TV is Dead, Long Live PC.TV

My friend Sonia has written a series of posts for the New York Times in which she tests several options for streaming web content to your television. Everything from Boxee to PlayOn. I'm already saving up for a Mac Mini. Call me a fanboy, but I already have AppleTV (it was a gift). That said, I'd love to know what all of you are using or eyeballing... image by hellabella
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27 Responses to TV is Dead, Long Live PC.TV

  1. Anonymous says:

    Used to have a giant liquid cooled Windows Media Center.

    Replaced it with an older Mac Mini. Mac Mini wins. I don’t particularly have any special love for Apple, but for a media center/file server the Mini is more than adequate. And it uses about 1/4 the power of my old media center while being just as quiet.

    My old media center could record two TV shows at once but I haven’t “Watched TV” (Cable or OTA) for probably ten years, so I may not be a typical user.

    There’s also a PS3 which isn’t even plugged in at the moment. (That things a vampire. And Blue Ray? Meh.) There used to be a Wii but it got donated to someone it suited more. Probably the connected thing I use the most is my Sonos.

  2. Random_Tangent says:

    I just use a 360 and PlayOn for most of my viewing needs.

    My friend fell in love with a device similar to the Neuros Link. It would’ve been over 300 bucks to get that thing and a hard drive. So now I’m building her a home theater PC with a BluRay drive with bits off of NewEgg. Should be fun and it can get its own content.

  3. jimmy says:


  4. Hitchcock says:

    I’ve been using a standard def TV + an old PC that has an ATI video card with S-Video out. Works great. I’m using the Zinc media browser for most of my online video watching, and have a ZyXEL NSA-220 which has a built-in bittorrent client for downloading (So I don’t have the leave the PC on when I’m not watching TV) as well as DLNA for streaming files to my PC. Add a wireless presenter mouse and a wireless keyboard, and I’m set.

  5. randalll says:

    I have a regular old Ubuntu box connected to my LCD TV with a VGA cable. I have yet to see why I would need an HDMI, the picture looks great.

    I’ve tried Boxee and a few other things to consolidate the computer into a set-top, but so far nothing works all that well with my computer. It IS 5 or 6 years old, so that’s to be expected. I have no problem just playing videos with VLC player. I have Gmote on my G1 that lets me use it as a remote/touchpad thru the wireless network and that works really well.

  6. mathew says:

    Got rid of DirecTV, got AppleTV. So far pretty satisfied.

  7. chiefted says:

    I have pretty much the exact set up you are talking about here.

    I have my AppleTV conected to my LCD TV (HDMI connection).
    Its pulling from my main iTunes library, stored on a Drobo.

    I also have the Mac Mini set up connected via VGA (the other HDMI port is being used by the Tivo) where I am using Plex for pretty much everything.

    Finding that Plex handles Hulu much faster than Boxee (also installed Hulu Desktop as the “fall back” app just in case). Plus Plex handles better than Boxee as I can choice the “TV” feed to watch.

  8. chiefted says:

    I have pretty much the exact set up you are talking about here.

    I have my AppleTV conected to my LCD TV (HDMI connection).
    Its pulling from my main iTunes library, stored on a Drobo.

    I also have the Mac Mini set up connected via VGA (the other HDMI port is being used by the Tivo) where I am using Plex for pretty much everything.

    Finding that Plex handles Hulu much faster than Boxee (also installed Hulu Desktop as the “fall back” app just in case). Plus Plex handles better than Boxee as I can choice the “TV” feed to watch.

  9. obi1kenobi1 says:

    27inch Mitsubishi CRT TV from 1988 (still has better color than most HDTVs I see)
    Pioneer LaserDisc player from 1989 (except for Netflix/TV shows, its LaserDisc all the way)
    Sharp VHS VCR from 1986 (just because)
    Apex set top DTV tuner
    Xbox 360

    And for watching videos from the computer, my iPod/iPhone or 17″ PowerBook G4 hooked up via S-Video.

    Food for thought: why are all these streaming devices still called set top boxes? Have you ever tried to balance one on top of an HDTV?

  10. Matt Katz says:

    I had an AppleTV for a while, but I found it lacking. It could do what it had been designed for quite well. I just wanted more.

    I have a Mac Mini in the living room, it is awesome.

    I sold the AppleTV and bought a Fit-PC2 running Ubuntu. So far it has been an amazingly painless experience. It is TINY and keeps the place uncluttered.

    My mac mini runs Miro ( ), which is the single best application on it.

  11. Milton Pope says:

    The Roku box, importing Netflix. I haven’t used it for Amazon movies. If works very well, and it’s a cinch to use.


