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3D TV or Die: Television’s last gasp gimmick to slow IPTV?

Are you really going to wear these?
Are you really going to wear these?

So everyone who went to Vegas came back talking about 3D televisions, and I guess I probably should as well.

The folks who saw 3D tv and who were awestruck basically fell into two categories:  gamers and sports fans.  The gamers were really excited about some of their favorite titles ending up in HD, and the sports fanatics were basically just a bunch of drooling jibbering idiots (according to Leo Laporte of Tech TV during one of his posts).  Oh yea, and porn too.  But we’re not going to go there.

But it might also be about keeping one step ahead of the streaming IPTV services.

Print never had a chance, music took solace (wrongfully) in the idea that mp3’s were of such an inferior quality that people wouldn’t give up CD’s for the sound, and radio went down a long dark road to HD nowhere thinking that was the solution to the problem (as they saw it).  TV moved up to HD quality a few years back, forcing everyone to buy a new television and forestalling, temporarily, the IPTV movement.  Just when bandwidth got to such a level to support some good quality streaming (such as Twit.tv) they raised the bar to a quality level that as some have said, once you have seen it is hard to go back to standard digital.

But now HD streaming is becoming more and more popular.  Hulu is offering HD streams of TV programs, Youtube is as well.  There are TV programs such as FILMON that allows HD streaming of content that is pretty impressive for live quality.

Perhaps this whole 3D thing is just another attempt to push the bar a bit higher–to differentiate IPTV from 3DHD.  Make it harder for the computer folks to keep up with what the television networks are offering, and you are able to stay in business a few more years as an over the air / cable broadcaster.  Stay alive until the new new thing is out, or until TV figures out streaming in such a way as they can make a decent profit from it and avoid the piracy concerns they have.

Or maybe it is just a gimmick.

As for me, no way I’m buying a 3D TV for at least a few product cycles (i.e. until they get a standard, and work out the kinks).

How to live without Cable TV and migrate fully to IPTV

So I’ve decided to do it.

A news junkie cutting the cable and going without the joy that little coaxial brings into my home.

But fear not, I’ve made alternate arrangements for my ‘tv’ viewing.

Here we go:

Hardware:

I have a Mac Mini in the garage that currently serves as a ‘development’ server for my websites. It’s coming out of the garage and will be connected via DVI cable to the TV in the house. The Mini is great for this as it has a very low electricity usage footprint, something like 30w or so. I may end up boosting the memory to 4gb if playback suffers, but we’ll see. I will likely reduce the image quality on the display to 780pixels or so, which is still pretty good but nothing like HDTV. Reducing the resolution means those small streams that show up as a tiny ‘box’ on my computer display will be somewhat larger and more lifelike on the big screen.

I have a ‘big dish’ outside that gives me access primarily to foreign television over the Ku band. This FTA ‘free to air’ system brings in 1000 channels or so, but most are not in English and it’s not like the stuff you see on your regular television. I also have an eyetv attached to the Mini for recording purposes. I’ll be able to record ‘over the air’ content that comes down, which should include the big networks and PBS.

Movies:

Joost, Hulu, Redbox, and Netflix are all in consideration. Of course most of the movies on the first two I’ve seen before (and don’t really need to see again) but Redbox ($1 a night movies) and Netflix ($9 a month) are offering up first run movies. If I get Netflix streaming working I’ll have a bunch of other content as well.

Shows & Software

Hulu is best for this. I’ll be watching a great deal through Hulu I suspect. Boxee will also come into play for some playback, mainly the podcasts I like to watch. I’ll be using the Boxee iphone remote for much of this, and the Mac Mini has a remote as well I can use.

Live content

I will be using Livestation for many of my live TV programs. This will give me some news channels to watch and occasionally some other content. I also will be utilizing a number of streaming websites that have video content. As I have a computer in the UK I’ll also be able to watch some content from the BBC, which should help feed the ‘news junkie’ monkey on my back.

