Wish I had know about these earlier. Microsoft offers free Windows virtual machines for VirtualBox, VMWare, and others. You can choose from Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10 (a few different flavors of each). They last 90 days before expiring, but you can snapshot them right after you install them to make it easy to reset that 90 days by rolling back to the snapshot.
Officially, these are for testing out the Edge browser, but you can also use them for whatever else 😉
About 3 weeks ago, we decided we were done paying Charter $120/month for the highest level TV package they had. When Rachael and I sat down to think about it, we realized that we really only care about a few things:
College basketball (well, for me, anyway).
HBO shows we like
Everything else was peripheral, and we felt like we could live without it. We imagined more free time, more book reading, and more chances to talk to each other and interact amongst the family.
The New Way
I set out to find out the best way to go about this. After quickly discovering the Cord Cutters sub-Reddit, I was pretty well set. Here’s what we ended up with:
SlingTV account for $25/month (base package + extra sports channels). This covered most all of my college basketball needs, live CNN, and some other channels we don’t really care about.
HBONow through SlingTV for $15/month. While I signed up for this for one month, I think we may go to the HBONow version available through iTunes. That way, we can watch it on either of our AppleTV’s, of which we have two: one in the living room and one in the bedroom. The SlingTV app doesn’t provide for this. Either way, it’s $15/mo., and we can cancel it during the dry months when our favorite shows aren’t on.
That’s it for paid TV. We are at $40/month, and we will cancel Sling once college basketball season is over. That puts us at $15/mo for HBO.
What Else We Are Using
In order to use SlingTV decently, I hooked up my old Mac Mini to our main TV in the living room. I just launch the SlingTV app and we can browse through it with a wireless keyboard and mouse. This comes with the added bonus of doing whatever else we might do on a computer with the TV as the monitor.
I also found a website called USTVNOW.com that gives you all the broadcast networks for free. The local news is based in Philadelphia, but you get all the programming of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and a few others. So we get Jeopardy!
USTVNOW.com does require you to be in another country, as it was geared towards US military and government people overseas to be able to get TV from the States. All I had to do was log in once from another country (thank you Tunnel Bear) and now it lets me in every time, at least until the browser cookie expires, but that is easily resolved.
We also have a Chromecast and the two AppleTV’s I mentioned before. The Chromecast makes it easy to watch Youtube or whatever we might have from another computer or a phone. The AppleTV’s let us watch Netflix ($9/mo) and we might sign up for Hulu ($8/mo).
Lastly, I found an AppleTV remote app, a remote mouse app, and a custom remote app for my phone that let me control my TV, AppleTV, and the Mac Mini, all from my phone.
Getting Used To It
The only qualms about all this have been some moments where the streams were jittery (especially USTVNOW during NFL playoffs), and not being able to channel surf the way we used to. However, we still get to watch the shows we like, I have yet to miss a Louisville basketball game, and the other benefits I mentioned have been working their way into our lives.
There have been some moments of frustration while we try to get used to this new way of life, especially during those “just want to veg out and channel surf” moments, but we are adapting, and realizing that there are better uses of our time.
We reduced our Charter bill significantly by going down to internet-only and ditching cable TV. It is 2/3 cheaper now!
Even if we pay for SlingTV, Hulu, Netflix. and HBONow all at the same time, we are still looking at less than half the cost of what we were paying to Charter.
Thanks to a thread over on Reddit, I have discovered a world of free, use-for-anything stock photography resources. They range from websites where you can sign up for free photos to be delivered via email to those where you can search and browse, and they all tend to not be very crappy!
While I’m not a fan of smiling faces on websites because of the impersonal feeling, and the fact that Google might soon penalize you for using stock photography, I do like the idea of having free resources available which can be used for compiling visuals that help narrate a story on your website. The following links are full of such images, and much more.
Disclaimer: Always read the fine print, just in case, to make sure you are allowed to use the image you are downloading without attribution or payment! Whenever possible, it’s still a good gesture to give credit where credit is due, even if you don’t have to legally.
Google Image Search for Commercial Reuse
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot search Google Images and simply use any photo you find in your project. This specially crafted search, however, produces images that are OK for commercial use and modification: Google commercial reuse image search
Note: It is possible for images found here to have been reposted by someone who copied it from the original source. Just because you find it on Google Image search for commercial use doesn’t mean it’s absolutely OK to use without proper credit/compensation.
Out of all the awesome, free applications (and the crappy ones too) I’ve been trying out in the new Apps Store with my iPod Touch, the best by far is the Worspress app. I’m using it now to write this post.
It supports tags, categories, editing previous posts, post status, images, AND multiple blogs. I was floored when I read all that, and am more floored now that I’m using it.
I was contacted by MyHeavy.com about doing a video of myself performing my toenail licking ritual and submitting it to their site. June had originally mentioned that idea a couple of months ago, and I’ve just been waiting until the moment feels right. Stay tuned.
From The Online Web Tools Department Check out this huge list of online generators for generating things such as 3-column CSS layout and accessible forms.
From The Tooting My Own Horn Department Someone has erected a Myspace page for Crain. Nice job of collecting stuff.
From The Crucial Apps Department If you use multiple monitors on your PC, then you must get Multi Monitor Taskbar, a freebie tool that puts a taskbar at the bottom of your second monitor, saving you mouse mileage and window confusion. It also has a nifty clipboard memory tool built in.