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  #1  
Old 09-23-2010, 12:41 PM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Getting rid of cable TV: questions and pitfalls

My wife and I recently decided, as part of a broader austerity campaign, to get rid of cable TV. After a few days of seeing how well we got reception using just a simple antenna, we've decided that we should be able to pull this off.

I estimate that 90 percent of what we watch is on broadcast TV: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. We haven't had pay channels in years, and almost all of what we watch on cable is more of the "I have some time to kill -- let's watch an hour of Mythbusters" variety than appointment viewing. The only exception to this is Mad Men, our absolute favorite show.

Right now the plan is to rely exclusively on broadcast TV (fed into our TiVo) and downloads. Ideally, I would like to do so legally, but since, again, this is all about austerity, I'm already going to concede that we'll be hitting BitTorrent now and then, too.

Have any Dopers done this? I was kind of surprised to not see a recent thread on it, since it's a concept that seems to be catching on among more tech-inclined folks. Anyway, some questions for those who have:
  1. For stuff you downloaded, how much of it was legal?
  2. We live on the 3rd floor of an apartment building in a densely populated neighborhood. Our antenna works pretty well, but sometimes cuts out if you move near the TV when certain stations are on. It's basically just a set of rabbit ears -- any indoor antenna recommendations?
  3. We have NO interest in watching TV programs on our computers but are interested in devices that hook up to our TV and allow us to watch online programming on the big screen. I'm eyeing the Boxee Box (or hacking the new Apple TV to run Boxee) but I wanted to see if there were other options.

And beyond those questions, I would just love to hear people's general thoughts on doing this.

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 09-24-2010 at 05:54 PM.. Reason: Changed title at suggestion of OP
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  #2  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:02 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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First of all, once the mods see this they'll either close it or ask posters to not reply to the piracy aspect. It's not condoned or allowed on this board, regardless of poster's personal positions on it.

You still have TiVo, right? If not, I suggest you get Sezmi.

Get an Apple TV for $100. You can get a season subscription to Mad Men and it streams to your TV. This would fulfill your requirement to watch everything on the TV and nothing on your computers.

Or if you're really austere, and are willing to watch Mad Men on your TV, you can get a Roku for $60 (IIRC) and stream Netflix to your TV. Note that you'll have to (legally or illegally) obtain Mad Men online.

So Tivo + Apple TV or Roku + Itunes Mad Men subscription = solution

or

Sezmi + Apple TV or Roku + Itunes Mad Men or something else = other solution

Last edited by lindsaybluth; 09-23-2010 at 01:03 PM..
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  #3  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:09 PM
Bosstone Bosstone is offline
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I have some experience, but your #3 cuts me out. I watch all my TV on my computer.

That aside, unless you're a complete junkie and your TV habits span several channels including obscure ones, sticking to LEGAL media through the internet isn't difficult at all these days. Hulu provides the vast majority of popular currently running shows, and many networks provide streaming episodes on their own sites.
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Old 09-23-2010, 01:09 PM
Yarster Yarster is offline
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Well, how the files for your favorite shows end up on your computer is your business, but I have a laptop and TV with a VGA in. I hook a VGA to VGA cord between the laptop and TV (as you would if you were hooking to a projector, and viola! free movies and TV programming, often without the commercials.
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Old 09-23-2010, 01:14 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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Check out this feature article from last month's Wired about getting rid of cable and all of your options.

ETA: Note that it's 7 pages long. The layout of the article and the pager at the bottom don't really lend themselves to noting the length of the article.

Last edited by ZipperJJ; 09-23-2010 at 01:15 PM..
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  #6  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:19 PM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Originally Posted by Yarster View Post
Well, how the files for your favorite shows end up on your computer is your business, but I have a laptop and TV with a VGA in. I hook a VGA to VGA cord between the laptop and TV (as you would if you were hooking to a projector, and viola! free movies and TV programming, often without the commercials.
I've thought about this option (my wife has a Macbook) but that would deprive her of her laptop at times when I want to watch something she doesn't... though I suppose that leaves her free to use the family desktop. Still, she wouldn't have access to her files/photos/music, so I see it being a pretty awkward arrangement.

What would be great is an affordable device that lets me view Hulu on the TV, but I know Hulu has been kind of dickish about this.

