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Kids Programming – Advantages of Time-Shifted TV

What Kids are watching on TV

When it comes to Programming for Kids, the big content aggregators have impacted the youth of our society in ways we’re not able to completely comprehend…until you cut the cord and kick out cable.  Cutting the cord inevitably leads to individuals researching and experimenting with various SVOD services (Subscription-Based Video on Demand).  The impact of time spent by our kids watching commercials has reached an all time high.  I didn’t realize how influential all this commercial viewing was until I began discussing TV

Kids Watching TVwatching habits with a friend of mine that has recently cut the cord and began primarily using SVOD services. She mentioned she’d recently asked one of her kids what he wanted for his birthday and the little guy had no answers!  Traditionally when asked this question he’d spout off a list of the hottest toys of the year, video games, automatic nerf-guns, even “as seen on TV” products. Having seen zero commercials in the past 6 months, he hadn’t been brain-washed by the advertisers and thus couldn’t answer the question.  All this conversation about the lack of advertisers input on our children’s brains led me to wonder about just how much time they are spending in front of the “glowing rectangles” and what exactly they are seeing.

How much TV Kids watch

Consider this.  Composite viewership for traditional TV consumption (broadcast/cable/satellite) for ages 2 thru 11 is 102 hours and 45 minutes per month.  Consumption for Time-Shifted TV/SVOD services, like my neighbors children in the same age group, is 11 hours and 15 minutes.

Commercial Make-Up

Nielsen also reports Commercials consumed 14 minutes and 15 seconds of each hour of broadcast television in the year of 2013.  Cable networks are even more egregious boasting an average of 15 minutes and 38 seconds for each hour of…cough cough…”programming“.  As both of these numbers are close to 15 minutes, 1/4 of an hour, let’s use that number and blast some math here.

  • 102.75 hours of Broadcast TV consumption per month
  • 25% of the afore mentioned hours are commercials
  • This means 25.69 hours of commercials viewed per month

Additional aspects for our math blasting exercise.

Broadcast TV/Cable/Satellite – 1 Day analysis of “average” time allocation

  • Sleep                                    11 hours        (45% of the day)
  • School                                 7.25 hours    (30% of the day)
  • Broadcast TV Viewing     3.38 hours    (14% of the day)
  • Meals                                   1.5 hours      (6.25% of the day)
  • Total                               23.13 hours   (96.4% of the day)
  • Commercials                   .84 hours

Actual days have 24 hours each.  You can see this curriculum leaves .02 hours per day for quality time of your discretion.  Let’s look at the same set of assumptions but substitute SVOD or Time-Shift TV Viewing for Broadcast TV services.

SVOD services – 1 Day analysis of “average” time allocation

  • Sleep                                   11 hours        (45% of the day)
  • School                                7.25 hours    (30% of the day)
  • Time-Shift TV Viewing    .37 hours     (1.5% of the day)
  • Meals                                    1.5 hours     (6.25% of the day)
  • Total                          20.12 hours    (83.8% of the day)
  • Commercials              0.0 hours  

The SVOD services scenario of  watching time-shifted Kids Shows on TV, leaves roughly 16% of the day for activities not listed.  That’s a significant chunk of time!  One could add activities like outdoor time, reading, one-on-one w/ parents, sharing in some household duties, etc.  Merely cutting out Broadcast TV/Cable/Satellite and their incessant commercial inclusion seems at the very least to be prudent if not for time savings, then surely for the avoidance of commercials and their influence.

Taking back the Reins

Digging in a bit more into my  neighbor’s TV regiment,  I asked, “what kind of programming are you turning to now that you’ve cut the cord?”  She says “most everything we watch is SVOD and has an educational slant to it.  Of course there’s the occasional fiction/sci-fi/cartoon kids show, but I really try to provide an appropriate mix of fiction and educational material.  I want to make the most out of their time staring at the glowing rectangle.”

Reviewing content that’s available for youngsters on streaming services, there’s actually quiet a bit to choose from and numerous categories at that.  I’ve included a list of content along with providers, broken down into some wide categories.    Much of the content noted below is a need-to-watch in my opinion, an effort to ensure a well-rounded viewing experience for all..


