Friday, January 29, 2010

Time Warner Cable TV Loses Subscribers

Time Warner TV lost 197,000 subscribers over the past 3 months.  I guess I'm not the only one making the move away from cable.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Boxee... The Internet TV Revolution Has Officially Begun!!!

A couple of years ago I began watching TV on the internet. I would go to various sites to find content including Fox, Hulu, At the time I thought, "wouldn't it be great if there was a directory online that would allow you to easily navigate all of this content." I also thought, "wouldn't it be great to have a product that would deliver this content on my TV."  Today, we have that directory, and in the 2nd quarter of 2010, we will have a product that will deliver it on our TV.   Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you...

Boxee is an open source software platform that manages TV entertainment, Movies, Music, Photos, Files, and Apps.  The software runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers, and on Apple TV.  In addition, companies like D-Link are creating hardware appliances that offer an easy way to watch content and manage Boxee on your TV.   Boxee could eventually be integrated with any number of appliances like DVD players, Game Consoles, and even TV's. So let's take a look at some of the features of Boxee:

Internet TV
Boxee offers a wide selection of internet TV, organized in an easy to use interface.


Once you drill down to the show you'd like to watch, Boxee gives you a choice of services from which you can stream the show.  In the example above, you can watch an episode of "The Office" streaming from NBC or from Hulu.  On my 22" computer monitor the quality of the show was outstanding.

Boxee gives you the ability to download apps written for the Boxee platform.  These apps will allow you to listen to streaming music, connect with your NetFlix subscription, view photos, watch baseball, podcasts, and YouTube, and much more.

Local Content
Boxee can search your local hard drive and index movies, music, photos, and files you have stored on your computer or on your local network, for easy viewing on your TV.

Social Networking
If you're into Social Networking (and who isn't these days), Boxee has features you would enjoy.  Share what you are viewing, track what your friends are watching, mark your favories, etc.

Boxee Box
D-Link has developed an appliance that can be attached to your home TV, and used to run Boxee.  Calling it an appliance is like calling the Empire State Building, just a building... it doesn't do it justice.  The Boxee box has a radical yet attractive and functional design.  It comes with a QWERTY remote control to make text entry a breeze.

Boxee is free to download and use.  There are no subscription fees for Internet TV content.  Some App providers (like NetFlix and MLB) will require subscriptions to their service to view content.  The Boxee Box will be available in the 2nd quarter of 2010 and will run you about $200.

Cheaper TV Take:  This technology is game changing and has the potential to disrupt a number of industries including DVR's, Cable TV, Premium Content Services, Apple TV, and Pay Per View.  I'm not the only one who thinks so; Boxee received a number of Best In Show accolades at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.  Once it's available, I fully expect to add the Boxee Box to my family TV.  The writing is on the wall cable companies, the internet is the future of home entertainment delivered to your TV.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Comcast through the years

Comcast and I have had a 9 year relationship.  Ever since I've moved to the area, Comcast has provided me with Cable TV.  Like every relationship we've had our ups and downs.  Early on, I wasn't very satisfied with Comcast.  They had spotty service, their customer support was terrible, and their high speed internet didn't seem so high speed. 

I have to say, Comcast got better with age... adding services like "On Demand" and business plans like "Triple Play", and cool features like showing caller ID on the TV when people called were all appreciated.  Their support has also improved with age.  Before I would call Comcast support, I expected to be on hold for about 15 minutes before I would be able to talk with a live person, and often times all they did was schedule a service call for some future date.  Today's Comcast support is entirely different, easy to navigate phone menu's that lead to calls being answered within a minute and quick automated resolutions to service issues.  Even my call to downgrade service was answered relatively fast and took about a minute to process.  I'm sure competition from Verizon had something to do with this change, but still, I do give Comcast credit for improving over the years.

Like most separations, we are still in each others life.  I have not given up on Comcast High Speed Internet, and I still use the phone service, however our Cable TV love affair is over.  Comcast, I'd like to dedicate this song to you:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Goodbye Cable TV

It's a week late, but I finally finished my Broadcast TV install.  I just got off the phone with Comcast and canceled my cable TV service.  Above is a picture of the box I no longer need to watch TV.  Previously my cable bill was $142 a month.  My new Comcast bill is $71 a month... a monthly savings of $71 or an annual savings of $852.  I'm going to celebrate by watching some broadcast TV in High Definition!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Effect of Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court ruled that companies can spend unlimited amounts of money on advertisements for political campaigns.  Broadcast companies have ordered extra money bags.

Cheaper-TV Take: This is good news for broadcast TV because there will be tons of private money spent on commercials during elections.  This will make the current free broadcast model viable so broadcasters may decide that they don't need to go to a Cable TV only model.

Here's the bad news, companies will have an undue influence on making laws.  Because they have deep pockets, companies can influence elections which will result in politicians doing what's best for company profits, not consumers or the public good.  For example, let's say the major networks feel that they can have better ratings if Public Broadcasting didn't exist, they might tell politicians to do away with funding for PBS.  Or lets say that broadcasters want to increase profits, they might have their politicians pass laws that force every American to pay higher taxes so that the government can start paying broadcasters to provide free TV.  This is a sad day for American Government and for the American consumer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where's the Money Going?

I expect to save about $60 a month by cutting cable TV.  Because we are all sacrificing, I think the whole family should benefit from the money we save.  I'm thinking we should put $60 in a jar every month for the next 18 months.  We'll save about $1,000 in that time.  So how should we reward ourselves?  Weekend trip to NYC?  New Family TV?  Hershey Park Season Passes?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Living Without HBO and Showtime

We've been HBO subscribers for over 10 years... HBO and Showtime are the best channels cable has going for it.  Early on, I subscribed to see movies and watch boxing.  Then I got hooked on their original programming.  Shows like "True Blood", "The Wire", "The Soprano's", "Weeds", and many more are can't miss TV.  Giving it all up is tough, however, there's a solution... be patient and get the full seasons on DVD.  Both NetFlix (as part of my subscription) and my local library ($1 for a 3 day rental) offer these DVD's.

