Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to cut Cable, Go OTA and combine Hulu with PlayOn

Ever since I’ve received my “cease and desist,” how have I been holding up? After all, I am getting all of my TV “OTA” (over the air). To be honest, I've amped up my usage of Hulu. Hulu allows you to stream, for free, Television programming from various networks (most notably absent is CBS). However, amid rumors that Hulu will start charging, I have been playing with building a low cost DVR.

The purpose of the post is to to show you that you CAN cut cable if you, like I discovered, find that your normal viewing habits consist of programs that you could get for free with an antenna. I unsubscribed from my local cable provider last year after coming to hate paying fees for underused HD DVRs and programming.

Parts List

Here is what you will need:

1. Hulu – Currently, this is free. Create your account and begin adding shows. They will start showing up in your queue the next time the program airs.

2. PlayOn - PlayOn lets you watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, CBS, YouTube, CNN, ESPN and more on your TV. It is a service that runs on your PC and streams video to your DLNA enabled device. If you want to try before you buy, PlayOn has a 14 day trial offer.

3. A DLNA Enabled Device: This is how the video goes from your PC running PlayOn to your Television. There are many devices and PlayOn supports Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii. Personally, I have had luck using my Archost TV+.

Setting Up

Honestly, this is pretty easy. Make sure that your computer that will run the PlayOn software meets the requirements. The User Guide helps to get through most of the bottlenecks in setting up.

I have found that, on Vista and Windows 7, I have needed to allow my DLNA device to access the PC running the service. Generally, that PC will tell me that it has detected a device, however, sometimes I have to go into Window Media Player and set up the sharing. Windows 7 was a little different, and these instructions helped me get going.

So, How Is It?

The User Guide recommends that your PC is wired in, but, I have been using a PC that is connected wirelessly to my network (G band). My XBox is connected to the 57” TV and is also connected wirelessly and, to be honest, the setup is nearly always perfect. Upstairs, on my Archos TV+, there is a love/hate relationship. When it is good, it really works well. However, sometimes there is a popping and stuttering that I can sometimes get rid of by pausing the stream for a little bit and letting it get buffered.

I had been using this setup more and more, even prior to getting the C&D from Verizon.

What I like most about PlayOn is that it has a very expansive mod-community that has freely available plug-ins. I’ve become addicted to the Scripts plug-in and the OPML plug-ins. These plug-ins even allow me to legally watch content from shows that are normally on cable (for example, HGTV).

Also, PlayOn is really good with their updates. They are frequent and address problems in an acceptable time frame.


If you did not already have an DLNA device, then it might be a little expensive getting setup. However, I was paying about $80 for cable. That could quickly turn into an Xbox or Playstation (I would probably lean towards the Playstation simply because it has built in networking and is a BluRay player). The XBox 360 requires you to purchase a wireless adapter. However, you probably can get killer deals off of Craig’s List or your local Pawn Shop.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Dress

Cindy and I stole away for lunch and a movie. After getting many recommendations for “Blind Side,” we chose that film. There were several themes in the film, but the one that caught me was how Sandra Bullock’s character just brought Michael into her family without conditions. It was touching.

Afterwards, we decided to stroll through Dutch Square Mall. I wonder how many times in my life I’ve walked through that center hallway. The Cromer’s Monkeys and the Barrel of Fun are long gone. Even the center stage Santa display looks thrown together.

Cindy wanted to go into Dress Barn and I, well, I didn’t. I told her she could find me in the Game Stop. I really thought I was going to be in there for a while, but this particular GS has that Funky Mall store smell that drives you to leave as soon as possible.

I left and found a bench outside of Dress Barn and waited. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and Santa had several visitors. 4:10 came and still no Cindy. There was a Game Stop newspaper insert on the bench and I flipped through, halfway interested, but, not really.

4:15. Ok, I’m going in. It didn’t take long to get through the door before the little “Ding Dong” announced that a customer was entering the store. Ugh, I hate the attention.

Scanning the store, I found Cindy outside of the dressing room looking at herself in the mirror. She was stunning in a little black dress that she had found. So often, I just see her as my wife Cindy, wearing every day clothing. But, caught off guard and I saw this attractive, petite lady.

Cindy was ecstatic about the dress because it was placed on the 70% off rack. I had no problem buying it because a) She looked great in it, b) She wanted it for her cousin’s wedding next summer and c) I spend way more than that on a single video game.

At the register, it rang up full price and the sweet deal turned sour. Cindy, not in the least married to the dress, was prepared to leave. I wasn’t. Pulling some of my best Dave Ramsey skills, I asked for a bargain. The best the manager could give me was 20%. Ok, not bad, but not 70%. We left.

A few steps out of the door, we were talking about the dress. I was really hoping Cindy would buy it, but she was more in love with the deal. I was more in love at how fabulous she looked in it. After a few back and fourths, she decided that she did like the dress.

She went in to purchase it and I walked over to the Game Stop to look at the outside displays (the smell was holding me out). Suddenly I hear Cindy calling my name and I turned. With her was the manager who shook my hand. She told me that she was really touched at how my face dropped when we left, and that she had given Cindy the 20% discount plus an extra 10 dollars. I was stunned that the manager came out to tell me.

So, we didn’t get the “best” deal, but, Cindy got a great dress and we got a neat story.