Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T = Television Made Smarter

T

When I left for Mexico last November, I suspended my DISH Network subscription since American DISH channels were not available in Mexico.   So, when I got back to Chicago earlier this month, since I had not been watching much of any TV over the past 4 months,  I thought it’d be a good time to finally “cut the cable” and try going with just over-the-air (OTA) television for awhile and supplementing that with a $7.99/mo Netflix DVD subscription (and renting occasional Redbox movies too if desired). 

So far, with Chicago’s 50+ OTA channels, this approach has been working just great and I’m enjoying the $60/mo savings!  Now, I think I’ll be cancelling DISH permanently and selling the Winegard Carryout, ladder mount, and DISH receiver. 

I’ve loved my new J floorplan tremendously so far, except for one issue-- the default TV position above the door.  You’re forced to only sit in the dinette benches and crane your neck up to the ceiling to watch TV!

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Another full-timing challenge is how to best do my photo editing.  I’ve got a 26” NEC pro photo monitor at the house that I would REALLY like to bring full-timing in the View, but I just can’t justify the added weight and space unless it could do double-duty and replace the View’s TV as well.

Fortunately, I’ve now figured out a way to do just that and solve both problems.  As an added bonus, this solution will also even give me some cool DVR capabilities as well so I can record shows when I’m in larger metro areas and watch them later when I’m in the boonies!

Here’s the new setup:

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The monitor is mounted onto a heavy-duty HP articulating arm (actually a rebranded Ergotron LX) that clamps onto the dinette table and allows the monitor to be positioned high, low, near, far, or even swung around to be viewed from the rear bed!

Windows users have a lot of options when it comes to TV Tuners.  But for us Mac folks, we currently only have one solution—a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual Tuner (HDHR-4).  Fortunately, it’s a high-quality, small, lightweight box that works really well!

While the HDHomeRun can be used with the free VLC media player software, that solution was a bit clunky to change channels and seemed to pixelate more channels than a normal TV set.  But once I bought the recommended Elgato EyeTV 3 software ($79), those problems were eliminated and TV-watching via the Mac is now a fantastic experience!

EyeTV 3 has a terrific interface that is more readable and functional than my old DISH DVR receivers (which I had been happy with for years)!

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All features are accessible using a simple Apple Remote and my old eyes appreciate the large, easy-to-read text!  EyeTV lets you pause live TV, record it to your Mac, and offers a variety of program guide and scheduling features.

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Channel changing can be done from the Apple Remote itself, or via the quick-scroll selector above.

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The Program Guide is delivered via TVGuide and is free for the first year (and $20/yr after that). 

To set up the system, I just unscrewed the existing Jensen TV’s cable from the Antenna booster (in the cabinet above the sink on a J model), and plugged in a new TV cable to run to my HDHomeRun box.

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When an HDHomeRun is installed in a typical home setting, it is usually attached via an Ethernet cable to a Wifi Router.  Computers, tablets, etc can then access the TV signal via a wired LAN or wireless Wifi connection.  But since I’ll just be using the HDHomeRun with one computer/monitor in the RV, I just connect it directly to my Mac with an Ethernet cable.

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The HDHomeRun is not much bigger than the tee tiny Apple Remote!

For sound, I could just have it play right through my Mac laptop speakers.  But, since I updated my cab stereo to a Sony Bluetooth model, I can stream the sound from my Mac to play through my stereo speakers!

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Even better, I can flip the toggle switch in the RV to “Radio” and allow the cab stereo to also use the 2 speakers and subwoofer in the center of the coach so that I now have a full “surround sound” experience just like home!

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The final bit of coolness to complete the system is an iPhone app called TV Towers USA that lets you see the coverage area of every free OTA TV station in the US, and also includes a compass to help you know exactly which way to point your RV antenna to get the strongest possible signal  (additionally, both HDHomeRun and EyeTV provide signal meters per station to aid in getting the antenna into the best position).

