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All posts for the month October, 2015

TiVo...

Top, L to R: Clock, TiVo Roamio OTA, Roku N1000. Middle: DVD/VCR, infrequently used remotes.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(A list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appears at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow, content in white. This is number 4 of 5 rooms.)

The den being my wife’s base of operations, it was critical to get it right.

Getting it right mostly entailed putting in a TiVo Roamio OTA with a good antenna. (See Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review .)

Although there is a 1st generation Roku, it is hardly needed now that the Roamio has Netflix, Amazon Prime, VUDU, Plex, iHeart Radio and Pandora. The Roku does have a few channels I like in addition to the aforementioned.

Also rarely used now is a DVD/VCR combo. but it’s there.

Without a cable box, a clock was needed. I ordered this one: Gearonic LED Digital Cube Clock.

Other details of the final configuration:

In order to view the HD programming from the TiVo on our 2002 tube TV. which can only accept component input, an HDMI-to-component converter was needed. (See previous post, Replace the old TV?)

A gigabit switch connects the TiVo Minis in the kitchen and the theater room to the Roamio, using Ethernet cable. This is the switch that was a 5-port model until the lightning strike turned it into a 4-port.

Internet is provided by a Powerline adapter (also connected to the gigabit switch). It talks to its counterpart in the office where the modem is located. (See previous post Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring.)

X10 video sender

X10 video sender on the den TV

We still have an X10 sender hooked to the TiVo’s composite output. (See The workout room TV setup for my wife)

The TiVo’s Netflix & Amazon apps stream subscription content. Plex media server software running on our Windows 7 PCs with TV/movie libraries streams our own content to the TiVo’s Plex channel.

She uses the TiVo remote, and her iPhone to control X10 automation; I use the X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote and an Android smartphone. (See previous post Den: wifi smartphone & learning remote.)

Coming soon to complete the tour: the theater room. Lots of stuff in there.

OSMC 15.2

The free Open Source Media Center software installing on my $35 Raspberry Pi in the theater room.

Goodbye Raspbmc and XBMC, hello OSMC and Kodi!

I’d held off on the free software upgrade due to not wanting to lose my PleXBMC installation on Raspbmc “Gotham”, the last version of that software before it was superseded by OSMC this year. But some SD card/USB stick corruption issues suggested to me that the time was right to overcome my laziness.

The transition went smoothly yesterday. I again have access to all my DVR’d shows on a Windows Media Center computer by reinstalling the free ServerWMC add-on software. I also have a nice Plex client again on the Pi with a more recent version of the free PleXBMC add-on. (See previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.)

By now, I have other well-functioning Plex clients on Roku boxes and Chromecast, as well as on smartphone and tablet. So it wouldn’t have been a crisis not to have Plex on the Pi; I just like the slick Raspbmc/OSMC interface that brings together TV, movies, music, internet radio, photos, and even a news crawl and Yahoo local weather.

Valuable and unique free TV content available through OSMC includes ESPN3 in HD, and CBSN, CBS’ new 24/7 online HD news channel. (Later note: the latter is also available on Roku, I discovered.)


Raspbmc was an adaptation of the Xbox Media Center (XBMC) software for the little Raspberry Pi computer. It was done by Sam Nazarko, then an 18-year-old student in the UK.

From http://kodi.wiki/view/OSMC:

“OSMC (short for Open Source Media Center) is a Linux distribution based on Debian that brings Kodi to a variety of devices. It is the successor to Raspbmc and Crystalbuntu.

“OSMC is an embedded, minimal, self updating Linux distributing which ships a Kodi front-end for a variety of devices. The project was founded by Sam Nazarko in 2014 and is maintained by a group of volunteers in their spare time.”

(For my own future reference, my Raspberry Pi 1 Model B is now on OSMC 2015.09-3 running Kodi 15.2, kernel: Linux 3.2.3-3-osmc Linux 4.2.3-3-osmc; PleXBMC 3.6.1, PleXBMC Helper 3.4.2, and ServerWMC 0.5.8.)


Sam Nazarko

Sam Nazarko

Back in July, I commented on TTM@Facebook: “Sam resembles Dr. Sheldon Cooper in appearance, but both Sam and OSMC are a lot more stable.”

Sam replied: “That.. made me laugh so much. Unfortunately you’re not the first person to suggest the similar appearance either…”

Congratulations, well done, Sam and company!

(Added 10/22/2015: See my new comment on previous post The missing context button for a new and easier way to restore that function to your remote.)

Williams' Funhouse

Williams’ Funhouse pinball game on the Wii

 

A lightning strike earlier this year took out the two component inputs to our plasma TV.

As a result, I have had to use the composite TV input (yellow, red & white RCA plugs) with the Wii. But I pine for the higher resolution and picture quality of component in the detailed pinball art of the Gottlieb and Williams Collections for the Wii.

I was getting ready to add a fatalistic comment about the expensive HDMI-to-component converter that bought a few more years for our flat-tube TV:

“At least when the TV blows up, I can reuse the converter with the Wii to connect it to an HDMI input.”

Then I realized that the Wii would be going from component to HDMI, not vice-versa. Would it work the other way? Unlikely.

I was right, it wouldn’t work (looked it up). But it turns out that a component-to-HDMI converter costs a whole lot less.

Wiimcomponent-to-HDMI converter.

