Archive for category TV

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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Where Have All the Cartoons Gone?

I have an two year old son, and years from now when he is getting ready for school or just getting home from school, I wonder what will he will be watching? In the good old days, I woke up to Gobots, the poor man’s Transformers and as I got a little older came home to the original iteration of Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Let me state now that I still watch cartoons, so much like the 45 year old who tries to tell his kids that he still listens to the popular music of the time, I am trying to hold on as long as I can.

With my son turning two we are starting to get beyond just Sesame Street and moving on to other more “simply for fun” cartoons along with the standard educational stuff. I have got to tell you, it is pretty bleak out there. Dora the Explorer and Diego can’t light a candle to He-man and She-ra. Don’t even get me started on the reboot of the TMNT and Transformers cartoon franchises.

The major issue that I see is the ever-widening gap between kids cartoons and adult cartoons. Easy there boys, I am talking about the difference between things like The Wonder Pets and the recently released movie Nine, a visually stunning tale from Tim Burton. (A quick side note, this movie sold me on how awesome Blu-ray players are, check it out.) The animation was fantastic and the story was able to keep up.

I believe the rift began to form in September of 1992, the dawn of Batman the Animated Series helped along by Bruce Timm. I was 13 and along with turning me onto comics for the rest of my life, the show was ground-breaking. The animation was almost like reading a noir-style novel and Batman’s presence alone, voiced by Kevin Conroy, was enough to hook me. Here’s the thing, I could have been 13 or 36 and it still would have been great. It brought Batman back to life. Once company execs realized they could start appealing to people with disposable income, the rift began.

By now the middle-ground cartoons are gone. We’ve got Bob the Builder on one end and Family Guy on the other. Stewie may be a baby, but I don’t want him talking to my son. I used to visit Best Buy every Tuesday for the new releases, but with the family bills I can’t show up every Tuesday any more. One Tuesday I can guarantee I will be there is when Marvel and DC release there new animated feature films. The Avengers, Wonder Woman, Doc Strange, they have all been good, but in no way can I watch them with the kids. They can be incredibly violent like the Wonder Woman release or just be way too dark like one of the Batman releases which would give some grown-ups nightmares. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed all of them, but for kids, no way.

As I get older I realize one of the more enjoyable experiences is sitting around with the crew, having a few beers, and reminiscing. You talk about what you did when you were younger. We all grew up watching cartoons. I am just wondering if for my son, years from now will they argue about what cartoon was the best when they were all average.

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Reality TV Quick Reviews

Reality TV.  Mention that term just a few years ago, and people would stare at you like you just asked, “Does the Pope shit in the woods?”  But now, everyone knows about what that means.  One of the most mis-labeled monikers ever to make it onto TV.  Never mind, that was an idiotic statement on my part… this is television after all. It’s all idiotic.

So Producers have been falling all over themselves to make more of these shows for a number of reasons, namely they are cheap to produce, and there are millions of zombies that can’t get enough of them.  I’m lucky enough to have an amazing wife that eats this shit up.  Sometimes the worse it is, the better the show.

Personally, I hate them… all of them.  But to spend time with my wife, I occasionally sit through one.  Here is my take on just a few of these gems that are out there.  Most I have seen no more than once, but seriously, do you need to sit through any more than one to get the gist?

These are in no particular order.

