Watching Star Trek: Discovery Offline

With Star Trek: Discovery now airing exclusively on CBS All Access I was trying to find  way to be able to download the episodes so I can view them while flying. Unlike Netflix & Amazon Video CBS All Access does not (yet) have a watch offline feature. However – in the meantime…

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It looks like will there is a will – there is a way, even if it will cost a few bucks.

Streaming your favorite shows on a spotty internet connection can be quite the nuisance – but it doesn’t have to be. There is a handy app that lets you save any show for offline watching and the best thing is that it works with practically any streaming service, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and thank goodness CBS All Access.

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Available for Android and iOS, PlayOn Cloud makes it possible for users to record and download titles from a variety of leading streaming services, so they could still binge their favorite shows once they go offline – anytime and anywhere.

In addition to the previously mentioned content providers, the app also supports downloads from YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS, CW, ABC, NBC and Fox.

The only downside is that you will have to pay for this privilege. PlayOn’s iOS and Android apps are free, but the company will charge $0.99 for each recording. The good thing is that PlayOn also offers various recording packs and bundles for as low as $0.20 a pop. You can look up pricing details here. I paid $4.99 for 20 episode downloads which should all me to watch Discovery’s Season 1 offline – no matter where I am, regardless of access to the internet!  You must, of course be a subscriber to CBS-All Access to access their content through PlayOn Cloud.

Considering that each recording is stored in the cloud – and therefore available to download locally on any device using the same PlayOn account – it’s not such a bad deal.

One thing to keep in mind is that Netflix already rolled out support for offline viewing for mobile last year. The disadvantage is that not every entry in its catalog is available to stream offline. Another upside to using PlayOn is that, unlike Netflix, downloaded recordings never expire – unless the user deletes them, of course.

Yes, recordings stored on the cloud will be deleted after 30 days, but they will still be available on your device locally.

For those wondering about the app’s legality: The PlayOn team claims their software is entirely “legal and protected by the same laws that allow consumers to use a DVR or VCR to record broadcast content.” They have explained this in more detail in a blog post on their website.

In all fairness, PlayOn Cloud has been around for a while now. But should you find yourself planning a faraway trip without any guarantees for a stable connection, now at least you know you have options to keep yourself entertained.


Disney & CBS Look to Challange Netflix

Two major networks are looking to compete with Netflix and steal, at least part of their audience. First CBS announced it’s own streaming service with the launch of the new “Star Trek” TV series.

First You Have CBS

CBS is moving fast in the streaming channel arena, with plans to expand CBS All Access to Canada and other international markets by next year.

CBS is also working on the launch of a streaming sports channel patterned after its CBSN digital news service. The movement in the over the top (OTT) market comes as the CBS All Access and Showtime stand alone services are expected to exceed 4 million subscribers in total by the end of this year.

The sports channel is in the early stages of development and doesn’t yet have a name.

The decision by CBS to relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise on CBS All Access rather than on the CBS network or Showtime, or even to sell it to Netflix in the U.S., was a calculated decision to grow the streaming service.“Star Trek: Discovery” – the first new TV series in the “Trek” canon in 11 years, is set to premier on September 24. In an obvious effort to attract users to their new platform – through Star Trek – CBS will premier the first episode on their regular CBS network with the second episode (part 2 of a cliffhanger) airing immediately afterward – exclusively on CBS All Access. In other words if you want to keep watching the new Star Trek – sign up with CBS All Access.

As you can see by watching the quality of the “Star Trek: Discovery” trailer the mission of these networks to launch their own streaming service, with new & exciting content is no joke – and could, potentially be a boon for all of us.

Then You Have Disney

Disney has now officially announced that it’s making its own Netflix competitor, a streaming service that will air original Disney movies and TV shows. In addition Disney announced that it also plans to launch a second Netflix-like offering that will deliver sporting events.

It’s not surprising that Disney wants to directly compete with Netflix and other streaming services, given that more people opt to ditch traditional cable in favor of online entertainment.

The Disney TV streaming service will only launch in 2019, while the ESPN-based service would be available as soon as next year.

Disney also reported that it will terminate the licensing agreement for new titles beginning with the 2019 calendar year.

This means that post 2019 if you want to watch Disney movies and show you will need to subscribe to their exclusive channel.

What All of this Means

How we watch television is rapidly changing. Networks like ABC, CBS and NBC are trying to find ways to remain relevant in this ever changing landscape. Where commercial advertisements were once king now networks are looking to the audience to “subscribe” in order to watch the content they enjoy. At the same time, because of the success of pay-cable TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” audiences now expect much more from their television dramas. Commercial interruptions are a disaster to good TV – and the networks know this. We are well on the way to the extinction of relevant – free – over the air TV.

