Cutting the cord – My process of dumping cable TV | Part 1

During my bachelor days I wasn’t as aware with my money as I am now with a family. Since the birth of my daughter we decided that my wife would stop working to take care of our daughter. Since this meant becoming a single income household we’ve of course adjusted our lifestyle a bit. One of the things I wanted to do was cut cable tv since most of the shows we watch are available online as well as OTA. I’m 90% done with the transition and a co-worker was wondering how I did all of this so I figured a guide would be the best way to explain it all.

The number one thing in any married household is the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). You know that if cables are strung everywhere and computers are on the living room floor, you might as well just pack it up and find another way. I was lucky enough to have my office behind the living room tv, separated by a large closet where I house the WHS, Wii and HTPC(yay me!).

The central screen where everything is accessed is Windows Media Center 7. From here we can access Boxee, Hulu Desktop, Netflix, Media Center Internet TV, Weather forecasts and maps and so much more. I’ll list why we use all of these different sources for content and you can decide which is best for you.

Boxee – Awesome and possibly the best attempt to centralize all the media on your network and online. Pulls streaming video from major video outlets like ABC.com, Hulu, Fox, CBS and more. The default and third party apps make this a winner for me. Using the media libraries just point Boxee to your media and it does a pretty good job at indexing your photos, movies and TV shows. Supports most major formats and works with Media Center remotes well.

Hulu Desktop – One of the best sources for online tv in one central place. The quality surpasses most network video sites but their one nick is lack of HD content. Hopefully Hulu Plus will fix this with their 720p availability and more back content.

Windows 7 Media Center (7MC) – Still the most attractive 10 foot interface I’ve ever seen. Menus are smooth, apps launch quickly and the graphics are pleasant to look at. While MCE does have an Internet Video section, it’s very lacking in content. A few CBS and News shows are the major features but compared to Hulu and Boxee it just can’t compete.

This is still a work in progress but I’m pretty happy with the setup so far and even my wife hasn’t yelled at me (yet) for the my design. Right now we have 7MC as the hub of our HTPC. From here we can launch OTA TV (not yet implemented), Boxee, Hulu, Netflix and any movies/tv shows I’ve downloaded from legal sources.

Windows 7 Home Premium and above have 7MC preinstalled. Some additional software is needed of course to complete this setup. The greatest thing about these launchers is that they monitor the app and once you exit Boxee/Hulu they’ll reopen 7MC so you’re back at square one. I’ve tried the Hulu plugins like secondrun.tv and PlayOn but they just don’t work that well.

Boxee – www.boxee.tv

Hulu Desktop – www.hulu.com/labs/hulu-desktop

Boxee Launcher – boxeewmc.teknowebworks.com

Hulu Launcher – huluwmc.teknowebworks.com



Optional

Media Center Studio – www.adventmediacenter.com – The best utility I’ve found for hacking 7MC. Create custom menus or deleting unwanted menu items this thing can do it all and all this for free!

Media Center Master – www.mediacentermaster.com – I’ve been playing with this to download content such as meta-data for TV shows and Movies that I download. Been impressed so far with this product and best of all it’s free.

Media Browser – www.mediabrowser.tv – Also been playing with this to access the downloaded and ripped content on my WHS directly from 7MC in a much nicer looking interface then 7MC Movie Library. Combined with Media Center Master it takes 7MC to an entire new level. Oh yea and free also, see a trend here?

In part two I’ll go into more detail about the setup and provide diagrams and details of the workflow of this all. I figured the first post would be enough for most people if they wanted to get started on their own.


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