Oh, and Mods, I'm not seeking any comments on the how's of TV piracy. If anything, I'm trying to really find out how to make my setup as legal as possible.
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  #7  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:22 PM
Stormcrow Stormcrow is offline
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What would be great is an affordable device that lets me view Hulu on the TV, but I know Hulu has been kind of dickish about this.
Affordable is in the eye of the beholder, but the PS3 ($299 nowadays) does blu-ray playback and netflix. I'm not sure if it does Hulu yet, but I'm sure it will eventually. Oh, and it does games if you like that sort of thing...

Oh and BTW - what kind of TV and connections do you have for it? That might help with some ideas.

Last edited by Stormcrow; 09-23-2010 at 01:24 PM..
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  #8  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:24 PM
fluiddruid fluiddruid is offline
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99% of my watching is through Netflix instant streaming and the occasional Hulu visit. If you need to keep up with your shows, it might not be a good fit for you, but I vastly prefer watching a season of a show at my own pace, and Netflix has more than enough different choices to keep me entertained. More than cable does, in my opinion, and for $8ish a month, you can't beat it.

Personally I'm fine with watching on my computer, but if I want to stream to my TV, I use my PS3. If I didn't have one, there are many other choices.
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  #9  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:36 PM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
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Originally Posted by SpartanDC View Post
What would be great is an affordable device that lets me view Hulu on the TV, but I know Hulu has been kind of dickish about this.
Affordable is in the eye of the beholder, but the PS3 ($299 nowadays) does blu-ray playback and netflix. I'm not sure if it does Hulu yet, but I'm sure it will eventually. Oh, and it does games if you like that sort of thing...

Oh and BTW - what kind of TV and connections do you have for it? That might help with some ideas.
We already have a Wii and a Blu-Ray player (paying for our own wedding is 95 percent of the reason why we need to cut costs, but purchases like that didn't help things, even if we use them plenty), so I'm not going to get a PS3 at this point. Our TiVo has Netflix streaming built in, thankfully. I expect we'll be using that quite a bit.

My TV is from 2006. It has one HDMI input (Blu-Ray), one DVI input (old Apple TV) and two component inputs (TiVo and Wii, respectively). All sound is wired through an A/V receiver. The only thing there that's really replaceable is the Apple TV, which I would replace with a similar streaming-type device. I know I could get a home theater PC for that, but I think those are a bit out of my price range, and I don't know how well they'd play with our all-Mac household.
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  #10  
Old 09-23-2010, 01:36 PM
control-z control-z is online now
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Roku is the simplest, especially if Netflix and Amazon video on demand will satisfy your needs.

I would think when Hulu starts offering paid content they would be wise to partner with a hardware provider, whether it be Roku, AppleTV, or something else.
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  #11  
Old 09-23-2010, 02:15 PM
Jet Jaguar Jet Jaguar is offline
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Originally Posted by SpartanDC View Post
We have NO interest in watching TV programs on our computers but are interested in devices that hook up to our TV and allow us to watch online programming on the big screen. I'm eyeing the Boxee Box (or hacking the new Apple TV to run Boxee) but I wanted to see if there were other options.
My laptop has an S-Video output. I just hook that up to the TV, and a cable from the headphone output to the RCA audio jacks on the TV, and play the video in full screen mode on the laptop. Works fine, and doesn't need anything beyond a couple of cables.
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  #12  
Old 09-23-2010, 02:20 PM
otternell otternell is offline
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ok dumb question here:
I don't have cable, thus no cable internet. DSL is not in my area. What internet options do I have for getting streaming video in order to hook it up to my TV? BTW - that Wired article is very good - thanks for linking!

ETA: my internet for my computer is currently a wireless Verizon modem, with the appropriate software.

Last edited by otternell; 09-23-2010 at 02:23 PM..
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  #13  
Old 09-23-2010, 02:30 PM
Fried Dough Ho Fried Dough Ho is offline
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I do #3, but my AppleTV utilizes XBMC and Nito. I have Boxee but didn't like the hack.

Also the new AppleTV has not connectors (I was thinking of upgrading) and I like to have my AppleTV connected to TerraStations for my vast collection of movies.

I have had a lot less crashes with XBMC than I did when I was using Nito entirely. I never could get Boxee to work at all (it kept crashing).