HDTV

Really, there is not much of a substitute for this. But given the fact that Comcast seems to be degrading the quality of HDTV, I’ve started to notice the channels that once made my jaw drop are now looking little better than standard digital channels. If I throw an antenna up on the roof I may be able to pick up some HDTV over the air, but just like the switch from ‘full quality CD sound’ to ‘MP3′ I’m not entirely sure I’m going to miss HD content right off the bat. (I may consider a PS3 or something else with a Blue Ray so I can watch some HD stuff now and then.

Cultural change

By far the biggest problem is going to be the lack of ‘ambient’ television. For me to watch anything is going to require that I ’seek out’ a channel or programming and call it up through a variety of means listed above. It’s not going to be an idiot box that you just flip on and have the content there. It’s going to require a more active solution to find programming.

That might not be a bad thing. Everyone has at one time or another ‘watched something just because it was on’. I think that will be eliminated in my new IPTV world.

So the countdown has begun. IPTV only in this house starting next Monday. $152 in savings per month starting next Monday. We’ll have to see how much time we save once we start to use it.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 3.14.04 PM

My Cutting Cable TV guide

So if you’ve found this page you are probably interested in cutting the cable TV service but still having access to your favorite television programs.  You’re in luck, because with recent developments in the world of IPTV there is MORE to watch on the Internet than you could ever hope from your local television company.

This step-by-step guide should get you started. There are some things you can do without if you want, but this is some of the basics of cutting cable TV and saving quite a bit of money.

1) What kind of TV do you have?

Most importantly, what type of connections do you have on the back of your TV.  For most of you, you will find any/some of the following:

  1. HDMI (best and most common on TVs < 5 years old)
  2. DVI (good and common on TVs <10 years old without HDMI)
  3. Component (Red/White/Yellow/Green/Blue. Common on HD tv’s)
  4. RCA (Red/White/Yellow, common on TV’s before HD)
  5. S-Video (Yellow circular plug, somewhat common on TV’s before HD)
  6. Coaxial / SCART (Basically standard on all TV’s in the last 25 years).

An HDMI connector will look like this:


 

 

 

 

 

A DVI connector and cord will look like this:

 

dvi_d_socket 111dvi dvi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) What are you going to connect to the TV?

You have a wide range of devices you can connect to your TV.  First, and probably easiest, is an old computer that you might have lying around, such as a laptop you no longer need or a desktop. Find a place for it behind the television and connect it via the HDMI or DVI ports.

Other options include what are known as “streaming devices”. Apple TV is an example of a streaming device, as is the Roku and Western Digital Live devices. These connect to your home network and then to the net to bring you content from all over the world. I personally prefer a Mac Mini as it gives me more options for content to watch.

If you do opt for an old computer, you should consider buying a wireless keyboard and a mouse, or more preferably a trackpad. Why a trackpad? It looks better on your couch and it doesn’t get as thrown around / beat up as a mouse.

And as strange as it sounds, there is a great deal of content that is “over the air” for free. You should consider attaching an antenna to your TV to pull in a number of free signals from the major networks, PBS, and the independent channels in your area. Because cable companies compress the quality of the HD signal over their lines, you may found that HD over the air is actually clearer than what you were getting with cable.  To see what signals you can get over the air, check out the broadcasters Antenna Web site and input your details.

 3) What are you going to watch?

This is where it gets fun, and this is also where you start to make a change in your viewing habits.

With a standard TV, you can turn it on and just leave it running, flipping channels as you feel like it seeking out some content. But when you make the switch to Internet TV, you find yourself watching only “what you want to watch” rather than having television on as an ambient background noise. Sure you can put on a stream and have it run all day, but generally you’ll find yourself turning it on and off as needed.

You can start by getting some sort of media management program. You can use iTunes to download and rent movie and TV shows, or you can look into some other media management tools like Plex or the open source XBMC. You can also use your web browser and look through sites like:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Video
  • ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox
  • A&E, Discovery, History Channel, etc.

For live television, you can find streams on many of the websites for television stations, but you can also look at streaming specific apps like Livestation and LiveStream, but also sites like JustinTV and UStreamTV.

