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Breaking up with the cable company part 5: The results show

I’m sorry it took so long for me to finish this series. A lot has happened since the last post, I went back to school full time, started a few podcasts, a production company, a YouTube channel and with easy access to Netflix I wound up watching Eureka, Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, Star Trek: DS9, Battlestar Gallactica, Jack of all trades, Dr. Who and a few other series from beginning to end.

With that in mind, let’s finish shall we?

The results:

The gear:

Watching on demand was a big selling point for the cable company, that coupled with DVR made for a much more controllable experience. Every single thing I watch is demanded by me and I don’t pay extra for it, in fact I pay less. The Roku boxes have been great. I bought a couple of Harmony remotes and condensed each room in the house to one remote because I HATE piles of remotes around. Every time I go to someone’s house they have 6 remotes on the table and I can’t so much as turn the volume down let alone change the channel. Anyway - The interface is easy to use, you can add dozens of channels if you like, though I witted my way down to about 5, being Netflix, Hulu , Aereo, and two specialty channels. The menus are easy to navigate and I have very little downtime on the boxes, normally caused by something else affecting the network.

The Xbox has been a god send. It holds the Netflix and Hulu apps and the menu design is phenomenal. I pretty much only use my Xbox in the living room because it works faster than the Roku and it’s already on most of the time anyway. XBOX + STREAMING = WIN

Aside from that, I keep up with everything I want to watch from anywhere, at no additional charge, thanks to my laptop and cell phone.

Technology is Awesome.

The Content:

Let’s start with movies, because it seems obvious.

Netflix gave me access to thousands of movies from all over the spectrum, I mean every genre new and old.  I started looking for my favorites and then went on to some of their suggested for me movies and it’s been great. I never watched movies really, still don’t see many, but they have had everything I’ve needed, so there’s that. The only thing I’m “missing out on” are really new movies that just released. I don’t have pay per view capability, but with things like redbox around, I wouldn’t really need it anyway.

Hulu also has a bunch of movies, though I don’t know what production companies they lack, between the two services, I only came across one movie I couldn’t find that I really really wanted to, The Princess Bride. Right? of all the movies….

So on to TV, cause really that’s what I’m into and it’s the reason I did this in the first place.

When I had cable I watched a few shows religiously, but that was kind of it. I found myself more often than not just mindlessly channel surfing for hours, especially at night when I should be sleeping. Since the change over, I have watched a broader range of shows than I ever have before. After the two month burnout of every title I could think of, I had to start watching shows I never heard of, hell even whole genres I never knew were out there. My wife and I found a few shows that we could both Nerd out over, like Dr. Who. Every night when we are both home we would automatically just put it on and watch til bedtime. Never an argument, never a question of what do you want to watch, just a silent understanding of “we need to see where The Doctor goes next”.  When either of us is home alone, we watch our own crap. The result has been glorious. That’s how it’s been for two years now, with various shows.

I wound up giving up on the TV antenna after a few months because of two reasons.

1. I got lots of channels, but none I actually needed or wanted, everything I want is on the other services I have and news I get online or on my phone.

2. I put it in my attic, and it’s hot in my attic.

So the antenna is useful, but not for me. If you want to watch live TV and live within 60 miles of a city, then by all means go for it, it does work and it is free. In the end, It was not something I needed or used.

The Cost:

Aside from the costs to set this whole thing up, which I admittedly over spent in a fit of passion about the project, My total bills are as follows:

Cablevision Internet: $55

Netflix : $8

Hulu plus: $8

Xbox live: $10

So $81.00 for all my entertainment, including TV, Movies, Video Games, and Internet Down from $166, saving 50% or $85.00 each month.

The Verdict:

Totally worth it, no regrets, never going back.

Breaking up with the cable company pt 4

Backbone is laid. Everything checks out everything works speeds are great. Now what?

Roku, that’s what.

So I picked up two Roku boxes. One from the Roku website ($59.00) and from Woot.com($39.99). Each one is capable of 1080 HD quality and both are wireless.

