Ditching Dish

Writen by: Hank Wethington

Posted on 08 December 2010

So, it’s been about 2 months since we removed Dish from the house and we didn’t replace it with cable or DirecTV. Instead, we moved to an internet only solution. It’s taken some time, but all in all, we’re pretty happy. Not only has our monthly bills gone down (Dish was almost $70/month), but we watch a ton less commercials, and a ton less garbage. There are 2 main issues so far; 1) little to no live sports. NFL, NBA, UFC… 2) Constant upkeep.

First let me layout the setup.

  • Vizio HDTV: 2 HDMI, 1 RGB/VGA, 2 Composite, 2 Component
  • XBox 360: Component connection 1
  • Wii: Component connection 2
  • MacMini (2.26GHz, 4GB): RGB/VGA connection
  • All sound to Yamaha 5.1 DTS capable Pre-amp.

The important thing here are the MacMini, all the rest can be edited to your liking/setup.

So how does having a MacMini let us watch TV? Well, on the Mac, we’re using Plex! Plex is a Home Theater Media PC (HTPC) interface. Simple to control via a remote (mac remote works great), many audio and video plugins, and a media manager that just keeps getting better. All my DVD’s, UFC’s and downloaded content is stored on an external USB drive. Plex not only makes all the content available, it utilizes the interwebs to provide meta data about the content, including images and music.

The plugins allow me to watch the shows I want to watch via CBS.com, Hulu.com, ESPN3.com, ComedyCentral.com. This way, we never miss an episode of The Daily Show! For those few items that aren’t avail, I utilize bit torrents to grab the show and add it to my library. And that’s where the work starts.

See, even though I utilize an RSS Feed scanner to grab shows, sometimes, things don’t work perfectly. Also, Plex is still in beta and is often updated. I also use a program called transpRAR to automatically make RAR’d files available to the media manager without having to uncompress them. All these things work together to keep me involved on a daily basis. Something I didn’t have to do with Dish. Even this level of involvement isn’t the worst part.

The worst part of this setup is the professional sports leagues. None of the sports leagues are making it easy to watch their content on the internet. The NFL is just a blank. Unless you’re a DirecTV Sunday Ticket sbscriber, you’re out of luck! That’s $220 on top of your normal DirecTV bill. The NBA offers the ability to watch some games using League Pass… those that aren’t blacked out or nationally televised. As a Lakers fan, I’m pretty much screwed. The UFC does makes fights available, even in HD. I haven’t tried it yet, but the costs are higher than a fight available on Dish/Direct/cable.

I hope, someday, the professional sports leagues will “get it” and start making content available, but until then, I’ll spend time with friends watching the important games.

Have you made the switch? What have you done to solve some of the issues? What is your setup?

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