Cord Cutter Wrap-up

Time to wrap this up. Looking at the old entries I see I actually started the process at the end of February. At least, I can say it wasn't a snap decision.

In the end, the combination the Channel Master DVR for local, over the air channels and the Playstation Vue service (Via Roku) won out over cable TV.  While I didn't start this process as a money saving effort, the savings were to significant to overlook. The Channel Master DVR is an expensive device, but the savings will easily pay for it in just a few months.

I want to clearly say Cox provided good service and is a good corporate citizen so I didn't switch out of anger, dissatisfaction or a rate change. I'm still using the Cox Internet service and not considering another provider.

Lessons Learned:

As I said when I started, if you want to sit back and channel surf nothing is as convenient as Cable TV. Using multiple providers for different groups of programming is a little more work.

The quality of the over the air signal is completely dependent on your location, the quality of your antenna, and will vary with the weather. What works for me may not work for you.

After working with computers for a few decades, I have a pretty high frustration threshold. Things I see as minor inconveniences might drive others over the edge.

This is a rapidly changing marketplace. Be prepared to change.

GS 

PSvue for Now....

Just a short note. After spending 10 days comparing the two, I prefer PSvue over Sling.

This really comes down to personal preference. They both have very similar channel lineups and neither has a very good user interface. For me, PSvue came out on top because of the better DVR like experience. More shows were available with the Pause/FF/RW feature.

For now, at least, the subscribe/cancel process is fairly easy and switching between services only takes a few minutes. So these decisions aren't chiseled in stone.

gs

PSvue and Roku

Sony has service, similar to SlingTV, that I had not tried since it was only available on the Playstion game console.

The Sony PSVue service is now available on the Roku, Chromecast, and several other streaming devices. I've been taking advantage of the free trial offer for the last several days. So far, I like it. I was on the road to Sling when PlayStation Vue became available thru Roku. Three things pushed me towards PSVue.

  1. Many "togo" tablet apps validate with PSVue just as they do with the cable providers.
  2. Programs on PSVue seem to have more availability of FF/Pause/RW controls.
  3. It seems like PSVue does a better, more consistent job of making past episodes of shows available. (I could be wrong on this, but it's working for the shows I watch.)

Sling was better on a couple of points 

  1. Sling has BBC America. I'll miss that.
  2. Sling has several Fox Alternate Sports Channels.

One important point. The PSvue interface on the Roku is not great. Typical of Sony devices, it tries to do to much, with too many options. It makes the Sling interface look brilliant by comparison. I often resorted to using the Channel Guide on the PSvue tablet or phone app.

Bottom Line, the combination of PSVue and HBOnow is significantly less than the cost of cable. So, the cost of the ChannelMaster DVR+ is offset in a few months. 

Just one other note -

The ease of use and consistent quality level are still much better with cable.  But the difference in price is getting hard to ignore. 

At some point soon I'll need to make a decision.

GS

Re-visiting Sling!

Just before I was going to cancel my 90-day test of Sling, they threw me a curve. There are now two major combinations of channels. One is based on ESPN and other Disney properties, the other on Fox/NBC.  There is lots of overlap, and things change every so often. Rather than trying to keep up with it here, you'll just have to go to the Sling site and check the current offerings for yourself.

Sling also redesigned the user interface for the Roku app, my main viewing device. It's better. You can now designate favorite channels and shows. This makes getting to the content you care about much easier. It's still not great, but it's much better if you take the time to designate your favorites.

At the same time they've added support for the Apple-TV. I'm still a Roku/Chromecast user and don't have any significant investment in stuff purchased through the Apple store. If you're in that ecosystem, however, it may be a better choice for you. 

I've made a couple of updates to my previous "So Long, Sling" post, eliminating a lot of the detail that's out of date. And I've switched to the FOX based offering for now. In addition to the Fox Sports channels listed on the Sling website, there are also 3 additional alternate feeds. As an example, tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals are on the main Fox Midwest feed and the Kansas City Royals are on Midwest Alternate 1.  However, both games are blacked out because of agreements with the cable carriers. If you're a sports fan, this may make a difference to you. That, of course is accurate as I write, but Sling changes from time to time. It's always a good idea to check the current offerings before signing up.

So, as I said in the beginning, I'm slowly chipping away at cable TV. Two things are pretty obvious. As cable goes away, the price of the Internet offerings is going to go up, as will the price of internet service. Long term, this isn't going to be about saving money. It will be more about choice and flexibility.

