Author Topic: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?  (Read 8903 times)

asdfasdf

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Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« on: July 30, 2012, 12:21:13 PM »
I have cable and tivo and watch a handful of shows regularly:
  -daily show
  -colbert report
  -pbs newshour
  -fareed zakaria gps
  -face the nation

i am frankly not sure what my monthly bills is with cable + tivo but i'd guess around $60-70 off hand.  what are the best alternatives to using cable and tivo to get this content?

i know that there are plenty of bad ones.  for example, my friend who is a tech geek got a 4g phone which he uses as a hot spot and watches some shows on his tv thru that.  but the quality is really poor, and i don't want that kind of experience.

velocistar237

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2012, 12:42:43 PM »
hulu.com and pbs.org?

tannybrown

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2012, 12:45:08 PM »
I think you can get the full episodes of Daily Show here:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/

I assume comedy central does the same with Colbert report.

grantmeaname

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2012, 12:46:37 PM »
Yeah, full copies of the Colbert Report are available on the Comedy Central website.

asdfasdf

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2012, 12:55:00 PM »
OK, so all this stuff is available on the interwebs.  But how do you hook up your computer to your tv?  Also, if you're having your TV display the output from your computer, do you lose having a remote control?  I mean, are you constantly running to your computer every time you want to pause the show?

velocistar237

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2012, 01:06:05 PM »
We use a TV as our computer monitor. It connects via the computer's HDMI output. The TV remote works for volume only. We have a wireless keyboard and mouse to pause, etc.

Widerhaken

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2012, 01:08:18 PM »
OK, so all this stuff is available on the interwebs.  But how do you hook up your computer to your tv?  Also, if you're having your TV display the output from your computer, do you lose having a remote control?  I mean, are you constantly running to your computer every time you want to pause the show?

There are wireless ways (Apple TV, if you're a mac-head), wireless keyboard/mouse...or use your xbox for netflix/hulu plus. Worth it to save some $$$ on cable!

kisserofsinners

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2012, 01:11:55 PM »
My wife subscribes to daily show and Colbert report thru itunes. It automatically updates with the extended versions commercial free and watches on her phone while she's working out.
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asdfasdf

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 01:13:57 PM »
Thanks for all these suggestions guys.

I am indeed a mac head.  But I also already have an xbox 360.  I'm aware that it does things besides play games, but I've only used it to play games so far.  It sounds like tonite after work I should look into seeing what else it can do :)

a friend just recommend that i look into roku.  does the community have any thoughts on that?

also, can people explain hulu vs hulu plus to me?  it seems like both roku and xbox can play "hulu plus".  but they do not mention anything about playing regular hulu.  what do i need to know about this distinction?

thanks so much for your quick replies!

asdfasdf

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2012, 01:15:10 PM »
My wife subscribes to daily show and Colbert report thru itunes. It automatically updates with the extended versions commercial free and watches on her phone while she's working out.

Does this cost money? 

PotatoEngineer

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2012, 01:20:46 PM »
You'll be controlling everything from the computer, so yes, you have to run to the computer every time you want to pause the show.  I have a computer plugged into my TV, and my solution was to get a wireless keyboard and mouse, and control the computer from those, while they sit on the coffee table.

As for showing the computer screen on the TV, that's where it gets difficult.  If you want to sit at your computer desk sometimes and sit on your couch sometimes, then you need a video card that will display on two screens at the same time.  Plug your normal computer monitor into one, and plug your TV into the other.  (I use a dedicated "media computer" to control the TV; using the same computer for both your TV and general sit-at-a-desk use is a little bit harder, but not too much.)

That brings up the next question: what input plugs can your TV take, and what output plugs does your video card have?  If you're fantastically lucky, then you have a DVI output on your video card and a DVI input on your TV.  You are probably not lucky.  (Or you're like me, and abysmally unlucky: I have a DVI input on my TV, but it only handles a single highly-specialized signal format that my computer can't make.)

