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Our goal at Assassin HTPC is to bring HTPC to the masses. Guides are one of our main means of accomplishing this goal. We have painstakingly detailed step-by-step illustrated guides on how to setup, configure, and use your HTPC to achieve bitstreaming HD audio and HD video in a matter of a few minutes as opposed to many weeks of setup and time spent tweaking. Our guides not only work — but work extremely well.

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Assassin HTPC - Watch What We Do!
Assassin HTPC – Watch What We Do!
©Copyright 2014 by AssassinHTPC. All rights reserved. This guide and its contents are copyrighted by AssassinHTPC.
This may be used for personal use by the purchaser only; users are forbidden to reproduce, republish, redistribute or resell material from this guide without the permission of AssassinHTPC.

 

Introduction to Assassin HTPC and Eliminating Cable Bills Forever.

Every day we get asked at Assassin HTPC: “What Exactly can an HTPC do?” and “How can an HTPC help me get rid of my cable bills?”

So this guide was born to educate and assist people on how they can back up their content electronically, download legal (of course) torrent files, and cut out cable and the $100+ bills from your life forever. It’s obvious that Cable TV as we know it today is an endangered animal. 2013 was the first year in 50 years that Cable providers LOST subscribers and with the recent acquisitions and elimination of competition that will undoubtedly result in increased prices, there will be even more pressure for the connected world to move toward streaming content in the future. As prices increase, more and more people will be searching for alternatives. And that alternative will be content and shows and movies streamed directly to your TV via the Internet and will connect in one way or another to your TV.

This guide is to help everyone get there a little faster.

Please keep in mind there are trade-offs to eliminating cable in your life. Nothing is going to be an exact 1:1
ratio. There is no single free website or service that you can go to that will do everything cable can do just like how cable does it…because obviously if that was true they would begin charging lots of money for it.

However, after reading this guide you will be able to do everything that Cable can do. Some things might need 1-2 more steps than simply turning on your TV; however, most of these steps in my opinion are well worth the $100-$150 savings a month.

The First question you need to ask yourself is are you even ready to get rid of cable bills?  The guide below should help you determine if you are ready to cut the cord!

Don't be an idiot. Drop Cable.

 

If you find you are ready to ditch cable TV and its bills, follow the guides below!


STEP 1: BUY OR BUILD A HTPC

Deciding on buying vs. building your own HTPC is the first step.  Building save money vs. buying a pre-made one (Assassin HTPC is the only dedicated HTPC company in the world).  You can absolutely build your own.  In fact we might be the worlds worst businessmen because we’ve given you all the tools to do so.  In the end, most people agree its a time vs. cost comparison.  To get your HTPC setup correctly for the first time, plan on about one full month of tweaking and troubleshooting and getting things right.  Sometimes to get things as simple as a menu name to be perfect it might chip away at an hour of your time.  Plan on spending about 40-80 hours of that month, camped out in front of your HTPC.  You might think we are exaggerating.  But w’re not, especially for the first time builder/user.  Remember your HTPC is a tool, not a set top device, tools need to be taken care of and assembled.

Below is a comparison of what your HTPC will be able to do vs. what Cable TV offers.

HTPC Capabilities from Assassin HTPC

STEP 2: INCREASE YOUR INTERNET SPEED & EXPERIENCE 

The one act that would make the most difference in your HTPC experience is right before you cancel your Cable TV subscription (while you still have a little more leverage with your provider) call and increase your internet speed and bandwidth for your internet.  If you are using wireless at all your locations, there are noticeable differences in routers.  Some give preference to the wireless vs. the wired portion of your overall bandwidth and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the base model your internet provider gave you when you signed up might not be the best performing router.

Tip: “Often times, you do not receive the full speeds you pay for, or they degrade over time.  So check your dowload speed vs. what you are paying for.  And if its off, even by a little bit, report you are not getting the speeds you are paying for and typically they will bump you up to the next level or service for free in hopes of not losing you as a customer.”

The following is a good comparison site:  Wireless Router Comparisons

STEP 3: INSTALL A TV TUNER & ANTENNA

The best way to begin grabbing content quickly is by installing a TV Tuner in your HTPC (See Assassin Guide for Live TV) so you can watch over the air broadcasts.