In fact so much has changed in the television landscape that Netflix is now almost seen as “old school” by networks like CBS and Disney. Ask yourself this question. Why should networks, with immense libraries of (old & loved) TV content and the resources to create new content sell to a “middle man” when they can create their own streaming services and reap 100% profits as opposed to sharing their earning with Netflix or Hulu.

The only question is can they do it – and be successful?

TOS 50 Book Mission # 18 – “Legacies Book 1 – Captain to Captain”

This year I have truly enjoyed delving into old & new Star Trek novels as my little way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. The three book “Legacy” series which launched with Greg Cox’s “Captain to Captain” brings with it much promise as a Trek universe spanning adventure.

The cover art really sets the tone of the story in “Captain to Captain”.

This first novel did not let me down and it was one that I could not put down.

The best part of this novel is the character of Number One who only appeared in the original pilot “The Cage” and as part of flashbacks in the Original Series episode of “The Menagerie.” There wasn’t much character development in “The Cage” but in this novel the character is fully fleshed out and three dimensional. The entire time I was reading this story I could picture Majel Barrett as the character.

The story itself was very interesting and included a great sub-story involving Robert April, a captain with little backstory in the Trek Universe other than being the first captain of the USS Enterprise. Overall, this is a great Star Trek story to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Original Series. I look forward to reading the next two novels.

Oh and slugs were terrifying!

TOS 50 Book Mission # 15 – “Elusive Salvation”

With Dayton Ward’s latest time travel adventure “Elusive Salvation” we are treated to 4 centuries of Star Trek – spanning several Trek time periods.

The story opens with the crash landing in the Arctic in 1845 of a ship by a race known as the Iramahl who are fleeing the oppression of a race known as the Ptaen. Flash forward to 2283 where an unidentified object is spotted approaching Jupiter station that eventually is determined to be an Iramahl ship which is looking for its missing people who may or may not be still alive some 4 centuries later.

To locate the crew in the past, Kirk sends a message to Roberta Lincoln (see the classic episode “Assignment Earth” who is living in the 1970’s to see if she and Gary Seven can help locate the lost Iramahl crew.

Dayton Ward, as he did in his previous novel of this series, “In Histories Shadow” does an awesome job of mixing parts of the past & present (star Trek) with a fascinating tale of oppression while at the same time drawing on episodes of three (yes 3) Star Trek series which make for nice references throughout the adventure. The book is a very easy read and an enjoyable one up through the breakneck finale which will take your breath away.

This is a very worthy book to be included as part of the 50th anniversary Pocket Book run which is occurring throughout 2016. The Star Trek novels released throughout 2016 should pay homage to the best of Star Trek which “Elusive Salvation” surely does.

TOS 50 Book Mission # 11 – “The City on the Edge of Forever – The Original Teleplay written by Harlan Ellison”

This is a great graphic adaptation of a classic original Star Trek story that has a long history for those who call themselves “Trekkie’s”.

Much has been written and debated over the years about this particular Star Trek episode. As for my side of the debate, Eillison’ original concept could never have been filmed in the 1960’s due to the lack of technology (and money) that would have been necessary to ssee his original version on the screen. In addition the social mores of the time would never have permitted this past the TV censors. yes in late 1960’s TV you could depict prejudice if done just right, but drug addiction and dope pushers were not permitted on television society of the time

“The City on the Edge of Forever – The Original Teleplay written by Harlan Ellison” is simply a brilliant masterpiece of science fiction and I believe it could be made as a computer animated movie today with the original cast – and I believe it is possible to use the recorded voices of the original ST:TOS actors who are no longer with us.

What particularly struck me about this adaptation is that we see Spock willing to kill Kirk in order to keep history on its right course, and we get to see Kirk’s reaction to Spock’s rather emotional logic behind his willingness to kill his captain and friend. We also get to see Yeomen Janice Rand in a stronger role, and she assumes command of the landing team at one point.

“The City on the Edge of Forever – The Original Teleplay written by Harlan Ellison” is no doubt different then the aired television episode and in some ways it is indeed better – however I would not say it would have made a better Star Trek episode; yet both have their merits.

Harlan Ellison’s version as written here as a graphic novel is no doubt better science fiction then the original episode mainly because it has a greater depth and shows the souls of all characters with equal flawed grace.

But is it better Star Trek? This debate – among fans may never end.

TOS 50 Book Mission # 10 – “Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man�?

This book is really misnamed. It is not an account of a Shatner’s fifty year friendship with Leonard Nimoy. By Shatner’s own admission, he did not truly become friends with Nimoy until the making of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979 which was about thirteen years after the two men met on the set of Star Trek. Also by Shatnber’s own admission their friendship actually ended a few years before Nimoy’s passing. Shatner reports that he never knew what it meant to be or to have a friend. This book is not an account of a fifty year friendship. It’s an unauthorized biography with a few personal remarks thrown here and there. This may be of interest for anyone interested in Leonard Nimoy who has not read much about him. For anyone who considers himself a fan who has read a lot about him over the many years, the book holds very little new, which was very disappointing to me.

