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Television

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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  • by Niris (1443675) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:24PM (#40460103)
    By looking at it.
    • 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.
      • by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:39PM (#40460317) Homepage Journal

        you could [run Netflix] with a computer as well. Biggest pain would be using a keyboard and mouse

        That's what a tray table is for. You put the wireless keyboard and trackball on the tray while picking a show, and once the show starts, you put them away to make room for your microwave dinner.

      • by msauve (701917)
        I like Netflix, it's good for entertainment content. But, something I haven't found for any media box, is CNN. Live news. On some, you can access the video files CNN puts on their website, but not CNN/HLN live feeds. My wife's addicted, so cable it is.
        • by BrainRam (939611) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:12PM (#40460717)

          I agree. There's no CNN, no Fox News, no MSNBC, no 24 hour live news at all.

          It's absolutely FANTASTIC!

          • by ThePeices (635180) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:55PM (#40461215)

            Wait, Fox has a news channel?

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by hammarlund (568027)
              At our house we call Fox News "The Comedy Channel".
        • by cmdr_tofu (826352)

          I find it easy to tune into newscasts with a plain old Linux computer when I want news. No CNN, but news.google.com (ok not TV) and www.democracynow.org (1 hour long video or audio).

          I haven't had a TV in years, and I'm going to cancel netflix soon too for the summer. Maybe re-open the account in the winter when it's cold out

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:52PM (#40461799)

          Personally, I don't give two shits about live news on TV. If I want to hear breaking news, I can get that online at news.google.com, cnn.com, msnbc.com, bbc.com, etc. It's much faster for me to skim through news articles anyway than to listen to some bobblehead speak, though many of these sites have video feeds available too if you really want that.

          Of course, if your wife is the one that really wants that, then you're stuck. Been there, done that. Sometimes there's no reasoning with women.

        • 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 [aljazeera.com] 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 [playon.tv] 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 [playonplugins.com] for PlayOn and found this. [playonplugins.com] 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wallsg (58203)

        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 fo

      • by LtGordon (1421725)

        Just an anecdote: I currently have a PS3 and a Hulu Plus subscription. A good number of the shows that I watch regularly are available so it's always been worth the $8/month to me in lieu of paying for cable+DVR (I have erratic work hours so a DVR would be a must).

        That being said, I just got home from working a 12-hour shift and couldn't wait to collapse into the couch and watch TV... Apparently Sony released a system update today/yesterday. In order to log in to streaming video services you have to have yo

      • Roku is better. (Score:5, Informative)

        by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @09:27AM (#40466389)

        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.

        Get a Roku. And spend the 10 extra bucks and get the Roku 2 XD.

        Like you, I used to use our Wii to stream netflix. but the quality was pretty poor. SD quality scaled up to 1080P. Bleah.

        I tried a Win7 box running Windows media center, and while it could do some things well, (such as stream my large amount of local server based media) the netflix quality was HORRENDOUS. And it can't do many other things, such as Crunchyroll, TWiT, and Revision 3 content.

        Also tried XBMC, and it was really nice, but couldn't do Netflix natively, and the user made hacks to get Netflix working were just that. Hacks. And ugly ones too.

        Eventually I broke down and snagged the Roku2XD on sale over Father's day weekend just this year. It does full 1080P Netflix and really nice scaling on older movies, plus it has TONS of other stuff like Crunchyroll, Revision 3, Twit, and on and on, and that's just the OFFICIAL channels. It also has piles of unofficial ones, and it has PLEX, which allows you to stream your local media on any box running the PLEX server module. (a little Win32 app that handles the sharing and does media conversion/streaming as well.)

        I have to say I've never been happier. While not perfect, the Roku2XD is absolutely the closest I've ever seen any box come to the "perfect" home media center experience.

        Oh, and the damn thing is the size of a Hockey Puck. I kid you not! You can use double-sided tape or Velcro to hang it off the back of your TV and the Bluetooth remote will still work perfectly. If you lose the remote or it dies, you can get a Roku remote app for your iPhone or Android device and use it's Bluetooth radio to control the Roku. It's AWESOME!