Time Shifted TV is the trend

Nielsen reports that over 40% of US homes had access to SVOD (Subscription-Based Video On Demand Services) services as of November 2014, and 13% of homes boasted multiple streaming services.  As a society, we are learning that TV viewing doesn’t have to happen on anyones schedule but our own.  Furthermore, we are learning that we don’t have to tolerate content littered with advertisements, pushing product and messaging we may not support or approve of.  We, modern day society, now have the technology to take control of what we watch.  Don’t you think it’s time we put that technology to work and make the most of our families time spent “staring at glowing rectangles”?

Educational Opportunities for kids on SVOD



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3 Easy steps to watch Downton Abbey Season 4 – For the Cord Cutter

With the 2014 season of Downton Abbey underway, we figured it was time to revisit ways those of us based in the US PBS viewers can get access to the new Season 4 episodes coming out.  If  you’ve gotten used to waiting for episodes of Downton Abbye to show up on your local PBS affiliate, you’ll really appreciate this tip for ipad computer or TV viewing.

Step 1.  First, navigate over to Tunnel Bear and download their VPN client.  This is a piece of software that resides on your iPad, PC or Mac and allows you to navigate to overseas sites, and appear to be local to that country.  This is key for viewing the Downton Abbey shows coming from the UK.

Step 2.  Once you have the Tunnel Bear application installed, you are required to acknowledge and complete the registration process by replying to an email.  Simply click the link received in the registration email and the install is complete.

Step 3.  Start the application and choose your target country from the drop down box.  Click “On”.  That’s it.  Your computer now appears to be in the country you chose from the drop down box.

Start watching Downton Abbey Season 4.  Navigate to and start catching up on all the episodes you’ve missed of the critically acclaimed Downton Abbey series.   Now, keeping up with the episodes is simple.   5 minute setup and you’re watching on your Downton Abbey on your iPad, PC, Android or computer connected TV.


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How to watch NFL without cable

Football season can be very demanding for sports fans, so preparedness is crucial.  A good game plan is required to ensure no action is missed.   For a “cord cutter”, the inevitable question arises, how can I watch NFL without cable?  No worries, I’ve listed out a few plays that will have you warmed up and ready for the bone crunching entertainment!     As  we’ve said before, no solution is perfect, but watching sports without cable is totally doable.

Typical antenna installed at chimney

Typical antenna installed at chimney

The Antenna Play

Your first play for watching the NFL without cable starts with a basic HD antenna.  Choosing the best HDTV antenna to start with helps ensure this effort provides good results.   These antenna are not terribly expensive, and once properly installed, will provide you some of the best quality images you’ll see anywhere.  Typically much better than Comcast or DirecTV can provide.  You’ll be pleaseantly surprised how good the picture quality is, and the price is hard to beat!  I’ve installed entire systems for less than 50$, your mileage may vary.

The NFL Sunday Ticket Play

Your second play for NFL without cable works on games that aren’t on your local broadcast stations, like those on Sunday. Currently, DirecTV offers the NFL Sunday Ticket as an ad-hoc service, meaning you don’t to be a subscriber to get this package.  The Sunday Ticket gives you live access to every out-of-market game, every Sunday!   Here’s the catch!  DirecTV states “It’s available to anyone that cannot get DIRECTV at their residence due to line-of-sight issues.”   Hint: This is easily overcome for most folks, especially those that live in apartments or condominiums that don’t allow balcony or roof attachments for dish mounting (in spite of FCC regulations deflating this position).   DirecTV is not interrogating subscribers on their reception capability when signing up for the Sunday Ticket App, they just take your money and give you access.

While the price is a little steep at $250.00, I appreciate the fact that they’ve reduced the package by $100.00 from last year. As an aside, I’ve heard multiple reports that the price is negotiable ($200), so don’t hesitate to ask for a discount.  The same subscription also allows you to view the games on your PS3, so at least the money has dual purpose, if you have a PS3 at the house.

What about picture quality?

Picture quality is outstanding on the iPad!  On occasion, I experienced a slight degradation in quality, but it seemed to only be intermittent, and not very frequent.  Overall, I’d say the stream is very watchable and provides a good user experience.  The user interface is easy to navigate and obviously customized for the online viewing experience.  I imagine at some point they will rework the app to include more stat’s and hopefully some fantasy football league data.