TV Tuners generally cost between $50 and $200 dollars depending upon what feature you would like and how many channels you want to record at one time. Do some research, and find one that has some good reviews. There are lots of options from single tuners (record 1 show) to 4 tuners that also let you install a cable card in them. If you don’t know where to start, the HD Homerun™ is one that we highly recommend as it allows ANY windows based computer on your network to watch live TV (as compared to an internal TV tuner which only the system that it is installed in can use those tuners).

A TV Tuner allows you to watch live HD TV of the MAJOR network channels which according to studies consists on average of about 50% of what people watch anyway. So NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, etc will be retrieved in HD for free plus many others. If you want to see what TV channels you can receive from your house by using a TV Tuner/Antenna, go to Antennaweb.org and simply type in your address.

Furthermore, a TV Tuner allows your HTPC to replace your DVR and allows you eliminate the monthly fees associated with the DVR and allows you to take advantage of options like automatic commercial removing and adding TV channel logos to your TV Guide. And face it, sometimes when you sit down for a brief lunch break or eating your breakfast, you don’t feel like messing with playing a recorded shows or opening up a streaming website and just want to watch some random live TV.

Also, for the sports fans, Major networks consists of about 80% of live sports that is on the TV. Do some research on how many tuners you need in your tuner card (this means how many channels you want to record at once).

Choosing Your Digital Antenna:

Although the tuner is an important decision.  The key here that will make or break the experience is to go buy a really good Digital Antenna (and check antennaweb.org to see which type would work best in your area).

“Tip: Buy 3-4 different Tuners from different companies and do a direct comparison of them at your residence and then return the losers!  The extra hour or two of setup will pay for itself in better picture quality and more channels!)

If you HAVE to keep your cable, they have TV tuner cards that you can install a cable card chip into. Your cable company (by law) has to give you the option of giving you just the card that decodes their cable signal for a fraction of what they charge you for a DVR and extra cable boxes. So instead of the $20-$80 a month you spend on their cable boxes and dvr’s, the cards usually only run between $2-$5 a month and you can put the cable card in any applicable TV tuners and then use your HTPC as a DVR. At the very least you’re getting rid of the DVR and cable box fees each month.

“Tip: AT&T U-Verse does not provide cable cards since their content is streamed via fiberoptic cable and not coaxial.  Its a loophole they found in the supreme courts ruling.”

STEP 4: CHECK OUT ONLINE STREAMING SERVICES

There are 5 really good online streaming services (and a variety of ways to integrate them into your HTPC (see other guides) that can supplement your needs for a fraction of cable bills:

Some of our recommendations:

NETFLIX Cost = $8.00 / month (avg)

HULU Cost = Free (or $8.00 / month for Hulu plus)

VUDU Cost=Pay per title

AMAZON VIDEO ON DEMAND Cost = Pay per title

YOUTUBE Cost = Free

STEP 5: USE THE BEST ADD-ONS TO ACCESS CONTENT 

There is a TON of content that can be streamed for free in todays world. Some of this content is available minutes after a show is aired. Streaming content used to be lower quality, but thats not the case anymore. Almost all of this content is available via various Add-ons within XBMC. You’ll be absolutely amazed at what is avaiable and the quality if you know where and how to look. We’ve done all the hard work for you and collected a list of the best ones and what they are best at in our XBMC Premium section.

STEP 6: LEARN TO USE (AND LOVE) USENETS AND TORRENTS

Let’s be honest, when is the last time you sat down to watch a sitcom while it ran live? Studies show most people watch TV in recorded format so they can skip commercials and watch it at their own leisure. So why are you paying for live TV services through Cable? Almost all TV sitcoms and shows are uploaded online for the world to access just minutes after they are completed on air. Most of these with commercials already removed from them. And better yet your access to them and ability to view them is improving each day if you know how and the best way to access these shows are through torrents and usenets.

