Decabling your life – getting your Entertainment for free on the Internet

Some of my relatives spend $1500 on cable tv a year.  I watch more DVDs than cable tv so spending that much seems crazy.  But, I understand that it’s nice to watch a nice show or movie at times.  I do it also.  I rarely turn on cable tv so much so that I have no idea what’s on and the digital guide isn’t really helpful.  Even with the name of the show or movie and a one sentence description I don’t know if I’ll really like it.

So, I started over time to get my entertainment on the Internet.  It has come to the point that I may get rid of the basic cable tv I have right now and just have the Internet access.  I wanted to share with you the resources I use to get almost everything (legally) that you probably already watch on cable tv or even regular tv.

Music/Podcasts

For music I’m a big iTunes/iPod fan.  With podcasts I can get a ton of great (and not so great) content for free.

A podcast is a series of audio or video digital files which is distributed over the Internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable players and personal computers.

I love podcasts because you can time shift when you listen/watch them.  When a new podcast from my favorite Space Music podcast comes out it shows up in iTunes and I listen to it.  I can even synch it to my iPod and take it with me.  I’ve been listening to a 1950’s radio program called X minus 1 a great science fiction radio program also.  Great fun.

To stream music over the internet much like listening to radio I also use iTunes but I highly recommend Pandora as it allows you to customize your stations.  Although the built-in stations in Pandora are excellent.  I used Pandora over the holidays to stream holiday music while we were wrapping presents and enjoying the spirit of giving.  We especially liked the Jazz Holidays and Pop Holidays stations as we got enough of the regular Holiday music in the stores.

Side note, you can purchase digital MP3 files from Amazon.com usually for a $1 less than iTunes and they import directly into your iTunes.

University Courses

iTunes also has iTunesU where you can download audio from various university subjects.  Some of them from very well know Universities like University of Cambridge, Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, Yale, etc.  They have audios/videos on language, business, physics, spirtuality, etc.  Some great free courses.  Check out my past blog post iTunes Online Training.

TV Shows and Movies

For tv shows and movies I’ve been enjoying Hulu which is a legal website that puts in 4 little 30 second commercials in a tv program.  You can get the same content on iTunes but it’ll cost you nearly $3 an episode.  A few weeks ago I wanted to relax and watch some science fiction but didn’t have anything.  So I went to Hulu and looked at their science fiction channel and found a show named Fringe.  I’ve watched the first five episodes and can watch the rest anytime I want and with the new query functionality you can keep a list of videos (shows, movies and clips) you want to watch.  Many shows are doing this now.  One of my girlfriend’s daughters loves the Simpsons so last night I told her that Hula has the last four episodes of the current season up all the time.  She promptly watched as many as she could before going to bed.

You can also buy and download tv shows and movies using iTunes.  Plus you can rent movies.  Purchasing tv shows doesn’t make sense to me since I am only going to watch it once and it takes up a ton of space on your hard drive.  I can understand renting a movie because at $4 it’s very close to the price of a traditional video rental store.  If you rent a lot of DVD’s I would suggest NetFlix.com as it’ll cost less for you and they have a download rental option that I hear is very good.

Up on the big screen

You can also use a media center to get your online content up on your big screen tv.  There are many options for having a media center as it is basically a computer with high end video.

  • Apple TV redefines what your TV can do.  Rent HD movies. Buy HD TV shows. Listen to your iTunes music. Watch podcasts. Even show off your photos.  Anything on iTunes you can listen or watch on your big screen.
  • Another alternative to Apple TV is MythTV.  MythTV is a free Linux application which turns a computer with the necessary hardware into a network streaming digital video recorder, a digital multimedia home entertainment system, or Home Theater Personal Computer. It can be considered as a free and open source alternative to Tivo or Windows Media Center.
  • Windows Media Center is the Microsoft version.

I haven’t made the move to a media center yet but I’m looking into it.

With the time shifting and the much better ability to search for content I like getting my entertainment more from the Internet than from cable tv.