Airplay button

The AirPlay button

That little square with an arrow pointed up is the AirPlay button.  And if it worked all the time, it would be great!  Unfortunately, streaming these games to your TV using AirPlay is getting very mixed results from folks. Apparently the NFL has blocked AirPlay streaming from within the App, but some users are reporting AirPlay Mirroring to work. Mirroring requires the use of a special cable that connects your iPad directly to the TV using an HDMI signal. While the quality should be good, I don’t think the screen resolutions will match up properly, so you may have only a small portion of your TV screen showing the game. I’ll be picking up a cable to try this out for myself.

Also worth noting is that the iPhone 5, and it’s counterpart, iOS 6, are in no way compatible with the NFL Sunday Ticket version 1.8.1.   Actually, any device running the new iOS 6 breaks the app.  If you have an iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, or iPad, DO NOT upgrade your device to iOS 6, or you will be left in the cold waiting on a new release of the Sunday NFL Sunday Ticket App.

If you have comments or suggestions on using the NFL Sunday Ticket App, we would love to hear from you. I’m especially interested to hear about successful use of AirPlay to view Sunday Ticket on a TV.  Drop us a note in the comment section below.

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AirPlay to Xbox

What is AirPlay?

The Apple iOS/OS feature AirPlay allows users to stream video, audio and pictures from one device to another wirelessly, anywhere on the same network.    Apple tweaked the existing AirTunes protocol in 2010 to include video  and pictures in addition to audio, coinciding with the renaming of AirTunes to AirPlay.  Apple has since begun licensing AirPlay  to 3rd party manufacturers, increasing the number of AirPlay options in the marketplace.  This development is in addition to unlicensed development by folks like the XBMC Dev Team and others.  All of this means AirPlay is a must have in your media distribution tool-kit.

AirPlay ScreenShot

AirPlay screen

How does it work?

The Apple protocol, AirPlay, consist of two components.  A Media Pitcher and a Media Catcher.  The Media Pitcher prepares the media for transmission and sets up the stream.  The Media Catcher receives and presents the media to the connected device.    The two devices work together to stream and present media across a network, wired or wirelessly.  So, that football game your streaming on your iPad can be beamed to your TV using AirPlay.

The list of partners Apple has formal integration with is healthy, including top brands like Denon, Marantz, B&W and JBL to name a few.  While others work is less formal arrangements to  research and reverse engineer the inner workings of the AirPlay protocol.   All of this developer and manufacturer attention means the market is recognized and the technology is here to stay.  This is good news for those of us that enjoy beaming our content all over the house using a mis-match of hardware.


AirPlay and Xbox

Xbox’s running XBox Media Center (XBMC) have long been an integral tool in the “cord cutter’s” arsenal.  XBMC is a cross platform entertainment media hub, similar to Plex Media Server.  This media hub  dynamically indexes and presents a rich visual interface that allows users to browse all of their media using a remote control for interaction.  XBMC makes streaming our content across networks simple and beautiful.   Now with version 11 of XBMC, AirPlay is integrated and takes “in home media distribution” to a new level!   This current release allows your Xbox running XBMC to act as a Video Catcher, playing streams it receives wirelessly from your AirPlay device!   While the support is not complete, and a work in progress, the current implementation is stable and supports video, music and images on most all platforms, including Android!

The Future of XBMC and AirPlay

Who know’s what the future holds for AirPlay and Xbox.  What I know is that wireless transfer of media in-home is here to stay.  Apple recently included AirPlay in their OS and iOS updates.  The XBMC Dev team is actively meeting to strategize future releases.  Given the activity on both sides, Apple and XBMC, I’m expecting solid progress and additional integration.

Tell us about your experience with Xbox, XBMC and AirPlay in the comment section below.

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How to use a Mac Mini as a Media Server

What is a Media Server?

A Media Server is a computer whose purpose in life is to stream your video, audio and pictures to you, on demand.  Let’s say you’re on the road traveling, and you want to watch a football game you recorded two days ago.   No problem with a Media Server.  Just launch the iPhone app, browse to the  Sports directory on your media center, and click play!  Kind of like cable, except different and better!

Plex Main Screen

Views of Plex

Is the Mac Mini Media Server Material?

