Cutting the Cord

Last year we cut the cord to our cable provider, not out of desire, but out of necessity. We moved to a rural location that didn't offer cable services. Still, this was something that I had wanted to do for some time, and was glad to have my hand forced. My current setup is as follows:

- Win7 running Windows Media Center
- PlayOn Lite
- HDHomeRun Dual Tuner
- PS3
- Wii
- Netflix

I'm not a big TV watcher, but my wife is. She was quite surprised to see how much of the TV she really wanted to watch was available OTA. Sure, she missed being able to scan for the background noise of guilty pleasures on traditional cable networks, but not so much that we've missed paying the $100+ per month to watch them. We have a very limited "broadband" internet connection through our rural wireless provider (~1.4M down, 512K up) but it is enough that we can stream one show from Netflix. This has been a boon for our kids, who definitely would be missing Nick, Sprout, and Disney.

We setup our recording through the Win7 HTPC, and those recorded shows are available on our other sets via the PS3 using Windows built-in DLNA support, and on the Wii using PlayOn's MyMedia, which is currently in beta.

Another big project during this switch was to make all of our DVD content available on-demand. I used a combination of DVD Shrink, Handbrake, and MetaX for this project. Just like our recorded TV, that content can also be called up using the HTPC, PS3, or Wii.

It isn't a perfect solution. Bad weather knocks out both our OTA TV reception as well as our internet connection. Even with good weather, online content and services have a long way to go before it is a true competitor to what the major cable operators can offer. Asking my wife and kids to switch between Clicker, Hulu, PlayOn, Netflix, and a variety of other apps in the hopes of maybe finding the content they want to watch is non-starter. Keeping it simple is key, and that is something the cable operators have much better control over.


Jade Mason