What I’m Watching and How I’m Watching It

Last updated Monday, February 22, 2010 @ 1:42PM Pacific

What I’m Watching

I’m still watching a mixture of streams and downloads, but every month streaming gets easier and the selection grows so the number of shows I’m forced to download decreases. It may eventually reach zero.

How I’m Watching It

Attached to a TV, I have: a Mac mini, a DVD Player, and a 7.1 Channel A/V Receiver. I control the system with the Apple Remote and with two iPhones.

The mini runs OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Installed is Flash, Silverlight, and Perian.

For streams I use Boxee to find and to watch. For downloads I use Automatic and Transmission to download and Boxee to watch. Yes, I watch both my streams and my downloads in Boxee. I can sit on the sofa and use either the Apple Remote or the Boxee Remote app for my iPhone to control it.

For the few stubborn files that Boxee or Quicktime Player won’t play I keep VLC on the hard drive and control it (and the built in apps: Front Row, DVD Player, and Quicktime Player) with Rowmote on my iPhone.

I put DVDs on my iPhone by ripping with RipIt, converting with Handbrake, and tagging with Parsley Is Atomically Delicious. The tagging part is optional (and can be done in iTunes after importing without the need for an additional app) but doing it before the import is MUCH faster if you have a large iTunes library like I do.

iTunes holds all my music and anything I want on my iPhone (ringtones, podcasts, Apps, and Movies/TV in “iPhone” format). I cleaned every bit of music that gets added with TuneUp, and will occasionally pad my library with PandoraJam. When I do listen to music at home, I use Apple’s Remote iPhone App to control it.

Once in a blue moon I want a YouTube video on my iPhone, and Evom makes it simple.

The Road Here

Before Boxee, I used Plex. In some ways Plex is actually superior to Boxee, but (as of today) Boxee wins the interface contest and ease-of-use is my ultimate goal.

Before pairing Automatic with Transmission, I used TVShows with Transmission, but it hasn’t been updated in so long it’s become useless. I also tried Miro and TED for downloading TV. They have great user-friendly interfaces but I find them bloated and unstable. Your milage may vary. I’ll be checking on the as they continue to develop.

Before RipIt! I used MacTheRipper, but the app is an outdated non-Intel Mac app and the Intel version is 250% more expensive than RipIt! and the developer makes you jump through hoops to get it. No thanks. Fairmount seems to be a decent free alternative to RipIt!, but I find the paid solution to be more reliable.

Don’t bother getting Hulu Desktop. I have a feeling that (like the Joost app) it won’t be sticking around.

That’s a Lot to Absorb

Start simple. Check out Clicker.com and get clicking.

Anywhere else?

There’s a List of Links on every page here @ Replace Television —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —> —>


10 comments so far

  1. Consetta on

    Thanks for offering your experience with tv online, I really appreciate the blogroll links.. My husband and I are looking at stopping our cable bill… so we are currently getting info about the subject and you have become a good source for us thanks again, so no you are not just shooting in the dark.

  2. Consetta on

    So with social living are you able to program and select your shows? Have you switched to watching tv on your big plasma or are you still watching your shows on your PC… I am looking at watching tv via online but use my current HDTV to watch the shows do you have any suggestions?? Thank you again for all your help…

  3. Milissa E on

    I am moving soon and don’t want to buy a TV. I already have a computer so I am trying to figure out the best way to watch tv shows from it.

    Thanks for your site. I can’t wait to learn!!

  4. Neurotic Nomad on


    I haven’t figured out the Living Social thingee yet. I can add shows, which kinda gives it a clue to my taste, but every recommended person it gives me is behind the Facebook Firewall.

    I don’t want to have to join Facebook or (shudder!) MySpace to connect with like-minded people.


    I’m stumped as to what to write. The landscape is changing so fast, I only have time to link to articles I’ve read – and often days after they were written. Researching ANY topic takes time and I don’t know which detail needs explaining most.

    What should be my top priority? The Boxee/Hulu fight? New iPhone Apps? How-To manuals? More links?

  5. techydude on

    ey Nomad, saw your comment on my blog (i see your pain!), & just read your ‘about’ – what an interesting dive into the deep end you’re trying!

    am curious why you’re cutting off even free broadcast options (sat & free-to-air)? i’ve just bought one of the new Mac Mini’s to be a media centre, & hope to get Elgato eyeTV setup as a DVR shortly. whilst i concede most of what’s on is probably as schlop there as it is here, there’s still plenty of gems – but i just can’t bring myself to watch TV to anyone else’s commercially motivated schedule, so the DVR seems an obvious choice?

