Archive for category Movies

Cutting the (Cable) Cord Part 2: How I Did It

In Part 1, I described your options for cutting the cable cord. Here I disclose which option I went for and how I have it all set up.

But first, a couple of minor changes and additions to Part 1:

I’m sorry if you went to Part 1 looking for your options on how to cut a (literal) umbilical cord, post-childbirth. . . . Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not sorry. That post is way fucking cooler.

On a more serious note, there is one piece of equipment that I forgot to list in Part 1: An HDMI Adapter for your handheld devices and Tablets. It’s a last resort in case you are unable to stream to TV and absolutely must have it on your big screen TV. I’ve included it here.

Let me list a few of the goals I used to help me focus on getting this all right:

  1. I wanted a “whole home” solution, with the least amount of inconvenience. I wanted to eliminate or minimize switching TV inputs, and I wanted to access all entertainment in the same way on both TV’s in the house. Accessing the entertainment on devices was actually secondary for us.
  2. I wanted to minimize or eliminate the number of shows lost.
  3. I wanted to keep costs down by using equipment that I had on-hand where I could. I’ll have a cost list later in this post.

Here’s what it all looks like. Click here or click on the picture to see it Full Size:

GUACPostPart2

 

The List

Here’s what I eventually needed to pull this all off. Descriptions and links for these can be found in Part 1. Here I will be talking more about setup and the cost for each in rounded numbers (we’re not launching a rocket to fucking Mars here). You can also take a look at the Visio Diagram (above) I’ve provided:

  1. [Living Room] HDTV Antenna (Cost – $90.00) – You’ll have to experiment with the best location. Outdoors is ideal, the higher you can mount it the better, and line of sight to your most important stations is how you’ll want to aim it. This will take some experimentation. I had to mount mine indoors, which wasn’t ideal, but that’s the down side to renting. You’ll need to read your TV’s manual to figure out how to scan for stations.
  2. [Living Room] Coax Amplifier and Splitter (Cost – $50.00) – Why I needed this was due to an issue I encountered while implementing #3:
  3. [Living Room] Tablo PVR (Cost – $229.00) – OK, if you are going to detract from what I’ve done, this will probably be it. The Tablo (otherwise known as “TabloTV”) is what we’d call in the IT field a “Version 1.0 Product”. Not only is it Version 1.0 (new to market), but the phrase “Version 1.0 Product” is a euphemism in Software Marketing that means, “Please don’t expect all this shit to work.” If you’re ever in a meeting with a software vendor, that’s a red flag. I’m not saying it’s a dealbreaker, but it’s a red flag. Anyway, Tablo Support sucks, and their Android App crashes incessantly. However, it has three things going for it. (1) The PVR is flawless, (2) its Roku App is intuitive and enables live viewing of the HDTV Antenna in multiple rooms and (3) its iPad app is solid. To their credit, TabloTV sent a recent update (all I had to do was update after a prompt), and it seems more solid now. One issue I ran into was that the TabloTV app on Roku is 4-10 minutes behind Live TV. So I bought a Coax/Amp Splitter to go to both the RF input on the TV and one into the Tablo to record shows. To watch Live TV in the bedroom we have to use the Tablo App, and I guess we’ll get those important news updates 4-10 minutes later than everyone else.
  4. [Living Room] 300GB Sony USB Drive (Had on-hand) – USB Drive attached to the Tablo Set-Top box, for recorded shows. I know that isn’t much space, but I’ll scale up when I have to. We purge it all the time. 40GB is taken up by the Channel information, the rest is for shows. I read somewhere that an hour HD show takes up about 6GB. No idea if that’s true. Never checked. Running out of room on your DVR is quite the First World Problem so . . . zero fucks given really.
  5. Cheaper ISP (Cost – $50.00 a month) – I went with a more local-area Internet Provider. $125 Cheaper than Comcast.
  6. [Living Room] Roku 3 (Cost – $100.00) – Pretty much the most important part of Cutting the Cord. This brings it all together. This provides for Internet-based TV and is very convenient.
  7. [Living Room] Chromecast (Had on-hand) – Internet-based TV/Entertainment provided by Google but there are a lot of Chromecast-enabled Apps, even on the iPad/iPhone.
  8. [Living Room] Wireless Extender (Had on-hand) – Extends internet access to the Tablo.
  9. [Bedroom] Roku 2 (Had on-hand) – Brings everything together onto the Bedroom TV. Like I said, through the Tablo App we can watch Live TV or Recorded TV in the Bedroom. Everything else we can get through the Roku Apps, just like in the Living Room.
  10. [Living Room] iPad HDMI Adapter (Had on-hand)  – Last resort in case we must have streaming apps on the TV that can’t be done through the previous methods.

