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Author Topic: The Great Cable Purge of 2014  (Read 1456 times)
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hepcat
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« on: April 08, 2014, 06:31:47 PM »

After getting a cable bill from RCN last month that included commas in the total, I decided I was done.  My "3 year special pricing plan" ended and the rates shot up faster than <insert funny analogy here...my first three attempts ran the risk of perhaps offending a few folks even though I would have meant no harm>.

I've been toying with the idea of cutting the cable ties and going with a streaming solution, so it wasn't a spur of the moment decision entirely. 

First thing I did was pick up a Roku 3 at Best Buy.  When I got home, I hooked it up and was immediately up and running.  This thing is slick, fast and easy to use.  Plus, as it uses the home wifi for remote control, it doesn't require line of sight to the Roku (seriously...this needs to be implemented in EVERYTHING home entertainment center related from now on).

However, I quickly realized that my receiver wasn't Dolby Digital Plus ready and thus I couldn't get the higher quality sound from Netflix or Vudu (I've been slowly moving over to streaming movie purchases for some things the last year or so).

No biggie.  It was time to upgrade my old Kenwood receiver anyway.  A little research and I found a rather inexpensive Yamaha receiver with everything I needed...including 4 HDMI ports.  A quick trip BACK to Best Buy and I had the last one in my greedy little hands.  As a bonus, it was even on clearance and I got it for 199 (down from 250). 

Hooking that up was another breeze as the HDMI plug and play worked flawlessly.

Now I was cooking with gas.

I immediately started adding channels.  I then subscribed to Huluplus.  While it was disappointing to find out HP doesn't really stream the audio in 5.1, I was able to use the Dolby Pro Logic setting on my new receiver to make it sound pretty damn good all the same.

Finally, I added Plex to my Roku and added the CBS app available in the Plex add ons library to get CBS shows. 

The only things I'm missing now are some of the non big 3 channels and the few shows I watch on them.  Justified, Archer and Hannibal (which is actually ON one of the big 3...but is only available via web) are the primary ones.  The last one I found a way to stream via web, but the other two I can just buy off Amazon.  Some of the other shows coming later on those channels I'll just wait until they appear on Amazon Prime Instant Video or Netflix though.

So, 100 bucks a month in savings later and I'm still pretty amazed at how painless this separation process has been.  I see no reason to go back and I really suggest that anyone else that's sick of high cable bills at least try it for a month. 
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2014, 06:55:29 PM »

I work Time Warner and I am sending a team to cut off your dick as soon as you go to sleep.  Stock up on that coffee because we are watching...

Nah, seriously great for you.  I have been cableless for a few years and I have found that OTA broadcasts really cover the gaps ok.



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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 07:02:02 PM »

Over the air HD really does cover the majority of the shows I want to watch, and with better quality than cable to boot.

Quote
Plus, as it uses the home wifi for remote control, it doesn't require line of sight to the Roku (seriously...this needs to be implemented in EVERYTHING home entertainment center related from now on).
Some of the latest Harmony remotes can do this for you.  The Harmony remote talks to a Harmony hub, and then the hub then talks to the rest of the devices via a powerful IR blaster, bluetooth, or a secondary IR blaster you can use if your devices aren't all in one spot.  Since the remote to hub communication doesn't need line of sight, you don't need to point the remote at anything in particular to control anything.
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2014, 07:14:40 PM »

I need to look into using OTA broadcasts more often.  The only problem is setting aside the time to be there when they air.  I should look for a DVR like option for OTA.  Anyone have anything like that?
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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2014, 07:18:14 PM »

Is there a way to get the ESPN channels through a ROKU or similar device? I'm seriously thinking about going the same route and the only thing I would miss are the sports options. ESPN really needs to get into the streaming business.
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hepcat
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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2014, 07:23:19 PM »

There's an ESPN.GO app for the Roku that functions just like HBO.GO.  But that means you'll have to keep at least the minimum service from your cable company and add ESPN, most likely. 
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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2014, 07:30:12 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on April 08, 2014, 07:23:19 PM

There's an ESPN.GO app for the Roku that functions just like HBO.GO.  But that means you'll have to keep at least the minimum service from your cable company and add ESPN, most likely. 

That's the problem. Just let me pay $5 a month to use ESPN go and I'm all set. $7.99 for Netflix, $7 for Amazon Prime, Whatever HULU Plus costs, plus $5 for Espn and I would see huge savings.
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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2014, 07:30:42 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on April 08, 2014, 07:23:19 PM

There's an ESPN.GO app for the Roku that functions just like HBO.GO.  But that means you'll have to keep at least the minimum service from your cable company and add ESPN, most likely.  
yup,

Quote
What is WatchESPN?
WatchESPN is your single online and mobile destination for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater. Access to each network is based on your subscription with an affiliate video provider.

