Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 2)

 

Part 1 can be found here

So we’re ending week 2 of the Cord Cutting Experiment and I’ll have to say it’s been mostly OK so far.  I’m still missing the DVR a little because all my favorite shows were available in one place and ready to watch when I was.

Having said that by using a DVR I was not taking advantage of all the online programming that’s available out there.  You can still “Time Shift” but you have to find the content in various applications and services vs. it being grouped together.  You also have some limitations with shows only being available for a limited time (kind of like the storage space limitation on a DVR).

107-2313_BK_BI tried a few iOS apps that help track shows and remind you when the are on.  That’s nice to be able to do but you have to remember the shows are available the day after online in most cases.

I’ve also had some reception related issues with one of the local stations (ABC).  The signal bounces all over the place from 35-90%.  I repositioned the OTA Antenna this weekend and that made a big difference.

I’ve found some good online resources and talked to friends and co-workers about this experiment and have found a lot of people are cheating a little by using someone else’s (usually parents or relatives) cable tv account login to access online content.  This gets you over some of the content limitations of going strictly non-cable.  In fact, a lot of the AppleTV apps require a cable TV subscription login before they will even work!

I upgraded my Hulu Subscription the other night to the higher tier that all but eliminates commercials. I tried living with them for a week and it was driving me crazy.  It’s worth another $4 in my opinion.

So in the end I went from $120 a month to less than $20.  The $100 savings is worth it so far and I’m going to give this some more time before making a final decision on the overall experience.  So far it’s still very positive!

I’ve gotten some great feedback on this subject and I look forward to more!  Feel free to leave your questions and comments in the space below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 1)

I came home the other day and my DVR was acting odd.  Only a few shows remained & they were all marked for deletion.  A quick check of available space confirmed my suspicions…  The hard drive was dying and taking all of my saved content with it.

I work with a bunch of “Millennials” and none of them subscribe to cable TV.  The number one reason seems to be cost.  I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming a “cord cutter” but hadn’t made the move yet.  This was a perfect time to give it a shot.  A quick call to the cable company saved me $120 a month in cable subscription fees and started me on this journey.

51bQI0nhcpL._SY450_I purchased the new Apple TV released last week (future review topic for sure), and a new Over The Air (OTA) antenna for local channels.  After some initial setup I was ready to roll.

The Apple TV allows me to access Netflix ($7.99 a month) and Hulu (also $7.99 a month) so for $16 I’m getting more content than I could ever consume.  My Internet cost is reimbursed by my employer so this is working out to be a good deal.

The $60 OTA antenna I purchased from Amazon works amazingly well and pulls in all the local channels along with a bunch of sub-channels that I’ll never turn on.  This setup will cover the major sporting events I want to watch as well as some Prime Time shows I watch on occasion.

The only thing I’m missing so far are the DVR capabilities and NFL RedZone.  I’m learning that most network shows are available for streaming on Hulu the day after they air so if I miss it live I can usually find it online.

I’m still in the first week but so far so good.  I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going and if I’m still happy with the decision to ditch Cable TV.

Have you cut the cord?  Are you thinking about?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

The Amazon Kindle

I’ll be the first one to admit it… I don’t read for fun nearly as much as I should (or want to).

When Amazon launched the first Kindle in late 2007, I really didn’t take notice.  By the time Generation 2 came out in early 2009 I knew I had to have one.  I was traveling weekly for work and found myself with more downtime in the evening than I normally had when I was at home.  Being limited to a book or magazine in my suitcase was not the preferred option as my preference for subject material changes quite frequently.  It’s not unusual for me to have several books/magazines going at one time.

The clincher for me was the “Whispersync” technology that keeps all of your various reading material synchronized between devices.  By devices I mean not only the Kindle but your PC, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android and iPod Touch.  This feature allows you to purchase and share kindle content among the various electronic devices you use every day.  A prefect example of this in use was when my wife wanted to read a book on the Kindle.  I was able to grab the laptop and continue reading my own book that I had been working on previously.

Whispersync is the feature that pushed me over the edge from “want to need” and convinced me to purchase a Kindle sight unseen.  They were not available in the traditional brick and mortar stores until recently so I read enough positive reviews that I took the plunge.

The Kindle display uses Electronic Ink which is amazing.  After spending all day working on a computer it’s actually refreshing to stare at the Kindle screen.  It looks like ink on paper and works perfectly inside and out.  There is a slight “flash” as the page refreshes as you turn the digital page.  It’s noticeable at first but you end up not even noticing it after a while.  The Kindle only uses power when it’s refreshing the screen or communicating wirelessly.  When it’s “off” there’s actually pictures (screen savers) on the screen.

Speaking of communicating wirelessly, the Gen 2 version I own has a built in AT&T 3G data card in it.  It’s free to use for the life of the device and allows for the wireless sync as well as some basic web browsing via the built in browser.

