Sunday, April 19, 2009

"what is it that i need to cancel cable and use internet for tv??"

"what is it that i need to cancel cable and use internet for tv??"

My friend sent me a facebook message asking me that question.  I sat back and realized that there should be a post that directly address that ... so here is the answer.

What you will need at the bare minimum is a computer.  Simply a computer.  Something within the last year or two should work great.

I did a post early talking about hooking up a computer to the TV.  In a nutshell, I would make sure the computer has S-Video, HDMI/DVI, and maybe (maybe) VGA.  If you are rocking a DVI-out to HDMI-in, you will need to have some way to hook-up audio.  Maybe PC Speakers or a Home Theater ... Odds are it will be better than those built in TV speakers.

Now we have a TV hooked up to your television.  You are ready to stream TV from,, (and many others) for free.  You can use pay-per-episode sites like iTunes and and subscription sites like  Oh, and all of the wonderful video casts from places like msnbc and revision3.

There are numerous ways to customize this machine.  You can add in a TV Tuner Card and record TV shows off the antenna.  You can get wireless keyboard/mice and remotes to make navigation easier.

Just remember to have fun with it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Configuring Clear QAM on the Hauppauge 2250

For a TV tuner, both Ian and I have the Hauppauge 2250. It's a dual tv tuner that can pick up two HD channels over the air simultaneously. I bought an antenna (two, actually) in order to cancel all of my cable services; it turns out the bill is actually cheaper when you have basic cable added anyway. In this case, there are some options, to recover broadcast HD from your cable provider. The benefit here is that you don't need to spend money on an antenna, you don't have to worry about the positioning of the antenna, and your cable bill will likely be lowered in the end as a result.

I followed the directions here at this website, which were really helpful in figuring everything out (thanks to Ian for pointing me to this):

To configure this in Windows Media Center:
1) download the Clear QAM beta plugin for WMC here:
2) go to the "Set up TV signal" menu under the settings submenu, under the tasks menu.
3) Update your TV setup options, then say "No" to the automatic signal setup.
4) Pick "antenna" as your tv signal.
5) Pick ATSC as your signal type.
6) Just go through the rest of the menu, pay no attention to the lack of signal strength indications.

After this, go to your WMC guide, go to the "Online Media" menu and select the Clear QAM plugin from the program library. Complete the scan, it may take awhile.

Note! If you have trouble with a "case13" error here, just click with your remote instead of your wireless keyboard/mouse. I went to a lot of extra trouble in order to avoid these errors when I didn't need to.

After you reboot, go back to the signal strength area and see what you get. Write down the channels which you don't get, and head to the guide setup in order to remove them. Now you're getting HD over your cable and you can return your antenna!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Power Consumption of Media Center

I got the latest energy bill for my apartment.  I saw and increase of about $5 due to the media center that is running 24 x 7 x 365.  Because I don't think I've had the machine running for the full billing cycle, the actual added cost might be close to $7.50 or so.

This isn't much, but it is am important factor to consider when deciding if going cable-less will actually save you money.

Please keep in mind I decided to use a year old gaming desktop as my media center, this is probably the least energy efficient route.  The power supply is about 2x to 3x bigger than what would be found in a standard desktop.

It could be assumed if you used an average computer for your media center, your energy bill will increase by less then $10.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where to Find Streaming TV Online

*Note* I will be updating this post as I find new sources to stream TV, so please check back often to see what is new and exciting.

I wanted to put together a simple list of where you easily find TV shows online that is both quick and legal.  I plan to add a new source to this post every day or so, but that might be a hard pace to keep up :).

This is probably the single greatest site on the next for stream TV and movies.  There are too many sources to name, it has a collection of current hits and some good oldies.  A quick rundown of what I found interesting:
  • Most NBC Shows
  • Most FOX Shows
  • Links to and for their content
  • The Daily Show and Colbert Report
  • Mojo
To see what they are showing (full episodes, by network) check this link.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Buying and Off-the-Shelf Computer for a Media Center

Before I decided to stick my desktop in my living room, I was looking at buying a cheap PC from Best Buy and throwing that in my living room.  There are a lot of nice computers for under $500 that are in pretty tiny cases.

If you don't have any computer equipment that you can dedicate to this purpose, in my mind, this is the best way to go.  While building a machine might be another great option, I often find that with low price equipment, you can't always beat the major manufactures.