With ethernet port

Roku with ethernet port

One also has an ethernet port. Both support HDMI or AV cables. I hook these little wonders up and sign in to my accounts. Netflix, Hulu and Pandora. Aside from that, I find there is a channel store with over a hundred channels to choose from, most free. I have access to news, weather, traffic, movies, TV shows, web series, there is even a channel from MIT supporting the new free online courses they offer.

So basically, I have all the TV channels I ever wanted, plus a few dozen I’ve never heard of, all the Movies, anime and even games I could possibly want. I hate sports,

small

Wireless only is much smaller

but for those of you that don’t, there’s a dozen choices for you.

I am impressed to say the least. Quite honestly I don’t even think I need anything

else, but my wife still likes to watch local channels and just flip around the tube sometimes, so I Install the antenna…

Because I have an older TV in my Bedroom, I started there. I ordered a digital converter box from amazon that will convert the new digitally encoded signals back to good old analog for my good old TV set. Then I picked up an RCA VHF/UHF omnidirectional antenna from Lowe’s of all places.  Here’s a quick note about antennas the cable companies don’t want you to know…

It’s flat and wide..hehe

Broadcast Television signals are actually better quality than cable. When NBC send out the signal, it’s in it’s full strength and original format. Cable companies on the other hand compress the information to speed it through the lines to your box. If you use the antenna instead you get an unfiltered better quality signal!

So with this antenna hooked up I get …..

Breaking up with the cable company pt 3

First things first, I don’t have 750 bucks laying around for this project so  I planned it in bits. I purchased each item as needed when I was ready for that step.

Step 1 -  Wire up the house.

I went on Amazon and bought a 1000ft roll of Cat5e cable. It cost meceiling $25 with shipping. Then I picked up the tools to terminate the line (plug part) and crimp the wires. All in all it cost me $75 for all the tools to cut, finish and run the cables and the cable itself.

I went up into the attic and started exploring. Inside my office I have a closet that I want to use as the HUB for my new system. I made sure there were no power lines in the attic above the closet area then came back down. From the closet, I took an 18 inch long drill bit and made a hole in the back of the closet to the attic. This is where the wires will meet the router.

It took me an entire day of crawling around from beam to beam in the attic, but after 9 hours or so I ran 2 lines to my bedroom, 2 back to my office, one to my living room and 2 out to the Mancave, the detached garage where I game and Podcast from.

wallsocketThen I made the job professional-like by adding an Ethernet jack to each room I  wanted a line in.Once that was done I pretty much called it a day cause my back was effin killin me.

I picked up a new modem and router from the local stores. Now, you don’t have to buy a modem, your cable company will lend you one, sometimes for a fee, sometimes free. I decided I wanted to get my own so I was aware of all the specs and so I got exactly what i was looking for. The modem is 8 ports of glorious gigabit speeds and the wireless is N-tastic. I hooked these bad boys up and fired up the computers to test em out.

So far so good. My house is now wired (and wireless) for fast, uninterrupted signals. This will be the backbone of framework on which my free media empire will run.

Breaking up with the cable company pt 2

So, going back to the cable bill:

$140.31 / month for a bunch of crap my family doesn’t use.

Here is the new plan:

Roku, $99 – Roku is a streaming media box for your TV. It allows you to use your internet connection to watch streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Crackle and the others right to your TV in HD clarity. No fees for the box itself, but the services you choose may charge you monthly though there are a bunch of free channels to watch with limited or no commercials.

Digital antenna, $99 – Even though the broadcast networks switched from analog to digital signals a few years ago, you can still pick up a new antenna and keep watching for free, assuming you are within broadcast range. I happen to be 35 miles from Manhattan so no problem there. Channels 2 – 13 are covered.

Netflix and Hulu plus, ($8×2)=$16 / month- Each of these services allow you to stream movies and TV shows. Together they represent almost every single program you need to find. Hulu also started producing their own content which is pretty good too.