  12. wdonohue says:

    Upgrading older Mini to latest model; running Miro+Perian, Hulu desktop, Boxee, EyeTV pulling digitized video from an Elgato Hybrid. Still wrestling with iRed remote IR control software. Media library drive is a Western Digital Green 1TB HD in a NewerTech MiniStack. Upgrading internal house network to 802.11n and gigabit ethernet, to smooth out streaming from remote sources. All Intel Macs getting Snow Leopard next month. Still getting DirecTV, but may consider dropping it soon. 702P LCD monitor also gets feed from Blu-Ray player that can stream Netflix (streaming on the Mini was choppy & low-res).

  13. stygyan says:

    I’m not using any of these things. Mainly I don’t even use my TV, as my parents keep the remote control off my hands jealously.

    I watch all of my TV needs and movies and series and the like on my 24” iMac, except when I’m able to get hold of my 28” CRT TV – why? because it’s in the only room I’ve got air conditioner in, and weather is too hot right now.

  14. bibulb says:

    I’m using an iMac in part of the cabinet (inherited from my Mom who passed away), and while the form factor isn’t ideal, it works well to serve to an amp I use as a switcher into the TV. (mini-DVI to HDMI for video and the mini-TOSLINK for audio.) That plus bluetooth mouse and keyboard fill things out quite nicely. If you want to use either a remote like the iPhone or something, or VNC in from another machine, that works quite nicely as well.

    As for software, I either just use Front Row or iTunes – if there’s a YouTube video, we often just run from the browser. (Usually, if someone needs to show us a clip, it’s something that they need to follow the links THEY used to get there…)
    I’ve TRIED Plex, and I just get cranky with it. I’m going to try it again sometime down the line.

  15. xbox 360 is a wonder for this. I stream divx/avi from my pc, netflix over the net, and live tv from vista media center in hd over a wireless n connection, and occasionally purchase videos from the xbox marketplace.

    however, the media connection to vista’s media center isn’t for pc novices, but once you get it going, it’s brilliant. i’ve been doing it for a couple years now, and i love it. vista is slicker and more stable than xp mce, but it’s still not as bulletproof as some of the set-top options out there.

  16. spike2pointOh says:

    been satellite/cable/freeview/scheduled tv free for a year!

    xbox v1.0 (with DVD remote) running XBMC hooked up to a big old crt tv, streaming from a powerPC G4 media server running sharepoints on 2Tb of storage. in all, over the years, maybe £200 total

    iplayer and 4OD on my imac/ibook/iphone etc.

  17. Enochrewt says:

    This is an old post now, but I’m going to add my setup:

    [li]Windws 7 MCE[/li]
    [li]Old core 2 duo 2.0ghz laptop that sits behind the TV[/li]
    [li]Xbox 360 for streaming to TV[/li]
    [li]OnAir USB HDTV GT for that stuff I can’t get via bittorrent or other services.[/li]

    Before Windows 7 I had issues with format compatibilities, but thanks to the new DivX H.264/mkv package almost everything plays flawlessly without transcoding and format container switching. As soon as they get soft subtitles implemented in the new DivX it’ll be 100%.

  18. Ryanwoofs says:

    Last year I lived in a 2-room cabin. I’ve since upgraded to a house with its own bathroom. Then and now, my 24″ iMac acts as work computer (web design/photography/video), media center (Netflix, Boxxee, Hulu desktop), game console (Bootcamp, XP, and Steam) and information hub.

    Having a 2Mb connection at the end of the road in Alaska was unexpected, and nice!

  19. strider_mt2k says:

    My wife is the TV watcher (TrueBlood not withstanding -try and blame me!)

    I usually surf far enough behind the curve of entertainment that I get by on “canned” collections of certain shows, often given to me by friends family and customers.
    (Like the guy that dropped two seasons of “Burn Notice” off for me a couple months ago)

    Either that or I go nuts over a show (Like “The Venture Brothers”) just in time to order two seasons on DVD JUST in time for season 3 to come out on DVD!

    (Immersion usually follows)

    So for now we have a fairly standard CRT SD rig with DVD and even VHS! (until DVR arrives Thursday)

    As soon as we finish remodeling the last bathroom the living room is next, trust me.
    HD, DVR, and SOME kind of a set-top to grab media from my server is what it will become.

  20. ofindustry says:

    we use a mac mini with a high def projector in the living room. we watch DVD’s and whatever is availible on the internet (any way we can get it)

    same for my room. mac mini and a monitor and a nice speaker system.

    I haven’t missed cable TV yet.

  21. ScottMcG says:

    I bought a Neuros Link, thinking it would be a good solution but they have a long way to go with their software and it didn’t do everything I wanted. So I put a hard drive and DVD ROM into it and installed Ubuntu and Boxee.