The Mac Mini has always been an enticing piece of hardware that demanded unique applications like serving media. The Mini footprint is compact, and it’s operating system is solid, making it a perfect fit for this type  of “set it and forget it” application. While the hardware itself is a perfect fit for the “Media Server” job, software is needed to round out this kit and convert the Mac Mini into Media Server.  Before we get into that, let’s talk processor cycles (horsepower).

What kind of horsepower does this Media Server thing require?

The newer Mac Mini models have more than enough power to transcode several streams concurrently, in addition to serving several additional streams to clients at the same time.   In other words, a new Mac Mini will have media streaming to all 3 TV’s in the house, and your iPhone, with no trouble.  But what if your Mini isn’t brand new?  If you have a older (2-3 yr. ago) Mac Mini, you should be fine as well, just know that the Mini may not handle as many concurrent video streaming sessions, but will still certainly get the job done for 1-3 TV viewing.  The biggest advantage of a newer model Mini aside from horsepower is the HDMI outputs, allowing for streaming of full HD resolution to your TV.

Why Plex?

There are lot’s of media servers out there, but the ease of use and functionality makes Plex an excellent choice for newbies and techies alike.  This should be no surprise as the software builds on the XBMC code that’s been serving media for years.   Aside from the obvious features including streaming video and media players, the notables of Plex are are;

  • Access you content anytime from anywhere with virtually no configuration
  • On the fly transcoding for mobile or lightweight mediaplayer
  • Playback of archived HD content to basically any device on your network capable of receiving video streams like the Roku and XBox media players including soft clients
  • Ease of Operation using a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
  • Playback of audio and images from media server
  • Centralize Library Management System puts all of your media at your fingertips
  • Automatically retrieves meta data from the internet for your content
  • Automatically updates when you add new content to your media files
  • Dynamic device recognition and transcoding by defined bit-rate
  • HDHomeRun Integration for OTA streaming of your favorite football game.

The Plex interface displays your content in an easy to view graphical interface  allowing you to search by name, author, cover and more.  Browsing your home movies, iTunes content Hulu or the latest videos on YouTube has never been easier, and the visual organization of the Plex interface makes sorting thru your media collection a snap.

Plex Menu

What is Plex?

Plex is really a two products designed to work together to stream your video, audio or pictures to you using a rich graphical interface.   The two products work together to provide an end-to-end solution for media consumption.  The first product, Media Server, creates the streams of media for consumption.  The Server also indexes your media, creates the menu system for your local content (movies, pictures, etc) and integrates with a plethora of online content providers, the likes of Hulu Plus, iTunes, Amazon Prime, PBS, CNN, Fox News, HGTV, Food Network, BBC, Netflix and more.  The second product, Media Center, or desktop Plex client “catch’s” the video streams and displays them on the screen.  Mobile Plex clients catch streams from the Plex Servers for mobile devices.

Plex also ties your online viewing experience to your home “media room” viewing experience by offering a synchronized bookmarking service of sorts.  Setting up a My Plex Account will allow browser queue management and sharing of your content. In other words, you’ll be able to save videos for viewing later on another device like your television at home while you’re sitting on the couch.  Sounds great right! It is.  And it’s easy!  Keep reading.

Installing Plex – Media Server Software

The installation and download for Plex, the Media Server Software couldn’t be easier.    Once the download is complete, fire off the install and let it do it’s thing.  When you are asked to locate your media, simply click to the directories where your video, audio and pictures are stored and the setup wizard will ingest the media and prepare vivid and informative menus indexing all of your content on the fly.   Adding your myPlex credentials in the Preferences menu allows you to publish your Plex server on the internet for remote viewing using a Plex client.  This publishing uses UPnP to connect thru your home router, so be sure UPnP is turned on in your router’s configuration.   Once the setup is complete, the next step is to load a Plex client.

Installing Plex – Media Clients

mobile plex client

iPhone Plex Client

Having completed the Media Server install,  jump back to the Plex site and download a Plex mobile client or a Plex desktop client.  These clients are the virtual set top boxes used to catch and play the streams being sent from the Media Server.  With the heavy lifting done, this part of the setup is simple business.  After installing the client of your choice, simply add your myPlex credentials in the application preferences and you should be able to connect to your Plex Server straight away.  Streaming video from a mobile device could take some tweaking to get it just right, but the default bandwidth settings worked for us, even with less than 5 bars signal.  Catching up on Dexter episodes just got a lot easier! And, the On Deck and On Shelf features allow you to start watching a program on your phone, and finish watching it on your computer or home television. Reminds me of that DirecTV commercial where the guy pauses the robot war to resume watching it in the other room.  The On Deck and On Shelf features really are cool!

