Netflix, Roku and Cut Cable, Oh My!, Part 4

It Slices! It Dices! It Cuts Cable Cords In Two!!!

Thanks to the one two punch of Netflix Online and Roku, I’m pretty confident that my kids would survive a cut cable cord without too much screaming.  So where does this leave cable in our household?

For now, it hasn’t been cut, but don’t confuse being uncut with being safe.  We’re currently looking into many options ranging from cutting to going with an alternative service like DirecTV.  (Any DirecTV reps out there who want a technologically savvy daddy blogger to do a review on your service? )

My original conclusion, meanwhile, has been revised.  Previously, I determined that we would save about $15 per month if we cut cable.  However, I soon realized that that relied on two erroneous assumptions.

The first was that we would buy $15 in DVDs every month.  We really don’t buy many DVD movies because we tend to watch them once or twice and then add them to the stack.  Kids movies get a bit more play, but there’s only so many times you can let your child watch a show before you go insane.  Now, we tend to rent our DVDs via Netflix or our local library.  DVD purchases happen pretty much only if a deal is extremely good or for a Chanukah or Birthday present.  Our total DVD purchase budget is probably closer to $30 per year than $15 per month.  This increases the Cut Cable savings to $27.50 per month.

The second assumption was that we would frequent Amazon VOD.  Apart from having Mythbusters episodes, I just can’t see spending a lot of money on this service when I get essentially the same thing "for free" with my paid for Netflix subscription.  (Yeah, I know Netflix isn’t free, but you know what I mean.  I don’t have to pay $1.99 just to see another episode of Heroes.  It’s right there.)

The only thing I might pay for is the aforementioned Mythbusters.  (TechyDad want big boom!)  At $1.99 per episode and an average of 25 episodes per season, I’d only be paying about $24, or $2 per month, for this Amazon VOD.  This is far short of the $26 a month I initially assumed and raises the Cut Cable savings to $51.50 a month.

I’ve also re-thought my setup.  I don’t need to invest in a media streaming setup.  I just need to manage our existing DVDs better.  So I’ve used EMDB to catalog all of my DVDs.  I plan on making a list out of it and laminating it for the kids to refer to.  This way they’ll be able to point to an item on the list and have B or I put it in rather than wondering just what we have to watch.

The only tripping point at the moment is how we would hook our existing TVs up to receive over the air broadcasts (do we need to buy any equipment for this?) and what DVR to buy to replace our cable company issued one.  TiVo is a possibility, of course, but the monthly fee ($129 per year) would eat into our Cut Cable savings.  Still, even after TiVo, we would have over $40 left per month in savings.  The first six months of savings would pay off the purchase price of TiVo.  After that (and possibly a few months paying off equipment to receive digital OTA signals), we’d be in pure savings mode.

Alternatively, we could switch from Time Warner Cable to DirecTV.  The one year locked in rate would save us $28 per month over cable.  Either way, money talks, especially in this economy.  Unless things radically change, I don’t think our current cable connection has much of a life left in our household.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary 3 month preview of Netflix for review purposes.  However, after my preview period, I intend to remain on as a paying Netflix member.  As stated, I won the Roku box during an online giveaway.  The reviews expressed above are my own and were not altered in any way by Netflix, Roku or anyone else.

Netflix, Roku and Cut Cable, Oh My!, Part 3

Heeeere’s Roku!

When we last left our intrepid Cable Cutting hero, he was talking about Netflix streaming devices.  There are many of these on the market, to be sure, but my favorite is the Roku box.  This small box, and I’m talking palm of your hand small, will easily fit into any home theater arrangement.  It is easy to set up, navigate and has plenty of content available on it.

Once your Netflix Instant Queue is set up, the titles appear nearly instantly on your Roku box.  If your title includes multiple episodes, say because you’re watching The Addams Family, you can jump to a specific episode easily .  Fast forwarding and rewinding, though inexact, are simple to master.  Simple enough, in fact, that my 6 year old figured it out quickly and now is not to be trusted near the remote.  Not because he’s going to mess something up, but because he *will* fast forward/rewind/change the video when I just want to watch what’s playing.  In fact, all of the controls are easy to master.  If I hand NHL the remote, I can be certain that he will find a show that he wants to watch and will be able to play it with no problem.

The only problem we ran into was constant wireless network connection losses.  However, considering I’ve been experiencing these on my laptop as well, I think this is more of a problem with my network (more specifically, my router) than with Roku/Netflix.  Even when the network is acting funky, though, reconnecting is as easy as clicking "OK" a few times.  Assuming that the network cooperates, that is, but you can hardly fault Roku or Netflix for not being able to connect to a trouble-making router!

