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02/05/2012 04:42:00 PM · #1
calling all techno-whizzes!

i'm looking for an alternative to comcast cable. i want something that can pull tv shows, movies, etc, off the internet so that i can watch what i want to watch, when i want to watch it, in whatever room i want to be in, on whatever device (tv, laptop, or tablet) that i want to watch on. i've heard of people doing this, but don't know what's involved. if i can get this worked out, i'll be able to drop my landline, as well as cable. (unfortunately, there's no viable alternative to comcast for internet connectivity, or i would have ditched them a long time ago.)

so, if you know how to set up an pc-based entertainment server, especially if you have experience with such matters, please post here or pm me.

THANKS!!
02/05/2012 05:27:47 PM · #2
Apple TV? It lets you rent / buy movies, music, TV shows, watch YouTube and some other stuff.

You an attach one to each TV you want and they all connect to your central iTunes library which would reside on a PC somewhere in the house. Works wired or wirelessly, though you'll want a N network.
02/05/2012 05:39:57 PM · #3
Skip, I'm a bit confused by your request. Excuse me if I don't understand your question.

Other than cable, there is DSL through your bell telephone company. Might be a little cheaper, but in my area, it is an inferior service, based on less speed.

Or, you can go with a satellite service. A little dish on your roof. Very economical. Pretty good download speed and selection. I really don't know how one uploads to the Internet with that kind of service. Someone must know how. Here in the mountains, 6" of snow blocks the signal. Not too hard to sweep off the snow, but it's not convenient.

I use AppleTV and it is a very good service for streaming downloaded movies. It requires an Internet connection, like cable.

My neighbors are able to wirelessly connect to my wifi through my guest network on my Apple Extreme Airport. If you have a cooperative wifi close by, you could try talking to the people.
02/05/2012 05:40:42 PM · #4
You could get a Roku...very inexpensive now, hi def, beats the apple TV in reviews I read.

I have one on my main TV...can be wireless to your network or Cat-5. Works pretty well.

The only cost effective service for movies I've found is Netflix (streaming). Also lets you stream older TV shows...I've watched a few series start to end, very conveniently that way.

//www.roku.com

You can also stream movies from Amazon on it, and other services. Check out the site.
02/05/2012 05:48:09 PM · #5
edited to add: okay, I understand your question now. You will keep your Internet service, but you want alternatives to cable. Sorry, I'm watching the pre game show with one ear. LOL!!!

Message edited by author 2012-02-05 17:53:55.
02/05/2012 09:31:26 PM · #6
I bought Google Revue and I love it!!
02/05/2012 09:54:41 PM · #7
here is what I do, it's not the best option but I keep hoping for something better to come along. Really after awhile you don't miss much.

I was with comcast for internet, phone and cable the bill was just more than I wanted to pay. So I called comcast to cancell everything and they offered me a package of basic cable(network channels and a couple extra like history channel) and their high speed internet. For both I pay $40 a month. I couldn't get highspeed by itself for less than that anywhere else, plus there is no contract so I can cancel anytime.

This got rid of our land line so you would either have to go the all cell phone route or go with vonage which we have done before and liked for around $24 a month unlimited long distance and local. But we don't need a land line anymore since our cell phones have unlimited minutes.

As far as supplementing what we don't get with basic cable we have netflix through our wii. I don't watch it a ton but I have small kids and it has just about every kids tv show you can think of, and they don't care about watching the same thing over and over.

I also use my HDMI cable and stream shows from my laptop from hulu and other cable sites that show full episodes of the t.v shows I like.

We also use vudu, that streams through our blue ray, you can get pay per view movies and t.v shows.

you won't get all the shows you are used to watching but believe me after a month or two you won't even miss it. And we save ourselves around $100 or more a month.

02/05/2012 10:21:26 PM · #8
I'm cable free and get my networks OTA. The only warning I have is that if you are a sports fan there will be some frustration. Other than that, I don't miss cable at all.
02/05/2012 10:30:25 PM · #9
I haven't paid for cable in about 5 years. We watch everything online. Heck, I was able to watch the Superbowl online for free.
02/06/2012 01:33:43 AM · #10
Originally posted by NathanWert:

I haven't paid for cable in about 5 years. We watch everything online. Heck, I was able to watch the Superbowl online for free.


You realize you could have watched that for free without a computer? ;)
02/06/2012 11:16:44 AM · #11
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I'm cable free and get my networks OTA. The only warning I have is that if you are a sports fan there will be some frustration. Other than that, I don't miss cable at all.

