It’s been five years since I decided to part company with Comcast.  I’ve experimented with VOIP, OTA, and OTT.  I’ve built PVRs, DVRs, and media servers.  I flirted with Aereo, DirecTV, and Dish.  I’m done.  I’m completely satisfied.  That doesn’t mean things won’t change for me.  I’m sure they will.  It simply means that I know how to get along without a premium provider.  This blog is my cable cutting solution.  I have three objectives…

  1. Provide a path from premium tv to free tv
  2. Document ‘best solutions’ and ‘best practices’
  3. Investigate new ideas and technologies

Organization: this blog will be organized for the frequent visitor.  The front page will be a list of things that caught my eye — new products, new ideas, new laws…anything that might impact the quality of my Free TV experience.  Along the top of the blog, ‘subjects’ will link to deep dives.  These essays will explore different aspects of Free TV and be updated regularly.

I hope you enjoy this blog.


14 thoughts on “About

    • Thank you. I think we have figured things out…finally. Same content; different organization. I am reacting to people who did not get the beersoncomcast thing and those who wanted a more linear solution. I hope it works for more people. Everyday I see more antennas on my commute and I like to think I helped a bit.


  1. Hi…I’m trying to figure which DVR option is best for me, hope you can give some advice. I want to cut the cord with OTA antenna, but I’m torn to pick which DVR. Also, I’m thinking of getting Playon & PlayLater so that I can record and watch online streaming programs. The PlayLater seems cool but not sure what’s the advantage of Playon as compared to Roku. Does that mean if I want PlayLater, I would be better off with a computer desktop instead of DVR (like Tivo) ? Thanks !


    • I have Simple DVRs, TiVO Roamio/OTAs, DTVPals, and DVR+s. All have strong and weak points detailed in reviews on this blog. I’m very happy with the TiVos I bought for $299.99, but am not sure I would pay $399.99 which is the current promotion. I know I would not pay $15 per month.

      TODAY, Channel Master is offering their DVR+ for $199.99. (I have three of these!) For that $199.99, you get a program guide, trick play, and a DVR with no monthly fee. None of this requires a phone or internet connection. If you connect a DVR+ to the internet, you get enhanced guide data, streaming apps like Vudu, Pandora, and YouTube plus Channel Master Television which is a collection of apps or channels that stream content continuously. Channels include WGN out of Chigago, Bloomberg, FoodyTV, WeatherNation, Pursuit TV, Hunt Channel, Outdoor Cooking Channel, Micasa Network (English language channel targeting Hispanic viewers), RT (Russia Today)/RT Documentaries, and MHz Worldwide (news).

      Since this price expires at the end of the day, I suggest you look closely at the DVR+ carefully.


  2. Thanks Len. Does all the DVR (Tivo, Tablo, DVR+, Simple) can only record OTA antenna programs ? Can it record stuff like the ESPN streaming through Roku or Amazon Fire ?
    Can I download & run APK app files into DVR+ ?
    Does those DVR support fast forward 2X, 4X or 8X speed ?
    Thanks !


  3. All of these DVRs only record OTA programs. If you want to record streaming media, I recommend you check out PlayLater. You cannot run apks on the DVR+ because it is Linux not Android (APK==Android application package). Yes the DVRs all support fast forward.


  4. Thanks Len. Can I watch Roku, Amazon Fire with DVR+ ? Do you come across problems of Live TV buffering with SimpleTV compared to DVR+ ? Thanks !


    • If you don’t mind, I would rather discuss set top vs whole house DVR than answer these questions directly. Direct answers might be misleading.

      A set top DVR is attached to your antenna and your television. They generally have a remote. When you do something on the remote, it is immediately acted on by the set top box.

      A whole house DVR is on your network. You need to have another device to get the signal from your whole house DVR to your television. Roku and Fire TV are two such devices. In the case of the Simple DVR, you can watch live television and recorded shows on the Roku, but only recorded shows on the Fire TV and that requires you have a Plex server running. The big problem with the whole house DVRs is that the remote controls the ‘other device’ not the DVR. So, to change channels, you have to tell your ‘other device’ that you want to change channels, then that device tells the DVR you want to change channels, then the DVR changes channels, then the ‘other devices’ buffers some of the new channel, then the new channel appears on your television.