There are also what are known as peer-to-peer streaming apps, some of which have content that is not copyright safe but still stuff you would like to watch.  PPTV and Sopcast are examples of these programs.

4) Going International

There are literally dozens of channels from around the world that have streaming content available, such as the BBC iPlayer and the ABC (Australia) Player. However, many of these are geographically restricted to people who have an IP address in that country.

To get around this, you need a VPN or DNS redirection service. While there are a few you can find for free, if you really want higher quality, you should consider paying for a service like Overplay.net.  This gives you a VPN to over 65 countries and can open up a whole world of content no matter where you are living. For example here in Hong Kong I’m streaming BBC 1 ‘Breakfast’ as I type this article.

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 3.14.04 PM

 

 

Read more about my adventures with IPTV as a replacement for cable by searching here.

http://penguinsix.com/?s=iptv

Read about cutting cable and going fully online for your television.

 

5 ways to simplify your life

1) Stop getting dressed.

Steve Jobs, William F. Buckley, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, and a massive number of bankers and lawyers.  What do they have in common? They all, basically, wear the same thing everyday. Steve Jobs was famous for his turtlenecks and jeans, and bankers and lawyers are always in charcoal grey with white shirts and a colored tie. Of course it isn’t the exact same item they are wearing day-in-day-out, but they are wearing ‘something’ that means they no longer have to worry about what they wear everyday. They can literally grab the first thing that comes out of the closet and put it on, ending the ‘decision’ period of what to wear, what to wear that goes on daily. Even if you spend only a minute a day deciding what to wear, you are wasting six hours a year.

You can even take it a bit further. If you find something you like, or that is not very important, such as underwear or socks, consider buying in bulk.  I have 30 pairs of black socks and 20 pairs of white socks, all the same. I have not matched socks in over 10 years.  Why? Because every sock matches every other.   I have 30 pairs of underwear.  I have 6 pairs of khaki pants and 6 pairs of black pants. I have two pairs of dress shoes (identical).

I just don’t care, and no one really notices. The reality is that unless you are working in the fashion industry, the vast majority of people wouldn’t notice if you wore the same thing daily, unless it started to smell.

Black and white socks (and wicked exposure problem with the camera)
Black and white socks (and wicked exposure problem with the camera)

 

2) Automate as much as possible.

Amazon Prime is one of the greatest inventions in history. Why? Because it allows for ‘subscriptions’ of many day-to-day items that we use.

It is ridiculous to buy at a retail store any of the following:  soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, q-tips, toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sponges, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, and many other household items. Why? Because the chances are you are ‘done’ deciding what brand to buy. You are set in your choices for these items and buying them is simply a matter of grabbing them and putting them in the cart, or maybe shopping around slightly to find a better price. You are not shopping–you are simply engaged in the logistical operation of getting certain goods to your house.

Automate this. Automate and NEVER think about this again. Have a delivery of these items brought to you every week. The time you will save will be significant, but you will also avoid the “emergency shampoo”.

In the course of a year, there will come a day when you need to make an emergency purchase of any of the above items. You have a meeting and you are out of toothpaste, or shampoo or whatever. This necessitates a run to the store, parking in the lot, walking in the store, buying something, and then driving back home again to take care of whatever it was. This can be quite a long time, and you’ll probably spend more than a dollar or two just on gas.

Automate the simple things. Get them out of your hair now and don’t think about it anymore.

3) Compartmentalize your media.

Consuming media can lead to a state of media gluttony–overloaded and overstressed. If you are a media junkie, the new tools of the Internet allow you far too much access to far too much interesting content. This can consume your preciously needed free time.

But if you step back, you start to realize very little of the consumption is ‘active’–it’s more passive and becomes very habit forming. Like eating french fires because they are there when you order a Big Mac, not because you really wanted them. The TV is on with noise, the radio, the net, email, messengers, etc.  These ambient media sources come in and out of your day to life causing tremendous stress.

