Archive for category Music

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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My Addiction

My daughter was born a few weeks ago.  Newborns change your schedule completely.  During one of my late night feedings I was channel flipping and saw that IFC was running a documentary on Kurt Cobain: Kurt Cobain: About a Son.  It was a collection of recorded audio interviews set against various visuals.  I loved it.  I mean, I really loved it.  Now, I grew up listening to 90′s alternative music, but I wasn’t really a Nirvana junkie.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Nirvana music, I remember where I was when I found out Cobain was dead, and I appreciate their place in history, but that wasn’t the only reason I was riveted.  It is because I am a music addict.

I listen to every kind of music, with the exception of true blue country, sorry its just not me.  From rap to rock to bluegrass to swing to classical to the blues, I take it all in.  My earliest music memories are of listening to Oldies music in my Mom’s station wagon and then starting to listen to pop music.  But, even then, in my early years I listened to different types of music. I had my Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation, Beastie Boys License to Ill and one of the Cars tapes.  I found my true love in grade school when a classmate gave me a tape of a bunch of Guns N’ Roses music.  I was hooked and from then on I couldn’t get enough, not of Guns N’ Roses, but of music in general.  I signed up immediately for BMG and ordered my first ten CD’s for a penny or whatever the ridiculous hook was before you started paying $20 a disc.  I can’t remember what those first ten discs were, but there was some Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Aerosmith.  Let’s go through some of my quirks:

  1. Growing up I listened to music all the time.  Now I know what you are saying, “All kids listen to music a lot.”  I’ll grant you that, but do all kids walk around with a headset glued to their ears, while they are eating dinner with the family, while they are dating a girl in high school (that didn’t end up working out too well, big surprise right?), or taking the SAT’s (before the teacher told me to take them off)?
  2. I’ve coined a personal phrase…”lyric days.”  These are the days I wake up and I hear the lyrics to a song clearer than usual.  Lets be honest, lots of music is covered up by heavy bass beats or overwhelming guitar riffs, but some days I just wake up as I am sure others do and I can just hear the words to songs better than I usually do.  I searched the radio dial to pick up any words I have ever wondered about.
  3. Not only do I not allow any of that kiddie music in my car, but before dinner every night my son and I rock out to Killer’s music.  He is a big fan.  I made sure that he was properly introduced to music while he was still in the womb.  My wife and I took him to a Smashing Pumpkins concert and if it wasn’t for Rivers’ bus accident, my daughter would have had the same experience listening to Weezer.  Speaking of Weezer, did I mention I DVR’d the Weezer episode of The Chronicles on the Fuse Network months ago just so my son and I can watch them playing on the Muppet Show?  He gets Kermit and Ms. Piggy, I get Waldorf and Statler.  He sleeps listening to the lullaby versions of ACDC, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, and Green Day.  Have you ever heard Thunderstruck, lullaby style?
  4. I was never a mix tape guy back when I was younger,  I would make tapes to give to people with music I thought they would like, but never some cheesy “I Love You” collection.  This is because I associate people with the music they listen to.  One of the very first questions I ask someone when I first meet them is, what type of music do you listen to?  This is an extremely important part of me getting to know someone, because everyone can be judgmental and I am no different.  The only slight difference is that I don’t form my first impression on cars or clothes or jobs, I make mine on music taste.  If you are strictly a pop music fan I lean towards shallow, country I lean towards arch-conservative, and because of my own predilection as an alternative fan I usually tend to think its fans are a little more understanding of others.  I have always believed that if we were all freaks and geeks that we would be a much more understanding world, but I digress.

Look, the bottom line is, music has always and will always, be a major part of my life.  When I hear certain songs or artists playing I may sometimes think of memories of my own, but more often that that I think of people.  One of my oldest and closest friends will forever come to my mind when I hear any Billy Joel music.  Fast Car will always make me think about a friend from high school, not because of the lyrics, but because it my mind that song is her.  When I hear The Who, I think of my wife, always.  Any real twangy country music I hear always make think of a friend from college, who does happen to be an arch-conservative.  What can I say, the man has a “Reagan 84″ t-shirt.  There are the songs that remind me of a particular moment, For Those About To Rock by ACDC will forever bring my mind to the greatest wedding entrance I have ever seen by my best man at his wedding, fireworks and all.  My wife and I walked into our wedding reception to music from Kill Bill, but the song equaling a moment is not what I am getting at.  In my mind, which I admit is somewhat warped, equates people with music.  It’s how I remember people and occasionally judge people.  Let me say at least once that my initial judgment can very easily be changed once I actually get to know someone a little bit better after I find out what type of music they listen to.  That being said, you’d be surprise how often the music matches my assumed personality.

