Cable-Free iPad TV

By Richard V. Burckhardt

Watching CBNS-TV on an iPad

Watching CBNS-TV on an iPad

I’m a cable TV company’s nightmare. I don’t watch sports, have no interest in shopping on TV, only speak English, have never watched any of the many government channels, freakin’ HATE reality shows and have no interest in televised religion.

There goes the bulk of the TV package cable TV companies have been shoving down my throat all of these years.  A review of the “expanded basic” channels offered locally revealed that I mostly watch the network affiliates and independent stations (primarily for local and network news and a handful of shows like “Modern Family” and “Big Bang Theory”), getting most of my television entertainment from online streaming.

I’m seriously on the way to cutting the cord completely. The only reason I haven’t is that I live in a condo and have yet to find an indoor antenna that will reliably pick up the local channels that I want. I have tried several antennas, but no luck. So, rather than a cord cutter, I am currently a cord trimmer. I kept the very basic cable TV package (around $14 per month) just to have reliable signals for the local stuff. I have no plans to go back unless the cable companies see the light and start offering the ability to create my own package (as in a la carte).

This got me to thinking about going completely online AND mobile. Could I create something resembling a cable TV package that was completely online and that could travel with me (unlike those cable company apps that tie you to your home router)? I decided to give it a go as I have no cable outlet in my office (everything is wireless) and wanted to be able to have some TV while I work. Continue reading

Review: Time Warner Cable TV iPad App

By Richard V. Burckhardt

Being a Time Warner Cable TV subscriber, I naturally snagged the new TWC iPad app to try out immediately on release. As someone considering cutting the cord at some point, I wanted to see what my cable company might have up its sleeve to entice me to stay on board.

Installing the app was, not surprisingly, a snap, as is usually the case with iPad apps from the Apple app store. Once installed, I had to go to a web site and register as a Time Warner Cable subscriber. The darned thing wanted my account number, which was a pain, because I am enrolled in auto-payment, so I haven’t seen an actual bill in over three years. I had no idea what my account number might be. So, off to the local TWC web site and a quick chat session with a rep, who quickly and easily provided that info.

Time Warner Cable iPad app logo

A sharp looking Time Warner Cable logo in the iPad app.

Once registered, I simply logged in with the app and was presented with a very sharp looking TWC logo and then the picture from a channel with a channel overlay covering the left side of the screen. Continue reading

Web TV: Roku XD/S, Boxee Client & LG BD590 Blu-ray

By Richard V. Burckhardt

OK, had a chance to play with the Roku XD/S player, the Boxee client software and the LG BD590 Blu-ray Disc player with Netcast net apps for quite a while and here are some observations about my Internet TV viewing experiences with all three.

Roku XD/S menu

The Roku XD/S menu scrolls left to right and includes banner ads.

Roku XD/S

The Roku XDS Streaming Playeris the current top of the line Roku box and includes 1080 HD, enhanced remote, wireless, component video and a USB port for playing media. It’s a tiny, hardly noticeable box that is easy to hook up and use.

The remote is as simple as it gets – extremely small with very few buttons.

As with most streaming options these days, Netflix is among the first and foremost on the list of available services.

When you open the Netflix app, you are presented with your Watch Instantly queue. You also have the option to search the Netflix library, but it is a painful process with the tiny remote and on-screen keyboard, not QWERTY, but an alphabet to click on. Agony! Better to pull out the PC and make choices from there. Continue reading

When Syfy isn’t Enough Sci-Fi, Go Online

By Richard V. Burckhardt

I remember when The Sci-Fi Channel was announced in 1991. I was in geek heaven at the thought of a channel devoted completely to science fiction. My excitement was dashed somewhat when I was informed that the local cable company in Houston, where I lived at the time, wasn’t going to pick it up when it launched.

I’m stubborn and decided that I would find a way to get my sci-fi fix, regardless of the idiots at the cable company. At that time, the only satellite service available was through a huge 10-foot dish, which I purchased and installed in my backyard where neighbors wouldn’t complain. I locked into the channel weeks before it launched when they just had some weird graphics displaying and no programming.

One of the things I absolutely loved about the satellite TV service at the time was the ability to buy channels a la carte. I bought a basic package and could add individual channels as I desired. It was fantastic, not like the garbage I pay a fortune for in bulk these days in a cable package with no options and 90% channels that I have no interest in. But, this rant is for another post. ;-)

When The Sci-Fi Channel launched, I was in absolute ecstasy. The channel lineup was mostly classic shows like Lost in Space, Dark Shadows, Dr. Who and the original Battlestar Galactica, along with old movies in the sci-fi and horror genres, but it absolutely filled the bill for this sci-fi geek. Continue reading