One of the best things you can do is to cut cable tv.  Get rid of the 1000s of channels you don’t need so you find yourself focusing on the ones you really want. Turn off e-mail notifications.  Use email rules to filter so much of the noise out before it arrives. Consider subscribing in paper to a newspaper instead of reading online (and getting distracted).

This was probably the toughest for me. I haven’t mastered it by any stretch.

4) Move to work, or work to you.

Commuting sucks. You probably think of the time spent getting to work as the actual time spent in your car, but the true ‘door-to-door’ time can actually be quite a bit longer. Waits in the parking garage, the time it takes to go down three escalators in the subway. Long commutes–heck any commute becomes this block of time in which you can do nothing but travel to and from your job. The time spent commuting is one of the biggest financial and time wastes of your life.

Moving closer to work, or working from home if that is an option, saves weeks per year. Weeks per year. Commuting can be one of the most expensive taxes you pay, not only in money on your transit but in the time wasted.

Sometimes this requires a career change, but the reality is that very few of us are in such specialized professions that there is “no other option”.

5) Declutter and Centralize

Have you ever looked for your keys? Your glasses? Your wallet? This is wasted time.

Have a centralized location for things you need every day. Glasses, keys, wallet, phone and any other item that is a ‘must-have’ every day you head out.

There is no need for paper for a vast majority of items. One of the best things I did was buy a sheet-fed automatic scanner to process receipts, letters, Christmas Cards, bills,–whatever comes across my desk and clogs things up. This is what I bought Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner for PC and Mac (PA03656-B005)  I now scan basically everything and minimize the paper shuffle going on my desk. 

Take a look around your room.  Anything you have not touched in the last 60 days should go to a place where it is not visible. Sorted into a closet or put away so as not to clutter your brain.  Items you haven’t used in 12 months should be pitched. This goes not only for computer parts lying around that you are afraid to throw away, but clothes as well (getting back to the first point on my list).

 

 

Anyway, these are just a few random thoughts.  What are your tips?

 

Best TV Apps for iPhone / iPad

One of the neatest things to do with an iPhone (or any smart phone) is to watch TV streams “live” on your phone.

Now saying it is “TV” is technically a misnomer–you aren’t technically receiving over the air TV frequencies with your phone and displaying them. Instead these are streaming video feeds from a variety of sources around the net that have been nicely packaged and laid out for display on your iPhone.

The apps can be sorted into a number of different types, traditional vs. Internet broadcasters, and collators vs. individual stations. It’s also worth noting that the Chinese presence in IPTV dwarfs, by a large amount, the efforts of other countries. Chinese Internet TV activity is rather amazing in that there is simply so much available. US broadcasters have not quite caught up, but recent developments by the Cable companies are a sign that might soon change.

So let’s go through a list with a few reviews:

Individual Stations

Al Jazeera English Live – Livestation — (Traditional Broadcaster) — AJE is an international news service that has really made a name for itself during the Arab revolutions of 2011. While it is still criticized by some in the West for ‘biased’ reporting on issues such as the US invasion of Iraq and the Arab-Israeli peace process, AJE has established itself internationally as a major player in the international news community. AJE is now viewable on cable TV in most parts of the US (due to the aforementioned controversy) but their iPhone app is a must have for any news afficiando. AJE has really gone to great lengths to get their voice out on non-traditional communication’s channels such as mobile phones, the Internet, and streaming media players like the Roku

FRANCE 24 – France 24 (Traditional Broadcaster) — France 24 is France’s answer to CNN and the BBC World Service. Broadcasting from Paris in English and French, France 24 offers a European take on the international news and is definitely worth adding to your iPhone collection.

DW–(Traditional Broadcaster)–Deutsche Welle is the German international broadcaster offering a mix of English and German programming throughout the day (often the same exact show just in different languages). Streams and podcasts of their programs are available through this app.

CCTV (CNTV) — (Traditional Broadcaster) — CCTV is the Chinese state broadcaster offering a wide variety of programming from sports to those long episodic soap operas. They have an English-language service but this app gives you access to a wide variety of the official government programs from China.

