The Post-TV Age?

Rabbit Ears

Yes, obviously using an antenna is a great way to get local television. In fact, you can head over to http://antennaweb.org and see what channels are available in your area and what sort of antenna you'll need. The site even will tell you what direction to point your antenna for the best signal. If you're just looking for some old-fashioned television, an antenna is often a good option. Plus, apart from the hardware, it's totally free.

Figure 5. "Up to 0 channels" is a sad thing to see; I hope your location is better.

The problem is, even though I live in a (small) city, I get exactly zero channels from my location. That is due to geography, because I live on the side of a hill, but nonetheless, I can't get any channels using even a rooftop antenna. Even if you can, however, it's worth considering whether that sort of system is acceptable for you. I don't want to switch my input source on the television every time I want to watch TV. And TiVo has spoiled me; I want to pause live TV. It's possible to get something like an HD Homerun device from Silicon Dust and convert your antenna signal into a digital stream, but integrating that into your entertainment system is often challenging. Plus, I had so much frustration with my HD Homerun setup in our last house that I opted to just buy a cable TV subscription.

So OTA (over the air) channels are worth checking out, and for some people, they are more than enough. For me, however, even if I could get a good signal, I want more.

What about the Parade?!

If you live in a big city and can get local channels via services like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue, things like watching the Thanksgiving Day parade are possible. For me, the only way I can watch live events is with the not-always-reliable USTVnow. And even those channels aren't local, so I can't ever watch the local news. My big issue used to be how to watch the Olympics, but thankfully, many streaming options are available now. Still, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade is something I've done my whole life, and without some way to see local channels, all the cable channels in the world don't help.

Because I have thousands of dollars invested in my TiVo infrastructure (lifetime Roamio subscription and four TiVo Minis), I'm still paying for the lowest tier of cable TV. I find that we almost never switch over to the TiVo, however, so in the next few months, I might bite the bullet and cancel cable TV altogether. For most folks, services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now provide more than enough service at a fraction of the cost. So if you live in a big city or can live without live broadcast channels, I urge you to give them a try. Each is available with a free trial, and if you sort through the various pros and cons, coming up with a satisfactory service is pretty easy.

If you've cut the cord (many of you I've spoken with already have done so), I'd love to hear about your specific solution. Do you just switch sources on your TV and use rabbit ears? Do you strictly Netflix and chill? Have you sold your television and reverted to books? (I'm often tempted.) Please let me know. I'd love to follow up with some alternatives for folks like myself who are still struggling to cut the cord.

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.