        Trust me, go buy a Roku 2 XD. You'll love it and won't look back.

    • Looking at it...1/3 of the time.

      Game on one monitor (currently Tera), surf on the other (yeah,'I know, only two monitors is pathetic) and big screen TV behind them against the wall.

      Truth be told, the second, surfing monitor is often playing fullscreen TV.

      ATTENTION GAME MAKERS!!! Make sure fullscreen on one monitor is functional while it is technically backgrounded when surfing on the other monitor.

      ATTENTION VIDEO SITES AND FLASHPLAYER!!! Make sure you can run fullscreen on one monitor while technically bac

    • by Idbar (1034346) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:53PM (#40460503)
      Bonus points if you're actually looking at the screen. Looking at the back of the device is kind of boring.
    • by Surt (22457)

      I'm fairly sure that's the exact opposite of the best way.

  • The Roku Box fills all of my TV watching needs.

    • I concur. The Roku box makes no noise and is a low power draw when idle. With Roku + Netflix + Amazon, I never don't have something to watch. I only have Amazon because I forgot to cancel after a free promo when I wanted something shipped quickly. I'd also consider Hulu+ if I cared about current season shows.

      For sports, there's a sports bar within walking distance of my house. A beer is much cheaper and tastier than a cable bill.

  • 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.

    • I second the Netflix idea. Though, Mythbox is useful if you have a large digital repository of videos already, otherwise you probably won't need it with a streaming video service.
      • Re:Roku or AppleTV (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pla (258480) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:50PM (#40460463) Journal
        Thirded.

        I gave up on cable about five years ago, and have yet to regret it. I can get full seasons, commercial free, from NetFlix within a year of their original airing.

        I seriously wonder why I ever paid over $1200/year for something I can get for a tenth that, and without the single biggest nuisance associated with live TV - The one that people pay more for devices to extract - Commercials.


        Cut the cord, dude! You'll never regret it.
    • I've got both Roku and Apple TV. The Apple TV integrates nicely with iTunes, but the Roku seems to be more open for third party content/apps (Roku "channels"). Scanning through the available channels reminds me of the early internet: some gems and a lot of crap. I actually like the crap in a public access sort of way. It's great for people with a fetish (mine is Korean dramas, on DramaFever!). $99 for the top of the line Roku, complete with motion controller and a copy of Angry Birds, is a great deal.
  • What's on? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Threni (635302) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:26PM (#40460151)

    Have you found anything worth watching yet? Whenever I hear about something good I check it out, but it just seems like shit to me. Game of thrones? Lord of the rings with tits. Caprica 1? Zzzzz. Walking Dead? Nothing ever happens - there's a strict 5 zombies per episode limit (apart from the last episode - perhaps it's the same 5 zombies over and over, though).

    Loads of talk of 3D, google/apple/whatever tv, but if it's just the same old shit then it seems like a waste of a lot of money. Just stick the good stuff on the net so we can watch it whenever.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>Game of thrones? Lord of the rings with tits.

      I fail to see the drawback.

      >>>Caprica 1? Zzzzz. Walking Dead? Nothing ever happens

      Agree on Caprica (though it had a great 5-episode ending... watch it on syfy or hulu). Walking Dead is better in comic book form because you can read at your own place, plus it's about 5 seasons ahead of the TV show's current location in the plot.

      Maybe look to the past: The 90s. Hercules was blah, but its spinoff Xena was quite good from season 2 onward. Also

      • I fail to see the drawback.

        No kidding. I pity the person who can't enjoy Naked Dragon Girly. BTW: Why didn't her clothes burn off when her dragon children charbroiled the wizard in the second season? They burned off in the first in her husband's funeral pyre.

        • by PIBM (588930)

          You might had forgotten the rest of the episode..

