cord-cutting

Mohu (maker of indoor/outdoor antennas) created an online app that can help would-be cord-cutters figure out what they might need:

We launched Untangle.TV just four months ago after hearing from countless people that they want to cut the cord but feel overwhelmed by the process. We recognized that the desire to cut the cord is a no-brainer, but actually taking the step to do so can feel daunting.

From not knowing if you’ll be able to watch all the content you love to watch to confusion about the ever-growing list of streaming services, and do you need a streaming box or an antenna or whatever else. It’s a lot. But it doesn’t have to be that hard.

That’s where Untangle.TV comes in – it’s essentially a cord-cutting app. In a few short steps, it helps you figure out exactly how you can cut the cord.

Fortunately, people are starting to catch on that it can be made easier thanks to Untangle.TV. Even the Washington Post highlighted it as a key element in the cord cutting process.

Once you’re there, you’ll just need to answer a few quick questions, select your TV shows and channels you love to watch.answer a few quick questions, select your TV shows and channels you love to watch.

Then voila, the cord-cutting app will spit out a customized recommendation of the most ideal streaming services and devices needed to watch everything you want to watch without traditional cable or satellite TV.

This site can be a good place to start if you are at that point of wanting to shed the expense of cable/satellite, but not sure where to begin.

My own recommendation is to first get an indoor antenna at low cost, and play around with it to see how your reception is, and think about how much more TV you want or need (if any) than broadcast TV.

Custom “Reptilicus” Green skin for Windows Media Center, still working under Windows 10.

This post will be of use to those interested in Windows Media Center software as a free DVR using a USB TV tuner, HDHomeRun device, or the like.

Microsoft stopped updating their Windows Media Center software after they introduced Windows 7. It is incompatible with Windows 10. Eventually, Microsoft may move that functionality to Xbox.

However, some enterprising hobbyists figured out ways to install WMC and make it run anyhow. As of this date, the free installer program referenced below is the one to use.

The big Windows 10 Creators Update, now rolling out to users, breaks WMC, as did the previous major Anniversary Update.

But afterwards, WMC can be reinstalled, or installed for the first time with the special installer software.

WMC (which includes free program data downloads) hopefully should work until 2023 when Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 support is discontinued. (See previous post RIP Windows Media Center.)


I first used one of these installation methods to Add Windows Media Center to Win 10 on July 23, 2016. A couple of months later, this happened:

 Update, 10/4/2016:

My successful add of WMC to Win 10 was wiped out when my PC automatically received the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 Version 1607 on 9/24/2016. Tried a reinstall, but got an “Installing package failed, reverting…” message.

Using the WMC version 8.8.1 zip file and instructions in this post at MyDigitalLife, I was able to get WMC working again. You would need to create a login there to see the post.

WMC 8.8.1 has worked great.

But I recently got wind of another major Windows Update on its way, the Windows 10 Creators Update (Version 1703). If you want it early, you can make that happen by downloading the Update Assistant.

I checked recent posts on the MyDigitalLife forum and found that Creators Update does indeed break WMC. But the above-linked WMC 8.8.1 version can be successfully reinstalled after the Win 10 update.

Since I have two Win 10 PCs running WMC, I picked the faster quad-core PC for my first go.

No problems at all with the Creators Update. And all the WMC 8.8.1 files from last time were still there.

Here are my relevant notes:


Be current on Windows Update before starting with Creators Update.

If you use ServerWMC, note or take screenshots of your current settings, since you have to set up ServerWMC again from scratch. I had my pre-update PC to look at, so I didn’t need to do this.

If you already have WMC working, no need to uninstall it before Creators.

Also in that case, I recommend saving a copy of your current HOSTS file (C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\HOSTS). There are a couple of IP addresses at the bottom that enable WMC to download the free program guide data.

FYI, my HOSTS file contains the following lines that work in Tulsa (and possibly anywhere in the continental US):

2.16.216.176 cdn.epg.tvdownload.microsoft.com
65.55.186.113 data.tvdownload.microsoft.com

After applying Creators Update, you can uninstall/reinstall an existing WMC 8.8.1 setup as follows:

  • In your 8.8.1 folder (mine is C:\WMC-V8.8.1), right-click Uninstaller.cmd and Run As Administrator. Then reboot.
  • Run _TestRights.cmd as Admin. You should see a command prompt window. (If you don’t, reboot and retry.)
  • Run either InstallerGREEN.cmd or InstallerBLUE.cmd as Admin. (Blue is the standard WMC color, green is custom.)
  • Check your HOSTS file and make sure IP addresses are there.

