Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cutting the Cable: my version

It got to the point where I had to cut my costs. The cost of everything going up and a change in taxes making my paycheck a little smaller-I'm gonna go ahead and say "thanks a lot Osama...Obama"-I just had to find a way to reduce my monthly costs. Not being able to source ammo consistently has been an ersatz cost control, but I don't like it. I looked at what was going out every month, and there were two areas I could reduce: power consumption and cable TV. Turning off lights and not turning them on until they were required and shutting down the computer regularly made a huge difference in the power bill, and turning off cable TV while keeping cable internet cut $75 out of my cable bill.

I looked around a bit for alternatives, and found a way to get rid of cable TV without going batty: I bought a Roku 3. In order to use it, I also needed to get a router, which I found on Amazon as a factory refurb for about $50 with shippin'. The Roku 3 cost me $89, and shipped for free. I had a little trouble getting the disc for the router to work correctly, but I got that squared away by literally unplugging everything in the chain and plugging it in one step at a time following the boot disc directions. After that, setting up the whole thing was cake.

Using the Roku is really easy, too. Its well thought out and intuitive. That info is all over the net, so I'm not gonna rehash it again. Instead I'll run down how I typically use it.

I've tried pretty much all the premium services (Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime) and keep finding that I keep going back to Netflix. I either didn't use them enough-as with Hulu Plus, although I may try again sometime soon-or just didn't get to see what I wanted, as with Amazon. They have the most content, but much of what I want to see on that channel is a paid show. That's no big deal for the convenience, but I don't wanna pay $79 a year and then have to pay a few bucks per on top of that to watch a movie or show. So, in order to reduce my costs the most, I stick to Netflix and manage to keep myself occupied with finding movies I haven't seen and some older shows I dig, like Battlestar Gallactica and Miami Vice. There's a ton they don't have, but I'm debating changing my account to get DVD's as well. At this point, though, the desire is keep costs low, so its the one service I'm using now.

I can still watch some shows streamed on their producer's website as well, such as Defiance, and regular TV programming on hulu.com. I tried to run a VGA splitter so I could send that signal to my TV as well as my monitor, but for whatever reason, the splitter isn't working, with the TV saying that signal isn't supported. My computer is pretty old, so I only have a single VGA out on it; only one monitor output. I think the right solution will be a video card that has two outputs, but again, the idea was to keep costs low, so for now I watch on my 'puter. At least I have a decent sized monitor.

To get local stations, I got a tip from a buddy of mine: after I took out the cable converter box and returned it, I took the cable that was going into said box and plugged it directly into my TV. I went to the antenna set up on my TV, set it to "cable", and searched. I came up with 38 channels, about 20 of which are visible. I get all my local programming, and in fact I'm watching the Spurs get a third quarter lead going against the Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals now. I miss out on some sports that are on TNT and ESPN, but the national stuff I still get. Oddly, I still get The Food Network, too. I'd trade that for FX or Fox Sports, but overall, I'm pretty satisfied with what I've got.

My boss said a couple months ago that he was sure that cable TV was on it's way out. With all the stuff that's available on the Roku-there's a lot on there I couldn't care less about, but some 20 channels have caught my attention so far-I can see cable TV going away and having all programming come over the net. At the time I wasn't so sure, but now I can see it happen. The programming will have to catch up; you're gonna have to be able to get all those channels online, and they're not all there yet. Once that happens, though, it'll be on like Donkey Kong, because the cost of programming will drop dramatically, and commercials will still be commercials. If the costs of the commercials doesn't drop significantly as well, then there won't be more of them than there already are. Honestly, I don't much care about commercials; if having a couple breaks during the show mean I don't have to pay out that $75 for cable TV, I'm OK with it. For what I'm saving, I'm pretty dang happy with the decision to dump cable TV.