Sunday 24 October 2010

Internet TV

I moved into a new apartment and I decided to not get cable TV. In fact, I have no TV set at all. My goal was to try and reduce my expenses as much as possible so I decided to see if I could get by with just the Internet. I've been hearing more and more about streaming TV over the Web so I thought I'd take a stab at not having Rogers cable or Bell Satellite and not owning a television; just me, my computer and Bell Sympatico.

With the TV just sitting there as the centre of the universe or at least the centre of the family, I have recognised for a long time that flickin' on the idiot box is without a doubt the easiest way of dealing with those idle moments where there isn't anything else to do or I'm just too pooped to do anything. But more than that, I recognised that TV could very well be replacing those other things in life which maybe, just maybe in the long run might lead me to a more fulfilling use of my time.

So, here I am sitting in the middle of an apartment which has no TV. It's odd. Even if this is one of those idle moments when I would like to unwind and I mean unwind by laying back and letting somebody else out there on the airwaves amuse me, I now only have one connection with the rest of the world, my computer. There's only so much surfing with Google, reading the news, checking my email for the zillionth time today (Would Skinner have owned a Blackberry?) before I'd like a little of the ol' TV. I've already washed all the floors, done a load of laundry, completely gone over the bathroom and the kitchen with CLR so now, how about some mindlessness?

I've been doing a little research, using Google, surfing around and have come up with a number of things which may be of interest to others. Of course, those of you who have been partaking of Internet TV may find this novice quite the... ah, novice but ya gotta start sometime, right?

It is now Saturday, October 23, 2010. I tuned into City TV's web site and just watched the 30 Rock episode called Reganing (Season 5, Episode 5) which aired just this past Thursday, October 21 at 9:30pm. What? Hey! Now this is pretty cool. And it was free!

City TV

This Toronto station offers quite a bit via their web site: 30 Rock, Fringe, Hell's Kitchen, How I Met Your Mother, Cougar Town. You'll have to visit the site and check out the complete listing.

Usually I think of video on the Internet in terms of the video clips I've seen on YouTube however the quality of the 30 Rock episode was terrific and even at full screen the quality was pretty good. I'm assuming that this may be due to the original show now being done in HD, high definition.

Oh, there are commercials. Hmmm, we seem to using the Google model, that is, offer a free service but include advertisements to generate profit.


22 Minutes, Being Erica, Little Mosque on the Prairie and The Tudors.

Once again, here I am watching the latest episode of the Tudors just shown this past Tuesday, October 19. Hmmm, also cool.

Let's not forget The National with Peter Mansbridge. I see all the latest reports. Hmmm, I wonder just how quickly this post the latest broadcast to the Net.


Like the other stations, I can find some of the major shows: Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Medium as well as their news shows. However, CTV does own some other speciality channels from which they also offer streaming episodes like the Comedy Network, TSN, MTV, MuchMusic, BNN (Business News Network), The Discovery Channel, Star!, Fashion Television, Space, and Bravo!


This is a partial list of the shows offered: Lie to Me, The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O, Survivor: Nicaragua, House, NCIS, 90210, Saturday Night Live.

As well, they offer movies. I see currently offered: The Big Chill (1983), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Annie, The Swan Princess. Not first run but still they're free and available via the Net.

They also offer some TV classics like Maude, Dawson's Creek, Good Times, The Nanny, Who's The Boss, Barney Miller (FYI: excellent show), etc.

Some of the newer offerings are available in HD and they suggest a minimum connection speed of 2.5 mbps however I imagine that most of us probably have such a speed now. Dial-up certainly seems to be a thing of the past unless you are in some far flung spot on the globe not yet serviced by high speed cable or satellite.

The Internet is global. If I think about it, what's being offered isn't necessarily for consumption within the borders of one nation; it is now available anywhere. From my work in the computer field, I know for a fact that databases of I.P. addresses exist where I can tell you from what country somebody comes from. Some commercial databases provide information where you can pinpoint an I.P. address to a city and I'm convinced some of the big boys like the CSIS or the C.I.A. have databases that may have them knocking on our doors if they wanted. [chuckles] We think the Internet is anonymous and it is to a certain extent. Well, it is for us novices without the proper tools for hunting down the name of Mr. Anonymous.

If I go to ABC, which is an American network and try to watch from their web site the show Desperate Housewives, full episode The Thing That Counts Is What's Inside, I get the following message

You appear to be outside the United States or its territories. Due to international rights agreements, we only offer this video to viewers located within the United States and its territories.