Video card plugs (oldest to newest): VGA, S-Video, DVI, DisplayPort.  VGA and DVI are both pretty common; DisplayPort isn't on everything yet.

TV plugs (oldest to newest): Composite (yellow RCA video cable, red/white RCA audio), S-video (yellow multi-pin video cable, red/white RCA audio again), component (red/blue/green RCA video cables, red/white RCA audio), DVI (lots of pins in a single cable, still needs red/white audio cables), HDMI (really flat plug, includes both video and audio) and DisplayPort (if you're lucky; will probably need red/white cables)

So you'll need a signal to go from your computer to your TV.  Some plugs go straight over (S-Video, DVI, DisplayPort), and some don't (computers don't do composite, component, or HDMI).  Here's a link to an EXAMPLE (haven't tried this one) VGA-to-component converter:
http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=convert+VGA+to+component&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=11721573182540550012&sa=X&ei=ZN8WUKjlKpO50QGayICYCw&ved=0CJUBEPMCMAc

And don't forget to run the audio over to the TV.  This is more straightforward; almost all computer plugs are 3.5mm stereo cables, and almost all TV inputs are coaxial RCA cables.  Here's a cable that goes from one to the other:
http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&tok=6AOqHaaaCfAKAy-_Lw-jxQ&ds=sh&pq=rca+to+3.5mm&cp=18&gs_id=o&xhr=t&q=rca+to+3.5mm+cable&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1280&bih=896&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=1889247817842361998&sa=X&ei=Bt4WUIbWJrHh0wH2q4DoCQ&sqi=2&ved=0CJMBEPMCMAM
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 01:25:14 PM by PotatoEngineer »

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MacGyverIt

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2012, 06:35:49 PM »
I have cable and tivo and watch a handful of shows regularly:
  -daily show
  -colbert report
  -pbs newshour
  -fareed zakaria gps
  -face the nation

  -daily show --- available on Hulu.com plus ($7.99 per month)
  -colbert report  --- available on Hulu.com plus
  -pbs newshour  --- available on their podcast via audio (I stream on my tv via my Roku's Roku Newscaster service)
  -fareed zakaria gps  --- available on their podcast via audio or video (I stream on my tv via my Roku's Roku Newscaster service)
  -face the nation  --- available on their podcast via audio (I stream on my tv via my Roku's Roku Newscaster service)

I watch or listen to all of these shows post-cable. Now break that cable habit!!! :-D
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rusty

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2012, 05:18:27 AM »
I spent year(s?) trying to break that habit.  Sports was my big concern.  I can say now that we have been Directv free for 7 months.  Have missed very little.  I find myself doing more productive things as compared to sitting in front of the tv.  We do have netflix for some shows/movies/documentaries and kids watch it without all the commercials.  But even netflix is getting tiring to me.  I watch PBS and their PBS Explorer channel occasionally.  Truly have not missed much.  I catch up with the news on the radio or with google listen on my android.

asdfasdf

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2012, 11:54:32 AM »
I have cable and tivo and watch a handful of shows regularly:
  -daily show
  -colbert report
  -pbs newshour
  -fareed zakaria gps
  -face the nation

  -daily show --- available on Hulu.com plus ($7.99 per month)
  -colbert report  --- available on Hulu.com plus
  -pbs newshour  --- available on their podcast via audio (I stream on my tv via my Roku's Roku Newscaster service)
  -fareed zakaria gps  --- available on their podcast via audio or video (I stream on my tv via my Roku's Roku Newscaster service)
  -face the nation  --- available on their podcast via audio (I stream on my tv via my Roku's Roku Newscaster service)

I watch or listen to all of these shows post-cable. Now break that cable habit!!! :-D

Thanks MacGyverIt.  It sounds like your viewing habits very closely mirror my own.  FYI, it looks like today Apple announced that they are getting Hulu Plus on AppleTV. 

