Monthly Archives: June 2017

Cutting the TV cord – Part 2

Since writing last month’s article about cutting the TV cord, I have come up with two more technologies that may make your choice even easier. These are not new technologies, but you may not have heard of them yet.

The first is over-the-air (OTA) programming. This is not the old “rabbit-ears” analog TV that they stopped broadcasting in 2012 … this is the free digital OTA television mandated by our own CRTC. All you need to pick up the signal is an OTA receiver ($10 and up), and maybe an antenna … with no ongoing fees.

If you want to read more about OTA, simply google “digital OTA TV“.

The second technology has been around for over 10 years, but is even more applicable today than it was back then. Slingbox was the first device I saw that could rebroadcast your TV signal so that you could watch on a device in another room, or in another country, with no extra fees.

And, there are devices that combine those two technologies … allowing you to receive free digital HD OTA TV and rebroadcast to your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, SmartTV, etc. Two such devices, from a company called SiliconDust, are the HDHomeRun Connect (~$150) and HDHomeRun Extend (~$230). These two products each have two tuners, so you can watch or record two different programs at the same time. The Extend model simply has a better “compression engine” so the resulting video can run smoother. Also note that the newest SiliconDust model, HDHomeRun Prime (~$230) does not do OTA.

With an antenna, you have a chance of picking up more of the channels broadcast from your local broadcaster (43 emanate from our local Mount Seymour). With a computer or a NAS, you can record shows to watch later. QNAP (mentioned in previous articles) just announced support for these devices for recording and playback, which prompted this article.

With an HDHomeRun Extend and $35 antenna now in stock, I can report that setup is quick and easy. Viewing streaming TV from any device on your home network is also very slick. Recording can be done for free with a bit of effort, or for a fee (US$35/year) quite easily. I have not yet determined how to view from outside of your home network, but that should also be possible.

Unfortunately, you can only receive a few channels in our area (Southern Vancouver Island): 5 with an antenna, 10 with a $30 “booster” antenna, and potentially more with a very expensive antenna. The selection is limited, but if want free “local” TV or you like shows from the 60s-80s, then this OTA technology may be a good option for you.

Cutting the TV cord – Part 1

Most of us are tired of TV. Tired of its high cost. Tired of its limited selection. Tired of commercials. Tired of having to buy “packages” of channels to get the one or two we want.

So we have come up with the term “cut the TV cord” to refer to the ending our cable TV service altogether. The author of this article cut the TV cord, more than 10 years ago, with no ill effects: I have always felt current on news and entertainment options, with a high degree of control, and little effort.

Now, with the incredible Internet speeds available and the plethora of media service and device options, it is even easier to cut the TV cord. Most of us enjoy 15Mbps-or-more download speed, which is enough to have one or two high-definition video streams running. Many of us subscribe to Netflix or similar services where we can choose from hundreds of shows and movies.

And the selection of devices keeps growing: computers, smartphones, tablets, smart-TVs, and media players can all link into today’s TV alternatives. You can choose to stream to your small screen, or “cast” to a larger screen … or enjoy directly on your smart-TV or connected media player.

Most of these devices follow the “app” approach to media. You want access a particular media source? Download the app and connect to their service. Some services are free, while some are paid. The selection varies depending on the device you are on, but the general approach is the same as your smartphone or tablet.

Most game consoles can also act as a media player, but not all of us are into games or the cost of these consoles. Smart-TVs have some nice features, but have a hard time keeping up with the rapid changes of the industry and the demands of ever-improving apps. This is where a media player can fit in: it can make your dumb-TV, or not-so-smart-TV, into a real performer for (roughly) $40 – $240.

One media player that stands out for me is the Minix Neo U9-H. Release in Feb2017, it is currently the one to beat for price/performance. It comes in a few configurations depending if you want no remote (i.e. control it with your phone), simple wireless remote, or one of a few fancy wireless keyboard remotes.