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hepcat
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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 07:41:33 PM »

I think I may just pick up a USB OTA capable tuner card.  Most of them come with DVR software, it seems.  Then I can just plug in an old external hard drive and stream the shows via Plex.  If that works it would be incredibly easy.  Plex itself took me about 3 minutes to get up and running and it hasn't given me one ounce of trouble since that time.

edit:  looks like Windows 7 comes with the DVR functionality I need too.  I haven't used Media Center in ages so I forgot all about that.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2014, 07:44:22 PM by hepcat » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 07:44:47 PM »

You lost me at 'Best Buy.'
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hepcat
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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2014, 07:52:47 PM »

It's a franchise of retail stores that has been around for quite a few years.  They specialize in home electronics and mobile telecommunication devices these days.  Their website can be found at www.bestbuy.com.   They trade on NASDAQ as BBY.

They've seen better days but for the impatient they're great.  Also, those who are buying things that are on sale or can't be found at other than MSRP, they can save you a few bucks on shipping.  

In the late 90's they toyed with the idea of having a giant monkey mascot that would shoot flames out his ass whenever someone would tell him how cheap something was that he was looking at while in store.  Unfortunately, the plan was shot down by IBS sufferers who thought it was insensitive.*


*That last part is true insofar as anything I just made up is true.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2014, 07:57:39 PM by hepcat » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 08:07:33 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on April 08, 2014, 07:14:40 PM

I need to look into using OTA broadcasts more often.  The only problem is setting aside the time to be there when they air.  I should look for a DVR like option for OTA.  Anyone have anything like that?

The lowest model of the TiVo Roamio can record OTA broadcasts.  There's also a multitude of homebrew DVR options if the TiVo monthly fee goes against your mission.
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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2014, 08:09:17 PM »

Yeah, the subscription is something I'm trying to avoid.  I'm going to give a pc tuner a try with Windows Media Center. 
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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2014, 08:52:23 PM »

Our special pricing ends in July and I've been weaning myself off of the bulk of TV I used to watch.

First I cut out all reality shows. They were massive timesinks, completely irrelevant, and I haven't missed them a bit.

Next I started trimming the fat by cutting out unnecessary shows that were on non-major networks. I still keep a few around (Walking Dead, Bates Motel), but dropped stuff I had been recording on SyFy, Travel Channel, etc.

When we go back to renegotiate, I'm also dropping whole house DVR (don't really use it as much as I thought I would), and cutting back my internet speed (I was at 50Mbps, but it's really overkill). I'm not quite yet ready to go Netflix/Hulu only, but I'm getting *really* close.
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2014, 09:26:25 PM »

Wish I could do it. I have a Mac Mini running as media server on my TV and a Roku I sometimes use. I watch less than 10 hours of a TV to week and everything I watch is available online (and if it isn't I don't care enough of about it to care about missing it).

Except soccer. When NBC took over english soccer, they put all the games online, but you have to have a cable subscription to get them. If I could find a reliable way to watch soccer, even for a monthly cost of up to $20, I would cut cable in a second.
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« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2014, 10:03:24 PM »

Another inexpensive (free) option for watching shows/movies is the public library. I went to our local one for the first time in like 10 years and the thing is like a Blockbusters. Tons of DVDs and a fair amount of BluRays. Picked up S1 of The Newsroom for this week but am also eying Homeland, Banshee, and Boardwalk Empire. The new new stuff is mostly on a waiting list, but at this point I'm so used to waiting for shows to appear on Netflix it's no biggie to wait a bit.
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« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2014, 01:53:49 AM »

Quote from: Lee on April 08, 2014, 09:26:25 PM

Wish I could do it. I have a Mac Mini running as media server on my TV and a Roku I sometimes use. I watch less than 10 hours of a TV to week and everything I watch is available online (and if it isn't I don't care enough of about it to care about missing it).

Except soccer. When NBC took over english soccer, they put all the games online, but you have to have a cable subscription to get them. If I could find a reliable way to watch soccer, even for a monthly cost of up to $20, I would cut cable in a second.