I LOVE my AppleTV and I haven't had Cable in three years...
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  #14  
Old 09-23-2010, 02:34 PM
control-z control-z is online now
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Originally Posted by otternell View Post
ok dumb question here:
I don't have cable, thus no cable internet. DSL is not in my area. What internet options do I have for getting streaming video in order to hook it up to my TV? BTW - that Wired article is very good - thanks for linking!

ETA: my internet for my computer is currently a wireless Verizon modem, with the appropriate software.

Pretty much no options. If you have Verizon Mobile Broadband, I think you are confined to a HARD 5GB per month limit. An hour of good video will be 1GB.
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  #15  
Old 09-23-2010, 02:44 PM
otternell otternell is offline
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I figured that was the case.
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Old 09-23-2010, 03:04 PM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Originally Posted by Jet Jaguar View Post
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Originally Posted by SpartanDC View Post
We have NO interest in watching TV programs on our computers but are interested in devices that hook up to our TV and allow us to watch online programming on the big screen. I'm eyeing the Boxee Box (or hacking the new Apple TV to run Boxee) but I wanted to see if there were other options.
My laptop has an S-Video output. I just hook that up to the TV, and a cable from the headphone output to the RCA audio jacks on the TV, and play the video in full screen mode on the laptop. Works fine, and doesn't need anything beyond a couple of cables.
But S-video doesn't support HD resolutions, right?

And ZipperJJ, thanks for the Wired article! It's a handy reference for future planning, if nothing else.
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  #17  
Old 09-23-2010, 03:24 PM
Justin_Bailey Justin_Bailey is offline
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We already have a Wii and a Blu-Ray player (paying for our own wedding is 95 percent of the reason why we need to cut costs, but purchases like that didn't help things, even if we use them plenty), so I'm not going to get a PS3 at this point. Our TiVo has Netflix streaming built in, thankfully. I expect we'll be using that quite a bit.
If you've got a Wii, spring for PlayOn (http://www.playon.tv/playon). You'll be able to stream shows from Hulu and a bunch of other sites for $30 a year. Super cheap for that kind of service and no messing with the computer.
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  #18  
Old 09-23-2010, 03:36 PM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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We live on the 3rd floor of an apartment building in a densely populated neighborhood. Our antenna works pretty well, but sometimes cuts out if you move near the TV when certain stations are on. It's basically just a set of rabbit ears -- any indoor antenna recommendations?
find out what your real channel numbers are. in the USA the high power stations are all digital, they may identify with their old analog channel number but might be on a new channel. many stations moved from VHF (2 through 13) to UHF (14 to 51). you want to know the real channel number, you can find this from newspaper or from your tv tuner setting.

rabbit ears (rods) are for 2 to 13. loop or bow tie are for 14 to 51. a strong signal for the other channel group can be received by either antenna type. there are single unit combination antennas of both types as well as a small passive combiner (UVSJ) to combine single antennas. you do not need any special digital antenna, you need an antenna type for your channel segment.

indoor antennas will be affected by reflections from walls or people and also blockages. position antenna for best results, maybe not right next to set, maybe near ceiling.
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  #19  
Old 09-23-2010, 06:51 PM
dzero dzero is offline
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I don't recommend this for various reasons that I'll skip right now, but there are a lot of media players that are designed to store media files and play them back on your TV. If you want to see what's out there - here's what they have on newegg. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...-_-mediaplayer - just note that many require that you either install (internally) a hard drive or hook one up externally. Also, some may be fussy about the types of files they can play.

another thing to note is that even for something like Hulu, there are ways of downloading the video so you don't have to view it on your computer. I don't think it's illegal since I think all you're doing is capturing the video stream rather than breaking any DRM, but obviously it's something Hulu and others don't appreciate.
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  #20  
Old 09-23-2010, 08:46 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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I figured that was the case.
Wait wait, can't you get one of those wireless broadband cards that plug into your laptop? Guys, help me out here, it's like $100 and then $40 a month or something? There are definitely options out there; nobody should have to survive on a modem.