I’ll likely be removing the over-the-door Jensen TV to reclaim the 20 lbs of cargo weight capacity, and will tidy up the HDHomeRun installation so that Millie and I aren’t tripping over cables.  I’ll also probably make a slipcover for the monitor to keep it as free from dust as possible when not in use and/or being transported.

Awesome sauce!  I am one happy “gadget girl” today with this new setup!

 

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18 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Whatever rig I decide to buy and travel with, I've always wanted to bring my larger Mac Monitor (27"). I knew due the size of rigs I've been looking at, the dining table would probably be the "desk" for computers and monitor. All your information on this was fantastic.

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    1. Glad to be of service! Well, if you do end up sitting at your dinette, be sure to get one of those Backjoy seats (see my "G" post earlier this month). It's the only thing that makes sitting on one of those bench seats tolerable!

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  2. The set up sounds awesome and its nice that you.can do use today's technology to make the tv just as nice as home. I mostly use Netflix for my movies and tv and love it. My wife watches the cable tv otherwise I would have ditched it a while ago. Its great that you can even DVR shows on the tv.

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    1. Yeah, I've not played around with the DVR features yet, but they sure look nice to have so I can record a show while I'm out enjoying a hike or campfire!

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  3. Lynne you are truly amazing and so very very competent. Wonderful idea! If you really wanted live TV in Mexico you just need to buy a Shaw receiver thru a Canadian friend and be sure to park next to a Canuck who has a dish set up that you can connect to.

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    1. Ha ha! I might get too hooked on hockey games if I did that ;-) I really didn't mind missing TV when I had good friends and a beautiful Isla to enjoy. I did miss seeing Downton Abbey though, but luckily, I'm catching up on it now via my Netflix subscription! Life is good!

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  4. We have a similar setup in our house currently (HDHomeRun Dual, but with a Windows HTPC). We'll definitely be bringing it on the road later this year.

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    1. Thanks for the reminder that yes, indeed, HDHomeRun is a great solution for Windows folks too! Before I shelled out the $80 for the EyeTV software, I tried to see if I could get it to work with my Windows virtual machine (running via Parallels on my Mac), but no such luck, so I had to cough up the bucks for EyeTV. Fortunately, so far, its felt like a great investment!

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  5. I would hate that place for a TV as well, and I would also have to just grin and bear it with my full desk top, because I cannot live without it! (http://www.reflectionsenroute.com)

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    1. yes, its one thing to just take short trips in an RV and "do without" while traveling, but a whole new thought process when the RV will now be home!

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  6. I don't have an RV yet, but I've been wondering about all the ones I've seen that have their TV's so high. Excellent tips!

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    1. Yeah, it seems most RV manufacturers still think of TV as an afterthought, and if I were just a weekend RVer, I wouldn't care too much about TV either. But full-timing tends to make one much more picky about the comfort of their rigs!

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  7. Wow, you are some techie whiz! You have to wonder about what kind of idiot places the TVs in some RVs.

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  8. This is very helpful. We have an older RV and need to upgrade the TV and the antenna. The spouse can't live without the news.

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  9. Wow, Lynne you are such a techie whiz! Every time I read one of your gadget posts I'm just amazed and humbled by my luddite state!

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  10. I'm new to this site today and this is the first post I have read. What luck!. Would I be able to do this with my Mac Air? Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes! But as your Air doesn't have an Ethernet (LAN) port built-in, you'd need to get the Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. That would be the best/recommended approach. The other option would be to connect the HDHR to a WiFi router and send the TV signal to your Air via WiFi, but as I understand it, that approach has the potential for lots of signal freezing, etc and can only stream an SD-quality signal whereas the wired ethernet approach can deliver HD-quality TV to your Mac. Hope that helps!

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    2. Wow, you've already answered my questions and I already have the Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter! I'm pretty new to all of this (I have a Fleetwood Jamboree on the Sprinter chassis). I've been changing things inside for the past year. I've actually been looking at the portable Dish Network systems. I think I'll try this first. Should your travel plans take you through Bozeman Montana this summer, you can camp on our property.

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