Wii component-to-HDMI converter

Found a specialized Wii to HDMI Video Audio Converter 720P 1080P HD Output Converter at Amazon for $13.72, less than a tenth of HDMI-to-component!

The original Wii is at best capable of 480p resolution (same as non-Blu-ray DVDs), and that’s only with a special Wii component video/audio cable, like I used to use.

But the new converter can upscale to 720p or 1080p, so possibly it will look better than it did before.

I’ll let you know how it works out in the comments section when I get it. (It shipped from Hong Kong, so it might be a week or two.)


Currently free to view for Amazon Prime users: “Special When Lit – A Pinball Documentary”. I really enjoyed it. Next time I’m in Vegas, I’m heading for the Pinball Hall of Fame, shown in the movie.

Read about other related movies and items at Pinball, Real & Virtual in the TTM aStore.

TiVo BOLT

Brand new offering from TiVo, priced at $300.

New features:

  • SkipMode: One click of the remote skips an entire commercial break on recorded programs.
  • QuickMode: Speed up recordings by 30% using pitch-corrected audio. (Some cable networks are doing it at their end so they can shoehorn in more commercials).
  • 4K Ultra High Definition.

Includes 1 year of prepaid TiVo service.

After the prepaid year, the service cost is $150/year (average $12.50/month). So effectively, you are paying $150 for the BOLT and $150 in advance for a year of service. The yearly $150 charge is auto-renewed unless you cancel before the renewal date by phone.

A $15/mo option carries a one-year commitment and a $75 early termination fee (not very attractive compared with the yearly option).

We bought a TiVo Roamio OTA eight months ago for $50, with a one-year commitment to pay $15/mo ($180/year) for service. It was a bit of a gamble since I didn’t know for sure how well it would go over. But my wife was so sold on it, we were able to cut the TV cable, and have saved a lot of money already. (See previous post Cord-cutting: What DID work for us.)

From our savings, we bought TiVo Minis for the kitchen and the theater room. Our Minis would work with the new BOLT at no additional charge, same as the OTA and other Roamio series DVRs.

The BOLT’s new SkipMode and QuickMode features are very tempting. I believe my “client” would love them. But our one-year commitment on the Roamio OTA won’t be up until 1/30/2016, so I may need to wait until next year to consider buying. I am checking with TiVo about this, and will report back here. (Later note: I was correct; we must complete the year.)

If you don’t have such a commitment in effect, you are free to jump right in.

The Complete Service Plan Terms and Conditions (see 4th question in TiVo’s FAQ) state that buying from a non-TiVo retail outlet such as Amazon gets you an additional option, the “All-In Plan”. This is a one-time payment of $600 for lifetime (the life of the box, that is) TiVo service. However, TiVo has available product and free shipping for orders placed directly with them.

With the All-In Plan, you would begin to save $150/year after 4 years of use. (Make that 5, per reader JM; see his comment below.) But here we are, thinking about switching boxes after less than a year. You should consider the probabilities that you will want to stay with the same product long enough to start reaping the savings, and that the box doesn’t conk out on you.

On the other hand, a BOLT on a monthly or yearly service plan comes with a Continual Care warranty, so your box is backed up to a degree should anything ever go wrong (unless due to misuse or force majeure, e.g., lightning; see our own lightning saga). The warranty will replace a non-working BOLT for $50 (plus shipping and any applicable taxes) as long as continuous, active TiVo service is maintained.

Our $50 Roamio OTA was the cheapest way to try TiVo. I now believe we will be using TiVo products to save money on cable TV for a long time to come.

Read more about the BOLT at Amazon and TiVo.

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

Our kitchen TiVo Mini, LG 24″ LED TV, TiVo remote.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(You may have seen the list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I will break it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow.)

The kitchen is now a simple TV room. The TiVo Mini is responsible for that change.

Years ago, because of my wife’s need to watch “General Hospital” recordings while cooking, I put together a too-complicated Rube Goldberg setup. But it was either that, or renting a cable box with DVR dedicated to the kitchen.

She had to switch the den TV to VIDEO1, change its audio setting to SPEAKERS OFF, FIXED AUDIO OUT, and turn on the den X10 video sender. Then she could control the den cable DVR box via the kitchen X10 receiver’s IR extender. (The extender relayed the Cox remote’s commands to the sender, which converted them to pulses from its IR emitter, which was attached to the Cox cable box.)

Then she (or I) had to switch it all back to watch in the den.

Whew!

Since X10 is old analog technology, it looks best on a tube TV rather than a new flatscreen. We bought a new 13″ tube TV back in 2006 from Best Buy. The picture tube eventually faded, and it had to be whacked sometimes to make the sound work. The microwave fritzed the X10 radio frequency whenever it was used, so the TV had to be muted.

Not great, then barely serviceable.

Enter the TiVo Mini and a new LED TV.

Now all she has to do is turn on the new LED TV and the TiVo Mini, both with the kitchen-dedicated TiVo remote, and select episodes recorded on the TiVo Roamio in the den.

She is much happier now. The 13″ was carted back to Best Buy (Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day).

The outdated X10 technology still has a place, though: The workout room TV setup for my wife. The TiVo Roamio in the den even simplified it considerably.

(A few additional details from a slightly different angle in the earlier post The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini.)

Two rooms to go: the den and the theater room.