          • Maybe, as the line at the start of the latest Futurama said: "Not sure if new episode or just rerun of episode I watched drunk..."
    • heads up on the walking dead: the title refers to the survivors, not the zombies. hence the show is about human drama in a zombie apocalypse. plenty of shit has happened. i could drop a few examples but it's spoilers for others. and what other zombie tv show have you seen that gets away with this much gore? they routinely burst heads open and hack bodies up in the walking dead. even the creators have expressed surprise that amc lets them get away with their graphic violence.

      i admit i've read the books si
    • Wait, what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:07PM (#40460661)

      Whenever I hear about something good I check it out, but it just seems like shit to me. Game of thrones? Lord of the rings with tits.

      I've had absolutely no desire whatsoever to watch Game of Thrones. Then you had to come here and describe it as the single most awesome concept ever. Can you really think of anything better than Lord of the Rings with tits??

      Now I have to check it out.

      • by ThePeices (635180) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:01PM (#40461271)

        Can you really think of anything better than Lord of the Rings with tits??

        Lord of the Rings with Tits and Bacon?

      • by Artifakt (700173) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:12PM (#40461387)

        The one thing about Game of Thrones that most people who are just becoming fans don't get - EVERYBODY DIES! If it follows the books, absolutely every character you find youself liking, every one that becomes a favorite with millions of viewers, will die, generally by extreme violence. Imagine if you were really getting into original Trek, and somewhere about in the middle of season 2, Kirk gets his head exploded by a sniper disruptor, and McCoy has a heart attack trying to save him. Three weeks latrer, Checkov is dead, then by the end of the season Spock has been graphically fed feet first into a Vulcan rice picker. Maybe you thought 'City on the Edge of Forever' was couragious by showing sometimes nice people die, but now, someone you like is snuffing it every single episode. They bring back the Romulan commander you found yourself sneakily admiring, just to kill him off two minutes later. Klingons start naming their warriors with other sounds than K because that seems to be bad luck the way they are ALL being poisoned before they can get to command positions. The enterprise returns to the world of 'Shore Leave' just so people can permanent-die there this time. By the end of season 3, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Rand, and the Enterprise itself are all violently dead, and so is everyone on most of the planets they visited. Oh, and every transporter malfunction ever was shown with bright red blood spraying neck high over all the walls of the room, and it turns out photon torpedos destroy spaceships and equipment, but leave their crews naked and alive, floating in vacuum until they pop like in Total Recall.
                  That's where Game of Thrones is headed. Personally, I'm thinking they will kill off one of the really popular characters and then be terribly surprised when that one becomes the straw that broke three million viewers backs and their audience share suddenly drops 50% in a week, and then the week after is worse, and all of the sudden they are needing to cancel it because they are down to less than 400,000 viewers per episode and getting a million pieces of hate mail a week. I honestly expect the series to self distruct if it trys to remain true to the novels.

        • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:58PM (#40461867)

          >graphic details about extremely violent deaths of Star Trek characters, especially about Spock.

          I believe you've spent way too much thinking about this for far too long.

          Tell me about your mother.

          --
          BMO

        • They could kill of 99% of the cast and turn it into "The Tyrion Lanaster Show" and I'd still watch it. I think once he's dead, I'll be skipping the rest.
      • by Trogre (513942)

        Seriously, it's embarrassing to watch. The long, lingering shots of nudity are nothing short of soft porn and contribute utterly zero to the story. I got through one and a half episodes in the hope it would pick up, but it showed no such sign.

        I know there's a lot of people here who like to watch that sort of thing, but there's an entire genre for that, on dedicated websites and in the little side-rooms in video stores. Can't we keep it there?

  • by epyT-R (613989) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:26PM (#40460155)

    is not to watch tv. seriously, it sucks.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No, you suck.

      It doesn't suck. Like any medium most of it sucks, some of it is good. No more or less then movies music or books.

      Maybe you should think about the stories and no be so fanatically hateful of he medium in which it is delivered?