GS 

 

So Long, Sling

I was really rooting for SlingTV. I'm very happy with the ChannelMaster DVR+ for watching and recording local, over the air channels. So I was hoping the Sling TV would be an inexpensive way to fill in a few of the cable only channels that I still enjoy.

The best I can say is that Sling is almost there.  It has a great price and reasonable selection of content at $20/month, but it's not a replacement for the convenience of cable.  I'll break my opinion into 3 sections, Picture quality and performance, user interface, and content.

For those of you that don't care about the details, here's the bottom line. I'm glad I tried Sling, but it doesn't fit my requirements. I'll be canceling when the trial ends. I wouldn't tell you not to try it. Sling might fit your needs. Make sure you have relatively new equipment, a decent home network and Internet service, and can live with the inconsistencies I describe below.

Picture Quality and Performance.

Using Netflix as a standard of comparison, I got the best results when viewing with a Roku 3, the ChannelMaster's SlingTV channel or my laptop computer. Just as good as Netflix. But, in order to maintain that level of performance I had to restart my router every 2 or 3 days. Normally, I would only do this every couple of weeks regardless of my home network performance.

On the smaller screens of a tablet or phone, quality was acceptable with minor dropouts and buffering. Nothing too annoying.

Sadly, when viewing with an older Roku 2 or a ChromeCast picture quality was poor. The resolution was seldom high enough to read text and the stream suffered frequent buffering. As a test, I would immediatly switch to Netflix. In each case Netflix, Amazon Prime, and MLB-TV would work fine. It's pretty obvious the problem is with Sling.

So, with the newest devices I had reasonably good results, but frequent router restarts were necessary.

User Interface -

Sling attempts to use the same basic interface on all devices. I give them an A for effort. The user interface is OK when using a touchscreen or mouse.  It's annoying when using a typical TV remote control.  The best I can say is UBF. Ugly But Functional.  UPDATE: July 2016 - The Sling UI for Roku has been significantly redesigned. It's still not great, but it's better. The addition of a way to designate Favorite channels and Shows makes it easier to quickly navigate to things you regularly watch.

Content - 

The channel lineup isn't bad. It's delivered as described. Features are the problem. At a minimum, I expected to be able to pause and restart any show. Some channels give full control over Fast Forward, Rewind and Pause; other give no control at all. The size of the library of previous shows is also inconsistent.  Some details follow.

Channel Feature Breakdown

UPDATE: July 2016 - I removed the detail that was previously listed here. Sling is in flux, with new channels, features and offerings. I'll just say that the features and number of past shows available vary by channel. Some channels will let you have full control of pause, fast forward and rewind, others have no control and still others have a subset of controls.  It's similar with the library of previous episodes. Some channels have a lot, others have very few. You'll have to make use of the trial period and check the channels that are of interest to you.

There you have it. Overall, it's close to what I want, but not quite there. If I had full control (or at least pause) the live stream, and each channel had a library of at least the last couple of days of shows, it would have been a hit.

GS

A Brief Guide....

Merritt's guide - 99 cents on Amazon

Merritt's guide - 99 cents on Amazon

This week was going to be a review of Sling-TV, but Sling pitched a curve ball. They upgraded the apps to improve performance on a few devices and changed the interface a bit. So I'm re-testing Sling.  

In the meantime, Tom Merritt has published the guide to Cordcutting you see in the photo. It's only 99 cents, available for the Kindle or Kindle app.  If you're a prime member you can borrow it for free.

At 18 pages it's good, concise advice for people exploring the options. Tom speaks with authority. He and Brian Brushwood have hosted a weekly podcast on this topic for several years. You can subscribe to a video version on YouTube or listen to the audio version on your favorite podcatcher.

If you're more than curious, the book is worth a buck. The podcast is free.

GS

The DVR Solution?

Channelmaster DVR+

Channelmaster DVR+

The next phase of entertainment is often described as "What you want, when you want it, where you want it."

For me "where" is the TV in my family room. And the most convenient way to control "when" has been the cable provider's DVR.  Of course, that isn't going to work for my antenna fed, over-the-air channels so I looked at a few other alternatives.

Some of my more technical friends have built very nice recording systems by using devices from Hauppage in conjunction with a PC.  They work well, but require more work than I'm willing to do.

