The Digital Life
Still feeling under the weather with this flu bug or whatever it is. Finally have a new roof on the house as of yesterday, so that worry is behind us. It has been cold and windy outside, so I have put most of my “man around the house” projects on hold for a while. This has provided some time for thinking, resting, and even catching up on some blog posts I’ve been kicking around for a while. The down time got me to thinking about my cost saving & budgeting crusade and some help I got from an unexpected source.
Like most older people, and like my Dad, I am often critical of the younger generations. My generation, known as the Baby Boomers has been followed by Generation X, the Millenniums (Gen X), and now Generation Z. That’s three generations! I should feel old, but I don’t.
To be honest, it isn’t fair to criticize individuals from any generation. Any faults should be placed on their parents. Yep, the shitty parenting theme again. Along with shitty parents, we have bad influences from our governmental policies, government agencies, crappy education system, social entitlement programs, and a reliance on technology instead of the individual mind.
All my adult work life I have been engaged in training young people. Yep, I have trained kids from 4 generations, including my own (the youngest group in the Baby Boomer generation is 14 years younger than me). For the most part, the kids in every generation were good at heart, just didn’t have a philosophical system to guide them through life. Unfortunately many turned into crappy parents and screwed up the generation that came after them.
But sometimes good things happen. I would like to share something I learned from my daughter.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
A couple years ago she wanted a Roku for Christmas. Not sure what is was, so I went to Amazon – ah, it’s a streaming device like my Apple TV. So I bought it for her and her husband. A few months later, I spent a week with them. I was surprised they didn’t have cable TV, even though both grew up with cable TV access. They watch movies, news, sports, and other content on Hulu, NetFlix, and the Internet. They don’t watch any TV (cable or over the air). Interesting. Talking to their friends I found none of them have cable TV either. Their lives are “all things Internet.”
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
When I was a kid cable TV didn’t exist. Neither did color TV. We got TV stations over the air, received by an antenna on the roof. Living in the Los Angeles metropolitan are we got 6 stations. ABC, CBS, NBC and 3 local networks. That was it. To be honest, there was little worth watching, so as kids we spent our days and evenings doing other things. Sunday nights we, like most families, together watched Lassie, The Wonderful World of Disney, Bonanza, and the Ed Sullivan Show. That was pretty much it. During the week there was no TV watching – we did homework and read. In the summer we were outside exploring the world. And the millions of people in America who lived in rural areas… they didn’t have TV. Life was good!
In 1977 I moved to Palm Springs. If you wanted TV, your only feasible choice was cable TV, and it was reasonable at around $5.95 a month. There were a couple over the air channels, but reception was incredibly poor.
Fast forward to 2000
I no longer had any TV. I had home telephone service that was also used as a (slow) dial-up connection to the Internet. I really needed broadband internet for work. That year Time Warner Cable began offering broadband Internet and I signed up, since my company paid for it. I also decided to get a satellite dish and got the basic TV service, which were mainly movies. At the time, franchise laws prohibited Direct TV to broadcast any of the major networks or their affiliates in Palm Springs at all. But that was okay, I didn’t need it. Direct TV cost me $31.99 a month.
In 2008 Direct TV had risen in price to over $60 per month. Joyce wanted to get Cable TV so she could watch a couple programs of interest. As it turned out, it was cheaper to get a bundle for cable telephone, Internet, and TV than we were paying to the telephone company for our land line alone. That meant we got all three in one package, we could dump satellite, and my company paid for most of it, since I worked out of my home office. What a deal!
CUTTING THE CORD
Getting ready for retirement, as any prudent person should do, I have been reviewing our fixed expenses and slashing anything unnecessary. In 7 years our monthly bill for the Cable bundle had grown from $78.95 to $217.12 without adding any additional features. With cell phones a landline is no longer needed and we really don’t need TV, except we really would like access to news programming. Internet is a requirement for us and we subscribe to NetFlix for $7.95 a month. As a Prime member of Amazon, we get free movies there too. So I started to research all our options.
