This Old Nerd
October 20, 2010

06: Cutting cable TV Part II: Victory!

We did it! We’ve cut the cable using a combination of an over the air antenna, Hulu, a home theater PC and more. Find out what made a difference in this episode.

Today, the show is “This Victorious Nerd.” Some helpful links and a deleted scene after the jump.

Download: HD (mp4) | HD (m4v) | SD (mp4) | Tiny (mp4)


Show links: These guys helped us out, so here are some links:

Deleted Scene from this episode: Windows Media Center with the Xbox 360


  • Matt Burley

    Great followup to the first Cutting Cable episode. Windows Media Center is the way to go for watching TV on a PC with over the air content. I use it daily on my PC (whilst working at it) for watching over the air content although don’t tend to use it as a DVR as I find streaming the content from the TV networks web sites (when available) is easier as I don’t need the computer on.

    A cool thing I’d like to see is the option to turn on/off/sleep/wake the media center PC automatically as leaving it on all day when you’re not using it and it’s not recording is a waste. Having it on only when it’s recording/in use would be awesome.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks. Good point on the power consumption. I’ll have to look into that.

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  • Diego Vargas

    Very nice. I had an HDHomeRun project that I ended up abandoning – I may just look back into it.

    Regarding power consumption, it seems that most DVRs are made to run 24/7. Maybe a nettop could be the answer since they’re supposed to consume very little power; although I’m not sure if it would be able to run Hulu Desktop. Just an idea.

    Also, regarding Monday Night Football, I have a SlingBox at my parents’ place. I’m thinking it may not be wrong since I pay for the extra U-Verse box. I figure an extra $7 during football season isn’t such a bad deal.

  • Bob

    I’m having a difficult time locating a general “contact us” form for general feedback, so I’ll post here. Love the show. Heard about it from your old friends at the Gamer/Apple/Gadget Tell networks. Subscribed to the podcast in iTunes right away. Which brings me to a very heartbreaking story. Starting with episode 5, the description on the SD iTunes podcasts is in html code. Ok, so not really all that heartbreaking, but annoying all the same. Can’t wait to see what stuff future episodes brings. Keep up the awesomeness.

    Just tried to resize the comment entry box and all it did was add scroll bars obstructing my view of what I am typing. Might either enable proper resizing or get rid of the option to do so. BTW, I am a Software Tester, so bugs have a way of finding me. Using Chrome 8.x Dev browser in case its a browser specific issue. Looks like resize works for the actual entry field but is not resizing the parent. So I can stretch the field across the screen but only this tiny box part is visible. Doing a quick inspection of the code it looks like the div with id=id=”dsq-textarea-wrapper” is not changing size to match the textarea field resize. Might be one of the divs inside that one as well. Love the work, keep it up.

    • Anonymous

      1. We don’t have a general “contact us” section b/c I’m all for comments here or on twitter. (there might actually be on FiniteComedy.com, actually). Thanks for finding the show – those ‘Tell folks are great people.

      2. Thanks for loving the show.

      3. The SD iTunes thing should be fixed now (I hope). I’m using a plugin for the RSS feeds, so I’m still working out the bugs. Agreed – very annoying for me too.

      4. Comment entry box is also a plugin and you’re right. The resize does nothing! Maybe it would be easier to remove the resize option?

      5. Again, thanks for watching the show. I really enjoy doing the program.

      • Thisoldnerdrocks

        Would the podcast changes be retroactive? Because, you are either going to hate me or want to hire me, here is what I am seeing now…

        I forget when, but at one point iTunes wanted to download duplicates of every episode, except, the two “Coming Soon” episodes. I deleted the duplicates because, as much fun as the show is to watch, having two of the same episode, sadly, doesn’t double the fun, just doubles the disk usage. I also deleted the two “Coming Soon” episodes as they no longer have any value added as the episodes mentioned in each have been released.

        Today, I goto iTunes, right click the podcast and select “Show all available episodes”. This brings up the following list:

        Episodes 1-6 with HTML code descriptions.
        2 “Coming soon” episodes, also with HTML code descriptions.
        Episodes 1-4 with human readable text, except for the apostrophies which show up as ’

        So my duplicates only run from 1-4, 5 and 6 are immune to the duplicate bug. So probably after episode 4 is when it wanted to make duplicates and start using HTML code as the descriptions.

        Now I am going to delete every episode and then tell iTunes to get all availible…

        As I suspected. Now the list has no duplicates. The only episodes avaible now are 1-6 and both “Coming soon”. All with HTML descriptions. Unimaginable grief ensued and tears soon followed.

        I subscribed to both the HD podcasts. The episode lists for them all have HTMl descriptions as well.

        You’ve probably already seen this, but here it is anyway, a link to an Apple support page that talks about maiking podcasts.

        http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/specs.html#namespace

        From what I can tell, possibly “subtitle” is where the issue is?

        Does anyone else have this problem or is it all just me? Because that is a possability I am willing to accept in my now fragile state.

        As for resizing.