The devices from Tablo and SimpleTV looked interesting, but both require other parts, pieces, and an ongoing subscription for the program guide or services.

Tivo is another popular option that has a good reputation and a nice feature set. The user interface does well with reviewers, but the ongoing cost of the program guide (or high, one-time, lifetime price) steered me away.

In the end I decided to try the DVR+ from Channel Master. The purchase price is higher than other solutions, but there are no on-going fees or subscriptions. The program guide, sourced from Rovi, is the same guide used by many of the cable providers. Dual tuners provide for simultaneous recording of two programs. You can see the basic features on the website or in this 60 second promotional video. 

In addition to a good antenna, you'll need a wi-fi connection to download the program guide and software updates.

With wi-fi connected you can also use the DVR+ to view YouTube, Pandora and a handful of Internet channels. These are integrated into the program guide, but you can't record them. They can be viewed while your tuners are busy recording OTA programs. There are about 30 other Internet channels, most of which I hid so they wouldn't clutter up the program guide. If you like watching shows about technology, you'll be happy the TWiT (This Week in Tech) network is included. So are ABC and WGN news rebroadcasts.

With an additional subscription, Sling-TV can be added for access to ESPN, AMC, TBS and a few of the more traditional cable channels. Again, these can't be recorded. I'll talk about Sling in another post.

Most of the Internet channels aren't anything to write home about. If you don't have a Smart TV you'll likely want another device like a Chromecast or a Roku for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or other similar sources. (Again, more about those later.)

Rather than describing the setup procedure here, I'm just going to say it wasn't difficult, taking about 30 minutes. Half of that was the download of a software update. If you're interested in the details take a look at this 10 minute video. I already had found a good place for my antenna. If you haven't, you'll need to add some time for that.

It's not cheap. You'll likely end up spending between $350 and $450 depending on the model and accessories you purchase. That sounds like a lot, but if you're offsetting the cost of a monthly cable bill, it could pay for itself in just a few months.

Think carefully about this. It will only be as good as your antenna signal. If the ChannelMaster breaks, even if it's under warranty, you'll need to send it back for repair or exchange.  If your cable provider's DVR breaks, you just take it to an office and exchange it for a new one.  

How does it work? So far, it has worked great. The OTA recording has been flawless. The buttons on the remote are well laid out. It runs only very slightly warm, using less than 10 watts, significantly less electricity than the cable company DVR (which you could use as a small space heater).  It's surprisingly small at 8" deep, 10.5" wide and only 1/2" tall.   

My single complaint is minor. Only the program name is shown on the program guide grid view. You'll need to press the Info button to see detailed program information. On the plus side, there is more detail than has been shown on my cable provider's version of the guide.

One warning about on-line reviews. Several, though generally positive, are old and contain incorrect information. A few incorrectly complain that the DVR+ couldn't record only new episodes in a series. One describes an older style remote control that seems to have been replaced by the nicer remote that was included with mine. Some said the HDMI cable wasn't included, but a cable was included in the box with my DVR+. So evidently Channel Master responded by fixing objections that were in earlier reviews. That's a good sign.

After a week of use, I'm very happy with the Channel Master for it's primary intended use as an over-the-air DVR. If you're satisfied with OTA and the included Internet Channels it could be a complete solution, but I was surprised Netflix, Hulu and some other streaming channels weren't included on the program guide. They seem to be everywhere these days. If you don't have a smartTV that already includes streaming channels, they can easily and economically be added to any TV with a $35 Chromecast or other streaming device. That does add one more device to the list.

This has already gone on too long. I'll talk about SlingTV and some other options next time.

 gs

First, Find a Rabbit...

Cheap rabbit ears. Ugly, but Functional.

Cheap rabbit ears. Ugly, but Functional.

...and borrow his ears.

So let's look at one really inexpensive alternative - Get some rabbit ears.

Everything I say here depends on your location. You may be able to get more or fewer channels.  A friend of mine has installed a rooftop antenna with a rotor. He receives channels from about 150 miles in all directions. That's too much effort for me. If I can't do this with a cheap indoor antenna, I'll stick to cable.

Rummaging around in the garage and basement I found some old TV antennas. I found two pairs of rabbit ears and a couple of those old "bow-tie" UHF antennas that used to come with the old analog TVs.  I also bought a "FlaTenna" from ChannelMaster.com for $10.

After connecting the rabbit ears to the TV and running a channel scan here's what I found. 