Have you Plex’d your Mini?

We’d love to hear about your Mac Mini used as a Media Server or Media Player.  Comments or suggestions are welcome in the area below.

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How to Watch the 2012 Olympics Live without Cable

NBC Streams to Pay TV Subscribers

NBC has extended viewing rights for their Live Video feeds to any “subscriber” of their MSNBC AND CNBC programs, on Cable, Satellite or Telco TV providers.  What this means is if you have BOTH of those services at home, you are also able to view the 2012 Olympics Live Video Feeds. You must be a Pay TV subscriber to view their 3500+ hours of streaming video content this year unless…

NBC Provides Live Video Tease

Even though NBC is requiring Pay TV Authentication to view their live video streams, they are letting you watch the stream without the afore mentioned authentication for a short period of time…but only a few hours…and only if you can get it to work. Basically they are saying, if you don’t know the password to authenticate with your content provider (DirecTV, Cox, ATT, other) they will give you a temporary pass to watch live streams. This same temporary pass seems to be available on the mobile app, but with mixed results in performance, and working at all.

A Better Way to Stream the 2012 Olympics

Anyone with an internet connection in the UK is able to watch live streams of the Olympics at Those outside of the UK however, aren’t able to view the live streams due to geographic blocking by web servers.  Sometimes, locations are blocked inaccurately, due to poor reporting by ISP’s to IANA about how they have allocated IP address space around the world.  If this is the case for you, there are a few ways around this geographic blocking issue. Below, we’ve listed two.

1. Sign up for a VPN service. This will allow you to view the BBC site, and appear as though you are in the UK. Setting up the Witopia VPN Service is fairly straight forward with solid FAQ’s for help, and online assistance if you get stick. During the signup process, you’ll have the option of choosing which country and city your want your traffic as coming from, avoiding the geographic blocking being employed by the BBC website. Once you have the VPN setup on your computer, simply point your browser to and start streaming those 2012 games.

2. Sign up for a DNS Routing service. These types of services, like the one above, works behind the scenes to make your traffic appear to be coming from an un-blocked location. The added benefit to using a DNS Redirection services is that you connection isn’t slowed down by the added layer of a VPN as in the first solution. Additionally, there’s no software to install. Setting up this service is even easier that the one above. Start by setting up an account at The signup is quick and easy, basically just asking for your email address, and the country you want to show your traffic as coming from. Choose the UK as your “location”, then move on to your computer network settings to make the DNS changes that are necessary.

You’ll need to change your Adapter settings, DNS entries toMake them and UnBlock has detailed how to documentation on their Support Center if you need more info.

DNS entries for unblock

The setup process is complete. Point your browser to and watch the 2012 games, without cable!

How has your Olympic viewing experience been?

We’d love to hear about how you’re watching the Olympics and from where.  Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

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How to choose the best antenna for HD TV

Which HD antenna is best?

Choosing the best antenna for HD off-air broadcast reception is an important piece of the process in receiving all that free high quality HD content.  If you haven’t seen HD off air programming you’re in for a real treat.  A properly aligned antenna feeding a quality HD television produces some of the best pictures you will see!  Neither cable nor satellite can compare to the picture quality from Over The Air (OTA) signals.  Let’s get on with setting up your new OTA antenna.  We will talk about how to choose the right antenna, a little of the math behind what makes for the best antenna and cable setup, and how to align the antenna based on your location.  Easy business!

First off, stores like your local Radio Shack, Target and Walmart will probably carry multiple models of antenna, ranging from something small that sits on your television and looks cute, to a huge array that mounts on your chimney. Selection of the best antenna for your area should be based on a few simple points.

Here’s a list of basic things you need to know before going HD antenna shopping.
-What channels do you want to receive. Make a list of them.
-What is the distance from your TV to your proposed antenna mounting location. This may be self evident as we move further thru this excercise of choosing the best antenna for your particular location.
-A basic map of your viewing location (home) with some notable landmarks you can use for antenna alignment. A simple line drawing or printed map will do fine here.