You should look into whether a British VPN would get you the coverage you need via BBC online streaming. I saw lots of reports of doing that to get access to BBC Olympic coverage for I think less than $10/month.
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2014, 02:52:05 AM »

Watching TV is getting WAY too complicated.
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« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2014, 02:58:39 AM »

It is if you don't want to just throw money at the problem and get crappy service all around for your trouble.
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« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2014, 05:00:30 AM »

Quote from: wonderpug on April 09, 2014, 01:53:49 AM

Quote from: Lee on April 08, 2014, 09:26:25 PM

Wish I could do it. I have a Mac Mini running as media server on my TV and a Roku I sometimes use. I watch less than 10 hours of a TV to week and everything I watch is available online (and if it isn't I don't care enough of about it to care about missing it).

Except soccer. When NBC took over english soccer, they put all the games online, but you have to have a cable subscription to get them. If I could find a reliable way to watch soccer, even for a monthly cost of up to $20, I would cut cable in a second.

You should look into whether a British VPN would get you the coverage you need via BBC online streaming. I saw lots of reports of doing that to get access to BBC Olympic coverage for I think less than $10/month.

I read into that a while ago and it wouldn't be much help. Games are on Sky, BT Sports, and whatever other channels. As strange as it, we get better coverage in the US of games than they do over there. They black out games to encourage people to support their local teams/leagues. UK fan I follow on Twitter have to follow Arsenal on shitty streams a lot of times. I went down that road as well, it's not worth it.
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« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2014, 06:05:17 AM »

Quote from: Isgrimnur on April 09, 2014, 02:58:39 AM

It is if you don't want to just throw money at the problem and get crappy service all around for your trouble.

What problem would that be, exactly?

I give the electric company $140 a month for internet and tv. My company picks up the internet so we pay $70 to make pictures on our tv. I also pay netflix $15 or something to send me movies and old tv shows through the mail. Just how much of that would I save if I jumped through all these hoops to cobble together non-cable tv? I watch TWD, Dr Who, Mad Men, Cosmos, Falling Skies, and Parks & Rec, plus a lot of movies on TCM. My wife watches the murder channel and Downton Abbey.

I don't have any of the hardware needed for streaming and my tv can't get broadcasts because it doesn't have a tuner.
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« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2014, 07:13:41 AM »

Quote from: Ironrod on April 09, 2014, 06:05:17 AM

Quote from: Isgrimnur on April 09, 2014, 02:58:39 AM

It is if you don't want to just throw money at the problem and get crappy service all around for your trouble.

What problem would that be, exactly?

Most people probably dont have companies paying for half of their cable/Internet bill. $140 a month for 12 months is a pretty significant amount in the yearly budget.
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« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2014, 03:48:09 PM »

I was paying $190/month to Comcast for their bundle after the initial promos ended.  We weren't watching much tv, basically TWD, NFL and kids shows.  add $8 for netflix streaming.  we started paying around $100 at the beginning of the service.  The bundle was cheaper than just tv+internet but after the hikes, we dropped them.  now paying $60 for basic phone/net (and not a two year promo either), and I picked up Amazon Prime for the streaming options not covered by netflix.  We aren't missing a thing but having cut the expense by over 2/3rds is huge.  I'll never go back to comcast. their service is good, but their prices are over-inflated.
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« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2014, 10:10:36 PM »

Quote from: Ironrod on April 09, 2014, 06:05:17 AM

and my tv can't get broadcasts because it doesn't have a tuner.

check your local Goodwill or craigslist for an external DTV tuner; should run you about $10. you'll also need a UHF antenna if you don't have an old one lying around.
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« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2014, 01:52:56 AM »

Quote from: hitbyambulance on April 09, 2014, 10:10:36 PM

Quote from: Ironrod on April 09, 2014, 06:05:17 AM

and my tv can't get broadcasts because it doesn't have a tuner.

check your local Goodwill or craigslist for an external DTV tuner; should run you about $10. you'll also need a UHF antenna if you don't have an old one lying around.

Good suggestion. Although the tv is 6 years old and only has one HDMI port, so I'll probably just replace it if I ever want to get into all this streaming business. Nowadays I could get a superior tv for 1/3 of what we paid for this one.

For those of you who are cutting the cable, how do you get internet access?
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« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2014, 01:57:26 AM »

Quote from: Canuck on April 09, 2014, 07:13:41 AM

Quote from: Ironrod on April 09, 2014, 06:05:17 AM

Quote from: Isgrimnur on April 09, 2014, 02:58:39 AM

It is if you don't want to just throw money at the problem and get crappy service all around for your trouble.

What problem would that be, exactly?

Most people probably dont have companies paying for half of their cable/Internet bill. $140 a month for 12 months is a pretty significant amount in the yearly budget.

