Bye bye, Fios boxes

I decided to get rid of cable, which will shave $90-$100 off my monthly bill with Verizon. I was subscribed to the full package, which included pretty much every available HD channel on Fios, the Home Media DVR, and a second box. The transition to "free" TV may prove difficult.
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We wanted a new(er) car

The money I saved on cable is enough to afford car payments.
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Hello, new over-the-air DVR box

A DVR that can record HD channels via antenna, supplemented by streaming video via the PS3, will replace cable in my house.

I needed a TV solution that was easy and reliable. My first thought was the combination of over-the-air (OTA) HDTV with the Channel Master CM-7000PAL DVR. Provided I could get solid reception at my home nearly 40 miles from the main broadcast tower at the Empire State Building, we'd have all of the major networks with excellent video quality and not have to go into DVR withdrawal, or pay a monthly fee to TiVo.

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PlayOn streaming

Knowing we'd miss a lot of the shows that weren't available via antenna, however, I planned to use Internet video to fill in the gaps. The most content by far comes courtesy of PlayOn, a program that runs on a PC and allows streaming of Web-based video from Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, TV.com, CBS.com, and others to living-room-based devices like my PlayStation 3.
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PlayOn needs a PC running

One of the downsides of PlayOn is that you need a robust PC that remains on all the time.
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PC power use costs

With my powerful PC, I figure it will cost about $9 per month extra in electricity. I'm investigating getting something more efficient.
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PlayOn via the PS3

Here's what PlayOn looks like at my house. It's a lot less familiar than the Fios program guide, but the wealth of content is truly impressive.
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CBS on PlayOn

Since we can't get CBS reception via antenna, our only source of the network's programming is the CBS.com or TV.com Web sites, served up via PlayOn. (Editors' note: CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)
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Internet video quality: It's no Fios

Here's an example of CBS on TV.com, which doesn't even look as good as standard-def on Fios. Other shows look somewhat better, and quality varies on different Web sites, but overall I'm really going to miss the crisp, pristine picture from Fios.
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The challenge

Getting the antenna installed at my house in the New York suburbs was trickier than the Internet portion. Part of the problem was my steep roof.
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The antenna

Solidsignal.com recommended a Winegard HD 7698P for my area. It took me a few hours to put the 14-foot monster together.
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Antenna close-up

Here's where the free TV comes piping in.
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Antenna installed

Poking out from behind the chimney you can see the antenna on my roof. This picture was taken before I raised the thing up the mast and pointed it properly.
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Best-case scenario

We do get a good number of channels via antenna despite the distance from the broadcast tower. ABC comes in beautifully.
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NBC reception

NBC from NYC is a bit more iffy, and sometimes cuts out completely. Luckily I can get the NBC station out of Connecticut much more reliably.
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CBS: No dice

We can't reliably get CBS, which is a major source of our weekly programming palette (I'm a Jets fan; she loves CBS daytime, "Medium," and Charles Osgood). TVfool pegs a "co-channel warning" as a potential culprit, and Wikipedia mentions a new transmitter permit for a "digital fill-in translator on channel 22" near my house, presumably to address the problem. Until it's built, however, we'll have to get our CBS fix online. (Editors' note: CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)
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Stay tuned

I'll definitely miss this cable connection, but I won't miss paying for it. I'll be back with an update soon after we settle in with our new life of "free" TV.
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