What’s it like to cut the cord from pay TV? What’s working, what’s missing, and what kind of equipment does the best job replacing the cable box? In our weekly Survival Stories series, we’re asking cord cutters to tell us about their experiences. This week’s featured cord cutter is J.T., who came up with a pretty elaborate setup including a Mac Mini and an EyeTV tuner.
I ditched cable about five months ago. My cable bill was approaching $125 a month for basic service with one HD DVR box. I was forced to pay for a multitude of channels I neither watched or wanted. Once I started learning about how individuals can take back control of their TV from the cable companies, I got really interested and started on my project.
The beating heart of my setup is a 2010 Mac Mini (the one with HDMI output). An HD Homerun dual tuner decodes the QAM256 signal with which Cablevision delivers over the air content. This means that ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS etc. are all “free.” On the Mac Mini I use EyeTV as the “cable box.” It contains a program guide and allows me to use my Mac Mini like a TiVo/DVR.
For stored content I use Plex. The Plex media server scrapes metadata and organizes my TV shows and movies. Plex also has video plugins that allow me to access a wide range of streaming media in a convenient format.
Because Plex is a media server, I can watch on my Macbook and with an iPad or iPod. To control both Plex, EyeTV, and the hardware (TV, speaker system, etc.), I use a Logitech Harmony One remote.
I use Hulu (not Hulu plus) and Amazon Prime’s movie streams. Because I can’t do this with the remote, I simply use my MacBook’s “share screen” function to point my browser.
I admit this system is a bit more expensive to set up than just a Google TV or Apple TV or Boxee Box. It also takes a bit of extra work to hook it all up, program the remote, and other things. But it works, and it works very well. In my opinion it is far more flexible than any of the other systems because you are not locked into any one company’s ecosystem or limited by the deals they can cut with content providers. You have it all.
J.T. lives in Connecticut and works in the financial services industry and says of himself that he’s “by no means all too tech-savvy.” He didn’t want us to mention his full name for privacy reasons. The views expressed in this guest column are entirely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of GigaOM. His post should not be understood as a how-to guide. Please check with your cable company on its policies about accessing OTA content as part of your Internet subscription before doing so.
Want to ask J.T. a question? Then fire away in the comments! Send us an email to cordcutters (at) gigaom.com if you have a survival story of your own to share, and please also check out the most recent episode of our weekly web series Cord Cutters:
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