      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:55PM (#40460529)

        No it sucks. Used to be there were so many shows* I couldn't keep-up. (I had to tape them and catchup during Christmas hiatus and summer break.) Now the channels are mostly filled with reality crap, even the National Geographic (!) and Syfy Channel (building cars == fantasy or sci-fi??). I often flip through the cable when on business trips, and wonder why anyone would pay for it.

        *
        * The 90s; Just off the top of my head:
        Seinfeld, Friends, Quantum Leap, Star Trek TNG, Babylon 5, DS9, Voyager, Twilight Zone, X-Files, Sliders, Buffy, Angel, Xena, Hercules, Timetrax, Ren & Stimpy..........

    • by jdray (645332)

      AFAIK, TV sucks because the people with the money behind the productions want to grow that money at the fastest rate possible. Somewhere along the way, they discovered reality television, which appeals to the teeming masses of trailer-bound, beer-swilling, junk food-eating middle America by injecting imaginably-relatable drama into their otherwise boring lives. These shows are cheap to produce when contrasted with the cost of any show that is attractive to... well, anyone else. Shows like Farscape, Firef

  • XBMC (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bourgeois_Rage (149503) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:27PM (#40460161) Homepage

    I made the switch from cable to XBMC. Well we still get our internet through the cable company, but no longer do I get television through them. There's plenty of free streaming plugins in XBMC. And I have a server in another part of the house that hosts digital copies of TV shows and movies that stream over the wireless to a seamless picture and sound. I subscribe to Amazon Prime and get a lot of TV shows that way. It is very DIY, but once it is working, it is great.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What have you found to be the best way to get what you want?

    I just flash my titties..

  • I have been without cable or satelite for a year now. I have MythTV setup with dual tuner which captures OTA programs. After the shows get recorded an automated process converts the mpeg2 files into mpeg4 for lower file size and easy to stream in home network format. On the front end I have 4 apple TV connected to 4 TVs in different rooms. Each of them is running XBMC on it which streams the recorded programs from MythTV. My network is a mix of WIFI G and ethernet over power line. Works fairly well. Only pr
    • My only gripe is not having sports access. This year missed NBA completely. :(

      You could always buy a season ticket to watch your local college or D-League team. Yes, I know that's not for everybody, such as someone with a family or someone who follows multiple sports.

  • 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 Hulu.com 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

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Just realized how wordy I was. Short version:
      SETUP 1 :
      - free antennaTV + DVR
      + Hulu
      + DVD or uTorrent
      + clarkesworldmagazine.com, asimovs.com

      SETUP 2 (if antennas not allowed)
      - $25/mo Dish
      + hulu, DVD, etc

    • If you can't put up an external antenna, put one in the attic or even an outer upstairs closet works almost as well.

    • -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 Hulu.com 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.

      Just out of curiosity, would you have any interest in doing something more rewarding? Either for yourself or society in general?

      It's your time and you can spend it however you like. I was just wondering how happy you are with all these distractions in your life.

      Have you considered taking up a hobby?

      Writing can be enjoyable and possibly bring in some income if you're good at it. Having your first poem published can be an emotionally rewarding experience - more so than you would get from your typical TV show.

  • As it stands right now, an HTPC is going to do the most separate functions, but it's not necessarily the best option for all services. Here's my cord-cutter setup, and it works great for me:

    Roku for Amazon, Hulu+, Netflix: Clean interface, super low-power, remote easy enough for my daughter to learn at 4. You also get the 300+ other channels for Roku, plus a bunch of awesome private channels (and the ability to create your own, if you're so inclined). It's NOT a local streaming machine, though it's possible via a variety of hacks. Overall, we use this the most.

    HTPC for DVR functions and various internet stuff: I like Windows Media Center, but there are a bunch of different free flavors out there, depending on what hardware and software you're using. It's a great DVR for our OTA signal, plays every format available for downloaded stuff, and handles DVD rips by default. It's also the best way to play the stuff that content providers won't allow on Roku-style set-top boxes, like standard Hulu. Oh, and it does music, too, of course.

