Aereo TV Service Review

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Generally speaking, I don’t watch very much television.  I think TV turns your brains into mush.  The so-called “news” is so biased towards the political views of the network owners I can’t stand to watch it.

There are a few of the “retro” TV stations and public television stations that air some watchable content.  I would like to pick up these stations using an HD antenna, but I’m out in the sticks and would need a 400ft tower to pick anything up…especially now that we switched to digital HD format.

Another issue is the DVR.  I would need one running constantly to record the few shows worth watching.  A DVR consumes lots of power, and since I’m off grid that’s not something I would choose to operate with my current power system.

Along comes Aereo a new TV service that has an antenna mounted to the roof of a data center someplace.  They can stream any shows they receive with their antenna over the internet.  They can also record shows and stream them back to you at a later time.

You might think that the cable companies would take issue with what they are doing, and you would be right.  There has been lots of legal wrangling going on and I’m not sure how it will play out.

In the meantime, I pre-registered for their Boston service some time ago.  Earlier this week I got my invite and signed up on the side of the road from my iPhone.  For 8 bucks a month I get access to live TV and 20 hours of DVR space.

After signing up (on the side of the road) the first show I tuned in to was Bonanza.  There has been some cattle rustling going on at the Ponderosa…the picture was perfect and never skipped a beat while Hoss took care of business.

Since then, I have set up the DVR to record This Old House, Star Trek, and a bunch of other stuff.  When at home, I watch with my iPad and get excellent video even over my slow ass DSL line which is only about 1.5Mbps down and .3Mbps up.

You can register up to 5 devices with the service but you can only use them when you are located in the area where you signed up.  Their system uses the location services in your web browser to verify you are located in the service area.

If you use the Firefox browser there are some Geo-Location spoofing add-ons that you can use to get access in other places.  You still need a billing address in the target location in order to sign up, so this little trick won’t let you get access if you live outside the service area.

Is this Ethical?
Is it ethical to pay a third-party to intercept TV signals on your behalf?  Is it ethical for that third-party to profit from TV signals that are broadcast and available for free?

I say yes.  The TV stations are too cheap to properly broadcast these signals to my house.  The cable companies are too cheap to string wires in my town. Given the proper antenna mast and other equipment, I could intercept these signals myself.  I choose not to buy that equipment and pay to use someone elses.

The company has money invested in this equipment and rightfully deserves to be paid for their service.  The content is being delivered full of commercials and other advertising even the content providers are getting paid.

If the networks were not so technologically backwards they could have built this service themselves and took my money instead of Aereo.  Someone else beat them to it and now they are forced to play catch up.  Hopefully they play catch up by spending money on services, rather than in the courts.  Competition is a good thing and I hope this is the start of more content being streamed over the internet.

For a measly 6 watts of power (DSL modem), I have access to over the air TV and a DVR.  It would take 10 to 20 times that much power if I had to do this myself with an antenna and DVR.

conclusion
The Aereo service rocks!  In my rather odd living arrangements it fills my needs perfectly.  When it rolls out near you, I suggest you give it a try.  As with all my reviews, I received no compensation from Aereo or anyone else.  My opinions are my own and no one elses.

:)

I have dirt with seeds…

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Memorial day weekend was rainy and cold followed by a very nice New England spring day.  My progress on the Bodega was not hampered too much by weather although I did shuffle around my task list to take advantage of the weather.

My primary goal is still to get the outside 100% so I can begin inside work.  I had 20 yards of screened loam delivered for my lawn.  I visited the Home Depot (several times) to get supplies to fuel my task list.

Grass…man
Saturday was lightly raining/sprinkling so I spent some quality time on my tractor raking up rocks with the landscape rake.  After a couple of hours of riding in circles with the rake making awful screeching noises as it went over rocks, I had most of the big rocks turned up.  I followed up by hand with a metal rake and stacked the remaining rocks into small piles and collected them with the tractor.

The topsoil I turned up is not too bad for grass growing.  I would say its a mix of sand and forest floor remnants.  With a nice layer of screened loam on top I think it will morph into a very nice well-drained lawn.