I tried to get PBS NewsHour on iTunes via my iPhone this morning, but it looks like the only option was audio only.  Fareed Zakaria is also only free for audio, but costs money for video.  I don't get this.  It looks like Roku has those shows for free via their newscaster service, as you mention.  So I just bought a Roku. 

Roku has a 30 day money back guarantee.  When it comes I'll get a free week of Hulu Plus.  If both these services do what they advertise, then it looks like I'll be able to save ~$50/month ($600/yr) without any degradation of my lifestyle, which seems pretty neat. 

I'm enjoying daydreaming of my $600 vacation :)

jwystup

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2012, 04:58:39 PM »
If you're looking to use an xbox as a tv replacement, check out xbmc. I'm currently working on setting up a dvr-type box out of an old computer my aunt had. I paid for a tv tuner card so that it can record live tv (we have an antenna that gets a good amount, but will be getting cable again for hockey...sigh). And I've been looking into trying to control mythtv (open-source dvr) with xbmc, since it has way more functions. At the very least, a working dvr that we own will save us $15/mo in rental fees for the damn dvr, but it will also play media we have on a hard drive and give us a better experience when we switch to antenna-only in the summers.

As far as I know, xbmc was originally created for xbox. I'm not sure how much hacking you'd have to do to get it set up since I don't own an xbox. It's primary function is to play the media you have, but there are many, many, MANY add-ons for it - I'm sure it has something set up for streaming videos but I haven't gotten that far yet. I know that there are ways to set up an automatic torrent downloader to get shows and there are instructions online, but the legality of it could be questionable so I'm avoiding that route as much as possible.

James81

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2012, 08:59:35 PM »
You could buy a Wii and use it to control your Netflix account. (To me that seems like the simplest solution rather than trying to run your computer into your TV.)

First, you get all the entertainment of the Wii (which you could probably find pretty cheap used at a local gaming shop). Plus, you can use it to run netflix (which is only like 10 bucks per month).

Cost of the Wii brand new is like $200.
Monthly cost of netflix (with gads of streaming shows and movies): 10 bucks.
Within 6 months you'd recoup your cost of the Wii in the savings from slashing your cable.
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strider3700

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2012, 10:21:41 PM »
I use XMBC on my computer.     my computer is about 20 feet from my TV with 1 wall between them.   It was pretty easy to hook them up.   My video card can handle 2 monitors.  1 VGA/DVI  and 1 HDMI.   new tv's take HDMI inputs.   So I ran a 30' HDMI cable from my PC to the tv and configured the tv to be a second monitor on the computer. buy it online and it's about $35. Really not hard at all to do  although I had to drill a hole through the wall to route the cable...   After that I run XBMC and I've done some hacking to make it only appear on the second monitor.  a bit of time with google and it's quite easy.     to control the system  I use a USB MCE remote and  20' of USB extensions to get the signal back to the Tv.  remote was $25,  extensions were $10

The end result is you turn on the tv and select HDMI 1 which is the input I've plugged it into.  the screen now shows a beautiful full screen menu of your media and a bunch of other things it can handle if you want to set them up.  point the remote at the screen and it all works like you'd expect. Up goes up, OK or Play makes things start...  my wife took 5 minutes to figure it out and loves it.  My 3 year old could get to her movies and make them play.     

Yes you can set up plugins on it to handle streaming.  It does an amazing amount of stuff if you want it to.    The only thing we have to do is remember to log out the adult account so my kids don't accidentally watch hellraiser when looking for their cartoons.  They have their own account and can't get past the passwords to the adult account but I need to remember to log out. 

twinge

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2012, 08:42:24 AM »
We have a Roku and have set it up to stream netflix, to access multiple external hard drives with all our movies.  It also has other things we have found nice to have  (e.g., you can link it to your various photo/video sites like Flickr, Picasa, Vimeo etc.; it has free versions of channels you can stream--both TV like CNN intl, PBS, BBC--and internet like Pandora etc.).