One thing of interest I found was Sling TV. This is an Internet service that has a boatload of TV programing for $20 per month. Sling includes all the major networks, CNN, ESPN, and more all in HDTV. But we don’t need all that.
The surprising thing I learned was that all Over the Air TV stations in the US had been required, a few years ago, to switch from analog broadcast signals to digital. Looking at some broadcast frequency maps it appeared that many more stations were available in Palm Springs than 30 or 40 years ago. However, could we receive any of them with satisfactory results? I didn’t want to make a lot of changes or spend much money until I found out.
So off to Home Depot I went and purchased a Winegard Flatwave Razor Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna for under 30 bucks. I planned connect this to our bedroom TV (which we never watch) for testing purposes.
The TV is a modern unit, so once everything was hooked up, the TV did a scan and was able to pick up about a dozen stations, some in High Definition TV and the choice of channels included ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox.
Good deal. Now there was no reason to have cable TV, as we can get anything we need for free. So the next step was to find a suitable solution for the living room entertainment center.
Making Your Wife Happy Is Critical
Last year I wrote about how I was able to get rid of all our remote controls and replace them with one solution, a solution that was easy for Joyce to use – the Harmony Remote.
Now I had a dilemma on my hands. We were running cable TV, Apple TV, and a Blu-ray player through the audio video receiver. The receiver switches between input devices and sends it to the TV. All sound goes through our surround sound system. Connecting an antenna directly to the TV would make it more difficult to operate the remote control system and the sound would now come out of the TV speakers. I didn’t even have to ask Joyce if this would be acceptable. I knew the answer would be, “No.”
Consulting Google, I found an over the air TV receiver made by Channel Master that would connect to the antenna, then would input the audio and video signals to the surround sound receiver. Plus, it has a Bluetooth dongle that connects to our home Wi-Fi that creates a TV guide just like cable and satellite TV. These Channel Master units also can record programs like a cable box DVR. I found that a Channel Master DVR with built in hard drive storage was pretty expensive, but they sold one without a hard drive that could accept just about any USB hard drive and I have a couple of those laying around. So I bought the cheaper one. We haven’t connected a hard drive to it, since we never even figured out how to use the one we had with our cable subscription, so obviously we don’t need one. So here is our present home entertainment system
- 75” Samsung Smart LED TV with Wi-Fi
- Sony STR-DN1050 Multi-Channel Audio Video Receiver with Wi-Fi
- Definitive Technology ProCinema Six-speaker Surround Sound System
- Samsung BD-H6500 Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi
- Apple TV
- Logitech Harmony Smart Control Remote
- RCA Compact Outdoor Rooftop Yagi HDTV Antenna
- Channel Master DVR+ with Wi-Fi Web Features
When I installed the antenna on the roof and the Channel Master DVR, it worked out really well, I was able to connect the exterior coax cable directly to the antenna and use the existing interior cable to the Channel Master tuner.
Total install time of the rooftop antenna and Channel Master was about 30 minutes.
It took about 15 minutes to set up the Channel Master software, edit out all the Spanish stations in the TV guide and re-program the Harmony to recognize the Channel Master. We now get 20 over the air TV stations and 8 Internet TV stations we never knew about. The last step was to set up the Wi-Fi Web app for the TV Guide.
The channels that are broadcast in high definition are better quality than cable HD because, unlike cable, over the air signals are not compressed. And many of them are broadcast in Dolby Digital for our surround sound. Joyce didn’t have to learn anything. The cable TV button on the remote now operates the Channel Master.
No Man Cave Here
Our entire entertainment system is on this sideboard thingy that Joyce bought a few years ago. Not a bunch of stuff with wires everywhere. BTW, I bought that popcorn machine for her a couple years ago. She loves it and it is a nice touch next to the entertainment center.
The wife is happy, so I am happy. I am thrilled because now I only pay $7.95 a month for Netflix and $62.95 a month for Internet. Right now this is my cheapest Internet option, but I shall continue to search for ways to save money.
And thanks to my wonderful daughter, Nicole, who inspired me to Cut The Cord!