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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Watch TV In 2012? 479

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-not-involve-3d-glasses dept.
zaba writes "Once again, I can hear the tell-tale signs of a hard drive dying. This time, it's in the DVR for one of our TVs. In the U.S., are we at a point where, with a little technical savvy, 'cutting the cord' makes sense? If so, what are the best options? Does a refurb Roku (anywhere from 60-80 USD) make the most sense? Does building a mythbox or some such device make sense? For my family of four (ages 36, 30, 13 and 4), we are paying ~100 USD/month for two receivers (one with a DVR). What, in your opinion, is the best option to have TV service in two rooms of the house? Kid's shows could be in one room and adult shows in another. Or, all of it could be on one server (I have computers lying around) that could go to multiple rooms. We like the DVR for the instant access, but saving a hundred bucks a month would be nice as well. I can drop CAT-5 as needed, but Wi-Fi would be preferred. For programming, we currently have 'standard' cable and mostly watch the major networks. I would love to have ESPN, but can get my sports fix (mostly college football) through other means, I'm sure. How do you all watch TV? What have you found to be the best way to get what you want?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Watch TV In 2012?

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  • Roku or AppleTV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rgbscan (321794) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:25PM (#40460135) Homepage

    I would have recommended a Roku or AppleTV with Netflix and Hulu Plus.... but Hulu Plus just started running political ads. Arrrgghh. Amazon Prime is a nice to have, but not needed. I rarely find something there that Netflix doesn't have.... unless you want reality tv stuff or those "dirty job" type shows. Amazon Prime streaming seems to have those in spades.

  • by Niris (1443675) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:27PM (#40460169)
    Also on a more serious note: Netflix. My girlfriend and I only have that and it works great. You can set it to play only kid shows fairly simply, there's a pretty solid amount of content, and you can always rent movies if you really want them (or torrent, if that's your thing). I run ours through a Wii in the bedroom and a PS3 in the living room, though you could do it with a computer as well. Biggest pain would be using a keyboard and mouse, but I feel like they also sell remotes for computers so you could look into that.
  • My Setup (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:34PM (#40460233)

    I've learned not to try to tell people what to do, especially since they rarely listen (like my brother who spent $70/month on Dish when I had advised spending 1/3 that amount). Instead I tell them what works for me and let them decide:

    SETUP 1 :

    - free TV via an antenna. Attached to all the rooms in the house. Both an old VCR and DVR that I use to tape stuff while I'm sleeping.
    - supplemented by over PC or roku
    - supplemented by DVD purchases of shows not on hulu (like Games of Thrones). Supplemented by uTorrent if the DVD has not been released yet.
    - I also read a lot of mystery or sci-fi magazines online if nothing's on.

    SETUP 2 (if I lived where antennas are not allowed)
    - $25 a month Dish service for cable on two sets
    - supplemented by hulu, DVD, torrent, et cetera

  • Kill your TV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:36PM (#40460279)

    No, seriously.

    I got rid of mine a few years ago, and I have no idea (not a clue) how I ever had time to watch it.

    It's incredible how much time it takes to watch your TV! In the absence of TV you will devote that time to other pursuits. And *any* other pursuit, including sleeping or picking lint out of your navel, is more valuable to you than watching TV.

    The other thing that happened was that my desensitization to the crap on TV abated. Now, watching TV is torture: I cannot believe how horribly bad it is relative to anything else. I don't know whether it was always that bad and I was used to it, or whether it has *really* gone downhill in the last 5 years.

    For the record, I am probably around average when it comes to productivity, engagement, and intellectual ability: this is not the pronouncement of a Harvard professor, just an ordinary IT manager who is sick of looking at screens when he gets home.

  • Re:My Setup (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rei (128717) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:41PM (#40460341) Homepage

    Here in Iceland I get my TV service through something called "myndlykill"; I don't know the English word for it, but it's a box with a Cat5 on the back that plugs into your hub and downloads channels from the net and yeilds an HDMI signal. Most people here have 50Mb/s or 100Mb/s optical fiber net connections so there's enough bandwidth for a good picture.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:46PM (#40460399) Journal

    AppleTV is nice, but you'll be paying per show (or season).
    Roku is cheap, but not as reliable

    Netflix (on either ATV or Roku) and Hulu (on Roku) are monthly services which have decent selection. I'm not sure if Amazon is on Roku.

