hulu Plus if you sign up using that link. I'll leave that to you, use it or not as you please. The price will be the same to you except that clicking on http://hulu.com/r/FovaSA will give you two weeks' of free introductory usage instead of one. In all cases, you do have to supply a credit card number in advance, which is common on many Internet sites. If you do decide to cancel the service, make sure you do so before your free trial expires.Programs on Hulu Plus do contain advertising but, in my first week of usage, it appears to me that there are fewer ads on Hulu Plus than on broadcast television. That might change in the future as the service becomes more popular.
Hulu is a joint venture of NBC-Universal Television Group (Comcast/General Electric), Fox Broadcasting Company (News Corp) and Disney-ABC Television Group (The Walt Disney Company), with funding by Providence Equity Partners.
Hulu and Hulu Plus are only accessible within the US and Japan at this time. The reason is licensing restrictions for many of the programs available on the service; the licenses are good only for the U.S. or for Japan. Even in those two countries, the programs available will be different from one country to another. Of course, you can always bypass these restrictions by using a VPN (virtual private network) to "tunnel" to a VPN server in the U.S. or in Japan.
If you would like to know more about Hulu Plus, check the FAQs (frequently-asked questions) by going to http://hulu.com/r/FovaSA, scroll down the page to the bottom, then click on "review frequently asked questions."
If you would like to try a two-week free trial of Hulu Plus, go to http://hulu.com/r/FovaSA. Of course, the normal one-week free trial without giving me credit remains available at http://hulu.com. Your choice.
Whether you use the affiliate link or not, I have to say that I am pleased with Hulu Plus and I plan to continue using it. I love technology!