The Real World – The Mac Daddy of reality TV… the one that started it all.  I think they’ve had 73 iterations of this one since, all with the same result: kids get drunk, screw and fight.
Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew – Same as The Real World, but these people were all once pseudo-celebrities that are older and uglier.
Intervention – A very depressing show about fucked up addicts, the fucked up family that raised them, who are now trying to fix it with cameras rolling. Intelligence eludes them.
The Real Housewives – A bunch of rich, spoiled, fake and plastic women with big breasts that can’t let go of the fact that they had the best prom dress 27 years before.
Survivor - Strangers go to a remote location, do idiotic activities called challenges, lose a bunch of weight, then stab each other in the back.
Ice Road Truckers – Truckers drive their trucks, on an ice road.  Sometimes they break down (the trucks and the truckers).  It’s fascinating.
American Idol – People that can’t sing and never could are fooled by their friends into thinking they can.  They get embarrassed and cry.
America’s Next Top Model - Emaciated girls try to avoid food and general nutrition while Tyra Banks boasts about how amazing she is.
The Bachelor - Some dude somehow gets to make out with 25 hot girls, it’s televised, and no one gets mad at him.
The Biggest Loser – Similar to America’s Next Top Model, but the contestants ate Tyra Banks.
America’s Got Talent – Bad grammar in the title, and the talent isn’t any gooder.
Wife Swap – Two married men show a complete stranger what an asshole he is married to.
The Simple Life – Two very rich, clueless and elitist heiresses live among commoners, and make their parents contemplate disowning them for simple stupidity.
The Apprentice – A very rich man gets to belittle and abuse potential employees in various ways… legally.
Big Brother – Much like The Real World, but they aren’t allowed to leave the house, nothing ever happens.
Jon & Kate Plus 8 – Two morons with eight children do anything they can to exploit said children, then act like bigger morons when the cameras aren’t taping them.
Dancing With The Stars – “Stars” in the title is debatable. It’s dancing with bad commentary and puns.
American Chopper – They build some bitchin’ bikes and fight the way most families wish they could.
Jersey Shore – Yes, another The Real World ripoff.  This time they stock the house with those that fail IQ tests.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – I think it’s the only show that has an ounce of sincerity. Granted most of the recipients of the new house foreclose within a year, but that’s beside the point. Feel good and cry, then turn off the TV.
The Hills – Yeah, it’s umm, like The Real World, but filled with attractive and extremely shallow people. Actually it’s scripted, too. Nothing based on reality here.
Top Chef - They cook.
Hogan Knows Best – It was Hulk Hogan, it was worth watching if you could get past his family, and Hulk Hogan.
Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica - Jessica Simpson proved to the world that she’s dumb as a box of recycled paper, and Nick proved that even with a wife as hot as Jessica, he’d rather cheat than talk to her the rest of his life.
Miami Ink – They tattoo people, in a tattoo parlor, and talk about tattoos.
The Surreal Life – More washed up pseudo-celebrities live together and easily show why they are washed up.
The Osbournes – The show that emasculated the frontman from Black Sabbath while also raising his stock on death pools everywhere.
Rock of Love – It’s The Bachelor, but the bachelor is a rocker, and the women are sluts.
Shear Genius – The exciting and emotional world… of cutting hair.
Flavor Of Love – Flavor Flav and a pack of beasts look for love in horrific displays of affection.
The Bad Girls Club – It’s the prequel for The Real Housewives, but the girls aren’t hot and they think they are.
Hell’s Kitchen – It’s Top Chef, but the host is an asshole.
Deadliest Catch – They fish for crabs in situations that make me extremely glad to work in computers.
Little People, Big World – A family of little people. Exploitation or not, they’re midgets!
The Amazing Race – Teams race around the world and we get to watch them stress out and hate each other.
Cathouse - A camera inside a brothel. Hello? This quickly ruins any fantasy you ever had about brothels.
Sunset Tan – The exciting, riveting and heart-wrenching world of a tanning salon.
Pitchmen - The behind the scenes life of two famous TV sales guys, until one of them croaks.  Too soon?
America’s Most Smartest Model - I must stress that I did not make this up, or the title. It exists. Look it up.
Say Yes To The Dress – Wedding gown shopping. Are there really that many women out there that would watch a show on this? I’ve always heard it’s one of the most stressful parts of the wedding for a woman… why watch this??
Supernanny - A British woman enters a home and disciplines bad children, legally. Actually, the parents should be the ones disciplined.
Toddlers & Tiaras – Jon and Kate have nothing on these horrific parents.
Hoarders - Pretty much like Intervention, although the drug of choice is a houseful of junk.
30 Days - It’s witness relocation without committing a crime first.
Cake Boss - A bakery?  Hell, they did it for a tanning salon, a barber and a tattoo parlor, why the fuck not?
Dr. 90210 – Plastic surgery reality. Most of the above shows already covered this one.
Hammertime - MC Hammer, but no big pants.
Bridezillas - Uber bitch potential brides. The groom should watch before saying “I do.”

There are so many more.  A completely obnoxious amount more. But I don’t want to continue on, as my brain hurts.  I now must go read something by Stephen Hawking to assure myself that we as a society are not going to be overthrown by lemurs soon.

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