Cutting The Cord

Coax cables © by rfc1036

We are very close to cutting the cord at home;  I’ve been wanting to for a couple years now. The technology is there, its now a matter of (perhaps) adjusting your expectations and  finding the right tool set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom Line:

  • You CAN cut the cord.
  • Roku XS is a great way to go
  • Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Digital TV Over The Air you get tons of great content
  • With Roku and others you also get get content like TED Talks
  • Turn an old Computer into a DVR with EyeTV One
  • You can get tons of HD TV (all the Major Networks… ABC, NBC etc), for FREE, with a Digital TV Antenna
  • You can save $$$ (~$110 / month in our case after initial hardware purchase of $200)
  • Its Easy.

We cut the home phone service a month ago and we don’t miss it at all.  I hadn’t used it in the last 2 years other than for the occasional Work From Home days.  Savings: ~$50 / month.  We still have DSL for ~$50 / month and, of course, two cell phones.

Next up is killing off the traditional TV services. We have DirecTV with Whole Home DVR and 3 receivers.  One TV is used regularly, one rarely and one never.  While each extra TV only adds a few dollars a month, it ads up.

The quesiton is… Can I ‘survive’ w/o Satellite or Cable?  Your hypothesis should be yes. The exercise is to figure out how.

With Hulu (and Hulu Plus), Amazon Video On Demand (especially if you are already subscribe to Amazon Prime!), and Netflix you have tons of content.  While I’m a big Apple fan, the AppleTV & iTunes combo doesn’t do much for me.  The best thing about the Apple TV is the Netflix interface (far superior to that on my LG TV and BluRay Player).    Our problem was that none of the devices supported Hulu nor Amazon VOD.

Decision… which new hardware device to buy?  New Blu-Ray?  No way. I hardly use that at all. No  need for a DVD/Blu Ray player – at all.  Should we buy a Gaming System like PS3, XBOX 360 or Wii?  They will all currently, or very soon, support Hulu and Amazon.  I didn’t want to spend the money on the gaming system.  That leaves Roku.  The Roku XS system, similar to the Apple TV, is very inexpensive  (Less than $100).  It supports all sorts of content providers including Hulu, Netflix and more than 300 others.

We acquired a Roku XS on the cheap. It was easy to setup and works great.  After two weeks I havent watched anything on DirectTV.  Sure I miss some of the Cable TV shows – mostly everything on Food Network, Discovery, TLC etc… but when it gets down to it, I don’t really miss it.  I do sometimes like the TV on in the background to casually watch something (Like Alaskan Gold Rush or Ice Road Truckers) while I’m working on something else… and the Roku doesnt seem to fill that use case real well – only because everything in my Queue is something I want to watch and pay attention to..

Dear Wife tried out the Roku and loves it.  So far mosty Parenthood on Netflix (Season 1 & 2) and Hulu Plus (Season 3).

Success!  We can kill the DirecTV.

Wait. The kids.  Shoot!

They watch recoded PBS kids and we enjoy having the Parental Controls on the DirecTV DVR.  Hmm. No Parental controls on the Roku.  Lots of demand for it… must be a matter of time before they add it.

Back to the drawing board for a while.

Current “proof of concept” to try before cutting the cord for real…  Turn an old Mac Mini into a DVR with the help of an HD Antenna (~$35) (yeah, Over The Air [OTA] broadcasts of PBSKids in Digital TV) and an EyeTV One (~$90) tuner.  EyeTV One is a simple Coax Cable to USB dongle that comes with the EyeTV Software v3.  When the attena arrives, it will hook to the EyeTV One which will then plug into the Mac Mini. Just need to hook the mini to the TV, figure out a remote and we should be good to go. EyeTV v3 has parental controls and, with the Digital Antenna, we can recored all the PBS Kids we want for free!

I’m expecting to cut another $60 off the monthly budget with this system for a total of $120 / month!


Leave a comment if you have a question or comment.  Did you cut the cord?

For The Love of a Toaster Oven

We love to eat. We love to cook. We love for things to be easy.  This toaster oven does it all!

 

As we slowly work on remodeling our house and our kitchen, we are adding new appliances when existing appliances fail.  A couple of months ago our toaster oven failed (it started to smoke an electrical sort of smoke).

Going without a toaster oven was not an option we considered. The question became… buy something inexpensive or buy something nice that will last (expensive).  I narrowed it down to one cheap and one expensive; the cheap was on back order for 3-4 months, so the expensive one it was!

We ordered the Breville BOV800XL – “The Smart Oven” and LOVE it. It was on the expensive side for sure, but given the great reviews (4.something stars on Amazon) and the fact it could, in some ways, double as a second oven, it was a pretty sure bet.