      If I am trying to help someone pick a DVR, it’s best that I understand how they want to use the DVR. Just because you can use a Roku to watch live television via a Simple DVR doesn’t mean that is the best solution. Does that make sense?

      I have DTVPals, TiVos, DVR+s, and Simples. The TiVo is the best thing to watch when I am sitting in front of a television. If they were $299.99 including lifetime service, I would recommend the TiVo all day long. The DVR+ is 80% as good as the TiVo. It is much less expensive. It does not require an internet of phone connection. They just added some interesting FREE streaming channels. It’s tough to beat. The Simple DVR is best when I am traveling. It is the least expensive way to build a library of on-demand programming.

      Generally, I think you will be happy with wither a DVR+ or a TiVo for interactive viewing. Both offer a great ‘grid style’ program guide, trick play, and recording. After that, it is Plex and Netflix and Amazon vs Channel Master TV.


  5. Thanks Len.
    My main use of DVR would be to record sports game from local channels such as NBC & FOX. I wish to have good quality viewing the recorded programs. I read somewhere that using the whole house DVR (Tablo) would depend on the WIFI signal through Roku devices and with a high def 1080, the recorded program to TV might not be as smooth as DVR+ ? If true, this would be deal breaker for me.
    Another question is I read on forum that people wish there’re more streaming services rather than just Youtube in DVR+. I’m not sure what’s the big deal as if we want streaming services, we should have got devices like Fire or Roku. Thanks !


    • I don’t have a tablo. If you search Google for ‘tablo quality wireless 1080p’, you will find a lot of threads discussing the issue. It seems there are issues with Tablo encoding 1080i programming and the quality of what arrives on your screen depends on the quality of the network between the tablo and your streamer. Some streamers will do a better job than others. For instance, people have reported that the Rokus with WiFi remotes have issues with the remote impacting network throughput. I think you will get better answers on the tablo forums.

      As for streaming, the DVR+ is limited to VUDU, Pandora, and YouTube as well as Channel Master TV or Linear OTT. It’s really not a streamer at this point in time. TiVo, on the other hand, is a very good streamer. It streams Amazon Instant, VUDU, Netflix, YouTube, and Plex plus a lot of Roku-like apps from the Opera app store.

      One my my sets has a TiVo mini attached. That’s it. TiVo mini, ethernet cable, and a single remote that controls tv power and volume as well as the Mini. The ‘host’ TiVo is also wired. The television is only a 32″ 720p set, but quality looks great. My ‘user community’ really likes the single box solution.


  6. Thanks Len.
    I checked out the Tablo community, great info there ! well-kept community. The compression of h264 in whole house DVR (Tablo) seems like possibly make the video quality especially on action sports dropping frames (30fps) … even though several people there saying not noticing it.
    Comparing with ordinary DVR such as Philips HDR5710/F7 Digital Video Recorder, the main difference for CM DVR+ is that they provide 14 days channel guide ?
    May be I’m missing something, with CM DVR+, if we want to watch streamers like Fire, I can just flip the input to HDMI2 (having HDMI1 for DVR+). TiVo still can’t beat Fire in terms of Streams. Thanks !


  7. Hello Len – I came across your blog site after looking at reviews of the MCM/Stellar Labs VHF yagi. I’ve been living OTA for several years now and have turned my experience into a side line business as antenna installer here in a somewhat challenging area – the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge in central VA. Since your post about the VHF antenna mods doesn’t seem to have a link from your main site I’m wondering if you have any other great postings along similar lines that are hidden away somewhere? I may have more comment for you as I dig deeper, and I look forward to seeing more from you in the future.


    • The only mods I have tried are simple ones — adding a second middle section to a 91xg, adding sections to the Stellar Labs 30-2476, or messing with the reflectors on any of my antennas. There is a link to DB8 mods in the right margin under 2. Broadcast TV as well as some stacking information. You will also find Yagi tutorials and design tools that may help. All of these changes make more sense in an attic than on the roof where an ‘enhanced’ reflector or an extended beam make prove to be less able to withstand the rigors of weather.


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