Internet service, $49.95 /month- I still need the internet to watch TV, but I need it for EVERY OTHER THING IN MY LIFE ANYWAY, so technically this isn’t a cost for watching TV, but since other people might not live on the internet like I do, I’ll include the cost here instead of on the business side of things.

Home network upgrade, $250- Since I will be relying on the internet for all of my home needs, I want to make sure I have the most up to date, fastest, most stable internet connections I can get. I’m new Cat5e intranet cables and wiring up the whole house. Then I’m installing a new router with better Wifi and more ports to connect all the new lines.

XBOX 360, Free - I already own a 360, if you have one of the new generation of consoles, you can download all of the streaming services to them and sign in. Youtube even has an app for Xbox now, good bye free time.

The Math:

So overall I’ll have to spend $750 on 2 Roku boxes, 3 Digital antennas and the rewire. Then my monthly bills will be $65.95 for Internet service, Netflix and Hulu.

$140.31- 65.95 = $74.36/ month in savings!

Ill be getting:

  • channels  2- 13 as usual with all the news and sports
  • all the movies and TV shows from Hulu and Netflix
  • function of a DVR for nearly anything I watch
  • New home network with faster speeds and less latency

This is a Win in my book. I can’t think of anything I’ll be losing out on in this scenario. If you want to watch and shows from cable channels you can do that too. Every TV station now has their own website and almost all of them allow you to watch shows there. If I miss Kevin Pereira  I can go to G4tv.com and watch all the KP i want.

So there’s the plan, now watch me implement it.

Breaking up with the cable company pt 1.

So let’s start our journey on the why.

I’ve been a cable customer since I was born. Honestly it was the only thing I knew existed. Sure you could use an antenna to get a few TV stations, but it was fuzzy and you only got the local channels and the news. So cable was the only game in town.

Over the years new services arrived. Satellite TV popped up and got big for awhile, then the fad faded and the cable companies merged together to form mega conglomerates to keep their hold on the markets. So today, they are still pretty much the only game in town.

They control everything you see and hear. Don’t think so, Upworthy.com has a nice info graphic explaining why you are wrong. I don’t want other people controlling what I’m allowed to hear and see and know. That kind of defeats the purpose of a democracy I feel. AND on top of that I’m over paying them for the services they use to do it?

Nope. I’m done with all that.

On to the money.

Here’s a copy of cable bill I was able to dig up.

cablebill

Notice I pay $140.31 a month for service. This includes family cable, 3 boxes 1 with DVR and my internet service. That’s no movies channels, no G4TV, no anything. just the basic 40 or so channels which are mostly filler, 10 news stations each with their own slant, 7 music stations, all of which play nothing but reality TV and then your basic broadcast networks where all the actual shows are on.

I use my DVR everyday. In fact, it’s the only way I watch TV anymore. I set it to record my favorites, then when I get a day off, I sit and catch up on the week before becoming a functional member of society.

Speaking of function. Here’s a soliloquy  There was a period of time for about a year and a half where my wife and I went without cable completely. We were saving money for a house, and both worked a lot, so we didn’t really need it. Turns out that when we were home, we were super productive. Shit got done without TV.

So there’s 3 reasons to get rid of cable

  • Too expensive
  • Media control
  • Productivity

Now you know the Why, next I’ll explain the PLAN.

Those who missed the bailout bus

As part of my finding dead posts series, here is something I wrote during the financial crisis.  I had it backed up on blogger under GNT, Geek News Today.

Everyone knows by now that the jobless rate in our country has hit record levels. Month by month the numbers come out and tens of thousands of people are put out of work in every industry. The Auto industry has gotten huge bailouts in the billions of dollars, as have banks, investment firms and Insurance companies. The crisis in our economy harms more that just bankers and big business and yet there is one group of people that have not even been mentioned during all these debates and meetings. They don’t wear suits to work, or ties, or shiny dress shoes, but they are out there day after day working long hours, getting less pay than ever before and yes, they too have lost many jobs in the current market dip.

