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View Full Version : No more cable TV - what do you suggest?




McGiord
Jul 25, 2010, 01:40 PM
I finally cancelled my cable contract and switched to comcast for high speed internet service. I was paying $102/month for digital cable with some HD basic lineup and the HD DVR, plus 8 Mbps internet connection with WOW!. Now I will pay $30/month for 20 Mbps with comcast (for 6 months though, then it will be $62 per month). Some good savings during the following months.
I have an apple TV and a Samsung BluRay player that streams Pandora and Netflix.
As many of you already did it (living cable free), I would appreciate your tips on:
1- How to make most of over the air HD TV
2- What are your suggestions for DVR?
3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?
4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?
5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?
6- PS3 ?
Thanks for your comments



mkrishnan
Jul 25, 2010, 01:54 PM
I do this (no cable) primarily with just a small Windows PC / nettop (EeeBox). I'm pretty happy. I basically use Hulu (Flash via Hulu Desktop) and Netflix (via Chrome and Silverlight) and that's almost it. I don't miss my DVR much. I guess it depends on what and how much broadcast TV you watch, though. I don't watch much sports, but when I do want to see a Michigan or Florida football game or the Red Wings or something, ... I have to go to a sports bar. :o But as far as broadcast comedy/drama, almost everything I watch is on Hulu these days. I'm not quite sold on the idea that Hulu's premium service will be worth it yet, but that would make Hulu substantially more powerful by making episodes available all season.

marcre
Jul 25, 2010, 02:24 PM
I plan on doing the same thing over the next couple of weeks. My cable bill is about $150/month.

I think I'm going to get DSL from Verizon for $35/month for a year. after that, I'm going to switch to cable internet if it goes up too much. It's crazy how much high speed internet costs.

I'm going to get an Apple TV down the road, I just want to see if there's an update to it. When I get it, I'll hack it to have Hulu.

Oneness
Jul 25, 2010, 04:20 PM
As many of you already did it (living cable free), I would appreciate your tips on:
1- How to make most of over the air HD TV
2- What are your suggestions for DVR?
3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?
4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?
5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?
6- PS3 ?
Thanks for your comments

I'm 43 and now have been cable free for, um.., 43 years.:)
1 - I'm in a major metropolitan area and using an indoor antenna I'm able to get around 30 OTA HD channels. I'm able to watch local broadcasts of the area's sports teams so I don't really miss cable for the sports aspect. Although I know that is a killer for a lot of people.
2 - I use the EyeTV Hybrid. It has worked great for me - partly becuase I have not experieced any other DVR. I'm sure TiVO and the like are more versatile and powerful. One thing I have noticed as a limitation is that with pausing live recordings I get a buffer of about only 20 minutes.
3. - TV shows: mainly I record them with Eye-TV. If I miss an episode i'll torrent it. For TV series that are not current I will buy the DVD's.
4 - Get the Mini.
5 and 6 - No opinion.

Cheers

mkrishnan
Jul 25, 2010, 06:22 PM
^^ I wonder if I should actually get an antenna and see what OTA HD is like... I don't think I've ever seen it (let alone tried it at home).

McGiord
Jul 25, 2010, 08:00 PM
^^ I wonder if I should actually get an antenna and see what OTA HD is like... I don't think I've ever seen it (let alone tried it at home).

When I use the OTA HD, the signal is excellent, crisp clear image with dolby surround sound, even better than cable signal, sometimes my cable signal was grainy.

Tilpots
Jul 26, 2010, 08:03 AM
When I use the OTA HD, the signal is excellent, crisp clear image with dolby surround sound, even better than cable signal, sometimes my cable signal was grainy.

OTA HD blows away a cable/satellite feed. It's really sweet.

I would recommend getting a Mini so you can watch online content and use it as a DVR with one of Elgato's solutions. Hulu's great and ESPN3 for sports is AWESOME! Plex has s a great interface and they're promising improvements to an already excellent system.

Unless your a big gamer, I don't think you'd need a PS3 because you already have a Blu-Ray Player. If you do get the Mini, it will quickly become the hub of your Media Universe. The new Mini's are powerful machines, but even several of the older Mini's could fit your needs, so don't feel like you have to break the bank to get one.

spice weasel
Jul 26, 2010, 10:14 AM
As many of you already did it (living cable free), I would appreciate your tips on:
1- How to make most of over the air HD TV
2- What are your suggestions for DVR?
3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?
4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?
5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?
6- PS3 ?
Thanks for your comments

I ditched cable a few weeks ago. Got tired of paying so much for watching so little.