I must say I was excited when I heard Shatner had “wrote” a memoir regarding his friendship with Leonard Nimoy, who was (and is) responsible for one of the most fictional characters of my life.

The book reads as though Shatner sent his ghost writer out to research Nimoy. This must have been done as soon as Nimoy had passed, as the book was completed and advertised within three months of the passing. It was not of course released until the anniversary of Nimoy’s death.

The information in the book comes from many sources: the Mind Meld DVD, Nimoys’ autobiographies “I Am Not Spock”and then his about face “I Am Spock”, his son Adam’s book, the many books about the making of Star Trek, Shatner’s own book “Up Til Now” among many others. Much of it reads as though whoever wrote it had simply paraphrased Nimoy’s IMDB credits into history. Also very surprising is that much of it is factually inaccurate. Much of it, if you already know anything about Star Trek and Nimoy, is frankly boring. Shatner did speak movingly and personally about the death of his wife and the support he received from Nimoy (most of which was in his own autobiography already) but most of the book was the recounting of details and incidents which had been researched from other sources freely available to the public.

By his own admission, Shatner does not “remember much”, which probably is the reason this book reads so “well researched” but not really – truly from the heart.

Shatner says he has trouble relating to others. This is clear from the book. My opinion is that this book is not truly a personal account of his friendship with a much missed man as the title suggests. In the end it is a heavily researched biography, with a personal note put in at the end to express his love (whi I believe he does have) for Leonard Nimoy.

In the end what you have here is a relatively reasonable if not mediocre biography, but it is not what the title says it is.

TOS 50 Book Mission # 9 – “The Latter Fire�?

In this most recent Star Trek novel by James Swallow you have a little of everything that works in the TOS universe. You could also say that here Star Trek meets “The Plnate of the Apes” and “Godzilla”. So what would not be to like.

This is also the first time I’ve read about the transition of Chekov from the Command track to the Security track (where he ends up when TMP debuts in 1979) and his replacement, Arex (who arrives in 1973 with TAS). For those of you who watched the animated series, Arex is the red alien with three legs and three arms who mans the navigation position. He, along with other characters from the animated series, offers different personalities and insight into Starfleet, the Federation and our crew.

New blood, new ideas. Overall the story is solid and plays our in a very big way while at the same time feeling very much like a episode as well. The Enterprise deals with not only the Syhaari, but two other races, in a show down to prevent the destruction of the entire system and its inhabitants. The adventure here deals with tthe ypical problems of humans, just infused within other races.

Greed. Lust, Pride. Desire. Envy. Ignorance, and most of all Fear drive this story.

What makes this book unique is that the Syhaari, though quite intelligent, have lived in isolation for their entire lives until they go beyond the “Veil” that surrounds their system. They finally take those incremental steps beyond their system and find stars and darkness and it sparks the desire to know more. This leads them to an encounter with the Enterprise and years later with another encounter with the Enterprise, but this time in a more advanced state of exploration.

James Swallow displays the charm and flair of the classic series perfectly throughout this novel. Especially the dialogues between the familiar characters – particularly the amusing banter between Spock and McCoy. And also on the animate series is nodded to here and the story settles between the last episode of TOS and the first episode of TAS. The action itself is well paced, and the book kept my interest from start to finish. You are have here two competing nations working together at the end of the story to avert a terrible catastrophe celebrates Roddenberry’s underlying philosophy. That alone makes the novel a wonderful reading experience for any Trek fan.

TOS 50 Book Mission #2 – “The Starless World”

Book #2 on my one-year mission to read as much Star Trek as possible as my way of honoring what Star Trek has meant to me, ironically during my first 50 years (as well) takes me to 1978’s “The Starless World” by Gordon Eklund. I read this one back in high school so I forgot almost everything about it.

The Story

While charting black holes and stellar masses near the Galactic core, the Enterprise manages to rescue Thomas Clayton, a Starfleet washout who now is an independent scout for the Federation. Amazingly enough, Clayton is aboard a Starfleet shuttlecraft from the starship Rickover which disappeared some two decades earlier. Clayton is completely insane; he has explained he is doing his god’s bidding. While beginning an investigation into this mystery, the Enterprise is suddenly drawn into a Dyson sphere where they encounter a Klingon ship.

After a brief exchange of hostile words (their weapons don’t work), Kirk, Uhura and Sulu beam down and encounter the only remaining inhabitants: short, plump, white chimpanzee-like humanoids. After befriending Ola by stopping her from becoming a carnivore’s dinner, she takes them to her village of Tumara where they are soon joined by McCoy and Spock who are forced down to the planet’s surface by the deranged Clayton. Spock is increasingly of the opinion that Ay-nab, the sun of the Dyson sphere known as Lyra, is a superintelligent being. There is also a rather odd and unnecessary sub-plot of Uhura meeting her father, one of the crew of the Rickover who are now little more than zombies whose souls Ay-nab feeds.