NHK WORLD TV Live – NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) (Traditional Broadcaster)–Made far more relevant by the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, NHK World’s iPhone app gives you English-language programming from Japan. Sometimes you get an HD quality stream too.

SKY TG24 — (Traditional Broadcaster) — This is a Turkish broadcaster broadcasting in Turkish news and other programming from Turkey. I haven’t watched it very much but the production quality looks rather professional.

AJE Sports — (Traditional Broadcaster) — Al Jazeera has a full time sports programming which includes quite a few soccer matches from middle eastern nations. Occasionally they’ll have some other sports programming but generally you’ll see football most of the time.

BFM–(Traditional Broadcaster – French). This is a 24-hour news channel based in France with a worldwide satellite audience. The coverage tends to be about French news and France or EU-related

Collators

TVU Player iPad
icon (Lite and Full) This is one of my most important apps as it gives me access to literally 100s of traditional broadcasters from around the world. You won’t find BBC or CNN in there [ usually 😉 ] but there is plenty on this app to keep you occupied. If you are a sports fan, particularly a soccer fan, than this app is a must have. They carry a number of matches from around the world on this app and you’ll have plenty of content to keep you busy. They also have some movie channels airing some copyright expired movies.

PPTV is another good app, eventhough most of the instructions are in Chinese. Originally I thought there were some live channels but on further inspection it appears most of it is ‘on demand’ movies, some of which you kind of wonder ‘do they really have the re-broadcast rights for this’? American and European movies along with tons of Chinese films are found throughout this app.

ELTA TV This is a Taiwanese app that has a number of pre-recorded programs, but occasionally has some sporting highlights from the NBA or MLB.

W.TV iPad
icon–This one is wild. It has all sorts of content, of questionable copyright, filling it’s directory of live and on demand movie programs. It’s in Chinese, but not all the movies are Chinese–some are still in the theaters in the USA.

Livestation (Web) This is one of my favorite websites for watching television. I strongly recommend their mobile site, m.livestation.com as a bookmark on your homescreen as they offer a number of channels in iPhone and iPad compatible streams. Euronews is on this channel, something I watch frequently to get the EU perspective on things.

Internet Only

TWiT – ShiftKeySoftware–This week in Tech is a great app with great tech-related content. It’s also a massive warning shot to any traditional broadcaster. Leo Laporte and his crew have patched together ‘a tv station’ with not much more than a lot of bandwidth and a number of TV cameras. They broadcast daily, live and then stream repeats throughout the night. I would love to emulate this model with other content–just have to buy some nice bandwidth and get started. Maybe next week.

Oh man this list is going to be long. I think I’m going to have to take a break before it gets out of control…

Here are a few others worth investigating on your own:

YUPPTV–Indian programming

RAYV TV–Random TV channels

MOSS–Random TV channels (a few good ones too)

I.TV–Links to some streams

SPB.TV–Some German or French channel.

netTV Lite–Random TV channels, paid version has more interesting bits.

MobiTV–Works in the US. Subscription model.

GrandLille TV–French Channel.

Xfinity TV–Comcast app. Works in the USA

We Stream–Random TV channels

Zappo TV–Random TV channels

MTS TV–Random TV channels

SMC TV–Chinese channels

Infinity TV–Random TV channels

On Air Live–Random stuff

Tai Seng–TONS of Hong Kong dramas and movies on demand.

UStream–Random TV and user channels

JustinTV–Random TV and user channels

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 3.14.04 PM

Cutting Cable TV / Internet TV

So if you’ve found this page you are probably interested in cutting the cable TV service but still having access to your favorite television programs.  You’re in luck, because with recent developments in the world of IPTV there is MORE to watch on the Internet than you could ever hope from your local television company.

This step-by-step guide should get you started. There are some things you can do without if you want, but this is some of the basics of cutting cable TV and saving quite a bit of money.

1) What kind of TV do you have?