        At cheathappens.com, resize works both vertically and horizontally.
        At the ‘Tell Networks, however, only vertically works. Well, technically it resizes both directions, but horizontally the parent element doesn’t expand to match, so, fail.

        Tested this site with Safari to see if it might be browser specific. Though, I suspect the problem will still persist as Chrome and Safari are both based on Webkit… And it does.

        Tested this site in IE 8, interestingly, there is no resize option in IE. So this is the one and probably only case where IE works, technically, where another browser doesn’t. Certainly not enough to make me switch browsers.

        That’s all I got for now. You can hit me at thisoldnerdrocks@bobmail.info if you’d prefer email. It’d be easier on me since I, apparently, write long comments and the comment input section resize option doesn’t work. =)

  • Anonymous

    Great to see everything worked out. I think this shows us that cutting the cord might not be ready for prime time. For some reason I don’t think my grandmother or mother could figure this out. For me it works great, it has been close to 1 year since I cut the cord.

    • Anonymous

      The odd thing is that people got used to things like cable TV guides. It’s really about how willing someone is to learn something different. My mom doesn’t want to switch cable companies because it would require her to learn a new remote. I think that the next gen of folks will take to the computer-based solutions very quickly as content becomes more widespread on so many devices.

  • Anonymous

    “Ditching Cable for the Web…” If you haven’t read this great post from Lifehacker, you should: http://lifehac.kr/9tXOLH

    It’s definitely helpful for this episode.

  • http://twitter.com/greenawayj John Greenaway

    Just dropped you a note on Twitter too, but had to be too brief in 140 characters. Just started watching after hearing you on TNT with @acedtect. This is a great idea for a show.

    I thought I’d pass along a show idea (I’m sure you are getting many). I’m looking to replace my regular programmable thermostats with something that will allow me to remote monitor and set temps…. Happy to run power and / or Cat5 to the sites if needed. Wanted to see if you or any followers had a recommendation for these remote monitoring and control thermostats?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t have experience with home automation like that just yet – but you should check out this ep of the HDTV and Home Theater Podcast b/c they talked about it:

      http://www.htguys.com/podcasts/2009/10/23/podcast-396-hd-fury-2-and-home-automation-with-insteon.html

      • http://twitter.com/greenawayj John Greenaway

        Thanks. I’ll check that out. I wasn’t sure how ‘on topic’ the Home automation stuff would be for your show. But as a relatively new “Home” owner in the last 12 months (after owning a Condo for the previous 6 years where I couldn’t do very much), I have a bunch of projects stacked up in teh que that you will certainly be covering… so I’ll continue to check it out.My one request would be for an audio-only version? I know the videos an important part of what you do, but for me, much of my podcast listening is while driving and it would be great to ‘preview’ an episode by listening to the audio and then watch later if it’s relevant to something I’m really interested in. Thanks again for responding and keep up the good work.

        • Anonymous

          Home automation is actually one of the topics I have on my TON-list.

          Audio-only? I’ll say “maybe” on that one.

          • B2568422

            I would think that you could play a video podcast and just not look at the screen while driving and still be able to hear the audio… The only advantage I could think to an audio only version might be file size.

          • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

            Right now we have a tiny mp4 version of the show at 320 x 180. I’m still weighing my options when it comes to creating an audio-only edition. Hang in there. If more of you want an audio-only edition, sound off!

  • http://twitter.com/jstratman33 Jason Stratman

    Does the HD HomeRun work in Windows Media Center on the Xbox 360? If so, that would leave me with one box in my den (the Xbox) that does everything I want.

    • Anonymous

      If you have the HD HomeRun working on a Windows Media Center box and then have the 360 connect to that Media Center, you will be able to access live TV.

      Here’s a deleted scene from this episode that actually deals with this particular question:

    • Anonymous

      If you have the HD HomeRun working on a Windows Media Center box and then have the 360 connect to that Media Center, you will be able to access live TV.

      We actually tackled this exact question in the above deleted scene. Check it out.

  • http://pnb.myopenid.com/ Paul Bilodeau

    Great Podcast and website which I just heard about today after listening to the TNT podcast. I was especially interested in the cut the cable episodes.

    While still on cable, I’m using an Windows 7 based HTPC and I agree with your assessment of Amazon Unbox, which plays from within Media Center by the way. Just include the folder the Unbox videos are in in the Videos menu selection in Media Center.

    I was also interested that you mentioned the problem with iTunes video play back in an HTPC and am going to look into the mcetunes.com site when I get a chance. It would be nice not to have to switch to my Apple TV.

    My biggest problem is that I really live out in the sticks. I receive absolutely no over the air TV. Zip, zero, nada. Now satellite service would be cheaper for me than cable. Is there any possible way to use my HTPC with satellite service, including the dvr functionality? I have not been able to find a way, perhaps you can.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the compliments.

      I believe that Amazon Unbox automatically puts a shortcut in your Videos menu when you install the player. I didn’t do anything after I installed Unbox and the shortcut was there.

