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June 15, 2017

5 Tips to Get the Best Streaming Experience

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This is a guest post from Chris Brantner of CutCableToday.com

Streaming services have rapidly gained in popularity the last few years. They offer seemingly never-ending content for subscribers, including TV shows, movies and even streaming tons of live sports.

Unfortunately, all that content goes to waste if you have a bad streaming setup. You might think the only things you need to do are set up your Wi-Fi, subscribe to a service and begin streaming, but there’s much more you’ll want to do.

Make sure you take the right steps to ensure your setup is fine tuned for optimal streaming quality. That way you can avoid the disastrous scenario of waiting for the stream to buffer right as a huge play is breaking out while you’re streaming an NFL game. Here are five tips to help you get the best streaming experience: 

1. Determine what internet package you need

One thing that most people don’t realize is that you don’t need shockingly fast internet speeds for an ideal streaming experience. If you have one device streaming in high definition, you’ll need just 5Mbps (megabits per second) of download speed. With multiple devices, this can go up to 25Mbps.

In one case, this information can improve your streaming experience if you realize you don’t currently have fast enough internet speeds for your streaming needs. But, another benefit is you hopefully recognize there’s no need to overpay for that blazingly fast download speed, when a fraction of the cost will work just fine. This can save you some serious dough, which you can use to put toward better ways to improve the rest of your setup.

2. Pick the right internet provider 

There is no one answer to who the best internet service provider (ISP) is for everyone. The best option varies for each person and can easily change based on your location or the internet speed you decide you need. After figuring out your desired internet speed, you should shop around and compare ISPs.

Sometimes you’ll find a great offer from a competitor of your existing ISP, or you can even find a great offer that exactly meets your streaming needs. For example, some ISPs don’t offer packages with download speeds as low as 5Mbps. You might find another provider that has the lower package, which can once again save you money that you can spend elsewhere.

3. Get a good router and upgrade it regularly

Wifi in general is usually the key problem in most people’s streaming setups. A router is the key tool that will make or break your experience. This isn’t the place to skimp because even though your internet speed meets your needs, your router might not be delivering that to your devices.

You should get a solid router and make sure to upgrade it regularly. An upgrade is recommended about every two years. This could either mean you buy your own router and replace it every couple of years or just trade in the router you rent from your ISP for the latest version.

4. Set up your router correctly

Now that you have your router, you need to make sure you set it up properly. You should place the router in the center of your home. This increases the chance your Wifi will reach all of your rooms and minimize the chance of dead zones. Additionally, you should keep your router out in the open and off the floor to reduce any interference.

5. Improve your Wifi with a whole-home Wifi system

A whole-home Wifi system promises the improved Wifi experience the 21st century demands. Instead of having one access point, your purchase gets you multiple devices. You then set up each device throughout the house, which work to extend and amplify your Wifi service. This reduces any chance of dead zones. The market is new, but there are already a bunch of great options.

Whole-home systems work especially great if you have a room where you can never seem to get strong service. It can let you seamlessly stream ESPN in the basement, while someone else is binge-watching a show in the living room. Some of the most popular whole-home Wifi systems are Eero or Google Wifi.

Bonus Tip: Easily mirror your streams to your TV

AirParrot is an incredibly helpful software tool for anyone who likes to stream. This won’t impact the speed you’ll be able to download your streams, and it’ll add a ton of flexibility to your streaming experience. You just need to download AirParrot 2 on your laptop (PC or Mac). Then, you can wirelessly send whatever you’re streaming on your computer to your big screen. Stream all of your services in the Firefox or Chrome browser and you can then connect to your Apple TV or Chromecast.

Now you have all the information needed to improve your streaming setup. You’re ready for a top-notch streaming experience that’ll make all your friends jealous as they sit and watch the buffering icon.

April 13, 2017

How to stream NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs and MLB

This is a guest post from Chris Brantner of CutCableToday.com

Sports fans are able to enjoy multiple playoffs and a fresh new baseball season in April. It wasn’t long ago that fans were forced to have cable to watch their favorite sports. These days, the exact opposite is true. With the right streaming services, you’ll be able to watch your favorite sports and won’t be subjected to another unnecessary, overpriced cable bill. 

Beyond the Masters tournament, the three big sporting events of April are the return of Major League Baseball, the NHL playoffs and the NBA playoffs. If you’re a cord cutter, you can watch these events with the various streaming services outlined below.

Major League Baseball is underway

Baseball starts around the country in April. Everyone that loves baseball is hopeful for their team and ready to see them play some ball. If you’re ready to watch your favorite teams but don’t have cable, there are plenty of options to do it.