    If you're the adventuresome type, don't mind playing fast and loose with the rules (but don't want to get caught), and have a free weekend, you can try and set up the following on a machine you designate as a server:

    sabnzbd - a program to download stuff from the usenet
    sickbeard - a program to find TV shows on usenet
    couch potato - a program to look for movies on usenet (optional)
    jailbreak an ATV2 (they're still out there, right?) and put on either XMBC or, for a little more family friendly (but limited), Plex along with Plex Media Server on your PC.

    You will also want a NZB account, like NZBmatrix ($10 for 10 years? Lifetime? who knows) and a Usenet account. Look for deals on - on rare occasions you can pick up an unlimited account for $6/mo. I rarely use more than 100GB of TV in a month, so a 1TB chuck for about $50-60 is also good.

    You tell sickbeard what shows you want it to find, and what your NZB account password is. When it finds the show you want, it passes the info off to sabnzbd (you input your usenet credentials there) which downloads the blocks of the show,decodes it, names it, and puts it into the directory or your choosing. Couch Potato is similar. I'm sure I've gotten something wrong, but after an hour or two of tutorials out there on the net it's not that bad.

    Okay, so that's getting you content - probably over https - is a way that does not expose you to the IP owners of the world like P2P does.

    Once your content is on the computer, you can either point your Roku or AppleTV with XBMC installed to it and start watching. I prefer Plex, and my 9 yo and wife found it super easy.

    We cut the cable (well, sat) back in January and don't miss it. Oh - I do have antennas for OTA reception for local weather and news.

    Using usenet isn't exactly legit, but it's also very, very low risk as you are never uploading or sharing any content with others. It's a nice system if you've got a slower connection, too, as you are downloading the files - not streaming them. It means a day or so delay for shows, but you never have to worry about buffering.

  • by wallsg (58203) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:02PM (#40460617)

    We watch Netflix via a PS3 and OTA via an antenna in the dead air space above our ceiling.

    Sports is likely to be your biggest drawback of dropping cable or satellite.

    We're not big on sports or "regular" TV so this suffices for us. Honestly, after you get used to it you'll wonder why you bothered to watch half the stuff you did. I did miss not getting to watch the second half of The Walking Dead season two (should be coming to Netflix in the relatively near future), but as long as you're willing to wait for them to get to Netflix (or willing to buy or otherwise "acquire" the episodes over the internet) you'll be fine. If you watch a couple of hours of TV per night you'll have literally years worth of movies and really good television series that you meant to watch but somehow never did just waiting for you. With no commercials you can know out three half-hour shows in just a touch over an hour. I guess that would be a season of 24 in about 18 to 19 hours...

    PS3 sucks hard for Youtube. Big hoops to jump through to get anything other than low-res video there. You can either go through third-party websites or set up a proxy PC.

    I will probably like to watch the Olympics to a greater degree than what will be OTA so I'll just plug my laptop into my receiver via HDMI and stream whatever's available online. BTW, that works pretty good with a Toshiba Thrive android tablet too.

  • by pacapaca (1955354) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:58PM (#40461871)
    Honestly I've found some of the best news and in-depth segments can be found on Al Jazeera [] which has free live streaming. Many of their English-speaking reporters/presenters are ex-BBC people and it's proper news (not the fluff found on most US "news" channels). There's even a plugin for integration with XBMC (and possibly others)... Definitely worth a look!
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:43PM (#40462305)
    I have been using and recommending PlayOn [] for several years. The open nature of their plugin system allows you to roll your own for any site out there. I did a quick search of one of the most active plugin/scripting sites [] for PlayOn and found this. [] With it's active scripting scene you can find just about anything you are looking for. And if you don't you can usually find someone willing to tackle it for you just for fun. Add to that the fact you can live stream from it to any DLNA compatible device as well as any iDevice/Android/BB over the internet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @01:20AM (#40463673)

    We lived in Europe for a while and liked Al Jazeera a lot.

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