What I love about it:

  • It fits 6 slices of toast easily
  • It toasts very evenly
  • It has convection settings
  • It fits a full frozen pizza inside
  • I can bake salmon in it
  • It heats up quickly
  • It looks pretty slick on the counter top
  • The controls are easy to understand
  • It comes with 3 pans – pizza, baking dish and broiler pan
  • I can bake the Thanksgiving Dressing in it while the Turkey is in the full size oven
  • Magnets help pull the rack out w/o touching it

What I don’t love about it:

  • Not much. No real complaints other than the price – but its worth it.

Intro to Smoking (BBQ)

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of Smoking my own meat – home made bbq. Since then, several people inquired about how to get started.  Making your own BBQ at home can be very easy with the right tools.

Using an Electric Smoker, like the Bradley Smoker, is one way to make it easy to start.  The electric smokers all use electricity to generate heat in order to slowly burn wood which produces the smoke.  Benefits of the Bradley are that its inexpensive (~$250), very hands off (no constant tendering of the coals/wood), provides consistent heat and produces very good BBQ.  You are not going to get a nice rosy smoke ring, but you cant taste that anyway!  (The bradley smokes at a temperature that is too low to cause the smoke ring on meat)

 

It may not be a bit of a “Cheater BBQ” when compared to staying up all night monkeying around with the fire, but its a fantastic way to get started.  I dream of having a “Real” smoker some day when I grow up.  Competitive BBQ must be a blast.

So you want to dive in?  Some equipment:

  1. Bradley Smoker –   Get either the Origional which is very poplular (and usually avail for ~$250) or consider the upgrade to the digital. I have the original and if I were to buy another, I’d go for the Digital.  Your choice on 4 rack or 6 rack sizes.  4 Rack is enough to make enough Pork Shoulder or Ribs for a small party. If you are going to spend the money on the smoker, spend the extra $25 and get the All Weather Cover to protect your investment.
  2. Wood Bisquettes – These are the pieces of wood (chips) that the Bradley burns.  They come in a variety of flavors.  Hickory or Mesquite are a must for the more robust smoke flavors (for Ribs or Brisket) and Apple or Pecan are great for milder flavor (for things like Smoking a Turkey).  I prefer Apple, Pecan and Hickory.  Consider a variety pack!
  3. Bubba PucksBubba Pucks (3 piece)  These metal “pucks” help you conserve on wood pucks.  The smoker needs to have 3 pucks minimum to push one out on the burner. Using these as the last 3 in the smoke reduces waste.
  4. Oven Mits – You are going to need something to handle the hot food & smoker racks with. I’d suggest a pair other than the main kitchen pair – they will get a little grungy and fragrant.
  5. Remote Thermometer - Monitor the temp of your meat remotely. Something like the Maverick BBQ Thermometer will work well. It will be important to cook your meat to the right temperature - and going to far over will dry it out.  Remember that food may be on the smoker for 4-16 hours so remote monitoring will be very nice.   This will also prevent you from needing to open the smoker and losing all the precious heat.
  6. Rib Rack, Spray Bottle. – These are optional, but helpful.  A Rib Rack so you can vertically orient the ribs in the smoker – which will also you to smoke several racks at at time instead of about 3 (in the 4 rack smoker).  Spray Bottle – it can help to spritz the meat in a long smoke to help maintain some moisture.
  7. Meat –  Start with a Pork Shoulder (Butt) if that sounds tasty.  The pork shoulder is very forgiving and, in some ways, hard to over cook.  Prob. going to spend 8-14 hours smoking a pork shoulder. Ribs are faster, more like 4 hours.  I’d get comfortable with pork first, then work on ribs.  Brisket and other good things after that.  Costco tends to have a good deal on nice pork shoulder and pork ribs.
  8. Rubs and Sauce.  This gets personal quickly.  Buy a rub, make a rub… personal preference.  Buy a sauce, make a sauce, or go dry – another philosophical choice you will have to make. :)  Personally, I use the Cowtown Rub and Cowtown Sauce from Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City.

While you wait for your gear to arrive… check out these:

  • Bradley Forum  – http://forum.bradleysmoker.com/  Sign up, read the FAQ and introduce yourself.  Its a very helpful and friendly group.
  • Olds Place - Eventually you will end up here (http://www.susanminor.org/forums/).  Its an archive of great recipes - largely from the members at the Bradley Forum.

Don’t think too hard about it. Great BBQ can be pretty easy. Buy a smoker, get some wood pucks, get some meat and go to town.

Who’s BBQ got you thinking about doing it yourself?

Not quite sure where to start? Just ask by leaving a comment!