ETA: one of them is the Virgin Mobile MiFi. $150 and $40/month, but there are also other options
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  #21  
Old 09-23-2010, 11:47 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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First of all, once the mods see this they'll either close it or ask posters to not reply to the piracy aspect. It's not condoned or allowed on this board, regardless of poster's personal positions on it.
lindsaybluth has it right, it's definitely not OK to talk about any kind of illegal downloading here. SpartanDC, we'd really rather you hadn't brought it up, but since nobody's elaborated on it in the thread, we'll leave it open for now. Everyone, please keep anything more about illicit downloading out of this thread, or it'll be closed.

No warning issued.
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  #22  
Old 09-24-2010, 01:03 AM
AmunRa AmunRa is offline
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I figured that was the case.
Wait wait, can't you get one of those wireless broadband cards that plug into your laptop? Guys, help me out here, it's like $100 and then $40 a month or something? There are definitely options out there; nobody should have to survive on a modem.

ETA: one of them is the Virgin Mobile MiFi. $150 and $40/month, but there are also other options
I think by "Verizon Modem" otternell meant Verizon mobile broadband, the problem is Verizon (and all other US carriers) cap those cards at 5gb per month: makes them about worthless for any sort of web based video.

otternell: Can't you get cable internet without cable TV, I know it was possible several years ago with Comcast, but things may have changed.
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Old 09-24-2010, 08:21 AM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus View Post
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Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
First of all, once the mods see this they'll either close it or ask posters to not reply to the piracy aspect. It's not condoned or allowed on this board, regardless of poster's personal positions on it.
lindsaybluth has it right, it's definitely not OK to talk about any kind of illegal downloading here. SpartanDC, we'd really rather you hadn't brought it up, but since nobody's elaborated on it in the thread, we'll leave it open for now. Everyone, please keep anything more about illicit downloading out of this thread, or it'll be closed.

No warning issued.
The leniency is appreciated. If you want to remove the "p word" from the thread title to dissuade further discussion of that, please do.

I found out yesterday that we're under a contract with our cable company right now that makes dropping just cable somewhat cost prohibitive, but I'm looking at ways of canceling out the fee they'd charge or we could just wait until the contract expires and pursue this.

And I'm still going to keep the antenna, at least in the living room. The picture is noticeably better than the compressed cable signal. Still tinkering with the right setup though -- after thinking I finally had everything just right, ABC started getting all blocky last night.

Since we have to keep cable, I think I'm just going to return BOTH antennas we got, and exchange them for one of the "nicer" (i.e. more expensive) ones at Best Buy. Maybe that'll solve the living room reception issues. Unfortunately, due to the fact that we rent and just the configuration of our apartment, we can't place an antenna near the ceiling or anything like that.
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  #24  
Old 09-24-2010, 09:28 AM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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I found out yesterday that we're under a contract with our cable company right now that makes dropping just cable somewhat cost prohibitive, but I'm looking at ways of canceling out the fee they'd charge or we could just wait until the contract expires and pursue this.
If you get TV and Internet from the same place, simply downgrade to only have the internet service. FYI, we're doing this (today actually, since our bill cycle is over Monday) and it's actually cheaper to have basic cable + internet than it is to just have internet, so be sure you ask "what would it be if I kept basic cable?" I have the shit-eating devil, known publicly as Comcast.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmunRa View Post
ETA: one of them is the Virgin Mobile MiFi. $150 and $40/month, but there are also other options
I think by "Verizon Modem" otternell meant Verizon mobile broadband, the problem is Verizon (and all other US carriers) cap those cards at 5gb per month: makes them about worthless for any sort of web based video.[/QUOTE]

The MiFi with the $40/month plan is unlimited. There's at least one more mobile card that is also unlimited.
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Old 09-24-2010, 09:39 AM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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If you get TV and Internet from the same place, simply downgrade to only have the internet service. FYI, we're doing this (today actually, since our bill cycle is over Monday) and it's actually cheaper to have basic cable + internet than it is to just have internet, so be sure you ask "what would it be if I kept basic cable?" I have the shit-eating devil, known publicly as Comcast.
That's exactly what I tried to do. We have a "triple-play" bundle and the provisions of that mean we're charged a $150 termination fee if we drop any component of the service. Like I said, I could mitigate that -- I'm selling an extra TiVo box we have, for example -- or just wait until march. We use the slightly-less-shit-eating devil known as RCN (actually, this is literally the only time I've had a problem with them, and a contract is a contract, so, yeah.)
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  #26  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:08 AM
Snickers Snickers is offline
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It might have already been mentioned and I missed it, but the Wii can connect to and stream content from Netflix. I believe you need to contact Netflix and get a disc to set it all up. (I have a Wii, but don't use Netflix. Sorry I can't be of more information.)

