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Television of the Future

This article was written by in Consumer. 6 comments.


Hi, I’m new here. Flexo invited me to create some original videos for Consumerism Commentary, and I’m happy to present the first one, which explains how I managed to retain my (possibly saturated) television habit but simultaneously remove the monthly cable bill.

At the core of the problem was the fact that we were paying for dozens of channels that didn’t interest us. I saw the TV options in iTunes growing, and wanted to see if à la carte television was actually doable and practical. It took me about two years (non-cumulative) of different software and hardware options before I settled on a system that works for us.

The video below shows off what I’ve been able to accomplish, saving us about $70 a month.

Assuming you already have a TV with an HDMI input, here’s what you’ll need if you want to replicate this setup:

Hardware

  • Some kind of computer. I use a Mac Mini because it gives me access to Front Row, in which I can watch the shows bought in iTunes. Otherwise, you just need something capable of running Hulu Desktop and Boxee.
  • An infrared (IR) receiver. Here’s an example of a cheap IR receiver. I can’t vouch for this brand myself, but it looks well-reviewed.
  • A mouse and a keyboard for occasionally operating the computer as a computer, instead of an entertainment hub. Or, if you have another computer already in the house, you could use some kind of remote desktop control software. This is built-in on modern Macs, they call it “screen sharing.”
  • If you’re using a Mac Mini, you’ll also need a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter which they don’t sell in the Apple stores. (Update: as of June 15, 2010, there is a new Mac Mini available with built-in HDMI.
  • A universal, programmable remote. I am fond of the Logitech Harmony series.

Software

  • Remote Buddy. This was the missing link for me between a kludgy “HTPC” setup and my current TV of the Future. It connects your IR receiver to your universal remote and makes things work.
  • Hulu Desktop. A great interface, high quality streaming video, and very few commercials. I couldn’t ask for more from these folks.
  • Boxee. This is what I use to organize local videos like British TV, but also grants access to a huge list of online streaming media.
  • ShowRSS. Choose from your favorite TV shows, British or otherwise, and generate a custom RSS feed, which you can then download on a regular basis, with:
  • Miro. Like Boxee, this also provides access to a directory of content, but I mostly just use it for its friendly RSS-catching interface

Finally, here is a .ZIP file of the spreadsheet I created to analyze whether we’d be saving money, in both Excel and OpenOffice versions. Of course, you’ll want to replace the example list of shows with your own preferences.

Updated June 15, 2010 and originally published June 2, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Bryan J Busch is an independent audio/video producer and entertainer. He is managing several sources of income in order to follow his dream of original videos and geeky comedy. He's had many different blogs over the years, but these days you're better off finding him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Money Smarts

Good write up! I use a similar setup using a software on my desktop called Playon which streams shows to my xbox 360s, upstairs and downstairs. You can watch a variety of online video options including netflix, hulu, several of the networks, and a ton of others through the variety of Playon plugins you can download..

i would also second the recommendation of Logitech Harmony remotes. I’ve owned two of them and love them! I don’t know what I would do without them – and they’v just recently released a couple of models for less than $100 – so they’re more affordable now as well!

Cable is a thing of the past!

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avatar jim

I have a 7 year old PC hooked up to the TV and use a wireless keyboard with trackball. It works well enough.

We also have our Wii setup with netflix streaming with works great. I tried Playon for the Wii but the picture quality wasn’t very good.

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avatar Financial Samurai

Videos are always welcome Flexo. I like variety and so do probably everybody else. I like how the text comes out.

Interviewing interesting people is always the most fun.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,386 (Platinum)

Thanks, Sam. We’re looking forward to producing more.

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avatar Tom Dziubek

I think you nailed it with the comment at the end about how you’re fortunate you’re not into live sports. I think that I’d happily jump onto this setup if I wasn’t such a sports nut. There are ways around that, some legal, some not…but I’m not satisfied with the picture quality…the whole reason I got the HDTV in the first place.

Jim, that being said, do you have an HDTV? I think having to watch TV through a non-HD source such as the Wii would drive me nuts unless I was watching it on an SD set.

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avatar Cass ♦0 (Newbie)

Great! Thanks.

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