You do have to go through the setup process again for WMC.

If you should have problems with the program data download phase of setup, the IP addresses in your HOSTS file may be responsible. Do a Google search for “data.tvdownload.microsoft.com” to look for other IPs if yours or the ones I gave above don’t work for you.

I again used TightVNC viewer on my laptop to remotely do the update on my two headless (no monitor or keyboard) media PCs running TightVNC server.


No need to uninstall/reinstall any WMC-associated third-party programs such as ServerWMC, My Channel Logos, or Ceton My Media Center as I needed to do for the upgrade from Win 7 to Win 10.

Cribbing my settings from the other PC, I quickly re-set up ServerWMC. (Over there, it enables my Raspberry Pi to communicate with WMC; see previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.) The other two third-party programs needed no attention.

Emby is a free application I use with ServerWMC on this quad-core PC to stream live or recorded TV programs to my smartphone or Roku (see previous post Watch live local TV anywhere via Emby app). All I needed to do on the Emby server software was to Refresh Guide Data.


Once I got all that working, I did my other Win 10 PC in blue.

Proving there is more than one way to skin a dinosaur. 😉

I created some of these logos for the Logitech Harmony 890 remote. Note the ancient NewsNow53 logo.

DIY: Cord-Cutting Q&A

Monday, May 08
7:00pm – 8:00pm
Hardesty Regional Library (east of S Memorial Dr on E 93rd St)
Oak Meeting Room

Rising TV costs getting you down? Mike Ransom, blogger on the topic of cord cutting, will help you learn about alternatives.

Ransom will discuss the pros and cons of over-the-air antenna TV and Internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV, and other ways you can “cut the cord” to cable or satellite and still enjoy your favorite programs. Bring your questions. Register online or call 918-549-7323.

http://events.tulsalibrary.org/event/97097


I am also a weekly volunteer at Hardesty. Hope to see you there!

Raspberry Pi TV Time Machine

I just saw this cool little TV Time Machine project for the Raspberry Pi:

“For the innards, Wellington used a cannibalised thrift store Dell monitor, hooking it up to a Raspberry Pi 2 and some second-hand speakers. After the addition of Adafruit’s video looper code to loop free content downloaded from the Internet Archive, plus some 3D-printed channel and volume knobs, the TV Time Machine was complete.”

However, we already have a TV Time Machine that can play anything available on our TiVo Roamio OTA (over-the-air):

Broadcast television today is a retro paradise: MeTV, Antenna TV, GRIT, Comet, Heroes & Icons, GetTV, COZI, etc.

The TiVo also can provide DVR recordings, any show we have on Plex, anything on Netflix or Amazon.

Our TV Time Machine in action:

We run the HDMI output of our TiVo to our big TV in the den.

But a composite output is available as well.

I connected an X10 video sender unit to this output with an RCA cable (red, white, and yellow plugs).

Whatever is playing on TiVo in the den is transmitted via the sender to the video receiver unit in the guest room, which is attached to the 1983 TV set by a standard TV coax cable.

The den TV doesn’t need to be on.

[Above left: video sender unit in den; above right: video receiver unit in the guest room. The little curved rod is an IR extender, not needed here. It can be folded down.]

Control the den TiVo remotely from the guest room with the free TiVo phone app:

I try to keep the sender off when not in use because it jams part of the crowded 2.4 GHz band used by older wifi routers; see previous post Conflict between Wifi, X10 video sender.

The X10 receiver can be on all the time. The old TV is always set on channel 3.

(Video sender/receiver pair in the TTM aStore)

Since these devices are analog, the picture looks especially good on an old analog TV.

Next up: “Police Squad!”… IN COLOR

We have all 6 “Police Squad!” and all 49 “The Outer Limits” episodes on Plex.

Apple VP Phil Schiller shilling the iPad Pro

(From Daily Dot, 3/21/2016: Apple exec says using a 5-year-old PC is ‘sad’)

Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, took the stage in Cupertino, California, to explain some of the new features and specs on the new iPad Pro.

Between showing off a new display and camera, Schiller also took some digs at Windows and PC users, specifically calling out those users who are on computers more than five years old.

Schiller said that 600 million people are using PCs that are over five years old. “This is really sad,” he said.

The audience in Cupertino laughed and applauded, but many of those watching the livestream did not.

I don’t applaud the VP’s statement either.