  • KMTV (CBS) and two SD (standard definition) sub-channels, LAFF-TV and Escape, that are mainly old re-runs.
  • WOWT (NBC) and two SD sub-channels. WX is 24-hour weather and re-runs of the WOW news. WOWTA, old reruns.
  • KETV (ABC) and one SD sub-channel, METV. Again old re-reruns.
  • CW15 (CW) and two SD sub-channels, ThisTV and Grit, old reruns.
  • NET (PBS) Channel 26 and 1 HD and 1 SD sub-channel, all Public TV programs.
  • Fox42 (FOX) and two SD sub-channels of old re-runs, MyNet and Comet.

The Good:

  • 17 Channels, including all major networks, with good reliable signals for the cost of a cheap antenna.
  • The major channels look better using the antenna than they do on the cable box.

The Maybe Good/Maybe Bad:

  • The sub-channels are mostly not HD. So you'll need to live with the old standard definition. 
  • The movies and re-runs are old, but each channel has it's theme. You may actually like them.
  • There is no program guide, so you'll need to use something like the TV Guide app on your phone. You could also use the guide published in the newspaper. (Remember that?)
  • Of course there is no DVR. This is appointment TV. You need to be there when the show is broadcast. (I"ll post my experience with a nice, over-the-air, DVR after I've had more time to evaluate it.)

Not-So-Good:

  • Indoor antennas are finicky. Those of us that remember the days before cable tv will remember all of the playing around with rabbit ears. The number and quality of channels will depend on antenna placement.  Sometimes moving the antenna only a few inches will determine if you'll receive a channel.  With digital TV, there is no "fuzzy reception." You either get the channel or you don't. 
  • The FlaTenna ($10) or the pricier Leaf antenna ($40 and up) work as well or slightly better than the rabbit ears and are easier to conceal. 
  • An outdoor antenna will likely work quite well, but most of us aren't going to go through that trouble and expense. There are also some better, more expensive, indoor antennas. But really, this option is about cheap and easy, so I'm not going down that road.

Bottom Line:

If you don't need a DVR, it won't cost you much to play with this option. This will work for the TV in my office. When this experiment is over, at least one cable box is heading back to it's provider.

As I said in "Goodbye to CableTV?" this isn't primarily about cost. But I'm not opposed to saving a bit of money. That's one box rental fee (roughly $100/year) that comes off the cable bill.

Goodbye to Cable-TV?

So, I'm probably about to cancel my cable TV subscription.  Why?

I've been a cable subscriber for over 30 years. Unlike what I hear from some other subscribers, my service has generally been good. And, while it costs more than I'd like, that's not the issue.  So why am I doing this now, at a time when there is more good programming available than ever?

A few weeks ago we had a rare service outage. I connected an old set of rabbit ears to the television and was struck by the higher quality of the broadcast signal.  In order to provide a large number of channels within the capacity of the cable, providers need to compress the signals. This causes a reduction in quality.  Not a huge deal, but it jump-started my thought process.

With a cheap set of rabbit ears I receive 20 channels. Some of these channels are nothing but old re-runs, but then again, so are many of the cable channels.

I reviewed my viewing habits by checking the list of recordings on my DVR. Most of what I regularly record is on the free broadcast channels. The remainder are on Netflix or Amazon PrimeTV that is part of the Amazon Prime membership. 

All of my TVs already have a ChromeCast or a Roku for convenient viewing of Internet based TV services. 

So,

  • I'm not really taking advantage of all of the cable channels I pay for.
  • Broadcast channel quality is higher.
  •  Much of what I watch is delivered via the Internet anyway.
  • Oh, I'm retired now. I'm much too busy to watch a lot of TV.
  • Other than a few sporting events I record almost everything I watch.
  • I'm quite aware of the options to cable TV. I've been reading articles, listening to the experiences of others, and have been listening to the "CordKillers" and other similar podcasts for quite some time.  So I'm not beginning this experiment without some foundation.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to experiment with a few alternatives before making a final decision.  Here are my criteria.

Can I get all or most of the programming I want to watch?
Free over-the-air programming is nice, but how do I record it?
Will the cost go down? I certainly don't want to pay more.
For me, TV is for relaxation, watched during down-time. How much work will I need to do this?

One thing you can say about cable TV, it's convenient. Plug in the DVR/cable box and you're done. It's all there and you don't have to do much work to watch.  So if you're one of those people that can't figure out which remote control to use, or need someone else to set the DVR, just forget it. Stick with cable.

