Daily Archives: July 11, 2009

Getting Good TV without Cable or Satellite

I moved some AV equipment around last weekend, trying to setup the upstairs study to be a second room for “watching TV”. We don’t have cable or satellite (gasp!) so we get our TV from the ether or Interwebs. Major broadcast networks come from HDTV into the TiVo so we watch most of the current watercooler fodder when everyone else does. Past years of a TV series and movies come from Netflix for a little over $9 a month, either as a DVD or streaming over DSL. For the hardest to get items, you’ll need a computer with internet access to get to [Hulu](http://hulu.com), the web-based outlet for the most popular content.

Hulu gives you what you want, say episodes of Burn Notice that would have aired on the cable network USA, for free streamed to your computer. You have to watch ads that can’t be skipped but they aren’t too annoying and there are usually less than 5 in a one hour show.

Hulu’s downside is the computer, forcing most people to sit in a home office or watch it on a laptop. Since that’s not really an option for us, I’ve been working on a plan to get the best of all worlds–Hulu on a TV.

There are plenty of ways to do this, the easiest is to use a $30 piece of software from a company called [MediaMall Technologies](http://themediamall.com/playon). Their software is call PlayOn and it let’s you take web content and “play on” a media extender device like an Xbox 360. You need a fairly recent computer with plenty of processor and RAM and a fast internet connection. Combine these together and you get a great result. Free content on a large screen from providers like Hulu.

That wasn’t an option for me since the Xbox and the PC I would have used are in the same room. A recent technology shift at my mother-in-law’s house allowed things to finally work out. I now have a 17″ LCD monitor with all of the right features:

* Tall adjustable stand: I can move the display to a height that makes it easy to watch like a regular TV
* Multiple video inputs: The new monitor has digital and analog inputs so the Xbox can connect to the VGA port and the PC can connect to the digital port. No more cable-swapping to use one or the other.

Combine the new monitor with some Yamaha digital speakers (with multiple inputs) plus a remote control that came with the video card and we’re all set. I’m saving $50 a month and not sacrificing anything but screen size.

Weekend Work

Like many people, I work Monday through Friday and have weekends off. I try not to take it for granted and so I use my weekends to give back to the nice house that takes care of me during the week. That means I mow the lawn, kill weeds and do little “fix up” chores to keep the house happy. It makes my regular work week nights trouble-free.

This weekend I’m confronted with many choices, the first of which was the water softener. It was hungry for salt so a quick trip to Dillon’s for pellets solved that problem. We actually fixed the whole setup about a month ago and then a minor adjustment two weeks later got it working just fine. The lack of hard water buildup on the shower door was the most obvious benefit. Dishes look better coming out of the dishwasher and clothes that are left to dry don’t end up with odd white rings.

Ahh, much better.