Do You Download TV Shows?

Three years ago I asked if you download music.  It’s a simple question, but one that I’m sure most everyone today does.  Either legally or illegally through bittorrent, I know of nearly no-one who has a computer who doesn’t download music in one way or another.  What I want to know now is if you download TV shows, or is it too much of a pain?  Continue reading »

Environmentally-friendly entertainment?

I’m sitting here, watching the Borat movie on USA (don’t judge), and I saw an commercial for the National Geographic Channel‘s new show, “Hooked.”

I haven’t seen an episode yet, but by the commercial, it seems that it’s about fishing (duh).  And not any fishing, but virile man testosterone adventure fishing where they try to find large (and possibly exotic?) fish.

Do they throw them back?  That I don’t know.  But here’s what I think is weird about channels like National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet:

They broadcast really environmentally-unfriendly programming.

It’s not that I don’t watch “Deadliest Catch” and weep for crabs (because I also like to eat crabs), but I was really disturbed by the recent episode where we learned that if the boats don’t get to shore in time, the crabs die and are basically useless and dumped.  The futility and wastefulness of that made me uneasy.  I realize that overfishing is environmentally-irresponsible (I’m not saying that the captains on the show engage in this practice, only that, you know, it happens).

It was the logging show (“Ax Men?” I feel like there are two of these shows on different networks update: Ax Men is on the History Channel which is not necessarily pro-enviro, but it’s weird nonetheless) that really got me thinking about this.  I know that logging happens, I use paper, I print things at work… but I feel like it’s weird to have a show on a network that also showcases “green” programming and promotes environmentally-aware miniseries such as “Planet Earth.”

So what do you guys think?  Do you think the programming choices are weird?  Or is it just that these networks cater to all opinions, and chooses not to “force” environmentally-friendly programming on its viewers?  Is it irresponsible to broadcast a show focusing on logging (and getting the most work done to make the most money) without also letting the viewer in to the environmental impacts the practice might have?

Let me know in the comments.

FeedMyTorrents and TVRSS Head for High Ground

It appears that the popular television torrent sources have taken shelter after several Cease and Desist orders.   That and the fact that the plaintiffs in thePirateBay lawsuit continue to seek jail time for the creators.FeedMyTorrents

FeedMyTorrents left the following message at their old IP address which has since been taken down as well.

It’s over. We’ve received several take down requests, and have decided not to test the extents of the law.  We’d like to thank everyone who contributed, and for the fun times we’ve had.

TVRSS has not been live for quite some time, and TVRSSI’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how, and where I will find relevant, high quality sources for my queries.

I just have to figure out how I will break it to my wife…no more Ghost Whisperer. (If I had only thought of this sooner!)

Price is Right Goes Green

I am sure you’ve heard it, Bob Barker signing off The Price is Right by telling folks to be sure to spay and neuter their dogs and cats.  When Drew Carey took over, he continued the tradition, and this Wednesday he is taking his ecological message a few steps further.

With Ed Begley Jr. guest starring, the Price is Right will feature Earth-Friendly products such as a Toyota Prius, an electric cart, cell phones made out of recycled materials, solar charging equipment, an electric bike, and a recycling cabinet.  The trips given away will be paired with carbon-emissions credits to offset the ecological impact of traveling.

While this is all, of course, in recognition of Earth Day, I hope that the producers see the benefit of being green and incorporate more eco-friendly products into future episodes as well!

Cable is dead to me!

This is a guest post by Keith Lemery, a professional chef, network administrator, husband and father.  It was written to compliment and follow up the complete list of of websites to stream full tv shows and movies from.

Several months ago my wife and I decided to cancel our Time Warner cable television service.  We had the digital cable package with DVR, remote, and HD Tier.  All together this package cost us just around $100 per month.  We then added a Netflix subscription for $8.99 per month, which includes mailed DVDs, as well as unlimited streaming.  This reduced our overall television bill by at least $80 per month, or almost $1000 per year!

I had been dabbling with internet television for a while.  Hulu, Justin.tv, TV.com and NBC.com on my iPhone.  When we made the switch, it was a little awkward, but after some tweaks, we don’t miss cable at all, and if anything, wonder why we hadn’t made the switch sooner!