Well, "my company" is me, too (corporations really are people, my friend) so it ultimately all comes out of the same pocket. The company's half just gets paid with before-tax dollars and doesn't come out of our household budget.
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« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2014, 06:33:12 AM »

Anyone using Aereo?
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« Reply #27 on: April 10, 2014, 01:03:30 PM »

I looked into Aereo on Tuesday but found that it wasn't offering local channels in the Chicago area.   icon_frown

Quote from: Ironrod on April 10, 2014, 01:52:56 AM

For those of you who are cutting the cable, how do you get internet access?

We're talking about cutting cable television (the portion that has increased in cost 3 times more than standard inflation rates) , not dropping cable companies as our ISP's.   I'm with RCN still for my cable modem, but I've cut my bill by two thirds by simply dropping the tv portion of it.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2014, 01:06:37 PM by hepcat » Logged

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« Reply #28 on: April 10, 2014, 01:11:46 PM »

I'm out in the country so my provider choice is either Dish or Direct. What I normally do is ride out the 2 year contract period, then switch back to the other company for their 1 year promo deal. But that gets old.

I did dial down the channels I subscribe to. I'm down to the smallest package available and that saved me about $40 a month. Still it would be nice to be able to stream everything I wanted through the PS4 or a similar device.
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« Reply #29 on: April 10, 2014, 01:21:49 PM »

Quote from: Alefroth on April 10, 2014, 06:33:12 AM

Anyone using Aereo?

No, but I'd sign up in an instant if it came to my area.  It looks like it fits my needs perfectly.
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« Reply #30 on: April 10, 2014, 01:25:59 PM »

Quote from: Scraper on April 10, 2014, 01:11:46 PM

I'm out in the country so my provider choice is either Dish or Direct. What I normally do is ride out the 2 year contract period, then switch back to the other company for their 1 year promo deal. But that gets old.

That was my modus operandi as well...until last month.  When I initially called, I tried to get them to put me BACK on a package deal.  But the sales rep I got was definitely not interested in playing that game.  I probably could have called back repeatedly until I got someone who would, but at that point I was just tired of it all and wanted out.
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« Reply #31 on: April 10, 2014, 05:59:38 PM »

Quote from: Scraper on April 08, 2014, 07:30:12 PM

Quote from: hepcat on April 08, 2014, 07:23:19 PM

There's an ESPN.GO app for the Roku that functions just like HBO.GO.  But that means you'll have to keep at least the minimum service from your cable company and add ESPN, most likely. 
That's the problem. Just let me pay $5 a month to use ESPN go and I'm all set. $7.99 for Netflix, $7 for Amazon Prime, Whatever HULU Plus costs, plus $5 for Espn and I would see huge savings.

Because that would cause people to cut their absurdly overpriced cable TV subscriptions even faster in the end. Also that makes a lot of sense to do (offer money just for ESPN) and as such it'll never happen.
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« Reply #32 on: April 10, 2014, 07:13:54 PM »

Quote from: wonderpug on April 10, 2014, 01:21:49 PM

Quote from: Alefroth on April 10, 2014, 06:33:12 AM

Anyone using Aereo?

No, but I'd sign up in an instant if it came to my area.  It looks like it fits my needs perfectly.

I don't think they are going to survive the Supreme Court. Honestly I've looked at their stuff and it is more than a little suspicious at how they are justifying getting around re-broadcasting.  The thing is if they do win, it opens the door to satellite and cable using similar ways to get around the fees and that could get ugly really quickly. 
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« Reply #33 on: April 18, 2014, 07:01:47 PM »

How is the experiment going?  Have you found any use for HuluPlus?

I've looked into doing the same a few times and talked to the wife about it.  We figure two more years.  At that point, the kids will be done with Disney Junior and Nick Jr. and everything else we watch (and truly care about vs. watch when extremely bored) is either OTA or Netflix. 

You also mentioned a Vudu subscription.  What do you see as the value there?  Do they have different movies than Netflix?  I've heard of the service but never really looked into it.  I really wish WB wasn't setting up it's own walled garden - there are a few movies I will likely never see because they don't come to any of the services I subscribe to.
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« Reply #34 on: April 18, 2014, 07:18:49 PM »

I have to admit, I don't miss cable television one bit now.  It's been a little over a month (almost 2, actually) and the only thing that's really changed is that I now watch shows the day AFTER cable subscribers.  To me, that's a non-issue.  

Hulu Plus has been fantastic.  I can't recommend it enough for the majority of the shows that air on the bigger channels.  Netflix and Amazon Prime gives me my movie fix and my tv show binge watching for things I didn't catch the first time around.  Plex picks up some of the slack with a CBS channel that gives me access (in high def, no less) to pretty much everything CBS airs (CBS doesn't like hulu it seems and refused to join forces with them).  My Roku has a History Channel app that gives me The Vikings (again, in high def).  