It's not 1040 HD, if that's a concern to you. I believe it only comes in at 780. Me - I don't think I'd care.
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  #27  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:13 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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We cancelled our cable and never got around to doing anything with an antenna, so we don't have any broadcast channels.

We have a DVD/Blu-ray player and a computer hooked up to the TV, which is extremely easy to do.

We also have Netflix - DVDs and through the computer Watch Instantly.

The vast majority of what we watch these days is on Watch Instantly. Now that new TV is back on I'll watch some on Hulu. Anything we can't get legally those ways, we get on DVD through Netflix or the library.

Total recurring cost: $18 a month for our Netflix plan, which could be cheaper if we didn't want as many DVDs at a time.
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  #28  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:20 AM
otternell otternell is offline
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I definitely am not the brightest bulb in the pack when it comes to this kind of stuff.

My verizon wireless is a usb modem (because we use it on multiple computers, including desktops) and it requires software to operate. I'm pretty sure its unlimited downloading though, so does this just mean that I need to connect my computer to the something (?) to the tv in order to make streaming work for me?

Its so confusing to me - I'm great at using computers at work, and in general, but when it comes to A/V stuff in conjunction I'm just lost. It would be so cool to start streaming netflix though - but not on the computer, that's not where I want to watch shows.

ETA: and years ago, when we were remodeling that part of the house, we had them remove the cable box from the house, it was in the way and its complicated as to why, but it was also a big F-U to the provider. So no, regardless of the fact that we don't have a cable subscription, I would rather walk on burning coals than let them put their crap back on my house.

Last edited by otternell; 09-24-2010 at 10:23 AM..
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  #29  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:25 AM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
If you get TV and Internet from the same place, simply downgrade to only have the internet service. FYI, we're doing this (today actually, since our bill cycle is over Monday) and it's actually cheaper to have basic cable + internet than it is to just have internet, so be sure you ask "what would it be if I kept basic cable?" I have the shit-eating devil, known publicly as Comcast.
That's exactly what I tried to do. We have a "triple-play" bundle and the provisions of that mean we're charged a $150 termination fee if we drop any component of the service. Like I said, I could mitigate that -- I'm selling an extra TiVo box we have, for example -- or just wait until march. We use the slightly-less-shit-eating devil known as RCN (actually, this is literally the only time I've had a problem with them, and a contract is a contract, so, yeah.)
Mmm that's too bad. We basically pushed to quit our TV cable because of horrible, persistent tiling (where the picture gets blocky). 4 visits later and things have improved slightly but not to where it should be.

Otternell, so you have the MiFi possibility mentioned above, and you also have the Clear Spot 4g, which is only $100 for the device and $40/month, unlimited.

Also using a Roku box for $60-70 (cheaper than a Play Station 3, XBox 360, a Wii, or a blu-ray player) you can stream Netflix movies to your TV.

Last edited by lindsaybluth; 09-24-2010 at 10:26 AM..
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  #30  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:40 AM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Originally Posted by otternell View Post
My verizon wireless is a usb modem (because we use it on multiple computers, including desktops) and it requires software to operate. I'm pretty sure its unlimited downloading though, so does this just mean that I need to connect my computer to the something (?) to the tv in order to make streaming work for me?
In theory, you might be able to set up your computer to share its connection and create an ad-hoc network that any of the devices mentioned in this thread could connect to. I'm not sure how well that would perform in the real world though.

I know there are such things as 3G routers, too, which look like a normal router but are connected to (in your case) Verizon's network. From there, you can connect devices to it by either cable or Wi-Fi. But I don't think that, even on the best day, that will work for watching online video. It would probably be good for streaming videos that are already stored on your computer to some other device (like an Apple TV).

I like the Roku box, especially the new models, but for reasons I cannot fathom, you can't use it to stream files stored on your own computer. It's like all these manufacturers are in some cabal where they agree to omit one key feature from each of their products so that no one product can dominate the market.
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  #31  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:55 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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We got rid of it two years ago. Its coming back though - the Twins are in the playoffs and one thing that is frustrating is lack of sports - if you care. We don't, with this one exception.