DIRECTV NOW: With DIRECTV NOW, packages start at $35 and include a minimum of 60 channels. You’ll have access to some local channels, regional FOX Sports Channels, FS1, TBS, MLB Network and multiple ESPN channels. In short, you have just about everything you could need to watch baseball. Most streaming devices work with DIRECTV NOW, though Roku is not yet supported. A free, one-week trial to check out the service is available!

Sling TV: Sling TV’s $25/month package offers more than 40 channels. You’ll have ESPN, TBS, FS1, FS2, FOX (in select markets) and many other channels. ESPN and TBS both regularly air games, so that’s a definite plus. FS1 and FOX also air plenty of games throughout the year. You can stream Sling TV on a wide variety of devices, including Xbox One and mobile devices. Like other streaming services, a one-week trial is available.

PlayStation Vue: PS Vue packages start at $30/month and include at least 45 channels. They offer a variety of ESPN channels, TBS, FOX (in select cities) and FS1. Plenty of other channels are included, as is the ability to add additional sports channels. Vue works on Roku, iOS, Chromecast and other devices. A five-day trial is available.

fuboTV: With fuboTV, the basic package is $35/month. One of the cool features here is the cloud-based DVR that will allow you to record games! Channels included are FS1 and FS2, NBCSN, regional FOX Sports and CSN channels, and numerous other channels. You receive a seven-day free trial at the start of your membership.

The NHL Playoffs run two months

It’s finally time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. If you’re a sports fan, you shouldn’t have to miss a minute of the action. Here are some of the best ways to stream the playoffs.

DIRECTV NOW: If you order the “Just Right” package for $50/month, you’ll have access to NBC (in select markets), CNBC, NBCSN and USA. These are four must-have networks when watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. If you upgrade to the “Go Big” package, you’ll also have access to NHL Network!

Sling TV: Choose Sling TV Blue ($25/month) to watch NBCSN, USA and NBC (select markets or on-demand). You can also add the Sports Extra bundle to add NHL Network and several other sports channels. 

PS Vue: It’s just $30 to get NBC (select areas), NBCSN, CNBC and USA. On the downside, PlayStation doesn’t offer NHL Network. On the plus side, it does have a cloud-based DVR so you can record the games you aren’t home to watch. Also keep in mind, you can use your Vue credentials to log into the NBC Sports app which will get you a stream of the NBC matchups.

fuboTV: fuboTV also has the cloud-based DVR offering, and it offers the four main channels you’ll need to watch the playoffs (NBC, CNBC, USA and NBCSN). Like Vue, you won’t have access to NHL Network here, but the four networks mentioned will allow you to stream most games. fuboTV costs $35/month after the free trial.

NBA Playoffs are about to begin

March Madness has ended, and now it’s time for the NBA playoffs. There are a few ways that you can watch basketball online. Keep in mind, the NBA Playoffs will go through June.

DIRECTV NOW: The starter package that is $35/month offers ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and some local channels like ABC in select areas. If you want NBA TV, that’s available in other packages. You can stream the content using many devices, but Roku access is unavailable. Make sure to sign up for the free trial to watch some basketball for free. 

Sling TV: All you need this time around is the $20 basic channel. This will give you access to ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3. Having ESPN3 gives you online access to the ABC games. You’ll also have TNT. If you want NBA TV and ESPNews, you can add them in the sports package an additional $5.

PlayStation Vue: Vue has access to all the channels that you need to watch every NBA game this season. Packages start at $30/month and you’ll have a cloud-based DVR so you can record the games you would otherwise miss.

As you can see, barring a few exceptions, most of these streaming services allow you to watch all the best sports action not only this April, but all year long!AirParrot-2-grey.pngPro Tip: How to mirror the stream to Apple TV or Chromecast
Download AirParrot 2 on your Mac or PC if you are watching the game on your computer. AirParrot will allow you to wirelessly mirror the live broadcast from your computer directly to an Apple TV or Chromecast. 

Use your Sling TV, DirecTV NOW, PlayStation Vue or fuboTV account in the Chrome or Firefox browser to stream the event. Then open the AirParrot software and select your browser as the “From” option. Select your Apple TV or Chromecast as the “To” option. This will allow you to experience all the action on the big screen. 

The image below was taken from the AirParrot menu and shows you how to do this. You simply select your browser or application, then select where to send it. 

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Learn more about the AirParrot 2 desktop mirroring/streaming app.