    TV Tuner for OTA: I use my HTPC for this sometimes, but really like the speed and ease-of-use of using the built-in TV tuner. YMMV.

    The main point here is that no one device is necessarily going to do everything you want it to, or not in the way you want it. A HTPC is the most versatile, but not always the prettiest or easiest for everyone in the family (if you're techie but your spouse/kids aren't, for example). I love my Rokus, and they're so cheap that it wasn't a big deal to get one for every TV. I don't miss cable at all.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      haha I love how 'cutting the cord' now equals subscribing to several different cords.

      • Sure, but they're on-demand cords, have no long-term contracts or extra equipment, and they're very, very cheap compared to even a basic cable or sat package.

    • by Karlt1 (231423)

      "It's NOT a local streaming machine, though it's possible via a variety of hacks. Overall, we use this the most."

      You don't need ugly hacks. Setup a Plex Media Server on your computer and run the Plex app (an official channel) on the Roku box. The server transcodes every video format imaginable to a form the Roku can play. It also automatically matches your video to metadata and artwork. The Plex app interface is as good as NetFlix and the server is dead simple to use -- install and configure it with the

      • Even an official channel that still requires you to set up a server on a local machine and transcode video on the fly is a hack, even if it's a supported one. Plus if you don't have a machine that's good/fast for that task, you run into some problems.

        I love my Rokus very much, but it's still a hack to have to do all that.

  • The best way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:35PM (#40460257) Journal

    You should have a home file server where everyone keeps everything. RAID 6 it. That way you never have to worry about dying hard drives.

    Put RTorrent on it with a watch directory. Sign up to a private TV torrent tracker with an RSS feed. Download the torrents linked to by those feeds into your watch directory. Share the torrent directory via Samba.

    Put a PC with XBMC anywhere you want to watch TV. Add your samba share as a source. You're done.

  • Kill your TV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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

  • XBMC (Score:4, Informative)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:39PM (#40460315) Homepage

    XBMC on a small 1080p capable system (even a $35 Raspberry Pi will do), XBMC Remote on an Android device as the remote control, and optionally a file server for locally stored content. The library for movies and TV season DVDs. We cut the cord years ago.

  • by Paul Slocum (598127) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:39PM (#40460323) Homepage Journal
    I spent a long time without cable watching everything off a hard drive or Netflix, but I'm back to cable + a DVR. I really just love flipping through channels, and having everything instantly on in HD. I felt like watching TV only off Netflix and my hard drive had me making too many of the choices, and I got into a rut. I admit I have weird taste in TV and so maybe it's not for everyone, but cable + DVR is definitely my preference.
    • Ditto. Cable + TiVo here. I get to watch things live, bounce things to the other TiVo in the house, and if there's not something on cable TV then it's easy enough to find something through Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.

      Now if there was just a way to watch iTunes movies on a TiVo, I'd be set.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:42PM (#40460359)
    Dish or DirectTV both have great packages and great multi-room DVR systems, mostly without the worry of babysitting your downloads or pissing off your ISP with torrent downloads.

    Similar, Ceton makes a fantastic 4-tuner cable-card that works great with Windows Media Center, albeit after a sometimes difficult setup.  Media Center then integrates nicely with things like Netflix.

    If your goal is to easily watch TV, then keep paying for cable or Dish/Direct and upgrade DVR systems.

    If your goal is to cut the cord, deploy a good internet-enabled Blu-Ray player with DivX/x264 support in each room and get yourself some Netflix.
  • I find the best way is to:
    have a usenet subscription...
    install sabnzbd+ to download 'news' items
    install sickbeard and use it to automatically send new episodes to sabnzbd+
    use xbmc running on a low power computer plugged into your tv to watch any new episodes, you can even set sickbeard up to notify xbmc of when an episode has been downloaded
  • by jj00 (599158) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:43PM (#40460371)
    1. Write down every feature you want
    2. Write down all the shows you like to watch on a regular basis
    3. Determine the other means of obtaining those shows other than pay tv (Antenna, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc)
    4. Decide the best choice for you by what features and shows you want