JR

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2012, 02:08:32 PM »
We rid ourselves of cable a couple years ago and have done okay with a desktop computer and wireless mouse/keyboard.  Originally I used a DVI to HDMI cable (monoprice.com sells cables cheap) for video and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for audio but recently had to get a new video card and that has HDMI out (video and audio).  We have a Netflix streaming subscription and use Hulu and network websites to pretty much watch anything we want.  Also since we have cable internet we can watch all of the local stations in HD because our TV has a QAM tuner built in (just use the auto find feature to find the channels).

mustachecat

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2012, 07:35:41 PM »
We connect our laptop directly to the TV, via a DVI to HDMI cable. It works great!

asdfasdf

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2012, 11:14:16 AM »
So my Roku arrived last night, I set it up and got my free week of Hulu Plus and am totally disappointed.

The reason I got the Roku was because of their "newscaster" service, which advertises that it has "PBS Newshour" as well as "Fareed Zakaria GPS": http://www.rokuguide.com/channels/roku-newscaster

However, these shows are audio only, not video.  I honestly cannot understand this.  It's like turning my tv into a radio.  wtf?  I plan on returning my roku.

I got Hulu Plus but am not completely satisfied with this either.  It costs money, but they still show me ads.  I feel like this is broken.  Either it's free and I watch ads, or I pay you money and you don't show me ads.  But they want both, which to me seems like the worst of both worlds.  You cannot fastforward the ads, like I currently can on TiVo.  They also require you to give them demographic information so they can tailor their ads to you.  No thanks.

I'm tempted to try Apple TV next.  But it looks like they only have PBS Newhour as a "podcast", which I guess means audio only.  Can anyone verify this for me?  Are the only two options to watch this show really just via cable/tivo and thru their website?  The video quality of PBS NewsHour thru their website is very low. 


velocistar237

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #22 on: August 03, 2012, 11:34:52 AM »
However, these shows are audio only, not video.

Is there no video here? I can't check it right now. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/
It looks like you can subscribe to "Fareed Zakaria GPS" in iTunes for $10. I don't know what that gets you.

Either it's free and I watch ads, or I pay you money and you don't show me ads.

Clearly, it's not for you. Hulu Plus is for access to content in HD, some content available a week early than regular Hulu, and past episodes. I use regular Hulu.

They also require you to give them demographic information so they can tailor their ads to you.

Personally, I'm in the select-the-first-option demographic. It will be interesting to see how they advertise to my demographic.

asdfasdf

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2012, 12:36:22 PM »
Thanks for the quick reply!

However, these shows are audio only, not video.

Is there no video here? I can't check it right now. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/
It looks like you can subscribe to "Fareed Zakaria GPS" in iTunes for $10. I don't know what that gets you.

Either it's free and I watch ads, or I pay you money and you don't show me ads.

Yeah, this has required a great deal more work than I expected.  On Roku Newscaster there is a podcast which is audio only.  On iTunes there is a podcast which is audio only.   My iphone has a "PBS NewsHour" app that has snippets and "extras" which are video, but not the whole show.  But, wait for it ... there is a "PBS" app which provides access to the whole show.  It is crazy how fractured this market is that free content can appear in some places but not others, and of differing quality.

For the record, that app that shows the whole episode has 1 ad in the beginning.  I can live with that.

It's true that the video also appears on their website.  But the quality is lower, especially when viewed in fullscreen mode.  Also, my original hope was to find a way to do all this without involving hooking up my computer to my tv.  I might still wind up doing that, but it just seemed like the "least fuss" solution would be to find out a way to do this without hooking it up.

I just cancelled my hulu plus subscription.  I'll probably drop by my local apple store to ask their staff some questions and see if  apple tv is a better solution for me.  Presumably since my iphone can watch the show, there is a way to make my apple tv watch it as well.  I'm willing to pay money to get a subscription to the handful of tv shows i regularly watch, provided that there's some ease of use and long term savings over cable + tivo.  My assumption is that this is true because I only watch a handful of shows, but I'll have to run the numbers to be sure.