Most importantly, what type of connections do you have on the back of your TV.  For most of you, you will find any/some of the following:

  1. HDMI (best and most common on TVs < 5 years old)
  2. DVI (good and common on TVs <10 years old without HDMI)
  3. Component (Red/White/Yellow/Green/Blue. Common on HD tv’s)
  4. RCA (Red/White/Yellow, common on TV’s before HD)
  5. S-Video (Yellow circular plug, somewhat common on TV’s before HD)
  6. Coaxial / SCART (Basically standard on all TV’s in the last 25 years).

An HDMI connector will look like this:


 

 

 

 

 

A DVI connector and cord will look like this:

 

dvi_d_socket 111dvi dvi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why this is important is because of the connections on the back of your computer or device you are going to hook up to the TV. Most computers have an HDMI or a DVI connector. To hook up these devices is a simple cable from the device directly to the TV. If your TV is older, you may need some sort of adapter that will connect whatever type of plug on the device to the TV.

2) What are you going to connect to the TV?

You have a wide range of devices you can connect to your TV.  First, and probably easiest, is an old computer that you might have lying around, such as a laptop you no longer need or a desktop. Find a place for it behind the television and connect it via the HDMI or DVI ports.

Other options include what are known as “streaming devices”. Apple TV is an example of a streaming device, as is the Roku and Western Digital Live devices. These connect to your home network and then to the net to bring you content from all over the world. I personally prefer a Mac Mini as it gives me more options for content to watch.

If you do opt for an old computer, you should consider buying a wireless keyboard and a mouse, or more preferably a trackpad. Why a trackpad? It looks better on your couch and it doesn’t get as thrown around / beat up as a mouse.

And as strange as it sounds, there is a great deal of content that is “over the air” for free. You should consider attaching an antenna to your TV to pull in a number of free signals from the major networks, PBS, and the independent channels in your area. Because cable companies compress the quality of the HD signal over their lines, you may found that HD over the air is actually clearer than what you were getting with cable.  To see what signals you can get over the air, check out the broadcasters Antenna Web site and input your details.

 3) What are you going to watch?

This is where it gets fun, and this is also where you start to make a change in your viewing habits.

With a standard TV, you can turn it on and just leave it running, flipping channels as you feel like it seeking out some content. But when you make the switch to Internet TV, you find yourself watching only “what you want to watch” rather than having television on as an ambient background noise. Sure you can put on a stream and have it run all day, but generally you’ll find yourself turning it on and off as needed.

You can start by getting some sort of media management program. You can use iTunes to download and rent movie and TV shows, or you can look into some other media management tools like Plex or the open source XBMC. You can also use your web browser and look through sites like:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Video
  • ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox
  • A&E, Discovery, History Channel, etc.

For live television, you can find streams on many of the websites for television stations, but you can also look at streaming specific apps like Livestation and LiveStream, but also sites like JustinTV and UStreamTV.

There are also what are known as peer-to-peer streaming apps, some of which have content that is not copyright safe but still stuff you would like to watch.  PPTV and Sopcast are examples of these programs.

 

OVP 468X60 (set 1)

4) Going International

There are literally dozens of channels from around the world that have streaming content available, such as the BBC iPlayer and the ABC (Australia) Player. However, many of these are geographically restricted to people who have an IP address in that country.

To get around this, you need a VPN or DNS redirection service. While there are a few you can find for free, if you really want higher quality, you should consider paying for a service like Overplay.net.  This gives you a VPN to over 65 countries and can open up a whole world of content no matter where you are living. For example here in Hong Kong I’m streaming BBC 1 ‘Breakfast’ as I type this article.

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 3.14.04 PM

 

 

Read more about my adventures with IPTV as a replacement for cable by searching here.

http://penguinsix.com/?s=iptv

Read about cutting cable and going fully online for your television.

 

Watch France 24 on your computer with a desktop widget

picture-1When it comes to IPTV, the US has Hulu, and the rest of the world has the really cool stuff.

France 24, the France’s government-funded answer to CNN (and in English too)  has been doing some cutting edge stuff like being one of the first ‘live streaming’ applications for the iPhone.  Now they have a desktop widget that will put France 24 on your desktop with relative ease.  Just click to get the widget and turn your PC into a tv (albeit with only one channel)

Living without Cable TV–Month 2 observations

 

Doctor Who live and direct from London via the net.
Doctor Who live and direct from London via the Slingbox in my UK office.

