Broken TV box

A couple of months ago my IPTV box from Altibox broke down. It had been bugging me for a long time with a slow user interface and, not to mention, a recording function that fills up all the time and takes hours to delete…

So out it went. And as I happen to work for Comoyo, a company that offers Internet based TV and film, it was time to fully and wholly eat my own dog food.

So, the first thing you need to know is that I am not a SINK or DINK (single income no kids or double income no kids). I have a family – a wife and two young children under ten. And when you have a family, you have to discuss and inform about things in a proper manner. In this case - about what just happened to the box and how the TV was going to work going forward. So what did I say?

“Ehh - the TV box is broken. We´ll have to use the iMac in our living room or connect the Mac mini to the TV screen. At least until we get a new box or…”

“What do you mean by ‘or…’”, says my wife (she knows me well..) “Well um, maybe, eh, if this Internet TV thing works fine we´ll just never use the normal TV again. And also save a lot of money”. Her answer: “Ok, but I think I’d need a remote so I can zap. So I want the normal box back”. I tried with: “hrmph, eh, well - we´ll see”.

This was November 2012. And now it’s February 2013. We still don’t have an IPTV box. Nobody asks for it, nobody misses it. I actually think if we turned it on - we would all get the creeps! (and Altibox one is one of the better ones…)

So what happened during those months?

Huge change in how we watch

The kids found it completely natural. They’re used to on demand or time-shifted TV. At 18:00 it’s traditionally time for children’s TV in Norway - but more and more it is not actually watched at 18:00. The kids watch it when they feel like it. And sometimes they substitute children’s TV with a game or a short movie.

For us adults we NEVER watch ANYTHING live except sports (and we very rarely watch sports). So it’s ALL on demand.

Unexpected change in where we watch

The plan was to have the Mac mini connected to the 37-inch TV screen in our basement. In addition – we had our 27-inch iMac on a shelf in the living room. It was used for games, surfing, working AND watching TV/ Film – especially shorter programs.

But this turned out to be a non-optimal solution!

Learning one: The TV in the basement would rarely be used. I don’t quite know why but perhaps the 37-inch screen didn’t feel much bigger than the upstairs 27-inch iMac, where our sofa was positioned closer to the screen. To be honest, this trend had already started before the IPTV box crashed. It could also be down to the fact that as winter approached, being together as a family in the living room with a lit fireplace was cosier than a cold basement. (Or perhaps the barrier of not having a zapper was it. Who knows?)

Learning two: One PC/Mac for all activities - INCLUDING watching TV and film - is not enough! Something will always develop into a fight in a modern home, even if there are several tablets, pads and mobiles. “I want to play my game on the big tv”. “I want to watch tv on the large screen”. Anything else is a compromise. So as it turns out, a kid can watch on an iPad but they would prefer to watch on a larger screen - like a 27-inch.

So what to do?

TV View from couch

This shows the solution we chose for now. The Mac mini was moved to our living room (the 37 inch TV is for sale if you want to buy it). I bought a fairly cheap 27-inch full HD IPS terminal, set it on top of a rolling Montana module, and put the Mac mini inside the module. The sweet Mac keyboard and glass mouse is on the living room table and when we don’t use the new ‘TV’ arrangement we just roll it out of the way so it stands discretely against the wall. Meanwhile, the 27-inch iMac stays where it was on the bookshelf (see in the background) and is used primarily for school, gaming and work.

This is how the new ‘TV’ looks inside:

TV Setup inside

But come on - not having a remote?

You may think that using a computer or a tablet is cumbersome and that our living room now looks like that of a teenage boy?

Nah! With a couple of twists it’s actually quite sweet (but sure – a remote would spice it up even more)

Let me show you some pictures.

This one shows how I set up the screen on the 27-inch iMac and the Mac mini that’s connected to the TV screen. I simply just dropped over URLs to the desktop. To get a nice icon is a little cumbersome on a Mac, but it’s really helpful, as my 5-year old can’t read.

TV Desktop overview

So what services are we actually using?

We have, as many other Norwegians, become heavy users of NRK web-TV and we use Comoyo TV and Film for more or less the rest. That would, with today’s price plans, come up at around 200NOK per month in addition to the broadband connection (not included the NRK licence). And that’s a very good deal compared to traditional offerings in the market! In addition we sometimes buy a weekly ticket on TV2 Sumo if we want to watch something special there.

And how is it working?

First of all, it works almost all the time. For a short while we had some hang up issues with NRK but the problem seemed to lie within the service itself. We rarely get low resolution on streaming - it usually hovers around 3 mbit/s. On Comoyo we usually get the max speed, either 5 or 8 mbit/s on HD. And we got a fat pipe - 60 mbit/s fiber with an 802.11n Wi-Fi network. I set up all my devices to prefer the 5 Ghz Wi-Fi.

From a usability point of view, passwords and usernames on the different services are a hassle. Especially the ones that has a time-out on user credentials. The ones that don’t have time-out help lowering the barrier for both my wife and my kids to use that service.

So, I recommend getting rid of the TV box. Cut the cord. It’s easy, fun, cheap and cool!

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