So here is what I think you should look for in an off the shelf computer.
  • Running Vista Home Premium - You wouldn't want to get it home to find it running Vista Home Basic and not being able to use Windows Media Canter. *Bonus Points if it has Vista Ultimate Edition*
  • One Free PCI Express Slot - This will be used to hook up an optional TV Tuner Card.  While the older PCI standard will work with some of the older TV Tuners, I would strongly suggest PCIe.  *Bonus Points if it also has a PCI Express 16x slot*
  • The Proper Video Connection - This one is a little ambiguous, it really depends on what your TV has.  If your set is Standard Definition, then you will want to look for S-Video.  If you have a High Def Set, then it depends on what your HD set accepts.  I would suggest DVI or HDMI and then VGA in that order.  DVI can easily be converted into HDMI.  Those two cannot be turned into VGA as easily.
  • A Bunch of USB ports - Just always handy.
  • At least 2GB of RAM and 2 Cores on the CPU.
The one machine that caught my eye was the Acer AX1700-U3700A.  I cannot comment directly about the hardware, but if it is all of the pieces I was looking for in a media center.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All I am Really Looking for is Options

This blog was started with the goal of helping other people quit cable by creating a source of what works and doesn't work.  That being said, I don't want to be completely villainous towards the cable companies.  Quitting cable in the way laid out in this blog won't be for everyone.  If you enjoy the service and think it is worth the cost, that is awesome.

I however, didn't like the price and really didn't enjoy the service.  What I am looking for is options.  Currently my local cable company can't provide me with the options that work with my life.

Lets take a step back and look at the music industry.  Being 26, I grew up at the height of Napster's popularity.  Music to me wasn't really about albums anymore, but about finding all these rad artists, making mix CDs, and then going to their concerts.  This was clearly a terrible model for record industry.  Their customers can now just go online and have anything they like at their finger tips, rather than going into the CD shop and spending upwards of twenty bucks.

Moving forward a few years, services like the iTunes Music Store and later (my personal favorite) came around.  What these services allowed the customer to do was get the song or two they wanted at a reasonable price.  They are proving to be a hit, iTunes alone has sold more then 6 billion songs.  The big thing now is that the consumer has plenty of options to get the music they want.  Stores still sell CDs, you can subscribe to music services, or pay per track.

I've never had a problem with paying for media, just as long as I don't feel like I am getting bent over in the deal.  This is why I went looking for options when it came to the television shows I watch.  I don't want to be shoehorned into one model of delivery simply because it is what works for most people.  As a consumer I have the option to let my dollar (or my eyes - when it comes to ads) do my talking.

As technology advanced more and more playback devices are going to be in the living rooms and palms of consumers.  They are going to look at their Apple TV or iPhone and say, "Why do I have to pay $2 to get the latest episode of 'The Office' on my iPhone and also pay $60 a month to the cable company, why don't I just pay the $2?"

If a cable company could provide me with an a la carte option, I would be a subscriber again.  But to charge me for channels that I simply won't watch seems insane.  I would rather rely on over the air service and the iTunes Store,, and Netflix to fill in the rest.

In the end, I am simply a consumer and will always be looking for cheaper options that allow me more flexibility.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Issues with Cable

It might be a good idea to take a step back and explain some of my reasons for wanting to quit cable.
  • Cost - There was a high cost associated with cable.  For the few services I was getting, my bill would easily be $140 without any discounts.  I got that down to $60 for basic and internet.
  • Discounts - They only way to qualify for their discounts is to be a new costumer.  Sure, sometimes you can call and argue your way into a cheaper price plan, but it doesn't always work.  Essentially what the cable companies are supporting is hidden pricing tiers.  Make the price low to attract the customer, but then stick it to them after they've been a customer.  Rather than supporting customer loyalty, they are supporting customer disloyalty.
  • New Options - Many networks are trying to allow customers to access content over the internet.  Some of them are doing it for a free/ad-supported model.  You go to a website and stream the show you want to watch.  The other model is paying $2/$3 for an episode, downloading it locally.  Both of these models give you on demand entertainment to watch at your leisure.  With a combination of the models, you can cheaply and legally get most of the content you would normally be able to watch with cable (there are some exceptions to this rule, that is when you need to sit down and see if you can live without those shows).
  • Rise of the Videocast (or Podcast) - Companies like Revision3 are cranking out really good content on the web.  Shows like Diggnation, The Totally Rad Show, and iFanboy are right up my alley.  They cater to my geekiness in a way that cable never could.
Those were the major factors that contributed to me switching away from cable and towards internet based media.