1) I'm not sure how to answer this, other than to say that whereas before I would surf through hundreds of channels to find something that caught my eye, now I either a) spend more time reading (something I did a lot of anyway, but now do even more of), or b) just find something on one of the OTA channels I get and watch that. Most of the time I do this it's because I'm just bored and want to veg-out in front of the tv anyway.

2) Hulu. This is really going to depend on your viewing habits, of course, but I just use Hulu rather than worrying about missing a program.

3) Netflix and OTA. I suppose I'll probably purchase the next season of "Breaking Bad" from iTunes. The few other shows I watch regularly are all on the networks, so I can get them via antenna or on Hulu next season.

4) It really depends on what you want to do. After my Apple TV died, I decided not to replace it until Apple comes out with something that wows me. For now, if I want to watch something on Hulu I just connect my laptop to my TV via a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, and use a Toslink cable for audio. I use Front Row to stream DVD rips from my main computer (Plex is acknowledged to be better, but Front Row suits my needs). Sometimes I'll just copy an mp4 DVD rip to a flash drive and play it off of my PS3. My PS3 is also used for Netflix.

If you are only going to be streaming your own rips or iTMS purchases to your TV, then the Apple TV is fine. If you plan on using Hulu or other streaming websites, then you might want something more. If you want to use an EyeTV as a DVR, then you'll definitely want a Mac mini.

5) I hacked my old Apple TV a while ago for Boxee. Since it died, I haven't kept up with the Hulu vs. Boxee war and I don't know if it works anymore or not.

6) Since you already have a Blu-ray player that does Netflix, only get a PS3 if you want it for games.

Overall, what I've discovered is that going cable-free hasn't been so much about trying to recreate my old viewing habits using various pieces of technology, but rather about reassessing my viewing habits. I now realize that I never actively watched a lot of television, and most of the time when the tv was on it was because I was bored and was usually not paying attention anyway. So I haven't felt the need to fill every little niche with a new service. In fact, my tv is off a lot more now. YMMV.

McGiord
Jul 26, 2010, 07:23 PM
thank you for the responses!

And about breaking the bank for the Mac mini, I will be able to pay it out just by the savings of not paying cable, I'll be saving around $70 per month during the next 6 months, I will be doing that during the next months, provided that also I sell the :apple: TV.

Cool that comcast is affiliated with espn 3. My former web provided isn't.

ReggaeFire
Jul 27, 2010, 06:33 AM
If you have problems getting OTA reception, you can always try plugging your cable directly into your EyeTV/tv/anything with QAM tuner. Cable companies rarely go to the trouble of adding filters to your cable drop which block the video signal, so you often can get the local HD stations with your cable internet. You won't get anything but your local channels, and really OTA does look better, but sometimes you live in an area with poor OTA reception.

duncanapple
Jul 27, 2010, 07:27 AM
I haven't had cable/sat for the last roughly 4 years. I don't miss it a single bit. I use a roof mounted Terk antenna (its a small plastic square, not at all ugly like some of the older antennas) to get my OTA, and I agree with the above, its a much higher quality than what I have seen from uverse (fiber), direct TV, cable, etc. The antenna actually even works inside, i just mounted it outside so I didnt have to look at it.

I have a blue ray player for movies, plus I have a TiVo HD to handle the DVR stuff (it also does the netflix/blockbuster/amazon rental thing). I actually prefer TiVos DVR, they are by far the best out there imo.

Internet is through att uverse (fiber), I am currently getting 6mps for $33/mo. I will admit they are far from competitive on speed/price but 6mps is quick enough for me, given the price.

Oh and I am not sure where you live (US?) but check out www.antennaweb.org (surprised no one mentioned it?). Based on your address they will tell you what type of antenna will work best, tower locations in your area, and a bunch of other good info relative to OTA broadcasts.

pjarvi
Jul 27, 2010, 09:20 AM
If you have problems getting OTA reception, you can always try plugging your cable directly into your EyeTV/tv/anything with QAM tuner. Cable companies rarely go to the trouble of adding filters to your cable drop which block the video signal, so you often can get the local HD stations with your cable internet. You won't get anything but your local channels, and really OTA does look better, but sometimes you live in an area with poor OTA reception.

