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:


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.


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.


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.


Cutting Cable TV to save money (and time)?

When I first set up my home office, I made sure that the desk was turned in such a way that I could watch the big tv that was in the adjacent living room. If something was interesting and I wanted to watch, I could just look to the side of the monitor and see what was playing. But recently, as part of a furniture rearranging, I started to think about how much TV I actually watch, and what ‘type’ of programming that is.

Basically, my TV watching breaks down into these categories:

  • Live. News and sports. I catch CNN and CNBC during the day, and watch college football and soccer programs from around the world, though not with the religious fervor I once did.
  • Programs. We watch very few programs. Battlestar Galactica (ending next week) and 30 Rock (though usually on Hulu).
  • Movies. I love movies. I have three movie channel packages (HBO, Cinemax and Starz) which not only gives me some great films now and then but also access to the On Demand library (which we probably use more often than making time for shows).
  • Ambient. Sometimes I just have the TV on to add noise. I watch CurrentTV and whatever movie happens to be playing. The other night I actually watched a full episode of CSI, just for the heck of it.

Cutting the cable will do away with ambient TV watching. I won’t just go to the TV to ’see what is on’ or to have background noise. That can be somewhat replaced by Internet programming and our FTA satellite (though that is a very limited selection). Live programming, such as sports and news, will also be drastically affected. I can get CNN online, sometimes, but CNBC does not appear to be online with any live regularity, unless I want to watch CNBC India. Sports will also take a hit, though that can be ‘dealt with’ via a wide variety of ‘grey area’ websites that allow you to stream live football over the Internet.

Programs and movies are two that can be easily replaced by the Internet. I think we can use Hulu and Boxee for the network shows, and I’m considering getting a Netflix account that will not only send us first run DVDs but also allow some streaming content to come into the house.

We will likely lose the ‘HD picture’ quality that we’ve become accustom to, but to be honest, with our TV now nearly 7 years old and with Comcast degrading their HD signal more and more, it’s not as awe-inspiring as it once was. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the HD picture or maybe it’s not there anymore. With a PS3 or some other Blue-ray solution we’ll still get some HD content in the house from time to time (but I should probably get a new TV).

So with the above factors, I’m considering the switch to be basically a ‘wash’. I’ll lose some features I currently have but replace a few features with free substitutes via the Internet.

So what’s the financial upside: Pretty interesting.

Our current cable bill is $152 per month (Internet is a extra and we will not drop that).

This includes:

  • $60 Basic Service
  • $20.90 Digital Plus
  • $5 Digital Sports
  • $15.95 HDTV
  • $34 for Movie Channels
  • $7.50 for HD boxes.
  • $10.56 in taxes.

That works out to $1828 a year for cable TV service, which sounds like a lot. I would guess we watch / have on the TV for 2 hours a day, so say 60 hours a month. Basically we’re paying $2.50 per hour watched for TV service. Cheaper than going to a movie at the theater, but not entirely sure if this is really needed.

To switch out I’d have to pay

  • $10 per month extra to Comcast for Internet but no TV service
  • $9 per month to Netflix for movies.
  • $500 for a new computer to hook up to one of the TV’s upstairs so I can do Internet over that TV.

$728 over the first year.

That’s still a savings of $1,100 over the course of the first year alone.

Will have to debate if that is worth it.


Too many cars on the water.

Floating parking lot full of new cars?

For the last few weeks, I’ve noticed up to the north a couple of RO-RO ships sitting in the Annapolis Anchorage (a deep water anchorage where ships often wait for room on the Baltimore dock to free up before heading to port). I can rarely make out ships up there as they don’t stay that long and due to the Earth’s curve the low lying bulk carriers are usually pretty hard to see.

But roll on roll off (ro-ro) car ships are big bulky looking vessels that catch the sun pretty well and really stand out. I’ve noticed a couple of ro-ro’s up in Annapolis for going on two weeks now, which seems a bit odd. Until I read this story about the backup facing auto importers and exporters in the US, Europe and Japan.

In Baltimore, the MPA moved inventories of Hyundai cars to airport parking lots to make room for cars still on the high seas. The port agency bought about 15 acres of land across from the Dundalk Terminal for overflow space for cars about six weeks ago, but has not yet had to use it. “That’s because the Korean manufacturers, who had never shut their plants down, have cut back production by 30 percent,” the MPA’s White said.

One really wonders if that’s what I’m seeing–a ship full of cars with no place to dock as no one is buying. Or maybe they don’t have the business to export for the GM’s backed up at the plants in Baltimore (apparently there are something like 57,000 new cars sitting around collecting dust in Maryland).


How to find an elderly Chinese woman in Chinatown.

“She’s coming in on the 12:30 bus to Chinatown” the wife said.

“Ok, where does it drop off?” I reply.

“I don’t know. Look it up”.

“There are like 5 different Chinatown buses with 5 different stops.”

“I’ll find out the name of the bus, ok.”

“Ok, so what does she look like?”

“She’s Chinese”.

“Great, a Chinese woman in Chinatown. That’ll be easy. What does she look like?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ok, what’s her name?”

“Ms. Yang”

“Ok, so I have to find a woman named Ms. Yang somewhere in Chinatown. Great. That narrows it down, not”

“She’s wearing a red coat”

“A Ms. Yang in a red coat. Ok. Again, not much help. What’s her first name?”

“I don’t know. She’s elderly though, that might help.”

“Ok, an elderly Chinese woman named Ms. Yang arriving on some random Chinatown bus today. I have to find her.”

“Oh, she’s carrying a sword.”

“Um, what?”

“A sword, for her Tai Chi practice. She has a sword.”

“So, an elderly Chinese woman in a red coat named Ms. Yang and carrying a sword in Chinatown. That I think I can find”

“Told you it wouldn’t be that hard.”

“What if I get the wrong elderly Chinese woman in a red coat carrying a sword named Ms. Yang. Not sure I want some random weapons wielding old lady to be our children’s nanny.”

“Mary Poppins had an umbrella. Ms. Yang has a sword. Same thing, different culture.”

Life is pretty strange.