    We went through this couple years ago and settled on a Tivo with an Antenna. We supplement with Netflix and Amazon.
  • 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 Slickdeals.net - 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:46PM (#40460407)

    Am I the only person that thinks it's absurd that I can purchase a 100 megabit downstream link from my cable provider but can't watch a particular TV show without being forced to purchase a 70 dollar/month (with 2 year commitment) bundled package? (From the same company)

    I have a connection to a network where I can grab data from anywhere on the planet, but TV shows come via an obsolete channel switched bitstream on a schedule designed to extract advertising dollars in exchange for my valuable time.

    The media companies have spoken, and they aren't interested in selling me content. So I don't buy it. The few shows worth watching are available at the usual places and you can watch them at your leisure. Paying for content sends the wrong message. When you pay, you're buying 20 minutes of advertising. When you pay, you're telling them you're willing to sit there in front of the TV when they tell you to.

    Given the exploitative nature of traditional TV packaging, they should be paying you to watch. Not the other way around.

    • by windcask (1795642)

      Immoral?

      I agree (mostly) with your arguments, but I fail to see how stealing programming because you dislike the medium in which it's delivered is moral. If you don't like ad-driven television or services like Hulu, either buy them in a medium in which you don't have to watch ads (on DVD, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix) or don't watch.

      I usually just read a book.

  • by fa2k (881632) <pmbjornstad@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:48PM (#40460433)

    I run MythTV, and it's pretty nice (can be combined with a storage server, and in my case, a workstation). Still feels like recording songs off the radio, but the quality is good and the TV industry are only just now starting to provide fair alternatives. (the reason i have a DVR is to watch stuff when I want. Let me know when you can give me that with streaming, without arbitrarily pulling content.) Mythtv is a bit "temperamental" in my experience, and it provides a reasonable interface that could have been better. You can use mythtv with over-the-air digital TV and supplement with other services if necessary

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:49PM (#40460441)

    I haven't had a TV for 15 years or so.

    Strangely, I find myself able to form my own political viewpoints and impression of what's going on.

    Netflix and iTunes for movies and commercial-free old tv series. News sites for news.

    Go to the pub to watch big sports events like Stanley cup and World Cup soccer (the vibe is better than the living room anyway).

    Olympics etc come online now too. Not a fan of (the mostly non-foot variety of) football, so no problem at all there with weekly sports viewing.

    Only thing is, Canadian Netflix and iTunes movie and tv show selection sucks sucks sucks due to separate licensing agreements for the content compared to in US. It's like spending an hour in a video rental store trying to find a movie that you haven't seen that actually wasn't straight to DVD. Most of their selection is "wasn't good enough for the big screen" crap or something from pre-1965. Almost bad enough to make you want to get a TV or a US proxy net connection and fake US zip code and US bank VISA card, but not quite.

    • "Strangely, I find myself able to form my own political viewpoints and impression of what's going on."

      smuggest sentence of the day award goes to you!
    • > I haven't had a TV for 15 years or so.
      > ...Netflix ...iTunes...Stanley Cup...soccer...Olympics...

      But you still watch television.

  • you can call the cable to get a new box or switch to a dish or DIRECTV.

  • I was in your exact position (minus the kids) in January, and I settled on a bit of a hybrid system. I have a Blu-Ray player to play my existing (past) movie collection. For Netflix and some Hulu Plus streaming I have a Roku HD; it also supports Amazon Prime and a plethora of other channels that I haven't dug into much. For everything else I have a spare 35' HDMI cable (www.monoprice.com) that I connect to my laptop, add 2.4ghz mouse and keyboard and it's a very robust solution.

    The additional thing to note

  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:54PM (#40460507)

    I have an antenna. I get better quality than many people I know with dish or cable. I spend more than adequate time in front of the idiot box as is - why tempt myself with more.

