An Update on How I’m Watching TV
As you hopefully know by now, because I can’t get cable service in my rural neighborhood, I rely on streaming video for virtually all of my TV and movie watching interests. I can get some free broadcast channels thanks to Boxee’s live TV dongle, but that often varies depending on which way the wind is blowing. (Seriously.)
Anyway, I got out of the habit of watching live TV during the years that I had a Comcast DVR box in my living room. If there’s breaking news, I’ll tune in – otherwise, I tend to watch TV at least a day after it airs.
During my time without the cord, I’ve noticed another shift in my viewing habits. These days, when I’m watching TV I’m often not actually in front of the TV.
Instead, I watch (more like listen) while tackling boring household projects, like cleaning up after myself in the kitchen and folding laundry. This works out to be a pretty good deal for me, because I end up with clean clothes and dishes in addition to NOT spending that time sitting on the couch.
I started out playing video on my laptop, which is inconvenient to haul around but allows me to access any conceivable source of OTT content. Over the past few months, I’ve switched over to primarily using my iPad to catch up on TV.
The iPad is almost an ideal portable OTT device, but for just a few problems: its built-in speaker can barely be heard over a dishwasher, it has no access to Amazon Prime, and it doesn’t have Flash support for playing web video.
The first problem is easily remedied with a portable speaker – I’m a big fan of the Jawbone Jambox, a sturdy little speaker that connects via Bluetooth, and is in near-constant use in my house. (And it works as a speakerphone, too.)
As for the lack of a Flash player and Amazon content, for me it’s just not worth the difference in counter space between my laptop and an iPad. Between Netflix and Hulu Plus, I usually find plenty to watch.
Plus, collect3’s Video Stream app ($1.99 in the iTunes app store) gives the iPad (or your iPhone) file support that rivals Boxee’s, so it can play virtually any video file you own that isn’t DRM-protected (you will need to install the server app on your computer first, though.)
The Video Stream app has a pretty slick user interface, and with a long-press of your finger on any video thumbnail you can download and convert video on the fly. But if you’re converting videos for iTunes so you can stream them to your AppleTV via AirPlay, don’t bother – Video Stream does that too, and does it quite well from what we’ve seen. My sole complaint about Video Stream on the iPad is that the app crashes on occasion, and when it does it’s not able to resume the video you were watching.
I lost access to the cord by moving to the farm at about the same time cable operators began rolling out iPad apps as part of the TV Everywhere initiative. My experience during this time was more like “TV everywhere but on the TV, because I don’t feel like hooking the laptop up to it.”
Before long I discovered OTT streaming players like Roku and Google TV, which brought the living room experience back to the TV. But my short immersion with my makeshift version of TV Everywhere got me hooked on watching TV in other rooms, and now I can’t imagine cleaning out my closet without being able to simultaneously marathon-watch episodes of the reality show Hoarders.
We have Comcast service in the lab, so I’m still able to stay up on the latest cord-related technology even if I can’t get it at my house. A few months ago we got the AnyPlay service, which gives us access to the full range of live channels on the iPad (only within range of the Wi-Fi router, connected to the AnyPlay box, of course) in addition to the usual Xfinity On Demand content.
A few issues are cropping up with AnyPlay – no one is immune — but after spending some time with tech support over the last few days, it appears that the culprit is the WiFi, which in this case sources from an Apple Time Capsule.
The symptom: Constant notifications that the iPad is too far from Wi-Fi, with a suggestion to please move closer. We put the dang thing right on top of the Time Capsule – same result. Time for a new WiFi router, and yes, it will be IPv6. (Will keep you posted on that.)
And although I always have more than enough content to watch, I think it bears repeating that the cord-cutting experience is still a long ways off from pay TV in terms of just being able to tune in and watch, and I sometimes miss having cable. With all the content spread out across different services, finding something to watch can be a chore – especially when you just feel like sitting slack-jawed in front of the TV for a while.