      If you try out MCEtunes, let me know how it goes. Also, I would think you wouldn’t have to switch inputs anyway if you could just switch to iTunes on your HTPC.

      Satellite and HTPCs don’t play well together. You can have a satellite box and have the HTPC use an IR blaster to control the box. Your HTPC would only be able to record the one outputted video source.

      Unfortunately, satellite companies don’t have to offer CableCards (which you could then put into your HTPC). [Source: http://tv.about.com/od/cableandsatellitetv/a/CableCARDintro.htm ]

      Out in the sticks? What did AntennaWeb.org tell you about the antenna you would need?

      • http://pnb.myopenid.com/ Paul Bilodeau

        I’ve used Antenna Web to check for channels in the past, which is why I know it doesn’t matter about the antenna, because the only channel I can get over the air is a crappy little PBS station.

        • Anonymous

          PBS usually has great HD – but it’s only one channel. You could go all Internet-based instead (Amazon and/or iTunes and/or Hulu w/ or w/o Plus).

          What do you think about that?

          • http://pnb.myopenid.com/ Paul Bilodeau

            Well, that is really my only choice it would appear. I don’t really like it because there is currently no way to get live news over the internet.

          • Anonymous

            You could try visiting this site: http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/ and see if a directional antenna pointed at the right direction will do anything. Otherwise, I’m thinking a Roku box may be your answer for Amazon VoD and/or Hulu Plus (or Hulu with PlayOn).

  • Anonymous

    Great video! I have been looking at both the HDHomeRun Dual and the El Gato EyeTV One, so it was perfect timing that you covered both of them in this video. I’ll probably be going with he HDHomeRun so I can record two things. Are there any plans to test out MythTV, or anything other than Media Center?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the compliment – we work hard on the show and we really appreciate all the feedback we get.

      There is a plan to cover front-ends – it looks like it will be a 3-part series:
      1. Set-top boxes
      2. computers (which should incl. MythTV)
      3. video game systems

  • FSGDAG

    First I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this episode. I’m always looking for new ways to use technology to cut the expense of every day living :)

    Here’s my problem… My kids are Nick Jr. freaks ( and from viewing this episode, I see your about 3 years off from having the same problem! lol ). I’m also a big Fox News fan. Is there any way for me to be able to include these two channels so how and still be able to ‘cut the cord’??

    Thanks in advance :)

    • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

      I’m glad you enjoyed the ep!

      Nick Jr. does have some vids online – although I don’t know their full extent. I think that will be a difficult thing to replace. http://www.nickjr.com/video/index.jhtml?videoid=100722

      As for Fox News – you could subscribe to the Fox News podcasts and see if they work for you. They’ve got a bunch of videos up that might help.

  • http://twitter.com/randallb Randall Bennett

    OMG IYAZ THE PODCASTING LEGEND.

    But seriously, this is awesome. Way to go.

    • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

      Yes. I. Am. Legend.

      Thanks for watching this goofy show, RB.

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  • SC Brown

    What about casttv.com? The picture might be grainy but you get the good networks and shows on HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc.

    • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

      Definitely doesn’t seem legal. Let’s see how long that site lasts.

  • Bart_doggers

    I like your set up. What brand and model of Window Media Center Remote are you using? I want to a good but cheap remote. Does the remote you used work with the hulu plugin for WMC?

    • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

      I’m using a SnapStream Firefly – here’s a link: http://www.snapstream.com/products/firefly/

      It costs about $50 at SnapStream. I’ve had the remote for years. It uses RF so there’s no line of sight necessary.

      The remote also works with the Hulu plugin, except different controls are active. You can’t use the play/pause buttons, you have to use the directional keys and the OK button for Hulu Desktop.

      • Bart_doggers

        Does it work with Windows 7 64BIT and 32BIT? Thanks. I love the show. Keep up the great work. Also I enjoy you as special guess on the Twit Network.

        • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

          I currently use the Firefly with Windows 7, 32 Bit. I haven’t tried it out with the 64 Bit version.

          Thanks for watching me on TWiT. I always have a great time when I’m on.

  • Bart_doggers

    Thanks for the information about the Firefly Remote. I have another question have you install MacroTube for WMC? It is a plug-in to watch YouTube, Dailymotion, and MSN Soapbox videos. I don’t understand the MSN Soapbox app tho. It works pretty well, but I don’t know if it works with the Firefly Remote. Here is the site http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/t/86771.aspx. Could you try it out and give a review on it? Thanks!

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  • Goodbar

    I like the idea of the cable to ethernet box. Very slick. I cut the cable back in June and use a hauppage 2250 dual tuner with media center 7 and an XBox 360 arcade as an extender. Works great and PAR is high :). We’re thinking of expanding to other rooms though so just making the signal available to anything on the network would be fantastic…

    • http://thisoldnerd.com This Old Nerd

      Quick note on the HD Homerun – any computer can use any of the tuners on the network – however, 2 machines cannot use the same tuner at the same time.

      I really like the HD Homerun as a solution since it brings tuners to even something like a laptop without adding any bulk.

  • Buyy

    MACs suck

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