    There are a few premium shows I want to watch - Mad Men and Sopranos for example. But I've watched entire series on DVD for less than the cost of a month of cable.

    Savings depends on your plan but compared to many of my friends and neighbors I am saving over a thousand dollars a year in subscription fees alone not counting the cost of the box and the power to run it (many DVRs are power vampires on standby). That pays for a week or more camping at a national park. Or a weekend at Disneyland.

  • by morari (1080535) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @07:59PM (#40460579) Journal

    Cut the cord! Subscription television is ridiculously overpriced and saddled with more advertising than content. There is rarely even anything on worth watching. Set yourself up a new media box (Boxee, Roku, GoogleTV, custom HTPC, etc) and enjoy everything you want without accidentally slipping into channel surfer mode. You'll enjoy life a lot more the less television you take in. :)

    What should go with? I love my Boxee Box. It's quick and easy to set up. It gives you that "set top" feel. It has great options for local and network playback. It has a lot of options for streaming as well (but with some notable exceptions, like Hulu and, I believe, Amazon). The interface is absolutely beautiful and the remote control is even kind of cool. Couple it with a basic Netflix subscription and a health dose of torrents and you'll be all set.

  • I've wondered about the best way to do this as well. I refuse to pay for a service that makes me watch commercials (cable/sat TV). IMHO advertisers should be paying cable companies to give away cable access to people who want it, or there should not be commercials if I'm paying. Why do I need to pay to be advertised to? I'm sure it's more complex, but I just don't care.

    My setup has evolved over time. I have a 30 Mbps Internet connection, a 55" LED LG mounted to the wall in my living room, and a mid-lin

    • I know its a hack but for my own video collection i use a Synology NAS and their ipad app to stream content to my apple TV via airplay. Works great
  • We have a Roku box on my wife's TV, and upstairs in the media room we have a DVD player that has Netflix built in and has a USB port on the front that accepts a thumb drive with, you know, a video on it. Should you have a video on a thumb drive for some reason... This combination plus a conventional antenna (remember those?) so wife can watch football (she's a fanatic), pretty much takes care of our video needs.

    Advantages are, netflix video service is cheap, the occasional DVD can be played upstairs (Fri

  • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:33PM (#40460963) Journal

    Cable TV is almost entirely repeats of OTA broadcast TV shows, and a flood of low-quality "reality" shows. And with the proliferation of cable channels over the years, the content is continually spread ever-thinner. So you have 5 "discovery" channels, and 4 "history" channels, great! ...except that all the content which was formerly on ONE channel is now spread across 4 or 5, and to fill time each channel just has the same 3 hours (of repeats) on each day, playing in a loop. Really, it's incredibly sad.

    Honestly, OTA broadcast networks had the formula figured out, many decades ago, and it works just as well today as it did back then. Whatever you like to watch on cable, you can find hours of it on the broadcast networks, every week. That's where all the halfway-decent original shows are developed and air, that's where the most-watched sporting events air, that's where all the best science, history and nature shows air, that's where the best news programs are produced, etc.

    Ever since OTA TV went digital (and HD) the "free" option is now the highest quality, all-around. It's also them most convenient option, by far, since you don't have to wait for the cable guy when you move, you can hook-up an unlimited number of TVs and other devices, and there are no restrictions on recording or time-shifting the content. If you're paying for cable, you're really paying $60+/month for the priviledge of lower picture quality and massive inconvenience, and only getting an extra 20% of content out of it that you wouldn't get OTA.

    My recomendation... Get a good antenna, and buy or put together a DVR. DVI or HDMI to the TV, and all you need is a $50 ATSC tuner from Hauppauge (IR remote incuded) to make your Myth/Freevo/whatever -box complete. The picture quality will be perfect, and the flexibility is just amazing, as you can add as many tuner cards as your DVR box can physically accomodate, you can watch pre-recorded or live TV from one of the tuners on ANY internet-connected device (eg., my phone), as well as any DVD/Blu-rays you rip to the device, etc.

