I know it’s hip and modern to kill your television. Or, at least, not have one.
That’s not our style. Lauren and I have long had an affection for (good) television, and I like to think that we don’t zone out and vegetate to the flickering boob tube when we watch; we’re often multi-tasking (i.e. computing) while we watch, and we really try to watch only those shows that reward intelligent viewing.
Until recently, we got a bundled package of movie channels — HBOs, Starz, and Cinemaxes. I cancelled those to make the cable bill less offensive to me, and continued saving (net) even after I started my Netflix subscription.
You know about Netflix already, I know. I got a very basic plan, one DVD at a time, unlimited (or, limited by the USPS) DVDs per month. And that, in and of itself, is a great plan for us. (We’re currently working our way through the second season of Dexter on Netflix DVDs.)
But even awesomer is Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” program. Of the 100k+ DVDs in their collection, somewhere around 13,000 are available for instant streaming. I can stream to my computers, and also to my HD TiVo. You press play, and the movie starts in seconds.
I cannot underscore how awesome this is. With my plan (and all higher plans), you can watch an unlimited amount of instantly streaming content. I can have a laptop stream a movie while working in the office. I can stream via the TiVo right on the big screen. And if I start watching on my laptop and pause, and then later press play on the TiVo, Netflix is smart enough to pick up right where I left off.
Amazing. This really feels like the future.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Mac mini portion of the setup. I have my new mini connected via HD to the TV as well. (Luckily, my TV has a lot of HD inputs.) There are some nights when there’s too much good stuff on at once, and our TiVo can’t snag it all. But if we know something will be available on Hulu, we can leave it off the TiVo’s list and watch it in streaming HD quality from the Mac the next day. The mini is a full media hub for us now. The randomized slideshows that iPhoto can put together look great on the HD screen, particularly pictures from our D70 SLR.
If you’re paying close attention, you’ve probably realized that I can also stream Netflix movies from the mini to the TV, instead of using the TiVo. You’re right. I don’t have a strong preference either way.
Other goodness: The TiVo has a “My DVR Expander” Western Digital eSATA hard drive attached to it. This increases my disc space considerably, and means that we don’t stress about accumulating hours and hours of HD television on the TiVo; space is not at a premium anymore. Thus, we tend to give priority to Netflix DVDs, pushing them to the top of our watching queue, knowing that we can catch up on TiVo during the in-between days when we’re mailing back one disc and awaiting another. (Note that earlier this week, on Monday, I sent back a DVD. On Tuesday, Netflix received it, and on Wednesday, I received my next one. Impressive.)
We’re also using the Mac mini as our DVD player most of the time now. I find its picture is a little better than our four-year-old multidisc DVD player/receiver, and controlling it with the Apple remote is a breeze. When I need to control the mini outside of remote-based tasks, my laptop takes on the roll of wireless keyboard and mouse; I simply use VNC to share the mini’s screen and take control.
I am exceedingly pleased with our entertainment setup, and I’ve motivated multiple families now to ditch their movie channels and follow my lead. I’m so proud.