Here is our setup:

A four year old Toshiba A55-S106 laptop, hooked up to our 32″ Westinghouse HDTV, via the SVGA out port.  This cable I had bought on eBay a couple years ago for less than $5.  To do this on a Mac, check out Mike’s article utilizing Understudy and Front Row.

My iPhone serves as a remote control.  I am using Air Mouse Pro by RPA Tech, Inc. which is available on the iPhone App Store for $5.99.  It controls the laptop by using the iPhone as a touchpad and also has a soft keyboard.

When opening FireFox, three tabs open up.  Yahoo.com, Hulu.com, and NetFlix.com.  I could add any number of channels we watch, NBC, CBS, Disney, but these suffice on startup.

Hulu is amazing.  We have several subscriptions to programs we watched regularly on television.  We usually DVR’d the programs to watch at a later time, so the fact that the programs are posted to Hulu a day or two after showing doesn’t bother us in the least.

As for NetFlix, we keep our DVD queue active, and use the unlimited streaming feature to it’s fullest.  I subscribe to the NetFlix new release RSS, so I get updates of new releases on my iPhone through Google Reader.  When I see a program or movie I like, I open the Phone Flix iPhone application, and add it to my queue.  It’s a seamless process.  Something I never imagined I would be doing a year ago.

Local channels and programming is somewhat hit or miss, but most new televisions can pick up local HD channels.  There are some great YouTube videos on building your own HD antenna from coat hangers if you are out of range as we are, but the only thing we ever watched locally was the news.

I don’t miss the …coming up after the break cliffhangers and three minute commercial segments at all.  I can easily check the web for local news if I have the desire.

My wife and I have no intention of ever going back to paid cable service, ever.  It seems that soon enough all television networks will have an internet presence, if they don’t already, and will put most if not all of their programming online as ad revenue for online programming increases.

And the best part of all, we can watch an hour long program in around 41 minutes, and a half hour program in 21.  So roughly 30% of the time a program is on is given to advertising.  Sure, Hulu has commercials, but they are usually 15 to 25 seconds.

We are really enjoying having all of this control over what we watch, as well as the savings.  For us it was a simple decision, one that we should have made a long time ago.

How about you?  Are you still paying for cable television?  Could you use the extra $1000 a year savings?

Aggregate and sort your favorite streaming TV shows with First on Mars

After publishing The complete list of websites to stream full TV shows and movies from FirstonMars.com CEO Tuhin contacted me and asked that his site be added to the list, which I happily did.  I also decided to poke a bit further into his site, which is somewhat unique compared to the other places to stream.

First on Mars aggregates their video content from Hulu, so why wouldn’t I just use Hulu?  There are a few reasons; the most interesting one is the suggestion First on Mars gives you.  To get started, I’d suggest creating a free account so your settings are saved and you can start to favorite shows and networks as well as take advantage of the custom skins available.  If you’ve already cut the cable at your home, flipping through channels has a totally different meaning now, since you specifically choose what to watch, rather than landing on a show from the cable company half way through.  So what to watch?  This is where First on Mars gets really ingenious, they let you select your mood and make suggestions based on that.  Even better, you can deselect channels and shows you know you’ll never watch.  Personally, I never need to see anything on the Lifetime or We channel, so those were X’d right away!

There is also a place for My Shows and My Networks, making it easy to get caught up on the shows you already know you enjoy without digging through pages upon pages.  This feature alone is pretty handy if you watch several shows on a regular basis but can’t always remember which ones.

A blog http://blog.firstonmars.com/ will keep you up to date on new happenings with the site and you can also follow them on Twitter @firstonmars.  The site doesn’t feature any fluff or distractions, something I very much appreciate in today’s overwhelming web design.  That aside, it is done entirely in flash, so depending how fast your connection to the web is, it might take a few seconds longer to load than a typical website.  Video is streamed from Hulu so the content delivery is the same, usually flawless.  I’d also be interested in seeing a forum installed so users could discuss, share and suggest shows to each other, as well as develop some fan forums that cover plot lines or relive their favorite shows from years gone past that are now slowly coming to streaming.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when I first found Airwolf online!

Give First on Mars a try, or if you already use it, reply below and let me know what you think and what your favorite features are. With more than 12,500 episodes online, you’re bound to find your favorite shows and some new ones you might not have ever known about!

