Trying to loosen and/or remove the satellite TV noose.
I've spent hours researching potential methods to try and get rid of our satellite TV subscription (Shaw Direct), to try and save a fi****ll of cash each month, but still be able to watch most (hopefully all) of the programs we watch on a weekly basis.
I expect this to be a rather long post, so I apologize in advance and understand if anyone would rather not read through it all. I'll try to make it as easy to read as possible.
Thanks to the information I found here, I've so far managed to get a Netflix subscription (still in free trial month), unblockus subscription (trial period) and hulu plus subscription (trial period as well). I want to thank everyone here who has contributed their time and knowledge to allow me to do this without much difficulty at all.
Now, comes the fun part. I would like to have this set up so that the interface is as easy to use as possible, mainly for those in our household who are quite happy with the TV service as it is, and are somewhat strongly opposed to changing it. If the streaming selection and ease of use is similar to the Shaw Direct channel guide, we may be able to switch off the satellite service. I myself, am quite content and able to pick up an inexpensive laptop, then run a HDMI cable to the TV and a coax cable (for 5.1 digital signal - really need to upgrade receiver), and get what I want from there.
The equipment we have so far is:
Panasonic TV (THC50FD18)
A few older CRT TVs that won't die.
Kenwood VR-409 Receiver (I'd certainly like a newer one with more power and HDMI inputs, but this one still works fine, and just won't die already)
DSR 530 Receiver (probably doesn't matter, but I guess there's no harm in listing it)
Acer Aspire Desktop (AM1100-E1203A) running Vista Home Premium (32 bit) and Ubuntu dual boot
Cisco modem/router from Rogers (will very likely have to switch to Aliant FiberOP for bandwidth freedom)
Linksys WRT54G router (currently not in use)
The main things I want to address are (in no particular order):
1 I can get most of the US network stuff I can think of from Hulu, but it doesn't carry CBS, so I'd need a way to get a good quality video signal to the Panasonic TV, as well as multi-channel audio to the receiver. Right now, I've briefly tried streaming a few shows on Hulu via the PS3, and it seems to work fine. I'll also need to get CBS to the other TVs in the house, but none of the others are high-def, so picture/sound quality is not as important on those.
2 I'll also need to get our Canadian Networks (CTV, CBC, etc., plus NTV - local).
3 Some Hulu plus shows will only play on the PC, so I'd need a way to watch those shows on the TVs.
4 I'd like an interface on the smaller TVs that has everything together, so the other family members can scroll through various television networks and pick what they want to watch with relative ease. I have the Wii hooked up to the CRT TV in the bedroom, but haven't tested it much yet - just watched some Netflix so far.
5 I would need an extra device to use on the CRT TV downstairs (mother in-law) that has a simple interface that causes little frustration and is reliable. I've checked out the Roku box, but am not sure how I could get it to allow streaming of CBS or Canadian network shows. I still have more research to do on that.
6 I've tried playing with WMC and WMP, but haven't had any success yet, getting the PS3 to find the shared data in WMP. It is my understanding that WMC won't play nicely with the PS3 at all. I've also tried to add Netflix and Hulu to WMC, but had no luck.
7 If anyone has any advice on trying to get the non-interested family members to try out these services and see if they can start getting used to them and possibly continue their use over satellite, it would be greatly appreciated as well. Like I said a while back, I'm ok with just hooking a laptop to each TV and going from there, even if it may take a bit longer to get the TV show playing, especially when I consider that I'm saving close to $100/mo in doing so.
I've done some reading about Playon and Plex, but haven't tried using either of those yet. I am concerned about Playon only providing 480p picture quality on the Panasonic. I've also briefly checked out the PS3 Media Server software, but haven't gotten too far with that yet.
In the interest of not having one single post take up a full page, I'm going to stop here and thank anyone who has read thorough it all in one sitting and hope that it made some sense. I'm sure I'll have other questions that I haven't thought about yet, or forgot to include.
I look forward to and appreciate any information that can be provided.