Otherwise, watch this space for the next few weeks.

JMRI - Getting Started

Example created with JMRI PanelPro Control Panel Editor

Example created with JMRI PanelPro Control Panel Editor

This post is for my fellow Model Railroaders and probably won't make much sense to anyone else. 

On Saturday, February 6, 2016 I gave a presentation "JMRI PanelPro, Getting Started" at the local NMRA division meeting.

The JMRI software is well documented and well supported. But there is a lot to learn and many find it difficult to negotiate the myriad details.

I learned, a long time ago, when introducing something new and complex, it's initially important to leave out the details about options, whistles and bells. Most of the time the details only confuse people that are trying to get started.

At Saturday's meeting I tried to outline the basic concepts of PanelPro, the parts and pieces needed to make it work, and give a few pointers on places to find more information.

The presentation included several links to additional resources that I found helpful.  If you weren't at the meeting you probably won't find it very useful. But go ahead and download a copy if you'd like.  

Download a PDF copy of the presentation here.

 

Pick Up Your Toys

Hard working crew on a very cold windy day.

Every kid gets told to put away their toys when they are through playing with them. I guess it even happens in the adult world.

Well, I'm sure they didn't think of it as "playing." It looked much more like hard work.

These guys are removing the train tracks from a short bridge near the parking lot of the Nebraska Furniture Mart. An older industrial area is being converted to retail space and the train tracks are in the way.

They were earning their pay. It was a very cold, windy day. It didn't look like fun. It looked like the job would take a while, they were moving one or two ties at time to the back of a large truck.

I snapped this photo with my phone from the NFM parking lot while sitting comfortably in my heated car.

gs  

 

Sidetracked

These N-scale hoppers cars are only about an inch high.

While I was in the hobby shop buying a circle of track to go around the Christmas tree I spotted these little N-scale coal hopper cars. They are  painted and lettered for our local power company. Since I had worked there for so many years it would have been wrong not to buy a couple. I only bought two, even though there were several available, each with different road numbers. I rationalized the purchase by telling myself that these little trains would make great subjects for macro photography.  

Taking a quick photo of that exquisite little lettering for this article was interesting. The camera (yeah, it was my phone) was only about 4" from the car sides. Even so, it's a fairly severe crop of the original image. Given that the photo was taken with the built in flash of the phone, it's not horrible.

So why did I use the phone? It was in my pocket and I didn't want to take the time to set up a tripod or lights for a larger camera. Think of this photo as a sketch. Artists and designers often make pencil sketches of their ideas before committing time to a bigger project. In this case, setting up the camera, tripod and lighting would take a while.  "Sketching" several ideas with the phone (or a small compact camera) is quick and involves little setup time. There are obvious differences in lens focal length, minimum focusing distances and lighting angles. But, it's a quick way to test a concept. It's a technique I've used quite often in the early stages of projects.

GS

 

Working High

Just another day at work.

I'm not sure what these guys were doing, but the job must have been made more difficult because of the height.

The base of that lift truck is about 4 stories lower than you see in the photo.  It's in an alley behind the parking garage. 

In the detail photo you can see the fellow on the lift passing what looks like a pipe to the fellow on the roof. 

This all took place several years ago and I never did hear what they were doing.  It must have been necessary, you don't go through that much trouble on a whim.

Passing the pipe. 

The original photos aren't very good.  they were taken through an office window with an old compact camera.  The sun had not fully risen and the photo was a bit dark and very noisy. 

I used Lightroom to make it a bit lighter, reduce the noise and highlight the two workers. 

Lightroom couldn't do anything about the dirty window that I shot through.

Like so many of my photos, these are not fine art,  I'm glad a took a minute to make a couple of snapshots to remind me of the unusual activity of the day. 

gs

 

The Christmas Train

HO Switcher with Christmas train in tow.

I decided to run a train around the base of a small Christmas tree this year. Rather than wait until the Christmas rush, I stopped by a local hobby shop and picked up enough track to make a small circle of the appropriate size this weekend. The newer tracks are much nicer than what we had when I was kid. The solid roadbed is built-in and the connectors actually hold the track firmly together. It went together quickly and I spent a few minutes "testing" the whole setup. It's going to work very well.