Cost Breakdown

I am not including a Cost Breakdown for OTT Services like Amazon Prime Movies, Netflix, and so on since we were already paying for them previous to Cutting the Cable cord, therefore they had no influence on “Money saved”. I also assessed the cost of anything I had on-hand as $0.00. I was also lucky enough to get an $86.00 rebate from Comcast:

Cost Numbers for Cutting the Cord

Cost Numbers for Cutting the Cord

 

As you can see, after about 3 months, it’s money in our pocket, a savings of $125.00 a month.

I recommend highly you do the numbers before jumping into this. If it’s going to take 10 years to get your return, then perhaps this isn’t for you.

Hope this helps.

 

 

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Cutting the Cord Part 1: Your Options

I recently joined the ranks of an exclusive club (well, sort of exclusive) and officially “cut the cord”. If you are unaware of the concept, cutting the cord means you get the satisfaction of telling your overpriced Cable provider to “go fuck yourself” and save some substantial cash in the process.

I won’t go into the details of the nightmare that Comcast . . . yeah, you saw that coming didn’t you . . . has been over the past month, but when we moved to our new apartment we “upgraded” to the XFinity X1. We were told about how awesome the new X1 “platform” is and that it would be $15 cheaper a month.

It was bullshit on both accounts and I should have known better. I probably don’t have to tell you how Comcast doesn’t really give a fuck about you, and that when I called them to disconnect, they didn’t even try to keep me as a customer. It is my hope that more people join the ranks of cord-cutting and will force Comcast and companies like it to stop screwing people with unnecessary and exorbitant fees and crappy service.

Here, in Part 1, I will list the options I found for cord-cutting. In Part 2, I will describe what I went with, and I plan on having cost numbers, a parts list, and hell . . . fuck it, I’ll even make you a Visio diagram.

As a bit of a teaser, by cutting the cord, we are saving $125.00 a month. After the initial expense, doing this pays for itself in about three months. After that, it’s money in Bryan‘s pocket.

So first, some thoughts and advice, having gone through the process:

  1. There will be an initial cost of implementation, and you’ll need to do the numbers. Do an ROI and see if it works for you. Cord-cutting isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the hardware on-hand, you’re looking at about $350.00-$400.00 as a one-time capital expense for this project. You’ll need to think about the initial investment and long-term monthly costs, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, the cost of Movie rentals, etc. If you already have those “Over the Top” services (OTT, it’s a thing, trust me), then you’re ahead of the game, as it were.
  2. Everyone in the household will need to have patience and may need to make small sacrifices. Some of this will be trial and error mixing and matching the most optimal setup. My wife was phenomenal through this as I had to try a few different setups to get everything right.
  3. You’ll need some technical knowledge. Wi-Fi in particular is crucial to pulling this off.
  4. You may not be able to get all of your shows, or at least you may have to watch them after everyone else has. If you’re the type who circle-jerks over Game of Thrones during its real-time Twitter feed (not even sure people actually do that), then maybe cord-cutting isn’t for you. See #2, above.
  5. Finding a DVR/PVR (if you need one) will be a big challenge.
  6. Streaming the same shows and entertainment in all rooms (called a “Whole Home” solution, in cord-cutting parlance) will also be a challenge.
  7. You will still have to pay an ISP for internet access.

The list of options that follows is by no means an all-inclusive list. Everything depends on what shows you watch, what shows you may be willing to give up, your technical knowledge, and how to get everything all through the house. I also tried to keep costs down by using equipment I had on-hand (more on that in Part 2).

My disclaimer here is that there are a myriad of ways to do this and I am always open to ideas. Just remember when you start typing your smart-ass, telecom-nerd comments, I don’t claim to be an expert at this shit. I am sure in retrospect I could have saved myself $100 or so by being more resourceful, but isn’t that the way all home improvement projects are?