 

March 6, 2017

The Top Live Streaming Service for Cord Cutters

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Before most people cut the cord, they spend their time worrying how they’re going to live without their favorite cable channels. However, the truth is that there are more ways than ever to live stream cable channels without actually having a cable contract. With that in mind, here are some of the best live streaming options that are currently available. 

Sling TV: Sling TV is known for being the oldest live streaming service on the market. It costs the least, starting at $20 for more than 30 channels, and it specializes in the skinny bundle. The skinny bundle is a small number of popular channels with less filler channels and a lower price than cable.

Sling TV also offers small add-on bundles that give you a chance to personalize your package. Most bundles are $5/month and include options for kids programming, sports, news, lifestyle and other topics. Sling TV works on most streaming devices including some smart TVs, gaming consoles and more traditional options like Roku and Chromecast.

Channel options vary based on the package you choose. However, popular channel options include AMC, A&E, ESPN, CNN, Lifetime, TNT and TBS. Through package add-ons, you can also add channels like TLC, USA, HBO and even some local channels. Learn more in this complete Sling TV overview.

PlayStation Vue: PlayStation Vue came out after Sling TV but did not offer nationwide service until the beginning of 2016. The service offers four packages ranging from the Access Slim ($45/month) with over 45 channels to the Ultra Slim ($64.99/month) with over 90 channels (including HBO, Showtime and other premium content).

PlayStation Vue offers a solid interface. It’s easy to find your favorite channels and your favorite shows. They are also one of the few services to currently offer a cloud-based DVR, so you can record events like the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities to ensure that you don’t miss a thing. 

PlayStation Vue is also one of the only streaming services to include mobile restrictions. You can watch Vue on Chromecast, mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV and Roku, but when you sign up you’re tied to your home location. From that point, it can prove difficult at times to watch shows away from home.

As for channels, Vue has a lot of the same offerings as Sling, but they also offer FOX News and some local channels either on-demand or in live stream depending on location. However, Vue did recently lose Viacom channels.

DIRECTV NOW: Owned by cable giant AT&T, DIRECTV NOW is one of the newest names in live streaming. Packages start at $35 a month and go up in size and price to $70/month. As this service comes from a cable company, it’s probably going to be reminiscent of most cable packages. The packages here are large with tons of channels, the guide is what you’d expect if you had cable and it provides an overall pleasing experience. The package may cost a little more, but they make up for it by offering HBO for $5.

Each package includes everything from the prior package plus additional channels. The list of available networks includes AMC, Lifetime, Syfy, ESPN, FS1, FOX News, MSNBC, USA and tons of other channels. HBO and Cinemax are the only add-on options, but they are the cheapest in the streaming world at $5/month per channel. You can watch DIRECTV NOW on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and mobile devices. For a full look at DIRECTV NOW, check out this overview.

fuboTV: fuboTV is a good choice for any huge sports fan. The service just expanded offering a full cord-cutting solution with packages starting at $34.99 a month. It’s a great service for soccer fans (you get the entire FOX Soccer Plus platform), local sports, European soccer leagues, golf, MLB, NBA… you name it.

As for regular entertainment channels, you’ll have access to channels like FX, USA, FOX News, Lifetime, Viceland, MSNBC, Oxygen and a wide variety of other channels.

Like PlayStation Vue, fuboTV has a cloud-based DVR, so whether you’re watching sports or TV, you can record what you might have otherwise missed. fuboTV is a great way to watch those games that you were unable watch with the other services.

Other services will be out this year, and you can expect the market to continue to fill with choices in both the live and on-demand streaming circles. For now, these are your choices and all of them are worthwhile considerations given that they are much cheaper than cable. These services truly do offer all the substance with less of the fluff.

Happy streaming!

The Top Live Streamng Service For Cord Cutters is a guest post from Chris Brantner of CutCableToday.com

June 23, 2015

5 Things You Need to Know at ISTE 2015

More than 17,000 education professionals and edtech thought leaders are set to visit the City of Brotherly Love next week. That can only mean one thing: ISTE 2015 is finally upon us.

The largest edtech conference and expo of the year has something for every attendee. Educators will discover how to infuse their classroom with the latest, trendiest learning technologies from the most revered names in education. But where do you begin? 

A conference this large can be a little daunting, so we’ve compiled the following tips to help make your experience as valuable as possible:

  1. ISTE is a marathon – don’t sprint!
    The first morning of ISTE is like opening day for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Everyone is eager to become immersed in the most comprehensive edtech conference on the planet. So many vendor displays to visit. So many old friends to catch up with. So many great presentations to attend. It can be dizzying and, eventually, exhausting. Much like Phillies fans after the big game, you’ll be ready to pass out after day one at ISTE if you don’t pace yourself. 