    (& lowers bandwidth use – i hope you’re not on Comcast 250GB limit!? spare a thought for us Aussies who literally pay by the GB one way or the other – it WILL happen for you guys too no matter how much most of you are in denial about it having lived for understandable reasons under a different commercial reality, but one which is changing (it’s already started obviously with Comcast), tho obviously not at anywhere near the $rate as us (& other nonUS countries), we have those long submarine chords under the sea to pay for with too little competition there 😦 ).

    am looking forward to catching up on your posts! great work, & a damn fun read so far!

  6. Neurotic Nomad on


    I gave up free-over-the air because I really wanted to stress-test the internet. I didn’t want to see if it was “kinda” ready or “mostly” ready. I wanted to give it every opportunity to fail.

    My ban on over-the-air content ends on July 1. From where I sit today, adding broadcast to my setup would actually get me some shows faster but I’ve proven it’s not *necessary*.

    As for the inevitability of data caps and data metering: I’m not so sure. It would actually take a concerted effort by all the major players. If even ONE of them delays adding a bandwidth cap then market forces make having a cap a liability.

    The inertia of the American populous is a double-edged sword and I’ve been watching data speeds grow and rates drop for twenty years. Every year someone tells me that the rates are going to go up again and unlimited access is about to end. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Glad you’re enjoying reading my posts. If you think this site is silly, check out my other blogs. This one is my “serious” one.

    Thanks for commenting.

  7. techydude on

    ‘mornin Nomad,
    re: no free-to-air/DVR, understood.

    re: bandwidth caps, understood. however even in the 2 weeks since i commented above, there’s been news of even more severe caps on some of the other ISPs than Comcast’s 250GB, so severe i think they’ve even shocked us aussies!

    i understand what you’re saying, but i think there’s an almost-perfect-storm as to why bandwidth caps might go mainstream in the USA now, & not any time previously.

    #1 is of course the global economic meltdown, which is pressuring business like never before. (glad i don’t have newspaper shares!)

    #2 is the lack of competition you guys (in many various locales) moan about all the time, where in some places there’s only 1 ISP in town. there’s a reason for that…

    bits of data delivered to your front door aren’t and never have been free, not in the way often touted that, “if i’ve paid for the cable into the house, and pay some nominal monthly $ for a certain speed, then it shouldn’t matter how many bits are delivered to me”.

    it’s only because that is the business model adopted virtually across the board in the USA that this myth has come about. that business model worked back in the day when most of the data resided in the USA, but moreso when ISPs bandwidth growth curves were flatter (or at least less exponential) and thus more predictable & able to have capital expenditure to cater to that bandwidth growth accounted for.

    so #3: when it comes to what the masses are doing, video over the internet changed all that. it consumes 10x more bandwidth than anything that came before it (eg music). as more people like us jump in the ‘IPTV’ bandwagon, video download bandwidth skyrockets (legal or illegal/P2P, doesn’t matter), ISPs bandwidth consumption vs. time curves have gone exponential.

    #4: add to that the ridiculous size of operating system & application patch downloads, being automatically delivered to most users. service packs for Windows & Mac OS X are now in the several hundreds of Mbytes – delivered to almost EVERY computer across the planet.

    obviously that has to be catered for in all of that hidden infrastructure that Joe Consumer doesn’t see or think about. but it *does* cost money.

    and there’s the rub. there is NO NEW MONEY to pay for that exponential growth! you’re all still paying a flat fee based on the speed of your connection, not the quantity of data it carries.

    what entrepreneurial ISP wanting to offer competition in a locale that has none is gonna find that scenario viable/attractive? they answer is very few, as Americans keep telling us 🙂

    the answer? pay by the bit.

    the Net Neutrality debarcle is/was an American-only problem, as stated in so many words by the heads of 3 of Australia’s larger ISPs:


    ignore for a moment the ‘horror stories’ that sometimes get quoted as to how much countries like Australia pay per GB in dollar terms (as i mentioned, most of that is a lack of competition in the submarine-cable backhaul heading downunder), the point is that the numbers settle to realistic minimal levels in any given market *so long as there’s competition*.

    when you charge your customers by the GB, there’s no need to be afraid of them like a growing number of American domestic ISPs now are.

    yes, you are and will continue to squeal like stuck pigs :), understandably so, because you’ve been duped into believing a fallacy, that data is free. it isn’t, it never was. but the factors that allowed it to be hidden from you have changed.

  8. Neurotic Nomad on


    #1: “The Economy” is the trading of labor for goods, services, or promissory notes that can be traded for goods, services or labor.

    It is a fallacy to believe that if all the current providers of a certain good or service were to stop providing that good or service that NO ONE would replace them.

