How I Cut the Cord

About a year ago, we decided to “cut the cord” and get rid of cable. We’ve been extremely happy with our setup and multiple friends have asked which products and services we’re using. As an answer to all the questions, here is a write up explaining our setup.

We already had Netflix, Amazon, etc. for streaming content but local channels were a huge concern for us when we initially cut the cord. These usually include channels like your local CBS, ABC, NBC, etc. These cover most of the TV we watched on cable so it was extremely important that we kept access to them. And since we were spoiled by our DVR from the cable company, we weren’t going to cut the cord until we had a system in place to allow us to watch on our own time. That meant we needed 2 things: an antenna and a DVR system that worked with HD antennas.

The Antenna

The 1x2 pictured here has been replaced by 1in PVC so that the entire antenna can be pointed in the right direction.
The strip of wood pictured has been replaced by 1 inch PVC so that the entire antenna can be pointed in the right direction.

The first thing you will want to check is a site like TV Fool (www.tvfool.com) to ensure you have over the air near you. Visit the site and input your address and it will output a list of the channels near you color coded by the type of antenna you’ll need. For TV Fool, green means an indoor or set top antenna will work. Yellow means you’ll probably need at least an attic mounted antenna. Red means you’ll need a roof mounted antenna and grey means you’re probably out of luck.

For some channels, we fall in the attic mount range so we went with the following antenna: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CXQO00K/. We’ve had little to no problems with the antenna and I’d highly recommend it for anyone within the yellow or green ranges on TV Fool.

Now that you’ve got the antenna, head back to TV Fool and write down the direction that your antenna should be pointed. This makes a huge difference. We went from 11 channels on initial mounting to 30+ once the antenna was pointed in the right direction. You can user your phone’s compass application for this.

If you don’t want a DVR, you’ll need a coax splitter and coax cable runs to each TV that you’ll be viewing live over the air TV. Most TVs today have built in capabilities for over the air HD TV.

The DVR System

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For the DVR, we decided on a 4-tuner Tablo TV DVR (https://www.tablotv.com/) which allows recording up to 4 shows at a time. The Tablo requires a single coax run from the antenna to the Tablo and an external hard drive. To help you select a hard drive, their website has both a suggestions page and a community driven thread to ensure you buy a hard drive that will work with the system. If you want to grab the drive that we purchased, it’s a 3TB Seagate (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TKFEEJ4/). I doubt we’ll ever fill the drive but it gives us the ability to save movies and TV shows for as long as we want.

The Tablo connects directly to the antenna then connects to your router and uses your home network to deliver content to the different devices in your home. That does means you’ll need a device to watch the content at each location. We already had a Roku device on each TV for Netflix, Amazon, etc. so we simply had to download the Tablo app from the Roku channel store. They have apps for most devices out there though and you can check to see if yours is supported here: https://www.tablotv.com/tablo-products/. I’ve also installed their Windows app on all of our computers.

Product and Service Links

Review: ASUS Transformer Book T100

At the end of November, I bought my wife an ASUS Transformer T100 and she loves it. I’ve also used it occasionally (okay so I actually meant A LOT) and I wanted to write up a quick review.

The Good

The touch screen is responsive and the machine hasn’t shown any performance issues in web browsing, Microsoft Office, or video consumption. The battery has lasted for at least 8 hours consistently. Also, having a full version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint included with the machine is a godsend.

The Tolerable

The touchpad on the keyboard dock could be made a bit better. The touchpad buttons are a bit hard to click but if you only left-click on the touchpad you’ll never notice. My wife hasn’t noticed but I’ve noticed because of how much I right-click (ex., right click open in new browser tab). I’ve learned to just use the touchscreen for these types of operations on the T100.

The Bad

The one real downside of this machine is charging it. Charging over USB takes forever and can be hindered by the keyboard dock. To get a good charge, you have to undock from the keyboard and leave it charging overnight. We can deal with charging overnight but I wish ASUS would have used a technology that charges much faster. If you kill the battery early in the day, you’ll be waiting a few hours to be able to use the T100 without it being plugged in.

Conclusion

This machine does exactly what we wanted it to do. It’s an excellent 2 in 1 convertible and it is definitely worth the price. I would recommend it for anyone that isn’t a power user or has another primary computer.

Power users will want something that can run more power hungry programs without having to remote. I have used the T100 with remote desktop for programs like Photoshop, Visual Studio, and Adobe Premiere Elements but latency was a bit too much to make it a realistic work scenario.

Update July 26, 2014

I finally decided to buy a new charger for the tablet and it has made a world of difference. We no longer have any issues with charging!

Review: Nokia Lumia 920

I’ve had the Nokia Lumia 920 for a few months now and I think I can give a pretty good review. The phone was quite large to me at first but I did have an HTC Aria before this so anything was going to be huge to me. The phone is a bit heavy but the build quality is excellent. The screen looks great in a variety of lighting conditions. I’ve yet to use the “you can use gloves” feature since we never get glove weather but my wife loves that she can use her fingernails.

Side Note: The OtterBox case must be the best built OtterBox case I’ve ever seen. Even my carrier’s sales rep was amazed at how snug the phone sat in the case and how well it was made. I’m extremely glad I bought it considering I’ve dropped my phone multiple times now…

Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is also an interesting addition to the phone. The phone’s battery can easily go at least all day without a charge if you’re not using it much. With wireless charging, it really doesn’t matter how much you use it though. I usually just keep my phone on my desk anyway. Now I just make sure to drop it on the charging plate. As a bonus, the phone will never have the charging port/cable go bad which seems to be a common problem amongst my friends and family.

Camera

I was a bit worried about the camera with some people saying it doesn’t live up to the hype. They were wrong. The camera produces beautiful pictures. I will agree with some reviewers in that the built in software is a bit limited but a quick search on the marketplace for additional Lenses will fix that quickly.

Operating System

Not much to say about the operating system. Windows Phone is easy to use and intuitive. There are some great ease of use features like the ability to text a reply directly in the incoming call screen. There are two features suprisingly missing from the OS though: an incoming call blacklist and automatic silent/vibrate when appointment is marked busy. Add these 2 features Microsoft and you’ve got a perfect OS.

The browser (IE10) has worked amazing although I do wish they’d implement the full version’s InPrivate mode into the phone version. I keep my gaming accounts separate and InPrivate is an easy way to move between accounts.

Applications

Play and iTunes boast about the number of applications that they have but let’s be realistic. How many of those applications are actually be used by consumers. I have not had trouble finding applications for Windows Phone.

With that said, I don’t game much on my phone besides Sudoku and Word Search type applications and I never used Instagram which is the big one I hear people complain about. If I want to share photos with people, I put them on Facebook. And I’m blaming Google for YouTube. There are some great 3rd party YouTube applications (PrimeTube, MetroTube, etc) but Google keeps breaking them. I use Vimeo for my personal and work-related videos anyway since they have a group feature.

Conclusion

I would definitely recommend the Lumia 920 to anyone in the market for a easy to use phone.