I’m speaking of course, of Ninjas.

With funding drying up all over the world, Ninjas are having a very difficult time getting work. “The cash just isn’t out there” says Harold Barnes (pictured right), a Ninja who was forced to get other work. He went on to say “It’s tough ya know? Having to tell my 8 year old twin girls they can’t have a birthday party because no

Harold Barnes at his new job.

Some have taken part time work to get by

one can afford to hire daddy to kill people right now. It’s heartbreaking”. Harold, like many of his kind are seeking other employment opportunities right now, in most cases making as much money in a year as they would have made in one day before the crash.
The economy crashing has sent levels of street crime through the roof in some city’s and that’s causing major losses for some of crimes biggest family’s as well. We caught up with “Tony the hammer” and he had this to say ” Theys doin’ their own things and that means we gets cut out of the action you know? It’s bad man I tell ya. I had this guy that I had to have whacked but I couldn’t cause the money ain’t there you know?”

If you or someone you know wants to help out with the Ninjas situation, an emergency relief fund has been set up to donate money to help pay for assassinations. They are hoping this will stimulate the Ninconomy and get cred flowing again in the Ninja community. To donate, leave cash or money order on your kitchen table, they’ll find it.

Unclutter and make headway

Back in 2009 I lost a huge chunk of my original website when a server deleted the entire thing. I was able to recover about a dozen posts at the time, but I just ran into some old ones that I’ve decided to re-release. Here’s one from the summer of 2008.

This week I received some terrible news, my neighbors are moving. The reason it’s terrible is that we’ve had some very bad ones in the past, and they have been great to live next to. To clear out all their crap, they decided to follow the grand old tradition of having a yard sale. How does this help you? It’s an example of one thing you can do to kick start your Emergency fund.

They raised over $1,100 in two afternoons spent sunbathing. They sold all the crap they had been holding onto, but in reality didn’t need anymore. It was hard for them to give up some of the items they had been grasping onto for years, some had a lot of sentimental value to them. In the end, they gave up a lot, but in the process became much less burdened when they had to move and eventually im sure realized that they weren’t missing the items much at all.

Take a look around, I mean a real inventory of your home. How much of your stuff is crap? I’m sure more than you are willing to admit to right . In fact, I bet if we tried we could unclutter your house right now and earn you some bucks. Let’s give it a whirl.

You really need to unplug from your emotions on this one, I find having a drink or two helps :)

Pick a room to start with, I suggest a bedroom. Go through every square inch of the room and touch every single item in it. When touching an item, ask your self “when is the last time I used / enjoyed this actively?” If it’s been at least a year, seasonal items excluded, put it in a box. When you finish with your stuff, move on to clothing, shoes, hats, blankets, DVDs…etc…..

Take the box and bring it to your computer. Separate it into 4 boxes.

  1. Things I can sell
  2. Things I can donate
  3. Things I can recycle
  4. Things I can throw away.

Take box number 4 to the curb RIGHT NOW. Do not wait, do not linger.

Look up places to recycle box 3. There are plenty of stores that have bins in front, otherwise check with the local garbage dump for a drop off location.

Take box 2 down to your local Red cross, Salvation army, church or animal shelter. Many of them will provide you with a certificate for a tax write off.

For box one, it can be a little more complicated.

You can use Ebay to sell the big stuff quick, but little things are harder. Another option for everything to go is Amazon. You can set up a seller account in minutes, or you can have them take your stuff right away with the Fulfillment by Amazon program.

There are also small businesses all over the place that will sell your stuff for you and take a fee, just drop it off with them and forget it. Or you can always go my neighbors route and have a good old fashion garage sale.

Now you just cleared out the room, made a few bucks to pay your bills, got a tax write off for your junk and helped out mother earth. Overall not a bad day.

Think you have what it takes to let go?

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