Jumping the S.S Cable: Part 3
What you’ll need:
- A digital antenna (search your local big store, or Amazon, and go with outdoor if you can afford to, they are more consistent, and ensure you get as much over the air content as you can.)
- A digital TV tuner to plug the antenna into your computer. (I recommend this one.)
- A PC, preferably a desktop made within the last 6 years. This PC doesn’t need to be a beast, but shouldn’t be an absolute budget machine either. And technically, you can use a laptop, a desktop just makes more sense, as you’ll see why later.
- An internet connection for your PC (preferably wired for consistency)
- TVs, either Smart, or equipped with a Chromecast, Roku, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, NVIDIA Shield, or a (non Nintendo, sorry) game console of some sort.
- (OPTIONAL) A DVD/BLU-RAY burner drive for the PC. (For converting discs to digital files)
- A Plex account w/ Plex Pass to use the DVR feature (this is what uses the tuner and antenna, highly recommended) $4.99 a month
Jumping in: Setting up the PC
The list above can be daunting, but it can be fairly easy to acquire. (Amazon is your best friend here.) If you don’t have a PC you can use, you can try building one, using the parts I’ve gathered on this list. Don’t worry, if you’ve never built a PC before, it’s not difficult, you can find tutorials all over the web. If you still don’t want to build one yourself, companies such as NZXT are now offering services to build a custom PC for you and ship it to you.
Once you have a computer (preferably Windows, as that is the OS this tutorial will follow, although it should be fairly similar for macOS and Linux users). Go ahead and make a Plex account, as well as install both Plex Media Server and Plex Media Player. Once you’ve got them running, go ahead and set up Plex Media Server, and tell it the folders you’re using to store all your media (TV, Music, Movies, etc.). Plex will begin scanning, and find any media already present. If you still need to convert your media from discs to disk (get it??), go ahead and download this nifty program, Handbrake. For music, go ahead and use iTunes on macOS or Windows, and if you’re on Linux, your preferred program / VLC.
And finally, go ahead and set up your digital antenna, connect it to your tuner, install the drivers, and then plug it into your PC. DO NOT INSTALL ANYTHING OTHER THAN BASIC DRIVERS. The basic TV watching / recording programs bundled with the tuners interfere with Plex.
This setup will take a while, and that’s okay, while you’re setting the PC up, just think about putting your cable bill through the shredder, and the joy and elation you’ll feel in that moment.
I have it running, FINALLY!
Congrats, you’ve just setup your first HTPC, (Home Theater PC). You can take this server and plug it in anywhere, as long as you have it connected to the Internet. Ethernet is more consistent, and should be the connection if possible, especially since this PC will be responsible for your house’s content. After making sure Plex Media Server is running, you can go ahead and install any connected devices to TVs, (Chromecasts, Apple TVs, Rokus, consoles, etc.), as well as installing the Plex app available for iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone. Once all of that is done, go ahead and fire up the app, login, and enjoy all of your media, available anywhere in your house (or even anywhere in the world if you have remote stream enabled in Server settings). You can go ahead and cut the cable bill, although do note that Plex’s DVR feature is new, and only available on Android TV (such as NVIDIA Shield) and iOS (iPhone/iPad). The feature will expand, but otherwise, all of your content will be available anywhere, anytime!