However, I can watch the show if I go to the CTV web site and watch exactly the same episode.

But, the truly curious thing about all this and where I believe we now enter the domain of legalities is a web site called which offers all of the episodes of Desperate Housewives from season 1 and the pilot up to this very latest episode. Warning: Unlike the CTV and I suppose ABC offering the show in all its high definition glory, cucirca seems to be offering possibly pirated lower quality versions of shows.
I ran across this web site while searching for "streaming TV" in Google. It seems to be offering not just the latest episodes of various shows but the complete seasons from the beginning of the shows. Desperate Housewives: All 6 previous seasons in their entirety and now season 7. Two and a Half Men: 7 complete seasons and now season number eight. The same for Ugly Betty, 24, Bones, Californication, Dexter, Lost and others.

Warning: This stuff is low quality. I've now watched a couple of episodes of Californication having never seen it but having heard it was good. This is not high definition by any stretch of the imagination but it is free. Oh yeah, coming back to legality of all this. This particular show has what may be either Japanese or Chinese sub-titles at times so this is a bit of a distraction in the overall viewing experience but it does make me wonder about where did these shows come from; who put it on-line and just what possible laws are being violated. [chuckles] It is free! I'm guessing if I hunt a little more, I may find other better quality sources.

Napster and file sharing
This online file sharing service was created by a Shawn Fanning who had a part in the creation of Facebook: see the movie The Social Network. The service ran from 1999 to 2001 when it was shut down by a court order. Basically it permitted people to share their music completely bypassing normal market channels and leading to massive copyright violations.

I still remember being ignorant of all this until my daughter showed me where to surf to get "plugged in". I liked the song This Kiss by Faith Hill and within 5 minutes of my daughter showing me what to do, I had a copy of the MP3 on my hard drive and was listening to the song... for free. While I was enjoying myself I kept thinking this can't be legal.

Even though this service, the "Mother of all copyright violators" is gone, the principal of sharing via the Internet continues to flourish. In my youth, during the sixties, my friends and I would share music by using reel-to-reel tape recorders. Then came cassettes and eventually CDs. With the advent of the Internet, the need to have a physical medium to transfer recordings instantly became a thing of the past and now, getting a hold of something, anything is merely the problem of finding somebody on the planet that has bothered to post it. If I do some simple checking, I can see that currently, the estimated total number of Internet users in the world rests at 2 billion. 2 billion? Good gravy, somebody has to have posted what I'm looking for.

Final Word
Geesh, there I was seeing myself sitting in the middle of an empty apartment sans TV and not knowing what to do. Rather than a dearth of TV, I've found something of a glut. Good gravy, how am I going to keep up with all this stuff? [laughs] This reminds of going around the dial and trying to figure out just what my choices were and what the best choice would be. Instead of having nothing to do, I end up with so many choices I'm stuck trying to decide. - Why do we continue to use the word "dial" as in "going around the dial" when nobody has seen a dial in years? Funny. :-)

I have read that having our TVs connected to the Internet is here; maybe not quite in the mainstream, but the technology is here. The American company Netflix is now in Canada with the idea of offering streaming video over the Internet for films and television. Bell is now on this bandwagon with their Fibe TV, an Internet TV service delivering digital TV over fibre optic networks.

So, do I need cable TV? Do I even need a TV set? I can't say that I have anything yet which competes with the 55 inch plasma television set with the 5 channel surround sound in my previous abode but I'm going to stay the course and see what else I can discover in trying to make do with just an Internet connection. If anything, I'm not having to lay out for Rogers cable every month. Whew, with the movie package, Rogers at one point was amounting to $120 a month. Heck, all these little expenses do add up. Ha! My company offered me a Blackberry which of course includes a cell phone so I'm even now living without a telephone. There's another fifty some odd bucks a month I'm saving.

Postscript: May 29/2011
Netflix is here and with it, the state of TV and movies is changing. Blockbuster is on the ropes as people are moving to getting stuff right off the Net. Why even bother to go to a store to rent a movie? I haven't tried it yet but acquaintances are giving this good marks.


Wikipedia: Internet Television

Reuters: Netflix launches streaming video service in Canada
September 22, 2010

WorldTVPC: Bell Launches IPTV Service In Canada
September 14, 2010

Wikipedia: Netflix
Netflix, Inc. is an American-based provider of on-demand internet streaming video in the United States and Canada.


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