The Difference between Torrents and Usenets:
Torrents and Usenets are similar (think cousins) but also quite different. Torrents are free, Usenets cost money. Torrents are peer to peer meaning you download bits and pieces of a file from everyone who is sharing that file, so the more users, the faster the download, the fewer users that are sharing that file the slower the download. Usenets are a direct connection with a product stored with the specific purpose to be shared. In Torrents, your download speed or (leeching) can also generally limited by how much you are (seeding) or sharing. So in essence you are paying for the service not with money, but with bandwidth. In Usenets, your download speed is only limited by how much bandwidth you have. Also with Torrents, since you are dependent upon what files are being shared by others, much older content disappears or is difficult to download as less and less people share it over time. This is not true for Usenets, who maintain libraries of content specifically designed for sharing that is available at the same speed no matter its age.

TORRENTS:
Remember that torrents are only available because of the community, so it’s proper etiquette to share some files yourself. Also, pay careful attention to names, how many people are sharing and reviews of files, and what files are in the download or you’ll end up with the Spanish version of the new movie you wanted so badly to see!  There is a standard naming procedure to torrents and usenets that might seem strange at first but after a week or so it’ll be a second language.  We have a full review of the best Torrent websites here.

USENETS:
Usenets are the cousins to torrents. Usenets are like Torrents that you pay for in order to guarantee speed and quality. However, you do get something in return for your money. One advantage is you do not have to upload any content. Another is enhanced privacy. You only download from a single location, which makes it impossible for others to monitor your downloads. Some usenet providers even offer SSL encryption for further privacy. And lastly you are only limited in terms of your speed by how fast your internet connection is.

We are breaking the first rule of Usenets, which is you don’t talk about Usenets.  Due to their complexity to setup they are less utilized and therefore fly under the radar most times.  Setup is complicated and takes take some advanced configuring.  However, we’ve got you covered and have a step by step breakdown of installing, using and configuring them to get you up and running.

STEP 7: ELIMINATE YOUR DVR (COMPLETELY) AND RETRIEVE CONTENT AUTOMATICALLY

This is what we call the wife pleaser! Sometimes people don’t want to take the extra step of going out and searching and clicking on the file they want to download.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to as we have you covered on how to have all of this done for you manually every day using various programs in our downloading section.

STEP 8: LIVE CABLE SPORTS

Yes sports enthusiasts we didn’t forget about you. And although we have almost completely eradicated our need for cable thus far, there is one stronghold that is still difficult.  Live HD cable sports broadcasts. ESPN streams their content on their website (www.espn.go.com) so you can actually watch their broadcasts live as well as a variety of other different website that stream ESPN. There are add-ons and plug-ins for this that are accessible.

Furthermore, there a lot are add-ons and plug-ins that allow you to access live streams of broadcasts so you can watch live sports that are taking place almost anywhere in the world instantly.  We review these add-ons and tell you how to use them best in our XBMC Premium section.  The only downside to some of these is that depending upon your location, the video quality may vary (if you are accessing a stream located around the world, it probably won’t be as good as one in a neighboring country) however, after a bit of playing around and trial and error, you can generally tell which streams (they include the name of the stream in the service) works best for your area and your internet connection.

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STEP 9: USE A VPN TO ACCESS CONTENT AND SERVICES NOT ALLOWED IN THE YOUR LOCATION. 

“Assassin HTPC does not condone or promote the theft of copyrighted material and strongly recommend you obey all local and national laws.”

A VPN is a “Virtual Proximity Network” that can be used to hide your IP address (your computers virtual
address) and location to protect others from watching what you are doing. We have a full guide and reviews of different VPN’s located in our downloading section.

VPN’s can also help you access content. An example of this is would be if certain sports tv show and sports packages (Several NFL packages, Hulu, etc) are only available if you are either in the United States (hulu) or outside of the United States (NFL).  These are just two examples.

You can use a VPN by telling those providers that you are located in a country you are not and therefore access their content.  Or you can use this to access content that you are not able to receive due to restrictions in your location. An example of this would be if you wanted to watch a sports package like several of the “To Go” packages that are available for a one time fee that is a fraction of a year’s worth of cable. Some of these packages restrict anyone in the U.S. to watch the live cable content, and are meant to give access to those located outside the country at a reduced cost.

You can set up your VPN using our VPN Guides to change the location of your IP address.

 

Check out All of our guides and the Assassin HTPC Table of Contents in order to get the most out of your HTPC!

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