    The box itself is nice – it’s a small form factor that doesn’t look out of place with my other media cabinet stuff. It’s got HDMI and digital audio out, along with tons of USB ports. I’ve got all my movies, music, and other assorted stuff on a NAS, and Boxee does a great job of indexing it all. If I were just playing content from my network, I probably would have kept my old-skool Xbox running XBMC since it’s a little easier to use (from a non-tech spouse standpoint), but the goal is to be able to turn off all paid TV. If you don’t need online content, that’s absolutely the cheapest way to get a high-quality media player in your living room.

    Boxee pulls Hulu feeds and a bunch of other online TV content, and plays just about every codec without problems. The last thing I have to do is put a TV tuner card into another box and set up a MythTV back end to pull in local channels over the air. My wife’s a football fan, and she wasn’t impressed when I told her the NFL didn’t stream games online. Boxee will act as a MythTV client, so I’ll get all the local channels and PVR functionality.

    I’ve also got an Xbox 360 for fun and Netflix streaming. Between the two, I’ve got no reason to subscribe to cable or satellite. Granted, I’m still paying for Internet access, $20/month to Netflix, and $50/year for Xbox live, but I was paying for that anyway.

    So let’s see: I’m paying $75/month to DirecTV. That’s $900/year.

    The Xbox 360 cost me $150 (refurb on Woot, then replaced by MS)
    The Neuros Link was $250
    HDD and DVD ROM for the Link: $120-ish (I had them already, so this is a guess)
    TV Tuner card: $75 or so – just started shopping.

    Total: $595.

    So if I can go without DirecTV for 9 months, I’ll have recouped my investment. I’d say that’s pretty good. The only show I watch that I haven’t found via legitimate sources online yet is Judge Judy – a guilty pleasure I can live without.

    Now, I’m just finishing with the buildout of all of this, and hope to have it in my living room this weekend. With any luck, I’ll be enjoying the new setup next week and will be able to put my DirecTV HD DVR on eBay to further offset the costs.

  22. canes816 says:

    I’ve got a Windows Vista box with HDMI output connected to my big screen. I haven’t been able to ditch cable completely yet, but Vista Media Center teamed up with a remote work very well for me for most things.

  23. Ito Kagehisa says:

    MythTV on an Ubuntu LTS server built from salvaged crap inside an old military Multics chassis sitting in the basement. I found it quite difficult to set the software up and can not recommend it to the average person for that reason.

    Tyan dual xeon mobo, fairly large scsi soft RAID, hauppage card for the hardware MP3 encoder, eight software-controlled fans, 30 amp UPS. 25′ composite video connection to the big TV upstairs, same length USB for logitech dongle to diNovo Edge wireless KB (using USB self-powered extender to break 16′ limit).

    Hmm, the KB, hauppage card and USB extenders were purchased, not salvaged. Case modifications were done with hardwoods harvested from my property. Everything else from dumpsters and scrap heaps, though.

    Personally, I rarely watch more than an hour of TV a month, but my family likes MythTV well enough.

  24. Colin says:

    Still sorting out my own setup. Currently it’s a big hard drive plugged into a WD HD media player,then into a standard-def TV. Does a pretty good job of playing anything I throw at it.

  25. TJ S says:

    I’ve been free of cable since December, a move that I figure has saved me almost $500 so far.

    My setup:
    The main TV is served by an Xbox 360, streaming content from our main computer (and Netflix). (BTW – I’ve found that a 7mbit connection isn’t enough to consistently get full quality HD from Netflix. 12mbit works beautifully.)

    I’m eying one of those little Western Digital boxes that pics just leaked out (with the crazy codec support and ethernet now) for the secondary TV in the bedroom. Currently, the bedroom just has a DVD player with a USB port, that normally holds an 8GB thumb drive full of whatever we’re currently watching.

    There’s a small OTA antenna that pulls in about 15 stations, split to both TV’s. That’s used mostly for news (when my wife and I can be bothered to sit through ~50 prescription medication commercials per hour. I get that the elderly watch a lot of news, but the ratio of commercials on health, compared to everything else, is just ridiculous.)

  26. Mark says:

    I have a pretty basic Mac Mini setup.

    Mainly I use Front Row, Hulu, EyeTV, and iTunes. If Front Row had support for AirTunes speakers, I wouldn’t use iTunes nearly as much.

  27. freetard says:

    TV? Who has time for that, when the BoingBoing Entertainment Network is churning out so much Wonderful(TM) content? Why, with my trusty satellite uplink, a bottomless cuppa in an insulated mug, and my sturdy Macbook Pro, I’ll never want for entertainment options as long as BBEN keeps on producing!

    Also, bittorrent keeps me up-to-date on the few commercial TV shows that interest me. In commercial-free goodness, too!

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