If you are into entertainment, whether it be movies, TV shows or any kind of videos, I believe that I have come up with an expats dream package! I have written about this before, but that was a few years ago, and I have made some major changes to my setup, which I want to share with those who have an interest in duplicating what I am doing.
When you live in a foreign land, it can be hard to gain access to the type of entertainment that you are used to. This is especially true for TV shows, and events like sports on TV. A while back Paul Thompson wrote an article about his satellite TV system, and it has some US programming, but usually the shows are a couple of years old. If it is a sports event that you want, you may find yourself getting up at 3am to see that big game! Big networks like NBC or CBS have video on the net now, such as Hulu, but access if blocked here in the Philippines, because they networks do not want people outside the USA to watch.
For a number of years, I have been downloading Torrent files of TV shows over the Internet. Strictly speaking, downloading of copyright material such as a TV show is not legal. However, I personally do not have a moral problem with it, because they copyright holder gives me no other way to access the programs. I would be happy to pay a subscription fee, but nothing of that sort is offered for people outside the USA. So be it.
Until a few months ago, I had been using my old laptop in conjunction with the TV. I had the TV connected to the laptop as an external monitor, and that worked fine. However, I really hated to tie up a good computer just to watch TV shows. Now, thankfully, I have found a better solution.
About 4 months ago, I purchased a little unit called an WDTV, which is from Western Digital. WDTV is a very small unit that connects to the TV set. You also hook some kind of memory to the WDTV unit, such as an external hard drive, or a thumb drive, or whatever is convenient. It actually has two USB inputs, so you can hook up two devices with memory storage. Then, the WDTV allows you to select what you want to watch from the drive that is hooked to it. The WDTV has a remote control, so you can sit comfortably in front of the TV and control everything… pause, start a new file, even stop a program mid-stream, and if you come back 6 months later, you can start the program right where you left off, or start it again from the beginning. It is very convenient and handy. The WDTV unit costs P6,500 here, but is a bit less in the US, I believe $99.
My next addition came during Christmas. We had an older (non-HDTV) TV set. It was a big screen, but the picture was not very good any longer, especially when compared to the newer LCD sets that are so crystal clear. So, we found a good deal on a Panasonic 32″ LCD set, and we bought it. We had been holding out for a bigger screen than that, but when we watched another 32″ set, we found that it was plenty good, and we liked the size, so we bought on. So, at Christmas time, we added the 32″ flat screen LCD set, and we really are loving it. The picture is just like you are in the theater!
I had been using a 16 GB thumb drive to store TV shows that I had downloaded, but recently, I purchased a new Western Digital Elements portable hard drive. This little Elements drive is really cool, and I love it. It is tiny, and fits right in the palm of your hand. This unit is 320 GB, but larger sizes are available (up to 1 TB, I believe). 320 Gigs was the biggest I could find in Davao, though, and it is plenty big for my needs anyway. One thing I really like about the Elements drive is that it does not require a power hookup. The electricity is drawn directly from the USB connection to the computer (or, as I am using it, it gets it’s power right from the WDTV unit).
So, now, with this great new entertainment setup, we can download TV shows just minutes after they air in the USA, and watch them an hour or two later, or whenever it is convenient for us, since we have them stored on a hard drive. If there is a particular show that we want to save for some reason, we have it digitally stored on the drive, and it will be there years later if needed.
Of course, a setup like this will work for you no matter where you live, and whether you are an expat or not. But, given the special circumstances of an expat, it is perfectly suited for us. We cannot get the shows that we want to watch over regular TV, or if we can it is years later, so this really fits the bill. Also, with what is available on the Internet, we can get TV shows from almost any country in the world, and we have found some shows that we never would have seen before and found them enjoyable. I really like the idea that I no longer have to tie up a computer to do this too, and that I can use a remote control now… before when I had a laptop running the system, if we wanted to pause to answer the phone, we had to get up and go stop the laptop. This is much more convenient, and I gave my old laptop to my oldest son, and he is enjoying it a lot!
So, if you are looking for a great way to get your sports programming, news shows or entertainment, this system is the way to go, in my opinion. It’s inexpensive, readily available, and convenient!