Cable Sucks – Internet Killed Television

Confluence (Standard Skin)  THis is what XBMC will look like on your TV

Confluence (Standard Skin) This is what XBMC could look like on your TV

You probably aren’t aware and the cable companies don’t want to advertise it either but cable is on its death-bed.

You probably think I’m crazy but the same thing happened to land line telephones, PDA’s, unlimited data from cell phone providers and more recently Viacom yanked its 19 channels — including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central — from DirecTV after the two companies failed to agree on subscriber fees. Second a federal judge cleared the way for Aereo, an exciting new startup that could bring local TV (NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS) to any device you wish, from a smart phone to an actual TV.

Just 4 short years ago came along the smart phone. Since its inception everything has changed. Now there are devices that range from small smart phones, tablets, net \ notebooks , laptops and the death of the desktop.

We are moving into touch screen technology and the currently beta Google Glasses era of communication, on the go multi-task working and its inter-connected social media.

Over half of American’s either do not own or don’t use their land line phones. This should be of particular interest for the hold outs. Wake up, the cable companies are robbing you monthly by charging you fees for a modem and VOIP lines when all of this is readily available free with your ISP web service package.

Around the corner is the death of the BUNDLE. Every year, 100 million homes pay for a bundle of cable channels. Like any bundle, it’s hard to see exactly what they are paying for. That is somewhat the point of bundling — to disguise the true cost of the constituent items. If you watch ESPN and 17 other channels regularly for four hours a day, you are probably getting a good deal. And that means that millions of other people are getting a “bad deal” on their cable and are subsidizing your TV experience. For these millions of households — who don’t watch live sports; or only want HBO; or only need their Law & Order, ANTM, and Daily Show fix; etc — an à la carte option for television would almost certainly be cheaper.

I’m not going to spend any more time for the not so tech friendly hangers on about the advantages of using products like Google Voice, Free smart phone apps that provide cable, VOIP calling etc all over your wifi at home because I want to spread the word about Internet TV and what you can do to get a better, unbiased and cheaper programming suite that is somewhat easy to install if you have the parts to put together to ditch cable and live in the 21st Century.

We all know what the internet is. Few realize that almost all of your programming is available online for free already. Many aren’t aware that you can plug your PC (just about any windows device) into your flat screen (or any unit television\monitor that has an input for HDMI, Composite\Component or the other various inputs available on TV’s over the last 5 years.

Today there is no need to buy a Television, a PC, a Stereo and expensive home theater speakers. Buy a large monitor (sans TV tuner – the thing that receives your digital cable provider signal and allows it to be displayed on your TV) a’la carte. Not in some purchased package that you were forced to buy to only view one network.

A cheap $250 netbook (or for the tech savvy , a $40 Raspberry-pi) and a cable in addition to a monitor is all you need to get started with an inexpensive home theater (you probably already own all of these standalone devices) that will crush the hell out of any cable that you currently have or can get today. Yeah, no kidding. You can kick the cable bill to the curb and trash your home phone and get everything you want to see on demand. VOD it’s called (via streamed media) without waiting for your program to start. I think of all of the time wasted waiting for a show to start that I not so long ago lost. Now I see what I want when I want it. I’m impatient, can’t stand lines so I don’t visit amusement parks or anywhere I have to wait while my life clock ticks giving up time that I can’t get back and you shouldn’t either. You can also use the DVR and EPG AND PVR functions built into XBMC out of the free software download.

There is a critical component that is needed to make all of this work like your current cable tv setup does now but user-friendly and visible from the couch. Enter XBMC.org

In an effort to avoid keeping your interest , if I still have it, I’m not going to explain how XBMC works but I will tell you that it is a content aggregator that is based on the “10 foot screen ” concept. Google deemed the 10 foot screen concept which really is just a user-friendly interface that is easily navigated from a distance, typically your couch.

All this means is that the software takes what is available from the web and puts it into an easier to navigate format that doesn’t require a keyboard or mouse (can use programmable remote controls or your smart phone) to operate or your mouse and keyboard or even a universal remote control.

Completely customizable or you can just install whatever skin you want (the first image on this post is the Default Confluence skin that I use on all of my machines)

All of the software is free. It is all publicly licensed creative commons stuff.

All you need to do is Download XBMC (for your platform (windows, MAC OSx, Android, Boxee, Raspberry-pi, ROKU or even xBox etc). Then make a few tweaks to your PC, OSx or box unit and you are ready to watch more video (TV) than you ever thought was available, most in high-definition.

In an extremely over simplified Guide I will note the simple steps to get this going in an evening at your home so that you and your clan can get the best out of digital media today. It is important that you have fast enough internet at home to stream video (ie: watch Youtube ) without buffering or lag (choppy video) and that you can view in the highest resolution without issue.

1. Download XBMC.org

2. Download and follow the simple guide for XBMCHUB.com configuration Wizard

3) Remote- You either need a remote (Infra red) dongle (and a programmable remote) or you can use your smart phone with the zillions of apps that are available to operate your setup via wifi from home. We use Unified Remote. It has 21 different remotes included that will operate anything that you can throw at it. It does cost $5.00 but everyone that has a smart phone in your house can use it.

4. Speakers- You will need sound if you aren’t using your television speakers. Google search PC speakers online to find your best possible deal. A $100 set with 5.1 sorround can actually provide some decent quality that would blow your tv speakers away but you don’t need them. Plug them in and configure (if not plug and play – most are today with Win 7)

5) I suggest booting your machine to XBMC at start-up or when waking up from sleep mode. You can use this handy free program to also stop programs (or delay them) at Windows startup for the most TV like experience on your machine while allowing it to sleep or be turned off when not in use to manage power consumption. This step isn’t required – it’s just a free and easy tweak to your HTPC (Home Theater PC).

Click on the links and start watching tv. It is that easy. To increase the literally tens of thousands of available channels, you can enable (email me for simple instructions ) video and program add-ons that are already included in the software you have installed.

If you have seen the “Google TV” box, this is much like it but 1000% better.

Some example Links to view 10 foot Screen Interface:

YouTube LeanBack (This is an example of recent YouTube (Google owned) 10 foot interface that is the future. There is no doubt about it. Looks better than Regular YouTube and is easier to utilize with a remote from your couch. This looks an awful lot like the XBMC interface.

VIMEO

Google Spotlight

Here are some helpful links:

Navi-Xtreme (Included in the XBMCHUB Wizard) this is probably enough Television for anyone. Constantly updated streams from various video stations, radio, movies etc.

Raspberry-Pi XBMC What is a Raspberry-Pi ? <—You won’t believe it

NOTE: Some of the software may use copyrighted material and may be avoided.

When you get it all going you can also include your own Movies, MP3’s, video and most media right on your User Interface in XBMC easily by browsing to your Hard Disk location and selecting the library for first time set it and forget it.

There are thousands of apps that you can install with one click that suit your wants and needs. You can also link to your home HD drive that contains all of your music, movies, videos etc and play \ display them in the xbmc interface.

You can even incorporate your live cable (if you really wanted to keep it but I wouldn’t understand why).

I have all of the TV’s in my house linked together to install and update the shared media that we constantly upload all of the time accessible by every Television in our house (which is easy to do) . There are police scanner apps, movie trailers, Social Media, weather, news, movies and other apps that can do a whole host of things.

This is just a sample of what you can do with your home theater by using components that you already have that are probably dedicated to single tasks. Why not connect them together and improve your nights at home after work with the family?

So, have at it and you can thank me later- I’ll take a cold one!