Friday, March 27, 2015

So you've cut the cable. Now What?

Okay, so you have just gotten rid of the cable. What are your options now? You have many options, and if you are reading this blog on a computer, then you probably have the technical know-how to explore your options. here are things to consider.

Old-fashioned TV over-the-airwaves

All modern HDTV flat-screens have tuners that allow them to get TV over the air. All you need to do is get an antenna (remember Rabbit-ear antennas? Well, they're back, and now they're digital), and plug it into the same coax connector that your cable box was connected to. Once you plug it in, you'll need to go into the menus of your TV, using the remote control, and autoprogram, which will detect and set up the channels in your area. In most cases, you'll see 20 or more channels.

There are multiple options for antennas. There are $10 antennas that will work just fine for lots of people. If you live in a more remote location, though, you may want to upgrade to the longer range antenna. The ultimate antenna is an outdoor one that you can mount to your roof, which will offer the greatest number of channels.

When you first turn on your TV, and set up the over-the-air channels, you will notice right away that the channels are all clear, sharp, and in High Definition (for high-def broadcasts. some programming, especially re-runs of pre-HD programming will not be High def). For many people, this is just fine, and all they need. It's good to play with this for a while, and see if you like it. See if there are enough channels to keep you entertained. Just remember, you can always explore other options while watching stuff over the air.

Satellite Television

Seriously? They're no better than the cable company! Their prices are just as high, and you'll still be paying $100/month.

PC + Internet = TV

Most HDTV sets can be plugged directly into your home computer. Even many laptops have an HDMI port on them, so that you can use your TV as a big monitor for your laptop. It's almost impossible to not be able to hook your PC up to your TV. At the worst, you'll just need to get a 15 or 20-foot cable. Just hooking your PC up to the TV will allow you to instantly show movies using Youtube, Netflix,Hulu, Amazon Prime instant Video, Vevo, and Vimeo.

Many of us have also taken the less-legal route of downloading movies and TV shows from Peer-to-peer networks. This will be enough to satisfy a lot of people. Many of us have actually set up a dedicated PC, hooked up to the TV, so that you can surf the web while someone else watches downloaded or streaming video on TV.

Streaming TV devices

If you don't want to have a whole PC set up to watch TV with, are on a budget, or just want to have a traditional remote-control to use with your TV, there is the option of one of the dozen-or-so streaming TV devices. You essentially plug them into your TV's HDMI port, and it hooks your TV up to the internet for streaming video, using a remote control similar to what you're used to with cable. All of these devices are literally small, but powerful multimedia computers, which have special software on them to make online video look and feel like cable TV. Even some Videogame consoles, such as Microsoft's X-Box, The Sony Playstation, and the Nintendo Wii, have built-in ability to do this, but they do almost cost as much as a whole computer. Here is a quick breakdown of the different devices available, for comparison:

Device Price Description Fee required?
Roku $49 - $89 Roku offers several models of streaming boxes, including one that works on older TV sets. It uses a very friendly, familiar remote control, and the user interface is very easy to use. NO
Apple TV $69 - $79 Apple TV is a box that is similar to Roku, but users like Roku better. Apple TV is tied into the i-Tunes store, so a lot of content isn't free. It offers a really good user-interface, but far fewer channels than the competition NO
Amazon Fire TV Stick $39 The Amazon Fire TV Stick is tiny. It's tied to your amazon Prime account, which means that to use it, you need to have Amazon Prime, and you need to pay the yearly fee. It offers a slick user interface, ease of use, and a remote that has just a few buttons on it. It runs Android, and is hackable, too. more on that, later. YES
Amazon Fire TV $99 The Amazon Fire TV box is the Fire TV Stick's larger, beefier brother. It has better performance than the Stick, and boasts Dolby Digital Surround output. YES
Google Nexus Player $89 The Google Nexus Player is a hockey-puck shaped device that integrates your Google services with Android TV, and gives you access to thousands of streaming channels and online video. NO
Matricom G-Box $69 - $109 The G-Box is a tiny set-top box that runs Android and XBMC/Kodi. It's got a quad-core processor, and is set up to automatically update whenever updates are available. The Quad core processor makes it high performance. NO
Sungale Smart TV $79 The Sungale Smart TV line of streaming media boxes offer the same features as Roku and Google Nexus. The included software connects you to all of the web-based video services like netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and so on. NO
The Jynxbox $79 Another streaming media box, but with a very dubious name. I wonder if the manufacturer realized what a Jynx is? Anyway, it streams all the usual direct content that FireTV, Roku, G-Box, and others do. NO

Raspberry Pi

I mention the Raspberry Pi here, but it is a more DIY alternative to the above streaming devices. The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, powerful computer that's the size of a cigarette box. One of the images you can install on your Raspberry Pi is called "RasBMC", which, when it boots up, is a fully functional, networked, multimedia center, with super-powerful capabilities, and tons of support.