Wow, it’s been over two months since I made the decision to cut the Comcast cable to the house and just live in an IPTV and ‘Over the Air’ world.  I hooked up Mac Mini’s to each of the TVs (god I wish Apple would really delve into the market of guys who have Mini’s on their TVs instead of the comparatively crippled Apple TV).  I also have an EyeTV attached to one of the Mini’s which is providing me with TIVO like functionality for those channels I get over the air.  

 

How has it been?  I haven’t even noticed the difference.

Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but seriously, I have not missed much.  I have the basic TV and some over the air TV from an antenna.  This is giving me the networks (though not in HD) and some PBS stations.  From Livestation and TVUPlayer I’m getting some live stations, and even some sports (watching cricket the other day–ha).  By far the biggest loss has been CNBC which is not part of the basic package and was nice background noise during the day.  But for news I’m getting by with a wide variety of options, from France24 and AlJazeera English service online, to my link up with the BBC (which is kind of tricky).  

My biggest expense monthly was movies, but between Redbox and Netflix (now streaming live to the TV) I’ve got more content than I know what to do with.  I initially resisted the Netflix, feeling that with shipping times and whatnot I wouldn’t be able to watch more than $9 worth of movies a month vs. the Redbox ($1 or free, if you had a code).  Well that’s not the case.  Netflix has a facility within the 1-day mail delivery to DC so I get films basically overnight from Netflix, and with the streaming option I get a whole catalog of movies (though most are generally B-grade movies, there are a few gems inside).  

I have one negative–too much content.  I mean, I don’t have time to watch everything I would like to watch.  Between podcasts downloaded and shows TIVO’d and movies I can watch on Netflix, I never want for something to watch.  Seriously–there is more than I can handle.

The big test will be football season.  We’ll see how far net streaming of college football has come.

Thus far, I’ve saved over $300 in two months on cable TV and haven’t looked back.  I’ve actually received quite a bit of fan mail from others who have done the same.

If you are looking to do the same, this would be the setup I would recommend:

  • Mac Mini (the entry level is fine, you may want to add more memory but your call)
  • EyeTV Hybrid (this connects the cable from your antenna or ‘lifeline’ service to the Mac’s USB)
  • A DVI cable or a DVI-HDMI cable and convertor to connect to your TV
  • A Bluetooth Mouse & Keyboard (honestly, it’s so much easier than using the remote)

Al Jazeera English now over the air in the USA

aje
Doha Calling, Doha Calling

Al Jazeera’s English service is very slick, very professional, and if you want, very biased (depending on who you talk to).  But for most Americans without FTA dishes or access to some IPTV programs, they never had an opportunity to judge for themselves.  Until now.

MHZ Networks, a non-profit in DC that rebroadcasts nearly 10 foreign news services is adding Al Jazeera English service to their lineup, so says the Washington Post.  MHZ currently offers Russia Today, France 24 and Euronews to name a few, but AJE will certainly be  a eye-catching event.  

I’ve watched AJE sporadically over the last few years on the FTA dish and later on Livestation and other tv players.  It’s not my first choice for news (it is heavily focused on the Middle East, no surprise) but it isn’t bad nor is it as biased and opinionated as the more famous network Al Jazeera, called the Bin Laden channel by many of its critics.

Anyway, Comcast and Verizon Fios should see the new channel soon.  No idea when we’ll get it out here in the sticks (and since I don’t have cable I probably never will figure it out).  Still worth checking if you want to hear a different slant on thing.

Slingplayer for iPhone

From the about fricking time department, word has come from the TUAW that the much anticipated Slingplayer application for the iPhone has been submitted for approval with the overlords at Apple HQ. Slingplayer is a tool of many an expat used to ’sling’ back television content from a central location (i.e. their parent’s house) to their current assignment overseas. It’s also used by people in offices, geeks in college, and plenty of other folks who need to move their video content from one place to another (myself included).