Battery life with the 3G radio disabled is measured in weeks (2-3), even with daily reading sessions of an hour or more.  With the 3G turned on your battery life drops to 4-5 days.

The new Generation 3 devices have an even better display and a lower cost from the previous generations.  I could go on and on about what a great device the Kindle is.  It only does one thing but it does it very well.

My Kindle – Finale

Continued from part 2

Back in December I started writing about the new amazon Kindle eBook reader I purchased.  It’s been about 6 weeks and I thought I would do a follow-up post.

Although I have not had as much time to read as I would have liked, I’ve spent considerable time with the Kindle in a lot of different environments.  My favorite place to read is the comfy leather chair in my living room illuminated by a 40w bulb in the Pharmacy Floor Lamp.

When not curling up with the Kindle at home I’ve done some reading while riding in a car, enjoying a quiet lunch at the cafe near the office and in my second home, the hotel.  The Kindle performed well everywhere and the wireless connectivity never missed a beat.

By making use of the ample storage in the Kindle I always have something available to read.  Fiction, history, newspapers and technical manuals have all found their place on the device.  I currently have around 200 titles loaded and I’m not even close to making a dent in the memory.

If you are looking for some classic reading you can’t go wrong with Project Gutenberg.  All of the titles here are public domain (free).  You get what you pay for though as several titles I have obtained from here had some typo & formatting issues.  Overall it’s a great place to pickup some good reading materials.

Another tool I have found for the Kindle (and just about every other eReader out there) is a software application called Calibre.  Calibre is an eBook Management tool that allows you to catalog, edit and convert electronic documentation into the format needed for your particular eBook reader.  You can use Calibre to upload and download books to/from your devcice as well.  it’s an OUTSTANDING piece of software that the developer, Kovid Goyal, offers for FREE!  If you like the software you are encouraged to make a donation to help with future development.

I hope this brief 3-part review of the Kindle gives you additional information on this amazing piece of technology.  If you love to read you’ll love the Kindle!

My Kindle – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Ended up going out of town the day the Kindle was delivered.  Did not get to check it out until last night. I hate it when UPS doesn’t match their delivery to my schedule (ha)!

First impressions:

  • Small
  • Light
  • Thin
  • Solid

This thing is a LOT smaller than I expected.  The screen size is about the same as a small paperback book.  Once you start using it you forget about the screen size.  The display is truly amazing!  Packaging was very minimal (green). and the unit was already hooked to by Amazon account when I powered it on!

I had my doubts about how much better the eInk technology would be when compared to any other computer screen.  The best way i can describe it is like this; Analog TV vs. HDTV.  There’s a huge difference between what you are reading on the screen right now and the quality of the text on the Kindle.

One of the great features of this device is the ability to download samples of books before you buy them.  You get a chapter or two delivered instantly to the device and you have the option of purchasing the book to continue reading.

There can be conversion issues with documents.  I purchased the 9/11 Commission Report for $0.99 and after a couple of hours reading the formatting errors are driving me nuts.  Mainly the lack of space between sentences and missing hyphens.  This is a by-product of PDF conversion to Kindle format.  I’ve seen this with other forms of electronic books.

The seamless integration to your Amazon account makes purchasing content on-the-fly as simple (or dangerous) as pushing a button.  I have quite a backlog of books I want to read so the get-it-now feature is going to be hard to resist!

I’m going to log some time using the Kindle and publish a third and final post/review in a few weeks.

Part 3

My Kindle – Part 1

The Amazon Kindle 2 is a second generation eBook reader that uses the latest in eInk technology.  With a built-in cellular modem, storage for 1500 books, and support for PDF, MP3 and Audible files this marvel of technology seems to have it all.

After numerous recommendations and a lot of research I finally broke down and ordered  my Kindle last Thursday night.  Because of the holiday season, I ended up getting 2-day shipping included in the $259 price!

While I won’t actually get my hands on the Kindle until tomorrow I thought I would share what I have learned so far.  Believe it or not, there’s more to the kindle experience than just the physical reading device!

The “back end” of the Kindle system relies on a cellular connection from AT&T (they used to use Sprint but ended the relationship earlier this year).   Dubbed “Whispernet” the EDGE/GSM wireless modem allows the Kindle to be used without a computer.  Books, and periodicals can be downloaded any time the modem has a signal.  Amazon claims a mere 60-seconds to download an averaged sized book.

Whispernet is also used to synchronize bookmarks, notes and overall progress of your reading.  Amazon has made a stand-alone application available for the PC and iPhone.  Mac and Blackberry support “coming soon”.  These stand alone applications allow you to pick up where you left off on the Kindle.  Read a few more pages on your PC or iPhone and your progress is synced to the Kindle the next time you access it.

The ability to preview books is another feature that I think I’ll be using a lot.  I already have several previews set to download once I get the Kindle tomorrow and activate it with Amazon.

[Part 2]

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