Use Understudy to stream TV / Movies to your television using Front Row on a Mac

Just over a week ago I published the complete list of websites to stream full TV shows and movies from, the legal way to stream content to your computer.   The problem is, I don’t want to watch videos on my computer, I have a 42” plasma that I’d much prefer to watch TV and movies on from the comfort of my couch.  Yesterday Twitter user @scpi shared a link to an obscure piece of software featured here on Macworld called Understudy.  The article on Macworld is well written but simply doesn’t convey how awesome Understudy really is.

In a nutshell, Understudy is a small plugin that works in conjunction with the Front Row application on Macs (must run Leopard) to gain access to both your existing Netflix account and Hulu by default, other streams can be added in by the end user.  So why on earth am I so stoked for this?  Simple, I can now use the Apple Remote Control to navigate Front Row after connecting my Macbook to my plasma from my couch!  It’s easier than it sounds.

Here’s what I used to make this work:

My Macbook came with the remote, so my total investment was less than $25, depending on the total length of cables you need your out of pocket expenses could vary.  My plasma has HDMI inputs; make sure yours does before starting.

Install Understudy by downloading the package file and double clicking it.  Since the manual for their software is pretty much just the source code for other coders to look at, you should know that’s all you need to do, it doesn’t say that anywhere on their site though.  Understudy is not a stand alone application, so you won’t need to launch it by itself.   Launch your web browser and make sure you are logged into Hulu (free to create an account) and if you use it, Netflix.  In Netflix, add some movies or TV shows to your Watch Instantly queue.  Start up Front Row either from the Applications folder or by pressing the Menu button on the Apple Remote.  You’ll now see the Understudy icon show up in the list of options.  Navigate through the menu to add Netflix movies and Hulu streams, this can all be done by the remote control.  The only thing that still isn’t perfect is finding shows on Hulu from Front Row, as you have to add streams such as Popular Today or Newly Added Movies, so it might take a few minutes to find the exact show you are looking for.  Understanding that Understudy was meant to work with the Apple remote, I can only imagine that no search box will be added, but perhaps as the plugin becomes more developed they ability to add streams by network can added.

To connect my Macbook to my TV was pretty straightforward.  I used the Mini DV to HDMI adapter on the side of the Macbook, then connected the HDMI cable to it and the other end to the TV, this transfers the video content.  Connect the Mini audio cable to the headphone jack of the Macbook and, in my case, I plugged the white and red RCA jacks into the back of my stereo receiver, but could have easily plugged them right into my TV’s audio inputs as well.  That takes care of sound.  Lastly, make sure to have power to your laptop, don’t want the battery to die in the middle of a movie; again if you are using a Mini, you need power to work.

Getting the video to display on the plasma is takne care of, doing it so the laptop screen goes to sleep took a bit of experimenting to get working properly on my Macbook (not Pro, not applicable to a Mini).  In the preferences pane, set the display to Mirror with a second monitor attached, not Span.  On the TV, change the input to the HDMI (this is usually done with your TV remote control and choosing the source option, much in the same way you’d select a DVD player) and you should see the same on the laptop screen as the TV.  It was annoying to watch a movie with my Macbook on the stand below my plasma showing the same thing, but there is no easy way to sleep the Macbook’s display and keep the stream on the TV, but there is a trick!

Close the lid to the Macbook, wait for it to go to sleep, the hard drive will stop spinning and the light on the front will start to pulse slowly.  Plug a USB drive into the Macbook, this will wake the computer up and start the hard drive to spin, wait about 15-20 seconds and open the lid to the Macbook.  The display on the Macbook is now in sleep mode and enables the video to continue to work on the Plasma.

Edit: Randomn3ss commenter joelco pointed out that simply lowering the LCD brightness on my Macbook would turn it totally black, skip everything in the top 2 paragraphs, that’s much wasier!

Get comfortable on your couch, use the Apple remote to start Front Room and enjoy watching Hulu and Netflix on your television.  I will be experimenting with adding other feeds into Understudy from the laundry list I now have and will be looking at purchasing a Mac Mini sometime in the soon future to use full time as a media center so my Macbook can remain my working computer.