    Make a schedule or game plan before you arrive. This will help you manage all of your to-do items. Remember that you don’t have to accomplish everything in one day. That would be like trying to see all of Disney World in a day. It’s just not possible. You will have plenty of time to visit the vendors, socialize and see quality presentations to get the most out of your ISTE experience.

  2. The tool must always be secondary to the goal
    You will come across a lot of cool new tools during your time at ISTE, but not all of them will be a good fit for your classroom. Incorporating new technology without a corresponding plan for its use in the classroom can negatively impact the student learning environment. It’s important to know exactly how you’re going to implement a new piece of technology, how it will interact with other classroom technologies and how it will yield value to your students. Doing a little research and planning before you purchase new classroom tech will ensure that you are effectively managing your class time and school budget.
  3. Stay hydrated
    This sounds like a no brainer, but it really is a big deal. Do you live life by the coffee-in-the-morning, beer-in-the-evening philosophy? That could be problematic at ISTE. We recommend bringing a refillable water bottle to keep yourself feeing awake, refreshed and healthy during the day. 
  4. Think socially
    Utilize the social media outlets at your disposal to get the most out of your ISTE experience. Industry professionals in attendance will flood the social sphere with ISTE dialogue on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can’t be everywhere at once, but your fellow ISTE attendees will be in all of the other great sessions and presentations you can’t attend.

    Curate a list of hashtags (#ISTE2015 and #edtech) to follow all of the action. Social media is a great way to pick up speaker quotes, tech innovations, best practices and event details that you would otherwise miss.

  5. Meet new people
    This one is simple, but it might be the most important. ISTE gives you the opportunity to become absorbed in an education culture with thousands of like-minded professionals. Take the time to get to know some of them. If you are going to ISTE with colleagues, make a conscious effort to split up from time to time. You can learn a lot from interacting with peers. Their experiences become your experiences, and you just might make a lifelong connection.

Good luck at #ISTE2015! Check out what Squirrels is giving away at the conference this year (hint: it’s iPads).

Let us know about some of your memorable ISTE experiences in the comments section! What do you enjoy most about ISTE?

June 16, 2015

AirParrot 2.2 for Mac and Windows is Available

An substantial update to AirParrot 2 is available! AirParrot 2.2 brings hardware encoding support to Macs running 10.9 and later. This update also brings Windows UI improvements and a better experience to touch devices like tablets.

You can update AirParrot 2 by selecting “Check for Updates” from the AirParrot 2 preferences menu. Additionally, you can download the new version from the AirParrot 2 download page.

Mac 2.2 Release Notes:

  • Hardware encoding - AirParrot 2 now uses available hardware encoding to capture screens and transcode media files at much lower CPU usage when streaming to Apple TV and Chromecast (OS X 10.9 and greater)
  • Audio streaming to AirPort Express generation 1 (version 1) now works properly
  • The power button and play/pause buttons are now disabled when not mirroring/streaming
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes and stability improvements

Windows 2.2 Release Notes:

  • AirParrot 2 now better supports running on tablet and touch devices
  • AirParrot 2 now appears in the “Open With” context menu when right clicking a media file in Explorer
  • Audio streaming to AirPort Express generation 1 (version 1) now works properly
  • Pressing Control+L will now automatically reconnect to the last receiver
  • The power button and play/pause buttons are now disabled when not mirroring/streaming
  • Improved the “select an area” mirroring UI to be easier to use and better looking
  • Improved general mouseover, scrolling and tap areas (especially on touch devices)
  • Resolved a crash when rotating a Windows tablet while mirroring the screen
  • Resolved an issue that could cause media streaming to drop after roughly 30 minutes of streaming
  • Resolved an issue that caused duplicate devices, when connected via Quick Connect, to appear when re-opening the AirParrot 2 menu 
  • Resolved an issue that caused AirParrot 2 to stop sending sound when the AirParrot 2 volume slider was adjusted in the Windows sounds mixer
  • Resolved an issue that caused device names with special characters to appear mis-formatted
  • Resolved an issue that caused progress indicators to remain after disconnecting from a device while media streaming is connecting
  • Resolved a memory leak when using Classic Capture mode on Windows 8
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes and stability improvements

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. We create high-quality, budget-friendly screen mirroring and device management software that’s compatible with today’s most popular devices. To date, our software can be found in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, businesses and homes. Follow our blog for all the latest product updates, Squirrels news and technology insight!