Cutting the Cord: Can I stream my movies and what if I travel for my Ipad?

This one was the part I didnt think my wife would love but she doesnt seem to mind at all.  After talking with numerous people I found that running my own internal Plex server was the answer to my problems.  Now I know that not everyone has a machine just sitting around but I had a microserver I used for testing but it is only in heavy use a few times a year.  I decided this box would be perfect to use a Plex Media Server (PMS).  For those of you who are not familiar, the Plex Media Server catalogs your movies and TV shows and even music and home movies and presents them via a webpage or app to allow them to be streamed either internally only or over the internet if you so choose.  Since I already had most of my movies digital, this meant nothing more than installing the software on Windows (it is available for Linux and Mac as well).  Once it was installed I created a library from my movies folder and I was off and running.  You can also set things like TV Shows, these are even sorted by season and episodes.  there are lots of software packages out there that will help you get access to all the movies and shows you want but I am going to decline to go into those.

I then made sure the Plex app was installed on all my devices around the house and I am ready to go, I have access.  What I didnt realize when I started this was that I would need to go get the Plex Pass paid version, for a few reasons, the first was the ability to have household users.  I have a user created for myself and my wife so that we can be watching different things. Without this, anytime you connect and try to watch something and another person is watching something else on another device, you will kick them off.  This clearly was not going to be a solution and the paid version of Plex gave me user capability.  If you have kids this can be very useful also since you can limit what folders they have access to.

Another bid benefit for me of the full paid version was offline sync capability.  I can not connect my ipad and download shows and movies from my server for when I am offline, for instance when I am traveling.

One more benefit of plex is that I can share things like my Christmas movie collection with my family without ever having to get on a a plane or in a car and I can simply add them as friends and give them access to my library.

This paid version is $40 a year or $119 for lifetime, I opted for the $40 a year only because I like to give some constant support to companies that are writing software I use.

Cutting the Cord: What about a DVR and Local?

This was one question that I really wasnt sure how I was going to answer or if I would find a good answer but then Plex Premium came to the rescue again.  One of the add ons for the premium version is the ability to stream live TV and act as a DVR.  All that was required was a compatible TV tuner.  I have not used a TV tuner on a computer since the early days of XBMC and quickly realized it wasnt worth my hassle, but this time was much easier although I did have one mistep along the way.  I started by looking to use a small USB based tuner, the Hauppague WinTV-DualHD. This is a fine device if you are running things on a Windows 7 system or something consumer level, but since i have my server running on Server 2012, I found out that the drivers were not compatible and I could never get the system to do anything but recognize the device.  It did that fine but then would not find any channels.  Keep in mind this is for over the air TV only and will not work well if you are too far away from the antennas.  That being said there are some very long range HD OTA antenna available today.  So since I could not get any stations, i returned that device.

The reviews on the Plex site spoke very highly of the SiliconDust HDHomeRun devices, but they were a bit more expensive.  I opted for the HDHomeRun Extend.  I could have probably gone with a lower end unit but with hardware transcoding and compression built in, I felt like I would get better use and efficiency.  I wasnt quite sure what to expect form this device since it has a power cord, an ethernet jack and a coax connection for an antenna.  I did the initial setup for it and it picked up an IP quickly and to my surprise, the Plex server saw it almost instantly over my LAN.  From there it was just setting a few configuration on the settings screen in Plex and I had a program guide and Recording schedule added to my manage screen.  The recording options are limited but gives you the basics you need.Once you get your shows selected it gives you a nice interface of what will be recorded, and they all go into a TV Show folder you have created.  You will also notice that I get CBS shows this way.  I dont have to miss out on any of the shows I enjoy just because they wont let me stream them with any of the services.

Overall the Plex DVR is incredibly easy to setup and about $150 more to get configured, I look at it that what I save every month, even with all my purchases it will take less than 6 months to get all my return.