Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cheapskates on the Move, TV & Movies (UPDATE: T-Mobile Simple, International)

Yeah!  Watching the Tour de France on Odin the Winnebago's TV!
(WARNING:  This is food for thought.  Your set up may be different.  Your local Best Buy or Apple Store will want to sell you a Roku or Apple TV.  Do some internet searching to learn what you need.)

On the boat, we rely on our vast DVD collection and the occasional download.  When we came back stateside, The Boss was excited about catching up on some TV & movies!

Both the Odin the Boat and Odin the Winnebago have an exterior TV antenna that gets us local channels.  It's a start.  Anybody have a TV Guide?

Many marinas, campgrounds & RV parks have wifi, but it may not be good enough to stream video (and if you do, you're probably hogging all the bandwidth.  Not a good way to make friends with your neighbors.)

Step one was switching to T-Mobile so we could take advantage of their Binge On that allows unlimited streaming of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, NBC Sports, YouTube, Pandora and more without using your data allotment!  (According to Netflix, a movie or TV show can use 3-7 GB/hour!)  (NOTE:  We are grandfathered into their older Simple Choice Plan.  We pay $35/phone with a 6 GB data plan per phone & also talk, text, TETHERING and FREE international data where available {USVI, no?}--tethering may not always be available internationally depending on speed.  Their current plans don't use the term "Binge On").  Read more about Binge On and check out their channel list:

Caution:  According to T-Mobile, AppleTV, Roku, Chromecast or gaming systems may not work with Binge On.  

Step Two, connect TV to streaming device:  There are various ways to connect a laptop/iPad to a TV but my goal was to have the audio & video in one cable with the highest quality possible.

All modern televisions have HDMI inputs, and it’s currently the best way to connect any device to a TV.  HDMI delivers superior audio and video in a lightweight cable that’s easy to connect and tuck away.  

We have a Mac laptop, so the best port available for audio and video is Thunderbolt (also called Mini DisplayPort).   

Cable:  The HDMI to Thunderbolt cable we purchased was $11 on Amazon (check reviews.  Our first cord broke immediately and we had to return it).  I originally purchased a 6 ft cord but the laptop now resides next to the TV (see above).  I think I also read shorter is better as far as deteriorating video quality?  (Homework.  You can research that on your own.)

(Adapter:  If we had a HDMI-to-HDMI cord, then we could have purchased a HDMI-Thunderbolt adapter.  For iPhone/iPad, you need an HDMI cord and the appropriate Apple Digital AV Adapter, 30-pin or Lightning.  Read the reviews to make sure it will work with your iPhone/iPad model)

Step Three, set up:  Attach HDMI cable (and adapter if necessary) to TV and laptop.  Use the TV's remote to change TV input to HDMI.  You should see your laptop screen on the TV!

(Tether laptop/iPad to phone with T-Mobile Binge On access)

Sound Settings:  Your laptop may not automatically set up for sound.  On our Mac, we have to choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Sound, then click Output.
Once the laptop is connected to your television, you should see the same window on your laptop displayed on the television. If you don't, then you should check that "Display Mirroring" is turned on.

On our Mac, we Open 'System Preferences' and click on 'Displays'. Two windows should appear, one with 'Built-In Display' (that's your MacBook's screen) and a second one for your television. Focus on the second window and click the 'Arrangement' tab. Ensure that a tick is placed in the box marked 'Mirror Displays'. The display should now appear on your television (if it still doesn't, you may need to check the connection and the settings on your television).

For your laptop, try an internet search of "(laptop name) display mirroring" or "(laptop name) & hdmi settings".

Adjust screen size/resolution:  Our main RV TV is a Sanyo 32" Wide Screen LCD HDTV.  The picture resolution is 1366 x 768.  My laptop is 1490 x 900.  Close.  I can go into Preferences then Display to adjust the resolution so it doesn't look funky.  (Check out the specs page of your owner's manual.  You can also download the manual after doing a quick internet search on how to determine what model tv you have.  It's probably on the back of the tv and may also be buried in your settings somewhere.) 

Luckily, Netflix & Amazon have increased their selection dramatically since we left the States.  Here's what we are currently watching:

Amazon Prime $99 (30-day trial.  Also two-day shipping).  You can buy or rent movies here, but these tv shows are free with Prime:  Last Man Standing, Blue Bloods, Downton Abbey, Justified, Modern Family, Bosch, Under the Dome, Grimm, Grey's Anatomy.

Netflix $9.99 for HD, free month trial.  (Check out their Low Data Use setting that can reduce to 0.3 GB/hour, if you don't have Binge On).  LONGMIRE!, Friends, Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Grey's Anatomy, Blue Bloods, NCIS.

Hulu:  7 day free trial then $7.99/month (limited commercials) or $11.99 (no commercials).  Rizzoli & Isles, Seinfeld.

NBC Sports, Tour de France $30 for 1-month of coverage ($1/day)

CBS Access:  $5.99/month, free 7-day trial.  Big Bang Theory, Elementary, Mike & Molly, Mom, Person of Interest, NCIS, Blue Bloods (also available on Prime & Hulu)

YouTube:  You can purchase episodes of Big Bang Theory?!  I'm not sure what else is available.  Although, The Colonel has been known to DJ from the music available here.

NOTE:  Apple Music is included in Binge On, but apparently Apple movies/tv shows aren't?  Be careful--don't get click happy.

Not having a remote to control the laptop was annoying until I learned a trick from my brother-in-law--wireless mouse and wireless keyboard!  Now The Colonel can control the TV from anywhere in the living area without getting up!

NOTE:  Some of the above doesn't work out of the country including Binge On (it DOES work in Puerto Rico), NetFlix (not in the Bahamas) & Pandora.  You can still download with Amazon Prime & Netflix while out of the country.  On the boat, we can use our Apple TV to watch what we've downloaded to the iPad. 


  1. Life was so simple when we only had four channels and a manual channel changer...
    Our TV is so complicated I can't even run it.

    1. Before we sold our house, it reached a point where I needed help to watch a yoga CD! Our receiver died and I never got the hang of the new one. Didn't know which button to push! (And I'm a techie!). The Colonel still makes fun of me--you can handle the TV! You're a girl!