How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 2: Downloads
[Continued from How To… Part 1: Streaming]
Streaming isn’t perfect. If my wife is streaming Hart to Hart from Hulu, I’d better not be surfing YouTube on the laptop. If she was watching Fringe (which we download) I’d be fine.
Also, if the weather’s bad, the internet gets slow. That means lots of paused streams and filling buffers. Downloading your show in advance and watching it from your hard drive requires pre-planning, but your efforts will be richly rewarded.
Downloading allows for higher resolution, multi-channel surround, and the possibility of taking it with you on a gadget.
Like Streaming, there are both paid and free options. Also like Streaming, free comes in official and grey-market sources.
Six months ago, there was a small selection of places to buy TV shows that I might have cautiously recommended. Today there is only one: iTunes. It’s pricy, but reliable. That’s the only reason it exists at all. Most video stores have shut down (and the few that still exist are focused more on movies than on television).
Reliability is a big deal. Customers that were unlucky enough to buy video from a store that shut down found that their “purchases” weren’t purchases at all – merely licenses that got revoked when the company shut down the server that unlocked your video whenever the next verification was due. DRM (Corporate-speak for “Copy Protection”) may be dying for music sales, but it’s alive and well on television and movie sales. There isn’t a killer gadget or a killer store to strong-arm the networks into giving up on DRM.
Until that time, most internet downloaders are sticking to original content, or just pirating the good stuff.
Free Downloads: Original Content
Podcasts. Holy Cow, podcasts. This one deserves it’s own post.
Free Downloads: The Good Stuff
Arrrg! Mateys! We have a pirate wannabe! Well, I have a disclaimer for you: No TV network condones file trading. If you are trading a file of a TV network show then you are a pirate. And you know how the industry feels about pirates. If you want to risk it, here’s how:
File trading methods come and go. The flavor of the week is currently Bittorrent. Bittorrent works like a treasure map and magic compass. The .torrent file is the map, and your bittorrent client (software) is the magic compass that finds the thing you’re looking for (treasure). There is a .torrent file on the internet for every episode of every season of practically every show ever. Find the .torrent file, and find the show.
You can set it up to do it all automatically.
TV Torrents on a Mac is as simple as P.T.T.
1. Perian.org – This Quicktime plug-in will allow your Mac to play your downloads with the native Quicktime Player and Front Row media center software.
2. Download Transmission. This is your magic compass. Set it to launch on startup, listen for .torrents (maps) in your Download folder, and to drop files (treasure) into your Movies folder.
3. Download ted. This is your map finder. Set it to launch on startup and to drop .torrent files (maps) in your Download folder as they become available. Add some shows.
That’s it. You’re done. Tomorrow there will be shows in your Movies folder.
[NOTE: I will include a Windows version if/when I get my trusty Dell to boot again.]
Searching manually is great for Barbara Walter’s Specials, TV Movies, and new DVDs that’s you’re too impatient to wait for Netflix to deliver. Manual Searching is also a good skill to have in case the automated way skips an episode or two because you forgot to boot up the computer for two weeks or ted thinks a new season started when it hasn’t.
When you bittorrent, you need to know EXACTLY what episode you’re looking for so you know which .torrent file to use as your map. Start by visiting the encyclopedia of TV titles: epguides.com.
Epguides makes it easy to remember that the last episode of The Middleman I saw was the one where they had to go on a boat to keep cursed musical instrument from killing Titanic aficionados. I also found out that it was called “The Cursed Tuba Contingency” and (most importantly) it was Season 1, Episode 7.
On your Widescreen and In Your Pocket
Downloading holds many advantages over streaming, the biggest advantage being portability. You are no longer tied to a web browser. My wife got an iPhone for Christmas.
The primary reason for the purchase was Google Maps, with Mobile Safari a very close second; however, I know my wife. As soon as TV Junkie #2 catches a few episodes while waiting for the bus… I’ll be loading her iPhone with television. Luckily, I’m prepared.
[To be continued in How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 3: On your Widescreen and In Your Pocket]