Live TV

  1. Downgrade to Basic Cable and Decline to Use their [Shitty] Equipment- It’s an option. Where cable companies get you is by charging you a monthly fee for “use of the equipment”. You don’t have to use their equipment. You can get your own, as you’ll see in the next section.
  2. Use an HDTV Antenna – This is what I would call the “balls deep” option for this section because other than the one-time cost of the Antenna, these stations are free. These HD stations are in local areas, but your success in using them will depend on your location and your line of sight to the Station Signals. You can check channel availability for your location here. This gets you the mainstream channels, such as ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. And for some reason, no matter how you tune the HD Antenna for optimal reception, at least 5 Christian Evangelist stations. Options: AntennasDirect Clearstream 2V, Mohu Leaf. I went with the Clearstream; as to why and how, I will disclose in Part 2.

DVRs/PVRs

This may prove to be your biggest challenge, and possibly the most expensive. Cable companies and the telecom industry make it difficult to have an open market for DVR’s (ownership of content, limiting options to consumers so the cable companies can charge for their equipment, and so on). The challenge I found was not in finding a DVR. The challenge was finding a DVR with an RF jack that can also be accessible throughout the entire house.

  1. TiVo – Not a bad option, but for a whole-home solution, you’ll need multiple TiVo devices and there’s a monthly fee (last I checked $14.99).
  2. Other PVR/DVR Set-Top Boxes – Something like the Mediasonic HomeWorx line of xVR’s (can’t vouch for it and I’m not including a link because xVR’s have a tendency of going defunct). You’re looking for an RF interface. But, getting recorded shows throughout the house is the challenge with these.
  3. Tablo – I will be talking about this one in more detail in Part 2. Despite it’s flaws, it has RF support, PVR, and the whole home solution all wrapped up in one Set-top box.

Whole Home Solutions

Next is getting everything throughout the house, and the solutions here are diverse. Many of which offer the ability to stream to any device. I will tell you that having a Smart TV will help you tremendously here. I don’t have any Smart TV’s, so I had to use another solution.

  1. Tablo (see above).
  2. Slingbox – Great option but does not include an xVR or RF interface.
  3. HDHomeRun – Also, great solution but does not include an xVR and requires an ethernet connection (I will disclose my work around to this in Part 2).
  4. Roku – IPTV through your WiFi (Roku 3 now includes an ethernet connection).
  5. Chromecast – IPTV for Chromecast-supported apps.
  6. AppleTV – Apple’s IPTV product.

Other Equipment You May Need

  1. WiFi Extender with Ethernet Connections – Many of the whole-house solutions listed above require an ethernet connection. My house isn’t fucking wired for ethernet, so it’s frustrating when I want to bring everything centralized into the main living room and these asshole set-top box makers (as above) require an ethernet connection, like a bunch of dicks. I suppose I don’t have to centralize it that way, however the HDTV Antenna had to be placed in the living room and I wanted to bring everything in there.
  2. Multimedia over CoAx (MoCA) – In retrospect, I probably should have used this.
  3. Coax Amplifier/Splitter – Due to a complication with the Tablo (more on that in Part 2), I had to split the signal to have seamless Live TV. My advice is to spend the money on the amplifier. Don’t ever just split the signal.
  4. USB Drive – Depending on the xVR you buy, you may need to purchase USB storage for the recorded programs.

TV/Movie Replacement Services (OTT Services, previously mentioned)

This is where you’ll have to be careful. These costs can get away from you. Again, the list here is not all-inclusive, and I am sure there are some out there of which I should be taking advantage. I’ll just be listing the major players here. I did not give a description for most of these because if you don’t know about them, then you have been living under a rock, most likely, or Amish, in which case, you won’t be reading this anyway . . . Sorry, to all my Amish readers:

  1. Netflix
  2. Amazon Instant Video – Your Amazon Prime membership will come in handy here.
  3. Google Play Music/Movies/TV
  4. Hulu Plus – Fine Comcast, I’ll throw you a bone.
  5. Pandora Internet Radio
  6. Plex - Access your music/photos/movies anywhere.

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I detail what I chose from the above and I’ll give you some tips based on what I did to make it all work.

