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The Ultimate Guide to Hacking your TV. Part One: Bye Bye Cable Tv

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The Ultimate Guide to Hacking your TV. Part One: Bye Bye Cable Tv

[alert variation=”alert-warning” dismiss=”dismiss”]I had written this in my drafts for a bit, but it just kept getting longer and longer as I kept finding things to add, then life happened, so I never did get to the end of it. I had to come back to it yesterday though, after the tweet below, had so many people asking me what my setup was, and how to duplicate it, so I decided to break it down into smaller bits, and maybe that will help getting it out faster.

I intend to do at least a couple of parts: an Introduction, a Guide to Plex, a Guide to Kodi and maybe a look at one or two other alternative that I don’t personally use and also a look at Kodi add-ons. We’ll see how the wind blows.

This is the introduction.[/alert]

 

 

I’ve been off cable TV for a little over three months now, and I haven’t really missed it, that’s not saying I haven’t watched been watching Tv though, in fact, I’m actually watching more Tv than ever before (somewhere around an hour or two a day, might not seem like much, but when I actually paid for cable, I averaged the same a week.

I have two problems with TV as it exists mostly today: Time and Content.

Considering many things get crammed into the average day these days, it’s stopped making sense (in my opinion) to have scheduled T.V times for most things, except live broadcasts. With the lines blurring between the office and home, the internet, social media, books to read and life as whole, time has become too much of a scarce commodity to spend waiting on entertainment. It also doesn’t help that most of our entertainment consumption has moved to smaller more mobile screens that we can access whenever we get the time to…on a commute for instance.

Then there’s the content. Seeing as time is scarce and “expensive”, one should spend it watching the very best stuff right? Well, I find that I tend to surf channels constantly rather than actually watch anything with cable Tv, meaning that after spending an hour in front of the TV, I usually would have flipped through my 20 or so fav channels, without having watched anything in particular because nothing caught my attention (in my defence there’s actually nothing to watch these days and on the off chance that there’s something, it’s usually so far gone into the plot to be worth following.

You can obviously, now pause, rewind and record “live Tv”, but besides the fact that such features come at a very steep cost, they still leave a lot to be desired. Being someone that naturally prefers to watch whole seasons at a go for instance, I also found cable TV a bit restrictive, considering it’s need to put the newest and shiniest programmes at the forefront at the expense of older stuff.

For the reasons above, I currently manage most of my Tv watching via two apps – Plex and Kodi. There’s obviously also the occasional Netflix, Youtube e.t.c as well, but Plex and Kodi see more use than everything else. The combination of both have solved the issues stated above (time, content and also the ability to watch stuff on any screen around the house without skipping a beat).

Tv Kodi Home

Kodi

Plex and Kodi coincidentally are derived from the same parent – XBMC (XBox Media Centre – originally built as an open source media player for the XBOX). At some point, XBMC went beyond XBox consoles, to other devices and eventually changed it’s name to Kodi. Plex on the other hand is a fork of XBMC (a fork is when you take software source code and build a distinct separate software of it) which is now a separate entity.

TV Plex Home

Plex

While both apps share the same source, both are quite different in their approach to media and functions.

Plex is closed source and more geared towards managing and playing your media. Kodi which also can play your media is more useful for its add-ons which pile loads of functionality from live streaming to custom skins and everything in between. Both are really versatile and will play almost any format you throw at them without issues.

The table below compares both. If it flies above your head, it’s fine. It’s just there to give the technically inclined folks an idea of what their getting into and whether you need both in your life or just one.

[table style=”table-striped”]

FEATURES KODI PLEX MEDIA SERVER
Ease of Setup Depends, Easy for the very basic but can get complex depending on what you want to achieve Easy to setup, but requires internet and isn’t very flexible
Database Location Client Based (or Centrally with MySQL) Central Server
Database Management and User input Client/App Interface Webbrowser Interface
Video Transcoding Handled by Client device Handled by Server
Availability on devices Kodi is available on many devices Plex is available on a lot more devices
Add-ons Many Few
Visual Customization Very Flexible Very Limited
Add-on Maintenance Community Professional
Cost Free Free, but requires $5 per Client (one-time payment on android and iOS) and/or Optional monthly subcription for more features
Remote Streaming Very Difficult Possible

[/table]

 

I use Plex to play stuff already in my library over my local network and Kodi for Live Tv and to stream stuff I don’t have in my own library. I reiterate that this is my use case, and NOT the only use case, for instance I can also play everything on my Plex with Kodi or skip both and Play them with just my TV, but for reasons which I will explain in subsequent posts I like the setup this way.

In summary:

KodiTv Kodi Genesis

Pros: Kodi is free. It’s user friendly and basically is the same experience regardless of the platfrom. Its open-source nature means it’s highly customizable and will almost always have a more robusr library of add-ons, including live tv, use as a game emulator, etc
Cons: The fact that it’s same on every platform can be an issue seeing as the UI is more geared to Tvs. Advantages of the UX on large screens are sometimes lost on smaller displays. Kodi also feels a lot less polished than Plex and while you can use Kodi to play your media from a central library like Plex, it is far more suited to watching content on a single device as setting the feature up might be considered too for some and since it transcodes the video on the device you are watching with (client), you might also run into issues with formats.

 

PlexTv Plex Movies

Pros: Plex’s biggest advantage is how easy it is to setup, and how user friendly it is. It’s a simple way to access all your media on all your devices without thinking much about it.
Cons: The cost of the pros above is that it may cost some money depending on what features you want and what platforms you use it on. It also is much less customisable and offers very little in the area of add-ons.

In the next part, we’ll explore the apps one after the other and all the different setup options.

...half genius, half unserious.

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