The only things I'm missing are the shows from AMC and FX.  But I'm buying episodes of Mad Men from Amazon for 2.99 a pop for HD.  Add in The Walking Dead, Justified and Sons of Anarchy when they come back and it's still nothing compared to the 100 dollars a month I'm saving.  

I have no desire to go back to cable television and I can't recommend it enough for those who want to cut the cord.  It's NOT difficult to do in any way, shape or form.  A roku or something similar and broadband internet and you're set to go.

edit:  oh, as for the Vudu stuff.  That's actually a separate issue for me.  I'm trying to reduce the amount of hard media I have.  I'd love to get everything I watch via streaming.  Right now I have shelves and shelves of blu rays and dvd's.  My goal is to just have the essentials on blu ray and everything else available through Vudu or Amazon Instant Video.  Vudu is not a subscription service, by the way.  It's simply an online streaming rental/purchase site.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 07:21:34 PM by hepcat » Logged

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« Reply #35 on: April 18, 2014, 08:00:37 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on April 18, 2014, 07:18:49 PM

edit:  oh, as for the Vudu stuff.  That's actually a separate issue for me.  I'm trying to reduce the amount of hard media I have.  I'd love to get everything I watch via streaming.  Right now I have shelves and shelves of blu rays and dvd's.  My goal is to just have the essentials on blu ray and everything else available through Vudu or Amazon Instant Video.  Vudu is not a subscription service, by the way.  It's simply an online streaming rental/purchase site.

Ah, good to know!

About HuluPlus - I have Tivo's that can record everything OTA and have good signals from all the networks.  Is there any reason for Huluplus in this case?
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« Reply #36 on: April 18, 2014, 08:06:36 PM »

If you're getting the major channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW) then the only thing that Huluplus would give you access to that you might not already have is a crap load of BBC shows.  They've also got some original programming, but nothing jumps out at me so far.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 09:40:15 PM by hepcat » Logged

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« Reply #37 on: April 18, 2014, 09:24:20 PM »

I use Netflix and Hulu and find that almost anything I care to watch is there.  I can piggieback on my parent's amazon if need be.
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« Reply #38 on: April 18, 2014, 09:48:25 PM »

Quote from: Harkonis on April 18, 2014, 09:24:20 PM

I use Netflix and Hulu and find that almost anything I care to watch is there.  I can piggieback on my parent's amazon if need be.

Same here. For big sporting events (UFC &NFL) I go to my local sports bar
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« Reply #39 on: April 18, 2014, 10:12:07 PM »

So this October my Directv contract expires.  I'm cutting the cord then... 

What I want to do is to use my spare PC as a media center/DVR.  The thing is, it may require some updates to the hardware (I think it's a Intel E3500 with 4 or 8 GB of ram, and a GEFORCE 6900? Video card) I'm thinking I'll need a new video card because it's only DVI.  I think ideally I want an HDMI type of card.

Couple of questions...

1: Do you think I should upgrade this a little?  Obviously I'll need a tuner card.
2: I have some SATA HD's but they're not fast.  Should I get a SSD card for it?
3: What OTA should I be looking into?  I have an attic, but don't really want to run cable down the wall, and we're planning on moving in the next year and I don't want to put much effort.  What OTA should I consider getting?  I don't have a budget yet, so I'm open to anything.


What we're planning on watching


1: OTA TV shows (recorded to DVR and watched later, having kids and trying sit for 10 minutes, is nearly impossible at the moment.  We really need something that we can pause at any time)
2:Sports (mainly football, and baseball.  I don't watch baseball religiously, but football, mainly the niners are broadcasted OTA, but I know I won't be able to watch TNF or MNF)
3: Some cable shows. (TNT, FX, TLC(Wife)  I'm assuming hulu might carry some or some other video service. 
4: We have Amazon Prime, and might consider Redbox or Netflix for streaming movies.  Hulu will more than likely be used as well.
5: I have ahem movies on my hard drive that we could use as well.

So, is going with a media center the best route, or should I be looking at Chromecast/Roku instead?  Our obvious goal is lower the bills.  Tivo probably won't do that.  I'm ok with buying the hardware upgrades up front because it's a one time charge.  Hulu is cheap a month, and Prime is technically free.  So I'm assuming our monthly TV/Movie bills would be under $20 a month.

Anyone have a good site for home built DVR?  I saw someone link to one, but I can't find it.
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