 

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Big Fan Review

Big FanFor those that don’t know, I’m the Producer of the podcast EaglesFanCast – Views on the Philadelphia Eagles.   I started it two years ago as a way to get my geek on in a niche demographic and explore the world of New Media from the inside.  I had already been consuming podcasts for more than a year, and the whole new media world intrigued me a lot.  I worked with my friend Eric, who I have Eagles Season Tickets with, to build the concept and site ideas, then recruited my friend Todd to be a third co-host.  Todd and I had season tickets together back in the Veterans Stadium days, and he has since relocated to Los Angeles where he started his career and family.  We do the show from an Eagles Fan’s perspective with no script or agenda, and definitely with no professional analysis.  Each week during the season we talk about the team’s ups and downs, as it would be talked about by fans in any pub, with plenty of fan emotion thrown in.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted about the upcoming movie, Big Fan, by those behind the marketing.  They wanted to know if we were interested in a screening of the film, as well as an interview with Writer / Director Robert Siegel.  Mr. Siegel is the acclaimed writer behind 2008’s The Wrestler.  Of course I responded positively, I’m not a fool, and within a couple weeks I received a very nondescript DVD in the mail.

With actor / comedian Patton Oswalt as the star of the movie, as well as the vague description of the movie (paraphrasing: Paul is a huge New York Giants fan, who runs into his hero, a superstar Giants linebacker, then things don’t go as planned), I expected this to be a comedy.  The trailer quickly stifled that suspicion as we see Paul get a beatdown from his hero, the fictional player Quantrell Bishop.

As I unfortunately have not seen The Wrestler yet, I was not familiar with Mr. Siegel’s writing, and this was his directorial debut.  I had no expectations going into this movie.

The pacing of the movie is slow, pretty much matching the life of the main character Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt).  Paul lives with his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz), works as a fee-taker at a parking garage, has one friend, Sal (played by Kevin Corrigan), and doesn’t enjoy the company of the rest of his family.  Paul’s only passion, at least what we see, is his love of the New York Giants.  His small bedroom is a shrine to the Giants, complete with NFL-branded sheets, and he religiously watches every game.  He is a regular caller, “Paul from Staten Island”, to the local sports talk radio station, and he scripts what he wants to say in those 20 or so on-air seconds for hours in his notepad.  Those calls are robust and filled with fandom, and the radio show loves it.  He and Sal go to each Giants home game, tailgate with the masses, but with no tickets, don’t go in, instead spending the time in the parking lot.  They watch the game on a TV rigged to the car battery, just to be close to where it’s happening and be with other fans.
Paul’s relationships are only superficial.  His mother irritates him, and she is obviously not amused by his “lack of a life,” but he lives with her, so he’s stuck.  His brother Jeff is one of the ambulance-chaser lawyers ready to sue everyone.  We are even treated to the debut of a badly-acted, badly-scripted TV commercial Jeff had made that you and I have all seen on our small screens during the day, or late at night.  From what we are shown, Paul’s friendship with Sal consists of only one thing, the Giants.  They don’t seem to do anything else, and if they do, the conversation only revolves around the Giants.  Sal idolizes Paul’s drive to call in to the nighttime Sports Dogg show (voiced by Scott Ferrall), and praises Paul for hearing him on the radio and his insight.

There are two catalyst players in Paul’s life.  The first is Giants linebacker Quantrell Bishop (played by newcomer Jonathan Hamm) and the other is Sports Dogg caller, and Paul’s on-air nemesis, “Philadelphia Phil”, played by Michael Rappaport.  Philadelphia Phil is a Philly-based Eagles fan, and Giants-hater.  Phil enjoys talking smack and even venturing into the New York airwaves by calling in to the Sports Dogg and making fun of the Giants team and fans, predicting the inevitable Giants downfall, and proclaiming Eagles dominance.  Phil is a believable character, and I know fans that taunt other teams’ fans by joining in on their online forums and sports talk shows.  Phil can be any hardcore sports fan.

Paul’s life changes forever when he and Sal are out grabbing a couple of slices of pizza one night and they see Bishop getting gas in his SUV right there in Staten Island.  Seeing their hero in the flesh, they don’t think twice about following his truck just to see what he’s up to.  Eventually the truck stops in a seedy neighborhood, yet Paul and Sal are naive enough to not realize that one of Bishop’s entourage is involved in buying drugs.  The innocent stalking eventually winds up at a gentleman’s club.  Paul and Sal also go in, and are so awestruck to see Bishop across the room, and trying to figure out how to introduce themselves, they both refuse a dance from one of the performers, with Sal even saying, “I’m on a job” before dismissing her.  No spoilers here, because it can be seen in the trailer, but they eventually work up their courage to approach Bishop, where they let it be known that they followed him from Staten Island.  A coked-up Bishop then beats Paul badly, putting him in the hospital where he wakes up three days later.