This is great advice! I canceled my cable TV service a year ago, plugged the cable straight from the jack into the back of my TV, and did a channel scan. My TV has an option to scan for Antenna or Cable channels, I used the Cable option. I've now got all the local stations (including their HD feed) as well as ION, MeTV, MeToo, and TBS for free.

1- How to make most of over the air HD TV
OTA will just give you the same thing as what you're likely to get for free from your existing cable line, assuming the cable company didn't put a filter on it. When I still lived in an area where I could tune in OTA, I used an Elgato tuner with the EyeTV software.

2- What are your suggestions for DVR?
EyeTV works great and also support the Turbo264 hardware encoder.

3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?
For the few shows I really like I use iTunes. I'm not into any of the mainstream stuff though, so you may want to use Hulu for more popular stuff.

4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?
I would only recommend sticking with the AppleTV if you're a heavy iTunes user. I think the only thing you'll miss out on without an AppleTV are HD rentals from iTunes.

5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?
I used aTV Flash but only for the external USB storage ability. There are free flashing products out there though, and I found it to be unstable requiring a weekly reboot of the AppleTV due to freezing, so ultimately I took it off and reverted back to streaming.

6- PS3 ?
With Hulu Plus being exlusive through the end of this year on the PS3, definitely worth considering. You could sell your Samsung player if you like the performance of Blu-Ray movies on the PS3.

northy124
Jul 27, 2010, 12:05 PM
1- How to make most of over the air HD TV
2- What are your suggestions for DVR?
3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?
4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?
5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?
6- PS3?
This is from a UK perspective mostly, although I use US iTunes :)
1. OTA HD is really non-existant here (UK) so I have Sky HD* (basic with Sports & ESPN), for the price it is good enough as the amount of sports I can watch is :D would like to see more MLB games on ESPN though (and maybe better HD ;)).
2. Mac Mini with one of the Elgato offerings.
3. iTunes mainly and Blu-ray if iTunes doesn't have what I want (mostly HBO/Showtime series).
4. Yes, can be used as DVR.
5. Don't bother hacking it, sell and get Mac Mini.
6. Also don't bother with PS3 as you have Blu-ray already and IMO unless you are into games an Apple TV will do just as good (Mac Mini would be better though :p).

*I am going to be cutting it out next year as I only watch MLB, NBA and NFL mainly which I can watch online on the official sites (so much cheaper IMO) :D

danimals
Aug 3, 2010, 03:59 PM
Great thread. Thanks. I've just killed comcast cable myself and need another solution. Plan to run the cable line out of the wall as discussed. I'm working with a ps3 and recent pioneer receiver and monitor, none of which have coax inputs or qam tuner. I'm thinking a macmini and eyetv solution, but was wondering your thoughts on using a macbook pro and the ps3 streaming capabilities as an alternative to the mini? I'm soon to purchase a new mac and would prefer the portability, etc. of the macbook, but would also love to have a truly effective HTPC solution. Thanks!

dmm219
Aug 3, 2010, 08:58 PM
when it comes to tv, i recommend the following to save as much $ as possible...

1. OTA first...with dvr of some kind (i use eyetv on a mini)

if the show you want to watch is unavailable via #1..

2. Hulu...hulu desktop works great on the mini

if the show you want to watch is unavailable via #2..

3. Netflix online...(i have it on both the wii and 360...both work excellent)

if the show you want to watch is unavailable via #3...

4. Netflix dvd...IF you can wait...

and if the show you want to watch is unavailable via #4 OR you just can't wait...

5. Buy the show on itunes (it was really hard to watch BSG any other way...)

$9 a month for Netflix...and whatever you spend in itunes (not much...)

will save you a TON and you can still have access to just about everything you want...

sadcaper
Sep 7, 2010, 02:33 PM
Great thread. I would love to do this as well. However what's holding me back is really one thing: ESPN. If there was a way to get espn via Mac mini, then I would so do it. On demand sportscenter would be great. Plus can't live without Sunday night football which I don't believe is available via Internet.