Most things we get through Netflix instant stream via Roku - so we are watching old TV shows a lot. Right now the kids are hooked on Futurama. It was Xena. I watch a few things over the internet - Daily Show clips and such. We have a Neuros box that has the TV work as an internet browser (has boxee on it), but the quality of the signal and buffering aren't great on it, so it seldom gets used. It does have a large hard drive and that is where downloaded video goes. The kids were the TV watchers, and I couldn't stand paying for hours of Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Those shows are now gone from our lives - we don't load them up for the kids.

The Roku and a Netflix subscription are really the keys for us. And the fact that we don't care about what is on in a current sense....five year old TV series and old movies are fine.
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  #32  
Old 09-24-2010, 11:09 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Look at the back of your TV and see what kind of connections you have. Then look at the back of the computer you want to use for it and see what kind of connections you have there. You'll need to get one to the other, and it depends on what you've got. Since my boyfriend built our media computer for the purpose, we've got DVI out, which means we just run a cord from that output on the computer to the TV (it's to the second HDMI slot, which also says "DVI") and an audio cable from the jack on the computer to something on the TV. It's actually very simple and we get a fantastic picture.
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  #33  
Old 09-24-2010, 11:37 AM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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We got rid of it two years ago. Its coming back though - the Twins are in the playoffs and one thing that is frustrating is lack of sports - if you care. We don't, with this one exception.
I care that the Twins are in the playoffs, but not in a good way -- I'm a Tigers fan.

As for sports, the stuff that isn't on broadcast TV, I figure I can use ESPN3 streaming, friends and bars for that. Not living in the same market as the teams I root for means I'm pretty used to only seeing them on TV rarely. This is definitely something I gave a lot of thought to before we decided to pursue this course (and which we will continue to pursue once our contract expires.)
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  #34  
Old 09-24-2010, 11:53 AM
otternell otternell is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
Look at the back of your TV and see what kind of connections you have. Then look at the back of the computer you want to use for it and see what kind of connections you have there. You'll need to get one to the other, and it depends on what you've got. Since my boyfriend built our media computer for the purpose, we've got DVI out, which means we just run a cord from that output on the computer to the TV (it's to the second HDMI slot, which also says "DVI") and an audio cable from the jack on the computer to something on the TV. It's actually very simple and we get a fantastic picture.
Thanks - I'll get the husband involved (A/V is his department, computers are mine) and see if together we can get it done with 1 brain!

Last edited by otternell; 09-24-2010 at 11:54 AM..
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  #35  
Old 09-24-2010, 11:57 AM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
Look at the back of your TV and see what kind of connections you have. Then look at the back of the computer you want to use for it and see what kind of connections you have there. You'll need to get one to the other, and it depends on what you've got. Since my boyfriend built our media computer for the purpose, we've got DVI out, which means we just run a cord from that output on the computer to the TV (it's to the second HDMI slot, which also says "DVI") and an audio cable from the jack on the computer to something on the TV. It's actually very simple and we get a fantastic picture.
If you don't mind my asking, how much did it cost your boyfriend to build that? I've given some thought to this, but it's never really been my thing. I'm fine endlessly tinkering with software and adapters to get two devices to work with one another, but actually building something from scratch seems like a lot to take on (and I worry how well such a device would play with the Macs in our household.)
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  #36  
Old 09-24-2010, 12:40 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Let me think - he had a couple parts he used from other computers (he does video production, he's always fiddling with the computers and swapping parts around) but mostly we bought it all from newegg. Maybe a year ago, maybe two? We had had one before but were having problems with it. Cost us a couple hundred bucks, tops. I doubt as much as 300, and we could have spent less if we hadn't wanted a case that would fit into our entertainment system.

Having a computer instead of a Wii or a Roku box or whatever does make it a lot more flexible - for example, when he wants to show me a commercial he's made for a client we can pop in a flash drive, or whatever. And of course you can download things directly to it, in a completely legal manner. It was also very helpful when I went about installing Linux onto another computer, since my laptop is a Mac - it was just a little easier to burn the CDs I needed on the media computer.