Use the Color Code System

Once you have collected this basic information, you can go use a nifty tool that is the fruit of collaboration between The National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Electronics Association. This “antenna calculator” if you will, considers your location, known geological information, height above sea level and broadcast tower location information to make recommendations on the type of antenna system you need.

To get started, navigate to and enter your location information. First, you’ll see a list of broadcast stations in your given area. Confirm the stations you want to see listed before moving on. If so, good, if not, go back and figure out where we took a wrong turn. Second, you’ll see a map showing radians that are highlighted as you mouse over different HD broadcast stations on the list. Basically what’s being shown here is what type of antenna you need to buy, based on the color code of the station radian, and what direction you need to point the antenna to receive a given broadcast station.

Real life examples of antenna plots

This particular situation, example picture below, in Houston is fairly easy. All of our UHF (Off-Air HD Stations are typically UHF) stations are located within 10 degrees of each other, allowing us to select the constant recommended antenna, a medium sized directional configuration. Furthermore, the single antenna in this design can be oriented in a single direction to receive all of the channels in our design.  The important thing to see here is simply that all the target viewing stations can be received by alining your antenna South South West.

Map of Houston Television Broadcast Towers

Map of Houston Television Broadcast Towers

Here is another example, picture below, of a not so easy configuration. This broadcast tower set, located in Atlanta, includes towers in excess of 60 degrees apart, making single antenna solutions unlikely. Receiving each of the broadcast stations shown in this image would likely require 2 antenna, oriented such that each antenna was able to receive 2-3 of the stations. The cables could be combined using a common splitter/combiner in your attic, running a single cable down to your set top box for receiving. Situations requiring more than one antenna are significantly more involved, but not so complicated that they should be avoided by the average user. Just plan on a little more trial and error getting the perfect antenna alignment. The end result is worth it when you finally sit down in your living room and are able to pull in a dozen or more quality HD broadcast stations for free!

Atlanta Television Broadcast Tower map

Map of Broadcast towers in New York

Below is an image showing a rundown of the various antenna type and correlating color codes. This chart was developed as a buying/install guide for Digital HD antenna. This chart was developed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)

Antenna selector legend

Antenna selector legend

What makes the right antenna right?

HD Antennas are made in a variety of sizes and shapes. The color coded system developed by CEA and NAB breaks antennas down into 7 sections, ranging from small multi-directional antenna to large directional antenna. Basically, What is important to remember is that you can’t change physics. Larger antenna have more gain (ability to collect the signal), and smaller antenna have less gain. There simply is no substitute for gain. Designs calling for large directional roof mount antenna require just that. Smaller antenna that bear marketing slogans like “Indoor HD High Gain Highest Signal Quality” are just small antenna, and will always be outperformed by a larger more appropriate antenna if that’s what your design called for. Size matters!

Once you’ve determined what type of antenna you need to purchase, by using the guide above, you’ll want to consider how the cable will be routed between the antenna and your HD Tuner.   Be conscious  of distance, and remember that the longer the cable run, the more signal loss you’ll have.  The more signal loss, the poorer the signal and the resulting picture on your TV screen.  Long cable runs are not your friend, keep the cable short!

How do these antenna add up?

The math here, if you’re interested, goes something like this. For every 100′ of average RG-6 coac cable used, you will see a signal loss of 1.5-2dB. Every connector used (1 for each end of the cable) will add a loss of about 2dB. So, assuming we start out with a 15dB gain antenna, minus 2dB for 100′ of cable, minus 4dB for two connectors, we are down to 11dB by the time our cable reaches the receiver inside the house. When this value get’s too low, you begin to loose the HD signal occasionally or all-together. Weather such as rain and snow also reduces signal received, so it’s important to have a strong enough signal that weather events don’t disrupt reception. Bottom line here is to use good quality connectors and keep the cable runs as short as possible.

Comments or Questions?

Take the time to plan your OTA installation  and you’ll reap the benefits of a well designed system with years of  quality of HD broadcast. OTA, also known as digital TV, is often better quality uncompressed modulation shaming what both satellite and cable networks offer, and the price is free!

