OK this was supposed to be Day 2s lesson!
I'll cut to the chase and say, after much research, I went with the 500GB Western Digital Live TV Web Hub.
Feel free to read the below or read my more recent (2016) post on the more current options of AppleTV and Amazon Firestick.
Naturally before I bought it for $140 shipped, I scoured the internet for discounts and deals and free shipping etc. This process of research to purchase took 2 weeks. Again, the theme, the trade-off for saving money is spending a lot of time.
Plus I was a complete newb to this streaming/web TV/cable alternative genre. It seriously took a lot of reading before I even understood how everything worked.
Being that I piggy-back internet I did not have the option to use boxee- which had been the front-runner in my mind. I had to buy an external hard drive unit to house my cable TV shows and enabled me to watch them on my tv.
So my criteria was:
largest hard drive space
ease of use - interface
ease of use - set up with a mac
reliability - buy the freakin warranty if your dones't come with one. I've lost 2 "movie-housing units" (hard drives) and allll the movies therein. It is NOT pretty. You're not in a position to pay the $250 to recover your drive should it all go awry.
largest number of formats that will play on it (most are .avi and mp4- don't buy a unit that can't handle those formats)
This unit, in simplest terms, allows you to take movies and tv shows taken from your hard drive and watch them on your TV.
It also has options that I COULD use, but currently aren't for whatever reasons:
1) Streams movies/tv just like boxee
2) Can be networked to play on multiple units
These 2 things are too complicated for my little brain and not needed. I'm sure when you researched you learned about these capabilities however and if you are paying for your internet (WHY would u be doing that??) you can take advantage of streaming.
I am currently on an RCA TV I bought when I graduated from college and a Mac Mini I bought Feb 2012. I had to purchase the cord that allowed me to attach one end to the unit and the other end to my super old TV. Cost was $27. Be sure you buy the cord when you buy your unit or you'll just waste set-up time.
So, its basically a hard drive that can be hooked up to any computer where you can copy the movies/tv shows on that computer onto it, unplug it from your computer, then plug it into any TV in order to watch those movies/tv shows.
Which brings me to my next requirement > getting the movies and tv shows.
This topic I'm not going to touch here. I'm sure you have a friend of a friend who knows an IT guy and can walk you thru how to get the tv shows and movies onto your hard drive. Avail yourself!
(or, once again, google. I'm sure someone out there has a site that walks you thru it).
I will just say this- the process is simple. Simple. Teaching you the process will take about 20 mins. tops. Write it down so you can refer back to it and not have to bug that IT guy again. Once you've used it a few times, its as easy as using google.
Be not afraid.
So that, my friends, cuts the (cable) cord. You've put tv shows on the unit and connected the unit to your TV. You're all set.
Now when you wanna watch your favorite shows you turn on the WD unit and turn on your TV. The remote will allow you to navigate through the unit's folders (that you create) and find the show you wanna watch at any given time. No fast forwarding through commericals cause there are none!
So the time factor here is:
Researching online the TV shows you may want > the downside to no commercials - yes theres a downside - is you have no idea what shows have been cancelled and what new shows you may want to watch are out there.
Actually getting the shows. Once you've stockpiled on the drive a bunch of new shows its all copacetic but, with your now slow yet free internet, it may take 2 - 5 days to get your first few seasons of shows. Its a slow build that you don't notice once you get your few initial shows on. They keep you busy until the next batch is ready.
The only downside I've encountered is, it is a LITTLE bit annoying having to unplug and replug your WD unit to get each week's shows. What you end up doing is waiting til you have maybe 2 weeks eposides. I see what I'll probably be doing shortly is watching off season shows until another series has finished its whole season and then getting that whole season at one time.
Its not like you're talking about the last show at the water cooler!! LOL. But if its a show you're really into, like say Homeland!, you can do this every week. In reality its not that big a deal to get the latest episode of your 5 top shows at one time.