It's pretty self-contained - there's never really a reason for it to talk to our other computers, so compatibility hasn't been a problem.
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  #37  
Old 09-24-2010, 12:44 PM
BobArrgh BobArrgh is offline
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We got rid of our cable a while back. We get broadcast (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and a few local stations). We have Netflix for $9/month, which gets us 1 DVD out at a time, plus all the Instant Watch stuff we can handle. We stream content from Netflix using our Wii.

We are currently watching "Parenthood" off of Hulu, and plug a laptop in to the TV when we want to watch Hulu.

I am putting together a Linux computer that will be used to stream the Hulu content, so my wife will be able to use the laptop when we watch Hulu. This project is going slowly, and I am using old/donated parts. I am running Open Suse Linux 11.2 on a Pentium III. A buddy gave me an AGP video card which works OK, except the picture is not as smooth as I would like. I only have 512 (2 @ 128 and 1 @ 256) MB of memory in the computer, and the same buddy is sending me a 512 MB memory card. The computer can take up to 1 GB of memory, so with his card I will probably have to buy another 512 and get rid of the 128s and 256.

I plan on buying a wireless keyboard with a rollerball built into it. I also had to buy a fan, sound card, and DVD drive (reader/burner) for the computer.

So far, I am out about $50 for the entire thing, but the wireless keyboard will be about $70. I may also get a wireless network card for it. I hope to spend less than $200 on the entire thing. If I get to the point where the basic idea works but is just too slow, I will probably buy a better motherboard and processor to get the speed up.

The only thing I have missed not seeing this season was "Deadliest Catch". But, I will be able to catch it next year online.

Everything we have done is legal, without any piracy involved.
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  #38  
Old 09-24-2010, 12:55 PM
control-z control-z is online now
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I don't disagree that putting together a computer is a great idea, and is the most flexible option. But really, do you want to watch TV or do you want to fiddle with a computer?

I'm a computer nerd. Even so, I have computer time and I have TV time, they're separate. TV time is passive, I just want to chill out. My Tivo and Roku box never fail me. Keeping a PC running is going to be harder than keeping a Tivo or especially Roku (no moving parts!) running, I guarantee it. When you sit down to watch a program, you don't want to tinker with stuff, you just want it to work, and fast.
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  #39  
Old 09-24-2010, 01:34 PM
Atrael Atrael is offline
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I had a couple AppleTV's, and have replaced them with the Western Digital device . While the interface isn't as slick, it plays nicer with my NAS where all the movies are stored. The Apple used to drive me nuts with iTunes always needing to be updated, and leaving a computer on all the time with iTunes running just to watch a movie. I tried the hacks for the AppleTV, but I didn't find that Boxee or XBMC were any better since the NAS I have isn't a server, but just a network drive So getting the path to the movies was a pain. I like the WD, hooks up without any issues, sees my network drives, plays just about any format I could wish for, cheap, and plays HD movie files. We have two of the WD Live players, which are networked enabled, and cost around $130 or so, and two of the straight WD players, which I picked up for $75, those need a USB drive hooked up as a media source, but they work great for the kids rooms, where I want to strictly control what they watch. 300 movies available for them, but nothing on there I don't want them to see.

Oh, and Spectre of Pithecanthropus do ya'll consider getting a digital copy of an over-the-air broadcast that someone has put online to be piracy? Not trying to cause trouble, but to me that's an entirely different discussion than getting the latest movies that are still in theaters from online sources.
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  #40  
Old 09-24-2010, 01:37 PM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by control-z View Post
I don't disagree that putting together a computer is a great idea, and is the most flexible option. But really, do you want to watch TV or do you want to fiddle with a computer?

I'm a computer nerd. Even so, I have computer time and I have TV time, they're separate. TV time is passive, I just want to chill out. My Tivo and Roku box never fail me. Keeping a PC running is going to be harder than keeping a Tivo or especially Roku (no moving parts!) running, I guarantee it. When you sit down to watch a program, you don't want to tinker with stuff, you just want it to work, and fast.
I have to agree with you on that. While I get enjoyment out of tinkering, my wife does not, and I'm guessing that for me, the novelty would wear off after awhile. I'm very hopeful for the Boxee Box -- it can play local files, do Netflix streaming and aggregates the various web-based videos out there, including some of the TV networks. If they can get Hulu Plus and some sort of movie rental service on that thing (like Amazon VOD), then it's a dream machine and possibly a cable-killer.
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  #41  
Old 09-24-2010, 05:19 PM
Unauthorized Cinnamon Unauthorized Cinnamon is offline
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If you want to cancel the cable, try calling again a few times and seeing if different customer service reps give you different cancellation fee quotes. I don't know WTF these companies are doing, but we had this experience with DirecTV ($0, then $300, then $150 or something) and my friend just had the same thing with Time Warner. It's kind of like playing Press Your Luck!

