Cord Cutting Update — Part Two: Video

This is the second and last part of my cord cutting update, refreshing the information I first posted back in 2011. Last time, I tackled phones. This time, it’s video.

Streaming Video

Many of the same players are still doing great stuff, including Roku, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Vudu. Netflix is turning heads with the release of original series (including the highly anticipated return of Arrested Development), and Amazon Prime continues to add more content every few months.

As before, the sands of streaming video constantly shift, and so it’s not easy to know what’s available on each service, or how long it will be accessible. Thankfully services like CanIStreamIt are making it less difficult.

I’ve seen a trend toward allowing access to online video only if you subscribe to cable, which might work for some, but I don’t get the sense that I’m missing anything essential. Eventually, it all comes out on DVD, where I can simply rent it.

I’ve experimented with PlayOn, a service that collects and catalogs most of the free video that’s available online and packages it in a format that can easily be accessed. They don’t explain it that way in their sales pitch, however, which is frustrating. Instead they make it seem like it’s a magic “free cable” program, which it certainly isn’t. As nice as it seems, I just haven’t found myself using it. It’s easier to bookmark free video pages in Chrome (I’ve set up a special account just for online video, and sync it across machines).

My favorite source for streaming world news has become the 24/7 Al Jazeera English channel. I find that it has excellent reporting from underserved areas of the world, offers new perspectives, and isn’t laden with anti-American/Western propaganda, as it’s sometimes portrayed. I’m hoping that more people get to see what a valuable source of current events and in-depth reporting they are.

I use the free media center XMBC to access most of my streaming content and do my DVD-watching. As an open-source project, it continues to improve with every version, and has much more of a future than Windows Media Center seems to.

Over-The-Air (OTA) Video

Using an HD antenna continues to be one of the best values in entertainment. I continue to enjoy beautiful picture and sound quality over a wide array of channel options, and it remains completely free. OTA shows also prevent me from getting closer to the bandwidth caps imposed by my ISP.

My DVR of choice, Windows Media Player, seems to be less and less of a priority for Microsoft. It doesn’t even come with Windows 8 (you have to add it on yourself), and so I think it may be going the way of the dinosaur. Such a shame.

The new player to watch in this space is Aereo, and I’m looking very forward to them coming to my area someday. The service allows you to view and record OTA programming over the Internet, circumventing copyright law by using a complicated dance  that essentially provides you with your very own little HD antenna back at Aereo’s local HQ.

The Boxee Box also looks interesting, as it has a OTA DVR built-in along with all of the usual streaming options, and XBMC has just added DVR support to their latest beta, which is quite promising.

Conclusion

It’s been several years since we’ve cut the cord, and I remain quite happy with the choice. I never lack for entertainment choices, I save a great deal of money, and I am constantly finding new and interesting things to explore.

My hope is that things will continue to expand and improve between now and my next update, but between lobbying efforts and back-room deals, I’m not entirely confident that things will get better. The best I can do is enjoy it while it’s here, and keep spreading the word.

Bad Behavior Online

PBS webseries Off Book does it again, providing an important look at negative online behavior. While this impacts us all, our children often get the most exposure and need the most help figuring out how to navigate the social aspect of being online, particularly when it turns bad.

I also love when they point out that freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism! Yes!

Off Book publishes some of the best online video I’ve come across, and I hope they keep going for a long time to come.

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Can I Stream It

Can I Stream It searches to find out whether movies and TV shows are available for streaming, and if so, where. As a cable “cord cutter”, it’s invaluable – you can even set up email alerts to let you know when things appear. While the majority of content is available across multiple services, quite a bit of good stuff is exclusive to Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu Plus.

CanIStream.It: Search Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes and more for movies and TV shows to stream instantly, rent, and buy.
CanIStream.it allows you to search Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon, Crackle, Redbox, XFINITY Streampix, HBO GO, Showtime, Blockbuster, Youtube Movies, EPIX, and iTunes to see if a movie or t…

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Lazy Truth

If you use Gmail, add this extension to Chrome, and it will help you debunk claims made in  forwarded emails. This is a great tool for students (and adults) to determine the truth or falsehood of the dreaded email chain letter.

LazyTruth
Fiction, Meet Fact. LazyTruth is a free Gmail gadget that automatically triggers fact-checked content when you receive a misleading email forward. Get LazyTruth.

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A Web Whiteboard

Here’s another tool for your digital toolbox: a quick, web-based whiteboard that works on everything I throw at it, whether it’s a tablet, desktop computer, or mobile phone. If your device or computer can handle HTML5, you should be set.

I love the simplicity, utility, and the way that it just plain works.

Whiteboard
Touch. Draw. Share. A Web Whiteboard is touch-friendly online whiteboard app that lets you use your computer, tablet or smartphone to easily draw sketches, collaborate with others and share them with …

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