I'm not as big of a boxing fan as I used to be, and now the best fights are Pay Per View.  Interest has waned since Mike Tyson and Don King have left the sport.
So let's recap, the big benefit of these premium channels is Movies, Boxing, and Original Programming.  Movies and Original Programming, I can get through NetFlix.  Boxing I could do without.

Goodbye HBO... it's been a nice 10 years.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Netflix and Roku

I just unpacked and installed the Roku box... signed up for an $8.99 Netflix subscription and "BAM!!!"  I started watching movies.  All I can say is WOW... why didn't I do this sooner?  The selection is large, the quality is amazing, and service is fantastic.  I tried viewing a movie, a TV show in HD, and an internet channel called iFanboy.  Each one started almost instantaneously and the quality was great.

Breaking News... Netflix just announced that it will start streaming movies through the Wii starting in the spring of 2010.  Luckily we have both an xbox and a Wii, so I will not need to purchase another box for my other TV's.

There is one drawback... you still have to queue up movies from your computer.  It would be great if you can browse the selection and just choose it from your TV without having to first select it on the computer.  Still, overall I would give it two thumbs up... way up!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3D TV is Coming

The big news out of the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas is that 3D television is coming.  Most major TV manufacturers were showing off TV and the accompanying 3D glasses for this new technology.  In addition, a number of TV broadcasters have committed to delivering content in 3D.  Those that have seen the technology have been impressed.

Cheaper-TV Take:  Depending on the TV and manufacturer, this technology will cost about $200 more than a similarly equipped non-3D TV.  I really have no interest in a 3D TV, even if there were no cost differentiation between a 3D TV and a non-3D TV.  I have seen a few IMAX movies in 3D and I find it distracting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ABC Has Arrived!!!

Placing the antenna on the roof did the trick... I now have ABC and 3 additional channels.  The Roku box has shipped, so I plan to cut the cable on Sunday, January 17.  Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Phone Alternative - magicJack

Earlier I posted about switching my phone to a VOIP service... hold the presses... I think I found a more appealing option... magicJack!  magicJack is a VOIP service that costs $20 a year for unlimited local and long distance calls... that's right a $20 a YEAR!!!  The only up front cost is $40 for the hardware to connect to your PC or Mac, and with that $40 purchase you get the first year of service free.

There's only one problem, as of today you cannot switch your home phone number to this service.  The folks at magicJack say they are working on it and hope to allow you to switch your home phone number for a small fee.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Antenna Has Arrived

Yesterday, the antenna I purchased from Amazon arrived.

Suffice it to say, I was very excited and couldn't wait to hook it up.  It took me about 10 minutes to open the box, assemble the antenna, and place it in my attic.  I had pre-run coax cables to the attic so it was a simple matter of hooking up the existing cable to the antenna.  I pointed the antenna to in the direction of the closest broadcast towers based on the information provided by AntennaWeb, then proceeded to do a channel scan with my Vizio HDTV.  I was thrilled with the results:

On my first try without any adjustments, I received 34 crystal clear digital channels many of which are broadcast in HD.  The picture quality was amazing.  I received about twice as many channels as AntennaWeb said I would receive.  AntennaWeb doesn't take into account multiple broadcasts for each station.  For instance, I get 3 NBC channels (NBC, Weather, and Universal Sports).

The news wasn't all good... ABC was not one of the channels I received.  I tried multiple adjustments, but to no avail... it just wasn't coming through.  What really had me stumped was that ABC was being broadcast from the same distance and direction as the other channels.

So I did a search to see if I was the only one experiencing this problem, and I came across this interesting article.  It turns out, I'm not alone and that the local ABC station is under powered.  I tried again at night, and what do you know... ABC appeared.  According to the antenna documentation I should have up to a 40% better signal if I mount the antenna on the roof as opposed to in the attic.  Considering my issue with ABC and tiling on some other channels, I plan on mounting the Antenna on the roof.  That withstanding, I was happy enough with the results of my attic installation to move forward with step 3 of my plan... I ordered a Roku box.  Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Choosing a Movie Subscription Service

The two major movie subscription services are Netflix and Blockbuster by mail.  Back in March 2009, Consumer Reports gave Netflix the nod over Blockbuster and I would have to agree.  Both plans seem to offer similar benefits with plans starting about $8.99 a month, but each have their own strengths.

  • In store returns and exchanges (limit to 5 per month)
  • No extra charge for Blu-Ray DVD's
  • Discounts for Game rentals and purchase, and DVD purchases
  • Download Movies on Demand (Windows PC Only)
  • Watch movies instantly on a PC, Mac, or Netflix ready device

If your just counting bullets, Blockbuster wins by a landslide, however I'm choosing Netflix over Blockbuster because it's an easy solution to stream movies to my TV's.  I plan on purchasing a Roku set-top box ($79.99) for my living room analog TV, and a Roku HD-XR box ($129.99) for the high definition TV in my bedroom.  This will allow me to stream thousands of movies at any time, as long as my Netflix subscription is active.  My kids have an Xbox which allows them to download Netflix movies.  The only limitation there is that they would need a subscription to Xbox Live Gold ($49.99 a year).  If they're willing to foot the bill, I might let them have it.

If Blockbuster had a set-top box option, it may tip the scales, but without that option, it's Netflix and Roku for my family.