Cutting the cable television cord isn't easy. Instead of that one simple cable box that brings in and records every program and every channel with the flick of a remote control, you have to get some kind of antenna to get free over-the-air broadcasts from the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC, PBS) and some kind of media streamer such as a Roku or Apple TV to watch cable fare such as "Game of Thrones" or "Mad Men" on Netflix or Vudu or Hulu a few days after the premium shows actually air. Too late for the Monday morning coffee wagon conversation, but better than nothing.
Such a jury-rigged cable-cutting system might be cheaper than your local cable gonif, but lacks two key cable-only features: no cable-based local sports (apps for Major League Baseball and other sports black out local games), and no DVR.
I can't help you with local sports, but I can with recording off-air shows thanks to an intriguing new gadget: Simple.TV DVR.
But there's a catch. You can't buy Simple.TV DVR yet. It comes from an entrepreneurial company that just launched a capital-raising drive on crowd funding site Kickstarter. The Simple.TV DVR folks need to raise around $90,000 more to turn Simple.TV DVR into a reality later this summer.
How Simple.TV DVR works
Here's why you might want to be an Simple.TV DVR owner/investor.
Simple.TV does not need to be connected anywhere near your TV. Instead, you jack Simple.TV DVR to the Internet via an Ethernet cable from your router (no Wi-Fi), connect an HDTV antenna to one of the coax connectors, and connect an external hard drive of your choice into the USB jack.
You then steer your Web browser - Firefox, Google's Chrome or Apple's Safari (not Microsoft Explorer, which no one should be using) - to Simple.TV's Web site or download the iPad app (not yet available), from where you can tune in to any local over-the-air TV channel and record it onto the connected hard disc drive.
You can also watch your Simple.TV DVR recorded shows on a real TV. You'll need a Roku media streamer, which has the Simple.TV DVR app, or you can use AirPlay and an Apple TV to stream Simple.TV DVR content from the iPad to your TV.
Smart.TV DVR will retail for $149, but you can get a discount by becoming a Kickstarter investor. You'll also need an external hard drive, but you can get a portable 500 GB drive (most cable box DVRs offer only around 120-180 GB) from Seagate, Western Digital, Buffalo, et al, for less than $100.
You can use Smart.TV DVR without further fees, but you'll have to manually find shows and program its DVR. To bring a little order to the madness, for $4.95/month or $49.95/year you get Smart.TV DVR's premium package, which gives you an expanded program guide, the ability to program the DVR to record the same show at the same time every week or day and, most importantly, remote access - watch live TV and your recorded shows anywhere outside your home network on your laptop or iPad via an Internet connection.
The new VCR?
Most intriguingly, Simple.TV DVR records television shows in the standard H.264 video format, the same video recording format used by most camcorders, digital cameras and smartphones.
Why is this intriguing? Because you can disconnect your external hard drive from the Simple.TV DVR, plug it into a USB jack on your PC, and save your recorded shows to your main hard drive or share them with your friends, just like you did with in the VCR era with video cassettes.
The file of a recorded hour show will clock in at less than 1 GB, which means it can be stored and passed around on a USB thumb drive, or even shared via a large file email service such as YouSendIt or a file sharing service such as Dropbox.
In the age of the DVR, it's been impossible to collect and share TV shows the way we could with video cassettes. Simple.TV DVR may be worth its price for this VCR-like library/sharing capability alone, whether you cut the cable cord or not.
If nothing else, $25 gets you a "Cut The Cord" TV shirt and gets Simple.TV DVR guys a little closer to their funding goal.
Hopefully the Simple.TV DVR founders will raise their required capital. I've become a funder - love to support entrepreneurs - so I'll be able to get a Simple.TV DVR and bring you a full report.