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:
- 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.
- 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 October 13, 2016 and originally published June 2, 2010.