Getting ready to ditch cable

When we last spoke, I had done the math and research into cutting cable television service, the cord, at home. This weekend, I took another step in that direction with a few additions to the entertainment center. We are currently planning on 100% disconnect after the Oscars.

Additions

Needing a way to get live television into our home, I added an antenna. Nothing fancy, just an amplified indoor HD antenna from GE that I picked up at Target for $25. Luckily, here in the greater Phoenix area, over the air service, from what I have heard, is pretty great. Those stories were all correct. There are about 40 channels that I’m able to pick up, all with varying quality, over the air. For sure I get the 3 major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), all in full HD with great sound. Picture quality as good as it was with FiOS. We are also able to pickup our local Fox affliate in ok quality and 3 PBS channels. Add to that about a dozen different hispanic channels and a very low power music video channel, and we are looking pretty good.

Wanting a way to watch shows that we miss live or aren’t available _legally_ otherwise, I am temporarily repurposing a first gen Macbook into the entertainment center. It’s not ideal since it needs a keyboard attached to work with the lid closed, but for now, it’s a good start. I’ve bookmarked about a dozen sites for viewing television content, internet videos and photographs. I’m also going to turn this into the plex server which I hope will improve performance.

Since this is an older Macbook, video performance isn’t as good as I would like, but it does drive the 44″ LCD TV without any issues at 1280×768 (75mHZ) through the display port into the television’s VGA port. Audio will come from the headphone jack into the receiver via a Monster cable made specifically for that job. That cable was acquired back when I was still rocking an XBox in California.

Here is our current setup that we are using to make the leap into cord-cutting.

  • Roku box
  • Roku Soundstream box
  • Macbook
  • Indoor antenna
  • DVD Player
  • Plex media server

Next step is storage. While we don’t lack for storage, we do lack for organized storage. In total, we have almost 6TB in external storage available, but it’s scattered over 8 drives attached to 2 iMac’s. I’m going to put 2TB of that into a Network Attached Storage device that I have been testing and like quite a bit.

Overall, we are looking at saving more than $100 per month by doing this and are very excited to get started!

By Don

Lead bottle washer at donburnside.com, host at whiteroofradio.com and tech guru for the MotoringFile family of sites.

5 comments

  1. I’ll be interested to hear how it goes for you. I’m paying $65 a month for cable, but my situation is tricky. My main tv doesn’t have a built in hdtv tuner. Also, we watch pretty much nothing live, as the tv stays off when the girls are home & awake. I built a HTPC last year that records all the stuff we want to watch (Windows Media Center, built in to Win7, is pretty good actually) but I don’t think it will play nicely with over the internet tv.

    1. Oh yeah, probably 70% of what we watch isn’t on the networks. A lot of FX, USA, Bravo, History, Discovery gets recorded here.

    2. $65 per month is a steal compared to the $120 we pay, and that’s just for television and it doesn’t include any movie channels. Cox is bleeding us dry.

      To that end, we will be buying many shows that we can’t get off the air or via Hulu or Netflix. At $1.99 from Amazon, it’s a steal compared to our cable bill. A steal compared to yours, too. I’ll have to work up a post with the total costs associated with our cable cutting, and any savings realized.

      Also, the trick and power are in the Roku box. Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix and a bunch of others with more being added all the time. Best $100 I’ve ever spent. Oh, and it has a USB port for an external drive should I want to do that.

      UPDATE: Our total cable costs, per year, is $1400. Total cost cord cutting is less than $400, not counting the cost of internet.

  2. We currently have a used Mac Mini connected to a projector in the living room (100″ screen!). I use an old iPod touch as my keyboard and mouse (app called Rowmote). EyeTV usb/tv connector with digital antenna for local stations and Nintendo Wii. I use iTunes & Front Row for streaming local movies/music, including material on other machines in the house. All we pay for is hulu+ ($7.99 month). I can’t justify paying hundreds of dollars to watch hours of commercials all day with cable/satellite. You won’t be disappointed!

  3. I thought about going the used Mac MINI route, but the thought of having an HDMI port excites me, so I’m saving my pennies to get a new version.

    Definitely going to check out rowmote app tho. That sounds like it would be a great fit for what I’m doing!

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