The rest of the movie deals with Paul’s misguided idolization of Bishop, who nearly killed him, and the affect on the Giants team, as they lose game after game because of Bishop’s suspension and the distraction to the team.  We see Paul blame almost everyone around him, including himself, for what is happening to the team, yet not the person truly responsible for what has happened, Bishop.  Paul remains an anonymous victim to the fans, and he feigns amnesia so he cannot give testimony to the investigating detective on the case.  Paul’s whole life has collapsed, as the police detective doesn’t believe him, his family is irritated with him, his hero knocked falls from his pedestal, and his team is losing it’s Division lead.   After weeks, and several Giants losses, the case is dropped against Bishop.  Paul’s hell seems to be coming to an end, until he discovers that his brother files a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Bishop, on Paul’s behalf.  Philadelphia Phil, through some simple online forum checking, discovers Paul’s last name, and outs him on the Sports Dogg.  Paul’s anonymous, almost lethargic, life has now gone.

The movie’s climax leads down the NJ Turnpike to Philadelphia, and we see Philadelphia Phil for the first time at the bar where he told Paul on the Sports Dogg where he would be for the big Giants-Eagles game, if Paul wanted to “leave the dark side, and join up with Eagles Nation.”

We see in this movie how the misguided uber-fan places aside the life of ambition and family, and migrates to anything having to do with his one passion.  His life is happy, as the director himself points out in our interview on EaglesFanCast, but that happiness rests solely on the success of his team.  The beatdown does nothing to shake that devotion, and instead forces Paul to lose sight of what really matters in his life.

Big Fan is definitely a movie to see if you are any sports fan, let alone a football fan.  Just about any fan can say they know of someone that takes the success of their team just a little too seriously. This is a window into the person that piles everything on their team, all of their love, their adoration, their respect… unfailingly.  Robert Siegel has penned another great movie, and I definitely recommend people seek it out.

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This One Time at Band Camp…

I don’t know about you – Hell, I don’t even know you anymore, but everywhere I turn movie lines have entered the lexicon of my life.   Whether I’m at work, the coffee shop,  at home with the kids or even after a fancy dinner with the wife I cannot avoid the influence of movie-speak.

It’s like an offer I can’t refuse, no matter what happens in life there’s a line or two…

• Getting coffee? “I take it black, like my men.” (Airplane)
• Something goes wrong? “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!” (Airplane)
• Something goes right? “It’s good to be the king.” (History of the World, Part 1)
• Someone laughs at your expense? “I’m Funny How? Funny, like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to fucking amuse you?” (Goodfellas)
• Somebody does something stupid or good? “Way to go Hamilton!” (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)
• Kids crying? “There’s no crying in baseball!” (A League of their Own)
• Golfing? “Cinderella story, from outta nowhere, here at Augusta, about to be the Masters champion.” (Caddyshack)
• Really want to know something? “What’s in the box? What’s in the box? C’mon, tell me, what’s in the fucking box?” (Seven)
• See someone you know in a crowd? “I know that dude – he used to work at All-American Burger!” (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)
• Trying to motivate someone to keep going? “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” (Animal House)
• Have to take something from your pocket and want to announce it? “Excuse me while I whip this out.” (Blazing Saddles)
• Out to dinner and someone announces they are full? “How about a wafer thin mint?” (Monty Python – The Meaning of Life)
• Trying to divest yourself of a problem (Pass the buck…)? Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” (Batman – The Movie)
• Get hurt? “It’s just a flesh wound.” (Monty Python and The Holy Grail)
• Someone ask about your weekend plans? “Actually it’s a nice little Saturday, we’re gonna go to the Home Depot, yeah check out some wall paper maybe some flooring, maybe even a little Bed, Bath and Beyond, if we have enough time” (Old School)

These are just a sampling of my favorites and also aren’t meant to be anatomically correct since over the years some of my words may morph but you get the idea.

Anyway, I could keep going but while I was spouting these off in no particular order I heard shots fired and while I tried to count them I lost track and now I have to ask myself one question, do I feel lucky?  Post your faves in the comments.

PS – Just left a meeting discussing our company picnic and got to whip out a favorite, “How much for just one rib?” (I’m Gonna Get You Sucka!”)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AFI’s_100_Years…_100_Movie_Quotes

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