I'd love to dump our $95/mo satellite for free, higher quality, OTA.
The major barriers off the top of my head:
- Buy antenna, put it up, string cable.
- Antenna able to point toward both Toronto and Buffalo (maybe get two antennas?)
- Buy DVR able to serve two TVs.
- Buy/Find service to populate the "Guide" in the DVR.
- Satisfy the wife's love of the Food network.

Burlington, ON should be pretty decently located for OTA, between Toronto and Buffalo.

I imagine Skip is very well located for OTA.

Message edited by author 2012-02-06 11:18:07.
02/06/2012 11:18:29 AM · #12
Splice your neighbors connection and run it into your home. Keep your current setup and dont pay a dime ;)
02/06/2012 11:31:09 AM · #13
There are many options. What I've done is an integrated approach containing:

1- An antenna on my roof to get all the free over-the-air stuff, some of which is in HD and actually better quality than the HD you get through cable.

2- A Media Center PC (what you called an entertainment server) that is connected to the antenna as well as to an HDTV. This allows me to schedule recordings of anything I want to watch. I can basically 'subscribe' to a particular show, and it will automatically record all the episodes for me. Since this is a computer, and you are a photographer, you could also use this as a big-screen digital photo studio. It is a regular desktop computer, so you can do whatever you'd do on a regular desktop.

3- A Netflix subscription, which allows me to watch anything Netflix has to offer. I watch Netflix through a plugin in Windows Media Center as well as through my X-Box 360 and Roku Player. I'm also able to use my X-Box 360 as a Media Center Extender which means that I can watch whatever is recorded on the Media Center in the play-room on the X-Box 360 in my living room.

There are other options. One nice, new alternative is Boxee. I've seen the Boxee, and I think it is superior to the Roku that I have. It basically allows you to connect to any TV service that exists online: Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc as well as many RSS feeds. You will then be able to access them all from a central interface. Think of it as a slick service aggregator. Incidentally, Boxee allows you to download their system for free, and you could then install it on a regular computer.

The one thing alternatives like Boxxee and Roku don't have is the capability to record shows the way my Media Center PC does, and for me, that is paramount. I like to record things and watch them on my own schedule. The downside to a Media Center PC is it is not a plug-and-play deal, requires more tech-savvy, and costs more money than a Roku or Boxxee.

Whatever you do, you'll love the sense of liberation from the cable companies. This sort of thing gives Comcast and other cable companies nightmares. :)

Message edited by author 2012-02-06 11:42:17.
02/06/2012 12:24:20 PM · #14
If you want to save a few bucks you can make your own HDTV antenna for about a dollar.

Plans

I made this one and it worked better any any of the commercial ones I've tried. The commercial ones tend to sacrifice reception for size and appearance. But who cares about looks if it's going to go in your attic.

I also skipped the last step of installing the reflector.
02/06/2012 01:17:32 PM · #15
i did exactly this three years ago.

i have a dedicated htpc that i use as my main dvr, this pc has been on for 3 years straight, sleeps when its not in use and wakes up to record every show its scheduled to, its has, and i repeat, NEVER missed an episode of any show. windows media center is by far the best dvr service available, you get free guide data (unlike tivo) and works perfect.

i have an hd homerun that spreads the tv signal to my main htpc, my other c and laptop, the main htpc records all the shows, my other pc and laptop can access (through media center) all the shows and movies on it.

i also have a wdtv live box in the family room that can access all my movies and has netflix built in.

as far as getting signal and yeah you can use an antenna, but you can also get antenna service from the cable co, that service will get you the hd channels. comcast isnt allowed to encrypt hd channel that can be gotten with an antenna, this service usually runs $12 a month. another tip, depending on your ethics, if you subscribe to cable you can still get the antenna feed for free even after they cut off your service, as long as you have internet they cant filter the line to your house.

i'd be more than happy to answer any specific questions you have about my setup.

02/06/2012 01:25:16 PM · #16
Here is what I did.

I bought an antenna and booster and stuck it on the roof. Attached an over-the-air dvr box (optional). Bought a roku, signed up for Netflix and Hulu Plus and share the subscription with my sister.

I miss cable a little bit but we get 100+ over-the-air channels and I can get almost everything I want between the roku and my computer.

Very happy with the situation.

02/06/2012 01:51:28 PM · #17
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I'm cable free and get my networks OTA. The only warning I have is that if you are a sports fan there will be some frustration. Other than that, I don't miss cable at all.