If anyone knows of a way to get ESPN, then I'd be in!

ReggaeFire
Sep 7, 2010, 02:49 PM
Actually NBC does stream the Sunday night games on the internet (for free!). It's actually a pretty interesting feed, as they stream all the cameras, so you can be your own director.

While you can't get ESPN streamed legally, it's probably one of the most illicitly streamed channels. There are plenty of decent feeds of it available on a number of sites 24/7.

ecschwarz
Sep 7, 2010, 03:29 PM
I'm actually researching this topic for an upcoming article on another technology site, but to answer some of your questions, here are my own person thoughts:

1- How to make most of over the air HD TV

Get a good antenna so that you can pick up everything. Most stations will have subfeeds (not always HD) that carry even more content (24 hour news services, weather, or movies).

2- What are your suggestions for DVR?

For DVR, EyeTV is pretty good, otherwise I'd say try to grab a TiVo HD - if you get one off of eBay with the Lifetime subscription, there are no other costs. It's a bit spendy, but frees up your Mac, has a digital over-the-air tuner, can transfer shows to your Mac, and streams Netflix.

3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?

Netflix, Hulu, etc.

4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?

If you go this route, #2 would definitely be the EyeTV option and you could also do things like Hulu and Netflix on it. However, it doesn't have the best interface for across a living room, so you'll need some sort of wireless keyboard and mouse/trackpad.

5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?

I think a lot of hacks for the Apple TV have either been played out or are broken, partially because of the (now previous) Apple TV's low processing power and limited add-ons. That being said, the new Apple TV will probably offer even less for the hacking community.

Icculus
Sep 7, 2010, 04:01 PM
I finally cancelled my cable contract and switched to comcast for high speed internet service. I was paying $102/month for digital cable with some HD basic lineup and the HD DVR, plus 8 Mbps internet connection with WOW!. Now I will pay $30/month for 20 Mbps with comcast (for 6 months though, then it will be $62 per month). Some good savings during the following months.
I have an apple TV and a Samsung BluRay player that streams Pandora and Netflix.
As many of you already did it (living cable free), I would appreciate your tips on:
1- How to make most of over the air HD TV
2- What are your suggestions for DVR?
3- Where do you get your TV shows? TV series?
4- Is it worth selling the Apple TV and getting the latest Mac mini?
5- Hacking the Apple TV? What you did and what you get?
6- PS3 ?
Thanks for your comments

DVR - TiVo Series 3 HD. I replaced the 160GB with a 1TB so I don't have to worry about the 30 hours of HD space. Also BIG advantage of getting this DVR (besides Netflix that is obvious) is that you can get a program for your mac called PyTivoX (totally free) that will stream ANY content to your TV on the fly. I have tested everything, divx, bluray, mkv...doesn't matter, streams it. Works awesome. So I plan to get new AppleTV and with this setup, I have no need for anything else...and it works with antenna setup which is what we have cause we cancelled cable.

3 - OTA or AppleTV

6 - PS3...I have one, not the best media server imo....Tivo Series 3 HD. BOMB.

Hope this helps.

Icculus
Sep 7, 2010, 04:03 PM
^^ I wonder if I should actually get an antenna and see what OTA HD is like... I don't think I've ever seen it (let alone tried it at home).

If you are in a good area, OTA HD is awesome. I think it looks better than cable/directv HD. I hooked up an antenna in my attic and made all cable jacks to use the OTA antenna with a amplified splitter (1 in 4 out ac powered.) All my TV's look perfect and have had 0 issues with picture degradation.

ecschwarz
Feb 3, 2011, 08:49 PM
I don't know if anyone knows anything about "institutional" cable systems (they use in colleges, hotels, retirement communities, military bases, etc.), but the idea is that a cable signal is pushed out without needing a box at each location. The point of this is so that you just hook up a TV, set it to "cable" and it's fine. Most cable operators have moved to digital-only for residential customers, requiring either a "full-blown" cable box, or a "digital adapter" that might receive limited channels. The thing that gets me is the lack of willingness to push more digital/HD channels through for those cases where there's an HD set. I know this isn't totally related, but I almost think that the Apple TV could fill this void if the capability was added (think ESPN 3), but for things like CNN, ESPN, and a few others where you wouldn't want to get shows on-demand.