We have a home theater PC that uses a Hauppage card to connect to the antenna and Windows Media Center to record shows. WMC also allows us to put our DVDs on the computer, which makes it a lot more convenient to watch them (and significantly reduces the clutter around the TV). Then of course we can just go online and watch Netflix or Hulu. (Or on one occasion bring up the local Chinese restaurant menu so everyone could pick what they wanted.)

I'm delighted to see that iTunes offers Dr. Who episodes not just for purchase at $2.99 a pop, but for rental (30 days, or 24 hours after you start watching) for $0.99 each. I'm really hoping that more cable shows become available in this way. I'd happily pay directly to watch True Blood even in a slightly delayed time frame, rather than having to wait for a whole frickin year for the season to come out on DVD. But I'm not going to buy cable, then buy HBO, just to watch one show.

Anyway, to give you an idea of how it works, we have to decide tonight if we want to catch up on Burn Notice or Warehouse 13 on Hulu, if we want to watch NBC's Thursday night stuff on the DVR, or if we want to watch an actual DVD of Fringe. If I want to fold laundry and be entertained before hubby gets home, I'll fire up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Watch Instantly, or perhaps Veronica Mars. We never feel like we're out of stuff to watch.
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  #42  
Old 09-24-2010, 05:53 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpartanDC View Post

The leniency is appreciated. If you want to remove the "p word" from the thread title to dissuade further discussion of that, please do.
I appreciate your understanding, and I'll do it now.
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  #43  
Old 09-25-2010, 10:53 AM
Sal Ammoniac Sal Ammoniac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpartanDC View Post
I found out yesterday that we're under a contract with our cable company right now that makes dropping just cable somewhat cost prohibitive, but I'm looking at ways of canceling out the fee they'd charge or we could just wait until the contract expires and pursue this.
This is why you should bag your cable. The bastards want you to pay them for not delivering a service to you anymore? Eff that, I say. I loathe the way the cable companies -- all of them -- treat their customers. Let them go bankrupt if they can't stop lying and cheating us.

People have made some great suggestions above, to which I would only add use your local library. I bet you can borrow the entire season's worth of Mad Men on DVD.
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  #44  
Old 09-25-2010, 11:24 AM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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If you do cancel cable, in two months or less, the cable company will start with the offers to try to get you back.

So cancel it, if you don't like it you will be able to reconnect, and I will bet it'll cost you less
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  #45  
Old 09-25-2010, 11:39 AM
Unauthorized Cinnamon Unauthorized Cinnamon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sal Ammoniac View Post
This is why you should bag your cable. The bastards want you to pay them for not delivering a service to you anymore? Eff that, I say. I loathe the way the cable companies -- all of them -- treat their customers. Let them go bankrupt if they can't stop lying and cheating us.
Generally, when you sign a contract that's worth a certain amount, say $50 a month for a term of a year, you owe the other party the full amount. Even if you decide you don't want the service after 3 months, you owe them a total of $600, since that's what you promised in the contract. Usually the cable company doesn't hold you to that standard, but will have a sliding scale termination fee, which presumably is written out in the contract as well.

But I agree with your overall premise - for years, I have maintained that Time Warner is The Devil, and DirecTV wasn't fabulous either. Production companies are going to have to suss out a whole new way of funding shows, because the traditional ways of watching TV are dying, in part due to the buttheadedness of the provider companies.
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  #46  
Old 09-26-2010, 10:35 PM
ladysorrowfree ladysorrowfree is offline
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We haven't had cable for a number of years, and don't miss it. We have Netflix. Between DVDs and streaming (legal) video from hulu.com, Netflix, etc., there isn't enough time to watch all the things I'd like to watch anyway.
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  #47  
Old 09-27-2010, 07:39 AM
ratatoskK ratatoskK is online now
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They had a good series of articles about this on the NY Times website over the past month.
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