Monday, February 09, 2009

shiny shiny

I love television, and I'm not afraid to say so. Even though I haven't subscribed to cable tv for a couple of years, I keep up with several shows by watching online. At first, I went to various network websites and streamed shows there. Then almost two years ago already (!), Hulu (owned by NBC) came along and made life so much easier because they have content from more than just NBC shows. I really like the interface and the way the subscriptions work and automatically queue up your shows for you, but not everything I'd watch is available on the site.

Sometime last fall, I discovered Fancast (owned by Comcast), which includes some shows from networks that don't partner with Hulu. The subscriptions aren't as slick, and I don't like the interface quite as much, especially the way not all the content is fully embedded in the site. To watch WB and ABC shows, you get kicked out into the network site, and a new window spawns. I don't much care for this arrangement, frankly. Hulu links out to other sites, too, but they make it more clear that the content isn't actually on their site. However, it's easier to watch HIMYM there than on CBS's horrid site, so I continue to patronize Fancast.

Just the other day, I learned about the latest entry in the streaming tv portal race. It's Sling, which is still in beta. So far, I like it. For one, it's a little more social than Fancast, which isn't at all, or Hulu, which allows comments on show and individual episode pages. Sling also has a blog, which is written byTara Ariano, whose own blog I linked to a couple of sentences ago. Ariano was a founder of TWOP, and other sites I've enjoyed through the years, and she both writes well and knows television well. The quality of the video is really good, and you can subscribe to shows and have them added to your profile automagically, which I love.

All of this brings me to another weakness I have: technolust. Another interesting thing about Sling is the Slingbox ($179.99 and up) they have available. It's basically the same idea as the Netflix Roku ($99 and up)--it allows you to stream television shows/movies on your tv. Now I'm torn. Eventually, I'm sure there will be some miraculous and cheap invention that combines a Tivo/DVR and a box that will stream anything from any site. You can stream Netflix (not sure about other web content) on a Tivo HD, but they're $399 and I already own and no longer use two Tivos that are in perfect working order. Apple is hawking its Apple TV ($229 and up) which could do all of this, sans DVR option. I know people who use a Mac mini ($599 and up) or a Windows box for this very thing. These options add in the amazing Roku SoundBridge features, letting you stream internet radio and your iTunes, too. Bliss.

I'm definitely too cheap to invest much in anything like this right now. I'm also not shelling out for an HD tv or cable, but I am thinking of getting an HD converter and a digital antenna to see if I can get some over-the-air channels. If that works, I'll reconnect the Tivo and see if there's a way to hook up my Windows box, too. There aren't many connectors on the tv, so this may not work. Of course, I'm still focused on getting my Ubuntu laptop to work with wireless (ethernet is a go, though), so my skillz might not be quite as sharp as they need to be. It makes me think, though, about how to use what I have and sort of jury-rig together a solution that works without buying a ton of new electronics.

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