By days end Sunday I realized that I was going to need another load of loam.  I had it delivered Tuesday and got it all spread out just in time to take advantage of some rain.  Note, the pics show only half the loam spread…i’ll post more later.

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I used Scotts EZ Seed for the main part of the lawn and a Scotts sun and shade mix for the rest.  I had prior experience with the EZ-Seed at my last place and it worked out very nicely but its really expensive.

Battery Box

My Lowes job box got a final coat of forest green paint and I made a wooden form so I could pour a cement pad.  I used some plywood strips on top to very accurately line up the mounting holes.

The form was about 18″x36″x5.5″ and really needed about 5 bags of cement.  I only had three, so I put a bunch of rocks in the bottom to make up the difference.  If there’s anything I have in good supply its rocks!

With the cement somewhat cured I dropped the box on to the J-bolts I installed and hand tightened the nuts.  I will torque them down when the cement is fully cured…don’t want to risk cracks.

I ran a 1.5″ conduit from the box to the disconnect on my house.  I ordered some wire and battery terminals from eBay that I will run thru my conduit.

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Slab Insulation Covering
Building code requires that the foam insulation on your slab be protected in some manner.  I suspect this is to prevent people from hacking it away with the weed whacker.  I bought a roll of flashing 24″x50′ and cut it down the middle with tin snips to produce strips of 12 inch wide material.

With a garden hoe, I pulled back the soil next to the insulation and cleaned it with a broom.  Next, I applied some beads of liquid nails (foam board formula).  The flashing was “stuck” to the insulation and dirt was used to hold it in place.  It was a little awkward by myself but I managed.

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I left the corners open rather than attempt to bend a long strip of material in place.  I made corner trim pieces using four inch strips bent into “L” shape.  These strips were attached using Lexel and held in place with dirt.

Bonus Task – Back Door Landing
With the flashing installed I realized that there was a strip of pink showing under the back door.  Since it looked pretty ugly and I really needed a stair or something under the door I decided to build a small landing.  I had some leftover composite decking from the porch.  Combined with some 2×8 pressure treated boards and some Timberlok fasteners, I made a nice little landing.  Its a little narrow, but I wanted to use decking scraps and had to settle.

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Whats Next?
I have to run a conduit for my telephone/DSL lines about 70 feet to the utility pole.  The screen door which is 2 weeks old is already sticking due to the humidity rise (wood expanded and it was a tight fit to begin with).  I will just plane down the high spots and it should be fine.  I need to finish up my electrical wiring and have the inspector come over.  Then I need the building inspector to come over again for final framing inspection.  After that I will start insulating.

Bodega Tiny House Shell Nearly Complete

Yes I’m keyword stuffing my title :).  The weather this weekend was decent although I did lose about 4 hours or so to a rain shower.  Had it not been for the rain, I would have been able to finish the second coat of paint.

There is not a lot of new things to show this weekend since I was mostly painting and caulking.  My goal is to get the shell 100% complete and have the yard seeded with grass by June 1.  I’m on track to meet that goal.  I have about 4 hours of painting, flashing to install on the slab insulation, installation of the battery box, and about 20 yards of loam to spread.  I think all these things can be completed next weekend with a bit of time to spare.

Here’s a video tour for this weeks installment:

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Another pretty decent weekend for bodega building.  There was a bit of rain saturday morning but nothing too bad.  I managed to finish all but one piece of siding, build screens for the porch, and fill the dumpster.

Siding
With rain in the forecast, I got a jump on the siding by working late (with lights) Friday night.  I managed to get about half the siding above the deck installed.  I thought the siding around the octagon window would be tough but it was not.

The technique that worked the best was to cut each piece a bit long and lay it in place on the Solo Siders and then mark it with the speed square.  I used the dewalt jigsaw to make cuts so I didn’t have to lug the big saw up to the porch roof.

Caulking
With all but one piece installed, I began caulking all the siding joints per the manufacturers instructions.  Frankly, this is a real pain in the ass!  The best I can suggest is to be very careful squeezing caulk into the joints and then smooth it with your finger.  Have plenty of rags and a place to wipe off the excess caulk.