I'm using the same rabbit-ear antenna I've had for 20 years or so ... after adding the digital-converter box I get about 8 PBS channels, 6-8 major network channels, and about 15-20 independent stations ... and there's still more than enough sports being broadcast to keep me from getting stuff done.
02/06/2012 02:45:05 PM · #18
Originally posted by GeneralE:

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I'm cable free and get my networks OTA. The only warning I have is that if you are a sports fan there will be some frustration. Other than that, I don't miss cable at all.

I'm using the same rabbit-ear antenna I've had for 20 years or so ... after adding the digital-converter box I get about 8 PBS channels, 6-8 major network channels, and about 15-20 independent stations ... and there's still more than enough sports being broadcast to keep me from getting stuff done.

Oakland is probably replete with broadcaster antennas.... (antenni?) no doubt a great place for OTA.
02/06/2012 02:56:37 PM · #19
Thanks! These are some really great suggestions!! And if anyone else has anything to offer, please do!

I'm slammed at the moment, but as soon as I have a chance I'm going to go through all of these and put together a ready-reference summation (and I'll probably be reaching out to some of you for a little more detailed info). I am so freaking sick of the lack of competition and the asinine monopolistic attitude that Comcast has; I've been angling for months to find a way to cut them off and now I'm starting to get a pretty good idea as to how to do it - thanks again, dpc!

If it were up to only me, I wouldn't have TV at all; as is, like Slippy (and probably others), I've got a family that isn't ready to go cold-turkey off cable network shows (my wife can't get enough Bravo and my kids, well, they're kids.) But, if I can present a reasonable alternative, I should be able to pull this off. Thankfully, I am in a pretty strong OTA area with 3.25 major networks broadcasting from 15-35 miles away.
02/06/2012 03:22:38 PM · #20
I ditched cable a while ago and haven't missed it yet. Certainly not the huge monthly bill.

I have Hulu+ and Netflix apps on my X-Box360 (many DVD and BluRay players have them built in too). Hulu+ gets me all of the TV shows I "miss" a couple of days after they air, but I can watch them anytime. Hulu+ also has some good movies. Netflix gets me the movies and some TV. Both have apps for my iPhone and my laptop, so I can watch pretty much anywhere I have cell coverage or internet.

I also have an antenna which gets me the local stations in HD. No fees.

Hulu+ costs about $8/mo and Netflix is about $15. Compare that to almost $100/mo I was paying for cable.
02/06/2012 03:28:08 PM · #21
If I didn't live in this God forsaken third world country, I'd be able to get Hulu.
02/06/2012 03:28:14 PM · #22
one thing to add, i sold this to my wife on being able to get all this content off the web and to be honest with you when the channels are readily available you cease to watch them.

my kids dont channel surf, what my son does watch is pbs and my daughter watch the Disney shows. every show they watch in on netlfix. the point is in my house watching tv has become an event, we sit down as a family to watch movies on occasion or i sit down with my wife to watch a tv show or two once a week. we usually let them build up on the dvr and make a night of it.

i work 40 hrs a week, i take two classes (not online, in the classroom) my wife goes to school full time, we have two kids and get to spend at least and hour or two each night with them, except when i have class. plus all weekend. i work out at least three days weeks for an hour plus and i get plenty of sleep every night.

not bragging, but i can do all this becuase i dont watch that much tv. forget the money saving, the extra time you get is worth it alone. i ditched cable to save money and it really improved my life, i just wanted to point it out becuase i never saw that happening.

i find it funny when people say i wish i had time to go to school or work out, or read with my kids or this or that. stop watching so much tv. there is plenty of time in the day, they just dont realize it.
02/06/2012 03:30:53 PM · #23
I also realized that all of the shows my kids were watching on cable, were shows they had recorded on the DVR. When the show was broadcast was of no importance to them. or me. That made it easy.
02/07/2012 02:11:05 PM · #24
Just bumped into this article for ya:

//www.retrevo.com/content/blog/2012/02/cutting-cable-cord-where-are-my-shows?cmpid=Email
02/07/2012 04:57:51 PM · #25
Originally posted by Strikeslip:

Oakland is probably replete with broadcaster antennas.... (antenni?) no doubt a great place for OTA.

Indeed, the the main antenna (pl. antennae) for many stations is in San Francisco. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/0-4999/1031/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_993562.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/0-4999/1031/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_993562.jpg', '/') + 1) . ' I also get broadcasts from San Jose, Oakland, and San Mateo, and every once in a while (I guess when the ionosphere is just right) I can pull in a station from Salinas or Sacramento.

Message edited by author 2012-02-07 16:58:36.
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