Please let me know if you like this article or have any questions about the antenna selection or installation process in the comment section below. Good luck installing your high gain HD Broadcast Television antenna.

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Not Ready To Commit? Suspend Your Cable Service To Test the Waters

Canceling cable cold turkey is a big step for a lot of people. They’re not sure if they have the technical knowledge (they do), the patience or the sheer willpower to give up on something they’ve grown accustomed to. Let me show you a quick and easy trick to ease the transition by suspending your service while you get adjusted to life without cable.

Static TV

Photo by Thaneworks via Flickr

Many cable and satellite providers have a small loophole that allows users to suspend their service for a certain period of time. Called “vacation mode” or “seasonal mode,” they often do this for customers who are taking an extended leave or who go south for the winter. The best thing about this policy is that you can use it to your advantage to buy yourself some time and refine your new media consumption lifestyle.

DirecTV will allow you to suspend your service for up to 6 months at no charge while still keeping your original equipment. If at any time you decide that cutting the cord isn’t for you, just ring them up and they’ll automagically turn your service back on. It’s a painless process.

Many other providers like Comcast, Time Warner and Dish Network also offer similar options to pause your service. You should be advised that there could be a small fee (< $10) depending on your provider. Rules vary by market. Make sure you get any associated costs and details in writing if you do suspend your service so you won’t have any surprises in the future.

So, if you have your doubts or you don’t want to jump into the cord cutters club head first, one of the best options is suspending your service. Go ahead and test the it, I’m sure you’ll find that the water’s fine!

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What You Need To Know Before Cutting The Cord

There’s a perfect storm brewing. An ever tightening grip from the cable companies coupled with economic downfall and a wide assortment of online media now have many people considering getting rid of their cable service. I’m here to help, but before you cut the cord and jump in with both feet, there are a few things you should consider.

It takes a little patience
Mainstream programming on the major networks can often be seen at the time and date when the original program airs, but for shows exclusive to premium TV, it can take anywhere from one day to a week for the episode to be available online. This wait, for some hard core TV addicts, can be too much to handle.

Things to consider before cutting the cord

Photo by apdk via Flickr

It’s going to feel weird
Coming home, flipping on the TV and mindlessly browsing around for hours without really watching anything goes out the door when you decide to cut the cord. Sure you can browse and find new favorites, but alternatives like Hulu and Netflix are really good at getting to the heart of the TV watching experience – actually watching television and movies.

New controllers and interfaces may have a small learning curve and members of your family could take some convincing, but be mindful of the freedom and extra money you’re enjoying.

Having a high-speed Internet connection is important
To have an optimal experience streaming video, playing games and surfing the web you’ll need some big pipes. I often recommend that users have at least 10MB/s high-speed Internet, especially if you have others who will all be online at the same time.

Many of the tutorials on Kick Out Cable are dependent on having a fast Internet connection. If you live in an area where high-speed internet isn’t available, you may want to consider the pros and cons before you get rid of cable TV entirely.

A device for each TV
Just as you need a separate box or connection with cable and satellite, you’ll also need with a setup for each of your TVs. Depending on your needs, the perfect setup could come with an initial investment – but usually much cheaper than a year of cable TV. For example, a few of my favorite cord cutting tools are the Playstation 3 which runs upwards of $400 and the Apple TV which is $99.

Live sports are still a little shaky
Live sports on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX in your local area are a piece of cake with an Over the Air (OTA) antenna, but programming on the likes of ESPN, TNT and the NFL Network is a little more difficult right now.

Baseball has and basketball and hockey have their own sources available online through NBA All Access and NHL Game Center Live, but it’s next to impossible to find a legal online live stream for you die-hard NFL football fans.

I do anticipate, as more people begin to get their sports from alternative sources, the major sports networks will offer live programming through other sources not tied exclusively to cable or satellite.

It’s not 100% free
Right now you may be spending upwards of $100 – $150/month for cable, but as a heads-up, the alternatives aren’t 100% free. You’ll definitely be saving a substantial amount of money, but choosing to subscribe to Hulu Plus or Netflix generally run about $10 each per month. I’ve come to find that the more you’re willing to pay for alternatives, the easier the breakup with your cable company becomes.

So there are just a few things to consider before starting on the road to cable-free living. If there are other ideas and thoughts from readers, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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