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The 1x2 pictured here has been replaced by 1in PVC so that the entire antenna can be pointed in the right direction.
The strip of wood pictured has been replaced by 1 inch PVC so that the entire antenna can be pointed in the right direction.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

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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!

Computer Induced Headache

My mother-in-law to be was having some computer troubles and she asked me to look at it. (It was freezing at the Windows XP screen with the blue progress bar.) I picked it up about a week ago and I finally got around it looking at it last night. The first step of getting her data off was simple enough. I threw in the Ubuntu live CD and moved her files onto my 160GB portable drive.

Then I sat down to reinstall her copy of Windows. Here is where the fun began boys and girls. It froze up on the “Setup is Starting Windows” screen. I did some research online and found this thread which matches my problem perfectly. I must have exhausted every possible solution listed in the entire thread to no avail… And then, by complete chance, I look off to the side and see a gutted tower with only a motherboard and cpu left in it. About four hours into this at this point, I figure why not…

I rip everything out of her computer, throw it together this old case, and start her XP install again. It runs on the first try. It must have been a cpu/motherboard issue considering the only things that changed were the motherboard and cpu, and the computer had just run a Ubuntu live without any issue.

And people wonder why I stopped fixing computers on the side when I got a job after college…