While I had a moving target I decided to shoot a few short video clips. I hadn't used the video editor in Photoshop CC yet and this looked like a good chance to give it a try. Normally, it takes a while to learn something new in Photoshop, but this was unusually straight forward.. Here is a combination of three clips from the iPhone.

Notice how the brightness changes as the white car goes by. That is the iPhone auto-exposure system reacting to the sudden change. The shakes have nothing to do with the phone. That was me trying to hold things steady without a mini-tripod. 

Not great art and nothing to write home about, but it only took a few minutes to put together. I'm pleased enough with the simple video tools in Photoshop CC that I won't be upgrading my video editing software. Now I guess I'll go back and read the manual.

GS

 

Tailgating?

September, 2005

I'm not sure if this guy was heading to the game or just wanted to be prepared for a grill emergency.

This fellow was in front of me for about a mile. Eventually, we stopped at a red light and I pulled the camera out of the glove box. (2005 again, pre-cell phone cameras) The lights turned green just as I snapped the shutter.

The Lightroom spot removal tool works for more than just spots.  It didn't do a horrible job of removing the license plate number.   gs

Over Two Billionaires Served...

Petrow's restaurant, Omaha, 2005

Here's one from 2005 I almost forgot about.

As the story is told, both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are bridge players. Gates was in town for a tournament and the two billionaires decided to stop by this restaurant for lunch. Take that MacD.

Petrow's seems to be doing well. They've been around for over 50 years but they're not stuck in the past.  The building has been remodeled since this photo was taken.  Now you can order on-line and they even have an app for your phone.

Grab shots like this were the reason I always carried a camera. It would be a couple of years before the first iPhone was released and camera phones of the time were pretty bad.  These days I'm more like everyone else and just use my camera phone.

gs

 

Signs of Winter

Building a Christmas.

Like they say on HBO, "Winter Is Coming."  With wind, rain and an overnight low in the 30s I actually turned on the furnace yesterday.

I was at local shopping center last week and snapped this photo of the Christmas tree being installed.  I guess if the Halloween candy hits the store shelves before Labor Day it only follows that the Christmas decorations go up before Halloween.

This is a fairly severe crop from the center of a cell phone photo, so the quality is less than great.  Lightroom did a fair job of removing the noise, but you can still see it if you look at the full screen version.  With a bit more work I suppose this photo could actually look pretty good. But, in this case a snapshot isn't worth the trouble.

gs

 

A Pond in the Shade

Omaha - Henry Doorly Zoo

A shaft of light pierces the trees and illuminates a small spot near a pond at the zoo.

This is a photo I took several years ago with an early digital camera.  The difference between the bright and shaded areas is quite large.  The camera did a pretty good job of recording everything given the limited capabilities of cameras from that time period.

I recently reprocessed the image with Lightroom 5.  It did a better job of teasing out more detail than previous versions of software.  Only the brightest highlights of the sun shining on the birds have lost detail and the remainder of the photo looks much better than the original conversion.  The detail in the shadows is significantly improved.

If you have older raw files you may want to pick a few of the special photos and try reprocessing them in more recent software.  You may find the camera captured more information than you thought.

gs

 

Sunrise

View from the Breakfast Table

For many years I enjoyed watching the sun rise as I drove to the office. Now that I work from home I enjoy watching sunrise even more.  

I don't miss the morning rush to get out the door in time to beat the traffic. Mornings now progress at a slower, more natural pace with time to enjoy breakfast and plan the day.  

Yesterday was the first day of Autumn. The leaves will soon start to change color and drop from the branches.  The days are growing shorter. As we move towards Winter the sun will rise later and, for a while, breakfast will take place under artificial light.      

gs

 

 

The Last Drop...

December, 2001

The container was almost empty so I gave it to my granddaughter. I guess it was similar to getting to lick the spoon after it's used to mix cake batter. At any rate, she was enthusiastic about finishing the last few drops of ice cream that were clinging to the sides of the container. 

Technically, there are a lot of things wrong with this photo. It's a little overexposed. The bright towels in the upper left draw your eye away from the main subject. The zoom lens was set too wide, making her hand look almost as big as her head. The big cup in the foreground is distracting.

In this case the overexposure was fixed after the fact and the distracting bright background and cup were slightly minimized with a vignette. Not much can be done about the perspective. That's the type of thing you need to think about before taking the photo.  

Sometimes you just grab the camera and shoot. I think that may be real meaning of "snapshot."  

gs