I admit sometimes I can go a little overboard.  I once questioned a Best Buy employee as to why the Zwan new release was not in the new release section.  The woman looked at me like I had as many heads as the hydra, but I was pissed.  This was the music of my youth reborn and how dare some corporate entity downplay it.  When music is this important to your life, this is something stupid that you do.   New release Tuesday is a weekly Christmas to me.  (Quick side note, speaking of Christmas, if you have never heard Chris Cornell sing Ave Maria, check it out, it is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying all at the same time.)

What I am trying to say is that music is like another limb to me, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I think it is because I can get lost in it.  I am an incredibly stressed out person and really high strung, ask anyone I know.  I’ve toned down since I was younger, no more burning pictures in frying pans, throwing sodas at minivans, or dressing in all black with a headset around my ears. I cook breakfast for my kids in frying pans now, wear bright shirts, and…no I will never have a minivan, but you get the point.  Music gives me those brief moments of release every day.  Sometimes I think of the person it reminds me of, what the song means to me, or even something as simple as a color it makes me think of, but it’s mine and that’s enough for me.

One of my current favorite songs is off of Weezer’s second newest album, the Red Album.  The song is named Heartsongs.  It lists various song references and alludes to the fact that these were all songs that the singer sang to himself and were close to his heart.  I love the song.  Its catchy and even has a good story to it, sort of, but that is not the real reason it gets me.  Songs from all walks of life are what has gotten me to this point in my life.  They are old friends to me or new acquaintances getting me through a tough day.  I know this has gotten pretty sappy, but come rock out one night with my son and I listening to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and tell me you don’t see my point.

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Death and the Joke(s) that Follow(s)…

Originally I intended to write a poignant piece about the death of a grade school class mate. It would have been a touching story that would have reduced you all to tears, but as I sat down to put my thoughts to the keys the media coverage of a certain entertainer’s death has overwhelmed me.View Image

I’ve had enough. Enough with the Michael Jackson shit. He was talented, he was a freak and now he’s dead. Get over it.

Don’t give me how much you loved Beat It or Billie Jean.   I remember watching the long version of Thriller every 30 minutes on MTV, and the Grammies where he did the moonwalk too. I remember the Thriller Trapper Keeper that Beth Fisher had in eighth grade like it was yesterday, but let’s be real – that was 20+ years ago.

When was the last time he was relevant for something other than being in debt or doing his best impersonation of a Roman Catholic priest at an altar boy convention?

I’m just tired of the way we as a society overlook things sometimes.  People – he was accused of molesting young boys…just like OJ was accused of murder.  No matter how talented he was as an artist he was an abomination of a human being.

John Wayne Gacy painted pretty darn good clown pictures, when he died did we celebrate his artistry? I think not.

Dare I bring OJ and his athletic achievements into the discussion again?   What’s the difference? OK two bloody corpses (DAMN technicalities…)

I heard one of the remaining Jackson Four speaking at his memorial the other night talking about seeing him in heaven someday… Hold On… I’m not much for the religion thing (12 years of Catholic school cured my of that vice) but should I die and should I somehow make it to the Big Dance in the sky and I see that freak there, I won’t want to stay because that’s just fucked up.

On a side note, we all know Michael’s burial location is top secret but since he had so much plastic in him, was his family was able to just leave him in the blue bin by the curb on recycling day?  Maybe they were able to just melt him down and make him into Lego blocks so little kids could play with him for a change.

I also heard that food poisoning may have been a contributing factor to his death. Apparently they found traces of twelve year old nuts in his mouth…

So anyway, Michael Jackson – talented, rich, skin bleaching, nose-falling-off freak is dead. Long live the next freak so TMZ can stay on the air!

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