When the iPhone first came out, we heard rumors that Sling would do an application, but that was off/on/only if jailbroken/on/off/on again, or something to that effect. There are already several other live TV apps for the iPhone that are out, but few that will have the functionality as basically getting your cable TV on your iPhone.

And this is the week I got rid of cable in the house. I think the Slingplayer is still in a pile of cables behind where the Comcast box once stood. Guess I have to rewire things.

Comcast has left the building

Well we had a bit of a grace period while they worked out just exactly how to disconnect things, but just a few moments ago the remnants of the CNBC feed disappeared into static. It’s kind of like a power failure–there is no more cable in the house.

We got by pretty well last night. We sat down and booted up Hulu to watch the NBC Show ‘Kings’ (which we actually kind of liked). Tonight it is Quantam of Silence — the first James Bond I haven’t seen in a theater since I was an infant (because we had a newly arrived infant that prevented me from getting out to the cinema). Tomorrow may be a better test when I’ll be relying on IPTV in total to keep abreast of the news.

The BBC is coming in pretty well. Here’s a picture of last nights 6:00 news streamed live into the house.

No more Comcast cable as of today.

I dropped off the Cable Boxes this morning. It’s been a long friendship between me and that lovely pice of coaxial, but I realized if I’m truly going to get a taste of what else is out there, I’ve got to eliminate the ‘easy’ way of watching TV–flipping on the cable–and try the new new thing of IPTV.

It’s actually not going to be that tough, when you get down to brass tacks. I took a look at the list of channels that I have and separated the list into ‘Never Watched’, ‘Rarely Watched’ and ‘Watched Regularly’. The findings were somewhat interesting:

Of the 229 Channels, there are:

56 regularly watched channels, of which 30 were movie channels.

28 rarely watched channels, such as only when the Tour de France was on, or one specific show.

127 NEVER watched channels. I never ever switched over to these channels in the five years of having cable.

So my bill was $152 for 56 regularly watched channels, the majority of which were movie channels. I’ve already got a substitute for movies (Netflix, Redbox, Hulu and Joost) and the other main substitute, news, is being replaced by some online options, including adding the BBC 1-4 to my computer.

The hole where Comcast once was

The hole where Comcast once was

Because I was going to cut my TV service, I would lose the ‘discount’ on my Internet. The discount was $17, and Comcast basic analog service (over the air channels) is $18, so I just went ahead and said ‘give me the channels anyway’. I still will pursue an HDTV antenna to see if over the air HD is possible out here in the boonies.

So now the real test starts more or less tomorrow (it takes a day to cut off service and I’m sitting here drinking up the last few moments of live CNBC as the market rallies). The upstairs TV is now neutered as I haven’t got the new computer set up upstairs (I need to fish the Ethernet cable through 3 floors of the house, something the wife isn’t really keen on my doing just now). But we haven’t watched the TV upstairs in about a week or so anyway so we should survive.

Live TV on the iPhone – Some new developments

While poking around the app store yesterday, I came across a few new applications that have tremendous promise.

France 24 in the news section offer live streaming of the France 24 (think CNN of France). The buffering is pretty quick and the quality is not bad. France24 is a different take on some of the news out of Europe and this lets you watch them on your iPhone via wifi pretty easily. Free app and worth a download.

France24 is only on limited cable systems in the US, with service in Washington and New York that I know of. They had some great coverage of some stories like the Bettancourt rescue in Columbia and they also have some good culture shows from Europe that are worth watching.

TVU is p2p video streaming company that allows you to watch tons of content from around the world, some of which is probably not authorized by the copyright holder. The app is in beta and released, but will likely have a few new developments that will make it much more useful (such as widescreen, which I haven’t figure out how to use just yet. Lots of Chinese channels (as I’ve said before, the Chinese are light years ahead of the US on IPTV — light years). Amazing what developments can be done when DRM is not the first consideration.

We’re still waiting for livestation.com to come out with their app (in development) and I guess we are still waiting for the Slingbox app, promised for months and months (but no where in sight just yet).