My Thoughts

Gordon Eklund does a really good job of telling a science fiction story first, then a Star Trek story which I really appreciate. The Star Trek novels written before the films were launched almost always have this kind of science fiction first plot point. Maybe it’s because I love classic science fiction that thsi appeals to me. That being said this IS a Star Trek book after all and for the most part works as a classic episode type story. However there are a few errors here and there (the Enterprise is a Constellation-class ship, for one, and Spock uses way too many colloquialisms for a Vulcan). However, Eklund really does manage to craft a credible and weird world. The theme of a star being an intelligent being is not new to Eklund, and it harkens back to his Nebula-award winning novella (co-authored with Gregory Benford) and later revised novel “If the Stars Are Gods.

During this year long Trek Book Mission I hope to delve into a couple of the original Bantam books (1970-1981) that were released prior to the films. This is because these books, for the most part really capture the feel of simply reading a lost original Star Trek episode. The authors of the books pre-1980 only had the original TOS episodes to draw from which sometimes, I find refreshing.

Smartphones Devouring Our TV Time

The recent announcement from CBS that there will finally be a new “Star Trek” TV series but unlike any major network television series before it – it will boldly launch and live exclusively on a streaming service, in this case CBS All Access.  At first I am sure many fans of the 50 year old franchise were probably left scratching their heads about this decision. However CBS is only reacting to something we all know is happening on the TV landscape. Network TV (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS) as we have know is in the final throws of dominance and will more then likely fade away completely in the next decade or two.

You can see by the following from Nielson that CBS is on the right track with their most watched TV series of all time and what to do with it going forward.

Our Smartphones Are Eating Our TV Time

The use of Internet-ready devices like smartphones appears to have seriously cut into American’s traditional TV-watching time, new Nielsen data shows, potentially undercutting the notion that mobile devices merely serve as “second screens” while people are plopped in front of the set.

Data provided to The Associated Press shows that the number of 18-to-34-year-olds who used a smartphone, tablet or TV-connected device like a streaming box rose 26 percent in May compared to a year earlier, to an average of 8.5 million people per minute.

By contrast, the numbers of those in the same age group who watched TV, listened to radio or used a computer fell 8 percent over the same period to 16.6 million people per minute.

Nielsen’s inaugural “Comparable Metrics” report for the first time presents data on average use per minute, making it possible to directly compare the time people are spending on their various devices.

The audience for TV viewing alone fell by 10 percent, to 8.4 million people a minute in the 18-to-34-year-old category. That fall-off in the younger audience highly coveted by advertisers confirms a trend in other Nielsen data that found traditional TV viewing peaked in the 2009-2010 season.

“It’s pretty clear the increased use of mobile devices is having some effect on the system as a whole,” said Glenn Enoch, Nielsen’s senior vice president of audience insights. The new Nielsen data doesn’t break out time spent specifically on streaming TV, since that usage is likely spread across TV-connected devices, phones, tablets and PCs.

Since Nielsen inaugurated its tracking service in 1949, average daily TV viewing has marched steadily upward, from 4 hours and 35 minutes a day to a peak of 8 hours and 55 minutes in 2009-2010. That increase coincided with growing numbers of TV sets sold and the proliferation of programming on cable channels.

But viewership has been edging down ever since. From late September until mid-November this year, daily TV watching accounted for only 8 hours and 13 minutes, Nielsen said.

A Logical Choice

This information from Neilson as well as the overall downward trend of conventional TV viewership for services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are indeed proof that it is most logical that the Star Trek franchise will live long and prosper only by embracing new technology which that goodness it appears to be doing.

Klingon gets Binged

tar Trek Into Darkness officially premiers in theaters on my birthday May 16th (Thank You JJ) and coincidentally Microsoft’s Bing has teamed up with Paramount to celebrate with a very cool feature.

Now anyone can use Bing’s Translator to translate text and whole websites into Klingon, the alien language spoken by the always angry “turtle headed” alien warrior race. (For instance, majQa’ means “well done!,” which is exactly what I have to say when using this new tool.)


Bing has added Klingon to our earth bound languages in it’s Language Translator.

You can access the Klingon translations via the Bing Translator website or through the Windows Phone Bing Translator app. Yes – Windows Phone finally has an app that Apple and Android does not!

The translations are done using the Klingon alphabet Kronos (see screenshot above) or a direct translation using the English alphabet. For example I was able to find out what it would sound like if Lt. Commander Worf wished me a happy birthday. If you are curious it would sound something like “Quch mann neb qoS”.

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