Rabbit Ears and Red Faces

This is going to be one of those stories about life in the 21st century.  Or more to the point, how in a world that offers seemingly unlimited technology, sometimes we can’t even get the basics right.

Like many cord-cutters, I use an over-the-air antenna to get local HD channels.  Since the digital tuner in my TV doesn’t seem to work, I’ve opted to use an external tuner.  I’ve been using a $30 box by a company called HomeWorx.  Well, this weekend, the box croaked after about a year of use.  Since I was never especially crazy about how it worked (it has a really funky layout and it’s just one more remote to lose), I decided to explore some other options.

So, I need something to feed an antenna signal into my TV.  What are my options?

I could buy a new TV with a functional digital tuner.  Ehh… not really wanting to spend that kind of money right now.

I could get a Tivo Premiere.  Ages ago, when I had cable, I had Tivo as well, and loved it.  Now they have a special box just for cord-cutters.  Of course, you have to buy their service to use the box, which is $20 a month.  Sorry, Tivo, but the whole point of cutting the cord is to get rid of monthly fees.

I could use the Xbox One OTA adapter, essentially turning an Xbox One into a digital tuner.  Problem is, I don’t have an Xbox One, and really have no interest in the console.  I don’t want to invest in a console if I’m not going to be interested in the games, I made that mistake with the PS3.

Hey wait, I could use the tuner for the PS3!  Oh wait, no I can’t, because I’m neither European nor Japanese.  It seems Sony was “strongly discouraged” from releasing the PS3 TV tuner in America.  Probably got a nice bribe from the cable companies.

Okay, well, how about the Xbox 360?  I have one of those.  Is there a tuner for that?  Kind of.  If I have a computer running Windows Media Center, I could install a TV card in there and stream my TV signal over the network from the PC to the 360 to the TV.  If that isn’t the most over-engineered and convoluted solution possible, I don’t know what is.

Hey, I’ve been flirting with the idea of using an AVR.  Can you get one of those with a tuner?  Apparently not, for reasons I cannot fathom.  You can get receivers that include support for HD radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Wifi, any streaming service you can name, and even some that still think mp3 capability is some awesome thing worth bragging about… but they don’t offer a TV tuner.

So, in the end after weighing half a dozen equally terrible options, I opted to just buy a new HomeWorx tuner.  Yes, the interface is clunky, and yes, I only expect it to last another year.  However, $30 is about the right price for a disposable device, and for the task I give it, it seems absurd to spend more than that.

It’s funny how a world of options can sometimes mean absolutely zero real choices.

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