    Now, OTA TV can certainly fill your viewing/entertainment needs, but this can be complimented with the also-free Hulu Desktop to get some cable TV shows, old shows, and junk movies, as well as a (cheap) subscription to Netflix for your movie viewing, and possibly their streaming video selection if you have a compatible device (Linux isn't supported).

    This has been my setup for the past 5+ years, and I couldn't be happier. My only concern is moving to an area where I'm too far from the broadcast towers. For anyone in that situation, I see Dish Network's $15/month "Welcome Package" seems perfect, you just need to find a receiver that can be controlled via USB ala Directv, or similar, since depending on IR blasters sucks royally, and I suppose one of those component video capture boxes.

  • by berj (754323) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @08:45PM (#40461093)

    I haven't had cable in years. I've got an Apple TV 2 plugged in to my TV and it's fantastic. We watch a ton of stuff on Netflix. I also download full seasons of some of the shows I watch from iTunes. A bunch of other stuff I watch on the various TV stations' apps on my iPad (which I could Airplay to the TV but I don't). It's just about a perfect setup for the type and amount of TV that we watch.

  • In my experience either the WDTV or Boxee box are going to be your best bang-for-the-buck when it comes to doing both online media (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify) and playing back most types of local media (mp3, mkv, m4v, avi, etc). I've tried both and I think the WDTV is edges out the Boxee Box.

    Given a WDTV and an large external harddrive, you can start by using MakeMKV and Handbrake (both free) to rip all your current DVD's and Blu-rays. If you were so inclined, you could probably also borrow and rip friends' collections as well, though this wouldn't be legal.

    From there, if you were also so inclined, you could pick up a DVD or Blu-Ray subscription from Netflix to go with the streaming subscription. I've heard the same software works pretty well with their discs too.

    That doesn't get into downloading movies from Usenet or torrents, which is also an option.

    As others have mentioned, the real "problem" is how this is all presented to you, the user. If you cut the chord, you are now going to be picking and choosing each movie and TV show you watch. It's a choice, rather than having a bunch of stuff thrown at you for you to just leave on. It may seem minor, but in practice it's a noticeable difference in how you consume media.

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @09:23PM (#40461483) Homepage

    - I have an HDHomeRun which has two tuners which can individually receive any feed on either unencrypted cable or free OTA.
    - I have a Mac Mini running XBMC. It really is the simplest and cheapest way of doing it, no messing with getting HDMI to work (works with audio out of the box).
    - I have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, TED, Pandora plugins running on XBMC as well as Ted (The Episode Downloader) with Transmission
    - HDTV passes audio through digitally to my receiver (optional)
    - Attached a 2TB WD Passport to it, USB powered (optional depending on the amount of content you have)
    - Get AirServer if you want your Mini to also receive your iPad/iPhone content over AirPlay (optional)

    The things to look out for:
    - Make sure your Mac Mini does not go to sleep. It uses minimal power but I have an actual Apple TV in the bedroom and 3-4 laptops so it has to remain on to be able to share content also, I want it to get content online. The remote control does wake it up so YMMV
    - Make sure nothing interrupts your XBMC process (pop ups etc). Make your user not an admin (you won't get interrupted by software updates and the like), login automatically, start the application automatically, make the user get a minimal Finder, uninstall unnecessary software. I'm still working on some of the details but most of the popup stuff is disabled. I am going to create a script that automatically restarts XBMC because it does crash once in a while. You can use Cocktail to disable a lot of things.
    - Connect your media center to your ethernet if possible if you're going to have multiple devices use content. WiFi (even 5GHz 802.11n) is still too flaky for continuous HD quality in my area

  • by RichMeatyTaste (519596) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:55PM (#40462405)
    Roku plus a pc running PlayOn and some good playon plugins. Pretty much everything is out there ready to be streamed. Netflix and Hulu for Roku are good as well.

"Just think of a computer as hardware you can program." -- Nigel de la Tierre

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