Since introducing them to the Roku, my children’s viewing habits have changed.  Whereas before their "default" choice was Noggin, The Disney Channel or possibly PBS Kids, they have rapidly made Roku one of their favorite choices.  Why, after all, bother with waiting until their favorite show is on when you can just click and play.  JSL has learned to ask for "Wiggle Roku" for his favorite Wiggles videos or "Bobby He Can Build It Roku" (Bob the Builder on Roku) and NHL has found enjoyment in some of my old favorites: Inspector Gadget, Super Mario Brothers and The Pink Panther.

Previously, I had mentioned how Netflix wasn’t resting on their laurels.  Well, Roku isn’t either.  While Netflix on Roku might be enough to justify the $80 – $130 price tag (depending on which Roku box you buy), Roku also offers access to Amazon Video on Demand, which has some great movies and TV shows, and Major League baseball.

Those offerings require extra purchases, however.  Amazon VOD requires you to pay for each video while MLB insists on a yearly subscription fee.  To increase the value of your Roku box, they are branching out to other content providers, most of which will be free for all.  Their Channel Guide allows you to customize your channel listing to include Motionbox, Mediafly,,, Facebook Photos, Revision3, Frame Channel, Flickr and Pandora.  These options just came out, so I haven’t explored them fully.  Still, I got a taste for how much more content they have just made available via Roku and I like it.  Clearly, Roku is trying to position itself as the go-to box for streamed media content.

Coming up next, will the cable cord survive being cut?

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary 3 month preview of Netflix for review purposes.  However, after my preview period, I intend to remain on as a paying Netflix member.  As stated, I won the Roku box during an online giveaway.  The reviews expressed above are my own and were not altered in any way by Netflix, Roku or anyone else.

Netflix, Roku and Cut Cable, Oh My!, Part 2

Watching Movies At Warp Speed

Previously, I mentioned that Netflix is keeping up with the changing rental climate.  One of those changes is online viewing.  I’m a big believer that the future successor of DVDs isn’t going to be Blu-Ray or some other super-incredible-ultra-high-resolution disc, but no disc at all.  All of the pieces are in place or nearly so.  Internet speeds are fast enough in many areas to support video streaming. Video codecs can alter video quality to account for changes in bandwidth.  Wireless technology allows for devices (*cough*Roku*cough*) to stream Internet videos without needing any wires (save for the power cord). » Read more

Netflix, Roku and Cut Cable, Oh My!, Part 1

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Netflix.  They’re the online video rental shop that will mail you DVDs from a queue you create.  For many years, I wrote them off as not worth it.  After all, I reasoned, we didn’t rent movies all that often so why pay $16.99 a month when we might rent only one movie that month.  Tis better, I thought, to pay $5 to rent the new release in the local big name video chain.  Boy was I wrong. » Read more

Review: The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue

NHL used to be such a good eater. He would eat just about anything we gave him. Then, around when he turned two and a half, his culinary adventureness shut down. Suddenly, he developed a list of “approved” foods and vegetables were definitely *NOT* on the list.

When I first heard about Missy Chase Lapine, The Sneaky Chef, I’ll admit I was skeptical. The idea of sneaking the veggies into him just didn’t sound right. I wanted him growing up knowing that carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower were tasty as well as good for you.

Missy explained in her book, however, that sneaking the veggies wasn’t a substitute for giving kids stand alone vegetables. However, you won’t need to turn broccoli into a battle. You will know that the rest of the meal has some hidden goodness so your child will be getting good nutrients whether or not they eat their veggies. Without a ton of pressure, kids might actually be more likely to eat some of their overt veggies.

I purchased her first book and tried out a few of the recipes. I found that, sure enough, my kids couldn’t tell what was in them. So when I heard that Missy had a new book out, I just had to try it. Missy’s new book is called The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue: 101 All-New Recipes and “Sneaky” Tricks for Creating Healthy Meals Kids Will Love.

“To The Rescue” contains some improvements from the original Sneaky Chef. For example, recipes include nutritional information now. We took it out from the library and I tried a few of the recipes. As with the first book, my children didn’t realize what was hidden in their food. Whether it was wheat germ, yams and carrots in the chocolate chip bon bons or cauliflower and zucchini in the eggs, they were none the wiser. And lest you think that you need to make everything from scratch, Missy showed how to take box mixes for everything from pancakes to cake and add additional hidden goodness.

There were so many good recipes, in fact, that I decided to buy the book. It turns out that being sneaky can be good for your kids, and quite delicious to boot. I look forward to making many more sneaky meals for my children. In fact, I would recommend it for families with picky eaters of any age.

Disclaimer: This review consists of entirely my own opinion. I didn’t receive anything in compensation for this review, but decided to review the book (and recipes) because I honestly enjoyed it.

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