Archive for the ‘General’ Category

How I got rid of cable TV

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

First a little background: My wife and I were paying $180 per month to the cable company, which included phone, internet and a basic television package… yes, one of the infamous ‘bundles’!  It all started by signing up for one of the alluring ‘everything for $99′ deals… fast forward a year (when the introductory rate had expired) and bill started slowly creeping up each month, strange fees started appearing and after years of calling them to negotiate better rates, I just couldn’t take it anymore!

I kept reading more and more about so called ‘cord cutters’ so a few months ago I decided to take the plunge.  With my new setup (which I’ll outline below),  I can watch almost all of the shows I used to watch with cable television and tons of content I never had access to before, at a fraction of the cost.

Prerequisites:

  1. For the setup I’m going to describe, you’ll still need high-speed internet and for me the best option was my cable company (one way or another they find a way to take your money).  Other options include fiber providers like AT&T Uverse or Verizon Fios, but no matter which one you go, this will run you about $45-65 per month (mine was about $60).  If this is already over your monthly budget, see my Cheapo Alternative at the bottom.
  2. If your high speed internet modem doesn’t include a wi-fi router you’ll need one of those too.  Fortunately mine did, but if not you can find these pretty cheap at Best Buy or similar stores.

Replacing Cable TV:

  1. The most important purchase you’ll make for this setup, the Roku box.  I decided to go with the Roku 2 XD model because of its wi-fi support, but it looks like they’ve recently released the Roku 3.  Without making any more purchases this will give you a ton of free content in the form of hundreds of ‘Roku Channels’ including popular services like Pandora and Crackle.  This is a one time cost of about $70, and zero monthly fees.
  2. OK, so now you have a bunch of free music/shows/movies but probably not exactly what you had in mind.  So the next step for me was to sign up for both Netflix and Hulu Plus.  Roku has channels for both.  Netflix is amazing for everything that’s more than a season or two old.  This is what you’ll use to catch up on shows/seasons you’ve missed (e.g. they have the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, but not the latest).  As another example, I’m a big sci-fi fan and Netflix has every episode of every Star-Trek series… I know… awesome.  You can also use their mobile app to stream content when you’re out of the house.  So Netflix doesn’t have the latest shows/seasons, does this mean you have to wait a year to see the next season of your favorite shows?  No, this is where Hulu Plus comes in.  Hulu is pretty much the only place to find current shows/seasons that will stream to Roku or other set top boxes.  Monthly cost, $16 ($8 each for Netflix/Hulu).
  3. You’re in pretty good shape now… you’ve got current shows, can catch up on older seasons/shows and have a bunch of other content, but what about live news, weather and sports?  Roku has some channels for all of these but the content is either out of date and/or costs additional money.  Enter the Mohu Leaf!  This indoor antenna is about the size of a piece of paper and almost as thin.   The number/quality of channels you get will depend on how close you live to the television stations.  I live about 30 miles away from most of them and I was able to pull in 14 channels including most of the major network channels (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc), plus local news and weather, most of which are in 1080p HD!  The best part is the one time purchase of about $40 and no monthly cost.
  4. At this point you’ve got pretty much everything you’ll need, but if you still don’t have everything, read on.  DISCLAIMER: I don’t condone torrenting and the following information can be used to stream any media, not just illegally downloaded material.  Roku has a channel for Plex media server which allows you to stream any video/audio content from your PC or home media server to your TV.  This is a great feature to have if you have a bunch of content sitting on your PC that you’d like to watch without sitting hunched over your computer.  Cost $0.
  5. So now you’ve got everything TV-related covered, but what about phone service?  Most people will decide to just use their cell phones, but my wife likes the idea of having a home phone so I signed up for Magic Jack Plus.  The ‘plus’ version doesn’t require a computer and you just plug one end into your router and one end into your portable phone and you are good to go, not to mention the call quality is pretty good.  The device has a one time cost of about $70 with the first year of service included and every year after running about $30 which comes to less than $3 per month (about $20 less than most VOIP services).

The Cheapo Alternative:

If the setup above sounds too expensive and/or complicated and all you need is basic television (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc) and you live less than 50 miles from these major television stations, see #5 above.  You can watch the news, weather, sports and quite a few popular network shows and save a bundle on your monthly costs.

Summary:

If you take the time to add up everything above, you’ll see that I’m saving almost $100 a month and I’ve recouped all of my initial costs in only a month or two.  If you don’t need everything I mentioned above you may be able to save even more money.  I hope this post helps you decide to take the plunge like I did.  When you see the extra hundo in your pocket each month, you wont regret it.

My Saturn Doesn’t Start When Its Cold (or Hot)

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

About a year ago (right after the warranty ran out on my Saturn) I went out to my car… put the key in… turned it… nothing.  I’m a fairly mechanical guy and it was a cold day so my gut told me that it was the battery (or so I thought at the time).  I got out the charger, hooked it up and waited.  After about 10 minutes, I turned the key again and voila!  The car started.

After this happened a few times I replaced the battery.  To my surprise, the problem persisted, and not only that, but I started realizing that it only happens when its cold!  I checked over all of the power connections and everything looked good, so I turned to the All Knowing… Google!

I searched a bit and found out the real problem.  Apparently there is what I consider a design flaw in the anti-theft system.  The ignition measures the resistance of the key and if it doesn’t match the resistance that it was calibrated to then it triggers the anti-theft system and you can’t even attempt to start the car for another 10 minutes… yikes!  In extreme cold (or heat), the resistance of the key/ignition changes and the security system thinks that you are a thief!  I took the car to Saturn and they told me that it would cost some hundreds of dollars and I refused!  This isn’t just any abnormal malfunction!  From reading the amount of people that has this problem on the internet this is a problem that GM should have fixed years and years ago… I guess that’s why GM is in trouble and Saturn has gone out of business.

The Solution?  For older models, I remember reading that there was a work-around that includes starting the car and modifying some wiring, but for a newer model like mine (2006 Ion), I was out of luck.

I tried various things until I found one that worked:  I started bringing a lighter in the car with me and warming up the key and ignition before I tried starting it the first time (see disclaimer below).  The other important part is to turn the key very slowly (such that there is an even amount of tension on it) until the car starts.

I’ve even gotten to the point of breathing heavily on the key (the same way you do when you warm your hands up on a cold winter day) and then turn the key very slowly (such that there is an even amount of tension on it) until the car starts…. this seems to do the trick.

Not the most elegant solution, but it will save you some money.

DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility for you starting yourself, your car, or any of your stuff on fire!

About This Blog

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I recently decided to put up this blog to catalog my journey as a game developer.  I’ll be posting about notable things that have happened, my hopes and dreams, upcoming milestones, and hopefully some helpful tidbits of information (or at least a few minutes of entertainment) for fellow game developers, sci-fi fans, and geeks everywhere.

I guess the ’saga’ began in 2003 when I launched Bantam City Games

Its been an uphill battle ever since and much like the majority of indie game developers out there, I’m fighting the good fight and hoping for that one hit game… the big fish… the General Sherman.

So take this blog for what it is and read it with an open mind and a light heart.

Enjoy!