The complete list of websites to stream full TV shows and movies from

Paying for cable seems so 2008, doesn’t it?  Check out this complete list of sites to legally stream full TV shows and movies from, for free!  Most sites will require either the newest version of Flash or the new Silverlight technology to run them, so if prompted, install those plug-ins.  From my experience, most work great in Firefox on Windows and Mac.

Broadcast Networks

Cable networks with full episodes and / or live streams

Roku + Netflix = Instant Movies on your TV

Show specific full episodes

Independent Internet-only networks

Aggregation sites

Pay Per View

Sports

Consider clipping your cable bill after all that is available for the cost of your current broadband internet connection.  If you’re curious to try out Netflix, you can get a 2 week free trial by clicking here.  Way back when, I was a huge fan of Joost, but it was clunky, only worked on my Windows computer (which I’ve since sold) and required a stand alone application.  Even after it became available for Mac I lost interest when Hulu opened up to the public.  Delivering most shows in 480p, full screen with only minor 15 second commercials, it’s one of the best sites out there.  Netflix is also getting better with the video delivery, but there is still a bit of room for improvement.

While I still enjoy flipping through channels on my TV, I can see streaming video starting to become more and more of my daily life, especially since I can’t always be home to watch a certain show at any given time when it airs.  The downside is most sites wait 24 hours to seven days to air the most recent shows, if you’re OK with that, checkout some of these sites!

Hava gets SociableTV & iPhone client

Huge new updates announced for the Hava, the device that plays your local TV stations to your computer that I reviewed last month.  These should be out by Q2 this year and look pretty amazing.

SociableTV is a social web portal site that lets HAVA owners share their live TV viewing experience (e.g. sporting events) with multiple friends. Monsoon’s technology enables friends to watch and experience live television as if they are sitting on the sofa next to each other – without having to download anything.

Best part is, no additional cost!

In more amazing news, iPhone / iTunes users get a client and full integration if you are using a DVR as well.

The HAVA Player for iPhone allows HAVA customers to view and control their home television and services, including satellite and TiVo, from anywhere in the world.

An on-screen remote lets viewers change channels, browse a program guide, pause, view recorded shows and more with virtually any TV source, including cable, satellite receiver, or DVR, in real time via the iPhone touch screen interface. The HAVA Player for iPhone provides the same television place-shifting experience offered by Monsoon’s PC, Windows Mobile and S60 Symbian mobile players.

Monsoon has also added the capability for users to export their HAVA DVR recordings to iTunes to watch their recorded content on their iPod and iPhone, enabling HAVA owners to take their recorded television content with them on airplanes or other places where a connection can be lost.

Look for these new features in Q2 and keep an eye on Monsoon Multimedia’s website.

Hava Titanium HD plays your local TV programs almost anywhere

You want one of these.  It’s that simple.  If you watch TV on any kind of regular basis the Hava Titanium HD TV device is a godsend.  A product of Monsoon Multimedia, the Hava lets you wirelessly stream television content via your home network and watch from anywhere with a broadband internet connection, including cell phones.

So why do you want one? Same reasons I do.  I pay for cable TV at home and have a really nice 42″ plasma hung on the wall in my living room.  I’ve made the choice to not put a TV in my bedroom but now and again I wouldn’t mind watching TV there.  The Hava plugs into your home network and either your cable box or your television and rebroadcasts your TV stations onto a computer, cell phone, etc.   With the Hava, I can stream TV from my plasma (it doesn’t need to be turned on) to my Macbook while laying in bed and watch the same channels as if I was sitting on my couch in the living room.

Likewise, I could flip through the 130 channels from my cable provider while on my lunch hour at work, on my Macbook using my works Wi-Fi connection.  This is a great product for business people who spend lots of time in random hotel rooms (that have Wi-Fi) but crappy television options.  You can even stream to some cell phones!

Hava Titanium aso function as a PVR. You can record, pause, fast forward, and rewind live TV right on your computer. Recorded shows are stored on your PC’s hard drive, or on an external USB drive (sold separately). After you’ve recorded shows, you can burn them onto DVD for archiving or viewing during those instances when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Earlier this week I received one of these in the mail.  This weekend it will be hooked up and put through it’s paces for a follow-up article sometime early next week.