The RaspBMC-equipped Raspberry Pi will require some computer skills to set up, but once you get the hang of it, you can access entire worlds of streaming movies and TV, for free. RasBMC is a Raspberry Pi version of KODI, an open-source media center that does everything that your cable TV providers kept promising, but never provided. Kodi has tons of add-ons and plug-ins available for it, which allows you to watch live cable TV feeds from all over the world, watch movies for free, and watch TV shows for free. All of this, is technically, not legal (illegal), and you would technically be a video-pirate if you did all of that. Fortunately, though, there currently is no law enforcement or cable-provider crackdown on it. In fact, if you were getting "Copyright Violation" emails from your cable company when you were downloading bit-torrents of movies, you won't see them when you start using Kodi. So it's doubtful that anyone can really detect when you're pirating video. This could change in the future, so keep updated on the latest trends to avoid fines.

KODI, The All-powerful

So now that I've introduced KODI on the Raspberry Pi, I should mention that KODI is available for multiple platforms. it runs on Microsoft Windows, Linux, Apple OSx, Android devices, iOS (I-Phone), Apple-TV, and Ubuntu. In other words, it runs on darn near everything. It can even be installed on many of the above devices, like the Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple-TV, and others. KODI is free. It is supported by thousands of users, worldwide, and if you set it up with enough add-ons, you will be able to watch shows from nearly all countries in the world, free of charge, all just using the internet. You can even use it as your portable media center, as it runs on smart-phones. Take it with you on your laptop. You will have free TV anywhere there is a live internet connection.

I close this article with KODI, because after exploring all of the above, this is what I ended up using, and am sticking with at the current time. I have already started articles about setting up KODI, and will update them when I have a chance. Check out KODI if you haven't already. It will change the way you watch TV forever.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cutting the cable!

If you've had Cable TV since the 80's, when I first got it, you've seen a lot of changes over the years -- improved boxes, HDTV, internet Service, and more. But in 30 or so years that I've been involved with Cable, one thing has not changed for the better -- service and price. Many people have decided that they are done playing games with the cable companies to get lower rates, done with crappy customer service, done with monthly costs that are over $100, when just a few short years ago, most people were paying about $60. If the cable companies cared, there would not be a movement of people cutting the cable.

You shouldn't be afraid of cutting the cable. You may be surprised what's available to you. You may actually like no cable better than cable.

Over-the-air digital broadcasts are available to you if you have an HDTV. You should have one by now, because older tube-TVs are rapidly becoming obsolete. HDTV sets have come down quite a lot in price, and if you do not need a huge screen, or fancy features, you can get a new HDTV for about the same $200-$500 price range that you probably got an old TV set for.

Once you decide the cut your cable, you just need to get a good powered antenna for your HDTV. For $10 you can get a fairly reliable cheap one. For more money, you can increase the range of your set, and pick up broadcasts from 20, 50, or 100 miles away. You simply need to know how to configure your television set, using the remote.

HDTV over the air is much clearer than cable HDTV. This is because the signal coming in from the cable has to pass through many different sources before it gets to you, and there is interference along the way. Some TV sets compensate for this, but once you see an over-the-air HDTV broadcast, you will instantly notice how sharp and clear the picture is. This is something that most people do not expect. We were all programmed to remember over-the-air TV as fuzzy and not focused well. If you had cable TV for more than a decade, this is what most of us just took for granted. But it's not true anymore. Over the air broadcasts are clear and sharp.

If you get a $100 antenna, or an outdoor roof-mounted antenna, you will have so many channels that it will be just like cable-TV. All the local stations have multiple tracks on each channel, especially the Public TV networks. PBS usually broadcasts about 4 or 5 channels, making the TV channels you get over the air almost as numerous as cable. But you still do not have movie channels, 24-hour news, sports, etc. You may still need cable for that -- but not cable TV, just cable for the internet!