Mindless pursuit of the latest consumer goods can be detrimental to your financial health.

Default retention and expansion of expensive cable/satellite services also can be.


My feelings and thoughts about money were crystallized by a book I read in 1992: “Your Money Or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

The book’s thesis is that achieving Financial Independence (FI) is a feasible and a highly desirable goal.

Also, you can consider money as something you receive in exchange for your “Life Energy”.

In view of the fact that you have a finite amount of life energy, it makes sense to consider whether each prospective purchase is worth the life energy you would expend to pay for it.

Every unnecessary, unfulfilling purchase you make delays the arrival of FI for you.

(It also clutters up your living space; my favorite book on this topic: “Not For Packrats Only“.)

The book, at least as originally written, supposed that we dislike our jobs and want to be free of them.

"The Bow-Wow Affair"

Kuryakin and colleague

(As the great Russian philosopher Illya Kuryakin once said when asked by colleague Napoleon Solo if he was free for an assignment: “No man is free who works for a living. But I’m available.”)

I had been working at American Airlines as a realtime programmer for over three years by 1992, and was still thrilled to be doing what I was doing. So I didn’t agree with that supposition at all, then.

However, 20+ years, a spin-off, an outsourcing, an acquisition, a boomerang, and an overall deterioration of corporate culture later, the job’s luster significantly diminished for me.

At that point, I was glad I had been diligently putting the book’s general philosophy into practice all that time.

The book’s specific financial advice was lacking. I didn’t invest in 30-year Treasury bonds as it recommended.


That was because I had previously read the book, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”.

Though I participated in an investment club in the mid-1990s, the main thing I learned was that I didn’t want to be spending my time researching stocks.

“Random Walk” had already revealed to me that a monkey throwing darts at a newspaper stock listing outperforms professional investment advice over time.

Besides, a monkey charges only peanuts for his services.

Buying and holding index funds (a way to automate the monkey) and not attempting to outguess the market is an easy, low drama way to invest.

(Being mindlessly on autopilot in this realm is not such a bad thing once you have set a general course, as over-attention can lead to taking financial actions at the wrong times.)


My computer setup in its entirety cost less than the cheapest iPad on the screen behind the Apple VP (skip the following if it bores you).

As part of TCC’s Wavebreak Cloud Computing program, I was issued a now-8-year-old dual-core Dell laptop for free. It was upgraded first to Windows 7, then to Windows 10 at no cost. I am typing on it at this moment.

My mom (who had loaned me the “Your Money Or Your Life” book) unloaded a now-7-year-old weak Celeron processor-powered desktop Windows 7 PC on me when she switched to a laptop. I realized I could use the built-in Windows Media Center software and a USB TV tuner to turn it into a PVR (personal video recorder) for the media room. It has since been upgraded for free to Windows 10 as well. It runs headless (no monitor).

Our newest PC is a 5-year-old PC bought used from a friend, who bought it at an estate sale. Of the four, this is the only one with significant CPU power (quad-core i5). It does all the heavy transcoding of DVR’d broadcast TV for the free Emby server software, which streams to smartphones or Rokus. It quickly converts DVDs to .mkv files usable in Plex or Emby. Likewise, it was upgraded from Windows 7 to 10 at no cost. It also runs headless.

The oldest is about 11 years old. It also has a weak Celeron CPU, is still on Windows Vista, and won’t be upgraded. It still has some use as a Plex and print server. With monitor and free VNC software, it serves as a window into the desktop environments of the two headless home theater PCs. It was the most expensive of the lot!

I also have three Linux-based Raspberry Pi computers costing $35 each.

I strap one of my wife’s cast-off Android smartphones to my arm as a music player while running and working out. Another one, I use as a wifi-only smartphone around the house and other wifi-enabled hangouts.


When I retired early, I found that I did miss one aspect of my old job: some of the actual work, researching and solving computer problems, and writing about them. Cord-cutting has given me opportunities to do both.

I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, not the least aspect of which is the large savings of “Life Energy” on cable TV.

So, Mr. Apple VP, I will take your opinion of old computers “under advisement”, and “going forward”, will most likely ignore it.


Coda:

You do not need PCs at all to cut the cord. A TV and an antenna can completely suffice.

Maybe add a Roku box for Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, etc., if the TV isn’t “smart”.

Maybe add TiVo (and leave off the Roku) if you want an onscreen program guide and DVR.

That’s all you need to start saving a lot of “Life Energy”.