This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series 2010 Home Media Center Overhaul and Documentation Festival

Cyber Monday marks the arrival of my annual Home Media Center Overhaul and Documentation Festival. It’s the ideal time of year to revamp your home media setup because the high-profile markdowns on select items at your local Best Buy provides the perfect opportunity to identify must-have additions to your current setup, which will inevitably appear in the not-on-sale sections of aforementioned electronics superstore.

A year ago, the prospect of Cyber Monday inspired my attempt to create a Mac-based, Canada-friendly HD recorder. What started as an effort to save money on our cable bill somehow ended up with us buying a new, larger TV and subscribing to even more services. Sigh.

Today, we still watch most TV shows via our Mac Mini (hooked up to our TV), mostly via bittorrent, and occasionally via Hulu. But I gave up on the idea of a Mac-based PVR for a few reasons:

  • The Hauppauge that was capable of getting video from the set-top box to the Mac resulted in a lot of stuttering over live TV.
  • Shaw Cable offered to give us a couple of free HD PVRs, which made for a much easier (and cheaper) solution than my DIY approach.
  • Higher-speed Internet service made torrent downloads so fast that we could download and watch east coast broadcasts faster than we could record and watch west coast broadcasts.

Arguably, our speedy torrents could allow us to dispense with the cable company altogether. But paying for cable means that I’m not cheating our cable company out of revenue by bittorrenting instead, and I figure that I’m not cheating broadcasters out of ad revenue any more than I would be if I were simply watching stuff on our PVRs. And we still use the PVRs for one essential purpose: recording and watching the Daily Show & Colbert Report every day.

As happy as I’ve been with this arrangement, I decided it was time for my annual home media center upgrade. I wanted to fine-tune our setup for a few reasons:

  • We are continually running out of space while downloading torrents.
  • Treehouse, the preschool-oriented TV station that accounts for 90% of our kids’ TV viewing, has started running toy ads in between its shows; we want to switch to downloading these shows instead so that they don’t continually nag us for Tonka bounce-back cars.
  • We aren’t backing up the personal photos & videos that are stored on the same drive as our TV shows and movies, and I’m terrified of losing them.
  • David Drucker demoed Plex at last week’s Show + Tech and made me desperate to start using it.

In my next post I’ll document the ingredients of our new and ever-more-perfect TV setup. And later this week, the really juicy post: how to use Transmission, Hazel, Automatic and Plex to brew an automagic download + watch heaven that dispenses with just about every user input except the presence of your actual eyeballs.

Do you want to be part of this year’s Home Media Centre Overhaul and Documentation Festival? Just tweet me or leave a comment below, pointing me to your tweets/blog posts about your own ill-advised home media purchases.

Series NavigationIngredients for a Mac home media center (or two) >>