If you cut all of your Cable TV services, and just get the cheapest Internet service from your cable company (or get it from your phone company), you may be able to go back to paying just $60/month for it. Most people don't mind that for internet service. Using your Internet connection, you can fill in for some things that cable TV used to provide. Some cable stations have free web casts of some programming for people who have computers. Most computers today can be hooked up to an HDTV with a single cable, or with a combination of a video and audio cable. Using this combination, you can prepare yourself for the next step in TV evolution -- Using your computer to watch video and TV broadcasts on your home TV. Using various software packages, you can easily set your computer up to get all of the programming that you used to get over cable, and more -- but you will not pay for cable any more. You will simply be using your computer and software.

If you want more -- there are lots of devices that can be hooked up to your TV, to provide programming so that you can use your computer at the same time. Amazon FireTV, Roku boxes, Google Chromecast, and AppleTV all plug int your TV and are essentially small computers with media center software that allow you to stream programs from the internet directly to your TV.

Cutting the cable has never been better or easier.

Setting up Kodi for the first time

Okay, so you have a computer, but find it to be a drag to constantly have to download torrent files of movies and TV shows that you used to watch with Cable, and well, you're also sick of all the hard drive space that it is taking up. There are tons of options for you. In my case, it was a combination of things that led me to Kodi.

  • Hard Drive space was being eaten up by downloads
  • Downloads were slow
  • The network ran a bit slow while I wanted to do other things
  • It's a real drag to not have a computer dedicated to the TV
  • I wanted to simplify everything to make watching TV as easy as Cable made it

There are many options for you:

  • Amazon Firestick and FireTV
  • Roku
  • set up a dedicated PC for your TV
  • Apple TV
  • Google Nexus
  • Google Chromecast
  • Game Console (Xbox, Playstation, etc)
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Various Android TV-dongles

Many of these devices work fine without much tweaking, but for the more Do-it-yourself options, you are likely going to use KODI, which came from the XBox Media Center (XBMC). KODI is a program that is not just free, it's open-source, supported by a gigantic community, easy to use, and has what seems to be unlimited features and functionality. It works on many of the above platforms and devices, and will likely be available for a lot more devices in the future. This guide will help you set up KODI so that you can start using it with ease. I will not cover the actual install of KODI itself, because it varies from platform to platform, but I will give as many links to relevant websites whenever possible.

So to learn more about KODI, go to the TV-Addons page:

After you go there, click on the Install link at the top, which will take you to a page that will give you downloads and instructions for all major devices that currently run KODI. (The link is:

(This is documented at

So after you install KODI, run it. Familiarize yourself with the look and layout, and your controls. Some of you will have a remote, others will have a PC keyboard. What you want to do is figure out where the menus are, and how to select and back out of them.

  • Click on System -> File Manager (There will be a first-time run dialog. You can follow it, but when you're done, continue)
  • Click on Add Source (You will see a new dialog open up)
  • Click on the box under "Enter the paths or browse for the media locations". A Keyboard will show up on screen.
  • Type in: HTTP://
  • Click "Done" on the keyboard.
  • Click on the box below, under "Enter a name for this media source". The keyboard will show up again.
  • Type in: Fusion
  • Click "Done" on the keyboard.
  • Click "OK"
This procedure adds the addresses of web-repositories to KODI, which is where you will download many add-ons from. Just remember the above steps, as you will be doing it from time to time, as you find new sources.

Repeat the above procedure with the following:

  • (Name it the "Super Repo")
  • (Name it "Xfinity")
Follow the instructions on the following pages: Search for and install the following add-ons:


  • Radio (lets you listen to radio stations from all over the world)
  • Apple I-Tunes Podcasts
  • Twit
  • Free Streams -- Many of the cable channels, plus most of the stuff available in Britain. It's not HD, but it's all the channels that people pay for (but free)
  • Genesis -- Free movies and TV shows (current and older)
  • 1Channel -- Free movies and TV shows (current and older)
  • iStream -- access to more movies and TV
  • Yify Movies HD -- More movie sources
  • WorldTV -- International TV station streams.

Finally, here are some links to help you with more stuff:

  • -- The home of KODI
  • TV Addons -- The home of TV Addons, where you will find a lot of great public-domain, open-source addons for KODI.
  • XunityTalk -- This is a series of forums for KODI and KODI add-ons users to share info, including troubleshooting.
  • Super Repo -- a place to get all of the add-ons you can possibly want for KODI.