    To the ISPs out there: If you can’t figure out how to provide unlimited access for a flat rate, don’t be surprised when someone else can. Consumers look out for themselves and don’t care one iota about your business’ profits.

    #2: The lack of competition of internet service in the USA is an accident of history caused by the limitations of 20th century data transmission technology.

    Wires were/are so expensive to lay down that entering the market was not economically feasible in the 80s and 90s.

    With the retiring of the NTSC spectrum and the build-up of CDMA, GSM, WiMAX, LTE, and other wireless solutions I think that the landscape is going to get MORE competitive before the current monopoly holders can force unwanted changes to bandwidth access agreements on its customers.

    Witness how quickly Time-Warner has reversed it’s plans and witness also how it’s quick reversal was still not enough to quiet the uproar.


    #3 & #4:

    I happened to work at Texas’ largest independent ISP in the early/mid-1990s, and was part of the team than connected the MAE West backbone across the South when the internet first started “going commercial”.

    “Infrastructure” is a fancy way of saying “wires”. Whether metal or fiber, a cable is just a conduit for a wave. The wave is interpreted as a signal. Total bandwidth is determined by the efficiency of the protocol and the integrity of the signal.

    That’s how you can get 6-20Mb/s out of a 20 year old cable originally rated for 2Mb/s.

    [NOTE: The following is a gross over-simplification. Also, I paint all ISP business and service models with a wide brush. Inaccuracy is inherent. Also, it’s really late and I may have some of my facts mixed-up. Feel free to correct me.]

    The cable and telephone companies have been milking the system too long – investing on ever-more efficient protocols and better routers at the endpoints and avoiding real infrastructure upgrades by using buzzwords like “dark fiber” and “last mile” to distract from the fact that their business model is to minimize operating costs and maximize customer rates.

    Changing by the bit only makes sense if you buy into the illusion that they are transporting bits. They aren’t. They are broadcasting a wide spectrum of waves over a conduit AT A “CONSTANT” LEVEL. The signal switches from “blank checksums” to data when you initiate a data transfer (a la “pull up a web page”) .

    The 1s and 0s are in constant motion, not just when you’re uploading and downloading.

    The network is getting congested because more devices are being connected to it AT ANY GIVEN MINUTE OF THE DAY, not (just) because we’re taxing the network with heavier data transfers. (This is not to say that data transfers have no effect on network congestion – it’s just not the sole contributer as they would have you believe. Plus every boost in protocol efficiency allows more bits to be crammed into each second of wave transmission.)

    However… thanks to the genius of the IP protocol, every node on the internet is a potential router. Of course, allowing end-users to become part of the infrastructure would devalue their top-down approach. (Very similar to how electricity is generated and sold.)

    Here’s a dirty little secret: If you go far enough upstream, not only is network access not charged by the bit, at that level it’s not even calculated in that metric. It’s about spectrum and routing agreements.

    ISPs don’t pay backbone providers by the bit. They pay for the average spectrum alloted during a 24-hour time period. 99% of the time, it’s a fixed rate. (in other words, “unlimited for one price”) They then oversell the spectrum (like a gym oversells memberships, assuming that most people won’t be using it most of the time) and keep the profits (rather than re-investing some of it in more wires).

    #5: Net Neutrality is not a US-only problem. If allowed to shape traffic based on content (or by the bill the sender/reciever of the data packet paid), it creates an artificial slow lane and allows the makers of this digital ghetto to sell un-impeded traffic as “high-speed” and in no way guarantees an interest in investing in the future any more than they historically have.

    #6: You are right, data isn’t free – but it doesn’t come by the bite, no matter how many salesman try to package it that way.

    And, like musicians can now route around the RIAA – ISPs may learn the hard way that ad hoc networking and spectrum sharing could route around them if they don’t protect their turf. Why do you think the major internet providers are trying to stop white-space data routers? Why do you think Verizon first tried to get Google banned from bidding in the spectrum auction – then had the rules changed to prevent a “free internet”?

    The internet is just a network. It’s computers talking to one another. The idea that these middlemen are even necessary is more inertia than reality. It’s not realistic to believe that we’re all going to disconnect from the big bandwidth providers and just connect to each other all in one day, but the idea that the current middlemen aren’t replaceable is just boardroom fantasy.

    Like I said earlier: If you can’t figure out how to provide unlimited access for a flat rate, don’t be surprised when someone else can.

  9. craigevans on

    You sir…are a genius…an absolute genius!!! This is the future of viewing!!!

  10. Bob on

    I checked the last choice in your poll, but it didn’t really apply. You should add a 6th choice:

    “Yes, I cut the cable and am getting all my TV/Entertainment either free over the air, with Netflix(mail and streaming), or from the Internet.”

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