I picked DAP Dynaflex 230 since it has a 50 year rating and is seems to dry really soft and squishy.  It does shrink quite a bit, so I expect to walk around and do some touch up in some places.

Screens
To make custom screens you need screen material, aluminum channels, rubber cord, and plastic corners.  You will also need a special roller tool that costs about ten bucks.  Lowes sells all these things and has quite a selection of colors etc.  The one question I had was on the diameter of the rubber cord.  It comes in various sizes and the Lowes guy had no idea what size to use.  I picked out .160 and .140 diameters.  In my opinion, the .140 worked better as it put less tension on the screen.

You start by cutting the aluminum channels to 1.5 inches less than the width of your window.  I used the carbide blade on my chop saw and got excellent cuts.  With all the channels cut you assemble the screen by pressing in the plastic corners.  Before adding screen, make sure the frame fits in your window….trim if needed.

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Attaching the screen requires a bit of technique and patience.  I start with enough screen to overlap by an inch or two on all sides.  You then roll in the rubber cord on 2 sides.  The remaining two sides is where things get tricky.  pull too tight and you deform the channels, too loose and the screen flaps around.  I had to play around a bit to get the right feel.  After the screen is installed, trim the excess with a sharp knife.  If you did it right the screen will stay flat and the sides won’t be warped.

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The screens are held in place by 3/4 by 1/2 inch wood trim strips cut to size.  I pre-drilled 3 holes per strip and installed trim screws in the holes.  If I ever need to repair the screen it should come right out.

Dumpster Diving
I rented a 15 cubic yard dumpster for 10 days at a cost of $300.  I lots of foam insulation and roofing debris to cart away.  There was no way I was going to make 4 trips to the dump to get rid of the stuff.

I used the tractor to load some of it which resulted in a lot of wasted space so I ended up in the dumpster rearranging things to allow more crap to fit.  If you do this be sure and look out for nails so you don’t end up at the doctor’s office.

Next Up
I want the outside 100% complete before I begin inside work.  I still need to put the second coat of paint on.  The foam around the slab needs to be covered with something so it is not pink.  I also want to seed the grass so I can remove my hay bales which were required by conservation.  Next weekend I will spend my time putting on the finishing touches.

Schedule
My goal is to begin indoor work by June 1.  Have Insulation done by the middle of June.  Prep work for interior walls complete by June 30.  Install interior walls on July 4th weekend and finish up by the middle of July.  The bathroom tile/shower will take the rest of July.  Flooring will require at least 2 weekends in August.  From there I expect 2 weekends of odds and ends.  That means a September move in date give or take.

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Siding…getting close to done

Excellent weekend for working on the bodega.  The weather was sunny and warm, the birds were singing, the bugs were bugging.  I started the weekend with a pretty big pile of siding and ended it with a much smaller pile.  Like everything else on this project, I expected to get more done then I was able to do.

As of this writing I have three sides complete and then some.  The section over the porch will have many  odd cuts with the octagon window.  The upper sides over the porch have some steep angle cuts.

Tips and Observations

When you cut a notch out of the siding for a door or window the siding will bow more than normal in the “weakened area.  Just be sure to measure the overhang at the notch or you might get 1/16” out of whack.

I paid very close attention to the siding on each side of a window or door to make sure the gap would be even at the top.

If your door or window is a bit crooked you can adjust the overlap by 1/16 – 1/8 inch over several rows to compensate.  It is impossible for anyone other than my dog Ajax to notice these “corrections” so don’t worry.

When you get to a section where all the pieces are the same for a couple of rows it speeds things up to cut them in a single batch.  Doing the same thing over and over makes you work a bit faster.

This Week

I have a limited window of time each night to do things after work.  I really want to finish the siding above my porch, but setting up really eats up a lot of time.  The bugs are especially bad at dusk making it tough to work.

My dumpster arrived on Friday and I only have it for 10 days so I think most after work activities will revolve around filling it.  It’s also a good task to avoid the bugs since you are walking a lot.

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Porch

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Back Door

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Wish I had another 4 hours to finish above the porch…working sucks sometimes!  That pile of foam will be gone this week, Woohoo!