Feb 272013

I am not sure when paying over $200 / month for cable TV, Phone and Internet became normal, but apparently this is pretty much what ‘everybody’ pays.

Decently fast internet is $65, the rest of the bill is consumed via Phone, TV and numerous little add-ons. Having a DVR costs over $20 / month, the actual DVR rental is $9.99, then you need the service too – which adds another $10, plus taxes and regulatory fees. Oh and HD programming costs a few dollars too, and so does basic cable and many other things. Log story short, cable TV with a DVR costs about $115 / month.

Luckily there is an alternative.

Almost 100 channels are available for free. All you need is an antenna and a TV that is capable of receiving digital (ATSC) signals.

The major issues though is that I simply do not watch TV live, I record a few shows each week and watch later.In other words, I need a DVR.

So, my journey started wwith finding an open-source DVR that I could use to record Hawaii-Five-O and Elementary to a format that I could playback on my WD TV Live or my jailbroken AppleTv.

I chose MythTV, partly because it is Linux Based and partly because I had some spare hardware that I thought might work. This was good and bad, good because my spare hardware worked really well, bad because not all of my spare hardware worked. It seems that there are no drivers for the TV card that I had spare and there probably never will be, apparently $20 TV cards are not all that reliable. Figuring that I had little to lose, I ordered a HD Homerun Dual TV Tuner from Amazon – it was a little under $80. This device is really cool. It simply plugs into the network, power and a TV antenna and it acts as a network based tuner.

Initially I connected it up to the Cable service. just to prove that it would work. Configuring MythTV to work with the tuners went fairly well, less easy was persuading the TV guide software to work, eventually though all worked beautifully and I was able to tune into the channels available on Basic Cable.

Playback via the WD TV Live is flawless, the Apple TV however is flawed…

Step two was to get a simple indoor antenna. Amazon have a selection and I simply wanted something that would work to prove a point.

Checking www.tvfool.com I found that I could get away with a fairly modest antenna for the majority of the stations that I wanted. So I ordered a simple square, omnidirectional antenna and plugged it into the HD Homerun, MythTV found a number of programs, but vitally ABC7, KCAL9 and (for Nascar) Fox-11 were all absent. This was just a question of signal strength though, I barely expected to get as many HD channels as I actually did.

Having proven the concept, it was time to build a plan,

1) Buy a decent amplified antenna that was capable of serving three TV’s and a dual tuner PVR.

2) Connect everything up 🙂

3) Setup the future recordings on MythTV via the web interface.

4) Cancel the cable connection (except the Internet)

As I type this, something is probably recording, I set it via my iPad, the Antenna from Frys lives in the closet, TV has never been sharper.

So the experiment proved that this me all possible. The cable boxes are all unplugged and waiting to go back.

There are issues though.

Some shows are broadcast in 1080i with 5.1 surround sound and consumes disk space voraciously. This is jog a huge issue though as there is a 2TB drive in the DVR.

Also some shows channels share a multiplexed steam and as such are a little bandwidth limited.

Finally the TV supports media servers but as it is wirelessly connected very high quality shows struggle a tad. A network cable will solve this but that requires bigger cable trunking.

The main takeaway though is that it all works and

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