Chemistay

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #24 on: August 03, 2012, 02:04:51 PM »
I might still wind up doing that, but it just seemed like the "least fuss" solution would be to find out a way to do this without hooking it up.

The obvious answer is probably not what you're looking for....but I usually put my computer on the coffee table or my lap and just watch from there without having to deal with a tv. (If you have a SO this gives the added benefit of getting to snuggle in bed while watching your favorite show on the laptop) :-P

MacGyverIt

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #25 on: August 10, 2012, 07:00:00 PM »
I have cable and tivo and watch a handful of shows regularly:
  -daily show
  -colbert report
  -pbs newshour
  -fareed zakaria gps
  -face the nation

Smaller handful....
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/fareed-zakaria-column-show-suspended-time-column-exposed-plagiarism-article-1.1134079
« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 07:15:12 PM by MacGyverIt »
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mindaugas

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2012, 10:16:13 AM »
I'm replying late, but a HTPC is pretty easy to operate and I think windows media center is the best DVR I have used. You can put a cheap tv tuner in it to get OTA (antenna) broadcasts and record those. Everything else you stream. If you need advice send me a PM. I built mine from older parts for less than $200. You can easily find a PC used that will make a good DVR and display HD content without an issue for about $100, maybe less. Don't forget about laptops as well, there are USB tv tuners and external hard drives for storage.

However, you are going to lose convenience and ease of use. I have a remote for mine, but still need a keyboard and mouse for streaming sites. I did find a nice wireless tablet-like device that is a track pad and with the press of a button a keyboard. Also, Xbox 360 wired controllers are USB and plug into a PC. So you can even play games :)

totoro

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2012, 12:52:09 PM »
We use an HDMI cable connected to the TV or just watch on the computer.  For the most part, I have given up TV and I dont' miss it at all.  The kids watch some shows online and use netflix.  I read a lot more these days.

EricR

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #28 on: August 25, 2012, 01:19:57 PM »
Many (all?) PBS Newshour stories are available on YouTube.  Here is a link:  http://www.youtube.com/user/PBSNewsHour/videos

Mr. Everyday Dollar

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #29 on: August 30, 2012, 01:41:57 PM »
The non-techie answer: buy a Roku or Apple TV for < $100. Seamless and easy.

The techie answer: use XBMC, Boxee or Plex.

Since you said you were a Machead I would suggest Plex. That's what I did and I am really happy with my setup as I simply use my Macbook to drive my Plasma - http://mreverydaydollar.com/cutting-the-cord-on-cable/. I have Hulu, Netflix, Youtube and all remote-controlled.

For PBS, what about OTA?

madgeylou

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #30 on: August 30, 2012, 03:27:26 PM »
apple tv is great -- we can watch netflix, youtube, vimeo, the contents of our itunes libraries, and even dvds that we ripped to our computers.

my favorite thing is being able to stream from my iphone or ipad to the television via apple tv -- the interface to search on the appletv isn't great, so it's easier to look things up on the phone or ipad, then stream to the tv.
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Scuba Stache

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #31 on: August 31, 2012, 08:37:03 AM »
I went the HTPC route to kill my cable that cost me around $275 to build. I use an HD antenna(live sports) + Hulu(tv shows). 

I.P. Daley

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Re: Best alternatives to cable and tivo?
« Reply #32 on: August 31, 2012, 12:59:50 PM »
I went the HTPC route to kill my cable that cost me around $275 to build. I use an HD antenna(live sports) + Hulu(tv shows).

That's not terrible, and just think... it might have cost you $275 to build over a $100 AppleTV or Roku box, but you'll recoup that cost in well under a year by not having to pay for your content (like Hulu+, Netflix or PlexPass for example) because you're locked into a proprietary box that does nothing without throwing money at it first. And if you ever get sick of watching TV? You can turn it into a regular computer when you're through.

(No offense to those who did buy a media box.)
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 01:03:25 PM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.